Twenty ThirTean

Last update: 16.01.13 First posted: 15.01.13 by in

I seasoned my New Years Eve dinner with thyme I’d picked for free from an Incredible Edible front garden. The ‘moral atmosphere’ of the winter holidays isn’t just for the last week of December though. The Xmas ‘spirit of kindness’ lives all year round. Twenty Thirtean can be about us all not only addressing the issues we face as individuals and a species, but also creating an extra, positive effect, from doing so. Richard Branson recently echoed the Incredible Edible message saying: “We have to screw business as usual before business as usual screws us all.” He was referring to Climate Change, and asking “Do you agree that we need a legally binding international agreement on cutting carbon emissions?” Emissions of carbon dioxide need to start falling now at 5.3% per year to stop the 750-billionth tonne being released on Dec 29th 2027. Words about the seriousness of Climate Change, and the solutions, were written in a book I got for Xmas called ‘How We Can Save The Planet’ (2004) by Mayer Hillman. He starts with the striking assertion that “Climate change is the most important issue of our age – perhaps of any age.”

In times of crisis, Britain puts the kettle on. Re-use, recycle, and re-purpose are all great actions to take, and renewable energy production is a step in the right direction. Yet great challenges require great action, and we must not shy from the magnitude of the issue. We can face the challenge of Climate Change together, and leave a legacy of environmental beauty for our future generations. Not only that, but by bending budgets I think we can design and manifest magnificent new systems that transform our behavior and societies, and also have continuous positive effects on our lives. Furthermore, I don’t think we have to suffer to do it. In fact I think it should be enjoyable and fun… As easy as drinking a cup of tea!


Photo by Pi Studio

Drinking tea is a small action but, I believe in the power of small actions – I wouldn’t be doing this otherwise. I also believe in you. For example, thanks to Luis von Ahn’s work, every time you enter a ‘captcha’ (those squiggly letters and numbers at the end of online forms) you’re not just proving you’re a living human being, but also helping Google computers identify hard to read text in books they’re scanning! That’s an example of crowd-sourcing: Lots of people taking small actions resulting in a big change. All it requires is some imagination. So let’s start imagineering…

To help me on the journey Liam and Tom visited from Pi Studio at Goldsmith’s in London. A year or so ago they’d designed The Incredible Edible Green Route and consequently developed a series of product prototypes they called “Fictional Futures.” The aim was to further a ‘positive material culture’ – and also to spin all three ‘plates’ of the IET model for a sustainable town: Learning, Community and Business. One of these ‘fictional futures’ was called ‘Tod Tea’, which as you can imagine, I liked the sound of.

Mary insisted we start the day with Xmas pudding and custard for breakfast, delicious. They told me Tim Jackson had inspired their ideas about design being used for positive re-directive change. We mapped out how a social enterprise surrounding tea could effectively operate. There was an emphasis on the power of story and memes, to change behaviour – which could be a real key to solving global environmental issues, as well as community regeneration. So use the hash tag #PositiveMaterialCulture to tweet your ideas and stories for designing a kinder world in 2013.

We took a quick survey of the towpath to see if it really was possible to plant fruit, herbs, and veg – to create a linear larder, an edible landscape, which Estelle named #TeaIsForTowpath. Local-food grown for free, and community/environmental regeneration could be an outcome of drinking tea. But what tea? In order to provide that opportunity for ‘eco-investment by drinking tea’, there needs to be a unique blend of tea – that could be grown locally… A tasting session was in order.

We tried some fermented leaves from the good ‘ol blackberry: it was strong, not too far off a classic black tea – could be a good base. With great health properties the leaves of the blackcurrant bush were mild and pleasant. Horehound herb, as the name may suggest, was awful and will never be going anywhere near any tea ever again! Hibiscus and rosehip had unique flavours that were tangy, and are filled with Vitamin C – Might blend with raspberry leaf. Yarrow and Lady’s Mantle weren’t particularly tasty. Fennel, and also lavender, had a distinctive clean taste. If I can find a good blend, a unique, local-tea is one step closer to being grown and sold. Fictional futures are becoming fact…

Special thanks to Pam for Incredible Indian cooking, our gracious hosts for the weekend Mary & Fred, and the Incredible Designers Liam & Tom.

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