Body solidarity


It was intermittently raining and shining and we had a glorious crowd of walkers who are happy in the wet. We stayed at the centre for a while at the beginning for introductions and a reminder about the skillshare aspect of the outing; that I’m not an expert, that we are all learning, that we carry around books with us to delve into for .possible enlightenment or further questioning. I mentioned that I always play it safe as a forager with groups of people, only working with plants that there is little or no risk in confusing with poisonous plants. As I learn more, I realise that even plants that I’m confident about could be confused by someone else, so we looked at a few such plants, during a wonderful revisit to Wyck Gardens, with new eyes and some new plants spied in all the wet summer lushness.

A great crowd as ever and we started the day with discussion of the elements of the Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain report. We all took some element of the report which was either a ‘Power down’ factor (energy use needing to be reduced by 50%) or a ‘Power up’ factor, (where the energy we do need for well being is going to come from sustainably).

Power down:

  • All new buildings must be built to zero carbon specifications
  •  We need to renovate 20 million homes in 20 years. This is called ‘retro-fit’ and represents the largest decrease in emissions.
  •  Change fuels for cars from fossil fuels to electric vehicles
  •  Make everything more local so people need to travel less (work, school, shopping, leisure, holidays)
  •  Reduce the use of the private car by vastly improving public transport, walking and cycleway systems.
  •  Get goods back on the rails. There is plenty of capacity on the rails at night.
  •  Domestic and European flights are replaced by high speed electric train network
  •  Long haul flights is reduced to one third of current levels
  •  Hydrogen and british grown biofuels (made from wood not food crops) for heavy goods vehicles that can’t be run on batteries.
  •  Animal production for food is reduced but this creates more land for overall food production because less land if required to grow feed for animals.  Food security is improved
  •  Diet and health is improved as people eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. There are still animal foods available, particularly from animals that don’t feed on grass like pigs, and chickens. One third of dietary protein would still come from livestock products
  •  Britain would become self sufficient in essentials but would still import ‘luxury’ products such as olives, wine, coffee, chocolate and bananas.

 Power up – renewable energy

  •  Britain is a wind swept country. Half the energy we need can be captured from 195 giga watts of off shore windfarms and the rest can be harvested from a mix of other renewable (solar, on shore wind, tidal, hydro, biomass, biochar.)
  •  Nuclear generators will be used until the end of their lives but no new ones would be built.
  •  Energy generation will have to happen on all levels, from gigantic offshore wind farms to micro generators like solar panels on our homes.
  •  Smart grids can predict and control demand (eg charging cars when there is excess power) so there is no break in energy provision and the lights don’t go out!
  •  There will be back up from energy stored in batteries and also backup generators using UK grown biofuels (made from wood, not food crops)

 We all took one slip of paper with one factor on it and decided whether it was Power up or Power Down, then we gathered with all the other people having the same kind of Power, talked about the information with our group, then with the opposite group. The aim of this was to further familiarise ourselves with the arguments and data around sustainable energy so we don’t get left behind with the debate and also to be able to make a difference. CAT suggest getting in touch with your MP to ask them to read the report. You can lobby your MP to sign Early Day Motion 853 which calls for Zero Carbon Britain by 2030.  To lobby your MP using the Campaign for Climate Change’s information hub see here.

Available here is the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 Report produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology, (CAT) which outlines a practical, well researched plan for reaching a zero carbon economy by 2030. To order free 8-page ZCB 2030 pamphlets, or find out about ZCB training days e-mail bruce.heagerty[at] with ‘Zero Carbon Britain Day’ in the subject line.

OK, onto the plants. We looked at chickweed, to not confuse with Sun spurge (euphorbia), we looked at Sow thistle, at lovely St Johns wort, and Fat Hen and Good king Henry growing right next to a similar looking but poisonous Black nightshade


Text from the handout on the day


Net global emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced to zero as fast as possible and this should be the overriding goal of the entire global community acting together through a fair and binding international climate treaty.  

Within this context some sections of the global community have a greater responsibility to reduce emissions more and faster than others. The United Kingdom belongs to the richer developed part of the world with a high per capita level of greenhouse gas emissions and, as the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution, an enormous historical carbon footprint. We believe that the UK can and should do its fair share to reduce global emissions and be prepared if necessary to lead the way. 

Given the immensity of the threat we face from  the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate, the time lost already in addressing this threat and the uncertainties around, for instance, positive feedback processes and ‘tipping points’, no target can be said to be entirely ‘safe’. At the same time while justice demands that we do our ‘fair share’ our national security demands that we do not only that, but enough to persuade the entire global community to act decisively with us.

In this context we are calling for a target of around zero net carbon, and zero net greenhouse gas, emissions by 2030. We cannot be one hundred percent sure this will be enough to forestall catastrophe and nor will it be easy but we are certain that with the political will and a great deal of urgency and determination it is possible. And it will bring a great number of other benefits besides giving us a fighting chance in the battle against climate catastrophe.

