Oxfordshire Climate Change Community Groups Handbook

The Oxfordshire Climate Change Community Groups Handbook is a new resource for community groups in Oxfordshire, containing case studies, ideas, resources, links to groups and a heap of useful information, whether you’re just starting or looking for new ideas.

The handbook is produced by ClimateX – and you can view it online or download it as a PDF.

Spirituality as a Uniting Force for Environmental Action with Satish Kumar – 11th November

ONE EARTH, MANY FAITHS are organising an evening with Satish Kumar entitled ‘Spirituality as a Uniting Force for Environmental Action’.

The evening will be start at 7.00pm in the Old Library at The University Church, The High St, Oxford on 11th November 2010.

The lecture will be followed by a soup and cheese supper in the Vaults and Garden Cafe at 8.00pm. To book a place email Renny Gye on: gyes [at] care4free.net (replace [at] with @ and remove spaces).

Satish Kumar is current editor of Resurgence, founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies and of The Small School.

Get support to start a Climate Change Action Group

Get help and support from Oxfordshire Rural Community Council and Climate-X-change to develop a climate action group with your church, youth group or community group and help fight climate change in your community.

Thanks to a grant from Oxfordshire County Council, this new project will help local residents meet the challenges of climate change, by supporting and encouraging community-led initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and promote more sustainable behaviour.

An impressive amount of climate action is taking place in Oxfordshire, including swap shops, the production of ‘buy local’ guides, home energy reduction clinics, community composting schemes, community orchards, eco-weeks, talks, film screenings… Could your community do something similar? Each additional group helps spread the carbon reduction message.

ORCC and Climate-X-change can offer guidance and ongoing support on setting up an action group, offering a toolkit to showcase the variety of approaches to helping stop climate change, providing facts and figures, and signposting to useful organisations and information sources- saving time in getting new groups off the ground.

As part of the new project, a Carbon Challenge shall be launched later in 2010. This competition shall measure carbon reductions in home energy and transport usage, and ask entrants to devise a climate action plan for their community. Watch this space for more information!

If you are interested in setting up a group we’d like to hear from you! You might be a church group, a youth club, or simply a group of concerned individuals. The main thing is that you want to help fight climate change in your community.

For more information on how we can help you get your group started, contact Tom McCulloch at ORCC (tom.mcculloch@oxonrcc.org.uk) or call 01865 883 488.

Tom McCulloch is a Community Development Worker with Oxfordshire Rural Community Council. He works with communities to help deliver rural affordable housing and undertake climate action strategies.

Supporting biodiversity in a churchyard – Case study

The first of a series of case studies from churches around the Diocese of Oxford has just been published. Supporting biodiversity in a churchyard is a case study from St Mary and St John Church in East Oxford.

It is the story of turning a churchyard that had become a forest of overgrown trees and tangled undergrowth, convenient for prostitution and drug taking, to be a much appreciated quiet green space in the middle of a busy urban area. The maintenance of the churchyard has also become an important partnership between the church and others in the local community, and it is now an educational resource on wildlife and local history.

To read the full case study download this file: Churchyard Case Study – St Mary St John Oxford.pdf

Feeding Oxford

Join speaker Mark Winne for this event entitled ‘Feeding Oxford: Investing in a Food Supply Fit for the Future’.

Author of ‘Closing the Food Gap’, Mark has been a pioneer in the development of just and sustainable food systems in New England for over 30 years. At a time when people are looking for more control over their own food supply, the event is being held to to spark a new debate about how we should feed Oxford.

Date: Tuesday 4th May 8pm
Venue: Vaults and Garden, Radcliffe Square, Oxford

Admission is Free, but space is limited.
To book a space or for further information RSVP to: Ruth West on info@CampaignForRealFarming.org

Car clubs – a way to reduce carbon emissions and congestion

If you can’t cover your travelling entirely by public transport, cycle or on foot, you still don’t need to own a car: join a car club instead! Members get access to a fleet of cars parked in designated bays in local streets without any of the hassle or cost of ownership. Once a member, you can book a car, online or over the phone, for periods upwards of half an hour, and you’re charged according to the length of booking and distance travelled. Members each get a smart card to open the car when they have a booking, so there’s none of the hassle of collecting a conventional hire car.

Oxcar's first birthday celebration - Photo: Oxford Mail

One such car club was set up in East Oxford just over a year ago when a local residents’ group, Oxcar, joined forces with a national not-for-profit car club, Commonwheels. An innovative move was to lease suitable cars from residents, which has made a mix of cars available – small runabouts (including new fuel-efficient Polos), medium-sized hatchbacks and a 7-seater MPV – as well as allowing lower than conventional booking rates. Any car that is leased to the club is fitted with the necessary electronics and becomes part of the fleet, available for use by all members. In return the Club takes on the costs of the car (tax, insurance, service, cleaning etc) and gives the owner free driving hours per month (mileage fees still apply). This can offer the owner significant savings. (For anyone living in East Oxford, Oxcar / Commonwheels are looking for more cars to adopt!).

