Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Elderflower Cordial

One of the best parts of working at the Apricot Centre is getting to learn new things. I had a lot of fun bottling the elderflower cordial and pasteurizing it. I thought I'd share a recipe and explain the pasteurizing process in case anyone's wanting to grab what's left of the elderflowers and make some of their own. This recipe is slightly different from the one Marina used (which I think was just boiling water, sugar, lemon juice and elderflowers), but I don't have the numbers for that. She made two huge buckets full with 500 flower heads. Here's a recipe I found online.


* 1.5 litres of boiling water
* 1 kilo of white granulated sugar
* 20 large elderflower heads (if they are small, pick more)
* Juice of 4 lemons
* 55g of citric acid

First, pick the flowers. Avoid any bunches with brown flowers. Boil the water and zest and slice the lemons. Combine all the ingredients. Marina lets hers sit for 5 days, making sure to stir each day. (This keeps the sugar from settling at the bottom.)

On day 5, strain and bottle. And Enjoy!

To pasteurize, make sure the bottle cap is on, but not to tight. Marina has a pasteurizing device that looks like a metal trash can. It has a metal stand that fits in the bottom with a central stem coming up. The termometer rests on the stem. A trash can lid with a hole for the termometer fits over the top. The whole contraption fits on the stove over 2 burners. Heat the water to 70 degrees C. Put the bottles in for 20 minutes at that temperature. Monitor the temperature to make sure it stays around 70 and doesn't stray too far in either direction. After 20 minutes, take out the bottles, taking care not to burn yourself. Flip the bottles upside down once, then tighten the cap. And you're done. You can enjoy right away or you can store it for use later. It's good for about a year.

New Vegetables

I'm not a very adventurous eater. I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes house. My favorite foods are Bran Flakes (discontinued in the US--shame on you, Kelloggs) and french fries. Over the past few years, thanks to a few friends, I've discovered some fruits and veg that I never knew existed prior to their having introduced me to them. Latest in this long line: kohlrabi.

When I first saw it, I thought: wow that's probably easy to pull up because the stems of it's long, leafy green leaves wrap about the body of it. It's cabbage looking, but with a hard casing like a pumpkin. The leaves looked like a lettuce. Apparently, it comes from German words meaning cabbage and turnip and that pretty well describes it. The inner bits look and taste turnip like, but looking at it whole, you'd guess it were in the cabbage family. I did anyway, so I was pretty surprised when I cut into it.

Anna and I had no clue what it was. It came in her CSA veggie box and the letter listing the box's contents had disappeared. We puzzled over it. I cut it in half, cut off the outer layer and cut the heart of it into cubes for a stir fry. We tried the inner flesh and I tried chewing the skin.

Only today did I learn what it was. Kohlrabi. Never heard of it before, so I looked it up. I've sinec learned it's a cultivar of cabbage that will grow almost anywhere. It's the most commonly eaten vegetable in Kashmir. It has varieties with very regal sounding names: White Vienna, Purple Vienna, Grand Duke, Gigante (also known as "Superschmeltz"), Purple Danube, and White Danube.

I'm happy to get to know a new vegetable. It is as delicious raw as it is cooked in a stir fry. Thanks, Anna!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Interview: Science Journalist

Yesterday, I interviewed a science journalist. I wanted to know what makes science journalism different from regular journalism, about the limitations the genre has in addressing scientific issues, and get a journalists perspective on communicating science with the general public.

Connie St Louis, BBC 4 journalist for science and health and director of City University London's MA in Science Journalism, was kind enough to speak with me. Here are a few things I learned.

There's a lot of bad science journalism out there. A good science journalist should be an investigator, an adjudicator, someone who understands and can contextualize the story. This was great news as one of my complaints about science journalism is that new study results are rarely put into context. This requires the journalist to have an understanding of the scientific process and the field of study.

Science Journalism v. Science communication: many news stories today appear as press releases for studies/departments/paper rather than journalism pieces that explain the significance of the study's findings for a general reader. This can be confusing for a reader. Many of the science articles published simply report the findings of a study, leaving them in a role as more of a science communications person than a journalist.

Often times journalists point to editors for the lack of quality in reporting. They say editors want front page news. Editors may take out key pieces of an article. One suggestion for changing this is to improve communication between the journalists and their editors so as to improve the editors' understanding of what's important but also to treat science journalists as experts.

For journalists, and for me in my dissertation, the key thing is breaking things down into digestible bits for a general audience. This means using terms that everyone can understand, asking why, dropping assumptions and asking questions. As Connie said, she needs to 'listen with an audience's ears' and create good, jargon-free journalism.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Manual Labor

There's something incredibly satisfying about manual labor. I like a job where at the end, you can actual see what you've done and feel like you've done something. Nothing sweeter than a pile or weeds, a pile of clean dishes, a crate of picked strawberries or carrots, a clean flower bed to step back and appreciate after some muscle flexing and sweating. Nice enough just to flex the muscles and sweat a bit, but sweeter still to appreciate the fruits (especially when it's actually fruit) of one's labors. I'm loving my work at the Apricot Centre. Most of it is weeding. I'm learning some things are easier to weed than others. Some of it is picking: strawberries, carrots, beet root. Some of it is making things: hummus and elderflower cordial. It's a good time and good experience and so nice to feel genuinely tired at the end of a day.


Four little swallows perched on a railing being fed by mama swallow who would swoop down and deposit things in the little swallows' mouths. They'd start to tweet and flap their wings every time mama bird came by. Funny faces on those little things. The beak opening spans the entire head.

A greenfinch hanging out at the top of a dead tree. It truly is green. Looks like a sweet little lime green tropical bird. I would have taken a picture but I was eating a banana at the time.

Female and male chaffinches on a telephone wire. (I think the female chaffinch was a chaffinch. If it wasn't I haven't got a clue what it was.)

Monday, 21 June 2010

It's all down hill from here

Happy Solstice! Today is the longest day of the year. The sun reached its highest point in its bounce between the tropics at 11:28 today. Tomorrow it will start to head back towards the tropic of Capricorn. It's the world's slowest game of pong. Today is also the first day of summer. Congratulations! You made it through five months of winter and that confusing time that should be spring but some days feels like summer and some days feels like winter with maybe a day or two of spring sprinkled inconspicuously in there. But hey, on the upside, it's a great time of year to be so far north on the planet. The sky starts getting light at 4 and still has a touch of blue at 10 after 10. Tomorrow there will be 3 seconds less of sunlight and so the long descent to sun at 8 and night at 4 begins. But before SAD takes over and the sun bolts across the equator, there's many days of sunshine to be enjoyed and I plan on doing just that.

