I’m sure we’d all agree that the rockery beneath John Napier’s tower would be a delightful sight covered in flowers and populated with bees and butterflies.
Bee populations are in dramatic decline due to habitat loss – a by-product of intensive human-centric productivity. Healthy eco-systems are dependent on bees, so it’s imperative that we show our respect for nature by designing bee-friendly spaces.
In the first place I was delighted to have been enthused by Clive Gee’s positive energy when he suggested, out of the blue, that The Lions’ Gate could go for CCAF funding, though the turnaround would have to be very quick, not much more than a week as I remember it.
Well, activities are destined to hit snags. And we soon realised that there was no real way for The Lions’ Gate to get funding as its status has yet to be defined. Previous attempts to use Napier’s charity status had been unsuccessful. Though ‘social enterprise‘ or ‘co-op‘ seem our most likely organisational structure, as time goes by. However, as Ankit Dougal (ENSA President) has continued to be another force of positive energy for the project, we settled on the idea of trying to get funding in collaboration with ENSA.
Ankit was happy to be a part of things as much as he’s lent a hand on numerous occasions, and we put together our proposal. Clive did all of the pulling together necessary, and we wouldn’t have got very far without him. Soon afterwards we heard that we’d been successful, though some of our plans failed to get funding, namely an outdoor classroom and seating and tables. With hindsight, this CCAF funding is really for purchasing items that directly involve planting and biodiversity.
So, for both Craiglockhart and Sighthill we’ve purchased raised beds, a water-harvesting kit, top-soil and compost. Each campus will also get around twenty plants that have culinary and medicinal benefits. Furthermore, Sighthill will get four local cultivar apple trees and two plums. We’d like (though it’s still to be agreed) to plant a small micro-forest up there, but there’s plenty of time to decide what can be done. Craiglockhart will take delivery of 10 fruit trees, mostly apples, so essentially will be getting a small orchard as a destination in the cross-university plan for a ‘thinking walk’ around the grounds.
Thanks have to go to Miles Weaver who has been instrumental in pushing the case for improving the grounds up at Craiglockhart in a sustainable sense, to Dee, Alisdair and Helen at ENSA who have all helped steer the ship, and Lisa MacMillan for input from the Sighthill Gardening Club. I’m sure Sustainability Manager Jamie Pearson must have been involved too, lockdown has done funny things to the memory…
We also purchased lots of seeds and bird-feeders. Seeds to rewild areas of the campuses with plants indigenous to the Edinburgh area, and lots of new herbs and vegetables too, and bird feeders and feed to attract our feathered friends, as crucial contributors to a healthy polyculture. The way we plant should attract bees and insects and birds and in time with small and thoughtful interventions we can tweak the spaces so that they provide abundance for all.
If you’d like to get involved with planting up any of these sustainability initiatives (it’ll be fun, satisfying and you’ll sleep well that night), then please get in touch.
I’ve been playing with data from our recent School of Computing survey into student attitudes to sustainability. The point of the survey was to gather evidence of how students feel about sustainability, as a precursor to organising focus groups that will investigate how we can embed sustainability methods and materials into computing modules, in the first instance, but scaling up across all university modules going forward. It’s heartening to discover that over 60% of respondents are willing to take part in the focus groups with over 80% of female respondents keen to be involved in our ongoing research.
I am always wary of statistics that are not backed-up with qualitative, individual responses, thoughts or images, so we deliberately kept many of the questions open, offering students the opportunity to share their belief’s, perceptions, assumptions etc, in their own words.
So, here’s a few illuminations:
Over a quarter of respondents said that their current studies didn’t deal with sustainability at all, andover 65% said sustainability formed only a small element of their taught programme.
Nearly 90% recorded that they felt climate change would affect their future, whilst none felt really positive about a sustainable future. Around 60% felt somewhat positive or positive about it. 30% felt negative about the future when thinking about sustainability.
The sustainability issues students felt most concerned with are detailed in this graph:
We asked students to describe environmental sustainability in three words. This word cloud visualises the responses:
There’s still a lot of analysis to do but I’ll leave this post with a few quotes from respondents.
When asked about how the pandemic had affected their habits:
“Overall positive: I’ve got more time for me, my family, for relaxing. No more time wasting travelling to work and university and I’ve got a better way to organise myself. Eating more healthy home cooked food and more time for exercising outdoors. Downsides: can’t travel to visit my originate country to see my family and also miss my friends. There’s also a bit of depression and anxiety because of the uncertainty surrounding, and not very predictable future.”
When asked how Edinburgh Napier could become a more sustainable institution:
“By incorporating sustainability education into each course, specifically on how sustainability relates to the given field.”
And finally when asked what they could do personally to address climate change etc. This is a particularly permacultural response, highlighting the need for community action, and a fundamental benefit of self-empowerment:
“Everyone must work together to help. I do what I can when I can. Far too many people don’t think it’s worth the while if others aren’t doing it. Lead by example, if others don’t follow at least you can feel good in yourself.“
One the most positive things to have come out of the lockdown situation has been the ability to work your weekly hours in a manner that supports your health and well-being. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a progressive employer, or a job at all.
I’ve been getting up early, often in time for the sunrise, and going for a cycle into the Estate that’s close by my home.
This morning I met only two people. I don’t think I’ve ever met more than three on these excursions. A man walking his chilled and scruffy dog, and a woman trotting on her pie-bald horse.
I cycled into the wood where the new wild garlic tempted me with it’s heady sweetness.
Eventually I made it the shore, the cockle-shell beach, the sun low in the East, scattering it’s warming glow over the rippling estuary.
Back on the bike, for the climb up the hill. On any day I may meet deer, sheep, pheasants, buzzards, hare’s, highland coo’s, all kinds of nature’s bounty.
An added bonus this morning was that when I approached the gates to leave, they opened electronically for me and so I didn’t have to wrestle with the kissing gate and a long bicycle.
Within little over an hour I was home, and once I’d washed and had breakfast I was ready to start work. Invigorated, inspired, unrushed.
Professor Sally Smith (Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development), MSc student Kris Plum, and I are currently involved in research about embedding sustainability in the university curriculum.
We’ve developed a survey – ‘student attitudes to sustainability’ based on the excellent work from SEED (Sustainability and Environmental Education)*, responses to which will be synthesised into themes for focus groups to discuss how the university can best address the environmental concerns of the age in terms of pedagogy.
Delighted that in collaboration with ENSA president Ankit Dougal and Clive Gee at the Edinburgh Napier Development office we’ve been awarded £2660 by the Community Climate Asset Fund ‘to help tackle climate change and deliver Scotland’s green recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.’
£1000 of the funding comes to The Lions’ Gate at Merchiston for landscaping materials, plants, seeds, bulbs, bird feed and feeders.
The rest of the funds are available for projects at our other two campuses – Sighthill, where Lisa Macmillan’s gardening club stands to benefit, and at Craiglockhart where there have been previous discussions about ‘ a thinking walk’, bee-keeping and an outdoor business forum.
On the surface the actions are accessible to all, but underneath, thanks to the informational wonders of the internet they are deeply researched and provide excellent resources for novices through to experts.
Our hope is to embed these actions in educational settings, public organisations and community groups. With follow-on funding we’d like to print decks for focus groups and the like.
The Lions’ Gate is an in-development urban permaculture project based at Edinburgh Napier University’s Merchiston campus providing; garden, allotment, outdoor laboratory, venue and relaxation space for students, staff and local communities to explore solutions, in an applied sense, to environmental and social issues.
Drop-in sessions are open to all on Mondays from 10am – 2pm. Entrance through the white gate on Colinton Road.