When we got to Haddenham (which someone told us yesterday is/was the largest village in Europe!) we looked round vaguely for the village hall, where the Cafeplus+ is held - and quickly spotted a huge banner hung on the railings identifying it. So the first thing was that we were really impressed by the publicity that helped us find our way.
When we got inside the building, we found two big rooms, one with a stage where the presentation was to take place, one with hatches through to the kitchens. In both rooms tables and chairs were set out cafe-style, with pretty tablecloths too. In the room with the stage we also saw lots of stalls - ecological organisations like the Transition Town group and people who help you to get eco light bulbs etc. In the other room, lots of people were already having breakfast, so we went in there! :0)
The breakfast was amazing. There were different kinds of rolls, cereals, cheese, salami, marmalade, jam, different types of teas and coffees - everything you could think of. After a while a lady came round offering everyone soft white rolls with freshly cooked bacon in. This breakfast was for anyone who wanted to come, and it was all FREE! A donations box stood at the side, but no amount was suggested, required or demanded, and though the leaflet about Cafeplus+ on the table did mention the donations box, it was only in a small note near the bottom.
The people were kind and friendly, and several of them stopped by and chatted to us. Apparently St Mary's church in Haddenham has been doing Cafeplus+ once a month for four years. It runs from 9.30-12.00 on a Sunday morning, a presentation called Food4Thought following the breakfast.
In October (4th), when the church celebrates Harvest Festival, Haddenham Cafeplus+ is having a Food Festival, with cookery demonstrations, a chutney competition, local food producers, and possibly a farmers market.
As my In Celebration of Simplicity book will be just published then, and uses the metaphor of making bread as a way of looking at our spiritual journey, I asked if I might be able to have a stall and bring some books to sell, bringing along also some cookware for people who live simply - my thermos cookpot, sporks, storm kettle etc. They thought I probably could, and gave me their contact details. I think I might make a stand of pictures of the Palace Flophouse to take along for a backdrop display. The people were very open and welcoming.
After breakfast it was time for the presentation. It was very clearly done, with graphs and stories of the lives of individuals to help us understand the urgency of climate change.
We learned that the summer in 2003, which was so hot that upwards of 20,000 people in France died of the heat, will be normal in another 20 years, and a really cool summer in another 50 years, if we don't sort ourselves out and change the way we live.
We saw pictures and a film about a farmer in Malawi, called Andrew, and heard about his situation from the UK Director of Tearfund, who had met Andrew and seen his farm.
Andrew has two acres on which he grows maize, and that's all fine and he can feed his family on that, in normal circumstances. But things are changing because of climate change. He has much less rain, and then when the rain comes it is too heavy and torrential, and it is all full of sand that it leaves behind on his fields. So when Andrew plants his maize now, he has to dig down through a deep layer of sand. This means planting each plant takes him about 30 mins where it used to take 30 secs - and his harvest yield has halved.
Paul Brigham (the Tearfund man) made the point that though we would all be affected, it is the poorer people, like Andrew, who suffer first and most. He said that Andrew generates 0.1 tonnes of carbon per year, whereas most of us in England generate 9.0 tonnes at least per year - so we are causing the problems that Andrew is suffering.
He also said that in the predictions of how climate change will affect the countries of the earth, England is one of the least affected places - but that as there will be millions of climate change refugees and England is small, this is not a cause for complacency.
Paul Smith (responsible for environmental issues at Coca Cola UK) also spoke to us. He had a flow chart things showing how big companies had to pay attention to each stage in their sourcing, manufacture, distribution and supply, reducing their carbon footprint wherever possible. He brought along an old-style Coca Cola bottle and a recent one, explaining that the new one created 20% fewer emissions overall. His audience applauded him because they were polite but, after all we had just seen and heard, I suspect most like me were thinking that the most Earth-friendly thing Coca Cola could do would be to cease to exist.
Then a man from the government (James Hughes) came to speak about government things like 'targets', 'conferences', 'white papers', 'strategies' and many other burbly-burbly things of that nature. His basic message was that the government takes all this Very Seriously, is Trying Very Hard, but still Needs To Do Better. He had a large thick document with a glossy colour cover in preparation for a meeting in Copenhagen where all the government leader people gather like they did at Kyoto and talk about being responsible. It's happening soon; and he said we should all send Gordon Brown a postcard about this as it will make a difference. Or maybe it was the other man who told us to send postcards - the man from Tearfund; I can't remember.
There was to be a time for our questions, but that got mainly used up.
The questions had to be written down on tiny slips of green paper, on little close together lines. Most of the piece of paper was take up with large words at the top and space round the edge, but there were these little lines where anyone the size of a young ant could write a question.
I wrote on mine, 'I have a question but I would like to ask it myself'. Margot (the vicar) said I couldn't do that, I had to write it down. I said I couldn't do that because the question was too long. She said exactly, that was the point. So I said Okay, and never got to ask my question. I felt disappointed and frustrated, because the government man was there, and I really really wanted to ask him something. But even the ants never got their questions read out anyway, most of them, because they ran out of time. But I didn't stay to hear the ants' questions, I went outside and caught the bus back to Aylesbury because I was upset that I was never going to get to ask my question.
This was the question I wanted to ask the government man:
"At the end of the 1990s, I watched on the telly the pictures of the farmers in Kent ploughing their orchards into the ground because the EU directives stopped them from making their living that way any more. A few weeks ago I saw on telly that people stopped buying cars because of the economic downturn, but instead of seizing the opportunity to redirect money and people towards public transport, the government spent billions of pounds on keeping the factories open and trying to bribe customers to buy new cars they didn't want. At the current time on telly there is a government advert saying that if you forget to pay your car tax they can come and crush your car into a cube. How can the government do things like this, and then expect us to believe that rushing around talking about Copenhagen, strategies and white papers makes then envirionmentally responsible?'
Anyway, the government man came and went and I never got to ask my question. But he had a dinky little plastic widget the size of a credit card with a USB attachment that folded in and out of it, containing the Copenhagen document. Badger asked if he could have it and came home really pleased because the government man gave it to him. And it was a funky little thing - but I don't think he wants to read all about the government, I think he wants to take it to work and see if he can't get his publishing catalogue onto one of those instead of using glossy printed paper.
So I came home full of admiration for Haddenham church's generosity and Powers of Organisation, and determined to take the next step and the next step and the next step towards Stepping Off this awful destructive consumerist eco-vandal lifestyle of our society.