ImageThe Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales has been working through its Zero Carbon Britain Project on a strategy for rapid decarbonisation of the British economy for many years. Last year it published its latest report “Zero Carbon Britian 2030” which outlined in meticulously researched detail how Britain might reduce its emissions to  zero by 2030. This is just one possible way and there will be much disagreement and discussion over many of the details but the report serves magnificently well the purpose of demonstrating that it is possiible. Half hearted attempts or opportunistic tinkering will not do it but with bold, radical and far sighted strategies – we can.


Invisible Food is a skill share. We operate without an expert to increase our  skills, resilience and self-reliance. We act safely, responsibly, exercising common sense, self-help, and helping each other with respect and tolerance.

With the complexity of the EU Ban on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products, I wanted to get someone to come and talk to us to get us up to speed on a complex legal issue. I haven’t found that person yet so in the meantime, and with the above in mind,  let’s work with our questions and concerns to raise our awareness ourselves and prick up our critical antennae.

As an exercise, write down your questions surrounding the following statements. Please get in touch with your questions and concerns.  We are planning a project to increase the number of medicinal herbs available to us. Contact us if you are interested in participating!

The EU directive, called the THMPD (Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive) seeks to not just ban the use of herbal remedies but to actually criminalize them — making the growing or keeping of herbs for use in teas just as illegal as those for less conventional use.  Does this mean keeping herbs in your garden for personal use would be illegal?

What else do you want to know about this?

The use of traditional and herbal remedies has already been banned in Canada.

What else do you want to know about this?

“Herbal remedies are used throughout the world and have been in use since the beginning of history. This is what the witchhunts were about. How many women were killed during the witchhunt? Power is trying to obliterate our connection with the earth.”

What else do you want to know about this?

The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) is at the forefront of a massive effort to stop what they deem ‘this unprecedented attack’ on the rights of patients. The ANH is taking legal action against this directive, with the assistance of the European Benefyt Foundation (EBF).

Between them they have already managed to raise 90,000 pounds to fight the court case, but they’re requesting your help, too. Because, they say, if people don’t cry out in protest, it will be seen as agreement of the ban, or as lack of interest, which is why a citizens action group has been formed and has been circulating a petition to counter the THMPD Directive.

What else do you want to know about this?

The EU Directive erects high barriers to any herbal remedy that hasn’t been on the market for 30 years — including virtually all Chinese, Ayurvedic, and African traditional medicine. It’s a draconian move that helps drug companies and ignores thousands of years of medical knowledge.

It’s hard to believe, but if a child is sick, and there is a safe and natural herbal remedy for that illness, it may be impossible to find that remedy.

What else do you want to know about this?

The EU directive, called the THMPD (Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive) will create major barriers to manufactured herbal remedies, requiring enormous costs,and years of effort. Each herb will cost around £80,000 to register. Pharmaceutical companies have the resources to jump through these hoops but hundreds of small- and medium-sized herbal medicine businesses, across Europe and worldwide, will go bust.

What else do you want to know about this?

There are arguments for better regulation of natural medicine, but this draconian directive harms the ability of Europeans to make safe and healthy choices. Let’s stand up for our health, and our right to choose safe herbal medicine.

Dr. Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director of the UK-based Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) – an NGO promoting natural remedies – said: “At the end of April we plan to challenge the directive first of all in the High Court in London, on the grounds that it is disproportionate, non-transparent and discriminatory. We then hope to have the case referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.”

What else do you want to know about this?

Dr. Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director of the UK-based Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) – an NGO promoting natural remedies – said: countries such as the Czech Republic and the Netherlands were adopting a liberal approach to implementation which meant that many herbal remedies could be construed as ordinary foodstuffs and thus escape regulation. Think about garlic capsules. This could be seen as foodstuff.

He added that other states, notably the UK and Belgium, were approaching the directive more vigorously, outlawing many more unregistered herbal remedies.

What else do you want to know about this?

The EU Directive erects high barriers to any herbal remedy that hasn’t been on the market for 30 years — including virtually all Chinese, Ayurvedic, and African traditional medicine. It’s a draconian move that helps drug companies and ignores thousands of years of medical knowledge.

What else do you want to know about this?

Examples of remedies threatened following the expiry of the deadline include traditional European herbal cures using hawthorn and meadowsweet in addition to a swathe of herbs used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic, Chinese and Amazonian remedies.

Dr Robert Verkerk said: “The problem is that [synthetic chemical ingredients] are deemed necessary by formulators in order to meet the pharmaceutical stability standards set by the EU directive. Forcing non-European herbal traditions into a European straitjacket would effectively corrupt these great traditions.”

If the ban is allowed to take effect, the ANH says it will effectively eliminate access to phytotherapy, herbalism and all of the traditional plant-based remedies of Indian, Amazonian, African and Chinese cultures. In a very real sense, then, this could also be seen a a cultural attack on specific ethnic groups and ways of life.

