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Archive for February, 2006

Green travelling or time travelling?

“I had always anticipated that the people of the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be incredibly in front of us in knowledge, art, everything. Then (.) a flow of disappointment rushed across my mind. For a moment I felt I had built the Time Machine in vain.” H. G. Wells, The Time Machine

Every country always makes a first impression. Casting some stereotypical notions aside, when I moved to England from Finland it must have been that of the above quote from H. G. Wells book The Time Machine.

The Time Traveller of Wells had great anticipations of the people of the year “Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd”. But even though tranquil and peaceful at first, the future world soon shows to have a dual structure. The race Eloi inhabit the beautiful earth, childish and leading an easy life. But below the earth, in deep tunnels, lurk the sinister Morlocks, who were out to feast with the Eloi. I can’t help thinking this duality serves as a metaphor when one considers countries that are fond of wasting.

Back in Finland recycling has been made easy enough to lead to simple habits. All discarded food is put in a bio bin and then to an outside container. Glass, metal, paper, cardboard, and batteries go to their respectful banks; often in your own backyard. Glass and plastic bottles even have a deposit, whence no-one really forgets to return them. The thought of not doing these tasks is frankly ridiculous.

Now let us contrast the previous to England. Entering my flat in Plymouth I found all trash goes to a black bag, period. Obtaining a green bin for household recycling seemed near impossible, though we’ve finally gotten a green bag. Even now some are not using it because it is lacking the most trivial instructions; should you separate the recyclable trash and when is it to be taken out, for instance? Recycling banks for glass are all over the city, but a newcomer is going to have difficulty in finding them. Not to add that almost everything you buy at the shop is packaged with plastic to the hilt.

But who cares, right? Some city planners are actually encouraging you to just toss everything away. For instance, dozens of British cities are contemplating burning to cope with increasing amounts of commercial and household waste. It is “cheap, efficient and clean,” say the proponents. But it also does set an example of the rather symbolic kind: “don’t think about wasting, give no meaning to it in your everyday life”. Yet a material world you don’t think about does not disappear like under a magician’s spell. Instead it keeps lurking in the dark understructure of society, just like the Morlocks.

Plymouth Environment Centre, where I volunteer, has fortunately set to provide alternatives. We are preparing a Plymouth Green Guide of not only recycling, but also restaurants, cruelty-free cosmetics, environmental groups, energy, animal welfare et cetera. I would like the writing process to be collaborative, coming from the community, going to the community. If you think you could write, or even if you’re just interested to check it the Wiki page with instructions can be found here: Hope to see you there!

Posted by Anti S

February 27th, 2006

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Great, what railway?

Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the railway, further cuts to an already depleted and erratic service are announced as the Government plans to cut its rail subsidies.

With the A38 clogged up around Ashburton because of the programme of road improvements, for many the train to Plymouth was becoming a viable option again.

And woe betide anyone with the temerity to live anywhere near a ‘community railway’ (already denigrated by the ‘community’ label in today’s newspeak) and not want to use their 4×4, or worse still, not have one.

The South West is yet again suffering from a dismantling of infrastructure - failing patronage is blamed on the lines under threat. But without a commited push towards public transport, patronage is going to fall from a service that people feel let down by and can’t depend on.

As we’re starting to celebrate the achievements, failures and vision of one of the Greatest Britons (that’s official), Brunel would be turning in his stove pipe hat to know that we’re reverting to a reliance on horseless carriage horse power as our means of transport.

Posted by C’tpn

February 26th, 2006

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Hold on to your hats

Experiments in renewable energy are taking place in South Devon.

British Gas has teamed up with Windsave to trial pole-fixed roof-top propellor-type wind turbines.

But before we throw our hats up in the air with a collective whoop of joy, only for them to be taken far and wide on the prevailing winds, these turbines are not without their nay sayers, and what about the efficiency of turning the rotational energy in electric energy - a common bleat of those who are generally against wind power. And what ever happened to the other urban roof-top wind turbine maker, Winddam? 