I spent much of this wonderful day out of doors--sort of. It started off with a walk to the bus stop, then a wait at the bus stop, then a walk from the bus stop; about a mile in all. I spent a few hours in a polytunnel picking strawberries and weeds. One of the weeds was covered in caterpillars--it stripped it of all its flowers and leaves. Very cool. Also got acquainted with the shield bug--which reminds me of this amazingly creepy bug I know back in DC. And took a nettle leaf in the face. Don't worry; I weeded them out. Every last one of them and everything else in a section up to the sunflowers. I uncovered many snails and slugs and plenty of spiders. Then I took a break in the sun for lunch, followed by bottling and pasteurizing elderflower cordial. Lovely way to spend the day. Didn't get quite as dirty today as I did last week. Didn't see quite as many spiders, either, which is a good thing because last week's spiders became last week's nightmare about spiders. (The ones that carry their egg sacks really gross me out, much more so than the rest of them.)

In other new, I have written the first 1,000 words of my dissertation. They were possible the hardest I have ever written. Just 19,000 more to go. It's all down here from here.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Wild Tesco

For a people who love their queues and orderliness, Brits are wild when it comes to the grocery store. Navigating aisles becomes a game of frogger as you try not to get run into by someone swinging blindly around a corner with a trolley. It's survival of the fittest, much like driving in Los Angeles. You have to be aggressive if you want to get anywhere. You'd think it was announced that there was going to be a shortage of food coming and everyone was rushing to stock up. People wander about oblivious to their surroundings and to other people. Equally frustrating and oblivious are those who stand three across in an aisle chatting, blocking the way for anyone who might want to pass. Children run around screaming. Trolleys taking over slower trolleys in the long middle aisle. An alarm goes off in the electronics section. Keep your head down, your eyes open, grab what you came in for, and get out as quickly as you can. Makes me miss American grocery stores. Even in the narrow aisles of Whole Foods aren't as mad as 3 trolley wide aisles of the Hythe's super Tesco.

(ASDA over by North Station is much calmer, has wider aisles, and is less irritating, but it's also owned by Wal-mart. Dilemma. I might take to shopping at Tesco in the middle of the night when I've heard it's much less populated with oblivious trolley pushing nuts.)

Thursday, 17 June 2010

N is for Nettle

I declared war on nettles today. After being stung on my hands (back and front) and forearm while picking strawberries and weeding out the gladioli, I started wedding out the nettles. Damn, they sting. They also have a cute flowering cousin that doesn't sting.

It's now 10:40 and there's still light in the sky. In about 5 hours, it'll be light from the other side. I'm exhausted. My back is tired and my hands smell of garlic. It's been one of the best days I've had in a long time.

I was up at 6 to a bright blue sky. Bran flakes (yum!) and green tea for breakfast. I dressed and made lunch then headed out catch the bus to the Apricot Centre. I missed the bus--or though I missed the bus because I arrived a few minutes late, but the bus was late. Only I didn't know that so I went on and then missed the bus. So I caught the next one, 30 minutes later. Got off on Wignall Road somewhere between The King's Arms and Manningtree and walked back to Hungerdown Lane. The Apricot Centre is pretty far down that lane--past the houses and the horse farms, the wheat fields, the construction, the tomato stand, and then a few more hedges.

I walked up the drive way and saw two unfamiliar faces in the window (Di and Anne, I learned later). Are you Mary? one asked. I said I was and she gave the big bell attached to the side of the house a ring. It was a lot louder than I had expected. They rang the bell and Aidan came out to meet me.

First we picked strawberries. He warned me a few nettle plants were hanging out in the strawberry patch and said I should pull any I found. I didn't find nettles at first, but I found a ton of spiders. Everywhere. All different kinds, different shapes, colors and sizes. I disturbed one who came out to sit on top of a leaf with its egg sack. Spiders give me the creeps. So for most of the morning, I tried not to think about spiders. Picking strawberries is fun, but hard on the back and knees. I browsed through the plants, looking for red ones, leaving the eaten and moldy ones, snapping off the ready-to-eat ones. I filled a crate and a half which is about 15 trays. Aidan said that if any of them snapped off without a stem, I should eat them. So I did. They taste as beautiful as they look.

The strawberry patch is in a polytunnel. I'd been remarking for a few days how much I wished the wind would stop. It's beautiful out, but there's a constant wind which is cool so it never feels warm. Well, in the polytunnel, I found the answer to my warmth problem. It was a good deal warmer in there than outside. Within a few minutes, sweat was pouring out of every pore. It was fantastic. Finally I found the heat I was looking for and yet gained an appreciating for the cooling breeze.

The bell rang again. We were being called in for coffee. What a civilized way to farm. There was also cake: tiramisu (yum) with a brandy soaked base (ick). Getting to know Di and Anne was great fun. They're sisters and hilarious. Di told stories about her drug dealing neighbor and the bag of hash she found once in the hallway and about her pot smoking grandchild whose pot she would vacuum up not knowing or caring what it was and her other grandson who eats mushrooms--you know, the wild kind. She also told us of her dislike of garlic (makes her nauseous) and about her toilet paper collection. It was a lot of fun to hear her stories.

Then back to the plastic tunnel to finish the strawberries and weed the gladioli bed. That's where I found the nettles. Stung on the back and fronts of my hands, I asked for a pair of gloves and started tearing them by the roots. Those little stinging hairs hurt! And blister! And then itch!

After the weeding, came lunch. Then picking carrots and beet root--both of which are pretty hard to tell from the stem what size the veg at the other end is going to be. Super exciting for someone like me whose never picked anything in her life (short of a few apples and the strawberries from earlier that day) to pull a carrot out of the ground. Next to the carrots were some broad beans which are lovely and mingled in there was some New Zealand spinach. I didn't get around to the lettuce. It was getting on in the day and Aidan had to prepare some hummus and soup for an event happening over the weekend. I asked if I could help as I'd never made hummus before.

