Newsletter February 2021

Over the winter lockdown the Cycle Friendly Devizes group have been engaging with the Devizes Air Quality group and with the Town Council, to make cycling a more practical option for getting around the area. The most promising aspect of this is the opportunity to place cycle parking in locations that work better for cyclists, ie. close by the shops and cafes and in plain view of lots of people. We are looking particularly at the Market Place and The Brittox as these areas are poorly served at present. 

It has been notable that even in February many people are choosing to sit out on the benches in the Market Place, so it was encouraging to hear that Devizes Town Council are planning a refresh of the seating placed there last year and that they are considering the addition of a temporary cycle rack alongside it. Checkout the Cycle Friendly Devizes Facebook group for pictures and discussion of potential places to put cycle parking. Alternatively email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your thoughts.

 

How many of these cars could we replace with bicycles?

With the first hints that we may be nearing the end of lockdown we are starting to think about a springtime cycling related event if you have any ideas for this, or want to get involved more generally then please get in touch - our next meeting will be held online on Friday 5th March at 7:30pm.  Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to obtain a link.

 

Grow Food Devizes

Seed Swap

Our gallant chairperson, John Schofiled, has had a set back to his early planting plans for the forthcoming growing season.  He couldn’t place his normal seed order with the supplier, their website was down. It transpired that the supplier who was used to handling 8 - 900 orders a week at some points was receiving 2000 orders an hour.  This is good news for Sustainable Devizes in that more people want to grow food and there will be increased demand for our annual seed swap.  

In past years we have run an event in St Andrews Church Hall where spare seeds could be brought and exchanged for free.  In these times we are going to run this as drop off and delivery service:

  • Drop off  - There will be a drop off box outside The Little Eco Shop, until Sat 6 Mar.  The Little Eco Shop is in Couch Lane, Devizes, SN10 1EB. Open Mon, Tue, Fri & Sat.  Opening hours and location.   Please place seeds in a small envelope labelled  with type and variety (if known), and a use by date (if know).
  • Pick your seeds - you can select seeds from our online list, with details of how to order,  and we will deliver them to your door (Devizes Area including All Cannings, Bishops Cannings, Bromham, Cheverell Magna, Cheverell Parva, Devizes, Easterton, Erlestoke, Etchilhampton, Market Lavington, Marston, Potterne, Roundway, Rowde, Stert, Urchfont, West Lavington and Worton)
  • We will ensure that the drop off and despatch process uses appropriate anti-COVID measures.
  • This year The Heritage Seed Library has generously donated seeds

We plan to run a plant swap sometime in early May, COVID restrictions allowing, so it would be really great if you could grow a few extra plants, particularly vegetables.  This will help us with plans to start a Grow Food Devizes Movement.

 

Grow Food Meeting

With the upsurge in interest for growing food, with the coming of summer and the prospect of lockdown easing now is the time to collect ideas for growing more food in our community.  We are holding an online meeting to discuss the ideas that have been put forward and how they can be converted into action and edibles.  

It will be on  Mon 1 Mar at 7:30 to obtain the meeting link email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bring along your ideas for growing more food in our community.

 

Membership

In the past we have not not formalised membership relying on a subscribers mailing list and those who turn up for our regular meetings.  As we embark on more projects we are finding a need for a bit more structure and organisation.  The Core Planning Team has agreed that we will formalise membership so those who actively engage in our projects are aware of our values and policies.  Becoming a member does not imply any specific commitment but it will give us a pool of volunteers we can approach for direct support for our projects.  All those on our mailing list will receive an email in March on how to complete registration as a member.  

 

Wiltshire Climate Summit

Some of you will have attended the Wiltshire Climate Summit on Friday 19 February which was organised by Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes.  There was a wide range of speakers with ideas for tackling global warming from across Wiltshire.  One of the keynote speakers was Claire O’Neil (formerly Perry), Danny’s predecessor who was briefly the UK Chairperson for COP26 and now works as the Managing Director for Climate and Energy with the World Council for Sustainable Development.

Here are a few of the reactions from those who attended the event:

“I found the day very interesting and was impressed that Danny set out his point of departure at the start. He was also clearly listening and dropped into the breakout rooms through the afternoon. It was good to see some old friends as well as lots of younger people and to hear some of the presentations particularly on land use. It remains to be seen how well he continues to engage with local groups and take forward our concerns. I suppose it is up to us to keep reminding him.”  Jacky

“Overall I thought it was an encouraging session.  Danny Kruger went up in my estimation and I found he had a grasp of all the issues (I didn't have to shout at him once).  I expect if we drill down into the detail of his stance we might find an issue, but he is in the right book if not on the same page.  …..We participants consisted of the converted of course, apart from the lone figure complaining about what addressing climate change would cost.“  Robin"Overall I came away with the impression that there is definitely a bottom up push for action and the higher up you look the less understanding or willingness to do what is necessary you find. So the local activist groups seem to be the most knowledgeable and impatient for action, Richard Clewer from Wiltshire Council partly gets it but is ignoring the elephant in the room that is transport, and Andrew Griffith MP couldn’t or wouldn’t see the insanity of opening a new coal mine at this time.”  John

 

 Fairtrade Fortnight 22 Feb - 7 Mar ‘21

It is Fairtrade Fortnight when Sustainable Devizes usually joins forces with the Devizes Fairtrade Group to hold an evening event.  As with most things this has now moved online with a virtual Coffee Morning on Sat 6 March. For more details visit the Sustainable Devizes Events Page

 

Zoom Reveals All - Online Meeting with Our MP Danny Kruger

Being retired my life is not ruled by Zoom but nevertheless if any contact is to be retained with the outside world and interests are to be pursued then you have to Zoom away.  Last Tuesday I took part in a mass lobby of MPs organised by the Climate Coalition.  There were over 200 MPs each conducting a Zoom call with their constituents.  13,000 people took part with 34 Devizes constituents on a call with our MP Danny Kruger.  

