Fun Palace pop-up

Fun Palaces is a movement campaigning for culture by, for and with all – with a firm belief that community belongs at the core of all culture – and an annual weekend of events, where arts, crafts, science, tech and digital are a catalyst for community engagement and full participation for everyone, from the grassroots up.

Fun Palaces are made by local people for their own communities, bringing together arts and sciences, crafts, tech and digital, free and fun, linked by the the Fun Palace network – Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist.”

In 2016, Exeter Library got on board late on, and at short notice organised a fun weekend of art and science related activities. We got involved with Particulart on the Saturday. The weekend mostly attracted children, and we swung the earth a lot and made carbon dioxide pompoms. Sadly I don’t have many photographs, only those @ExeterLibrary tweeted.

Popping up in an allotment shed

Clare was at the Greenbelt Festival over the August bank holiday. As part of a fantastic weekend, she gave a Pecha Kucha talk about her art work, and “Particulart: Up in the Air” popped up in the Allotment Gallery.

There was visual art dotted around the site at Boughton House near Kettering, including three venues in shed down by the lake: the Garden, Allotment, and Potager Galleries. The Allotment Gallery hosted a series of installations from different artists over the weekend. Particulart took the 12-4pm slot on the Sunday.

Clare had a series of great conversations across the ages and genders, from small children attracted by the inflatable globe and hanging molecules that could be swung, to young people interested in data and/or science; from knitters gaining new ideas for how they can use their craft in activism, to a mechanical engineer thinking about communicating data and information, and a psychotherapist pondering the benefits to mental health of knitting and making generally.

Half way through, she was approached by a woman from Radio 4 who asked her whether she would record some of the Daily Service for Wednesday, part of a special week of programmes from Greenbelt. So her voice can be heard reading some prayers halfway through “A Different Type of Power: The Power of Art”.

The mechanical engineer provided one of her favourite quotes: “When I read the board outside, I had no idea just how amazingly cool this was!” Her other favourite quote was a throw-away line from a couple of women as they went on to their next thing: “I love Greenbelt!” Presumably because Greenbelt is the sort of space where they can happen upon stuff like bonkers installations involving knitting, chemistry, contemplation, and gentle protest. Clare loves Greenbelt too!

Here are some photos of the shed, with thanks to Sue Holden.

Particulart goes to Oxfordshire part 2

A month ago, Particulart was in Wallingford, featuring in Oxfordshire Artweeks.

This weekend, there are going to be not one… not two… but yes OK two Particulart events in Oxford as part of Low Carbon Oxford Week, and they’re both brand new exhibitions and both FREE!!

LCO_Week_A4“Greenhouse Effect”…

…is happening from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm on Saturday 18th June in Bury Knowle Park, Headington. As the poster says…

Human activity, and resulting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, are increasingly changing the Earth’s climate and our weather.

Come to Bury Knowle Park for a family trip out, and happen across a whole new way of seeing climate change! Explore the greenhouse and knit your own carbon dioxide molecule.

18th June is also World-Wide Knit in Public Day. Bring your knitting and other yarn-based activities, have a picnic, and join in.

Anyone who wants to volunteer a bit of time would be more than welcome. Waitrose next door are kindly providing volunteer refreshments. Please get in touch.


…is from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm on Sunday 19th June at Magdalen College School. And the blurb…

The scandal over Volkswagen’s cheating over exhaust emissions testing has disappeared from the news, but the scandal over exhaust fumes and poor air quality in our cities remains.

Air pollution as you’ve never seen it before! Children of all ages can make their own exhaust fumes!

“Exhausted” is also featuring alongside Test Drive the Future in association with Oxford Festival of the Arts, with the support of BMW North Oxford.

Particulart goes to Oxfordshire part 1

Oxfordshire Artweeks

A few greenhouse gases and accompanying information are currently winging their way over to Wallingford. They will be popping up as part of an event under the Oxfordshire Artweeks umbrella.

Artist Janey Carline, who set up Everyone’s An Artist, is teaming up with Sustainable Wallingford on 14 May to celebrate their work and the planet, and then opening her studio and garden over 14-19 May.

We’re looking forward to seeing what she does with carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Paris Agreement :: Climate action?

Today, 22nd April, is Earth Day, and the day 171 countries signed the Paris Agreement. Back in December, the agreement was met with muted approval.

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP in the South West, welcomed it …

What the Paris climate deal means is that the global economy has moved away from the fossil fuel era and onto a path towards a clean energy future. Making this transformation a reality will require widespread changes to the way we live and work, but before embarking on that endeavour we should take a moment to celebrate this unique and groundbreaking success for genuine global co-operation.