We got the chickpeas from the cold store. There was fresh raw garlic to use. Fresh garlic and a different, wetter version of the dry stuff you get in the store. It looks like a leak with a bulb at the bottom. The paper is not like paper, but rather like cabbage--wet and semi-thick. It seemed lovely. My hands still smell of it. (Good thing Di had left earlier.) Combined with some Tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and chick pea water, we made hummus. It was interesting. A sort of trial and error thing. Mix it up and add a little bit of this, a little bit of that until it tastes like something you'd want to serve to strangers. In the end, I made two batches which came out to be 4 jars of it. I got to take a bit home to taste.

It was a really wonderful first day of volunteer work at Apricot Centre. I came home with dirt covered jeans, a layer of dried sweat covering my body and I couldn't have been happier. Can't wait for Monday.

P.S. Woke up at 2 am from nightmares about spiders and itching my nettle stung hand. Took along time before I fell back asleep. Next day, legs and back are sore. It is all worth it.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Throwing Stones

8pm. Water reflecting on a beached keg. Ripples of light dance diagonally across the barrel's dull metal ridges. The river shows the sky. Solid surface. See a black headed gull fly from above and below, wing tips almost touching, then pulling up. Passed the noise of the sewer draining into the river. Past the graffitied brick structure and the boats. Collecting stones from the path. Swallows practice acrobatics inches from the surface. Gulls stare on. The angle of the sun's rays is rising. Shadow creeps up the eastern bank. Brown. Pink tinted. Like the sands at Rainbow Beach. Multi-colored mud draining puddles of silver blue sky. Throwing stones at the river. Some burst into pieces. Some disappear into the mud. Dirt streaked flesh. Wind from the east for the third straight day. Throwing stones in the river. Into the cloudless sky. Tide is going out. The river drains to the sea. A barn owl hunts in the meadow. Yellow suns meet at the bridge.

Oil Rigs & big business

I started reading Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse as fun reading, because it was loaned to me ages ago and I should return it and as a form of procrastination. It's poorly edited. The writing is about at a sixth grade level. But it's funny at times and educational as to the type of folks who go out on these rigs and a little view into the industry. There are a few bits, copied below, that I think give insight into the way big oil is run today. Not by the folks on the rigs who put their lives at risk every day and would make safety a primary concern, but by the bottom-liners and folks hanging out in air conditioned high rises. It's not just the oil business that's gone this way, though--I'd say most business has. Think healthcare--it's about bottom lines, about profit, not about wellness and saving lives. But what else can you expect from a capitalist system?

"The oilfield is run by the corporate machine more than ever now, lawyers backed by engineers who have never seen a rig. The human side is gone, the bottom line rules, and it's every man for himself. Outside my crew I don't trust anyone. Not in the office, and especially not the client.

These days it leaves the older guys, who remember the rigs when they were still wild, seething. They speak up on occasion, usually at a critical moment during the meeting before the main meeting which proceeds the really big meeting where we talk about what we're going to say when we have the really really big meeting with the people in Houston joining us via satellite speaker phone (that's the meeting where no one makes a firm decision because of the consequences of getting sued for making a decision). 'Aw fuck all this horse shit' the old guys say, when the bureaucracy gets ridiculous and the legal implications of opening your mouth have you more concerned about losing your job than actually solving the problem. And for the tiniest of moments everyone in the room is reminded of the qualities that made these men pioneers when the drilling game was in its infancy." pp. 8-9

"In the oil business, like most industries, it's the accountants and lawyers who call the shots, and these people make decisions that ultimately put crews in situations that affect lives in ways they could not possibly comprehend." p. 43


No matter what happens in my lifetime and yours, we will always be involved in the oil business. Every time we start a car, heat the house, cook a meal, watch a war on the news, it reminds me that everything relies on fossil fuels to exist. Try not to think of the human cost, or the environmental cost. By 2080 we need a viable alternative to oil and gas, because by then one-third of our energy needs will have to come from somewhere else. Like solar power, wind power, geothermal power, hydrogen fuel cells, a genetically engineered three-storey hamster in a fuckin' huge wheel--I don't know." p. 205

Link to Amazon't Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Apricot Centre

Yesterday morning I paid a visit to the Apricot Centre. Marina O'Connell who owns and runs the place gave me a tour of her 4 acre property. A house and garden at the front, an orchard in the middle, and woods at the back: it is a truly beautiful place. The centre is located about 2.5 miles from the Manningtree Station in Lawford down a road called Hungerdown Lane which is dotted with houses and small agricultural plots.

The Apricot Centre practices organic, permaculture and biodynamic principles. The garden is about 10 years old. Marina started planting windbreaks (made of hazel and elder hedges) 10 years ago and planted the fruit trees the next year. Not only do they grow, make and sell, they also teach. Marina puts on courses which are open to the public.

It was a beautiful morning visit to a beautiful place. They were collecting elder flowers to make elderflower cordial. I'm headed back Thursday to do some work! Hope to put in at least a day of volunteering a week, maybe two. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Stag Beetles on Parade

This evening turned out to be really wonderful despite forecast for rain all day. Around 4pm, the clouds cleared away and the sun shone warmly. It made for excellent walking conditions. My walking buddy and I made it about 6 miles up and down the Colne before stopping off at the Coop to pick up some ingredients for dinner. The walk was wonderful; we saw the baby oyster catcher again, baby cows, house martins, tons of dead crabs washed up on the banks, a few live crabs living in the drying pools left over from high tide, and the cormorant that seems to have made a home for itself in the hythe. The biggest thrill of the day came this evening, after the sun had set, around 10pm. We were waiting at the bus stop on Wivenhoe's 'The Avenue' across from the Co-op for my ride back to campus when a lady came out to check the schedule. I was distracted by a noise coming from near the base of the fence: the sound of something rustling through dry leaves. On the cement post, we spotted a stag beetle ( But that beetle wasn't making all the noise. We peeked over the fence and thought we saw some more. The lady was excited because she'd just seen a dead one on her drive way (she reckons she ran it over earlier when she was pulling in). She ran off to get the torch so we could better see what was happening in the leaves and we stayed to investigate.

Simultaneously creepy and cool, stag beetles are quite large and have pincer like mandibles that precede them. They have become rather rare in England and are England's largest beetle. There's a sign down by the rail station that says to look out for them and take care when you find one because they're considered to be a threatened species. I just learned that they can fly--which is totally creepy. Imagine one of those flying through the air at you. Ick.

