Week 5 | Around the world, around the world

International Travel. It’s the tricky issue that countries often like to brush over, with international freight carbon emissions almost always passed on as Somebody Else’s Responsibility.

It was also one of the focuses of a recent BBC programme, featuring Greta Thunberg as she travelled the world to highlight the connections between wildfires, glacier melt, collapsing coral reef and infestations. Lots of the following policies are taken from the programme, such the speed of international freight must be slowed, as if shipping vessels cut their speed by 50%, the carbon emissions that came from them would be cut by over that amount.

This of course, would 1) require regulations applying this rule internationally, to ensure companies that refuse to comply do not get a competitive edge.

Another way of denying this competitive edge to carbon criminal businesses would be 2) similar international legislation introducing a monetary cost to their carbon emissions, meaning climate questions can no longer be called ‘externalities’ and forgotten about.

A different angle with which to achieve the same goal would be to 3) influence supply and demand, by taxing goods with high carbon costs from abroad, and/or 4) subsidising those with lower costs, grown seasonally or from nearer to home. These choices are often positioned as problems for consumers to solve, as if a choice of multi-national supermarket will radically change the economy. Without government support for home-grown (figuratively and literally) produce, consumers won’t be able prioritise sustainable living whenever cash becomes sparse.

Flight is a huge factor in emissions, with an individual flight from London to Rome producing more C02 than the annual emisssions of residents of 17 countries. But the richest 1% of the world is particularly to blame.

If we want to be able to visit those abroad, to do necessary, emergency work – we have to cut out unnecessary trips abroad. This means, somehow, reducing flights.

Again, forcing the consumer to bear the brunt of the changes won’t give us a 10% reduction in C02 emissions, year on year. We need intervention to divert attention away from flights – 5) supporting UK and European holiday making, accessible by rail and if not by rail, then by other public transport. Making local infrastructure more appealing, through 6) investment in activities for local and national communities, such as the Hepworth in my native Wakefield, can make a tourist destination much closer to home for anyone, regardless of area in the country.

Aside from holidaymaking, the other main piece of unnecessary flight is work, normally of high profile businesspeople. Though the carbon and mineral cost of servers and online activity shouldn’t be ignored – 7) switching from weekly or monthly international conferences to internet video calls would save tonnes of C02 per year, providing the software and hardware was treated sustainably.

In Music, this could mean the days of annual, extravagent international tours – from Monaco to Monte Carlo to Switzerland to Bahrain – will need to end. This touring model is unfortunately one of the main ways musicians make ends meet, in an unfavourable copyright and performance environment, and so we will professional justice in order to live the rest of our lives sustainably. We do need a reckoning about the needs of our communities, and how we can best meet them in times of crisis – but we will need public and private power to ensure we have an environment where we can do so without fear of losing our livelihoods. Government and private support of residencies, small-scale tours and local community, not centralised work, whether supplied through 8) hard cash or 9) tweaks to the legislation and to education systems could make a real difference on emissions in the musical economy.

Lots of these changes are positive ones – meaning more connection in our communities, more local activity, maintaining international links – as long as they are carried out justly, practically and compassionately. As always, thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll be doing more catching up very soon!

Week 4 | Some Things We Throw Away

I am Late! Forgive me, I have been trying to move house!

Week 4 work saw me starting to go back through my bookshelf, and I found this book: The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites. The starting point of the book is that artist Thomas Thwaites tries to make a toaster from scratch. At the time of writing, a toaster from Argos cost £3.74. Given that a Cadbury’s Freddo at the time cost 20p, and didn’t involve anywhere as much oil refining, mining or heavy industry and yet was only £3.54 cheaper seems a little suspicious. Where does that money go? How can we justify that?

Thwaites answers that question by building a toaster from scratch – i.e. only with tools present at the time before the industrial revolution. It doesn’t *entirely* work, and it cossts £1187.54, and even that involves breaking a few rules (and laws!) He tried making plastic from potatoes, refined smelted his iron ore, mined his mica – making a significant amount of waste, too.

I will let you contact him or buy his book yourself, but I’ve took a few lessons for this challenge, as follows:

If we are to have appliances, they have to last. They cannot be designed to break. Toasters, particularly £3.72 ones from Argos, break easily and make all of the effort that went into giving someone easier access to toast entirely worthless.

There are several ways this could be tackled, like 1) outlawing planned obsolescence, or 2) taxing goods tested to not wear in well.

If something is easier to replace than repair, why? One reason might be lack of skills, if referring to personal repairs like sewing. To sort this out, 3) we need an enjoyable, informative and sustainable DT education for children and adults, so we can attend to our own needs throughout our lives.