There had been a coordination call the evening before to test the question and agree the approach.  Nobody was sure how this was going to work out, least of all Danny Kruger as he admitted on opening the call.  Given the passions that can be aroused by climate change this uncertainty and the format of a Zoom meeting where we exist in our little rectangles rather than face to face as in a normal meeting had a calming effect.  

Danny Kruger opened the meeting with a position that while he recognised the importance of climate change this is not his area of expertise.  His main interest is social justice in the   community and the economic means to achieve this.  For him balancing the economy with social justice achieves sustainability.  This is revealing as it is generally accepted that societies (local, national and global)  are only sustainable when the 3 pillars of sustainability (economic/business, social and environment) are in place.  The COVID-19 pandemic is a reality check.  The underlying causes of COVID-19 are the same as climate change, there is just too much human pressure on the environment.  Whether this zoonotic disease originated from bats, pangolins or it jumped species in some other way it is human proximity to wild animals and their exploitation that has allowed the disease to make that jump.  Given a globally connected world its rapid spread was inevitable.  The pressure on the environment that led to the pandemic is having a massive impact on both the economic and social pillars.  With the economy and our society under enormous pressure thesustainability of our communities is being sorely tested.  When one of the pillars becomes unbalanced there is impact into the other two.

 

Also in his introduction Danny Kruger emphasised that as a Conservative a fundamental part of his ethos is to conserve.  Later in the meeting he returned to this theme while also extolling the virtues of the massive economic growth in China and the US lifting many out of poverty.  For me these are contradictory positions as it is unbridled economic growth that is largely responsible for human pressure on the environment.  Is it worth living in huge crowded cities where there are still large levels of poverty, with unbreathable air from pollution and where disease can run riot.  Is that sustainable?

The meeting had a measured discussion on carbon fees and as promised Danny Kruger has written to Parliament asking why the British Government while accepting the urgent need for a Carbon Fee and Dividend is not going to implement it.  My take on all of this is that while we had a civilised discussion and a letter has been written, Government Policy will not change.  Danny Kruger admitted he has much to learn about the environment and climate change.  Not only that but his view of sustainability is incomplete so there is a need for more discussions to understand our respective positions.   The final lesson is that Zoom unlike social media where people feel free to speak without thinking imposes some decorum on the debate but never forget that the camera is always watching you, is that me sucking my thumb?

 

Give Us Our Daily Bread

On a very wet day in January 2016 I was walking through the centre of Chippenham with a Syrian refugee.  He had recently arrived in England from a refugee camp in Lebanon as part of the UK Government scheme to provide asylum from the Syrian conflict.  There were a few dripping market stalls selling vegetables and baked goods and near one, on the floor, was a piece of sliced loaf. He immediately bent down to pick up the bread which to his dismay turned to mush in his hands.  For him to leave bread lying on the ground was an affront on two levels. Firstly, his islamic faith taught him to respect food, "Ak ri'mul khubza" (handle bread with respect) and secondly, as someone who had fled from a brutal civil war and had to live in refugee camps you did not waste food. Even four years later, this moment still resonates with me.  I saw for myself the respect given to bread in the Islamic world when visiting Uzbekistan where the bread is revered and is almost an art form.

smiths crisps

Bread made with love in Uzbekistan

As a child crisps came in a waxed packet with a blue paper twist containing the salt.  I have a clear memory of my Grandmother saving those blue paper twists and emptying them into the salt cellar.  Her life had been a cycle of good and bad times. As a child she had emigrated to Australia from impoverished Ireland.  After marrying my Grandfather they cleared some land in New South Wales and built up a prosperous dairy farm. Then came the Great Depression of the 1930s and while the farm survived those were hard times.  My Father as a young boy remembered a steady stream of destitute victims of the depression wandering the countryside in search of jobs and food. My Grandmother would always share the evening meal with them.  Her whole life experience taught the value of food, not even that tiny paper twist of salt would be wasted. If there are good times you never knew when they might be snatched away.

smiths crisps

Smiths Crisp of my youth note the price 2d (1.2p in today's money)

Many of us as children will have learnt the mantra of “Give Us Our Daily Bread’ as part of the Lord’s prayer. It is not just a request for bread but a recognition of our dependency on food.  Most faiths have a recognition of the importance of food. Whether you are of a faith or, like me, of no faith we need to reconnect with food and respect not just as a familiar jar on a supermarket shelf but where it comes from, the cost in labour and transport of getting it there and consequences of it not arriving.

In our times of plentiful, cheap and ready to eat food, familiarity breeds contempt and we seem to have lost that connection with food and no longer respect it.  Until that is of course the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew there was real trouble looming in the food supply chain when in a supermarket the shelf given over to Marmite was empty.  The next day, not long after opening my daughter secured one of the 2 remaining jars on the shelf, in the space of less than 24 hours the empty shelf had been restocked and then emptied.  Love it or hate it Marmite is one of our Nation’s staples, and suddenly that comfort of slightly burnt toast oozing a gooey mix of butter and marmite was under threat. Our food supply is fragile and should not be taken for granted as my Syrain refugee friend and Grandmother understood only too well.