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18 Reasons to be Cheerful After Copenhagen
John Thackara, 21 Dec 09

(A bit different from our normal fare, but refreshingly so, we think. A chance to ponder some more the tension between the limits of the local and the power of the personal. -eds)


The outcome of Copenhagen is depressing if you only look at what happened at the official summit, and persist in the belief that those guys are "world leaders". They are not: they are followers, guardians of a dying regime.

So don't look at them. I'm looking at these locally grown flowers as I type. The flowers remind me that hundreds of thousand of groups are already busy, in countless ways, preparing their communities for the changes and shocks to come.

Elements of an alternative global framework have started to emerge. Several hundred of these groups helped draft a 'People’s Declaration' from Klimaforum09 entitled System change – not climate change. Read that, and you won't need portentous post-Copenhagen spin from me.

Instead, I thought it would be festive and restorative to share with you the following 19 highlights of our re-localisation efforts at Doors HQ here in France:

1) KvR developed a killer grape syrup recipe (= off-grid sugar)



2) Off-grid shoe polish (= keeping up appearances as the consequences of peak oil unfold)


3) We take delivery of Excalibur ( = yes, the SUV of fruit-drying machines)


4) Scrubbies for cleaning pots, baths etc ( = upcycled from plastic bags, in part penance for (3))


5) Post-peak-oil fire lighters (upcycled from an unpleasant vat of goo; these turn out to be more expensive than supermarket fire lighters so will not be repeated)



6) Almond milk (= source emits no methane; but not ideal for cappuccinos)



7) Facial scrub - almond, lavender, tea-tree (= only tested on humans)


8) Sambal (= off-grid heat source)


9) Home-made (by Yuka) willow basket containing mussel shells that are crushed and then fed to chickens (= low transport-intensity animal feed)


10) Our first chickens (there used to be one more but a dog called Sarah, who we rescued from the dog pound, to be a friend for Dora, ate it (the chicken) so we sent Sarah back to the slammer). The bottom-right chicken is a designer-one with fancy leg feathers; the others, being street-chix, give her a hard time.


11) The chickens earn their keep (= meaningful work in local economy)



12) We learned how construct a bio-intensive, multi-layered, four-year-cycle planting bed under the instruction of a noted agro-ecologist, Robert Morez [= knowledge from different parts of Africa, combined and adapted for a different context]


13) Cherries from market [top] and our own red berries [below] ( = reasons to be cheerful while planet burns)


red berries harvest.jpg

14) Our first saurkraut being compressed in brown pot (= zero-energy food storage)


15) The curtain was three euros in our street market (= saves heat whilst watching Grand Designs)


16) We learn how to prepare a duck (= collaborative dis-intermediation of food chain)


17) JT starts podcasting career, slowly; This was for BBC Radio 4, really. (= reduced travel emissions once minor technical glitches are resolved).


18) Dora has last of her six showers per year; yes, we heard too, the ecological footprint of a large dog is the same as driving a V8 SUV 10,000km - but we offset that against the fact that she is our role-model for low-water-use hygiene concept


19) Wood cave (= FRC-certified wood and thus off-grid to a degree; although yes, it was chopped by a large diesel-powered machine at the yard and delivered in a truck...)


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You've inspired me to revive my vegetable garden that died during our incredibly hot (Australian) summer. Thank you!

Posted by: shadow_kat_au on 22 Dec 09

Hi John, thanks for this follow on. I have to say i don't think this sides with Alex's world view. Especially in his article "the revolution will not be hand made"

Posted by: shane on 23 Dec 09

I never thought that Copenhagen would do jack. I don’t think that the governments are nearly as powerful an agent for world change around global warming as the corporations. It’s just a matter of efficiency and motivation. It’s why FedEx works better than the Post Office and why investing on one’s own reaps greater returns than social security. Government is too large and too differently motivated to evolve quickly enough to make a difference, something I think we’re seeing proof of at COP15. I see a lot of work happening in the private sector towards curbing emissions. I like what WWF is doing with their Climate Savers program: where companies volunteer to curb their emissions and set their own goals. Probably the most impressive of the Climate Savers’ efforts is JohnsonDiversey, who originally promised an 8% GHG reduction over 10 years (2003-2013), and just recently announced they are tripling that to a 25% reduction. I watched some of the Copenhagen talks by their CEO ( and they’ve taken it even farther in honor of COP15 – announcing they’ll assess a carbon footprint for all of their products and make that info public. I think if every business on the planet put forth the same effort it would create more change than government could ever dream of producing.

Posted by: Tina on 24 Dec 09

As for fire starters, try stuffing tp/pt rolls with dryer lint... very flammable!

Posted by: Melissa on 26 Dec 09

you have accomplished the job of making me hungry ! Picture 11 did me in .

Posted by: green man on 29 Dec 09

It looks like your cherries from the market have been travelling by truck from spain. But keep up the good job anyway.

Posted by: laurent on 4 Jan 10

Pretty interesting blog you've got here. Thanks the author for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Best regards

Posted by: FrozenSun on 15 Feb 10

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