Ending the War on Nature – an event brought to us by the Shoreham Wordfest

In this one-day event at Shoreham Wordfest, West Sussex, on 2nd October 2021, speakers included Isabella Tree, Tony Whitbread, Nicola Peel, Paul Hannam, and Henri Brocklebank.

Tony Whitbread at Shoreham Wordfest

Tony Whitbread at Shoreham Wordfest

Tony Whitbread of the Sussex WildlifeTrust spoke of the human dominator culture that began in earnest with the Industrial Revolution and has been stepped up in the last two generations, the “Great Acceleration” tracked by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. We have emitted more CO2 since then than ever before. The recent Dasgupta Review, The Economics of Biodiversity, commissioned by the UK Treasury, asserts that we need to find new measures of economic success, as GDP does not take account of loss of biodiversity; indeed GDP was never intended as a measure of national economic welfare.

Isabella Tree at Shoreham Wordfest

Isabella Tree at Shoreham Wordfest

Isabella Tree then spoke about, and presented slides on, the Rewilding project at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. Over time there has been a loss of hedges and woodlands, wetlands, and lowland heath. Along with this there has been over production of food, with grain being fed to animals, which do not naturally eat grain, to keep the market for grain going. Knepp has turned out to be a case study of how things can be changed; previously a loss-making arable farm based on clay over limestone, over 20 years the land has been restored and helped restore the general area. Polluted runoff from pesticides and fertilisers used by neighbouring farms is being purified by Knepp’s soil and vegetation; holding back water from the River Arun so that houses downstream no longer flood. They are now sequestering carbon where they were previously an emitter. Isabella also spoke of the need to create wildlife corridors and hopes that the Environment Bill will be passed before the COP26 negotiations [this was eventually passed about two weeks after].

Nicola Peel is a hands-on biodiversity worker and self-styled Solutionologist, working on practical methods developed in the UK and over many years working in the Ecuadorean Amazon. She spoke of her most recent visit, where she was holed up after her stay in Ecuador in the Los Cedros cloud forest reserve for several months instead of the planned few days, when the Covid lockdown struck! The cloud forest is even more biodiverse than the Amazon, and yet both areas are being targeted by mining and for logging, the latter aimed at an income of $500 per hectare for cattle farming [since the event the mining has been banned; let’s hope that becomes a reality]. Nicola is now working on a valuation of the biodiversity of Los Cedros. She finished by saying a few words about Biomimicry [the emulation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems, according to Wikipedia]. I went on a fascinating Biomimicry Walk in Pulborough, West Sussex, organised by Nicola recently.

Paul Hannam is a psychologist and environmentalist, and part of Your Better Nature, “a new group of committed environmentalists from West Sussex”. He spoke of a need to live in harmony with nature – technology won’t stop the climate emergency. We’re locked into a dysfunctional system and we are the problem. We’re hard-wired to deal with immediate, concrete issues – basically we are “cave people with iPhones”, suffering with affluenza and guided by the Selfish Gene as expounded by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book of the same name. We need a new story about the good life and what matters most, a story about Our Better Nature, contributing to the Earth and not just consuming it.

Henri Brocklebank of the Sussex Wildlife Trust covered recent successes of Help our Kelp and the creation of a Marine Protection Zone along much of the Sussex coast, effectively rewilding the seas and pushing the mega trawlers out. The kelp is already coming back and will be a massive boost for sequestering carbon. She next spoke about Wilder Horsham District. As with Paul Hannam, she believe that the biodiversity crisis is perceived to be not here, or not here yet – people think it’s hard to visualise and remote in time. Wilder Horsham District project is all about individuals and the willingness to do something different from what people have always done. Lastly she mentioned the United Nations Association Climate & Oceans group’s #GenerationRestoration as a personal decade of hope.

All powerful speakers, and much food for thought.


