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The End We Start From – New Movie Starring Jodie Comer

A new movie starring Jodie Comer explores what could happen if a flood takes the UK off-grid.

Directed by rising star Mahalia Bello the film is set in a world that sees London submerged by flood waters. Comer play a mum who tries to find her way home with her newborn child after she’s separated from her family.

The disaster movie almost happened in real life last year, when Storm Henck hit the UK. Its intense rainfall had nowhere to go except to pour into rivers, which burst their banks spectacularly across the country. More than 1,000 homes in England were flooded and some villages totally cut off, with Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire worst affected.

This interpretation is supported by figures from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which last week revealed that the period between July and December in 2023 was the wettest on record for the UK. As to the reason, there is a simple explanation.

“Climate change is warming the atmosphere,” said Linda Speight of Oxford University. “A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture so that when it rains, the rainfall is heavier and more likely to lead to flooding. In particular, we know that climate change is leading to warmer and wetter winters in the UK. We will unfortunately experience more winters like this one in the future.”

The film focuses on the love of a mother for her baby, the love between her and her partner, the love between friends and the love of community. “That’s what keeps people going and gives them strength,” said Megan Hunter, auuthr of the 2017 novel on which the film is based.

At the same time, she hopes that The End We Start From will help to raise awareness about the need to act urgently on the climate emergency facing our planet, or we too will face the end of life as we know it.

“If it becomes one of the most important things in the world to all of us, we’ll be able to make the changes we need to,” she says. “We’ve driven things this far with overconsumption, fossil fuels, capitalism: we’ve reached this point of total crisis. But this is where we are. And we need to start from here, from this end point we’ve reached, and create a new future.”

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London and other cities across the UK are underprepared for the “disastrous consequences” of climate change, with issues including severe flooding and extreme heat posing a “lethal risk” to vulnerable communities, according to a new report. The London Climate Resilience Review, commissioned by mayor of London Sadiq Khan and chaired by Emma Howard Boyd, the former chair of the Environment Agency, issued a series of “urgent recommendations”, including that Whitehall should give councils more funding and powers to adapt to global warming. 

The End We Start From goes on general release

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Energy

Poorest Countries Barred From Building Green Economy

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan has   issued a rallying call for 2024, in a statement   claiming that the rich countries are using the green   transition as an excuse to boost their own economies   at the expense of developing ones. According to the UN’s trade chief, the world’s   advanced economies are greenwashing to make their   own eco-credentials look better, while preventing poorer countries from developing quickly.

Grynspan attacked the EU for taking Indonesia to the WTO over its restrictions on nickel exports and requirement to process the ore locally. She said Jakarta wanted to move up the value chain by making products from the nickel.  It is only reasonable for a country with an overstretched electricity grid to want to use its own nickel tp produce its own batteries, fro example – rather than being forced to export to China or Canada.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan has issued a rallying call for 2024, in a statement claiming that the rich countries are using the green transition as an excuse to boost their own economies at the expense of developing ones.

“They don’t want it to be exported in the raw form, but with value added. So they were taken to arbitration in the WTO. They lost in the first instance precisely because global trade rules have not been adjusted,” she said.   She said that the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures should be reformed.  Jakarta has appealed but because the US has blocked the formation of a WTO appellate body, the case has stalled. The EU is considering taking enforcement actions such as tariffs on Indonesian goods.   It makes for a “chaotic system” where richer, bigger countries have more power.

“Many trade rules forbid policies that can be used by developing countries. And the developed countries have more fiscal space to subsidise in the areas that are good for ‘quote, unquote’, the environment,” Grynspan, told the Financial Times in an interview.

She said the international trading system, which had allowed states such as South Korea and her native Costa Rica to progress, was no longer working for the poorest.  “Trade and investment have been the two pillars for developing countries to really go on to a path of dynamic growth,” she said. But they now face two big problems, locked out of markets by the fast pace of technological change and facing new barriers erected in rich countries.  “The least digitally prepared countries are falling farther behind in digital,” said Grynspan. “The other problem is that industrial policy …could affect developing countries’ ability to compete.”

The US landmark Inflation Reduction Act has $369bn of subsidies and tax breaks for domestically produced goods such as electric vehicles. The EU has responded in kind with increased subsidies and policies to stimulate production of silicon chips, critical minerals and green technology.  “Developing countries see a lot of these policies as protectionist. They don’t have the …

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People

ChatCGT Founder Has Massive Bugout Ranch

Is it a bad sign or a good sign that the boss of ChatCGT has made preparations for a serious collapse of the US economy? Sam Altman, 38, has already declared that Artificial Intelligence is likely to “break capitalism” if it becomes successful and widespread.

