Zero Carbon Luton
Hot on the heels of record temperatures, your July edition is a week earlier than usual, with holidays incoming. In this edition:
We report on the Youth Climate Conference
Heatwave tests town’s resilience
Luton to pilot new ebike scheme
Meet the bike doctor
Stockwood Park hosts the Youth Climate Conference 2022
Shana Ryan, Youth Network Climate Ambassador, writes about the inaugural Youth Climate Conference:
Amidst the bees and lavender at Stockwood Discovery Centre a talented group of young people from Youth Network delivered the Youth Climate Conference on the 11th and 12th of July. Each received training from experts in the fields of aviation, housing and energy, conservation and biodiversity, and transport.
As each of the two days progressed, delegates exploded with creative and original ideas about climate change and how we can help tackle it in Luton.
A workshop that particularly resonated with delegates was aviation; conversations and debates cascaded throughout the session over the expansion of Luton Airport. In further sessions delegates learned of the habitats present in Luton, from chalky grasslands to woodlands. They discussed the carbon emissions of transport as well as deep rooted issues in housing and energy.
“Running the aviation workshop, I enjoyed both educating and being educated by the delegates who brought wonderful perspectives to the table,” said Monet Bradshaw-Brown, one of the Climate Ambassadors. “I couldn't have hoped to meet a better group of likeminded people anywhere else.”
After enjoying a sustainable lunch, delegates had the opportunity to express their views on any topic in Speaker’s Corner. Many concerns were raised, not just about climate but issues over a lack of youth spaces in Luton.
As the conference wound down, we asked delegates to add a pledge to our climate pledge wall. By the end of the two days, we had over 50 Pledges! Some young people wanted to “walk more” others wanted to “plant more flowers”. Each young person made a pledge that mattered to them personally.
You may wonder, why should the youth of Luton care about climate change? What was the point of a peer-led climate conference? It was well summed up by the feedback we had from one participating school:
“The Youth Climate Conference was an excellent experience for our students. It’s a rare opportunity that our students, who all have special educational needs and attend a special school, get to work alongside their mainstream peers in such an inclusive and supportive environment. All the workshops, whilst addressing some complex issues, were delivered thoughtfully by knowledgeable youth climate ambassadors. Every attempt was made to make it accessible and value our students’ input at their level of understanding. It helped raise the profile of key local environmental issues and challenges and enabled our students to think about the impact on themselves, as young people growing up in Luton. All of the students spoke highly of their day at the climate conference and were engaged in the learning. We will definitely be attending in 2023, hopefully with a larger cohort of students”
Selina Young, Teacher from Woodlands Secondary School
As young people there are so many other issues weighing down on us. For example, a lack of mental health assistance, damaged and damp housing, a lack of education. However, if we look more closely, we can see how these things are often deeply linked to climate. The few green spaces left in our town provide us with an escape from the pressures of life. Inefficient housing and energy use affect all of us in the long run.
By educating young people on the issues of climate change we are setting them up to tackle so much more than carbon emissions.
Heatwave tests town’s resilience
“The extreme temperatures that we have been experiencing in the UK are unprecedented in recorded history,” says Stephen Belcher, Chief Scientist at the Met Office. “In a climate unaffected by human influence, climate modelling shows that it is virtually impossible for temperatures in the UK to reach 40°C.”
That means that this week, Luton’s residents have all been directly affected by climate change.
The extreme temperatures stretched healthcare and emergency services, with Bedfordshire’s Fire Chief praising the “absolutely herculean efforts” of his team on a day of “unprecedented demand.” It affected schools, with some schools closing early, adding gazebos, keeping children inside, cancelling planned events, changing dress codes, and many other adaptations to keep children safe.
Others had to adapt their routines, especially those working outside. The council reported that bin crews were starting earlier and finishing by 1pm.
Luton’s infrastructure was sorely tested by the heat. Most notable was the closure of all train services into the town, as temperatures were “beyond the safe design limits of the track and power systems”. With railway tracks often 10 degrees hotter than the surrounding area, tracks were recorded at 53C in Radlett.
Passengers at Luton Airport were affected by delays as the heat damaged a section of the runway. Reports that the sun had ‘melted the runway’ may have been exaggerated and it was fixed within two hours, but it was still a high profile case of heatwave disruption that put Luton on the national news.