I am also delighted to see the ambition to keep temperature warming within 1.5° coming back into the agreement alongside a commitment to return to the targets set today on a regular basis to ensure that policies become more ambitious over time.

… but climate activist Bill McKibben of asked: “the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?”

At the moment the world … continues to pretend that merely setting the goal has been work enough for the last two decades. Its “training plan” – the text that negotiators agreed on in Paris – is a go-slow regimen that aims for a world 3.5C warmer.

So what is McKibben saying now? In an interview for Daily Kos, he spoke about the science and the rise of movements:

Less optimistic about the science—it’s happening much faster, and with more weight, than we thought it would. The last six months have been devastating—temperatures setting every possible record [see this NASA news release], … the highest wind speeds ever recorded amidst devastating cyclones, and new research indicating that we can expect the collapse of ice sheets on a much faster time scale than we’d anticipated.

More optimistic about the rise of movements. Since the policy response of governments has been so feeble, we’ve had to build globe-spanning movements to try and check the fossil fuel industry. And we have. The fight over Keystone has turned into a thousand other fights… And we’re winning a surprising number of them.

In other words, we all have power if we work together. You can take action on climate now.

Raffle for refugees

Artist aid for RefugeesThe fantastic folk in Fore Street Exeter are holding a Cheese and Wine Fundraiser for Refugees, to include a raffle of artworks and craft.

18 March at 7.30pm
Glorious Art House, EX4 3JQ

Donations from artists and makers still very welcome. Raffle tickets on sale now. See the Facebook event page for more.

Clare is donating a carbon dioxide molecule, also under the aegis of Free Art Friday Exeter. The label says:

This 3D knitted representation of a carbon dioxide molecule was part of an exhibition in the Glorious Art House in July 2015.

In “Particulart: Up in the Air”, the Glorious gallery became the Earth’s atmosphere, as greenhouse gases hung in space around an inflatable globe. But the gases were also hung according to three pieces of data, so the gallery was also effectively a 3D graph complete with axes.

Because climate change is happening over such a long time-scale and the potential impacts are so huge, many people switch off and pretend that there is no issue. Knitting is a way of bringing it back down to earth.

But the effects of climate change are already with us. There is good evidence that it intensified the prolonged drought in the Middle East in 2006-10. The collapse in agriculture was one factor that sparked the unrest in Syria.

There was a good article in the Independent that sifts the evidence with respect to climate change and the drought, and the relative importance of environmental, societal and governmental factors. It also looks at previous research into links between major ecosystem change and violence: “any major ecosystem change that would have a negative effect on agriculture could intensify social unrest”.

And then on 1 March came the news of this NASA study, which “finds that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, which comprises Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past nine centuries.” From the report of the study on Science Daily:

“The Mediterranean is one of the areas that is unanimously projected [in climate models] as going to dry in the future [due to human-made climate change],” said Yochanan Kushnir, a climate scientist at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, who was not involved in the research. “This paper shows that the behavior during this recent drought period is different than what we see in the rest of the record,” he said, which means that the Levant region may already be feeling the affects of human-induced warming of the planet.


Talk at Abingdon Carbon Cutters

Clare grew up in Abingdon, so offered to speak at one of the monthly meetings of Abingdon Carbon Cutters, the local low carbon group. As well as giving an overview of Particulart and climate change, she touched on craftivism more generally (some of the members were involved in knitting the 7-mile-long pink scarf between AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield) and ozone depletion in particular (her first job was as a student assistant in a team researching ozone chemistry down the road at Harwell).

And she got a bit of publicity for it in the Oxford Mail. Particulart may feature again in Oxfordshire in 2016…

2015-11-18 ACC in Oxford Mail p16

Church Times article on Vienna Convention…

Clare Bryden. When the world acted for the good. Church Times, 2 October 2015. Available on Church Times website (paywall).

THIS year is the 30th anniversary of the ozone “hole” and the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. The Convention and accompanying Montreal Protocol are among the most successful treaties of all time, in that they addressed a human-made environmental problem through rare but genuine international co-operation, and have almost completely achieved their goals.

Shortly after they were agreed, climate change arose as the next human-made problem on the agenda. The Vienna Convention became the model for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but there are important differences, and climate negotiations are still without resolution.

The ozone layer is not really a layer, but a section of the stratosphere about 20-30km above the earth’s surface, where ozone concentrations are relatively high; and the ozone hole is not really a hole, but a reduction in concentration. In May 1985, reporting in Nature, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) described losses of 70 per cent during the Antarctic spring, and four per cent globally.

Stratospheric ozone is important because it absorbs harmful UVB radiation from the sun, and protects us from sunburn, skin cancer, and cataracts. Stratospheric-ozone depletion is caused by emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other man-made halocarbons, used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, and industrial solvents.