Another reason is financial and practical – if you’re working a 40 hour week, (heaven forbid a 60 or 70 our week) do you really want to use up the time you have to sleep to spend half an hour repairing something you could buy quicker? 4) We need to be in safe, well-paying jobs, to match the productivity that has risen since the 70s and left our wages trailing for decades.

Yet another reason why something is easier to replace than repair is because corporations do not want you to reduce your profits by doing something yourself. Why should tech companies use the same screwhead in their laptop if they could sabotage repair by using multiple different ones?

5) One solution for this problem is to legally require that every single constituent part in an appliance is removable, recyclable, and independent. Imagine being able to buy a compatible phone screen, extra memory for your devices, or even attachable hardware, as easily as we can buy our tech in the first place. Imagine how simple repairing our own belongings could be if we were encouraged to do it, and had the skills too.

One of the reason’s Argos’ toaster was so cheap was because it is not responsible for the damage it causes to the environment. It’s mica mines and its copper mines cause huge damage to landscapes, which Argos can get away with, due to permissive laws and land ownership stolen from foreign countries and indigenous populations. Corporations need to stop treating lives and destruction as bothersome statistics – whether it involves our 6) governments banning irresponsible production, or 7) fining damage so as to entirely repair the environments harmed or lost completely. This could also involve 8) legal, practical and real reparations from imperial western and European Countries to the victims of their colonial expansion across the global south and elsewhere. It’s worth remembering the role Indigenous populations have in safeguarding the majority of the world’s ecosystems.

There are plenty more policies I’ll revisit from this book, and from others – but I have a bit of catching up to do! Let me know if you have any thoughts, and watch out for policies giving just autonomy to citizens, workers, consumers and peoples of the world. You can also look at Thomas Thwaites newer projects, which are new to me, at https://www.thomasthwaites.com/.

Green Nevis Week 3 | Frustration in procrastination

This has been a fairly difficult one to write. To understand and appreciate the value in the actions that could improve the health of the species that live on this planet, making us more resilient and happier, we need to understand a few things. Firstly, the necessity. I hope we have that one down. Secondly, the obstacles to our collective action.

This week, I recapped on Greta Thunberg’s speeches, compiled in the book No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference, ranging from September 2018 to April 2019. Her speeches are stark, but as they begin in 2018 they are matter of fact, distilled. By 2019, they carry the bitterness that comes from spending your time getting mocked, harrassed, infantilised and worshipped by the very people who perhaps should be bearing a few more responsibilities than a sixteen year-old should. Politicians, the press, industries and corporations, all proud of how they got where they are today, but all apparently unable to be as dogged and inspiring when it comes to things that don’t pay their salary. Clearly we must make matters effect their pocket for anything to come about – eggs must be broken and all that.

‘In Sweden, we live our lives as if we had the resources of 4.2 planets. Our carbon footprint is one of the ten worst in the world. This means that Sweden steals 3.2 years of natural resources from future generations every year. Those of us who are a part of these future generations would like Sweden to stop doing that.

We know we have to cut our emissions to zero. ‘We already have all of the facts and the solutions’, we have the whole world in our hands, after all?

This list contains some of the conditions how, and the reasons why, we should do this, based on Thunberg’s speeches, and some of the principles included in XR’s handbook, This Is Not A Drill. It’s almost a poem.

  1. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Now.
  2. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) As soon as possible. Delaying is one thing, procrastination is another. Getting guilty because we haven’t done it already is not a game when playing with power.
  3. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Quickly, so that countries without necessary infrastructure to keep a society healthy, can develop it. They have not contributed anywhere near as much as those in ‘developed’ countries have to global emissions, and without this consideration, without this grace, they will do exactly what we did hundreds of years ago. There will be no peace without justice, and there will be no justice without peace.
  4. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Even if it won’t stop a rise in temperature. Every kilogram of carbon not burnt will reduce warming. Every acre of land managed in line with indigenous and native practices will produce more food for longer. Every species of organism living in balance with another will keep the ecosystem stable. Every piece of our stubborn resilience and genius resourcefulness will help our children.
  5. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Even though it ‘hurts’ our economy. If an economy is something that can only grow, whilst not helping those who live within it to live, then it is not worth the investment.
  6. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Even though things are already bad. We have no human right to be miserable, but food and water? Are we going to let people take away our lives because they didn’t care enough to keep them? Giving up is not an option.
  7. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Because we want to help each other. Our emissions will fall to zero, whether by disaster or by choice. What we can do is choose to save our lives, and choose to improve them too.
  8. (we have to cut our emissions to zero) Because this life is awful for the most of us. Any promised solution that lets us keep living lonely, unhealthy, disrespectful and cruel lives isn’t a solution, its manipulation. Our saviours have been false but our actions are ours.

