Tuesday, 29 September 2009

FRANK water - if bottled water can be good...

...then this is it.
For every litre of FRANK you buy, they develop 200 litres worth of clean water projects in India. Which makes a bit of a mockery of Volvic's 10 for 1 campaign earlier in the year. But more importantly, FRANK are trying to phase out bottled water altogether, encouraging people to use tap water where possible... and they're also campaigning for clean water wherever they can. This led one of their number to take part in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships recently, putting in a heroic performance which culminated in using a FRANK filter to render the bog water drinkable.

I'll be carrying my FRANK bottle on my bike on Sunday with pride.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Wilderness Foundation project in funding appeal

Thought it might be a good idea to highlight a specific Wilderness Foundation project, just in case anyone popping along to the site needs a last nudge to put hand in pocket! This is one of the most inspiring programmes I've seen, and deserves every bit of effort I'll be putting in on Sunday. I'll let Richard Corby, one of the key movers and shakers at WF, speak for himself.

TurnAround is a twelve month long intervention programme for vulnerable youth in mid-Essex, created and managed by the Wilderness Foundation UK. Over four years in development, and having completed a successful pilot programme in 2007 (where we achieved an outstanding 80% success rate in returning participants to full time education and employment - rather than detention in a youth offending facility where many of the kids were headed without help from our programme), we officially launched the programme this year.

Over four years in development, and having completed a successful pilot programme in 2007 (where we achieved an outstanding 80% success rate in returning participants to full time education and employment - rather than detention in a youth offending facility where many of the kids were headed without help from our programme), we officially launched the programme this year.

Working with the Police, Connexions, YOT, schools and families, together with experienced Psychologists, Counsellors, Therapist and Educational Specialists, the Foundation's "TurnAround Project" is changing the lives of young people for the better.

Built around wilderness trails, environmental and community-based workshops, one-to-one sessions with volunteer adult mentors drawn from the local community, TurnAround culminates in a graduation ceremony, then work experience and if desired, re-entry in to full time education.

Monitored by the University of Essex at every stage, we have categorically proven the relationship between time spent in nature and improved self esteem - the successes of TurnAround are clear for all to see. However, we urgently need to raise additional funds to continue the programme into 2010.

A twelve month placement for one young person costs £7,500 - all of which we raise ourselves. We receive no Government funding for this work and are dependant on the support and understanding of people like you to keep changing young lives. Compare this price to the cost of a young person spending a year in detention - estimated to be £47,500 a year to the tax payer - and you can see that TurnAround is not only creating positive futures, but makes good financial sense too.
Pretty compelling in my book. Click here to fund them through my page, or here if you want to fund TurnAround directly.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Slovenia - not a bad place for a finishing camp

This was taken yesterday morning, after I swam a couple of laps around the island of the Church of the Ascension in Lake Bled, Slovenia. Absolutely stunning place, which goes for the rest of the country as well... I've spent the last week hiking and biking in the Kamnik Alps while acting as groupie for my girlfriend on a young leaders' climate change conference. Quite the couple.

It was an interesting location for an environmental conference, not least because the Slovenian way of life appears to be a lot more dependent on local resilience than anywhere else in Europe that I've witnessed, particularly when it comes to food. Pretty much everywhere, even in the capital Ljubljana, everyone seems to have a little plot of land and be growing their own food. Transition Towns eat your heart out - these guys are really on it.

Mind you, hard not to have a bit of respect for nature when you live in a place like this.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Limestone wetsuits... what will they think of next?

So I was despairing a little about wetsuits, because as far as I could work out, no one makes swimming wetsuits out of anything other than petroleum-based rubber. But then I got a very entertaining email from Glyn Turquand, the man in charge at Xterra:

About 80 million years ago, a rock originally situated in the present-day Hawaiian Islands - home to the Ironman World Championship – traveled to Mt. Kurohime, Japan. The rock is what is commonly known as limestone (99.7% calcium carbonate) and it is free from almost all impurities.

While petroleum-based rubber may be cheaper, we have chosen to manufacture our wetsuits out of limestone. This is our little way of having environmentally friendly wetsuits. We also think it’s kind of cool that all our wetsuits are from Hawaii, albeit born there quite awhile ago.

Now that's pretty cool. A geology lesson, a bit of humour, and a solution to the wetsuit conundrum all in one hit. My new suit, a Vector ProX2, arrived the other day, and I could tell I was going to like it when I read the warning on the box: "WARNING: Will increase speed, efficiency, buoyancy and overall finish results. Wear only if desired effect is to increase performance".