And while we’re on the subject of efficiency, photovoltaic cells and solar power seem to have had a false dawn, and solar power in general has suffered by being sold in the same way as double glazing, creating mistrust in a tentative market.

Devon Dare (the Devon Association for Renewable Energy) carried out an efficiency study on hydro power on Dartmoor following the success of the Old Walls Farm project, and there was talk of a network of hydro-electricity producers supplying their own communities.

A combination of these technologies, and wave power, is surely the answer, and stuttering starts and lack of information aside these projects are all laudable, but we just need to take the next and often most difficult step and get them actually working on a larger scale.

That said, saving energy starts at an individual level and we can’t keep everything on standby until the problem is solved by someone else. Do what you can now.

If you have any information about renewable energy that you want to impart, contact the People’s Republic of South Devon, or visit the Plymouth Environment Centre (see links)

Posted by Cptn

February 25th, 2006

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Music to my ears

Vibraphonic, the Exeter music festival is hitting the streets next week. So listen out there for some funky and original sounds. There’s even the reappearance of the radio station that will dance upon the city’s air waves.

Fair trade fortnight is fast approaching (March 6 - 19), but can anyone tell us what the heck’s going on? Now, far be it from us to suggest our collective finger isn’t on any of the vibrant pulses that knot their way through the arteries of South Devon, but so far all we’ve managed to uncover is a fashion show in Plymouth Guild Hall at 7pm on March 14.

The good people from People Tree (who, according to themselves are a pioneering fair trade and ecological fashion company, offering beautiful hand-made clothes and accessories for men, women and children, I could go on, but as yet we don’t advertise on the site, although we’re not against supporting like-minded people and organisations who support us in their own way (psst, we are looking for a source of ‘ethical’ t-shirts) are launching their spring/summer range at that show.

But what else is going on? If you know, contact  

February 23rd, 2006

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Who’s responsible?

Three cheers for those socially responsible hacks at the Evening Herald, who yesterday reported that the city council is all ready to remove the ‘potentially racist’ mural at Bretonside Bus Station.
The graffiti image of a Kalahari bushman trying to start a fire with sticks of dynamite has apparently prompted outrage from a support group for victims of racism who feared it linked race and terrorism.
According to the Herald, the council has now asked the artist responsible for the piece to replace it with a new design.
The paper went on to reveal the artist’s full name and where he lives, explaining that the council is now waiting for him to come up with a new ‘concept’.
What a fantastic, if slightly far fetched, scoop.
We thought it was only fair that we should email the artist and congratulate him on this new commission.
“It’s all news to me,” says Mark.
“I haven’t seen the article and I don’t know how they got my name.
“I’m not happy they printed it - for obvious reasons!”
Oh dear.
Posted by Thin White Duke

For an interview with the grafitti artist check out Politcal. Correctness. Gone. Maaaad.

February 21st, 2006

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This bird has flu-n

A swan, ah go on! With a bird curfew imininent, this may be the last time we are able to see such avians (and this picture was taken from a bridge - sur le pont, avians I would say if I wanted to push my European credentials, although I have a feeling that my latin may be a little weak. I’ll have to ask Mr Tessa Jowell for tips). So before we get too caught up in the pandemonia of the pandemic (what’s the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic, or is it my latin letting me down again?), I thought it would be nice to see this picture of swans at Exeter quay. Ah, dolce et decorum est, or rather isn’t it good.

