Lessons from the Zero Carbon Britain course

At the end of April, I attended the Zero Carbon Britain course run by the Centre for Alternative Technology.

After a year of Zoom events and meetings, I’ll admit I was a little unsure how the two-day online course would go. But I needn’t have worried. It was the best online event I’ve attended: there were plenty of comfort breaks, and each session was followed by a Q&A and then a discussion in small groups. Sometimes with virtual events, I struggle with things going in one ear and out the other, but I found that being able to chat things through really helped me retain the information – which was good as there was a lot of it! It also gave me the chance to meet lots of different people, all of whom were passionate about tackling the climate emergency. Everyone brought their own knowledge, experience and interests to the table.

Zero Carbon Britain logo

Day one focused on all the problems we face and possible solutions based on the Zero Carbon Britain report. It’s well worth a read, and there’s even a summary version. The report relies solely on existing technologies and explores renewable energies, energy use, diet and land use. If I’m honest, I felt a bit down coming away from day one and rather powerless. Despite immense problems and viable solutions, it seemed like nothing was being done. Day two put paid to that feeling with inspiring examples of people and communities working for a better future.

It was an almost overwhelming amount of information, but here are some of the key points that resonated with me most.

Our lives have to change, but not drastically

Of course, big changes are needed to rise to the climate emergency. But the solutions suggested by the Centre for Alternative Technology aren’t all that drastic for individuals. Not everybody has to go vegan. Just reduce the amount of meat and dairy they eat and the amount of food they waste. Also, we need to eat more food from the UK. All sensible solutions that everyone can get on board with. And by combining environmental justice with social justice, we can make sure everyone can afford these changes as part of a just transition.

We’ve actively gone backwards

I was surprised to see how much better public transport used to be. Trams used to run through many city centres, including Bristol where I live, but they were removed to make way for cars. Also, the train network used to serve far more of the country than our current network. Following the Beeching Report in 1963, miles upon miles of track were closed. These maps clearly show the difference.

Community action can enact change

On day two of the course, we saw countless examples of inspiring community action. From Green Wedmore to The Active Wellbeing Society in Birmingham, from Park(ing) Day in San Francisco to Ungersheim in France, places all around the world are doing their bit. I’ve even seen this in Bristol, with a road near me being closed to try out a liveable neighbourhood based on the community’s demands.

And perhaps, most importantly:

We have to share the world we want to live in

When we see evidence of positive change, we have to share it, as people need to imagine something to make it happen. I came away from the course feeling empowered and ready to share my knowledge with others. My plan now is to share positive news and climate solutions to normalise them and help build a movement for change. And also learn things along the way.

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