7-day photo challenge

On 23 May, the folks at @PictureItChem gave us the challenge of posting “7 black and white photos of your life. No humans, no explanations. Challenge someone new every day.”

Last week we took them up on it. Along the way we thought a bit about chemistry in daily life [oops, that was an explanation] and got back in touch with a few local organisations…

Taking a break

Hello fellow Particulart-ers, crafty craftivists, and all. This is just to say that we are taking a break from Particulart. Not for ever, we hope. We still have plenty of chemistry to explore! And we’ll probably pop back from time to time as governments come and go, and we need to keep the site up-to-date. And we’re still tweeting occasionally about the issues.

Happy knitting!
Clare and Diana

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.

Popping up at TEDxExeter with ideas worth spreading

On 15 April, Clare was honoured to be able to show Particulart at TEDxExeter.

For those who haven’t come across the TED talks phenomenon yet, do check out TED.com.  TED is dedicated to ideas worth spreading. It started as an annual conference, but is now much more. TEDx is a programme of local, self-organized, independent events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

TEDxExeter has been held each year since 2012. In 2016 the theme was “Dreams to Reality”, and it featured a wide range of wonderful speakers. Danny Dorling showed us how different ways of mapping the world can communicate many different hopeful realities. Alan Smith, data visualisation editor at the Financial Times, gave a really engaging talk about statistics are about Us – the community not the individual – and how they can highlight gaps in our understanding of the world, our country, and even our local area. TEDx events also show a few TED talks as part of the programme. Among others, we got Al Gore on “The case for optimism on climate change”. A nice lot of Particulart-relevant material!

The main focus of the day is on the speakers and performers, but there are generous breaks for coffee, lunch and tea, to enable speakers, performers, delegates, sponsors, stall holders, team, and volunteers to mingle and connect. Particulart was one of many stalls in the break-out areas. Others included sponsor stalls, the FabLab hosted in Exeter Library, the Met Office Informatics Lab, and an exhibition of prints from Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

Clare had some great conversations during the day, especially with many of the school children and young people. She also took the opportunity to talk about her new artwork about flood risk, which was of particular interest to a group from Route 39 Academy in Clovelly, with memories of flooding on the north coast of Devon in recent years.

Great Hall - Tim
The Great Hall during the breaks; we’re over on the right of the image
Photo: Tim Pestridge

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 350.org 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.

European Commission plans on Waste to Energy

We have shamelessly copied the following message from a Quaker round-robin.

It’s an opportunity to help influence the EU’s future strategy on waste treatment, in particular to object to proposals which contradict the EU’s own climate commitments by promoting a polluting and inefficient form of energy.

Responses to the proposals are required by the end of March 2016.

The European Commission has published its plans on waste-to-energy: burning waste to create small amounts of energy and wasting valuable materials.

Despite circular economy principles emphasising the need to use our resources in a more efficient way, incineration, the second-worst form of waste treatment (only better than landfilling) is still being promoted by the EU. If you are concerned about this issue, take action to by giving your reaction here:


[Search for “Waste to Energy” in the Name box, and the document “Waste to Energy Communication” will appear. Click on “Open” on the far right under the heading “Give your feedback”]

Below are a few suggested points for you to use in your reaction. Please try not copy and paste these exactly, as the Commission may disregard identical (or very similar) responses. The deadline for giving your feedback is the end of March.

The EU’s roadmap:

  • classifies incineration with energy recovery as renewable energy,
  • suggests that waste-to-energy is the best treatment for non-recyclable waste, and,
  • contradicts the EU’s climate commitments by promoting a polluting and inefficient form of energy.

Take action today by responding to the roadmap.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Let’s work together to build a more sustainable Europe!

George Thurley
Project Officer (Sustainability)
Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA)
Quaker House, Square Ambiorix 50, 1000 Brussels
Twitter: @QCEA Web: QCEA.org | qceablog.wordpress.com
Telephone: +32 2 234 30 62

Energy from Waste response bullet points

Please do not copy and paste these exactly, as the Commission may disregard identical (or very similar) responses.

  • The contribution of waste-to-energy to Europe’s energy creation is limited – if we burnt all the municipal waste we are not required to recycle it would only provide 2% of our energy demand by 2020.
  • Europe should be trying to reduce our waste generation, not relying on it to provide energy. Burning waste produces more Carbon dioxide per megwatt-hour of energy than any fossil fuel.
  • “Non-recyclable waste” and materials should be eliminated at design stage, not burnt – promoting waste-to-energy addresses one symptom of our poor waste management systems, rather than addressing the root cause.
  • Building incineration plants encourages waste creation to feed these plants, and requires huge investment.
  • The targets set in the new circular economy package would mean that by 2030 only 25-35% of Europe’s waste should be incinerated – it is not worth investing in incineration plants for this amount.
  • Many member states already have too many incinerators with not enough waste to burn. The EU should require Member states not to allow new incineration plants.
  • The waste hierarchy is not a ladder: it is possible for countries dependent on landfill to skip incineration altogether by focussing on recycling and reuse.
  • In a true circular economy, any burning of waste is a failure.
  • The European Commission should impose a moratorium on the construction of new Waste-to-energy plants until it has performed an analysis on the current capacity of incineration plants.
  • The Commission must then develop plans on how to reduce existing over-capacities of incineration, rather than encourage their use for long-term facilities like district heating.
  • This roadmap ignores the role of civil society, and local governments, by not mentioning them in the list of stakeholders, despite the considerable health and environmental concerns.
  • Burning waste is not renewable energy (although we can continue making waste, we should not – waste is not comparable to the sun or wind!)
  • In fact, burning waste is one of the most polluting and inefficient forms of energy in existence.
  • Waste avoidance and recycling can save more energy – the energy embedded in products and materials – than burning waste could produce, and without any extra greenhouse gases being emitted.

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.