But not as we know it

Thanks to my fellow seafarer, yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, and her charitable foundation, you’ve probably heard of the circular economy, in which everything is designed to be 100% recyclable.

But this week I learned about a different kind of circular economy when I visited the Crapper & Sons Landfill site near Wootton Bassett (pictured above) to meet the team and hear about their Sustain initiative.

Picture where you live.

Now mentally draw a circle around it. Doesn’t really matter what size – it’s the concept that counts, rather than the circumference.

Now imagine that your community is able to meet all its physical and societal needs from within that circle – food, energy, housing, jobs, etc.

And also its waste.

In other words, it’s a bit like how humans used to live, before globalisation. All inputs and outputs had to be met within a walkable distance.

This is apparently what inspired Ellen MacArthur to set up her foundation – living alone on a yacht without making landfall for months at a time (as have I), she became very aware of all her inputs and outputs. Most landlubbers never have to do this, because we are tied into global supply chains that seamlessly deliver Spanish tomatoes, New Zealand lamb, and Danish bacon any time we want them. And our waste miraculously disappears, courtesy of our local council, never to be seen or thought of again.

But managing our world this way makes us oblivious to the supply chains and waste streams of which we only see a tiny fraction. It also comes with a big carbon footprint, while many potential jobs are outsourced overseas. When a supply chain is disrupted, through war, pandemic, or Brexit, we realise how dependent we are on people and places far out of sight and out of mind.

These musings have been inspired by my recent visit to Crapper and Sons Landfill to hear about their ambitious plans for a more sustainable Wiltshire, supplying food and jobs – and maybe one day even housing – to the surrounding towns and villages of Royal Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury, Brinkworth, and Purton.

It’s a really exciting project. Flexible greenhouses will be constructed atop sealed landfill sites, warmed by heat generated by methane emissions from decomposing waste, with fruit and vegetables growing in rich compost from garden waste, tended by around 130 staff recruited locally. The project will produce affordable, fresh and sustainable food for the local community. (Great video here)

This ticks a whole load of (organic veg) boxes for me. An innovative approach to growing good food, providing jobs, and upcycling waste into something useful, after open and inclusive consultation with nearby residents.

Of course, I’d prefer that there was less waste. BBC’s The Secret Life of Rubbish – Part 1 and Part 2 illustrates how massively wasteful our society has become since the 1950s. At the Crapper landfill site, William pointed out that the bulk of the waste isn’t even stuff that has been used – it’s just the packaging. How crazy is that? So we definitely need to reduce the amount of waste we generate.

But meanwhile, it was really inspiring to see their plans for a localised, closed loop system that improves community resilience and self-reliance.

I will be working to include this and exciting projects like it into Lib Dem environmental policies. It simply makes sense.

Alexei Navalny

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of the Russian dissident (who would have been the leader of the opposition, if opposition were tolerated), Alexei Navalny. I didn’t know him personally, but he and I were both Yale World Fellows, although not at the same time. YWF is the prestigious Yale flagship international leadership programme, taking a cohort of about 16 people each year for a residential one-semester intensive course. I was a Fellow in 2012, Navalny in 2010. So I feel a close personal connection, as well as deep admiration for a man of great courage and personal conviction. A moving video message from his widow, Yulia, here.

Other News:

Tickets are selling well for our event on 7th March, Fairer Food, Better Britain, organised in collaboration with the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester. Please join us for an evening of inspiration and discussion around issues including regenerative agriculture, local food production, agroforestry and alleviating food poverty. £5 waged/free to unwaged and students.

I just had to share these pictures of an incredible scale model of my ocean rowboat, Sedna Solo, crafted by Marcos Viana of Brazil, who I’ve never met and didn’t know before he sent me these images. Even though he had to deduce the design from photos online, he has rendered every detail to perfection. Absolutely stunning achievement! Thank you, Marcos! 🙏 

We are looking for help with media liaison and social media. 
Ideally 4-8 hours per week. Details available on request. No obligation – please get in touch!

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We’re keen to welcome more campaigners to our team to help with deliveries and/or doorknocking. Please consider lending us an hour or two a month. Email my wonderful Campaign Organiser, Poppy Fair, for more details.

We are also looking for financial support. Every pound matters – even the price of a weekly latte would help. If you’re ready for positive change in the South Cotswolds, please put your money where your mouth is by hitting Reply to this email, and I’ll let you know how. Thank you! 🙏

Quote(s) of the Week

“In the cycle of nature there is no such thing as victory or defeat; there is only movement.”
― Paulo Coelho
Have a great week!


Photo by Tony Currivan at Crappers Landfill site near Royal Wotton Bassett

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