Category Archives: housing

Changes

With the growing stresses of over-population, the only surprising feature of a global pandemic is that it didn’t happen years ago.

After two months of extreme precautions, even the resilient community described in Recipes for Resilience (page 198) would have to consider some activities. Roofs may need mending, crops planted or harvested, essential spare parts manufactured.

In the present world, we need to think about what tasks are crucial, and start moving these into local control. Economy of scale causes inefficiency of delivery at the best of times, and is now a recipe for disaster.

For example, a popular strategy has been to cut one’s workforce, close regional offices and oblige one member of staff to spend their day driving all over the South West to attend to jobs which used to be covered by people in that area. This should never have been thought acceptable. The employer’s staff and office costs are shoved onto the taxpayer in an underhand way, via the road system where the hapless employee now spends most of their time.

In the new world, this paradigm provides a sure way of spreading infection over a wide area.

Other changes have interesting implications.

Working from home, in many cases, has proved not only possible but very popular. The empty office blocks in city centres could be re-purposed for housing. The pressure on roads and public transport caused by commuting would ease. More people could travel to the cities for leisure, without fearing the awful ‘rush hour’.

As long-distance commuting becomes a thing of the past, the pressure to build on prime agricultural land should be eased. We’ll need this land to feed ourselves.

In Britain, we’re only growing enough food for 60% of the population. As these figures come from the farming side, they already assume zero waste at the consumer end. This is as good as it can get. We need to support farmers by shortening the food supply chain, so they get a larger share of the retail price. Then they can afford to explore more resilient practices (see, for example, page 29 of the Handbook and page 6 of ‘Recipes’).

The controversial Universal Credit benefit scheme could be usefully deployed to help with sourcing farm labour without turning to international travel – another high risk activity. This work is seasonal and often involves living on the farm for a short period. As you have to pay for this accommodation, and still keep up the rent on the home you occupy for the rest of the year, this is discouraging.

The UC system is capable of covering normal housing costs during a period of agricultural work, regardless of earnings during this time. It would be a kind of micro-subsidy, going direct to the workers rather than the land-owner. A limit on farm accommodation costs may need to be factored in, and other safeguards against abuse, but at least we don’t have to get permission from Brussels to use such initiatives.

This pandemic must act as a wake-up call.  We have exceeded our carrying capacity, as described in ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience‘ (page 63).  Allowing a virus to achieve population reduction for us is both cowardly and dangerous.

 

The Handbook covers every section of the Resilience Wheel and provides a framework for you to add more information.  The Second Edition includes the full Personal Resilience Assessment.  Use this to determine where your current level of practical resilience is, compared to the minimum you need to survive, then follow the Resilience Plan to improve this.

‘Recipes’ covers the Food section of the Resilience Wheel in detail, explaining how to store, grow and prepare for maximum food security.  It contains over a hundred easy and adaptable recipes, plus seasonal gardening tips and some historical background – how the Icelanders survived 600 years of famine, for example.

Some tips to reduce mould in your house

In the interests of networking, an important part of resilience, I keep in touch with Green Wedmore. This is an active and effective community group out on the Levels. When I discovered they were involved with a plan to conduct an energy survey of the area, I was keen to join in. I’d qualified as an energy assessor some years ago, but the project which sponsored me fell through before I got any practical experience.

Last Saturday, we had an Energy Essentials Training day, presented by the lovely Lisa Evans of the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol. Although I found a lot of the material familiar, it reminded me how important this information is to people.

Cold and damp are bad enough, but it’s the resulting mould that’s really unpleasant. It looks awful, stains clothes and ruins furniture. The spores of black mould can cause health problems; even touching it can provoke an allergic reaction.

Sometimes it’s not enough to wrap up warm. My daughter and her friends, in their new basement flat by the river, were faced with electric storage heaters. Not certain how they worked, and alarmed at the cost, they didn’t use them. Well insulated, the flat wasn’t particularly cold, but by December their walls and furniture were covered in mould!

black mould

You can search online for instructions if your new home has an unfamiliar heating system. If you’ve got a problem with damp, here’s a few tips…

If you have an empty room which you’re not heating, keep the door closed. Steam from the bathroom and kitchen doesn’t stay there, but wanders through the house looking for a cold surface to condense on. Move the furniture away from outside walls, and check behind it regularly. Narrow gaps and poor air circulation encourage mould; open the windows on sunny winter days.

After a shower, close the bathroom door and open a window, if you have one; let the water vapour escape. Otherwise, use extractor fans. They’re usually under 30 watts, so cheap to run. Make sure your tumble drier is vented to the outside.

Do you have a loft? If you go into the roof space, having found out about safety precautions first, there’s often a gap where the end of the roof meets the floor. Sometimes you can even see daylight through it. This gap is crucial to the overall ventilation of many houses. If it’s blocked by insulating material, you may get a problem with damp.

There’s lots more useful advice on the internet. Don’t just live with a dangerous condition like damp; do some research and find out what you can do about it!

People used to interact with their homes far more than many do today. Learn about yours – where does the power comes from, where does the water go? What’s your score in the Housing section of the Resilience Handbook? Which action should you do next?

Remember the free assessment PDF can be found at the end of the Learning Resilience page on this site.

Life in the Slow Lane

I don’t often drive to London or the South-east, but I had to travel to Hastings recently.

We came in on the M3 onto the M25 and down the A21. There were traffic jams on all these roads, sometimes over twenty minutes long. Once in Hastings, we navigated around the city at a crawl. On the way home, we paid close attention to the traffic news.

A crane broke down in the anti-clockwise carriageway just north of the M3. Traffic was at a standstill in all three lanes, and eventually the gridlock seemed to stretch all the way up to the M1. Luckily, we were on the other side, and it only took us four hours to win clear of the congestion.

While on the M25, all we could see in front of us was row upon row of tail lights, four cars wide, stretching to the horizon. From the side, more vehicles edged into this choking stream. Lanes full of cars trying to leave lined the slip roads. Lorries, run out of legal driving time, were beginning to park on the hard shoulders.

The air was thick with fumes as gallons of precious oil burned away in this insane exercise. Has no-one told you people that this is crazy?

It wasn’t freight traffic causing the problem, but thousands upon thousands of people in cars. As it was early evening, one would have to assume that they were coming home from work.

Developers are allowed to create residential deserts, devoid of any meaningful employment. Companies working within London – and other cities – take no responsibility for bringing in thousands of workers daily.

The whole situation is driven by greed and need. There is a lack of joined up responsibility here which urgently needs to be addressed.