Author notes: Diana Morgan is a freelance blog post writer and eco-retailer. Having been concerned about the environment since her teens, she is one of a team of Climate Ambassadors for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. She is also an introducer for the Full Power Utilities commercial energy brokers, focusing on green energy suppliers and their Future Net Zero program, all about reducing carbon footprints in business. 

Chichester, an eco town – an informal sustainability blueprint for other towns to follow?

The story of Eco Chichester’s sustainability journey

Eco Chi, as we call it, is a varied group of people interested in our local, national, and international environment, and how to protect and indeed enhance it. Most of us are also very concerned about the climate emergency.

Pre-dating our group were other environmental groups and looser associations, one of these being Transition Chichester (founded 2008) with its spin-offs including Eco Cinema/talks; Green Tea meetings; community orchards; community vegetable growing; quarterly swap shops where people bring unwanted items and take away what they need, with no money changing hands. Others include Chichester Organic Gardening Society (COGS), and Green Drinks (part of an international network of informal drinks meetings, out of which Transition Chichester grew). Members also belong to groups such as the local RSPB and a natural history society. Two of us are part of a national team of WI Climate Ambassadors and some of us are Quakers.

How it all began

Eco Chi was started in January 2019 because some people are unable to come to evening meetings such as for COGS or Transition. We decided on Monday meetings between 9:30-11:00ish and soon settled on a large, hospitable independent café, this being a quieter day and finishing well before their busier lunchtime service. We have no problem with people who have to arrive late or leave early. Meetings are very informal: we go round the table sharing events and what’s happening with other groups (such as tree wardens). We chip in ideas where we can. Nobody is made to feel obliged to speak if they don’t want to. Clearing our cups and teapots at the end and putting the tables back in their usual places helps keep things sweet with our friendly hosts!

After over a year we still have new people coming, which is very rewarding. For my part, I feel very pleased that such a friendly and active group has formed so quickly, and I’m very reassured that there are far more people in the area who are concerned about the environment – I thought I knew them all through Transition but apparently not! We have a very active Facebook group sharing ideas and articles, also used by people who can’t get to meetings. There is also a website with links to all sorts of resources and products.

What happened next

Activities that have arisen out of our group include a market stall on Wednesdays in the town centre, giving out information about what we and other local groups are doing; equally important is finding out about issues and other things going on from passers-by.  We also have a swap shop clothes rail. One of our members comments: “A year ago Eco Chi volunteers were getting ready for our first market stall. From memory, we thought we might have a stall once a month. By the end of the day, we had realised we needed to be there every week, and were working out how to do this (after a week’s breather to collect our thoughts!). What followed was a year of many conversations, and of new friends.” When it became impracticable to run the stall in winter we were offered the use of a small shed by a friend of Eco Chi who runs Draper’s Yard, a market of local creatives and traders, to continue spreading the word. We have also had a forum with our MP, with the promise of more to come.

One of our members runs wildflower gardening projects and has been selling alder buckthorn plants at a nominal charge to attract sulphur-coloured brimstone butterflies. She also sells chutney made from windfall fruits etc. to raise funds for her projects. Another member organised a talk by a volunteer from West Sussex County Council about the county’s recycling system which told us far more of the ins and outs of the process than most of us knew before – and we thought we knew a lot.

Action happens very quickly when someone has an idea, proving that we are not just a talking shop – although discussion is important!

During April 2019 a few members took part in the second Extinction Rebellion action in London, and following that several of us joined our newly formed Extinction Rebellion Chichester group, which has become very active. Without the contribution of Eco Chi the group would have grown much more slowly.

Most of the above is my own knowledge, opinions and feelings of the group. Now I’ll move on to a straw poll about what it means to other members .