Chat CGT is a new search tool that is taking the internet by storm because of the way it replies to questions by combining the entire contents of the WWW and everything else out there.

Altman obviously believes in the potential for things in the US to go very badly. He has amassed a store of guns, gold, antibiotics, batteries, water and gas masks, and bought a patch of land on the California coast to which he can retreat. Preumably, this is in case OpenAI misses the mark and in the pursuit of profit, accidentally creates machines that enslave us all.

“Successfully transitioning to a world with superintelligence is perhaps the most important — and hopeful, and scary project in human history,” Altman wrote in a blog post.

At the heart of the transformation is Altman, 37, a billionaire university dropout. Before OpenAI, he ran Y Combinator, the start-up accelerator that has invested in hundreds of companies working on everything from 3D-printed rockets to reversing ageing and included Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit.

The breadth and ambition of Y Combinator’s companies could be seen as the expression of Altman’s belief in the power of technology to dramatically alter, and improve, the human condition. Paul Graham, the Y Combinator founder who chose Altman as his successor, said in a 2016 New Yorker profile: “I think his goal is to make the whole future.”

Graham, a revered figure in Silicon Valley, in 2009 named the 24-year-old Altman as one the most interesting start-up founders alongside Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Short and wiry, Altman is known for his intellect, deep connections among the tech elite and extreme work ethic. He once became so engrossed in a start-up he came down with scurvy. He admitted that he has, “no patience for things I’m not interested in: parties, most people”.

A month after Musk stepped down, Altman quit Y Combinator to take over as OpenAI’s chief. It had become clear to him that to make the impact he wanted, OpenAI could not remain a charity.

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Community|People

Ronnie Wood’s Ex-wife Runs Her Own Power

Jo Wood has got guts. the ex-wife of Rolling Stones rocker Ronnie Wood took on a huge project a few years ago, and now has a wonderful off-grid farmhouse in the UK.

“I’d dreamed of going off-grid,” she told The Telegraph. “I loved the idea of being self-sufficient, not only growing my own food, but having my own heat, electricity and water supply. This was it! It came with six acres, old sheds and barns ripe for conversion. The land was barren and there was no garden, but it meant I could do things my way. After my divorce from Ronnie in 2011, I’d been living in central London, so it was a huge change.”

Q: What did you have to do to get the house and garden up and running?
A:I moved into the house in November 2019, and in those first few weeks, the water ran out, the solar panels didn’t work, the electrics were dodgy, and the generator for heat and light broke down. I sat in the kitchen and said to myself: “I’ve made such a terrible mistake.” But slowly, I found the right people to help me turn things around. A modern generator was installed, new solar panels fitted and, after locating an underground water supply, an engineer drilled a hole nearly 300ft down to provide me with my own water. It was expensive, but from then on, I’d have no more bills.

Q: What were your plans for the garden?
A: One of the first things I did was to plant 70 trees, including willow, oak and apple. But my priority that first spring was to build raised beds for growing organic fruit and veg. Of course, four months after I moved in, the country went into lockdown; but with my son Tyrone and my daughter Leah and her family, we were all in the same bubble, so I got cracking and they helped me. Within no time, we’d sown everything from potatoes to pumpkins, with nasturtiums and calendula for colour. The house itself was already covered with climbing roses, so I planted lavender, rosemary and other scented herbs and flowers beneath.

Q: Why did you become so passionate about growing organic food?
A:I met Ronnie in 1977, when I was just 22. At that point, I had my son Jamie and he had his son Jesse. We had Leah and Tyrone together and got married in 1985. Then in 1990, I got ill and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I was on steroids; I was miserable. Then someone who’d read about my illness told me to cut out processed foods and go organic – veg, fruit, meat, the lot. With nothing to lose, I did. Four months later, I felt fantastic. But I got ill again. This time, I found out I didn’t have Crohn’s, I had a perforated appendix. Doctors were amazed …

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People

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers Emerges From “Darkness Retreat”

Aaron Rodgers has emerged from his “darkness retreat.” The Green Bay Packers star quarterback ended his four-day stay in an Ashland, Oregon facility, Sky Caves Dark Retreats.