So the lady went inside to grab the torch and her husband and they came out and shined the light behind the fence where a few beetles were wrestling in the leaves. The lady kept exclaiming how they're an endangered species. One of the beetles was headed for the road, so I stopped it with my shoe. It promptly climbed on board and then quite stubbornly refused to get off. It went right around the top to the sole. I could feel it gripping. My friend laughed that I had an endangered species on the bottom of my shoe. The man used a few leaves to pull it off and put the bug behind the fence with the rest of them. I've seen a stag beetle before. In Japan, a friend of mine caught one and put it on my back where it proceeded to climb up my shirt. I wasn't scared of it then, but with the one on my shoe I felt suddenly shy and fearful of it's pincers.

The lady ran off inside to grab her camera. She came back out and filmed them. We giggled and watched--amused by the lady's remarks and excitement and fascinated/disgusted by the beetles. We stepped back to give them room to shine the light, investigate and film the scene. She couldn't believe there were so many in one place, what luck that they were in her front yard, and how this made up for the one she ran over earlier.

Then I noticed that the man, who was leaning over the fence, had a stag beetle climbing up his trousers. How it got there, I'm not sure. We were watching the ground pretty intently. How it got so high up--upper thigh, nearly buttock--without him or any one else noticing, I'm not sure either. But then the spectacle became watching this woman grab a stick and try to remove the beetle from the back of this man's trousers. He kept commenting how he felt lucky it wasn't up the front of his trousers while the woman kept pocking and prodding the beetle towards his inner-upper thigh. The man starting repeating, not to the front! Eventually the woman managed to get the beetle on the stick and set him down on the non-street side of the fence. In the mean time, my friend and I were checking one another for climbing beetles. They continued to film and watch and we continued to watch them and giggle. I think we could have been there all night if my bus hadn't come. As it was, we probably spent 15 minutes playing with beetles, watching, and being entertained by this couple's remarks and actions. Excellent way to end the evening. And how exciting to see one of England's rare beetles!

Help track the beetles. Report any sightings to the Stag Beetle HelpLine:

Photos courtesy of Hideki Mizuno

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Saving water, take 2

For this week's water saving fun, I'll be limiting my shower time to a maximum of 5 minutes. I have a timer set and will be racing to turn the water off before my timer dings. Sounds like fun!

Resilience - thoughts in response to The Power of Community

Transition Colchester put on a film at the Friends Meeting House in town this evening. They showed The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived the Peak Oil Crisis ( I first came across this film a few years ago when I was doing research on climate and energy issues, but I'd never watched it. [Instead, I watched films like Fire on the Amazon (see which was awful and some equally awful ones which were only slightly worse off for the lack of Sandra Bullock's sex scene.] There have been a bunch of movies on the topic of peak oil. This one uses Cuba as an example for an artificial peak oil and how we might overcome the challenges that peak oil might present. Though the title points to community, the film downplays it in favor of organic agriculture, creative approaches to energy production (such as solar hot water, some solar, small scale wind, and sugar cane plantations that double as power plants), and transportation (bicycles and camel buses). There was a little section on community when it briefly mentions cooperatives and also farmers providing food for free to schools, the elderly and the pregnant.

It's a very interesting film and well worth a watch (especially at 53 minutes long).

The event was put on by Transition Colchester which is in the very early stages of becoming part of the Transition Town movement. In general, I think the movement is a fantastic thing: building up local resilience to face anything that might come up, environmental, economic, community or otherwise. I do take issue with what I perceive to be an over emphasis on peak oil. We just passed in comments on a brochure for Transition Wivenhoe (the next town over) and one of the comments that I agreed with quite strongly was that in introducing the idea, the bright future needs to be the selling factor, not scaring people into compliance. Certainly the one advantage Cuba had for converting its agriculture to be 80% organic was necessity and also leadership from its dictator lead government.

One of the farmers speaking in the film was talking about the soil. He spoke about pesticides (oil based) killing off the life of the soil -- the microflora and microfauna that live within it and make it healthy and living. Another man commented on how organic agriculture works with nature and commercial pesticide based agriculture is trying to work against it. We have to take care of nature or it will take care of us, he said, by getting rid of us.

This lead me to think about how resilient nature is and how resilient we are. Within 3-5 years, they said, the soil recovered from traditional agriculture. It changed from being sand-like to being this amazing brown-red soil, full of worms. Within a couple of decades, Cuba has turned itself around from an economic nose dive in which everything from the outside was being cut off to being able to take care of itself. Doctors, architects, whoever, started vegetable gardens in empty lots. Tractors were abandoned and the old tradition of working with oxen taken back up. Farmers are now one of the higher paid professionals. This is all good news.

Nature can overcome a hell of a lot. I've visited Hiroshima. I've seen trees that have continued to grow after the bomb. Chernobyl is now a wild green place. And there's the book, The World Without Us, which looks at how quickly nature would take over after humans. We can be resilient in different ways and very resourceful, but we're lazy. I think often times we don't do things unless we need to. I'd like to see us get a head start on necessity and start to move towards a more diverse energy portfolio. One of the quotes from the film went something like "You can't be economically independent unless you're energy independent." (Nudge nudge, US.)

Cuba is an interesting example of how political ties can bite you in the ass. After the soviet union fell, Cuba was cut off, left to fend for itself. All this interdependence can be an amazingly positive thing, but I think as it stands right now--the ways in which we're interdependent--it's rather dangerous.

In the opening of the film, which I believe is geared towards a US audience, it mentions the 1970s oil embargo and then President Jimmy Carter. Some days I wonder if President Carter cries himself to sleep. So much that he warned us against back then and tried to prevent is coming to fruition. The PR problem back then was greening, renewable energy, were all framed in terms of sacrifice--what we needed to give up in light of the unfortunate circumstances. But as soon as things went back to normal and oil was cheap and plentiful, we forgot (for an entire generation, as the film puts it).

May we again be inspired--not out of necessity, but out of possibility and hope--to make this world a better, healthier, happier place with healthy air, water and seas.

Dissertation Proposal Submitted

Today I turned in the proposal for my dissertation, signed by my seemingly happy supervisor, two days before the due date. Off to a good start. I've included it below.

Title (very provisional): Life in a Sea of Change: Using narrative non-fiction to keep complexity in the story of anthropogenic climate change induced sea level rise

Outline of Proposed Dissertation

Robert Vare describes narrative non-fiction as “a hybrid form” that “bridges those connections between events that have taken place, and imbues them with meaning and emotion”. From deforestation to thawing permafrost, from vanishing sea ice to melting glaciers and rising seas, environmental change is occurring around the world and more changes are expected. To date, these events and predictions have been communicated as abstract facts or ideas and are most often absent of explanations as to the concrete implications for us humans. For example, news stories and scientific studies may quote that 1 meter of sea level rise would result in the displacement of 10 million people; but that is a figure that’s empty for most of us. I aim to populate such fact-based stories with a place and with characters that people are able to relate to, thereby bringing the message to readers in a way they can comprehend.