  • From someone new to the area – “I can tune into what’s happening. I was feeling low but now feel renewed, and glad to be doing something
  • The group is an inspiration, the city is really lucky to have people fighting for things we need so desperately
  • I sense an ability to do more by getting people involved, for instance the stall had been mooted long before and now it’s happened
  • I was already well-informed and it’s so nice to come to a group where people share concerns and do something about it
  • I’ve become more active locally – I’ve joined Extinction Rebellion because of Eco Chi
  • It’s easy to be overwhelmed especially because of the General Election result and Brexit
  • I was doubtful it would take off but have been amazed by the energy in the room. It’s a  good way of networking. I would like to see Eco Chi merge more with Transition
  • I’m new to area. I used to run a plastics recycling business but the government is still not listening – eg three different types of plastic are allowed used in shampoo bottles. I love the networking
  • There’s a feeling of belonging and also making individual connections
  • I’m a natural loner. I used to run an organic farm in Wales. Now I’m feeling motivated, wanting to make a contribution and meet new people. I’m a writer and happy to be poet for the group!
  • I like the two-way process, meeting people, the informality, things happening
  • We need more interaction with local areas/groups including the outlying villages [this being a largely rural and coastal area]

I invite comments from Eco Chi members, local people, and people everywhere!

Diana Morgan is an active environmentalist, member of Eco Chi, XR, Transition, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. She sells eco-friendly products through EcoStepByStep.


My Earth-friendly products Crowdfunder during the Covid-19 outbreak

Stall with Vitaelux cloth


Businesses small and large are suffering during the Covid-19 crisis. There is a new initiative called Pay it Forward from Crowdfunder aimed at small businesses, charities, etc. that have seen their cashflow drop and they are waiving all their fees. Pay it Forward can be used for both products and services and is well worth considering for your business or organisation. Supporters can pledge a sum of money for a Reward (say a coffee, a meal, or a package of goods) and claim their Reward when the business reopens.

With the recent upsurge in interest in the environment, especially the overuse of single-use plastic, since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series, my parent company has added a lot of new products such as shampoo and conditioner bars, bamboo coffee cups, and beeswax food wraps. A lot of local green fairs and other event have sprung up and I was looking forward to attending with my table of products (see image) but these are all on hold for the time being, together with face-to-face networking events that I would have gone to. 

I hope you’ll consider supporting my Crowdfunder! I’ll be adding new Rewards from time to time. With thanks to the The Mumpreneurs Networking Club for making members aware of this opportunity.

Click here to see my website of all products.

3 steps the UK Government must take now Parliament has voted to declare a Climate Emergency

Yesterday, 1st May 2019, the UK Parliament became the first in the world to pass a motion declaring an  “environment and climate emergency”.

This is largely a symbolic measure but let’s not doubt he enormous importance of this unexpected move. All credit to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn for initiating the motion (Labour traditionally has not been the most environmentally aware party) and to Michael Gove (Conservative, Secretary of State for Environment) for meeting members of the Extinction Rebellion movement, who so very recently staged mass protests in London. [I’m an active Green Party member myself]

Time will tell whether or not there is anything more than greenwash in the government acceptance of the vote, but I believe they will be held to account if too little progress is made.

We are now being told what we can do to help limit climate change, and this is quite right. However they must not just say “over to you” and put all the responsibility on us. My concern right now that the government legislates, enables, and does not stand in the way of the necessary actions. Here are my most important points, that I believe the government must tackle:

  • Energy: reverse their ban on subsidies for new onshore wind projects; bring back incentives for builders and householders to install solar pv and other renewable energy; start a nationwide large-scale push to retrofit our poorest housing stock with high standard insulation and double glazing (thereby also improving health and living conditions)
  • Trees: initiate a massive tree-planting programme, using native trees for maximum carbon capture, bringing together expertise from organisations such as the Woodland Trust
  • Fossil fuels: move as far away as possible from fossil fuels, starting with revoking and rejecting any plans for more coal mines; ban any fracking of oil/gas wells, which are carbon producers as well as being a risk to our geology, landscapes, health and water supply

So that’s a start. Time for the government to put its money where its mouth is.


Photo credit: Victoria Hulatt, banner created by Victoria Hulatt and Jenny Cole, taken at Extinction Rebellion in London

Diana Morgan is a freelance blog post writer and eco-retailer. Having been concerned about the environment since her teens, she is one of a team of climate ambassadors for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.