Scientists have warned that heatwaves will be increasingly common as the planet warms. 40C heat may occur as often as one summer in three by the end of the century. With that in mind, we should use 2022 as a useful learning experience. What worked and what didn’t? What could we do better? What could we do as a long term plan to protect Luton from extreme temperatures in future – including planting shade trees, for example?
If you’re working on these sorts of questions, whether it’s for your school, workplace, home or business, tell us about it in the comments below.
Cycling made E-asy pilot project
Luton has been selected as one of five pilot locations for a new electric bike scheme. Cycling Made E-asy is a government funded scheme run by the Cycling UK agency. It provides free loans of electric bikes, offering people an opportunity to try out a variety of different types – including cargo bikes, folding bikes, and e-bikes adapted for different abilities.
It’s a perfect opportunity not just to take an e-bike for a spin, but to take out a longer loan and trial it properly on a commute or a school run. Or in the case of businesses, perhaps to trial e-cargo bike deliveries and see how it works out.
The project will be based out of an ‘e-hub’, where riders will be able to pick up pre-booked e-bikes, and where they will also receive training in riding the bike.
As well as Luton, the scheme will also be running in Manchester, Sheffield, Hull and Leicester, with a view to a wider roll-out. The Manchester pilot is up and running now, with bikes in high demand. Cycling UK told us that they are “yet to set a launch date for Luton & Dunstable”, but we will report back with more details when they are available. You can already register your interest at the link below.
The bike doctor will see you now
While we’re on the subject of cycling - between 7am and 2pm every Thursday, you’ll find a free bike maintenance and service point running by the bike stands at Luton station. I dropped by to talk to Mike, a qualified bike mechanic who is contracted to Luton Borough Council to provide the service. I begin by asking him the kind of work he does on bikes at the drop-in.
“Primarily I do safety work”, he says, without pausing work on a bike on the maintenance stand. “We check the brakes, nuts and bolts. If your bike is a bit old and rattly we’ll try and tighten it all up, make it safe and keep it going. We can do gear tune-ups, we can replace brake pads and cables, and those are free. We can sort out most straightforward things.”
Having noticed a bit of a queue as I arrived, I asked if demand has gone up. Did more people start cycling during the pandemic?
“During the first year of the pandemic numbers went up, and they seem to have remained in place. I’m actually seeing a lot of two-year-old bikes, people who bought them early on in the pandemic are now bringing them in to check on wear and tear.”
The bikes around us today are mainly mountain bikes. As electric bikes are growing more popular, I asked if that was something he could work on too.
“I can’t touch the electrics,” he says. “That’s another ball-game entirely. But any of the normal bike things we can do – brakes, safety checks, etc. Ebikes tend to be a bit heavy, and my stand isn’t designed for that, especially since people often customise their ebikes and add cargo racks and child seats. So a tip for anyone bringing an ebike in: we need to make them as light as possible, for my safety and theirs. And make sure you bring the key so we can remove the battery.”
If you’re getting back on your bike this summer, or if your bike is perhaps not as smooth-running as it used to be, pop in and see Mike on a Thursday.
In other news…
The Youth Climate Conference was not the only youth climate event this month, with Peace Child’s Youth Forum bringing together a number of high schools to present sustainability ideas for Luton. Hosted at Putteridge High School, presentations included Challney Boys School on school streets, and Icknield High School on green walls. We took notes, and we’ll be in touch in September.
We’ve heard a couple of stories of Luton families taking the train on holiday, and making the journey part of the adventure. If you’re taking a flight-free holiday this year, we’d love to hear more about it and we’ll feature some stories in a future edition. (In the meantime, Helen Coffey’s book Zero Altitude is a great introduction to the whys and hows of giving up flying.)
Congratulations to the neighbours in Dunstable for making the final of Britain in Bloom. Jump on the busway and go and have a look this summer.
In a world first, the government of the Netherlands has capped the growth of Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. This highlights one of the lesser mentioned risks of Luton’s commitment to airport expansion: a future government that acts on climate change.
Thanks for reading, and please do forward this email on to anyone who might be interested. It’s for anyone working on climate in Luton - which should be everyone really, shouldn’t it?
Share your story
Got a story to share? What’s happening where you are to help shift Luton towards a low carbon future?
Send your stories and questions to Jeremy Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next newsletter will be out at the end of August, with further stories and updates in between at zerocarbonluton.org.
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