My first 5k race

Damien Clarkson

Last night I took part in my first ever timed 5k race. It was as part of the GoodGym Race Series, which combined 45 mins of volunteering helping out a fantastic new social enterprise called Makeversity who are going to be offering affordable working spaces to people who ‘make things’, both digital and physical things with the hope of matching the talents within their building with teaching programmes for young people.

The 5k race was my first target on my recovery from injury. In fact I have pretty much exclusively been running 5k(ish) 3/4 times a week since the first week of August. The race took place in the evening and started on the Embankment outside Somerset House and the route would see us run along the embankment over Westminster bridge then down to Lambeth bridge before running back to Somerset House.

I decided to run in the sub 24 min group, my practice runs had been around 24 to 25 mins. But I thought despite constant dodging the tourists and steps we had to walk and down I could make it under 24 mins, because after all it was a race and I have always enjoyed competition.

I have to say I really enjoyed the race, I just went at my steady running pace until what I thought was a mile from the finish (it turns out it was 0.7 miles) then I decided to run hard to the finish. I came through at a respectable 23.35 which given the conditions, steps, tourists etc was respectable. It placed me 3rd overall which I was really happy with.  A youth spent playing cricket and football meant I was used to competing on a regular basis and it is something I think I have missed.

I have written a blog for GoodGym about my injury and my recovery was published, I think anyone who has ever had an injury will take something from reading it.

I would also recommend reading this blog by Nikki who has had a similar experience with injury and her recovery.

So, if anyone wants to do a park run or a 5k in the near future let me know. Running feels really exciting to me at the moment.


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Life

Well life has been busy and we have had an actual British Summer, these factors combined has led to me not blogging for far too long. However the past month has been packed full of some amazing experiences, life changes, struggles and exciting challenges. But have no fear, I am back on the blogging bandwagon 🙂 undoubtedly this will probably mean a flurry of blogs followed by my usual month of silence. But I promise I will try to be more consistent and anyway it is raining now.

At the end of June, I took my first holiday in 2 years and went to Berlin. I stayed in the district of Kreuzberg at a great backpackers for people under 40 called Jetpack Alternative.

On the day I arrived in Berlin the weather was 35 degrees and immediately I settled into the hostel and had a night out with a bunch of other backpackers. Althrough throughout the break I spent most of my time hanging out with Diana, who I met through CouchSurfing. She and her friends made me feel incredibly welcome and we checked out lots of bands, ate great vegan food and generally just had a great time relaxing.

Me and Diana

I was struck by how many people were vegan in Berlin, they have a huge vegan supermarket in Friedrichshain although it was deemed to be stupidly over priced by my new friends. Berlin really felt like a city I could see myself living in one day, I think Berlin has a culture which makes it easy to be an artist. Because of state support for education, and affordable housing and strong laws protecting tenants mean that creative young people can live in the most amazing accommodation for prices Londoners would only dream of.

So, on my return from Berlin, I decided I would go vegan, this is something I have been thinking of doing for quite awhile. I was already vegetarian and had been phasing out dairy for awhile.  Going vegan has been surprisingly easy, the only times it has been difficult has been when out of London and eating out. This has resulted in a few items being sent back.

Vegan times

As a result of going vegan, I feel full of energy and happy about how I am reducing my carbon footprint and not participating in a system which is cruel to animals. I have also read ultramarathon champion Scott Jurek’s new book ‘Eat and Run’, he believes a vegan diet is one of the key components which turned him into a champion. So vegan ultramarathon greatness here I come :-). Ok well perhaps I will crawl round a marathon next year before I turn 30.

Speaking of running, I have been receiving physio from Helen at Fix, which is a new sports physio practice near me in Hackney. I have learnt so much about how I run, what I need to change and my overall body and how it behaves. I have discovered that  I have been shielding the left hand side of my body for the last 8 years. This has led to me regularly getting injured as a result of putting too much pressure through my right hand side. My lazy left side is now shaping up and I am redeveloping my running to run in an increasingly front foot running style better known as ‘barefoot running’. So far the early signs are good, I haven’t had any side affects and after 3 months of injury I can run for 20 mins of a 30 min (10 mins rest for my ankle).

