Wednesday, 2 February 2011

"The past is passing away..."

'The past is passing away in the English countryside at a rapidly accelerating speed. The change is amazing'. 
My stepfather uses a visit to a farm sale, where a family that's lived in the same place for centuries is leaving their farm, selling their home to a market in which such places now change hands, on average, every seven years; selling off their agricultural equipment - old and new - to buyers who want them for museums, as garden and pub decoration. In an episode made over twenty years ago for the Southern Television series called Old Country, often using film from the earlier long running series Out of Town, JH shows some of the reels of 16mm film - now in the South West Film and Television Archive - on shelves in his shed that contain the record that he, and especially his cameraman Stan Bréhaut, were making of a rapidly disappearing social economy - a countryside that existed as he grew up but whose vestiges are now in archives, in museums, in the texts and illustrations of local historians and the memories of a passing generation.
Stan Bréhaut - I knew him
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Before I caught an afternoon train to Esher to work with Mark Palmer on a seminar for officers from Elmbridge Council I spent a morning on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments treading the damp and sticky earth with Edmund Branch and Chris Hryniuk his helper acting for the Central Handsworth Practical Care Project. As a local pensioner I was glad of their two hours' paid work carting a couple of tons of earth and stones to level up the foundations for the shed we're putting up on our plot. Getting that done before we fly to Venice, then ferry to Corfu is a weight off my mind.
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Mark's brother Paul, who also lives on Democracy Street in Ano Korakiana, has just sent me a link to a posting on the web about various developments including wind farms on Corfu that were agreed just before the old Corfu Demos was wound up at the end of 2010.
I struggle with opposing wind farms. In a few decades there will be a generation of young people who will say "you had the sun, the wind, the waves, and access to geothermal energy in the earth and you had damn near incontrovertible evidence that climate dislocation was being added to by human political choices to stick with fossil fuel and its toxic emissions, and yet you always found reasons to resist investment in renewables, constantly sabotaging innovation, continuing to resist the choices that had to be made and the experiments that could wean human economies off centuries of dependence on fossil fuel ripped from the earth. Why, grandfather, grandmother, did you do this when you were aware there was such a crisis? Why didn't you take up the challenge, so that even when an innovation was imperfect and possibly ill motivated you were coming up with better ideas to achieve sustainability, instead of standing obstinately against the changes so urgently needed?
Modern Barbati it is claimed will be spoiled by the proximity of wind turbines on the slopes above it, yet modern Barbati is one of the most depressing scars on the Corfiot landscape - a village without villagers. Furthermore if wind farms stop people building private homes in the middle of the island's remaining forest lowering the value of trespassing homes that should never have been built, I'll swop that loss for turbines, which, if well maintained, make nothing like the noise the story in this link claims. The noise from the fossil fuelled generators next to the two telecommunication aerials on the slopes above Ano Korakiana is greater -  breaking the quiet of the eastern edge of the village on windless nights.  We hear them on evening strolls in that direction. It's important that the arrival  of wind turbines should bring significant sums of money into surrounding villages for use by their communities, doing things that may encourage more people to buy, build and restore homes in existing villages rather than build their dreams amid desecrated olive groves. I watch the great turbine blades turning a mile off the Garbole Road on the heights above Strathnairn whenever I visit the Highlands. They look serene, magnificent and hopeful even as they feed a regular and generous stream of revenue into the coffers of the local community council.
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Working in Esher, thinking of Egypt
The feedback from the work with Elmbridge via SEEMP with Park Palmer has been excellent. Our approach had allowed for people new to government starting from scratch in grasping the particulkar dynamics of a political-management organisation, but as it was these were largely experienced and skilled at recognising the challenges of making a small democracy work well for its electorate in a complicated world.
Workscreen for a seminar on managing in a political environment

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