Letters to the Editor (1)

The first in an occasional series of pieces originally written for the Letters page of our local newspaper, the Cambrian News. Most were never published ……… although this one was, with the second paragraph omitted..

Dear Sir,

Many people in north Ceredigion will recently have received a note stuffed through their letterbox telling them that the Rali Bae Ceredigion will be held again in September 2022. In their usual self-congratulatory style, the organizers tell us what a success the first rally was in 2019. What they will not have been told are some inconvenient truths about that event.

For example several so-called “sponsors” have since denied any involvement in the rally.  Natural Resources Wales were said to have been “partner sponsors” but have denied that this was the case. The same goes for Visit Wales; the then relevant Government minister denied any involvement with the rally. A third “Partner Sponsor” – Statkraft, who operate the Rheidol Hydro-electric Scheme, and are heavily involved in renewable energy – were oblivious of this “fact” until it was pointed out to them, and have pulled out completely from any future rallies.

One hundred and twenty cars took part in the 2019 rally, over four stages totaling about 90 miles. Distance between stages was a further 90 miles.  On the day prior to the rally itself, drivers’ recces totaled another 180 miles. The total mileage involved in the 2019 rally was thus approximately 43,200 miles. A rough and conservative estimate of the carbon emissions created by the rally in 2019 was 16 tonnes. This did not include incidental journeys connected with the event or journeys by competitors, spectators, etc to north Ceredigion.

Furthermore 45 miles of public roads were closed to enable the rally, restrictions were placed on many others, and 58 public footpaths were closed.

We don’t know at this point what the mileage of the 2022 rally will be or the number of cars. But we do know that rally organizers intend to expand the rally in future years to cover more stages, have more competitors, and also include night stages. The question which must be asked is this – “which alternative planet do these people live on?”

It has become even more obvious since 2019 that global warming is seriously affecting ALL life on earth, and there is no doubt at all that human activities are the root cause. We are all being urged to use public transport (pandemic apart) to reduce carbon emissions. In mid-Wales private car use is a daily necessity for many but this rally is an entirely frivolous source of climate-wrecking emissions.

We are ALL going to need to make sacrifices in our daily lives to prevent climate catastrophe. When are these overgrown boy racers going to realize this and cut down on their driving activities? Perhaps it is unrealistic to ask them to do so voluntarily  but those in positions of power and responsibility should urgently remind them that our futures, our children’s futures, and the planet’s future are all at stake here.

The Chief Executive of Ceredigion Council has that power and responsibility. He should put aside his love of car rallying and nip the 2022 rally in the bud before its organization becomes too far advanced. He can do that by not permitting the road and footpath closures. His council announced a climate emergency in 2019; let us see him translate these fine words into actions.

Yours sincerely………….

(October 2021)

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Nine and a half years later.

Back in 2011 I was exploring the country taking photographs for a book – Wales at Waters Edge – about the Welsh coastline. It wasn’t landscape, or wildlife, or documentary; rather a combination of all three. It took me a long while to realise it, but what I was doing was creating a natural and social history of the coast of Wales. On 2nd July I found myself in Tenby and discovered that there was a sandcastle-building contest on South Beach that afternoon. It sounded like a good photo opportunity.

So I duly turned up and took a series of photographs of the event. As it happened none of them was used in the book and most have long since been deleted. But a more interesting idea was forming in my imagination – to come back after the contest was over as the tide was rising. I thought a series of images of disintegrating sandcastles might illustrate sea-level rise and the consequences of global warming. So I returned to the beach about six in the evening – armed with my tripod – for some long exposures. It was deserted and the waves were beginning to lap around the first row of sandcastles. I quickly selected one, set up the tripod, and took a series of images as it collapsed. Focal length was set at 50 mm and exposures ranged between 1.6 and 4 seconds at about f11. I must have been using a neutral density filter as it was still broad daylight. I ended up with 35 images taken over a period of 11 minutes.

They then sat on my hard drive for nine and a half years! But in January I discovered that the Mid-Wales Art Gallery (near Caersws) was inviting entries for an open exhibition on the subject of global warming. I went back to my Tenby long exposures, selected ten of them with a view to making a sequence and began processing them. I made a whole series of minor changes to them all in an attempt to standardise the colour saturation, and cropped them all square. I sent a preliminary set to the gallery, who approved the idea, and suggested that I should have them printed on aluminium. Although this is an expensive medium to print on it avoids the need for framing.

I found a printing company online who do aluminium prints and provide layouts for dropping images into, including a 3 x 3 grid. Arguably a horizontal or vertical strip of single images might make the message clearer but the square format is much easier to deal with for both me and the gallery. I’ve just sent the work away for printing.

The exhibition will be at Mid Wales Arts, Caersws, Powys; provisionally from April 2nd > May 17th. Tel: 01686 688369

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Rallying around.

The rally route near my home…..

Almost every day brings more news about the speed with which the climate is warming, whether it be forest fires in Siberia, the melting icecap in Greenland, or record high temperatures in Alaska – to name three recent examples. The suspicion is that the climate is changing much faster than was ever imagined. It seems that climate chaos will soon be with us.

Yet north Ceredigion will soon be the venue for a new car rally; possibly the most frivolous waste of fossil fuels that it is possible to imagine. The Rali Bae Ceredigion, due to take place in early September, will see 120 cars covering a total race length of 44 miles in four stages. Roads in the Bontgoch, Pendam/Ponterwyd, Ystumtuen and Nant-y-moch areas will be closed for the day. Cars will slowly proceed from stage to stage on public roads, another 44 miles.

As well as the carbon emissions from the competition cars themselves, those from an estimated 1500 marshals, officials and mechanics required on the day need to be added. On top of that will be the emissions involved from their journeys to north Ceredigion from their homes, PLUS an unknown (but probably considerable) number of spectators. Rally organisers claim that the use of shuttle buses to take spectators to vantage points on the rally route will “boost the event’s environmental credentials”. As if it had any!

No-one who has given their endorsement to this rally can possibly have considered its environmental impact. If they had it would have been a non-starter. The climate crisis is just too serious. And yet rally organisers hope that this rally will become an annual event, “developing and expanding” in future years..

Backers of the rally include Visit Wales, part of the Welsh Assembly Government, which has recently declared a Climate Emergency. Ben Lake MP (Plaid Cymru spokesman on the environment, among other things) is in favour, despite his party strongly supporting the Climate Emergency Declaration. “Without the commitment to action that such a Declaration necessitates, the statement is meaningless”, said Plaid Cymru in May.

Those who seem likely to gain the most financially from the rally include Ceredigion County Council – who narrowly failed to declare a Climate Emergency themselves earlier this year – and Aberystwyth University.

The University will be making a very tidy profit from hosting the rally. Rooms in its Halls of Residence will be rented out to drivers and officials. Space for parking, vehicle movements and servicing, office activity, presentation areas, and catering facilities will be made available. Among the areas commandeered will be the Arts Centre and one has to question how appropriate the use of the Arts Centre actually is. What possible artistic or cultural purpose does a car rally serve?

The University really needs to examine its conscience on the Climate Emergency. They still have investments in the fossil fuel industry, and rally organisers have been quite open about the University’s support – without it the rally just would not happen.

When we are all being urged to leave the car at home and use public transport to save carbon emissions, this new rally is close to being an obscenity. It should not be repeated.

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