Leaving Melbourne with co-housing on our minds, the first of many random co-housing conversations commenced on the plane from Doha with Iain networking with Paul in the row in front whose sister managers a housing association. You just never know where these things will lead.
First glimpse of the coast of Scotland was of a coastal landscape covered in wind-farms. Arriving on Wednesday after about twenty-four hours cooped up in a fossil fuel burning aeroplane, it was truly a heart-warming sight.
It turns out that Scotland is leading the way with renewably generated electricity in the UK (29.8%), England only 8.2% and Wales and Northern Ireland renewables accounted for 8.7% and 15.9% respectively. And Scotland is exhibiting a higher level of enlightenment with the Royal Bank of Scotland ruling out funding for Australian Galilee Basin coal exports. Now “half of the world’s biggest financiers of the coal industry have come out and publicly stated they won’t be financing part or all of the Galilee coal export supply chain” (ref: Market Forces).
Edinburgh airport was a breeze to come through and we stepped out into a day uncharacteristically bathed in sunshine. Chit chat about the weather with the taxi driver telling us that Edinburgh can have four seasons in one day. We sympathised and told him that sometimes the temperature in Melbourne can drop 20º in an hour from 40º to 20º!! His response was that they are delighted to get anywhere near 20º!
It’s Spring here, school holidays, in a city of about 500,000 people. Highlights have been the Botanic Gardens – bursting with blossoms, flowers and fresh, fragrant air and full of people, lots of children and babies and young girls with shorts and bare legs as if its actually hot (which its not). It’s been getting up around 18º although today I’ve heard it’s only going to get to 9º.
We’ve walked miles around Edinburgh hearing bagpipes, seeing plenty of tartan and kilts and hearing lots of Scottish accents. Called into the Royal Society of Scotland and looked at their program coming up; “Feeding the Future – Can we do it sustainably”; “Removing the Fossil from the Fuel”; and “Climate Change: the Impact on Science and Society”.
Observing the design and architecture, the culture and, sometimes feeling like we’re in one big TV set having seen so many shows set in this location. Lots of buses – public transport is very good. Shorter, narrower, double decker buses that look almost new and are reliable and well used.
The city itself is dominated by the impressive cliffs of Salisbury Crags and the man-made sky-line of castles, cathedrals and monuments. It’s architecture that is either authentic Medieval or largely in sympathy with it. The old part of the city has narrow streets and buildings that go up and down from street level – three or more flights up and one or more flights down. And they have somehow built around the bridges so that you don’t realise there’s whole other streets and rows of buildings below.
It’s a great location to ponder the revitalisation and ‘sustainabilisation’ of the suburbs. Here the buildings are constructed of big, cut stone bricks with double glazed windows. They’re built together or close and it wouldn’t be that hard. There’s not much land for growing food but we did see a Community Garden the other day and there are private parks around. Of course if you want to actually go into them you have to pay a lot of money to get a key.
An exhibition stumbled upon that links the horrific practice over two centuries of witch-hunting (the scale across Britain and Europe was shocking – the pages and pages of names and details) with the political issue of growing a population for the emerging mechanistic world necessitating the extermination of any women not making babies and anyone who promoted contraception or who didn’t manage to keep a baby alive. The “war against …”, the demonising and justification of torture parallels were scarily drawn out. Makes you think.
Found some great cafes and pubs but didn’t try the Beer-battered Haggis Balls even though they come in a vegetarian version. We’ve also had a taste of some very smoky, peaty ‘whiski’ and met a member of the Scotland Greens in the process who commented that the conversation on restoring safe climate was sadly lacking in Scotland too and that they really need more people talking about sustainable living. And yes more meetings and conversations about co-housing. We’ve also made time to get stuck into developing the presentation for the conference next week and have started lining up our next moves of people to see and places to go.
Today we’ve gone on a “Rebus” Tour to experience the dark and hidden world, the history and the mystery of real Edinburgh locations from Ian Rankin’s novels. Tomorrow we leave Edinburgh catching a train along the east coast to Newcastle where, we’ve been told, the people are even friendlier.