Through a work of narrative non-fiction, I will explore how people living in the Maldives, a low-lying island state in the Indian Ocean, understand the threat of rising and warming oceans which threaten to overtake their nation. My narrative will explore questions to do with current science of sea level rise, communicating climate science, the Maldives (past, present and future) and humanitarian issues. I intend to conduct interviews to discover local voices, ideas and attitudes about sea level rise and the future of the country. My guiding question for the work as a whole is, “Can narrative non-fiction be used to improve the way climate science is communicated and understood through reintroducing complexity and introducing characters to which readers can relate thereby creating a different reader response?”

My dissertation will be 75% creative and 25% commentary. The non-fiction narrative will be comprised of four chapters.


Ch. 1: Introduction

Why this topic?
What are the challenges of communicating climate science?
What does the latest climate science say?
What are the current predictions for sea level rise?
What are the processes for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports and who works on them?
What are the humanitarian implications of climate science?

Ch. 2: Place: The Maldives

What can be learned about the Maldives from the various disciplines of geography, anthropology, history, politics, sociology, marine biology and others?

Ch. 3: People

What are current attitudes towards climate change and sea level rise?
Have any changes been observed to date?
How do people think about their future and the future of their country?
What is government doing; how are they communicating internally and externally?
What are attitudes towards the terms ‘environmental’ or ‘climate’ refugee?

Ch. 4: Conclusion

What does this mean? A pulling together of main ideas from the previous chapters and a discussion of ‘environmental refugees’, and the future.


In this section, I will reflect upon my work and how it fits within the genre of narrative non-fiction, how narrative non-fiction can add to discussion and understanding of climate change, and commenting on the experience of writing and the product.

Reference: Robert Vare, “The State of Narrative Nonfiction Writing” (6 May 2000), WWW documents (5 June 2010).

Bumble Bees

Today a few friends and I walked around campus with Ted Benton. Ted is a professor emeritus here at Essex and has written many books, amongst them The Bumble Bees of Essex, one on butterflies and is working on one about crickets and grasshoppers. The goal of today's walk was to identify various flora and fauna. That we did. Ted helped us identify many of the bumble bee species that are hanging around the flowers. We saw a few early nesting bumble bees, white tailed and garden bumble bees, some cuckoos, and a ruderal to name those I can recall. We also spotted a few harlequin lady bugs (foreigners!), a small grasshopper, some micromoths (including a copper faced one), two speckled wood butterflies (territorial, they hang out in the sunshine and fly up when a lady comes around), the holly blue (which feeds on holly and ivy), a common blue, and a couple silver y moths. We confirmed that the moth Harry and I saw the other day was a cinnabar--beautiful enough to be a butterfly. Ted also helped us to identify some plants including forget me nots, meadow cranesbill, buttercups (including a taller, creeping variety), common birds foot trefoil (a favorite of the common blue), heath bedstraw, white campion and oxeye daisies. It was a wonderful day with wonderful weather.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Bird Sightings

This morning, I believe I saw a quail hanging out in the meadow between the Quays and campus. It was raining and I was rushing to make an appointment on time, but I stopped briefly to investigate. Definitely not a pheasant. Quails here are very different from quails at home. Here, they are small game birds, sort of shaped like a rugby ball. Similar to a female pheasant but not as tall and lacking a long tail. ( At home, they're closer to the size of a dove and have little thing on top of their heads. It's occasionally seen dashing across a road--sometimes with chicks in tow. (

On the way home, two adults and one adolescent oyster catcher poking their long beaks into the Colne mud at low tide.

I really ought to carry my camera around more.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Oil Spill Hysteria

As often happens with crises, hysteria breaks out. This is certainly the case with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. People lose their ability to process and start spewing verbal nonsense, speaking from an emotional place rather than one of reason. That's fine for the average idiot on the street, but it's not what I want to hear from the TV or radio newsman. Hearing Mr. Newscaster report as news that the American public is outraged because Obama is not--or not outraged enough about what's happened. What would an angry president accomplish? Why is it news?

Now lots of people are casually signing up to groups on social networking sites entitled "Boycott BP" and the like. What good does that do? And how many people are really going to boycott BP? We like to demonize people. We like black and white, good and evil and we really like to know who to blame. A satirical article in the Daily Mash picked up on this with it's article entitled "Oil Well Capped Before Everyone Realizes it's Their Fault". (

We want everything we want when we want it and none of the knowledge as to how we get it. If we know all the behind the scenes, then we're responsible. But as long as we can claim ignorance, we just pretend and expect that corporations that bring us our goodies are being obedient, respectful, honest people--innocent until proven guilty. Well, folks, this is the reality. This is how we get oil. These are the risks we take. This is how you go to the pump and fill up your car. This is how planes fly. Oil spills. Oil wars. It's a dirty business. It's a dirty fuel.

Of course this is a disaster that everyone would have preferred to avoid, but this is also an opportunity to reexamine our choices, our dependence upon and obsession with cheap oil. Let's use this time to give a second thought to risks, to priorities, to possibilities and to our choices, or at least to educate ourselves of what we're saying when we say yes, thank you, keep the cheap fuel coming. Boycotting BP (forever or for the duration of the leak) isn't going to prevent oil future spills or environmental mishaps.

Summer Rain

Got caught out in the rain today on a walk to Rowhedge. It was lovely. A nice soft rain on the way there made carrying the rain jacket worth while. Went through passing heavy rain on the way back. Made it home before it started pouring and then watched two rainbows arch over campus from my kitchen window with a cup of tea and freshly baked zucchini bread listening to distant. Wonderful way to start the evening.

Saw plenty of birds today. Lots of black headed gulls, a handful of oyster catchers, swans, ducks, canada geese, little yellow birds that I think were yellowhammers, collared doves, wood pigeons, a pied wagtail, swallows, a possible shell duck?, a greylag goose family and friends, and a skylark flapping its wings and hovering over a field.

I think yesterday I saw a reed warbler; a soft tan colored little creature hanging on a reed. It looked like a nightingale--same color scheme--but tiny and descending a reed.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Bird Spotting on the Colne

Took a walk today down to Arlesford Creek and back. Saw a few birds along the way: swans, ducks, geese, cormorant (eating a silver fish), herring gulls, black birds, wood pigeons, a robin, starlings, and even three oyster catchers.

