I last visited Machyllth when I was 5 years old. I imagine my reaction was similar to now: Life is good in the mountains.
One thing that has changed is the Centre for Alternative Technology – founded on a slate quarry of idealism in the 1970s – it’s now not only a top visitor attraction but a burgeoning institute for studies in sustainability.
I came to hear presentations from the current MSC students and to see the new WISE (Wales Institute for Sustainable Education) building which is a giant mud-packed lecture theatre, bar, restaurant, and accommodation carved beautifully into the slate quarry.
The postgrad presentations were a bit like a TEDx in that they were 20 minutes each and focused on specific topics including investigations and experiments in:
- Pro-environmental behaviour changes (it happens through social and emotional connections – as we know from MSC Grad Sam Tyres who studied Tribewanted Vorovoro members in 2008 and discovered similar results)
- Community led approaches to energy reduction in Oxfordshire (showing that the ‘big society’ is happening regardless of ‘big gov’t)
- Local councils reducing CO2 in housing (all housing was sustainable until 1850s, now it’s far from that)
- Potential for bore-hole heating through city parks (it could work but you’d have to dig up the city’s beauty spots)
- Dishwasher frequency & efficiency (hit the eco button I think, impressed this can hold someone’s attention)
- PC management in hospitals (there are too many PCs!)
- Refrigeration in supermarkets (at the moment they’re based on domestic systems which is a little crazy)
- Hemp-lime walls (probably the most experimental but this was a little too close to post lunch fatigue syndrome)
- Wind turbines next to motorways (could make annual profit of 38m quid in UK – call Dale Vince!)
- Renovating 1930s housing (27% of UK CO2 emissions come from 25m homes of which 80% will still be here in 2050 – ie sustainable renovations vital)
- Should gov’t burn straw as biomass? (No. Use it on farms as compost and build more straw bale houses OR make biomass much more efficient)
- How do we get high st shops to be more energy efficient? (Aside from making them go out of business so they close down – thank you Woolworths – you need to give them business case for environmental action, technically known as ‘Ecological Modernisation Theory’ OR turn off the bloody heat blaster outside the front window)