SCIENTISTS had been aware of ozone depletion since the mid-1970s, and five countries, including the United States, banned the use of CFCs in aerosol spray cans. Unsurprisingly, there was opposition from the CFC industry, using arguments that sound eerily familiar in a climate context: the theory was described as “a science fiction tale . . . utter nonsense”; and it was said: “We believe there is no imminent crisis that demands unilateral regulation.”

The governments of Germany, France, and the UK tried to defend their own industries, and progress in the US stalled during the first two years of President Reagan’s administration. But negotiations continued, and brought governments to the conference table in Vienna in March 1985. The Vienna Convention was a framework for further negotiations, and did not include legally binding reduction goals; so it was signed by 20 countries, including most of the main producers.

Then BAS announced the discovery of the Antarctic ozone “hole”, reviving public interest in the issue, and the US Environmental Protection Agency published a study predicting an additional 40 million cases of skin cancer and 800,000 cancer deaths in the US in the next 88 years. Then, possibly in fear of litigation, and having developed hydrochloroflurocarbons as a less destructive alternative to CFCs, US industry dropped its opposition to a CFC ban.

So, in 1987, 18 months after the Vienna Convention was signed, the world reached a binding agreement, and 43 nations signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

THE UN Environment Programme said that the Montreal Protocol embodied three guiding principles. These later formed an important part of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which sought to direct future sustainable development around the world.

First, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: the Protocol distinguished between two blocs of high and low CFC users. High users, who were largely responsible for the problem, were expected to act first. They agreed to reduce production of the five main ozone-depleting CFCs by 50 per cent by 1999. Low users, generally less-developed countries, had a ten-year grace period, and were provided with financial support.

Second, the precautionary principle: the risk of harm from inaction outweighed the risk of harm from taking action.

Third, the principle of basing policies and action on sound science: the Protocol was agreed before scientists had resolved all uncertainties and established a consensus, but the science was considered fit for purpose.

As the scientific evidence strengthened, so did the targets. In the 1990 London Amendment, signatories agreed to phase out CFCs almost entirely by 2000. In the 1992 Copenhagen Amendment, the phase-out date was moved up to 1996.

The Vienna Convention, Montreal Protocol, and its four Amendments are the only UN treaties to achieve ratification by all 193 member states. Many countries in both blocs met their phase-out targets well ahead of schedule. Tens of millions of skin cancers and cataracts have been avoided, and there have been substantial climate benefits.

THE Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol were so successful that it seemed logical to follow the template when scientists first sounded the alarm about carbon emissions. Talks began in 1989 on what was to become the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

There is, however, a big difference between convincing governments to ban chemicals manufactured by only a few countries and used in only a few applications, and persuading them to give up fossil fuels, when many rely on selling them for their national income, and almost all depend on burning them.

So the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and the precautionary principle, were subsumed by self-interest. And the stratospheric expectations for precision, confidence, and consensus have stretched the principle of basing policies and action on sound science almost to breaking point.

The UNFCCC was eventually agreed, and signed at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. But it left decisions about how this was to be accomplished to future negotiations, and, crucially, the rules on voting have never been agreed.

Although the 1997 Kyoto Protocol imposed targets on developed countries, only the EU took it seriously, and global carbon-dioxide emissions have soared. In December, world leaders are meeting in Paris for what is billed as “our last hope”. Let us hope and pray that the spirit of 1980s Vienna and Montreal prevails.

Lent Carbon Fast 2015

You’ve probably heard of Lent fasts: giving up chocolate or biscuits or swearing for the 40 days before Easter. But did you know that in 2014, the Church of England in the south west ran a Carbon Fast? And they’re going to be running another one again this year.

During Lent 2015, which starts on 18 February, the particular focus for the Fast is on the link between our use of water, which needs to be pumped, cleaned and stored; our energy use; and the things we consume. For example, it takes 11,000 litres to make a pair of jeans and 140 litres of water to make a single cup of coffee. For each day of Lent, everyone who signs up will receive a daily email with an action to consider (except Sundays) and a specially written reflection. The Carbon Fast 2015 will also consider broader climate issues, in the run up to the Paris negotiations in December.

“Particulart” is going to be involved in the Carbon Fast through a new exhibition in Bristol Cathedral called “A Stitch in Time”. Watch this space for timings.

Anyone can undertake the Carbon Fast Challenge at any time of the year. The 40 days need not be the 40 days of Lent. You see, carbon fasting doesn’t need to cost anything. Every step you take counts for something. You will be surprised at how much difference even the smallest steps will make. And then you can keep taking them.