Shelagh Doonan shares her experience of the ‘CAT course Zero Carbon Britain’

Centre for Alternative Technology’s 2-day course - ‘Zero Carbon Britain’

Good learning for good purpose

Following our 25th AGM this year (24/9/20, online), three of us each facilitated a short session exploring three different aspects of AMED’s work:

Julie Allen offered a ten-minute illustrated meditation on the theme of thresholds, both inner and outer, and invited us to remember a threshold or epiphany moment in our lives.

Bella Mehta led an insightful half hour exploration enabling us to reflect on the question:

 “How might we in AMED increase the diversity of our membership, particularly in relation to people of colour?”

Between these two sessions, I called my own ten minutes “Good learning for good purpose” (recording upload to our new AMED Network YouTube Channel) and gave a taste of what was for me one of my stand-out learning experiences: a two-day online course in May 2020 with the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) on Zero Carbon Britain. 

My end-of-course lightbulb thoughts

Why does this learning event stand out and stay with me so strongly?

  • First, it was excellently facilitated by the CAT team: nearly 100 participants, 9.30am-5.30pm on Zoom for two days, and no headache! The pacing and balance between content/input and reflection in small groups were just right. This was CAT’s first online venture in lockdown, and since then they have continued to run a range of online regular short courses and free webinars, as well as their ongoing Masters programmes.

  • The Climate Emergency is ever present and sometimes feels overwhelming. Participating in this course left me with a real sense of hope and elation. As one of the speakers said, our challenge is to work urgently to create Evidence-based Hope.

  • Being part of a growing community of Possibility Thinkers and Doers. Besides the people at CAT, the range of course participants included committed individuals, entrepreneurs, people involved in community energy projects, people working in local authorities, and in small and medium-sized businesses.


  • That Zero Carbon Britain is We already have the renewable technological solutions we need to meet a more energy efficient and reduced-demand system.

Besides great facilitation, there were excellent speakers, including:

  • Rob Hopkins, pioneer of the Transition Towns movement. Rob focused on the role of Actively imagining the future we want, through community engagement, creates hopeful narratives and solutions. The future does not have to be “eating bugs in a cave”..!

  • Andrew Simms, co-founder of the New Economics Foundation, and coordinator of the Rapid Transitions Alliance, which is focused on learning from previous rapid transitions, (such as the legal and behaviour changes around the Clean Air Act of the 1950’s, use of seat belts, drink driving, single use plastic, smoking ban in public places, pension fund divestment from fossil fuel companies,  brewers and fashion manufacturers repurposing their products to produce hand sanitiser and protective clothing during the covid epidemic),  and applying the learning to the rapid and scaled up Transitions we need  to stay within the limits to avoid runaway climate change.

  • Sonya Bedford MBE, is an energy law specialist, and a graduate of CAT’s masters programme. She is based in the Somerset levels, and since 2006, she and local groups have worked tirelessly in the local area, through community engagement and policy work, in 6 work streams:


        transport; housing; food/land-use; energy; well-being; carbon sequestration/peat restoration


Listening to Sonya gave me a series of inspiring lightbulb moments, particularly when she said that her parish of Wedmore (pop. 3.3K) is about one wind turbine away from reaching zero carbon. Her description of the range of macro- (e.g. establishing a solar farm), and micro-projects (e.g. Brownie and Scout Zero Carbon badges) that Green Wedmore have developed, show that Zero Carbon is not only Possible, but is already a Reality at some local levels.

A guiding principle of this course, and of CAT’s work is “Wicked problems need wicked solutions”.

Building alliances across many sectors, multi-solving synergies and virtuous circles- these are illustrated in microcosm in places like Wedmore and many other places across the country that we don’t hear enough about. For instance, there are now about 300 community energy-generation organisations across England and Wales. There has also been a rapid increase in the energy contributions of renewables to the national grid: from 3% to 40% in 15 years.

CAT has recently set up the Zero Carbon Britain Hub & Innovation Lab, to develop and share resources and positive solutions.  Following the CAT course, I have been inspired to contribute to this work by collecting and writing up some local stories of carbon-reduction efforts of e.g. a new fruit and veg shop, and our own journey to retro-fit our house.

With thanks to all at CAT.

For CAT Resources (free info, free webinars, research, long and short courses) see

Shelagh Doonan

The above notes are also saved in the attached PDF document. 

Views: 157



Latest Activity

Elizabeth Davis updated their profile
Syeda Rumana Mehdi is now a member of The AMED Network
Jul 19
Bob MacKenzie updated an event
Jul 13
Anthony Blackman was featured
Jul 12

Becoming a Full Member

... for access to PDF copies of earlier editions of e-O&P, great rates for professional indemnity insurance and member events. Check the 'Benefits' tab for details.

O&P back issues

O&P back issues now for sale. 

We have a rich library of O&P issues and individual articles in electronic format going back to 1994, just waiting for you. Copy of order form for back issues of e-O&P in MS Word format.


© 2021   Created by AMED Admin.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service