Other projects for #100DaysOfGreenNevis include some fantastic and witty musical suggestions for reducing personal impact from cellist Joanna Stark, (including Amsterdam’s model of a circular, rather than the ever-growing economy, on an off day, which has been very useful for me!) and oboist Olivia Tomasović in her improvisations and compositions on aspects of the crises unfurling now, chiefly endangered species nearing extinction. I highly recommend you check them out, along with the other campaigns, by searching for #100DaysOfGreenNevis on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you for bearing with this – as always, do get in touch if I’ve raised anything you’d like to talk about. Next week’s should be a bit more transformative, I hope.



Green Nevis Week 2 | Peppers, Potatoes and Food Sovereignty

Of all the routines I’ve been trying to get myself through this lockdown and pandemic, cooking (and eating!) is one that I’ve actually enjoyed – it’s the seasoning, the making, and the transforming of food from one shape to another that has been so fun, or at least fun enough to keep going. When you’re stood making various meals involving tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, you do also think about other things – what is the climate impact of our food?

Cocoa, palm oil, soy, and beef are the foods that contribute most to the UK’s demand for deforestation in the Amazon, Indonesia and the Ivory coast, for example, which every year removes an area of forest larger than the UK itself. In the water, our demand for fish is depleting the ocean of life, disrupting the life cycles of the species we hunt, and damaging the ocean floor through trawling. What’s more though, is that we don’t eat the fish that grow in UK waters – herring and mackerel is generally ignored in favour of salmon, cod, and haddock. Much of our other foods, for example ‘health’ foods like quinoa, are subsistence foods that due to demand from America and Europe are now becoming too expensive for the people who grow it to buy. Remember as well that those peppers and tomatoes probably didn’t come from the UK either!

All the places these herbs and spices came from (originally, and actual) are a little dizzying sometimes.

How can we stop this situation? How should we be eating? How should we be cooking?

It’s a really big question, but to begin to help give some answers, one of the terms I’ve learnt about recently is food sovereignty. Food Sovereignty is a phrase launched in 1996 by La Vie Campesina, an world-wide movement, made of local organisations for peasants and landworkers, agitating and organising for self-assertion, and preservation of their cultures and ecosystems.

I’m now going to hand over this post to these six principles from Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement)

“Food Sovereignty:

1) Focuses on food for people.
The right to food which is healthy and culturally appropriate is the basic legal demand underpinning food sovereignty. Guaranteeing it requires policies which support diversified food production in each region and country. Food is not simply another commodity to be traded or speculated on for profit

2) Values food providers.
Many smallholder farmers suffer violence, marginalisation and racism from corporate landowners and governments. People are often pushed off their land by mining concerns or agribusiness. Agricultural workers can face severe exploitation and even bonded labour. Although women produce most of the food in the global south, their role and knowledge are often ignored, and their rights to resources and as workers are violated. Food sovereignty asserts food providers’ right to live and work in dignity.

3) Localises food systems.
Food must be seen primarily as sustenance for the community and only secondarily as something to be traded. Under food sovereignty, local and regional provision takes precedence over supplying distant markets, and export-orientated agriculture is rejected. The ‘free trade’ policies which prevent developing countries from protecting their own agriculture, for example through subsidies and tariffs, are also inimical to food sovereignty.

4) Rejects corporate control.
Food sovereignty requires that women and men who provide food have control of land and resources such as water and seeds, to be used and shared in socially and environmentally sustainable ways. Privatisation of such resources, for example through intellectual property rights regimes or commercial contracts, is explicitly rejected.

5) Builds Knowledge and skills.
Technologies, such as genetic engineering, that undermine food providers’ ability to develop and pass on knowledge and skills needed for localised food systems are rejected. Instead, food sovereignty calls for appropriate research systems to support the development of agricultural knowledge and skills.

6) Works with nature.
Food sovereignty requires production and distribution systems that protect natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding energy-intensive industrial methods that damage the environment and the health of those that inhabit it.’

A couple of things really struck me about this. Firstly, food sovereignty does not require a push global diets upon the world, but respects the cultures of communities. People have the right to define how they can healthily eat, whether omnivores, vegetarians or vegan, and maybe offers a good aim for people across those practices to improve our planet’s food life.

It also respects food as a culture – and this view food as cultural activity, like music, full of individual quirks and collective features, definitely resonates (sorry!) with my experience as musician. It’s not individual or homogenous, but collective.