That's the kind of environmentalism I like. Very cool, very witty... and very fast.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Clif Bar

Another very cool company I've just discovered...

These guys really come from the same school of thinking as me - athletes who love nature, and want to do something about it. They talk about the Eureka moment - out on a cycle ride, eating rubbish-y chemical energy bars, they decided to make them taste better and do good. That's the kind of thinking we like. Check them out here.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Ecologist article...

...has just gone live here

The last big weekend is done...

Less than three weeks to go, and we're basically into the taper from here. For those not in the know, the gist is that with an event as intense as an ironman, even the training can deplete your body pretty dramatically, so you start to ease off a reasonable time before the event so that you're in peak condition on the day.

Not that I'm pretending to be massively scientific about this... I have read one or two books on the subject though!

Either way, the last weekend was a big one. 112 miles on the bike on Friday, 3 miles in the pool and 10 running on Saturday, and then 20 mile run on Sunday. So in total, a little over the full distance, but split over 3 days. Enough to make me realise just how far this event is. Still, I've survived the meat of the training (touch wood) without illness or injury, so with luck I can at least focus on making it to the finish line rather than whether or not I'll make it to the start!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Monday, 7 September 2009

Richard Long at Tate Britain

Managed to catch this exhibition on Friday evening - just in time, because I think yesterday was the last day. It was quite a powerful experience.

Long is very much an artist inspired by nature, and his art is essentially made by walking through wilderness. He seems to see the walking itself as the primary artwork - how he captures it, in photo, word or other form, is a sort of secondary (though no less valuable form). He strikes a chord with me for many reasons, not least the beautiful simplicity of the textworks as exemplified below; but I think the main thing is the relationship he has with the natural world, and with walking. I get a lot of the same things from my training - he talks of the simple pleasure he gets from walking, the ability not to need any more from a day than to have walked. I reckon we could all do with a bit more of that kind of simplicity.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Some more like-minded souls...

It seems the cause is not quite as lonely as it seemed - perhaps we are on our way to a significant shift in the world of sport after all...

Toby Radcliffe, who's just a little bit better than me, is trying to take a similar theme up the pro triathlon ranks. He's got his own pages here, so keep an eye on him, and give him a cheer if you see him.

He's working with Athletes for a Fit Planet, an American gang who have as their tagline, 'greening the planet one race at a time'. That's my kind of ambition.

What are they working on? Well, for a start, the EDF Energy Birmingham Half Marathon, in October this year, which EDF are calling 'the race against climate change'. The aim is to make it the first certified (using US standards) 'green' race in the UK.

The world is turning.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Climate Hijack... is it?

Listened to a really interesting programme on Radio 4 the other night put together by Richard Black, the BBC's Environment correspondent, and titled Climate Hijack... the radio show is I think coming off iPlayer in the next day or so, but this article by Black contains pretty much everything and takes 2 minutes to read instead of 30 to listen to!

Black's overall point is that environmental degradation extends far beyond climate change, and in many cases is causing more immediate, and just as significant damage to the world. Taking air quality as an example, at one point he demands of Hilary Benn, 'Shouldn't this be just as important, if not more so, given that it's having an impact now, whereas the impacts of climate change are only projected?'

There is a worrying lack of responsibility in this journalism, I think. Although he's careful to say he's not denying or trying to undermine the importance of climate change, Black's programme will be heard by many as doing exactly that. He fails to recognise some key factors, notably the amplifying role that climate change will play, if unchecked, in all other environmental problems - air quality, habitat destruction, etc will all accelerate if climate change goes unchecked. And he does risk implying that climate change is sorted, constantly referring to the 'huge' political effort being put behind it.

However, there are a couple of really powerful points in there. This one - a point made by Mike Hulme from the Tyndall Centre - is particularly thought provoking, and makes today's launch of the 10:10 initiative all the more important.

"The characteristics of climate change are quite convenient for politicians to use and to deploy both at a popular level but also at a political level," he says.
He argues that climate change is seductive to politicians because it is a long-term issue - so decisive action is always posited for some time in the future, at a time that can always be made yet more distant - and someone else can always be blamed.
So Europeans used to blame the US, the US would blame China and India, and developing countries would blame the entire developed West.
"It's very easy to pass responsibility for failure somewhere else… and in the process of doing that, one is able to keep one's own credibility and record, with the appearance of being much more progressive and constructive."