I have just recently returned from 4 days in Cambridge with some of my wonderful friends. My friend Tamsin took us to Trinity College,  at Cambridge University where I saw one of only 4 remaining copies of Shakespeare’s first folio and went punting. which turns out is loads of fun if not slightly hard work.

Punting in Cambridge

Tamsin and me at Trinity

We did plenty of cycling, walking and I led the cooking for 12 people, which was fun but exhausting. We did lots of discussing our future plans and the world we live in. I feel really blessed to know these amazing people who care so much about everything happening around them. All in all, beautiful people and beautiful times.

Walking with friends
So that was kinda the last month; I also saw ‘The Breeders’ and ‘Dinosaur Pile Up’, play which were amazing, I am trying to see more gigs, so if people fancy checking out bands let me know. I have tickets for Drenge in September, hopefully I won’t bump into Ed Miliband there after Tom Watson’s resignation letter suggestion.

Dinosaur Pileup

Next month I turn 29 (I can’t believe it) and the social enterprise ‘CookHoods’ I am trying to set up with my friend Bex is gathering momentum. I will update everyone on this soon but if you like good homemade food and supporting local communities, I think you will love it.

Until the next time. Big Love, Damien xx

Boris Johnson- no fracking clue

“Who’s bad?” in the British political scene of 2012 it has to be Boris Johnson. The publicity-loving Mayor has been showing his dangerous neo-liberal tendencies again; this time by using his column in the Telegraph to support of the pursuit of shale gas, better known as Fracking.

This article was lazy even by his slap dash standards, throughout he manages to ignore any empirical evidence about fracking and uses what I would describe as cold war style rhetoric to make his points. This little snippet used when talking about the Kyoto treaty stopping us building new coal stations sums the language used throughout the article perfectly: “We are therefore increasingly and humiliatingly dependent on Vladimir Putin’s gas or on the atomic power of the French state”.

We all know Boris isn’t one to follow rules, however it would appear this extends to following scientific reports. Although Boris did correctly identify that gas omits less CO2 than burning coal. Well-done Boris. Although studies commissioned by the EC have found Shale gas is likely to have higher emission levels than conventional gas extraction methods. So not much, much, cleaner Boris but still probably the second most destructive form of fossil fuel consumption available to us at the moment in Europe.

Boris also claims there hasn’t been one single complaint the Environmental Protection Agency in the US where fracking has been widespread. Sadly it appears Boris hasn’t heard of the infamous ‘Hallburton Loophole’. In 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act. This act included a clause which exempted nearly everything used in fracking from being regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So if you live in the United States and your drinking water now has shale gas mixed in with it because of leaking fracking wells, you can’t complain. If the fracking rigs cause poisonous air quality, you can’t complain about that either. Instead artists led by Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono have united against fracking to stop it happening in the New York area.

This kind of de-regulation and reckless pursuit of fossil fuels to benefit the already rich fossil fuel industry is ludicrous. Boris should really be careful as he is already responsible for over 4000 early deaths in London due to poor air quality. So yes Boris, I am a green campaigner and I take the further poisoning of our air, water and increased carbon emission’s very seriously.  And my next point is where I find him incredibly frustrating; whenever I see him on TV he endlessly talks about the need for investment. Renewable energy is an area where we have the expertise and the opportunity to be word leaders however Boris continues to call for investment in dangerous fossil fuel technology.

And I am not alone in calling for this urgent investment in green growth the CBI (The UK’s top business lobbying organisation) recently released figures showing that one third of British growth last year came from the green economy. The figures are stacking up in favour of investment in the ‘green ecomony’. The CBI believes if we get the right level of investment from the government and investors the ‘green economy’ could deliver £20 billion in 2014/2015. I certainly wouldn’t call that ‘chicken feed’.

Again in regards to employment he really misses the point. In sectors such as wind power and energy efficiency close to one million people are already employed in the UK. Expertise in energy efficency and renewable technologies are things we can export. We can’t sell the toxic carbon emissions created by fracking that is for sure.