The one bird I didn't get to see, but enjoyed hearing was the cuckoo. RSPB lists it as having red status, so that means its numbers are quite low. Glad to hear at least two of them around the area. The interesting thing about the cuckoo is that you know exactly what type of bird it is without having to see it. It's call is a dead give away.

Also, not technically a bird, saw lots of lady birds today. Four spotted, many spotted, albino.

In news of other things that fly: mosquitoes. Yuck. I've got three new bites. No mistaking that sharp needle jab sensation of a mosquito bite. These guys were big. Lots of other flying things around. I went through swarms of often unidentifiable winged things. They tend to hang out in the shaded, wooded areas. I escaped by walking along the river. Wind is good for something.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Roz's Arrival, Madang

Roz is scheduled to arrive in Madang tomorrow. At the time of her blog posting, she was 33 miles away. It will be day 46 of this latest leg. She's spent about a year at sea on her rowboat altogether and already has her next journey planned: The Indian Ocean. What an amazing accomplishment. I'll be watching her blog for updates as she pulls in. A welcome committee is said to have been organized and waiting for her arrival. I wish I could be there amongst them. While they prepare, Roz is going to be rowing through the night. the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean

BB2B: The essay

A Climate Walk: Big Ben to Brussels

Tonight we leave for Holland. I’m on the train now, traveling from Colchester to Harwich where we’ll have dinner and then board the overnight ferry bound for the Hoek van Holland. I’m behind schedule and I’ve already received three calls wondering where I am. It took me longer to batten down the hatches for 12 days away than expected.

Five days ago I was on a train, traveling through the dark, much like I am now, except it was at the opposite end of the day and in the opposite direction. Like a true November day, the sky wouldn’t lighten for hours and the sun, as it turned out, wouldn’t come out at all. It was cloudy, drizzling. I’d waited in the dark for the bus to the rail station, wrapped in my winter layers, leaning forward slightly, balanced by the weight of a full backpack. I was on my way to meet up with four women who were walking 250 miles from Big Ben to Brussels. The walk, named for its starting and finishing points, BB2B, was the concept of Roz Savage. Roz, while being a good many things, is best known as an ocean rower and a United Nations Climate Hero. She organized the walk to raise awareness about the upcoming climate talks at the COP15 in Copenhagen and as a form of low-carbon transport. Upon arriving in Brussels, she would board the Climate Express with other climate talk bound people.

It was a Friday morning. I was planning to walk with them until Monday when I needed to return to campus for lectures or for as long as I could keep up. I’d never intentionally walked 15 miles in a day before. I didn’t know how I’d tucker out at 10. I was also keeping my options open in case it didn’t turn out to be something I wanted to partake in.

I had only met Roz once at another event in London. It was October 24th, the International Day of Climate Action. She was a featured speaker, a tiny figure standing on a chair with a bullhorn pressed to her lips. “I row across oceans,” she said,

to inspire people to take action on climate change. Something the ocean has taught me is that any challenge, no matter how huge, can be tackled if you break it down into little steps. When I rowed across the Atlantic it took me about a million oar strokes. One stroke doesn’t get me very far, but you take a million tiny actions and you string them all together and you get across 3000 miles of ocean. You can achieve almost anything, if you just take it one stroke at a time.

And it’s the same with climate change. On a day like today, when we feel part of a huge global community, it’s easy to believe we can change the world. But there will be other days when maybe we feel alone, and that anything we do as individuals won’t really make a difference – that it’s just a drop in the ocean.

But every action counts. We all have it in our power to make a difference. In fact, we’re already making a difference – it’s just up to us to decide if it’s a good one or a bad one. Every time we switch the lights off, or choose to walk instead of drive, or say no to a plastic bag, it matters.

If I can row 3,000 miles across an ocean for climate change, then you can remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

I’d learned about Roz a few months earlier from a couple I’d met at a Fourth of July party. My friend, Paul Scott, vice president of a group called Plug in America (and talking head from Who Killed the Electric Car?) invited me to his party. I knew he knew the folks who did the project the prior summer called Junk Raft—a group another friend of mine was a huge fan. She was talking to me one day about swirling vortexes, gyres of plastic goo in the oceans. They’re essentially where currents meet and trash travels to swirl uninterrupted for eternity. Junk Raft was an 80 foot raft made out of tethered used plastic bottles with a helicopter cab on top. Two men sailed it from Long Beach, California to Hawaii through what’s affectionately referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Kathy had just launched a new company which focused on selling responsible merchandize and donating a percentage of the profits to develop water projects in places where they’re needed. Water was her new passion and that included oceans. Paul and I got on the subject somehow over coffee one day and it turned out his wife was doing Junk Raft’s PR. So I show up to the 4th of July party to talk with Paul about connecting Kathy and the crew from Junk Raft and he says, they’re here! And that’s how I met Roz.

Markus and Anna are an amazing couple. Markus was on the boat, Anna did support work from the shore. Their goal is to visit all five of the swirling garbage patches. This summer, they want to do the North Atlantic gyre. I asked about the trans-Pacific journey and Markus obliged. His re-telling of it included a story about how, when they were running short on food, they heard their ocean rowing friend was short on water and just happened to be in the neighborhood on her way from San Francisco to Hawaii, so they arranged a rendezvous in the middle of the pacific via satellite phone. Anna called Roz’s mom, got her number, and after a few days of adjusting their trajectories, the two ships managed to meet. Roz, promised a hot meal, boarded the Junk Raft, and ate freshly caught and grilled Mahi-Mahi. Roz shared some of her food supply. They gave her some fresh water and one of their desalinators. After parting ways, Junk Raft stopped to collect samples of the oceanic goo and Roz rowed her heart out. Both boats made it to Hawaii safely within days of each other.

So on October 24th, I arrived at this rally to support this group called 350, one of the lead organizers of this day of action. About 300 people gathered in the grass square of Jubilee Gardens near the London Eye. Together we were going to form the number 5. This would be photographed from a cherry picker and assembled with other photographs of humans making up the numbers 3 and 0 to create 350 (for 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—thought to be a safe concentration that will allow us to avoid catastrophic climate change). (Oh, we’re currently somewhere around 390 parts per million. Hence the sense of urgency.)

