Writing

Sustain Able magazine launches June 2017

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In June 2017, I launched an online magazine aimed at people who are aware of environmental issues, but need a little help in making more green lifestyle choices.

Below is an excerpt of one article entitled, The Importance of Biodiversity. The article discusses why the audience could and perhaps, should, care about the degredation to coral reefs. Content is linked to other relevant articles which also show why to care about these issues, how readers can help and how their buying choices can impact climate change in a positive way.

The Importance of Biodiversity

And why  you should care about coral reefs

In a nut shell: richly varied ecosystems make for strong networks of healthy animals, plants (and humans), who can survive when faced with disease, individual extinctions and changes in climate. On a global scale, ecosystems become entwined in the web of life and all of us rely on this web to survive, even the most of us who live in cities. 

The Brazilian rainforest as a richly varied and diverse ecosystem, and losing one minor species might not affect that particularly diverse environment in a major way. But the effect will most certainly be to weaken it, and will never be positive.

But if you lose one species essential to almost all of the inhabitants’ survival, like the trees, then you are looking at potential collapse of a whole environment. And that can cause tremors of repercussions on a far greater scale…

Read the full article here.

“I don’t need you to tell me how f***ing good my coffee is.”

A little break to Nijmegen (Ni-meh-khen) Holland.

 

A sign above First Things First, next to the river Waal, tells me somewhat hostilely, that my approval isn’t needed. I enter, expecting to be treated with contempt by the hipsters within and am immediately greeted warmly in Dutch, only to be apologised to seconds later for not having been spoken to in English first and an offer of an open topped cheese sandwich. They clearly aren’t committing to the sign.

There are many things Dutch people love. Among them is cheese. And beer. This may be stopping short of the glaringly obvious regarding the Netherlands, but I never knew how much that gave away their character.

cheese platter stoom bar webIt’s not in the way the English like beer or cheese. Not the Brits on tour – stag weekend in Amsterdam kind of way. It’s a relaxed Continental kind of way, not akin to Amsterdam.

As the city is only 30 km from Dusseldorf, and only an hour and half by train from Schipol (that’s ski-pole) airport, Nijmegen is an accessible treat. Pronounced with a rolling G, Nijmegen, is home from home, full of chilled out people chattering away on bicycles.

Cheese is in everything in Holland. They have it on bread for breakfast with an egg. It’s in every salad and sandwich in various forms. And for dinner, well why not sprinkle your chips and mayonnaise with cheese, or your waffles, or kroketten? Nijmegen’s oldest café is Café in de Blaauwe Hand on Grote Markt behind the Hoofdwacht (or guardroom). It translates as ‘in the blue hand’ and they serve among other wonderful treats, Flammkuchen- a German inspired pizza from across the border, with yes, lots of cheese.

In world war two, the city was bombed by friendly fire and now has pockets of pre-fab 1960s buildings mixing with typically Dutch architecture. It makes St Peter’s church, the oldest and largest Roman Catholic gothic style church in Nijmegen, look obscure but refreshing. Like an oasis of complicated architecture with it’s ornate Renaissance tower standing above the city skyline like a beacon in a sea of 1960s concrete.

That said, Nijmegen is not an ugly town. Like Amsterdam, Nijmegen is full of art, old brew- houses and that general Dutch relaxed attitude to everything. But unlike Amsterdam I found no on-display tourist attraction red light district, or large cafes full of cannabis smoking tourists.

I have tried for years to understand the more European attitudes to food and beer, the way they know when they’ve had enough and over the top binge drinking seems a far cry from many of our towns on a Saturday night. Maybe it’s the efficient trains with their live journey screens in every carriage? Or maybe it’s Viking culture passed down through generations of English heritage that differentiates us from our Dutch cousins? Either way I think in Nijmegen I found the explanation.

It’s not about restriction, but comfort. Being comfortable, or enlightened, about all manner of matters, whether that’s, food, beer, drugs, politics, work or sex, seems to bring about that typically Dutch calm over everything, and overdoing it for the sake of itself seems just a little bit silly.

Time is slower in Nijmegen, just fast enough to get you in to gear, just slow enough not to break a sweat.

 

 

Begging for a Chance

Nick Hopkins
Express and Echo. Nick Hopkins, Exeter street beggar, is begging for a chance at a better life.

