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4 News ON SATURDAY (Sep 10), the

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) near Machynlleth hosted the ‘Small is Beautiful’ festival for the second year running. First published in 1973, the

book ‘Small is Beautiful: A Study of economics as if people mattered’ by British economist E. F. Schumacher continues to inspire a new generation of people seeking more human-scale alternatives to megalithic corporate capitalism. Attended by around 100 people, the festival at CAT featured a mix of debates, workshops, arts and talks that included mini-grid hydroelectricity, Power for All, Pee Power, Zero Carbon Britain, aquaponics, campaign building, thatching and building Tiny Homes.

PRACTICAL ACTION? In one key address, Paul Smith

Lomas from the charity Practical Action presented one of their projects, a hydroelectricity and mini-grid scheme for Mulanje, a village in Malawi. Formerly the Intermediate Technology Development Group, Practical Action was inspired by and founded on E F Schumacher’s principles. Paul Smith Lomas is Practical Action’s International Director, responsible for the overall operation of its programmes and global consulting service. The Malawi hydro project is a not-for-profit business that supplies electricity via a mini grid and pre-paid meters to a clinic, school, homes and businesses in a remote area that was previously fuelled by firewood, kerosene and candles. Paul Smith Lomas quoted a pupil in the local school: “Now we have electricity, my village has a future.” Among other things, the

Kelvin Mason Aberystwyth Reporter


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Small is still beautiful in Mach

provision of electricity meant that being a teacher in the village is no longer ‘a hardship post’ and good teachers will want to stay. The project is part of Power for All, which promotes decentralised, democratic, renewable energy schemes. The combined schemes of Power for All make it, claimed Paul Smith Lomas, the seventh largest energy supplier in the world! Power for All is a collective of public and private organisations dedicated to delivering universal energy access before 2030. It is supported by ‘UK aid’ through the Department for International Development (DFID). While recognising the need for

supplying clean energy to the one- third of the global population that currently has no access to electricity, some session participants were critical of a scheme that perpetuates market-based solutions, delivering energy only to those that have money to pay while, potentially, encouraging increased energy consumption.

BEYOND BREXIT Inevitably, at this moment

in time, many debates veered into the ramifications of Brexit. Fortuitously, Tom Caswell of Creative Connection captured some of these debates in in brilliant visual minutes that he completed on the spot. Former leader of the Green

Party, Natalie Bennett, wanted to keep people active in politics after the referendum. She advocated that politics be on the school curriculum and that pupils be encouraged

Brexit summary: By Tim Casswell (Pic. Lotte Reimer)

to campaign in their schools for what they want - ‘it is essential for creating active citizens!’ She also urged artists and film-makers to imagine positive visions for the future: “I want to see a rom-com of boy meets boy, boy splits up with boy, boy gets back together with boy, all set in an equal, just, sustainable society!” Gretel Leeb of the Department

of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) was clear that Brexit meant shouldering more responsibility for the environment, working together for Wales to lead by example in implementing the Well-being of Future Generations Act. She

proposed that ‘small actions have big impact’. There was general agreement at the festival that there was a need for much more local development, while simultaneously avoiding isolationism and recognising that we remain part of a globalised world.

A BETTER FUTURE Participants enjoyed practical

workshops on thatching, building Tiny Homes, wood-turning, and carving wind turbine blades. People also learned about pee power! This year, Glastonbury Festival tested toilet blocks powered by urine fed

through microbial fuel cells (MFCs). These generate enough electricity to light up the inside of the urinal. And no, we are not taking the – er – Micky. The Glastonbury pee power test was conducted by researchers from the University of the West of England with workers from Oxfam and shelter manufacturers Dunster House. There was aquaponic food growing for cities and much more on offer at the festival - often accompanied by harmonies drifting from the ‘improv-i- sing’ workshop. It was a day of action, lively participation, debate and exploration of what a better future might look like.

Janice de Haaff of Aberystwyth: Proud of her ‘tiny house’ (Pic. Lotte Reimer)

Thatching for beginners: At the Centre for Alternative Technology (Pic. Lotte Reimer)

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