But crucially, this is not just about saving money – it is about reducing carbon emissions. An independent survey of the first year of the East Oxford scheme, conducted by Carplus, showed that with growth to over 200 members and 8 cars (more on the way) each Commonwheels car had reduced by 10 the number of cars on the roads of Oxford. There’s no doubt that more thought is given as to whether a car journey is really necessary. Congestion and dangerous overparking are reduced too! This is encouraging the County and City Councils to offer more parking bays to the car club which, provided there are more offers of cars to lease (or loans to buy new cars – with the promise of a small return on the investment) will attract more members, in turn providing the resources for more cars, attracting more members ….. . A growing success story!

So why not explore starting a community car club in your area? Perhaps, if needed, you could offer a parking place on your church’s property? Join the discussion about Car Clubs in the comments below.

If you want to hear more, you are welcome to Oxcar’s first AGM: Tuesday, 9 March, 7.30pm at the Gladiator Club, 263 Iffley Road (corner of Percy Street) 0X4 1SJ. There will be an opening address by Monawar Hussain, Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Oxfordshire, followed by reports of activities to date and discussion of possible directions in the future. For further details, email: oxcar2@yahoo.co.uk

Or you could go to websites: for information about the Commonwheels Car Club (which has cars in Reading, High Wycombe, and Headington as well as East Oxford): www.commonwheels.org.uk

For Oxcar details: www.oxcar.org.uk (currently being rebuilt and updated) – for details of the car adoption scheme, write to oxcar2@yahoo.co.uk

For general information about car clubs: www.carclubs.org.uk and www.carplus.org.uk

Grow Zones – reconnecting with the land

Guest Post by Chris Sunderland of EarthAbbey

It is not yet widely recognised that there are spiritual issues at stake over climate change. Many people seem to consider it all as a technical or political problem. They look anxiously into the future for a piece of geo-engineering that will save us, or campaign furiously to get politicians to act. Yet the environmental issues that we face are so serious and so multi-faceted that they demand nothing less than an inner transformation.

There are lots of paths in to the spirituality of climate change. We could talk about finding a proper humility about our abilities to manipulate and engineer the earth. We could consider the transformation of our wills so that we are truly able to live differently. But I would like to focus in this article on another problem, which is simply that we have lost touch with the creation.

More than 50% of humans in general and 80% of the people in the UK now live in towns or cities and, across the world, the great exodus from country to town continues. City living has great benefits in terms of easy communication, opportunity for development and change and some say that it is even ‘greener’ in terms of carbon footprint. But one thing it tends to lack. And that is a deep, heartfelt connection with nature.

I have recently been involved in the formation of a new Christian community known as EarthAbbey, whose members simply commit themselves to encourage one another to journey towards a life more in tune with the earth. It is a neo-monastic community, open to all people everywhere, with a strong focus on practical living. Here in Bristol, where it began, we have been trying to find meaningful ways to reconnect with the land and we came up with a very simple idea we have called Grow Zones. What we did was this.

A small group of us teamed up to turn each other’s gardens over to growing edible produce. Some of us were gardeners already. Many were not. We were particularly interested to learn something about Permaculture in the process. Permaculture is about designing growing systems so that they work in harmony with the local ecosystems rather than against them.  Permaculture has a strong fit with EarthAbbey’s aims. So, the way we did it was that each person spent some time thinking about what they would like to grow and then we met on a series of Saturday mornings, once at each garden, and did the business. The host would produce a list of jobs, we would choose what we wanted to do, and we then spent the morning working. The host then provided us all with a lunch based on fresh local produce.

Now at one level you could see this as a simple carbon reduction strategy. We each produce more of our own food, reducing fossil fuel use from industrial scale agriculture with its irrigation, fertiliser, pesticide and food miles. Yet strangely this was rather far from our minds. We found that we just loved doing this. There was something about working the land itself. A contact with reality, a stillness, the seasons, the hope of fruit. We found ourselves friends, somehow joined in a deep way through our work together. And I think we sensed something of God in it all, a sort of being blessed that is hard to describe, but very powerful to experience.

Last year saw an astonishing resurgence of interest in growing food across this country. Seed manufacturers were overwhelmed at the demand. I know that others have experienced that same sort of joy that we encountered and likewise discovered how powerful working land is as a means of creating community. David Hughes of Eco-Congregations sent us in a great story about a project on the land around  his home ( see the article here)

Receiving this and hearing other similar accounts has made me wonder whether it is right to call this a movement of the Spirit of God? The result of our surprising joy at Grow Zones is that EarthAbbey is now developing a whole range of projects on the land in Bristol and we are very keen to encourage others around the country to try Grow Zones. Our aim is to get 50 or more teams of people around the country turning their gardens over to edible produce and having great fun in the process.

If you would like to host a Grow Zones, please get in touch with us through www.earthabbey.com/growzones . It is all very easy and unburdensome.

If you would like to understand more of the biblical basis for EarthAbbey and what it is doing, try ‘The Dream that inspired the Bible’ by Chris Sunderland available from www.earthabbey.com/publishing for more on the experience of Grow Zones see ‘We have been grow zoned’ and ‘A short film_about_grow_zones.

Chris Sunderland Feb 2010

Contact Chris through www.earthabbey.com or phone 0117 9574652