An afternoon with Food Tours Havana

We met for our half-day guided walk with Food Tours Havana tour at Mojito Mojito, a lively and beautiful bar in Old Havana. [Funnily enough, but perhaps advisedly as we had three hours ahead of us, we didn’t sample mojitos here] Our guide was Ana Fuentes, who gave us a general briefing before we set off. During the “Special Period”, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and when the US blockade was tightened, very limited food was available, and people created simple dishes which are still made today. For the most part that they cook at home rather than going out to eat as that is too expensive. Most restaurants are state-owned but now a new type of independent restaurant is blossoming – the paladar (the word is a reference to the palate). Private establishments provide better food than state-owned restaurants. They pay their staff better and have more incentive to produce good food and traditional recipes. All businesses pay for premises and setup in full in cash (no loans), often helped by expatriate Cubans in the USA, and contracts are all verbal. There was a boom in new food businesses in the Obama era.

The malanga croquetas (fritters) that we were served at Mojito Mojito were delicious! Malanga (or yuca) is a staple of the Cuban diet as it grows well there and is highly nutritious and filling. It is much more commonly used than potato as a carbohydrate.

With a great band just starting to play in the bar we set off, armed with the bottles of water we were given, for a tour of food venues and quite a few of the sights and history of Old Havana, (including the four squares, all completely different) thrown in!

Ana Fuentes of Havana Food ToursIn a small indoor market we were treated to fresh coconut water (best taken this way as it loses nutrients as soon as the coconut is opened). There was a splendid array of vegetables and fruit for  sale. We were told that papaya is good for tummy upsets but fortunately I didn’t need it for medicinal purposed throughout my visit to Cuba! I just enjoyed the flavour, which was actually much more intense than in other countries where I’ve tried it. We were also told that olive oil is too expensive because olive trees don’t go as well this far south; Sunflower or vegetable oil is used instead.

At the Paladar Genesis we were each treated to a mojito, a cocktail which local white rum which originated in Cuba. Most of the rest of the world uses spearmint but in Cuba they use hierbabuena, which only grows in hot countries and has to be used the same day that it’s picked. Lime juice and a hint of sugar are added. Later on in my trip I had a similar cocktail made with local honey, which was delicious! [Hierbabuena (which translates as “good herb” and is  also known as yerbabuena) has a less minty, more citrus-y flavour that comes from the stem, whereas spearmint has a minty flavour from oils in the leaves.]

Paladar Genesis , Havana

We also enjoyed Caribbean lobster enchilada, made with onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes. [The dish is not the same as the Mexican enchilada]. Local spiny lobsters are saltier and more slender than cold water species. They are orange in colour and salty as a result of the PH level in the ocean. The larger ones go to big hotels and restaurants. There is no big fishing in Cuban waters, so all seafood is sustainable.

By the seafront and docks we visited NaO Bar Paladar, which was damaged by hurricane Irma in September 2017 but soon recovered. Here we ate a very traditional Cuban dish Ropa Vieja (literally old clothes!). This is made with shredded flank beef slow cooked with water, wine vinegar, onions, garlic, and cumin

We finished our tour at dusk close to where we started, at Mango Gelateria where there was a great selection of luscious ice cream. As I said above, people can’t afford eat out often, but they do go out for ice cream!
Many thanks to the lovely Ana for such an informative, delicious, and fun tour!

Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

My view of Al Gore introducing An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Last week I attended the UK premiere of Al Gore’s follow-up film to An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006. The man himself introduced An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, about the dangers of climate change, what’s happened since the first film, and some reasons to be hopeful. This is a short summary of what he had to say.

Waiting in the queue to go into Somerset House

Waiting in the queue to go into Somerset House

There was a distinct sense of optimism about the future in what he had to say and in the film. 

