GF Blog 23 – Week 32

8th September

A heatwave and the RAAC disaster hit, just as schools go back. And a 6 year old ‘Princess’ sets me off researching opportunities for girls in STEM & Sustainable Energy.

For reasons quite unknown, this week has been the busiest ever for Meadow Barns and the staff team. Add to that, we have to be closed next week while some electrical investigations go on and all our fridges and freezers have needed to be defrosted today … it is a bit of miracle that any blog has come together. Still, we have a good central theme and will keep it brief. 

With a kind of inevitability, the sun has beaten down, temperatures have soared and the hottest ever September day has been reached just at the very moment that children went back into schools. What a shame! But once again, we should think ourselves lucky. If our only challenge is to keep cool enough for sleeping at night, it is not a big deal compared with Greece, where they are once again plunged into extremes, with massive floods.

Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis called it “the biggest flood phenomenon that our country has ever experienced.”  Record rainfall, shocking results unknown in living memory; over 70cm = London’s entire annual rainfall falling on Volos in 1 day! Bales of silage all soaked through like sponges. This is part of the same weather ‘event’ as our own humidity and heat, driven by the Jet Stream which has generated Storm Daniel, that eventually held more water in the sky than experienced in the past.

The next day, Hong Kong faced the heaviest daily rainfall in almost 140 years (since records were first kept).

Do you notice that such extreme weather is now becoming so commonplace that most of us are learning to accept it, with a shrug? Shocking! This is the reality of Climate Change.

Early in the day, hints of autumn, despite the heat
And lonely pink flowers, glow through the mist
Fairy Princess skirt discarded!
Messy clay mixed for the wall

Back to a sunny September morning here. For some strange reason I walked round and was struck by not one but 3 different types of single pink flowers, each flourishing in lonely splendour. And before I could stop myself I thought ‘ah pink – very girly!’. I am sorry, it is what I was brought up with and it just isn’t easy to shift the stereotyping. Yet, I am absolutely committed to persuading young maidens of the rightness of becoming a geologist or STEM scientist, not conforming to past preconceptions.

Happily, I was able to rectify my crumbling self-image to some extent the next day, when I achieved a small, but very rewarding transformation of 6 year old Beth, in the House of Green Play. She arrived clinging to a stuffed toy Unicorn and being very, very particular to protect her white and gold net skirt (who chose that??). 2 hours later, I was delighted she had shed the skirt and pushed her hands deep into mucky clay, ready for plastering our strawbale walls! 

This set me to pondering what a career path might be for a little Princess, like this?  Is the world of STEM and sustainable innovations an inviting one for a young woman or like a great big mountain to climb?

Research shows that despite a shortage of skills in most technological areas, gender disparity still exists in the field. Women make up less than a third of the workforce across science, technology and engineering. Women scientists are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues, and their work tends to be underrepresented in high-profile journals.

You may remember that a while back I interviewed Gus, the CEO of Eden Project’s geothermal system and at the same time saw a number of young women working on other geothermal plants, in West Cornwall. I cannot prove it, but there is a sense that Cornwall offers chances to girls, for apprenticeships and early career opportunities. The problem is much earlier, in schools, where negative attitudes are ingrained at a very young age. Next week, in our ‘Back to School’ feature, with guest contributors, we will consider this some more.

Women on the International Stage

Today Rishi Sunak arrived in India for the G20: – The 2023 G20 New Delhi summit is the upcoming eighteenth meeting of G20, a summit scheduled to be held from 8 – 10 September 2023. It will take place in Bharat Mandapam International Exhibition-Convention Centre, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. India has identified the climate crisis as the most pressing issue for conference delegates. Topics on the agenda include green development, climate finance and debt forgiveness for lower-income countries and there is a stated aim that they want to embrace more women on the journey. Of the above, debt forgiveness and finance from the developed world to support green initiatives is steadily rising higher on all agendas round the world. The same was in discussion at the African conference last week, also with women in the spotlight.

I really wanted to copy and paste a large chunk of info about this Indian push for women, but it refuses to give me more than a line or 2. So please take the link to find out more.