A previously homeless man has said that he feels discriminated against in his attempts to better his life.

Nick Hopkins had previously been living on the streets for 8 months solid and gained gained a flat through the Council in April 2014. He had been on a waiting list for social housing for two years.

Nick said that despite being on Employment Support Allowance and housing benefit, he still struggles to pay his bills. He said that when he was on Job Seeker’s Allowance he found it extremely difficult to find paid work and felt that a culture of discrimination surrounded him.

“When I first moved in to the flat I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but my faith is slowly fading. Trying to get accommodation in Exeter is so hard, and once you’ve been out of work for so long it’s very difficult to get out of being unemployed.

“I was on job seeker’s at one point but I feel like no one wants to know. I’m a qualified level 1 plasterer and I’ve got a CRB certificate. Maybe I’m being paranoid ‘cos I’ll think ‘do they recognise me from the street, am I presentable enough?’ But it seems there’s one rule for one person and another rule for someone else”, he said.

Mr Hopkins also noted that lack of funds and access to modern communication methods such as a phone or computer, had negatively impacted his ability to find work.

He said, “I don’t have a computer or a phone because of the cost and it’s a five mile walk in to town every day to the Job Centre so there’s a big chance I could miss any offers if I don’t respond in time.”

Housing Justice put on an awareness event in June this year “in the context of cuts to services and welfare benefits, and a hardening of public opinion against needy people in the local community.”

Alison Gelder of Housing Justice said, “Being homeless really knocks your self-confidence and it’s made even worse when people judge you harshly or expect you to be unreliable or an addict because of your history.”

Ms Gelder also said that the practicalities of looking for work presented further challenges to those currently or only recently living on the streets either past or present. She said,

“Access to electricity to charge phones, as well as the money to pay for them is a big problem. Some charities help with money for haircuts as well as ‘interview clothes’. Keeping track of time is another one – if you switch your phone off to save the battery and you don’t have a watch it can be difficult to find out the time, or to set alarms. Sleeping bags in the street don’t come with alarm calls.”

Mr Hopkins is currently begging to help pay off mounting debts from bills. He is assisted in this by Sanctuary Housing. He is actively looking for work.

“Some people don’t even give you the time of day and others yell abuse. My aim is to get a job. I just want an opportunity. I want something to get up for every day”, said Nick.

Article originally appeared on Express and Echo website.

Read more: http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/8216-just-want-opportunity-8217-interview-Exeter/story-27694399-detail/story.html#ixzz48AhpHf1N
Follow us: @expressandecho on Twitter | expressecho on Facebo

 

Sierra Leone in the spotlight

“Aporto! Aporto!” A child shouts as I whizz by on a motorbike taxi.

“Snap me, Aporto!”

The man in the wheelchair being pushed by children, is a local teacher and aid worker. Photograph taken in a Freetown slum.

slumlife.ng_-e1416376128462
Children in a Freetown slum help push a teacher’s makeshift wheelchair in return for a small fee. Photo Lucy Munday

 

People line the streets as they walk about their business, to school, or selling bread in the sweaty dust. We’re near the Congo and children have spotted the camera slung across my body. The bike picks up speed as we swing into traffic. I don’t have a helmet and neither does he.

In May 2013 I ventured to Makeni, Sierra Leone, to volunteer as a photographer for the NGO Street Child of Sierra Leone. The civil War that raged from 1991-2002 was well documented for the brutality and use of child soldiers. Today Sierra Leone is in economic growth with a decade of peace and for now, barrels of hope.

That is what I wrote in February this year before the Ebola outbreak swept across Central and Western Africa. Today I sit down to write a retrospective on my trip to Sierra Leone in 2013 in light of the current situation, and I begin watching the short film Douda’s story, produced by Street Child. Douda looks in to the camera and tells me he has lost his father, step mother, brother, sister and grandmother all in the space of less than a month. He wants to go to school but he’s now got to look after the younger members of his family. He breaks down in grief-stricken tears.You can watch Douda’s story here

After I finish watching it, I am unable to find the words that will do justice to the thousands of people dying of Ebola not just in Sierra Leone, but all across Africa…

Appeared in The Cultureist November 19, 2014 by

For references please contact Lucy

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