He feels that humanity is now rising to the challenge.  He urged us to commit to being part of the solution (although for this audience he was surely preaching to the converted) and to spread the word, via social media and elsewhere. The situation is very dangerous: we can win, but the movement needs to get bigger. Taking personal action is imperative: we need to put pressure on public officials and on the businesses we patronise to change their policies and actions to remediate the effects of climate change. In particular, Gore finds the success of renewable energy and the fact that prices are crashing down very encouraging. By these means he thinks we can solve global warming in time. He does not feel that Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement means the end of international efforts as there is so much will to make it work from the other nations; also many cities and states in the US are continuing to follow the Paris Agreement. “The damage I feared Trump would do has turned out to be less than I feared.”

100% of the proceeds from the film will go to training his team of Climate Reality activists; one of those here in West Sussex is Carrie Cort of Sussex Green Living

For me, as a member of a team of Climate Ambassador for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, I found it all very inspiring.

This is me in a crowd of 2,000 people in the courtyard of Somerset House in London!



My visit to Mark Diacono’s Otter Farm

I was lucky enough to visit Otter Farm as a reward for investing in a crowdfunding project – billed as “A Taste of Otter Farm – a tour of Otter Farm with Mark, including a two course lunch”. Both of these elements were well up to expectations!

I’d met Mark a few times at food events organised by my friend, the cookery writer Rosemary Moon, at West Dean Gardens near my home in Chichester. Otter Farm is in East Devon, very close to the River Otter and near to Honiton. Previously Head Gardener at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage empire nearby, Mark left a few years ago to work on his 17-acre Otter Farm. Over time he has developed an orchard and a vineyard, built a house featured on Grand Designs, and built the subject of the Crowdfunder, a kitchen garden school: “a place to learn about growing, cooking, preserving, building, fermenting and more”. Both the house and kitchen garden school are designed around eco-friendly principles, the most noticeable element being the green roofs, which are clearly visible because of the way the buildings are designed.

The event was attended by about 18 of the 45 people who had pledged for this reward. We were greeted with jugs of mint or “cucumber” water (refreshing on a warm summer’s day). The latter contained large sprigs of salad burnet – the smaller leaves are best used in salads but the bigger ones work really well in water and do taste of cucumber. I’m not a fan of commercial flavoured water and even a slice of lemon in water can be too much for me, but I loved the herbal water and will be trying this at home! Once the whole group had assembled we were given delicious canapés of beetroot puree garnished with summer savoury. These were accompanied by a fabulous cocktail of Mark’s home-made limoncello topped up by his own sparkling wine. I had sampled Mark’s herbal cocktails at West Dean, so knew this would be good, and I was glad to be staying at an Airbnb just a short walk away!

Mark with his home made Limoncello

Mark with his home made Limoncello

Next we were treated to an in-depth tour of the newly planted vegetable garden, based on forest gardening principles with mostly perennial plants. Cob was used in the construction of the kitchen garden school and Mark decided to use it for the walls of the garden too, adding a real rustic feel. The garden was full of plants I had never heard of, or variants that were new to me, even though I thought I was quite well up on unusual vegetables and herbs.

Egyptian walking onion

Egyptian walking onion

I’ll cover just a few of the plants that particularly caught my eye or appealed to me in some other way, otherwise there would be far too many to cover! The Egyptian walking onion produces onions similar to shallots but what is different about it is that it grows its next generation of onions at the top of the stalks. These mature during summer, sending out small roots and shoots of their own. The flower stalk falls over, and the bulbils root where they touch the ground. The next year these form onions in their new location, grow a stalk with bulbils on top – which then falls over to repeat the process. Continuing with the allium theme, we were also shown Welsh onions (not from Wales and not an onion as we know it as it doesn’t grow bulbs) and society garlic grown for its flowers and more like chives than garlic and so named because apparently it is less pungent on the breath!

