Carbon party

I have been with the Board of Co-operatives UK in Crewe today for a strategy awayday before starting next week. We have had a great input from a survey of members and the key step change everyone wants is to build the public campaign and case for co-operation. The timing could not be better.

Tonight we go for our local ‘carbon party’. Over the last twelve years or so, a group of us have met, courtesy of Robin Stott (doctor, cyclist, host and author), to share our carbon footprint levels and … party. It is a way to say that doing the right thing can be doing the fun thing – although in truth our footprints are still way over the levels we have to have as a society.

Big state, little people

Chris tells me of his visit last week to the Home Office for an event on immigration policy.

He represents the vocal non-profit Refugee Action. So, even though they have some state funding, he was taken aback to be given a badge for the event which described the organisation to the world as ”Home Office Subcontractor’.

“A few years back” he says “they called us a stakeholder…”


I have travelled North by train to Stirling (castle here courtesy, under creative commons license, of to visit Johnston Birchall and colleagues. Johnston is a friend and one of the Britain’s leading researchers on co-operation and mutuality.

stirling castle

One of his current passions is for farmers’ co-operatives, but he warns against the tendencies encouraged overseas by development donors to see these as NGOs. They are businesses and have to deliver marketing benefits to their members to survive and thrive.

He distinguishes co-operatives and mutuals as democratic businesses that are about members rather than shareholders. The three defining characteristics he sees are member ownership, member control and member benefits. Johnston has recently completed a short report with Richard Simmons forthcoming for the Co-operative College on co-operatives in international development and has been working on what will be an outstanding project for Co-operative Development Scotland – looking at the comparative performance of the co-operative sector across different countries. In Finland, for example, the co-operative sector accounts for a remarkable 21% of overall GDP. In Switzerland, it is 16% and in Sweden, 13%.

The economical environmentalist

51+5C54nj7L._SL500_AA240_I spoke at the launch last night of Prashant’s excellent new book, The Economical Environmentalist.

He is always so good with numbers – and not shy at presenting them – and he took a particular shot at meat eating in a time of climate change. These were my favourites:

  • it takes fifteen units of energy to feed a cow equivalent to produce the equivalent of one in terms of edible meat
  • switching to beans does make you more flatulent, but cows produce so much methane that for the same weight of food, beef produces 100 farts from the cow for every one from you after a unit of beans (I am not making this up)
  • a 400 gram book is a good way of sequestering 1kg of carbon…

prashantprashant house

Grand stile


Autumn walk in the Darent Valley and I encounter an unusual stile.

It invites you to climb over it, or walk around and wonder where the hedge has gone.

Powys in the sun

SL380753SL380751SL380750I have had a wonderful trip to mid-Wales to stay with my friend Pat Conaty.

Pat is a tireless and relentlessly optimistic pioneer of a wide range of self-help and co-operative initiatives – from community land trusts to National Debtline, which is now a lifeline for a quarter of a million people a year.