Boris Johnson is now widely viewed to be the future leader of the Conservative party. Members of his party would do well to remember the bumbling backbencher that couldn’t punch his way out of a political paper bag. Essentially Boris hasn’t changed he still spouts the pro business, anti environment, de-regulation nonsense, which led to the financial crisis. His ideology of neo-liberalism has been discredited; it’s heroes, Thatcher, Bush, Cheney, Blair, are widely derided figures. This article reaffirmed Boris desire to destroy our countryside and ignore the climate change crisis in the favour of short-term profits for the fossil fuel companies.

This is the man who in the wake of the Libor scandal told us “Barclays is and remains a great British brand,” a “proud” and an “historic” one no less. And he remains a champion of Rupert Murdoch despite the phone hacking scandal. The question is; do you really trust Boris on the environment? I know I don’t.

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Global Solutions, Local Choices

I believe tackling climate change to be the biggest crisis facing our generation. This announcement will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. But increasingly I feel the planet is sending us warning signals that we collectively as a society are failing to act fast enough upon. Recently we have seen record low ice levels in the Arctic and currently 80% of agricultural land in the US is facing drought. The Health Protection Agency reported this week that deaths in the UK from heat waves would rise from around 2000 a year currently to 11000 a year by 2080 as a result of climate change.

I recently met a very knowledgeable fellow campaigner, Kate Calvert from the Better Archway Forum. And during our group discussion she mentioned a quote by the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, who once said; “Art and ideas should be global, everything else should be local”. Although personally I am strong supporter of a strong state and I would love to see the re-nationalisation of our transport and energy systems. However I do believe that if we’re to effectively tackle climate change, we will need people to create their own low carbon communities and people to stand up to local politicians and reclaim their environmental rights.

Over the past 30 years these rights have been slowly eroded; politicians have attempted justify this by pointing to increased GDP and shopping malls which apparently give us the freedom of choice.  Even a fortunate person living in London every day already faces the following environmental challenges:

  • Air pollution on London’s most congested roads regularly breaches EU legal limits on air quality. And over 4000 Londoner’s die prematurely every year in the London because of air pollution. This is more than from road accidents, obesity or passive smoking.
  • Our roads are dominated by cars despite the majority of people living in central London not owning cars. For example 60% of residents in the borough of Islington do not own cars.
  • Refusal by government to invest in fully electric buses and trains means many people are locked into fossil fuel dependent travel.
  • Constant noise and pollution due to excessive aviation, already we have 3 major airports serving London plus a number of satellite airports and the ludicrous City Airport serving only the richest in society.
  • Governments continue to burn fossil fuels locking future generations into a future devastated by climate change. Oxfam recently said; “Our planet is heading for average global warming of 2.5–5C this century. It is time to face up to what this means for hunger and malnutrition for millions of people on our planet.”

The fact that climate change is happening is a fact agreed upon by the majority of the world’s governments, leading scientists and increasingly the general population. It is agreed tackling climate change will require global collaboration on a scale we have never seen before. It will require business to de-carbonise their operations and find alternatives to their current fossil fuel existence. Governments will need to work closely together to create a renewable energy infrastructure built to serve the energy needs of whole continents not just individual nations. And as droughts across the world become a common occurrence, governments will have to make tough choices on how to feed a booming world population in the face of regular food famines.

This all sounds scary I know and it is easy to despair, however we can take the global solutions to tackling climate change and Keynes advice and apply them on a local level. Creating green spaces and de-carbonising our local communities should improve your health and general wellbeing as you develop a cohesive community around you.

Below are my tips for city dwellers looking to reduce their carbon footprint:

1)   Cycle/Walk: London is a fantastic city, why not soak up the views and get some exercise? Many tube journeys are actually quicker by foot and it costs nothing.

2)   Buy local food: Eating food from local farmers markets will mean you will be supporting local farmers and you food will have a lower carbon footprint.