I brought my Kazakh flat mate with me because she’d never been to London before and asked if she could tag along. Communication between us is limited. To make it interesting for her, I took her to visit Westminster Abbey and the parliament buildings before the rally. While we were there, some climate ralliers, all in blue, marched through lead by a man on a bike with wings connected to his pedals so it looked like they were flapping as he rode. The wings read “Protect your Mother”.

I introduced myself to Roz after we were done being a 5. I calculated the odds that there was another woman named Roz rowing across the Pacific and felt assured she must be the Roz that Markus and Anna told me about. Turns out she was. We exchanged a few emails afterward, trying to track down a PowerPoint presentation she told me about delivered by a guy at Climate Ride about the 4 main reasons climate change is so hard for people to understand and to communicate. The rest, as they say . . .

Friday morning, trying to stay awake on the train into Liverpool Street, the gherkin just coming into view, I was having second thoughts. What was I getting in to? Why had I agreed to do this? Not only was it just past 6 in the morning and raining outside, but what if the group was a disaster? Women, for all their fantastic qualities, can be awful company when grouped together.

For a year and a half I worked for a U.S. based climate change campaign. It was considered the national arm of 350, but not nearly as successful or well run. One of my responsibilities was to send out press releases. We used a service that let us create lists of reporters that might be sympathetic to our cause and report on our no news notices. My e-mail address was the one that showed up in the “reply-to” section and I often heard back from these mass mailings, mostly from the folks who were less than sympathetic. One of my favorite responses was all caps, unsigned, and interpreted in my brain’s ear like robot speech, all staccato.


Well, this lead me to question the quality of the service we were using—which seemed to consist of energy-guzzling SUV driving, science-challenged, conveniently faithful Republicans, invalid e-mail addresses, people no longer employed and people who employed spam filters to protect them from blasts like mine—but it also reminded me that there a lot of people out there who don’t consider the consequences of their actions, even something as innocent as turning on a light bulb.

I once, in a film called Garbage, I saw a man from Appalachia interviewed. His property was close to a coal mine and the coal company was trying a wide variety of tactics to make him move, including shooting as his dog. The man leads the director to the edge of his property where the plant-less gouge in the earth that leads to coal mine can be seen through a break in the trees. Then he shows the director a deep crack, 600 feet deep and 10,000 feet long that runs through his property. The earth has been cracked open by the blasts from the coal mine. “Next time you flip on your light switch,” he says, “think about that.”

Knowing what I know, having researched climate and energy for two years, putting in time at a campaign, and hearing Roz chide us, “If I can row 10,000 strokes every day, you can turn off the light when leaving the room,” I knew I wanted to do more than turn off the lights. This was an opportunity to walk the line of my convictions.

Walking as a form of protest is nothing new, but you probably haven’t heard of most of the people who’ve done it. Let’s see. There’s John Francis, nicknamed the Planetwalker, who stopped riding in motorized vehicles after witnessing the 1971 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay and walked everywhere for 22 years (17 of which he stopped talking). During his time on foot, he traveled across the United States, earned a PhD, and after being hit by a car convinced ambulance drivers to allow him to walk to the hospital. He broke his silence on Earth Day 1990 and went on to be a featured speaker at the TED conference. Deciding that fossil fuels could make him a more effective environmentalist, he boarded a bus in 1994 on the Venezuelan-Brazilian border.

There was the Peace Pilgrim who set out on January 1, 1953 vowing to remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace. I can’t imagine she’s still walking, not because we’ve reached such a state where she ought to kick back and put her feet up on a job well done, but because that was 55 years ago.

Tribes of Native Americans have walked across the United States to petition Congress for their land rights. There was the marches and walks for racial equality in the 50s. And let us not forget Gandhi, the man Rebecca Solnit refers to as the “founder of the political pilgrimage”, who walked 200 miles over salt.

The reason why most of these folks are unknown is that it’s hard to communicate widely out while you’re walking (especially when you’re not talking). If 5 women walked 250 miles from London to Brussels, would it make a difference? Would this walk go unnoticed? Would it be just another act of impassioned environmentalist that doesn’t make a difference?

I transferred from the train to the busy and delayed underground. I got off a stop too early, and walked ½ a mile to where the team was meeting. I laughed. I was going to be walking 15 miles, why was I making it more work for myself?

I was late then, too, but only by a couple of minutes. Roz called me wondering where I was. I was just around the corner at that point and when I rounded it, there was no missing the group. There were four women in bright orange jackets and bright orange hats moving about a make shift staging area in front of a chain coffee shop. There bags, blow up balls with earths printed on them, and backpacks scattered across the pavement.

Immediately upon flagging down Roz, I was gifted with gear: a bright orange jacket and hat, a pack cover with logo, and some lip salve, an earth ball. After a few minutes of changing clothes and adjusting the contents of my bag to accommodate the new goods, I was ready to meet the team.

Alison Gannett, extreme free skier, UN Climate Hero, campaigner for the salvation of snow, mountaineer, also Copenhagen-bound. Jane Hornsby & Laura Hazel, two warm, strong, smart ladies: friends who've known each other for 17 years, both wives, both mothers of 3. I also had the pleasure of meeting their husbands. There was also Nora (“Where’s Nora?”), a documentary maker, and her film crew of 3.

It was an awkward first few minutes. Roz was coordinating people and answering phone calls. Jane and Laura stood at the ready. Alison chatted enthusiastically with a reporter. The film crew looked bored. Nora had disappeared again. I chatted with a woman who ran an eco-product promotion and distribution company.

Once the first order of business was taken care of, getting in uniform, the second quickly commenced: Press. We walked out, single file, like traffic cone colored ducklings down the sidewalk, across the street. Only Alison carried her pack, which held her skis (almost as long as she is tall). She was collecting signatures on them so she could deliver them to delegates in Copenhagen. While the rest of us stopped at a red light, Nora, tweeting via her iPhone, kept walking and Laura had to save her from being hit by a black cab. The rest of us exchanged looks and suffered elevated heart rates. Nora, unfazed, kept typing.

As our first team effort, we braved the rain and wind, standing on the bridge to Westminster in front of Big Ben to have our pictures taken. We posed for cameras, walked this way and that, caught one another’s hats as they flew off our heads, and tested out the water-resistance of our new jackets. Alison and Roz did interviews. Jane started to worry that we were running behind schedule which would leave us trying to navigate the final miles of our day’s journey in the dark.