Unconventional Rodgers went dark to assess where he is in his life at age 39. It’s probable that part of Rodgers’ assessment is determining whether he will return to the Packers or play elsewhere in 2023. ESPN reported that Rodgers spent the four days in a 300-square-foot room in a partially underground structure without light. Rodgers could turn on lights through the cabin’s “self-contained off-grid system to power the ventilation fans, propane hot water heater and lights occasionally used during the integration process,” according to the facility’s website. Sky Caves Retreats is a facility that offers guests an opportunity to spend time immersed in darkness. According to the facility’s website, there are three separate rooms. One is a “cob/strawbale cottage” and the other two are “hobbit” cottages built into the hillside and are fully buried in the Earth.”

The Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers quarterback recently announced his next step: a four-day darkness retreat to help him decide whether giving up the pigskin is his next best step. Because nobody wants to pull a Tom Brady fooled ya retirement switcheroo that appears to have cost the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback one marriage to a fed-up wife.

Rodgers, a four-time MVP, is a man unafraid to make headlines for his interest in alternative healing modalities. You might remember he got in a wee spot of trouble during the pandemic for saying no to the COVID-19 vaccine and misleading people about his vaccination status, and yes to ayahuasca, an ancient plant medicine used for religious and medicinal purposes in South American countries that’s found a foothold in the U.S.

And now he’ll spend four days in a darkness retreat, another practice that goes back thousands of years in many spiritual traditions. Rodgers will spend 96 hours in a pitch-black environment. No phone, TV, books. A couple of meals delivered twice a day in such a way that allows in no light. And hopefully he’ll employ a support person to do daily check-ins to make sure he’s OK in all the ways: mentally, physically and spiritually.

Live Well: Colorado Springs woman died, then came back a new person

“I’ve had a number of friends who’ve done it and had some profound experiences,” he said on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “It’s something that’s been on my radar for a few years now, and I feel like it would be awesome to do regardless of where I was leaning after this season. It’s been on the calendar for months and months and months.”

Don’t worry too much about our grizzled protagonist during his time off-grid. He’ll be fine. He can always exit his living quarters if it becomes too much. And according to those with dark retreat …

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Cover of HOW WE WENT OFF GRID by Matthew Watkinson
Community|People

Off-Grid Authors Battle Neighbours

The authors of a book about how to live legally off the grid have been blocked from their home as revenge for writing the book. Charis and Matt Watkinson had used the book, HOW WE WENT OFF GRID, to blast the opponents of their planning application as selfish Nimbys.

Neighbours of the couple took control of a vital footpath leading to their Welsh smallholding, and now they fear they will be forced to sell up and move out.

“The impact could be devastating,” they said. “If we don’t have access to our home then we will have to leave and have to start from scratch.

“We will just have to start again. I don’t know what property prices are like at the moment but it will be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“It will be emotionally and financially devastating. It would just be the worse case possible.’

“How We Went Off-Grid” is published by Vivum Media, which also publishes the off-grid.net web site. Matt and Charis, who quit jobs as vets to move to a zero-carbon eco-farm in Wales are facing financial ruin after neighbours ‘bought an unregistered right of way footpath just to cut off their access in personal vendetta’ according to their claims.

Their self-sufficient farm, described by Mr Watkinson as ‘a glorified recycling junk yard’, includes a person-powered washing machine and a gas cooker that functions on horse manure. They also have solar panel for electricity and a biodigester for gas, meaning they only have to pay for council tax.

Living on a zero carbon farm protected the family from soaring energy prices and the cost of living crisis, while its remoteness also provided a shield from the Covid pandemic.

A previously unregistered right of way, the access lane to their dwelling, has been purchased by a retired couple who are threatening to sue for trespassing and harassment.

The couple, who have two young children Elsa and Billy, were able to begin living their green dream thanks to the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development Policy.

The scheme allows families to build houses on green-belt land as long as they operate on zero carbon – a target they must hit within five years. HOW WE WENT OFF GRID provides the template that others can use to do the eact same thing.

Mr Watkinson said: ‘We have been here six years now. We are now living a very sustainable and low impact lifestyle. We have been shielded from energy price hikes, Covid, and the cost of living crisis.

‘We have been very glad to be up here. The house is a glorified recycling junk yard. We have a horse lorry, a camper van, but it is all perfectly functionable.’

‘There was opposition when we first moved, but once we received planning permission, we thought we would be left alone.