India is utilizing the G20 Presidency for bringing together global cooperation for sustainable growth and has brought focus on a women-led inclusive development agenda.
Read more at:

Now, back to the previous article in the UNEP link and let’s look at the story of one woman in India:-

Woman pioneer makes her bricks from waste plastic bags

RAAC failures grow for schools this new academic year

Nzambi Matee is an engineer, inventor and entrepreneur and the head of Gjenge Makers, the company she founded as a solution to plastic pollution in Nairobi, Kenya.

Gjenge Makers produces sustainable, low-cost construction materials made of recycled plastic waste and sand. Matee developed the prototype for a machine that turns discarded plastic into paving stones. She majored in material science and worked as an engineer in Kenya’s oil industry, was inspired to launch her business after routinely coming across plastic bags strewn along Nairobi’s streets.

In 2017, Matee quit her job as a data analyst and set up a small laboratory in her mother’s backyard. Each day, the business churns out 1,500 plastic pavers, giving a second life to plastic bottles and other containers which would otherwise end up in landfills or, worse, on city streets.

Matee encourages other young people to tackle environmental challenges at the local level. “The negative impact we are having on the environment is huge,” she said. “Start with whatever local solution you can find and be consistent with it. The results will be amazing.” I REALLY LOVE THAT STATEMENT … BRAVO!

In Kenya, Sept 4th, the first African Climate Summit opened with heads of state and others asserting a stronger voice on a global issue that affects the continent of 1.3 billion people the most, even though they contribute to it the least.

The image above shows Climate activists holding placards and chanting slogans as they take part in a march in Nairobi on that opening day. The activists from various nationalities urged delegates attending the Africa Climate Summit to engage actively in discussions to expedite the phase-out of fossil fuels. I wanted to discover if there would be powerful women leading any of the events or speaking, and was pleased to discover the following:-

Nzambi Matee
Monica Yator

Last year Monica Yator left Baringo in Kenya for Egypt with her heart full of hope. She went to Sharm el-Sheikh for the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to highlight the need for inclusion of women and girls, especially those from the indigenous communities, in the climate agenda. In Baringo, where she lives, her community has experienced its fair share of the impacts of climate change—specifically, flash floods and droughts.

Baringo is located in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. The lakes there, including Lake Baringo, have been rising, causing disruption of livelihoods and displacement of people. Last year, a team of experts released a report entitled ‘Rising Water Levels in Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria’, which linked climate change to the rising lake levels. One of the main explanations for the rising water levels is hydro-meteorological variables due to climate change that have led to increased moisture availability as seen in the rainfall data and discharge of the rivers feeding the lakes. There is also increased soil in runoff occasioned by land use changes, which have increasingly added to the siltation of the lakes as seen in the sediment load in the rivers, said the report. Other reports show that, as a consequence, around 400,000 people were displaced from their homes. While Yator, who comes from Marigat in Baringo County, was lucky not to have been one of these people, many of her agro-ecology trainees were in fact displaced.

“I train women and girls on agro-ecology to help them become resilient to climate change. My community is known for keeping livestock. Most of the time, it is the men that own the animals and take care of them. When the livestock are ready for the market, it is the men who take the money. My training empowers women because I feel like they are left behind. We can’t keep on depending on men when we can do things on our own” Yator told Climate Tracker. “I realised that women spend most of their time at home and so I decided to take advantage of that, helping them to use the farmland that they have with a specific focus on organic farming. In Baringo, we either have long spells of drought or flash floods. Recently, we were also affected by the rising lakes and some of the people I train had to move to higher ground. Since some land in Baringo still belongs to the community, they had to squeeze into other people’s homesteads and that derailed the plan of equipping women and girls with new skills” she added.

There is a concern about Yator’s approach, however. She goes on to promote ‘double-digging’, to establish new vegetable growing areas. But – if you have been reading recently – the latest guidance says ‘minimal digging please, and none at deep levels’! I would like to link the Baringo team with some of the soil experts at Riviera Produce, to see if anything positive would come from discussions.

Despite those reservations, I have no doubt that these kinds of story could inspire our own younger girls, if only they were being seen and heard. It is vital that we promote them.

Construction – a brief follow-on comment

Reverting to the UK, let me create a link from previous recent features on building methods, into considerations of RAAC. How could something so sub-standard have been so widely adopted? It is a glaring example of what we must avoid doing, for climate solutions e.g. going full throttle into use of new techniques or materials, with insufficient understanding of long term implications. Could this not have been anticipated? A memory comes into my mind!