Social garlic

Social garlic

Moving onto herbs, sweet cicely has attractive fern-like leaves, has an aniseed flavour, and can be cooked with rhubarb using less sugar because of its natural sweetness implied by its name. Scotch Lovage has red stems which answered a question for me – I saw Scotch lovage in a kitchen garden a few years ago, just labelled as lovage, bought some lovage seeds, and wondered when they grew why they didn’t have red stems! Apple mint (which I grow myself and used in my much admired apple and mint [or apple and apple mint jelly]!) is very good in water. Mark recommends growing mint in pots if you grow more than one, otherwise they cross and the individual taste can’t be distinguished. Mark is a big fan of ginger rosemary. He also grows several varieties of hyssop, including anise hyssop, very good for attracting bees.

One strange fact I learned was that dahlia tubers were eaten 200 years ago; this makes me wonder if that is why they are often grown on allotments, particularly by the more elderly allotmenteers? Perhaps they are carrying on a tradition for cut flowers that originates in them being grown to eat. Mark is growing fuchsias for their fruit, which is also something you don’t get to hear about much!

Szechan pepper bush

Szechan pepper bush

On the way back to the house we saw Japanese pepper and Szechuan pepper plants.  The latter should be picked when bright red (useful advice for me as I bought a plant from Mark a few years ago and it has produced a good crop for the first time this year!). The peppercorns can be used fresh or dried in the sun so that they go through a pepper mill. Another variety of Szechuan pepper is apparently very lemony. We all sampled a Szechuan peppercorn so that we could feel the tingly, numbing sensation it produces on the tongue!  Among the more unusual fruit trees grown here are the plumcot tree (I’ll leave you to guess which trees ones have been crossed here!) and the Juneberry, a fruiting species of Amelanchier.

Back at the house we were treated to a splendid lunch of local belly pork (Mark runs courses on butchery) followed by a most delicious chocolate cake. The chef for the day was Matthew Williamson, former co-owner of Flinty Red restaurant in Bristol. To accompany the food we had Mark’s own cider and wine – I sampled both and thoroughly enjoyed them!

Mark can be found in my neck of the woods in the Gardening Theatre on all three days (11-13 August 2017) of the West Dean Chilli Fiesta.

Me and my Eco journey

My name is Diana Morgan. I was born in the mid-1950s and became aware of environmental issues in my teens. We were a Guardian-reading family, getting good coverage of such matters; Doomwatch was on TV (a drama series about a secret government agency tackling environmental emergencies); Friends of the Earth launched with a publicity stunt dumping non-returnable glass bottles on the doorstep of Cadbury-Schweppes. The holes in the ozone layer at the poles (and the role of CFCs in that) became a concern, as did global warming, now more correctly known as climate change.

Not being good at sciences at school I pursued an arts degree; in any case, environmental science courses were in their infancy in those days. For a couple of decades afterwards, I took an avid interest in eco matters but did little of a practical nature, apart from being a member of organisations such as Friends of the Earth; although I do believe it is important to put your money where your mouth is even if you are not taking action yourself. My activism in the 1980s and 90s mainly involved going on CND and Anti-Apartheid demonstrations, both very pressing issues at the time. I recycled as much as I could in the days before kerbside collections.

Since moving out of London to Chichester in the mid-90s I have become an active member of Chichester Organic Gardening Society and Transition Chichester. In 2010 I became self-employed for the first time following redundancy, working as a freelance social media marketer (with green-related and local food clients where possible). Soon after, I added another business to my portfolio as a distributor for Wikaniko, a UK-based cooperative selling all kinds of eco-friendly, healthy, and natural goods. I trade as EcoStepByStep.

At the time of writing, I am stepping back from routine social media work in favour of more writing in the green sphere (blog posts and copywriting for clients) and of developing EcoStepByStep. I have also recently become one of a team of WI Climate Ambassadors.

My interests include nature, travel, photography and walking. At some point, I changed from the teenager who told her mother “I’m not an outdoor person” into … an outdoor person, some of the time!

So what’s next? Really, it’s wide open. I want to spend more time on environmental projects, both professionally and personally – working on turtle protection is one cause that really appeals to me!

This is the first stage of my evolution from eco worrier to eco-warrior!