Posted by Cptn, picture by the Elephant Man

February 20th, 2006

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Skanks, but no thanks

It seems to have passed everyone by but NoComply are NoMore. The soi-disant horn-fuelled punkers announced the split on their website a couple of weeks ago.
Here’s what their ’statement’ said:  ‘After a total of nearly eight years as a band, NoComply have decided to call it a day and finish as a band together.
‘We’ve all got personal and different reasons but we decided that it would be impossible for us to continue playing music together.
‘It’s a great shame because we’ve all had the best times we’ve ever had and met some of the greatest people but, as we all agreed, now is the time for it to end.
‘We want to say a huge thank you to everybody who has ever supported us in anyway, come to our shows, listened to our music and generally helped us out.
‘We would never have been able to get as far as we have as a band without the help of so many people and we are forever grateful.
‘We’re hoping to be able to play a couple of last shows for everyone so please keep an ear out!’
This is sad news because:
a. NoComply had the best band name ever
b. They also had the greatest frontperson ever ­ in the shouty shape of Kelly Kemp
Unfortunately, the combo were frequently hamstrung by a dearth of quality tunes and a rather unsavoury predilection for ska (yeah, that old thing).  
Nevertheless, the People’s Republic wish the guys all the very best with whatever they choose to do next - and yes, we do want fries with that.
They did too much, much too young. Blub.
Posted by Thin White Duke

February 18th, 2006

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Grave situation

Hooray for the Herald Express. Their community minded hacks have tipped off the cops about a website prank involving a face-off between ‘Jesus and Satan’, filmed in Torbay’s glamorous Churston church.
The judicious journos also flagged up another website video which apparently boasted acts of vandalism and ‘crude approaches’ to members of the public.
Police have given two teenagers a strong talking to and are now appealing for other members of the so-called Nowhere Team to come forward.
The People’s Republic want to commend this fantastic use of police resources and the sterling work from everybody at the Herald Express.
You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.
Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Nowhere Team?
Were you one of the teens ‘fingered’ by the rozzers?
Did you, um, approach members of the public in a crude way?
If so, PRSD wants to hear from YOU. Email
Posted by Thin White Duke

February 16th, 2006

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Clutching at straws?

‘When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for
present delight nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our
descendants will thank us for.’ John Ruskin 1849.

Picture this. Tucked away on the old turnpike road just below the busy
A381 Western Bypass on the hill out of Totnes there’s a small
revolution going on.
Jim Carfrae has just built himself a modest house with a big difference
- it’s made out of straw bales. It’s funky, clever and consumes about
as much energy as a cardboard box on Prozac.
When the Devon Sustainable Building Initiative (DSBI), a not for profit
organisation based at County Hall, Exeter, organised an open day to
show off the low-tech approach to solving global warming more than 250
people signed up.
‘There was a great deal of interest in understanding some of the issues
and challenges, ’DSBI’s Gareth Walton told the first party through the
doors, an eclectic bunch of die-hard ecoevangelists, dreamy –eyed fans
of Channel Four’s Grand Designs, mid-lifers and journalists.
They listened avidly as Carfrae talked of the horrors of concrete with
its high levels of ‘embodied energy’, the essential use of native
Douglas Fir rather than imported oak for the building’s £60,000 wooden frame
and the recycled paper equivalent of plasterboard.
They wowed as he described how he’d chosen the oat straw while still
standing in the field near Start Point and oohed as he described how
unwanted wool from Buckfastleigh Mills was used for the roof insulation.
Everything about the project was designed, the crowd was told, to
minimise the amount of energy required both to build and run the house,
laudable aims indeed.
But something was missing, something that failed to say this was a club
that everyone could join. Perhaps it was just the usual range of Totnes
hippy hats that adorned the balding pates or the obligatory bottle of
Ecover washing up liquid stood atop the sustainably-sourced block wood
Perhaps it was the fact that Carfrae had given up all else to devote 18
months of his life and £240,000 plus land costs to complete the project
and has now set himself up as a sustainable building consultant.
I was deeply concerned for a moment that we might all be forced to
toast his success with a warming nettle tea and sugar-free, gluten-free
home baked something or other.
Don’t get me wrong, we must all hope that DSBI and its acolytes
succeed, have an impact that goes beyond a single building plot in Totnes.
But the truth is, John Prescott is about to rubber stamp the biggest
building programme for decades with tens of thousands of houses going up
nationwide, South Devon included.
And I don’t see Carfrae’s £240,000 model being adopted by the major
developers who will win the contracts to build the high density
communities of the future.
Already in Teignbridge the landowners hoping to build 2,000-odd homes
bid on disused clay pits have dropped the sustainable Urban Village
model (espoused by none other than Prince Charles) they first boasted of as
the inside word has it that they’ve won the bid and no longer need to
win hearts and minds.
There are many things we can do individually to reduce our impact on
the planet but we shouldn’t be denied the right to do much more simply
because we don’t read Eco Wholemeal Self Build Weekly or have a few
hundred thou’ to spare.
Posted by Bald Eagle


February 14th, 2006

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Political. Correctness. Gone. Maaaad.