3)   Cut back on meat: Cows and lambs are two of the main sources of methane a particular harmful gas contributing to global warming. This is without mentioning the soya and water used to raise these animals and the nitrous oxide admitted during the farming process. I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian but perhaps eat better quality meat and have it as a treat.

4)   Don’t buy bottled water: The profit margin on a bottle of water is about 99%. You may think that it is safer than tap water but you would be wrong, tap water has to be regulated much more strictly than bottled water. And in some cases bottled water comes from our main tap water system and is bottled up and sold back to us. Anyone remember Desani?

5)   Start a car pool: If you must have a car why not share a car with your friends, you could save a fortune on running costs.

6)   Train not plane: Most places in Europe are easily accessible by train and you get to soak up the beautiful scenery and relax.

7)   Food Waste: Only make what you can eat, if you think you will have too much food one evening, invite a friend around for dinner.

I hope this blog has made you consider whether your environmental rights are being infringed upon. And whether there is a way you can hold your local politicians to account and mobilise your friends and neighbours to create your own resilient low carbon community.

Note:

* I have been recently reading a book called; ‘How Bad are Bananas’, which is about making smart choices in all areas of life to reduce your carbon footprint, I have found it useful and would recommend it.

Dangerous Times Call For Radical Green Solutions


Following last week’s Green Party conference, The Guardian released the first in a series of videos focusing on the politic party conferences. Our video was called; ‘The Greens are turning into a force on the radical left‘. If I were being a bit pedantic, I would argue the choice of this title, as I believe we are turning into a broader political force not just one confined to one side of the political spectrum.

This years Green conference saw the newly appointed Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, give a powerful maiden speech. In her speech she did something you certainly wouldn’t hear David Cameron or Ed Miliband doing; she asked Green Party members to hold her to account on her promises made for her first 100 days in office. She also spoke on how Labour hasn’t changed and the coalition has picked up from where Labour left off. And I was also personally delighted to see Natalie invite dialogue with the trade union movement.

For me the Greens and unions working hand in hand feels like a natural fit, as we share the same desire to create a fairer society and strong public sector. We both wish to see efficient and affordable public services run with the interests of the general public at heart. We both believe in a fairer society whereby those who caused the financial crisis bear the brunt not the poorest in society. We both wish to see proper wages paid to those who get up every day and work for the benefit of the people not multinational corporations. I am talking about nurses, teachers, bus drivers, care home workers. These are the people who make Britain tick and these are the people the governments misguided austerity drive is failing to support. The Greens and Unions have that common bond of wanting to create a fairer society and this is a relationship I hope we continue to strengthen.

In her speech Natalie importantly also touched on how our planet is under attack. I know I am not the only green who has despaired in recent weeks at the bizarre discussions in government surrounding environmental issues. Our government are obsessed with airport expansion, cutting renewable subsidies like they have done with wind farms and pursuing fracking despite the European Commission publishing a report saying ‘drilling for shale gas poses “high risks”, worse than those posed by other fossil fuels’. All of this at a time where we recorded the lowest Arctic ice levels ever and 80% of agricultural land in the US is facing drought. And those environmental shining beacons of responsibility, Shell, head off the Arctic to drill for oil with no credible plan on how to stop leaks.

I feel excited about the potential of The Green Party under the leadership of Bennett. She wasted no time in attacking the neoliberal shock doctrine politics which binds the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems together. Yes us Greens may be seen as radical by the mainstream media, however we live in the time of an environmental crisis and we need radical solutions to the challenges we face.  If we’re to tackle climate change and create a low carbon future filled with green jobs, low carbon travel and sustainable local food solutions, it will require a radical reshaping of our economy and the ending of our obsession with growth. Recognising we live on a planet with finite resources and ecological limits is the first step to doing this. The Greens and many leading economists have recognised our growth obsession isn’t a long term strategy. The question is when will the other parties wake up and do the same?

Working Class Heroes

I was going to write about plastic bags and how there is no excuse for a 5% growth in plastic bag usage as reported by the Guardian today. However I just read an interesting blog by Gary Dunion of Bright Green titled; Greens can either pay their leader, or be led by the rich and I felt compelled to respond.

