Archive for January, 2008

Let’s move Guernsey from a car centred society to a people centred one

January 31st, 2008 by Living Streets Guernsey

In September 2007 STEPS Living Streets held a meeting about car free lifestyles. We featured many of our members who managed to shop, get to work, and socialise without the use of a car.

We tend to forget that it’s only 50 years ago that we all got around perfectly well by bike, on foot or by bus. And yet today driving is considered the norm. We have become so addicted to our cars that other options aren’t even considered. The result is that Guernsey is becoming saturated with vehicles – so much so that walking and cycling has become unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. Pedestrians are becoming an endangered species.

Rush hour traffic heading into St Peter Port on 1 July 2008 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

In Dr. David Jeffs’s 2005 health report he called for measures to curb the use of cars for the sake of the island’s health. His report showed that between 1971 and 2001 the island’s population rose by 16%, households by 40% and cars by 118%. He asked whether we were going to wait until gridlock before doing anything. Continue reading

Food Security

January 17th, 2008 by Rosie

Not so long ago, 100 years at most, communities knew that it was prudent to have enough food stored away to last until the next harvest. Today this sensible practise has been abandoned for the modern ‘just-in-time’ food economy where we see the shelves in our shops replenished hourly from the daily shipments that arrive in the island. In England it is estimated that there is enough food in the country at any one time to feed the population for about 54 days. In Guernsey the shops would be empty in less than one week.

Harvesting maize or corn in St Peter Port Guernsey on 31 October 2007 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

In 2008 Guernsey no longer has any farm shops that sell local produce. Local growers have declined in number to a mere handful. The five major Guernsey food retailers dominate the local food industry and import nearly all their fresh food. Some arrives from Jersey and England but the vast majority comes from further afield. Food storage in the island is limited to the Co-op’s one warehouse off Bulwer Avenue. All other warehouses are in England.

This reliance on cheap imported food leaves us dangerously exposed and vulnerable to food shortages. While Guernsey could never be totally self-sufficient in terms of food supply, we could certainly be doing a lot more to improve our food security.

Importing nearly all our food adds to our island’s carbon footprint. The urgent and moral need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions because of climate change is predicted to receive another huge impetus due to the forecast imminent arrival of Peak Oil, the moment when the global supply of oil cannot meet increasing demand.

This squeeze on oil supplies is going to have a big impact on the price of food as almost all food production is heavily reliant on oil for both production and transportation. Added to this is the increase in worldwide demand for wheat and corn for a growing human population. The demand on corn is further exacerbated by the growth of the biofuel industry and also by the need to feed the increasing quantities of cattle and poultry as people, throughout the world, increase their consumption of meat and dairy produce. Expensive oil and increased food demand are made worse when these crops are at the mercy of changing weather patterns causing droughts and floods which result in lower yields. Global demand is simply outstripping supply.

Rising demand for staple agricultural products at a time when output is increasingly under pressure from the changing climate and increased production costs is not a recipe for geopolitical stability. It is certainly time for communities such as ours to increase the amount of food we grow ourselves if only to afford us some “crisis insurance”.

On the positive side, our newly revived local Farmers Market enjoys increased support and our wonderful tradition of ‘Hedge Veg’ provides an outlet for small growers to sell their surplus produce. These activities provide a small base from which to grow.

A selection of Guernsey Organic Growers vegetables on display at the Sausmarez Manor farmers' market (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Food security and maintaining the ability to feed our community is too important to be left to the vagaries of market forces. We need to develop a program of education in our schools that teaches, both practically and theoretically, the importance of growing and consuming local food so that we can keep alive all the accumulated knowledge of growing food in this island environment. We should provide incentives and subsidies for local food producers. And we should study the Transition Town model for ideas on how to reinvigorate the culture of local food production.

Revitalising local food production would increase the supply of higher quality and fresher produce, which would benefit our nutrition and improve our health. It would reduce food miles and therefore our CO2 emissions. It would help to profitably maintain our rural farm land and enhance our internal economy. And most importantly, would reduce our vulnerability to the global food shortages and price increases. These measures are simple to implement and would be life enhancing for all of us in every aspect.

Power Assisted Bikes

January 16th, 2008 by Richard Lord

Road transportation produces thirty percent of Guernsey’s carbon dioxide emissions if one excludes air and sea travel to and from the island.

For our personal movement around Guernsey we can choose less polluting forms of travel.

From a carbon dioxide emissions and a personal health perspective walking is best. However, bicycling has the advantage of speed. It provides door to door transport and parking is usually easy.

Continue reading

Guernsey’s Electric Smart Car

January 15th, 2008 by Richard Lord

Engineer Mark Parr sits in one of his electric Smart Car produced by his Electric Vehicles Company (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Engineer Mark Parr with his brother founded The Electric Vehicles Company, which operates out of the old Rocquaine shellfish factory on Guernsey’s west coast.

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