Greetings to you, my name is Cai. A Bristolian born and bred, living my youth both in the city and in Weston-super-Mare. Now, I have found myself living in Easton, looking at our city through the lens of a young man critical of his surroundings and society around him, searching for answers.
I like extreme sports, camping and natural swimming - also I enjoy foraging, primitive skills, exploring and climbing trees. My health and my community is what I care for most.
I have found myself involved in issues relating to autonomy and freedom from my school days to the present, in and around Bristol. This could look like boycott campaigns, local gift economy, food growing or squatted social centres. I have lived in large community housing, ran informative evenings and helped at fundraisers for a wide range of self-organised groups.
What does it mean to go local and go green? I have been living with this question in various guises for the last twenty years. My imagination for, and sense of, what it ‘can’ mean to live local and green were ignited by experiences in South East Asia, particularly in Cambodia. This occurred when living and working both amongst the lowland Khmer people with their paddy rice based culture, and amongst the Hill Tribes with their forest based cultures.
In the last six-seven years, I have been exploring what it means to go local and go green primarily in the form of learning how to grow fruit and vegetables for a living and setting up and running community growing projects. More recently, I have begun to explore a more feral kind of learning and approach to life.
My fledging career as a grower was cut short last year through injury, and since then I have been struggling with chronic pain in my right hip-sacro iliac.... so it is time to think and imagine again:
How to make a livelihood, a life, in closer relationship to the land and all it’s inhabitants?
Born in the midlands and bred in the West Country, I grew up just outside of Bristol in a small town. Living down the road from my milk man, with dairy cows and rapeseed growing in the field behind my house and a chef as a brother, meant I was never far away from food - even though a Macdonalds or Chinese Take Away was the ultimate of food-based treats when I was growing up.
For Going Local Going Green I'll be looking at our connection with food - if we really have one. I'll be eating locally: undertaking the 100-mile locavore diet, investigating our relationship with food and farming in terms of both growing, agriculture and our relationship with animals in the city; food waste, resilience, land use and accessibility to land and re-use (amongst lots of other things).
In academic terms I have a in a Diploma in Art and Design, BA in Cultural and Historical Studies and a Masters in Human Rights Practice, which means I'm pretty good at drawing things, being critical and recognising injustice when I see it.
I misspent my youth on a council estate within a once beautiful town called Bletchley. Famous for the Enigma code breakers at Bletchley Park it also had a pretty sweet market high street. The development of nearby Milton Keynes Shopping Center subsequently transformed the high street into a sad, desolate wander through pound shops and bookys. This what I came to know as local shopping.
I moved to Bristol 10 years ago, to a very different city which has inspired and nurtured my love of nature and fostered an alternative way of thinking that has taken my interests into herbalism, permaculture and grass roots projects. These interests recently sallied me over to Mexico where I was excited to experience the same enthusiasm there for a change from the ground up, whilst also the realisation of a need to explore further the connections within my own community.
I’m embarking on our Going Local Going Green project due to a need to be more autonomous, consume and waste less, whilst also uncovering a growing movement of people in Bristol doing the same. This all starts with the 100 mile diet which I’m reckoning will be tough and slightly irritating but hopefully... bloody fun!
Who we are and what we are doing...
Who we are and what we are doing...
In simple terms, Action Learning is a way of conducting research that is experiential. We live our lives in an open and non-judgemental way in order to learn about different issues led by our curiosity. We meet once a month to reflect on the past month, and look forwards ot the next. This session is often quite intense as our lives are affected significantly by the research project and vice versa. At the end of the project we will put together a handbook for action learning methodology, in order to share our learnings and model to a wider audience.
The main points of Action Learning as a methodology;
These elements form an ongoing cycle (experience-reflection-action) of learning.
At the beginning of the year we will collectively and individually identify the main goals/ questions we want to pursue over the year both. This is based on the premise that to achieve external change, we too must change, whether as an individual, household, community or city. External questions could relate to access to land, infrastructure, and producers being able to make a year round livelihood. Internal questions may relate to changing our diet and our shopping/ collecting habits/ currency; or how to come together to organise a part of a new delivery system that cuts out the middle-person.
At the end of the year, we repeat the process for the next year or stage of our journeys mapping our findings and the results of our experimental actions, as well as how our understanding of our goals/ questions and our subsequent actions have evolved and matured.
Bearing the overarching (year-long) goals-questions in mind, the heart of action learning lies in a monthly cycle of action-reflection-analysis-plan-action!
The reflection-analysis-plan stages of the cycle take place in the context of a monthly action learning (AL) set day, leaving 27-30 days for action (and observation). On the AL set days, each person has a time slot of 30 minutes, to reflect on the last month, and a 30 minute slot to plan actions for the next month (based on the experience of the last month). The other members of the set assist this process by asking open-ended questions, no advice or criticism is allowed. Thus the AL set is a very safe space, where empathy, empowerment and solidarity can flourish, rather than group-think and prejudice.
By identifying small and immediate action steps to take which are then regularly evaluated, we are empowered to get on with immersing ourselves in exploring and making changes whilst being freed from needing to have a blue-print that has all the right questions/ plans/ answers from day one. This allows a more flexible approach to pursuing change that is ultimately more sustainable as it takes into account both external and internal factors, that are both fluid and cannot be fully known until we start to act. In other words, our research and actions will be based more on earthy experience than pre-determined abstract theory, an approach that has its roots in informal adult education. This offers a more accessible and attractive approach to personal and societal change, especially for those who are not already ‘converts’ to sustainability. We will also employ a number of other tried and tested reflective, open-ended, ‘popular’ and change orientated research methods that compliment action learning and can be readily used by individuals and groups alike in their daily life and activities.
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Feedback, ideas and suggestions are always welcome, as is a cup of (local) tea.
We are based in the City of Bristol, UK.