‘We were not being questioned just on …

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Energy

Dale Vince enters politics

UK Energy boss Dale Vince’s appearance on Radio 4’sThe World This Weekend on Sunday, to announce his entry into politics, was a great piece of self-promotion ahead of the sale of Ecotricity – the green energy company he founded 25 years ago

What better excuse for a sale? And what better time than now to cash out, when interest in renewables is peaking? He could also bring a lot of funding into the Green Party ahead of the council elections in May.

Vince could now choose a Green peerage, and he deserves it – if only because his vegan football team, Forest Green of course, is currently top of the League Table

Vince started his business life battling for planning permission to erect a wind turbine in a field he lived in with the local milkman. Once he had built the turbine he figured he might as well apply for a bigger one, and parlayed his fortune from there. In 2020 the turnover of Ecotricity was £222m.

Critics question the way he picked a fight with the other leading green energy company in the UK – Good Energy. But he stayed in control of his company, whereas Julia Davenport exited Good Energy last year.  And he has remained true to his roots, calling out the big energy companies for their lack of green policies.

Vince might decide the Lords is a den of political cronyism  and opt to stand for election. Campaigning alongside Molly Scott Cato, he could probably secure her victory in his home town of Stroud. The current Green party candidate, Scott Cato came second in the December 2019 election with 32%, and the Labour winner on 44%.

Scott Cato is the Green party press officer.  She would not wish to stand aside, but clearly Vince is better at publicity than she is.  Not that he would settle for so lowly a role. As the party’s energy expert he would command widespread respect and attention.  And with him as  chief fund-raiser, the Green party election coffers would never be fuller.

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Liana Cornell on zoom
Community

Liana Cornell, actress-activist, on her new Eco-TV series

In real life, the actress Liana Cornell –co- star of the Amazon and Sky TV series Britannia – is living off the grid in Cornwall, UK. She is a strong woman – not afraid to turf her boyfriend out of the house while she carries out our zoom interview. And she plays a strong woman in Britannia – a Roman epic set in 43AD and featuring a number of powerful female lead roles. Recently the 31-year-old sat down to discuss her new eco-documentary series, Refugia, with off-grid.net.

The remarkable pledge Liana has made to herself is that all her acting revenue beyond what she actually needs to survive is ploughed back into causes she believes in – including environmental activism – either through her films, of which more in a moment or the activities of the people she makes the films about.

“I’ve done a lot of environmental work throughout my life, and there was this gap between people doing the work and people who could donate. That was where Refugia comes in.” Its a 3 part series on WaterBear which she wrote, shot and presented herself – made to support and draw attention to some amazing environmental initiatives (until now in Australia but in future around the world).

“I wanted to create something to pull back the curtains and show how they are doing the work – truly good work.” She said. “They don’t have the time and funds” to get more funding.

As well as publicising the characters in her eco-series, she also finances them. you see her presenting cash to individuals she meets during the series. “We have helped to buy back a rainforest in North Queensland and replant it; create a seaweed forest and (sequester) Carbon (by growing) hemp.”

“There are 25 different things we have done with that money.” She is particularly excited about Hemp, which has long been illegal but is now being rehabilitated in the new pro-cannabis climate in America, although not in the UK.

Off-Grid living

Liana is from a well-known acting family in Australia, and was brought up in a coastal rainforest town, with much of the property off the grid. “I enjoy the idea of being off-grid – when we had the fires in Australia my family (in different houses) still had electricity and our own water.”

She told me she had found herself in the UK at the start of lockdown last February 2020 – and would have decided to stay anyway – even without the shoot for Britannia series 3. Her significant other used to live in a van, and he now shares the smallholding they found together in a hidden part of UK’s wildest and most remote county.

Liana’s voyage of discovery filming Refugia was also a voyage of self discovery. “I lay in a sleeping bag with a knife on my chest, coyotes and mountain …

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People

Robin Wright on directing her new film: Land

 

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Nomadland still
Community

Interview with Frances McDormand on her new film – Nomadland – UK Exclusive

Oscar winning Frances McDormand is the most fascinating and enigmatic actor on the A-list right now.  Having her pick of the most heavily funded movies, its revealing she chose Nomadland (see the brilliant trailer here)  – which she produced as well as starring in – a relatively low budget feature about the Snowbirds – mainly older Americans -who travel the country in RVs and other vehicles, looking for work and sun.