Do you remember the recent hoo-ha about the Bretonside graffiti? It all seems like a long time ago now but it was only the beginning of last week. Which is a shame because it gave everyone who piled into the debate the chance to feel terribly smug and ever-so right-on, daddio. The work, which depicted a black man holding sticks of dynamite, was a kind of Rorschach test for the meedja masses, with journos saying it was inappropriate since the July bombings and even blaming it for a rise in racist attacks in Plymouth. But one voice was conspicuously absent from the ‘debate’. That wasn’t through lack of trying, says the graffiti artist responsible for the controversial piece, who talked exclusively to the People’s Republic.

Hello Mark. How’s fame treating you?
“Ha ha. Well, I missed it all on TV because I’ve just got back from Australia. The media have added two plus two and come up with five. Mental, isn’t it?”
How do you feel about getting dragged into the whole Danish cartoon controversy?
“I can’t believe it. It’s just 9/11 paranoia, I suppose. People who know my artwork think it’s ridiculous but it’s weird it’s been put in that area.”
What were you trying to say with the piece?
“It’s about how Kalahari bushmen are being pushed off their land by diamond mining corporations.
“The bushman in the picture is making fire by rubbing sticks together but instead of sticks it’s dynamite. It all signifies the evils of capitalism.”
So how would you feel if it was removed?
“To be honest, I don’t care. Graffiti is meant to be disposable. The powers that be are scared of it. It signifies freedom of speech because you can write anything.”
How do feel about people saying that the piece has contributed to a rise in racist attacks in the city?
It’s ridiculous and a bit scary. That’s totally ignoring things like war, poverty and ignorance.
“I’m not at all racist. The piece has been on display for two years but it’s the first time anyone has seen that in it. It’s a nightmare really.”
Have you explained all of this to the media?
“I wrote a statement but ITV and BBC wanted an actual interview. I refused because I didn’t want it presented at a twisted angle. I guess I had to decide whether I really wanted the publicity.
“I’m not exactly a media man. I think I would’ve opened myself up for a right killing.”
But we haven’t seen your statement anywhere. Where was your right to reply?
“The statement did seem to kill the story a bit, but it was short and to the point so ITV and BBC didn’t follow it up.
“They obviously wanted me to say something controversial but why would I want to stick my head out? It’s not really the sort of thing you want to get involved with. It’s best to just wait for the next story to come along.”
So you’ve not managed to set the record straight?
“The day I sent out my statement was when all the diesel in the water stuff came along so it was ignored. But it’s probably for the best.
“When I spoke to one TV station I said the image was of a Kalahari bushman.
“They were like ‘a what, mate?’ A Kalahari bushman! ‘Oh, right. And where are they from?’ Er, the Kalahari, mate!”

So, just for the record, here is Mark’s statement in full.

“I am shocked and bemused by the accusations that my art piece at Bretonside bus station has been interpreted as being racially offensive. The piece was inspired by the plight of indigenous groups (specifically the bushmen of the Kalahari desert) whose ways of life are being eroded by the activities of multinational corporations.The image depicts a Kalahari bushman making fire in the traditional way of rubbing sticks together. The replacement of sticks with dynamite symbolises the evils of globalisation. This image was never intended to be a statement on race.”

Posted by Thin White Duke

February 13th, 2006


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Dear Citizen,

Welcome to the People's Republic of South Devon. Your subscription will begin with the next newsletter. Keep up to date by visiting the blog regularly and make sure your voice is heard. Many thanks, The People's Republic of South Devon.

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