Finishing interviews, thanking visitors and families who’d come to see us off (and 15 minutes of looking for Nora who’d run off with her assistant—something about a car), we loaded the gear on our backs and set off, in the rain, first to visit the ghost forest in Trafalgar Square.

The ghost forest consists of the giant trunks of dead trees from a commercially logged forest in Africa. This exhibit, like our Climate Heroes, was also traveling to Copenhagen. These stumps, some with root systems still impressively in tact, are massive and their roots stretch out like vines. It was moving to see a tree in that unnatural state. Once a living, growing, breathing creature that took hundreds of years to grow that with the swipe of a chain saw (albeit a large one) and some transporting, became an exhibit, like Body Worlds, the exhibit featuring plasticized dead people. I know one thing for sure; I prefer bodies and trees alive.

After a quick circumambulation of the exhibit, Jane, our navigator, lead us straight down to the Thames. We turned left and walked along the northern bank to the East. I love walking along the river, seeing all the bridges and feeling like there's a bit of open space in a city that size. Walking is such an amazing way to see the city. As Iain Sinclair says, it’s the “best way to explore and exploit the city,” and I couldn’t agree more, though his recommended mode of “drifting purposefully” was not the one we employed that day.

Despite what one might assume based on her leg length, Jane is an incredibly fast walker. She marched us down the Thames, past the Tower of London, through the streets of Wapping, to the Limehouse Basin.

The group adjusted gear and got acquainted as we went. I snapped photos and looked around. Just as I was observing the trash barge floating, full of rubbish, and reading the sign on it that said it prevented 10,000 plastic water bottles a year from reaching the Thames (Markus would be proud), I heard a loud pop. I looked up in time to see Alison’s earth ball fly into the River, downstream of the barge. The wind had pulled it off of her bag. So much for keeping the plastic out of the oceans (Sorry, Markus). Roz, who was very much at work on the phone with a reporter from the Associated Press at the time, quickly spun it into a sound bite.

“We just lost Planet Earth,” she said. “Luckily, we have another nine. Unluckily the same can’t be said of the real Earth. That’s what we’re going to Copenhagen to say. We’ve got just the one Earth, and we have to look after it. In real life, we don’t have any spares.”

We watched the earth float down the river for a while and then continued on. Most of the day was on pavement. We took a turn north through Limehouse Basin to get to the heavily graffitied Lea Valley path, and walked along the river Lea almost until the night's destination. It was beautiful. The river was smooth and put up a good reflection of the trees and sky, the boats that lived on it. We passed locks that were put in when the river was used to transport goods. There was tree cover and the air smelled cleaner—much lighter than the soot-filled air of central London that coats your nostrils and skin.

We cut through a park at one point and went through marsh lands. We walked and walked until after sunset and then we walked the last few miles in the dark. The conversations along the way were wonderful. Every one was in good spirits and really friendly. It was casual; it was about climate change and sustainability. We talked about connections—it turns out that everyone there had pretty much only met Roz once and only Jane and Laura had been friends before the walk.

We saw Nora and the camera crew for small intervals along the way. It seems Roz was constantly on the phone with her trying to explain to her where we were so they could catch up with us and film more. (We lost Nora back at the Tower of London when she decided to stop coffee and lunch. We found out her decision because she’d been walking with Alison and they’d fallen behind by about ½ mile when she decided to stop. Winding through the roads and buildings to stay on the Thames walk, we paused to let Alison catch up. After a few minutes of wondering how far back we should walk to meet them, Alison appeared, jogging, skis swaying above her head, from around the bend. We didn’t hear from Nora for a couple of hours after that.)

We were all thrilled to get to the hotel--especially me. I limped the last 3 miles or so (ever since the reservoir), which were through a city and up and down hills. I had a lot of pain in the back of my knee and my leg seemed to want to bend to the side rather than to the front. I thought I was done for—destined to hop on a train and head back to campus, alone and defeated. I lay down for a few minutes, applied some Biofreeze gel to my knee and elevated it. Then I sucked it up and went down for dinner.

Dinner was hilarious. The menu was very limited. When asked if it was possible to do a baked potato instead of chips on a fish and chips order, the bar tender responded, looking perplexed, that there wasn't a button for that. When the fish came, it was crispy. We weren't feeling picky, though. We were happy to be off our feet and eating.

It’s 6 o’clock. It’s been dark for hours it seems. I’m traveling north-east through one of the most beautiful parts of England—the Dedham Vale. This is Constable Country, an area famously depicted by one of the most respected landscape artists in England. His work and this spot is an area of national pride. It’s an AONB: an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The river Stour runs through this valley and has its mouth near Harwich. To the north of the river is Suffolk. To the south, Essex. Much is done to preserve this area. To keep bits of it looking as it did two hundred years ago in Constable’s time. As a result, there aren’t a lot of lights around. I wish there were some light in the sky as I’m sure I’d appreciate the view.

When I start to see lights, I know I’m nearing Harwich, an important port of yesterday. Today, a harbor for ferries which carry passengers and goods between England and Holland. The International Port is glaring with light and bustling with people. This is where I’m coming back to, but I stay on the train to Harwich Town. The town was one of many lying on the North Sea coast to be inundated in the flood of 1953. They say this side of the island is tilting into the sea. The slightest change in sea level rise would be noticed here.

There’s nothing like getting off the train in the dark in a place you’ve never been before, never studied a map of and only heard bad things about. Luckily I wasn’t the only one getting off the train and asked an older gentleman in a suit if he could point me to the Pier restaurant. He did one better and walked me most of the way there. We passed down darkened streets. It was a quiet place and there were not a lot of people about. One of my classmates was telling me that Harwich is not a terrible place. It used to house a lot of industry and employ a lot of people on the docks, but that’s changed. Now, he said, it’s a very depressed area.

My escort left me at a corner and pointed me on. I continued down the street, past a couple of pubs and a restaurant, to the pier. The restaurant is one of the last buildings on the street, across from the pier.

Saving water

I'm giving myself water use reduction challenges. Each week, in an effort to reduce my water consumption, I'm going to try something new.

Last week, I decided I was not going to wash my hair. Normally, I wash it every 3-4 days. Washing my hair easily doubles my shower time. It's longer; it's thick; it's a process. I set a minimum of a week limit on this, but no maximum. I'm going to let it go until I can't stand it anymore. I will be inadvertently reducing my energy consumption, too, but using less hot water.

Day 9 and counting.

Note: Made it to day 14!