The film opens February 2021, and has already received once-in-a-decade reviews at film festivals.  Chloe Zhao‘s ‘‘Nomadland” is that rare creation that not only lives up to the hype but also makes you forget about it, ” said one reviewer.  “This is a gentle, humane and dizzyingly poetic ode to the people on the fringes of American society, the ones who choose to wander and drift across the great Western landscape,” says another. “Frances McDormand gives a performance that is so alive and unguarded that it feels like non-fiction.”

It’s relevant that 63-year-old McDormand is one of the few in Hollywood who manages to preserve a normal life outside the film world, appearing in public only rarely – usually  to promote a film – but only if she believes in it.  Nomadland is a passion project for McDormand, and for Director Chloe Zhao.  “As I get older, the most important thing for me became the environment where my cellular structure feeds. And in that sense, it has nothing to do with bricks and concrete. I love the land.”

McDormand spoke about her similarities to the person she plays in the movie, Fern – a 60-something woman searching for work and identity and opening up to the possibilities of life on the road.

“It’s interesting, because the biggest difference between me and Fern is that I left my house, left behind my working class life when I was 17, and never came back. But in the film, Fern makes a very important decision to align herself with a man who fell in love with her,But she doesn’t create her own destiny until she was 61. I mean, she starts at 61, which I had started at 17. That’s why I don’t think her life is so much like mine.”

“Well, I’ve been practicing the idea of pretending to be someone else for 38 years now. I think there’s always a part of every character which has some resemblance the actor’s life. And in this case, it’s much closer. But I don’t know if I can say she’s just like me.”

As a child McDormand lived a nomadic lifestyle – travelling with her parents.  Is this relevant to the nomadic lifestyle portrayed in the movie?

She was adopted with her sister, by the McDormand family, and together lived in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennesee and Pennsylvania.  Frances won a place at the prestigious Yale Drama School. It was there …

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Stone built C19th shed
People

Anthony Russo’s off-grid cabin- Architectural Digest

Movie maker Anthony Russo’s off-the-grid cabin in the Angeles National Forest is high style – on the inside.  On the outside it still looks like the funky C19th. building, recently rediscovered by Architectural Digest.

Russo’s getaway is one of a cluster of cabins in the San Gabriel Mountains built in the early 1900s as part of a program instituted by the U.S. Forest Service to encourage responsible land use. Accessing the site requires a 40-minute hike on unpaved foot paths that lead from a pack station down through the canyon. Anything that needs to be brought in, from groceries to building materials, must be transported by hand or pack mule. There are no sewage, water, or power lines, and no cell-phone or internet service. An antediluvian crank phone, straight out of a Hollywood period piece, connects the cabin only to neighboring lodges and the pack station.

“We had to make the most of every square foot, so the details became all-important,” designer Steven Johanknecht explains.

“This place is truly remote, away from everything, but that’s the appeal. Even with the amenities and artisanal flourishes we installed, you’re still basically out there on your own in nature,” says Johanknecht of the AD100 firm Commune Design. “The movers had to create handcarts to get all the material to the site. It took eight men hiking back and forth for days. It felt like a scene from The Ten Commandments,” he recalls, describing the extraordinary logistical challenges of executing the full-scale reconstruction project.

“The place is less than an hour from my office downtown, but you feel like you’ve traveled far, far away from Los Angeles. It’s a radically different reality,” says Russo, who, along with his brother Joe, has directed four installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Avengers: Endgame and Captain America: Civil War. “The cabin gives me the opportunity to kidnap my kids for the weekend, bring friends up, or simply do some writing and other creative work in blissful solitude,” he explains.

Russo tapped Commune Design for the assignment after admiring the firm’s work for the Ace Hotel group as well as the late, lamented L.A. restaurant Ammo. “I felt like they had the right sensibility to respect how special this place is but also the imagination to make it of today,” the director explains. “I’ve always been obsessed with Adirondack style, and that was definitely one of our touchstones, but I wanted to see where Commune would go with that idea. I didn’t want something totally old-fashioned and nostalgic,” he adds.

Johanknecht and his team responded with a scheme that balances pragmatic necessity with subtle nods to Shaker and Japanese design, Swedish and French chalets, and historic American mountain retreats. They replaced rotted redwood timbers with knotty cedar on the ceilings and reclaimed oak on the floors, and liberated the original stone fireplace from a straitjacket of paint …

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