The final thing I noticed is that technological solutions are only for one group to apply to their own work, not to others. The genetically modified foods and pesticides, which threaten ecosystems with degradation and collapse through loss of diversity and of farming practice, are not a viable solution to the world’s farming needs.

I’m probably going to write a LOT about food over the rest of #100DaysOfGreenNevis, so do keep checking this blog, as well as the other projects by other people in the Nevis family. Do also check out the work of La Vie Campesina, and maybe think about how Food Sovereignty would look like in our lives – I know I am. As always, please comment or send me an e-mail if you have any questions!

Green Nevis Week 1 | Houses, Homes and Streets

Well, its a wondering and a wandering start for these first seven policies, aims and musings for #100DaysOfGreenNevis.

Wandering: I’ve been going on longer walks than usual – through the meadows and fields that join the old villages of Wakefield (my home city), treading the footpaths between the plentiful new, luxury suburbs and the now-unaffordable old council housing.

Wondering: plenty of this housing is empty. Many of the nicest buildings I’ve seen here are falling apart, like the old school buildings that were declared unsafe, whilst Wakefield struggles with lack of facilities (like schools, parks, or small businesses) for the residents it contains. Much of the housing I’ve been strolling past reminded me of the student accomodation I lived in when in Birmingham – pretty damp, with small and confined spaces never too far from rats and lice, which without the predators you’d get from a balanced ecosytem thrived better than we did.

A view from Alverthorpe Meadows back in May 2020 – these used to be medieval farmland, and now support wildflowers, insects, their predators and our local communities by forming flood defences for local houses.

If we have to cut our carbon emissions by 8-10% per year, or even if we fail to do this, and suffer the climate’s consequences, then we need to prepare for the biggest changes: increases in population as people move from either nearby or afar to avoid, say, flooding; building our houses so our lives can be hygienic and healthy, despite new diseases and humid conditions; and living in supportive communities where we can help each other through the worst of things,

With these kind of things in mind, these seemed like 7 good ambitions to, to change the places we live so we can weather the storms that will come.

  1. All new housing we build has to last. As few repairs and as few adjustments for our varied and changing bodies as possible – wide staircases, ramps, ventilation (for our sake and the houses!), proper slanted roofs to deal with the rain – that kind of thing. Remember that any repair takes resources that could have been better used if we’d built the thing properly!
  2. All new housing has to be carbon zero! We can have no cutting down virgin forest for timbers, and the house has to be properly insulated and double-glazed, all with solar panels to assist with energy costs. The heating must also be electric only, as any burning of gas, however environmentally friendly, will only contribute to the mess we’re in.
  3. All old houses have to be as good as new – altered and repaired so they can be lived in safely and enjoyably throughout our futures. Houses aren’t just for our lifetimes, but for centuries to come.
  4. We need to be able to afford to live in these homes – its no good if we’re charged extra for a house that isn’t damp, due to its poor ventilation and poor heating!
  5. These costs can’t be placed on people who can’t pay, or they won’t get done. This cannot be left to citizens, nor to for-profit businesses.
  6. Our houses need to keep us safe from unstable weather. Whether its flooding, wind, the cold or the heat, we have to be able to weather it. Some of that is from flood defences, but also from having well-draining surfaces in our gardens, paving and public places (accessibility permitting, as smooth paving is a lot easier for people with mobility issues to manage). Good draining can keep flows of water away from our homes, by soil, grass, or gravel, and having well-placed, mature trees will help protect the soil by mooring the it against from landslips and excessive rainfall.
  7. We need access to ecosystems beyond our own human ones. Gardens, parks, allottments, green spaces that are maintained by humans and wildlife, to keep as many species alive, balanced and healthy, as possible across the country. This will help make sure that we all, regardless of wealth or location can get to wild spaces easily, for the sake of collapsing ecosystems and our own health.
Some of the housing protected by the meadows pictured above. The housing on the left is recent ‘Affordable Housing’, currently £75,000 more dear than the local houses, with windows that don’t open, and no garden. As recent (2015-7) builds, even these homes would need to be retrofitted to keep emissions as low as possible and protect its owners, which is, frankly, as frustrating as it is wasteful.

Lots of these are common sense and musings, and some are specific policy. The first three are parts of a retrofitting aim suggested in passing by the BBC programme Extinction: The Facts, for instance, and elements of these three have been co-opted by UK parties. These policies also require intervention without scope for profit, but instead trying for the most meaningful change – meaning local and national government will need to get involved, whether or not they are the ones taking the lead.