The blog talks about Peter Cranie’s bid to become the new leader of the Green Party and the rumours that have been circulating that he may have to withdraw from the race if their is no salary guaranteed for the new leader of the party. Although Cranie has since made it clear that he has no intention of pulling out of the race.

The blog cites a demand of the Chartists, Britain’s first modern workers’ movement. Including the below.

“PAYMENT OF MEMBERS, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.”

It would be a good idea for us to pay attention to the demands of the Chartists. I think this is a real moment of truth for the Green Party; Caroline Lucas being elected as our first MP in Brighton has given us a chance to demonstrate we’re capable making a valuable contribution to parliament. In the 2015 election we should be looking to elect several more MP’s with a target of at least 10 elected MP’s by the 2020 election. As the climate change crisis worsens the first people to be affected will be the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Our policies have fairness woven throughout and these will serve to protect those in the most need when the time comes. With the Lib Dem’s in disarray, Labour not offering any real alternative to the Tories austerity measures. The Green Party should be viewing the next election as a golden opportunity to increase seats.

To have a chance of doing this we need the best leader possible.  I would hate to think we may not get the best candidate as leader because the party was scrimping on the salary. A figure of £28,000 is mentioned in Gary’s blog, which is slightly above the national average. I can say having earned a figure around this a couple of years ago living in London, money was pretty tight and that is as a single person in a shared flat, let alone with a family.

We pride ourselves on being the party of fairness, we need to live by these words and pay whoever is elected leader a salary worthy of the position of Green Party leader. I would suggest using a relatively high level civil servants salary as the benchmark.

I believe we have replaced Labour as the party truly representing workers. We have the knowledge and compassion to implement a green economy which will create jobs throughout society. And we’re committed to reversing the climate change disaster we’re currently on course for. But as someone originally from a working class background, I would be sad to see the party essentially exclude candidates who are not independently wealthy.

I hope whoever wins the leadership contest is paid a wage fitting of the great responsibility the next leader will have in building on the success of Caroline as leader.

Notes:

1) This blog is response to the blog by Gary Dunion for Bright Green and quotes his blog in parts. http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2012/08/greens-can-either-pay-their-leader-or-be-led-by-the-rich/

2) I haven’t decided who I am voting for in the upcoming leadership contests.

Blog Revamp

This blog has had a bit of a revamp and will now concentrate purely on climate change activism, green issues and politics.

I will be using this blog as a space to explore ideas which will help us in avoiding runaway climate change and I’m actively encouraging discussion on my blog posts.

Let’s create a low carbon future together.

Damien

A Lefty Tweetup

Those of you who know me either offline or online will know that I am passionate about the power of social media to bring people together and change the world for good. Since the creation of Twitter the world has become a increasingly connected  and open place. From Iran to the Arab spring to the student protests all have benefited from Twitter giving a voice to involved to expose what really is happening on the ground.

I recently noticed a tweet by @nishmadoshi about whether there is a tweetup for politically left leaning people. This got me thinking that we totally should have one and after my experiences of participating in the amazing @nfptweetup’s organised founded by the lovely @rachelbeer. The benefits of @nfptweetup to voluntary sector has been huge it has helped nuture a open culture of sharing information to enable us all to do our jobs better.

I hope the @leftytweetup builds a similar community vibe helping us to share knowledge and build new friendships; with the ultimate aim of strengthening our opposition to the government both online and offline

So if you would like to be involved in organising the event, speaking, making cakes, providing a venue, funding 🙂 (worth trying) get in touch.

I am hoping to run the first event in October and everyone who considers themselves left politically leaning is welcome to join. What I can promise is a warm atmosphere, yummy cakes and people who want to use social media to make the world a better place.

Initial topics ideas include:

  • Social Media and governments moves to censor it/ net neutrality
  • Clean air campaign
  • The dangers of fracking
  • Post London riots- how can the left engage the communities involved?
  • Dangers of the current economic austerity programme and available alternatives.

If any of the above ideas tickle your fancy let me know.

I hope to hear from you lovely tweeters soon.

Damien

Contact me at either of these accounts: