This Saturday… WAM Fest!


That’s nothing to do with the 1980s pop group, but the Festival of Weather, Art and Music. The 2016 event is all about “Extreme Weather and You”, and is happening in the University of Exeter Forum this Saturday 5th March from 11am to 5pm.

The “Particulart: Up in the Air” pop-up will be making an appearance, on the mezzanine floor outside the Alumni Auditorium. There will be the knitted greenhouse gases, games to play, DIY carbon dioxide pompoms, knitting patterns to take away for the more ambitious.

There will be loads of other activities there, from print-making to climate roulette. The full programme is available on

And there will also be a chance to see some of Clare’s new work: “Winter Blues: A little colouring book of climate mindfulness” and “Green|Blue”.

Hope to see you there!


“Something Wonderful in My Back Yard”, or “SWIMBY”, was originally conceived by producer Chloe Uden with the working title: “Transition Town – The Musical”. It tackles a very different subject to your common-or-garden musical: how do a motley group of ordinary, argumentative people persuade their make-do-and-mend, muddle-through market town to embrace community food and energy schemes and become more resilient? It was written by poet Matt Harvey and composer Thomas Hewitt Jones.

Early on in the process, I bumped into Matt at the Renewable Energy Marketplace show, and tickled his fancy with “Particulart” and the poetry of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin. The idea was born for a character spending the musical on stage knitting carbon dioxide. And so “Particulart” and the pattern for knit-your-own carbon dioxide is featured in the SWIMBY musical songbook!

“Something Wonderful in My Back Yard: The Songbook”, Quixotic Press, 2015. “Something Wonderful in My Back Yard: The Songbook”, Quixotic Press, 2015.

Pop-up in Exeter Cathedral

Holy Ground happens once a month in Exeter Cathedral, usually on the second Sunday. The format is a service of Holy Eucharist at 7pm, followed by refreshments, then from about 8pm there is a choice between a silent meditation and a talk or panel discussion.

The evenings very often engage in social issues, which is why this December it was moved to the first Sunday to coincide with the Paris climate negotiations, and why the “Up in the Air” pop-up made a special appearance.

The service started by celebrating the beauty of creation, but then highlighted our culpability in destroying much of the Earth we are supposed to cherish. The congregation had the opportunity to make a response, following footsteps around the Cathedral, considering our own carbon footprint, and engaging with the pop-up.

In the second part of the evening, Martyn Goss from the Diocese of Exeter and European Christian Environmental Network spoke about ecotheology and climate change. We had a live Skype link to a colleague of his on the ground in Paris who could give us a flavour of the negotiations.

It was a privilege to be part of it. Here are a few photos by Clare and Sara Traynor.

Video installation in Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral is hosting an “Up in the Air” video installation for the duration of the Paris climate negotiations. I’m proud that it is part of ArtCOP21, the global climate art festival:

Climate change is often seen through a policy or scientific lens, and solutions are discussed only in political offices, boardrooms and negotiating halls. ArtCop21 launched ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris, aims to challenge those tropes. Climate is culture. What is required is the active engagement of citizens worldwide in the urgency, value and opportunities of a transition away from fossil fuels and the embracing of a greener, sustainable future economy.

There will also be an appearance of the “Up in the Air” pop-up at the Cathedral’s monthly Holy Ground service at 7pm on 6 December.

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

Sidmouth Science Festival

“Up in the Air” pop-up was supposed to feature in the Sidmouth Science Festival on Saturday, but unfortunately other commitments intervened.

Clare did however preach at Sidbury Church on Sunday as part of the Festival. Her topic was “Who has the wisdom?” and she largely spoke about the book of Job, and scientific knowledge and wisdom. But of course Particulart did make an appearance. And maybe the congregation will remember Clare waving around a knitted carbon dioxide as a prop if nothing else.

Popping up soon near you

Got some dates for your diaries. “Up in the Air” will be popping up this autumn at the following meetings and events:

17 October

Sidmouth Science Festival
Popping-up from 11am at Kennaway House
FREE for the general public!

18 October

Sidmouth Science Festival
Clare is preaching at the 10.30am Holy Communion service at St Giles Sidbury

18 November

Abingdon Carbon Cutters
Clare is speaking at the Monthly meeting, 7.30pm at St Ethelwold’s, Abingdon

6 December

Holy Ground at Exeter Cathedral
Popping-up as part of the service of Holy Communion from 7pm
Discussion from about 8pm

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.

Relight My Fire

Particulart pop-up at RLMF BikeShed bar

“Up in the Air” popped up for a second time at the Relight My Fire festival of energy and the arts in Exeter last weekend. Indoors this time, and slimmed down without roof or games area. It just about fit in the space.

Relight My Fire is run by Regen SW, and is part of Part of Community Energy Fortnight. It brings artists to the streets and venues of Exeter to explore our relationship with energy past, present and future. The energising (and hopefully not enervating) programme includes performances, talks, workshops, activities and pop-up events.

In fact, Relight My Fire’s financial support helped make the pop-up possible. It was part of the RE:FRESH event in the Bikeshed Bar and Theatre.

Regen SW is building a network of creative practitioners who are developing work in the arts and energy space – This networking event will provide a platform for some of those artists to share details of their work and chat over drinks.

It was great to speak to some really interesting people doing great work in this area. One performance artist is living on 15 litres of water a day for a year, just 10% of the UK average. I offered her a loan of my water vapour particle! It featured among the “A Stitch in Time” greenhouse gases, but doesn’t fit easily into the data framework for “Up in the Air” so is sitting on a shelf at the moment.

Relight My Fire also included the launch of a new blog called Power Culture, which explores our energy generation through the arts. Clare has a couple of pieces on the blog, one about Particulart, the other about Didcot Power Station, as you do.