If this has interested you, then maybe you could watch Extinction, check out the challenges by other Nevis musicians (from fundraising to free improvisation!) by visiting our website, take an interest in the housing and accomodation of your local area, or look at the principles of Just Transition, something I’ve been really influenced by in my reading on the climate crisis and the solutions to improve our lives.




Well, Happy New Year! It’s not like it’s January anymore, or even very happy, but what can you do? One thing that does belong to a New Year, though, is new themes – and writing is one of mine.

Nevis Ensemble, the orchestra I play with, has a new campaign out: 100 Days of Green Nevis. The idea is that its musicians, staff, and audiences take part in ‘creative and practical tasks to raise awareness and improve their own sustainable living’ for 100 days. By committing to reimagining our lives clearly, we hope to make the change needed *Now* to save our ecosystems a bit easier, and to build the mandate needed to save our own livelihoods.

Nevis Ensemble, Scottish Street Orchestra, won the Environmental Sustainability Award at the Scottish New Music Awards in 2020, for their Green Nevis campaign on their 2019 Hebrides Tour. They are without any doubt one of the most deliberately ethical and just orchestras I’ve worked with, and I highly recommend you check them out.

There are all kinds of schemes going on. Several of my colleagues in Nevis are running, or cycling, the famous 500 miles (and the 1000 more!) over the 100 Days from the 1st February to raise awareness and money for climate causes. Others people are going vegetarian, or committing to write pieces of music about wildlife, nature, destruction, or some other element of the crises that surround us.

The thing that I decided to do, though, was to try and make these struggles clear, because the climate crisis has daunted me like nothing else. The knowledge that economies and communities have to change *Now* is almost incomprehensible, as it tell us that the world is not necessarily how we experience it. We can work past that.

I remember reading a book by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, and being struck by Klein’s point that a lot of the changes we need to make are attractive changes, good changes, healthy changes for all involved! Saving the world will not kill us! It will actually do the opposite!

Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything from 2014. We have everything we need in our hands, although maybe not at the right moment.

As such, I’ve committed to this: every week on Sunday, I will write a post about 7 policies. They will sometimes be clear goals for our political parties, sometimes more speculative so as to help discussion. I will try to signpost and highlight good work and organisations, often for a UK audience, but drawing on international work when relevant. There may be a theme for the week, I may even decide to write a poem about Universal Basic Income, but whatever happens, I will try and show that the changes we need are possible, and good, and most importantly are real. It’s in the interests of climate exploiters and deniers to keep our struggle mystified, and in our interests to know what we have to do.

We want to reimagine the future, but people have already done that work.
Now, we need tasks.

Please get in touch if you’ like to talk about this project, the climate crisis or anything else I’ve brought up.

All the best,


A piece of a podcast 15/11/20

Non-fiction writing hasn’t really been a focus of mine. Presenting truths and stories in a way that you, and others, can trust is a task that terrifies me, whilst with poetry and music I know that I’ve hidden between intentions and meanings like some scared songbird.

I’ve worked at it, kind of, through education from high school to university – and recently I’ve had the luck to work with Wakefield Literature Festival, a youth-run festival celebrating us getting involved with stories, crafts and all things words. Their activities have been great, from poetry events to songwriting workshops to campfire tales, and I got to write a podcast for their ‘Who Came Before’, based on an inspirational figure of my choice.

Predictably, I chose a song. I wanted to take that inspiration and see if we could physically reach more people, trying to show how the protest song ‘Bread and Roses’ was formed and distributed through feminist trade unionism, through figures like Rose Scheiderman, not just the author and composer of the song. Feel free to have a listen to the stories I try to bring to life (link at the bottom of the page), and do check out the singer Sorcha Hughes, and the prod team at Wakey Litfest – all did fantastic work. Also check out the whole series – each episode is a really personable snapshot of this messy world.

This is a new kind of journalistic writing for me, and I’m very excited to take this further. I’ve got some projects that should hopefully come to fruition at some point soon, but for now I’ll just say thank you for reading, I hope you listen, and I hope you’re well.

Much love,


I absolutely cannot take credit for these magnificent signs. This photo was taken at the 2015 London Pride, where a friend had kindly offered to take me down with the group Northern Community Feminism. That year, with some of the same people, I saw the film ‘Pride’, which i mention in the podcast. These memories do bustle around with each other.


Where to begin? 23/10/2020

Welcome to BitsOfPieces!

This is a place for gathering work and works that I’ve done, a portfolio for my music, poetry and the odd thought or two. Have fun exploring, and if you like what you see, please get in touch; my e-mail is at the bottom of the page, or you can send me any questions via social media. If you want to support this work, I’m working on a donations feature too.

This blog is going to grow and change over the near future, so bear with and keep tuned!

Good luck,