Sustainability. Broadband. Emotional health. Nature. Conkers!

A great new thing in the works these days: The Conkers tweetup, to get geeks out behind their laptops and in touch with nature, and have a conversation around subjects of sustainability. Here’s some relevant bits from the mail the team sent out this week:


Just under a week to go till Buy Nothing Day and the ConkerTU team is wishing it was Do Nothing Day! Two thirds of us have come down with colds. Still, there’s a warm welcome awaiting you in the National Forest, starting from when you alight at Tamworth!

Bring your Veggies

For the ultimate in crowdsourcing and to sustain our community on Buy Nothing Day, we’re asking you to bring a vegetable – so don’t forget a quick forage before you leave, so we can get to the root of the matter! Steve, General Manager at Conkers, is a whiz in the kitchen and promises to cook up a cauldron for ConkerTU – which we’ll serve with bread, some Sparkenhoe Red Leicester Cheese and a quaff of Eglantine mead in the Pavillion! There’ll be local Swithland water on tap too.

Tamworth Trainees

If your eco-journey to ConkerTU involves taking the train to Tamworth, make sure you arrive before 8.45am as The Green Bus departs then. Emma’s popping over to the bus depot next week to film all the WIFI and GPS kit they have on board, so you’ll have a sneaky preview of all the gadgets beforehand. Oh yeah and the bus is actually green – in colour – so you won’t miss it. Feel free to audioboo.

Your forest footprint

Here in the National Forest we’ve been planting trees since the late 80’s. We do it, our kids do it, our grandkids do it, so we’d like you to make your mark too – it is a forest for the Nation, after all! Jonathan O’Farrell, who’ll be telling tales of how Ibstock does Climate Change in the afternoon, will be digging up saplings in nearby Overseal on Thursday and Friday, ready for us to plant during our Voyage of Discovery at lunch time.

Media and the Geo Map

Throughout the day we’ll be making as much media as humanly possible, recording bambuser, audioboo, youtube and flickr pictures, as they’re all supported on our geo map. In the coming months, we aim to expand the system, so everyone can go back to the tree they planted, the rare species they saw, or the mind blowing conversations they had! We’d like all updates to be sent with our hashtag #conkertu so as to create a sustainable and low carbon resource, enabling remote users to comment and question participants.

Communal Connections

You’re probably well aware by now that Phil has been working on boosting the onsite internet and that we have a long term project to bring high speed connection to the local community – he’ll be telling you more about that on the day. We really want to make some noise about the potential of wireless services in the more remote areas of the UK, so if you have a WIFI booster, a MIFI of any kind, additional dongle or internet connectivity, do bring it with you if you can. The more tweets the merrier!

It’s lovely, and of course I’m going to go, powered by the lovely people at Sixt hopefully. But more about that later.

I’m very much a person who takes pleasure in nature (a walk somewhere quiet and green is much more fun than Alton Towers if you ask me), so much so that I have plans for a completely sustainable, locally sourced household if I ever do move to Nigeria, I’ve already identified the spot and the local artisans to help me. It’s going to be a showcase for what’s possible without really unsustainable, really expensive and quite unhealthy construction materials like concrete and quite silly and unsustainable interior design elements like imported carpet (yes, you won’t believe it, carpet. The point of carpet in a hot country? I don’t know. But it’s a status symbol so we’ll import it rather than using locally woven mats made by local artisans using locally sourced reeds. Anyways, I digress…)

Yes, Nigeria is a hot country so living close to nature is somewhat easier, even though you do need strong walls against the rains. When I spent time in India (West Bengal) 12 years ago I stayed in a hut made out of bamboo and woven palm leaves – it was great, as long as you had good mosquito nets over the bed frames. Which is not hugely difficult.

The UK climate makes it necessary to have big insulated houses though, and unless you’re going to go really extreme and build a strawbale house with a huge oven in the middle (a dream to live in!), you’re somewhat stuck for options. Also, most of us work and live in the city, so are stuck in the circle of renting or buying, supermarket shopping, rubbish removal, heating and electricity bills etc. There’s just not that many options.

Germany as a whole has made more steps toward sustainabililty, simply because I think we’re closer to nature as a people. Simply ask around what people do for fun in the weekend and you’ll see, there’ll be more rambling and fresh air and less Westfield/Alton Towers type activity.

I needed to explain about my attitudes to sustainability and being close to nature a little in order to explain why, even though I totally agree with the goals of the tweetup, I stated in a tweet that the mail the team sent out was “twee.” It’s oh so green, and we’re all campaigning for highspeed internet.

Highspeed internet in every household? That, to me, is not be best use of resources. IF we’re going to go down the green and sustainable route and figure out something new together, why not be aware of the basics? Datacenters around the world, which yes, you will be using as soon as you do anything anywhere, on google or in the cloud, consume a huge amount of resources and most aren’t run sustainably at all. (ask @monkchips.) Every google search, google calendar entry, etc, every mail you sent, and how much more so then every youtube or iplayer video you watch, has a carbon footprint.

Highspeed internet in every household is, to me, the very antithesis of sustainability. It is not only not realistic, it’s not desirable either. Why not create a few internet points in every neighbourhood so people go out to get it? Once you have the broadband, you still need the hardware to use it, and if you’re going to buy a computer, then why not get a laptop and go to the pub or library to get your daily internet? I personally am not comfortable using public library computers but now that mobile computing technology is so advanced, this is a more realistic model to me.

I live in London. I pick up 20 private networks at my home. I myself don’t have a private network, because when I’m home I want to relax. I freelance and my work is my life, so it never stops and I never really stop talking about it or doing it. I need the cut-off point for my sanity. I need the feeling that I go out to work, otherwise I might never get any offline time at all. And look around, was it Mamading who recently remarked on how so many people in our network were close to burnout and needed to look after their emotional well-being?

I’m all for arguments (good ones), so please argue with me. Do we really need a private high-speed internet connection in every household? Why?


One response to “Sustainability. Broadband. Emotional health. Nature. Conkers!

  1. when i see you on saturday i’ll be doing a case for 100mb high speed connectivity and why especially in a rural location is can re-enable the local economy. i’m not saying we NEED it, i’m saying that it is proven that by increasing the speed of connectivity the options that then open up to build hyperlocal solutions increase because more people will use things like portals for ordering local goods etc. I’ll give you some real world examples when i see you! 🙂

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