Community Links for Schools

Like the veritable Grumpy Old Woman I am, this RAAC nightmare makes me think back to better days in schools with a more representative, community-linked governing body. Alongside me was a builder, and I feel sure he would have known the potential risks of our buildings and would have identified issues with RAAC in wall panels or roofs. Such links with local companies were invaluable and I hope to build them back, in part via the Half Terms 4 Climate Hope initiative.

On Tuesday evening, the presentation I gave to the community of Lostwithiel, about this new idea, set out many reasons why schools struggle to include climate in their work. Day by day, I am refining routes to reach them and provide support – a flexible, personalised pathway for one year group, and one lead teacher. This will cost only £30 for the year. AND the pages of resources for the main topics will use this blog and the archive back to June 2021, as a major element. Why waste the research work of 26 months? It is a NO BRAINER’; content needs to be shared.

Wider input of teachers

As mentioned, next week I will introduce 2 new contributors, who from time to time will be writing some content. They are Zoe, who has a perspective as a parent of a 2 year old and a role of STEM ambassador and coordinator for pre-school and primary age groups.

Then, for secondary and FE or 6th Form, there is Roger, with main interests in Literacy and Outdoor Ed/Duke of Edinburgh. He also is greatly involved as a grandparent, supporting 3 young people through their educational development in a state comprehensive school.  

Next week, The Meadow Barns will be closed for the afore-mentioned recovery moment and so I hope the teachers will be writing most of the blog for us.  THANK YOU!

Hopeful emailed news

Mitchell and Webber boss, John, provider of HVO fuel, wrote that his long-awaited approval for government financial support, via revised taxation rules, has been passed into the Energy Bill – The Heat Network discount will provide a higher level of support to heat networks with domestic end consumers – as provider, he will be required to apply for this support.  

Forest for Cornwall sent their latest news, that they have already planted 600,000 trees, aiming for 1 million by 2025. The release led me on into the following, where there is a specific category for planting trees. But hard to find the right section for a place like Meadow Barns.

Cornwall Sustainability Awards – the word education is nowhere! Why?

  • Deadline for nominations is midnight 31st October 2023.
  • Must be based in Cornwall or Isles of Scilly.
  • Open to businesses, community organisations, schools, social enterprises and charities.
  • An organisation can only apply or be nominated for one category.
  • All applicants will be checked for environmental breaches, please let us know if you are aware of any in advance.  


Entrants for this category will demonstrate best practice for the benefit of the environment, their employees and the wider community.

Entrants will show how they have addressed some or all of the following:

  • energy, pollution, waste and resource management
  • water
  • transport
  • purchasing and the local economy
  • buildings and land use
  • community participation
  • employment practices (including equality and diversity)
  • environmental management

Tree Planting

As a follow-on, the pics shown below of our walk in the valley on Thursday, when we were concentrating on the future stability and preservation of the viaduct, raised worries about the potential for such fully grown trees to have invasive roots, that may undermine the arches. I am pleased therefore, that the Forest for Cornwall advice is stern about finding appropriate places to put in new trees, whilst working to meet their targets.

2) Right tree in the right place for the right purpose

This is an overarching principle for the Forest for Cornwall. As well as several large areas of woodland, there will be many smaller copses and individual trees, with connecting corridors in the form of hedgerows, and trees along rivers, trails and cycle routes and in urban streets. Some larger sites will be planted by using ‘woodland opportunity mapping’ carried out by the University of Exeter ( ) which identifies the best sites. The programme will involve planting new trees and protecting existing trees and hedges.

 Forest for Cornwall will also aim to support opportunistic planting and rewilding by landowners, businesses and community groups. Planting will be sensitive to existing environmental, heritage and landscape features, whilst recognising that we are living in a changing world. Evaluation of these factors on a proposed site for planting are outlined below. New planting will consist of a mix of native and, where appropriate, non-native trees. To guide you we have drawn up a list of tree species, which provide best climate and disease resilience. Forest for Cornwall aims to adopt environmental best practice for tree establishment. There is a preference for avoiding or minimising the use of plastic tree tubes and exploring how these can be eliminated or more sustainable products can be developed, avoiding or minimising the use of chemicals. We will encourage others to follow the approach wherever they can.

Extraordinary shape of a dead trunk
Massive beech very close to the base of an arch (Cornwall Assoc of Local Historians)

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