Active Travel

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”Arthur Conan Doyle

Last week was Climate Week Scotland. Blink and you missed it. What with the covid-19 crisis and the looming Brexit crisis, the national media have little room for a Climate Crisis. But all is not lost; I will review the important aspects of this little-known campaign.

First up was Active Travel. Under the banner of Walk, Wheel or Cycle the Scottish Government is encouraging us to get out more and exercise, take trips or even commute to work using just our leg power. Have you noticed how people have been doing just that during lockdown? Out in the Shire we see many more people strolling about and lots of cyclists touring the countryside.

I would add Run to the trio of Walk, Wheel and Cycle. Running is up there with cycling as a great aerobic exercise; good for the heart, the spirit and the waistline. And, if you leave the car at home, carbon emissions are reduced too. What’s not to like?

“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I’m just going to harangue you, dear reader. It’s time to get out in the fresh air and enjoy some exercise in nature’s gymnasium. But, I hear you say, there’s nowhere around me to safely walk/run/wheel/cycle. This is the usual excuse for putting off outdoor exercise. During the early days of covid-19, cyclists took advantage of traffic-free roads and country lanes. Now that people are able to travel more freely, traffic has built up again and drivers are getting frustrated with cyclists and vice-versa. There are many more letters to the Press and Journal complaining about “pesky cyclists”, as it were. What to do about this? You could add to the P&J Letters page, but better to complain to your elected representatives. After all, it’s their job to represent you!

Start with

Use the app/website to contact your councillors and respectfully demand that the City or Shire make better provision for active exercise. And where a council announces proposals like Aberdeen’s ‘Active Travel Action Plan’ this week, write to them and let them know you support them. Cycle lanes, dedicated traffic free routes and green open spaces are all great opportunities for exercise.

Demand these things from your Council. This is democracy at work.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

Tidal and wind power in Scotland, and adapting to a post-oil future

The second climate cafè last Tuesday evening was a great success. We heard two terrific talks. The first was on the future of tidal power in Scotland and was delivered by Dr Ian Davies of Marine Scotland Science. Then we heard from Dr Leslie Mabon from Robert Gordon University talking about the adaptation in the North East to a post oil future. Here’s my summary of the two talks.

The Future of Tidal Power in Scotland

Scotland is perfect for tidal and wind power with much of the Scottish coastline suitable. However before any project proceeds there are factors that must be considered. The Scottish coastline is also used by the fishing industry and there are ferry and shipping routes to take into account. There are also lots of protected animal species along the coastline such as birds and sea mammals. All these things are considered before a project is approved.

Stromness, which is in Orkney, is home to The European Marine Energy Centre. It’s a research and testing facility for wave and tidal power and is the only centre of its kind in the world. There are also a couple of offshore wind farms near Aberdeen. There’s one in Aberdeen Bay which is 2km offshore with 11 turbines, 176m high. There’s another just north of Stonehaven known as the Kincardine project which has 5 turbines. Just launched this year is Statoil’s Hywind project which is a floating wind farm and the first of its kind in the world. The cost of electricity generation from wind farms is falling rapidly and will continue to do so. The offshore wind farms are particularly good because there’s less concern from interaction with others. There’s also plenty of space.

Adaptation in the North East to a post oil future

For almost half a century Aberdeen’s fortune’s have been determined by North Sea oil. It created jobs and has made people rich. The average oil industry salary is £64,000, a substantially higher figure than the average wage in the UK which is £27,000. About 10% of all jobs here are in oil and gas. We have become dependent on one industry and this dependancy is a barrier to change. It has become a part of the fabric of the city. For instance, most airports have advertising for perfume, jewellery, or fashion but at Aberdeen airport you’ll see ads for drilling. You can even buy fridge magnets of oil platforms. For these reasons the people here will be resistant to change and maybe even defensive about the problem. What incentive does someone have to accept a much lower salary in a different industry?

What’s the solution?

We need to provide retraining schemes for workers as well as tax breaks and incentives for new industry. As individuals we can pressure politicians to support the transition.

Thoughts from our first Climate Café

The first of Aberdeen Climate Action’s (ACA’s) Climate Café series was fantastic. Over 85 people came along to Waterstones to listen and learn about local community renewable projects here in the North East. The speakers inspired us as they shared how their projects were created, and how the community energy schemes were just the first step in their communities’ journey to real sustainable living and also greater community empowerment.

We welcomed Donald Boyd from Greenmyres Community Energy speaking about the Huntly Community Wind Turbine.  Jim Currie from ACEnergy shared his experience with Donside Hydro, Aberdeen’s very own community hydroelectric power plant. Annabel Pinker from The James Hutton Institute highlighted a variety of fascinating community projects around Scotland. A common theme was one of empowerment of the individuals and communities involved in the creation and management of these projects. Having an independent stream of income means that these communities can develop more schemes to help their community and educate and inspire others.

The energy and enthusiasm in the room was palpable and the feedback we received is that people felt inspired to start their own projects. This is exactly what the Climate Café series is all about. Waterstones were terrific and created a wonderful atmosphere. There was great coffee served by Sloth Coffee as well as delicious home baking. Everyone had a great time eating, drinking, chatting and connecting after the talks.

We’re looking forward to the next Café on Tuesday 5th December, Waterstones, 7-9pm – Fast Forward to the Future: New Energy Sources and Post Oil, where we will be hearing about Marine Energy and the North East Post Oil. Please join us.