What else do you want to know about this?

“A new, more appropriate and affordable system of quality control is urgently required to prevent discrimination against the long-standing traditions, and this is something we aim to push for through our planned judicial review,” Verkerk said. 

On the other hand, proponents of the ban claim they are attempting to protect the naive from shoddily produced ‘snake-oil’ elixirs and medicines. They claim that herbal remedies will still be available but that they will simply be safer.

What else do you want to know about this?

In France a petition against the directive has been launched by a group of natural remedy stakeholders calling itself ‘Le Collectif pour la Défense de la Médecine Naturelle’. It states the directive imposes a disproportionately costly administrative burden on numerous natural remedies which have existed in Europe for centuries and are not dangerous. A spokesperson for Le Collectif pour la Défense de la Médecine Naturelle said: “If charlatans exist within the sector, that does not justify the persecution of those who rely on numerous producers of plant-based alternative therapies. This type of vigilance will only benefit those who are able to verify that their medicaments are manufactured using certain petrochemical compounds, from which the side effects are incontestably worse.”

What else do you want to know about this?

” This is not just about herbal medicine. Big corporations are gaining control over every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the electricity we need in our homes, to our leisure activities and the way we communicate with our fellow human beings.”

What else do you want to know about this?

 This following article deals specifically with the situation for Chinese herbalists.

Traditional Chinese medicine firms may face delisting in EU market

The European Union released the “Registration Process Order of Traditional Herbal Medicine” in March 2004 and required enterprises that want to remain in the E.U. market to meet registration standards by March 31, 2011. This order has set a “seven-year limit” for herbal medicine that was imported in the name of food, health care products and even agricultural and sideline native products.

Unfortunately, no Chinese enterprise has completed the registration before the deadline. This also indicates that after missing the seven-year transitional period, traditional Chinese medicine may face the risk of delisting in the E.U. market.

Why did domestic traditional Chinese medicine producers give up the opportunity to apply for the access to the European market? Guo Guiqin, deputy general manager of China Beijing Tongrentang Group Company, said that the main reason is that the registration application fees, particularly the intermediary fees, are too high to afford.

Furthermore, an application standard stipulates that related herbal drug products must already be in medicinal use in the European Union for a period of 15 years preceding the date of the application.

Although traditional Chinese medicine products entered into the E.U. market as early as 1995, domestic traditional Chinese medicine producers regrettably lacked the sense of self-protection and neglected to keep product sales records. Even domestic time-honored producers such as Tongrentang cannot provide evidence to prove that their products have been available on the markets of E.U. members for 15 years.

Although traditional Chinese medicine is very popular in Southeast Asia, traditional Chinese medicine products have often been locked outside of other overseas markets, such as the European Union. It is still possible for traditional Chinese medicine producers to export products to the European Union in the future.

In the long run, however, China’s traditional Chinese medicine industry must follow international practice in terms of product production, processing and distribution to really expand the international market.


Planting fruit and nut trees in Elam Street space April 20th 2011

Grove Adventure Playground and Invisible Food, are celebrating the launch of the RHS Britain in Bloom and RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood campaigns,by rolling up their sleeves to be part of a tree planting movement to double native trees and woods in the UK.

This year, RHS Britain in Bloom has teamed up with the Woodland Trust to giveaway up to 200,000 free tree saplings to be planted by communities across the UK. Both the RHS and the Woodland Trust are supporting the United Nation’s 2011 International Year of Forests to raise awareness of conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and recognise the benefits trees bring to our wildlife and communities.

Grove Adventure Playground children, supported by Lambeth Parks and Invisible Food volunteers will be planting at Elam Street Space on Wednesday 20th April between 3 and 5pm.

Ceri Buck, of local wild food group Invisible Food said “The children will be planting wild fruit and nut saplings that they will see grow into beautiful food-giving trees as they grow older. Parents are also invited to help plant the trees. The more the local community is involved in creating our green spaces, the safer and more well kept they will be.”

Children will also learn about the Green belt movement in Kenya, founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, which plants trees to create better communities, to increase self-determination, equity, improved livelihoods, security, and environmental conservation.  This is Wangari’s message to young people around the world,

“I want young people to know that despite the challenges and constraints they face, there is hope. I want to encourage them to serve the common good. My experiences have taught me that service to others has its own special rewards. I also have a lot of hope in youth. Their minds do not have to be held back by old thinking about the environment. And you don’t have to be rich or give up everything to become active. Respect nature, treat her with dignity, give back as much as we take away” 

Wangari Maathai planting a tree in Kenya

Stephanie Eynon, Community Horticulture Manager, RHS, said, “RHS Britain in Bloom and RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood enables people to join together to improve their local communities and restore civic pride through long-term, sustainable projects which are also beneficial for wildlife. We are delighted to be partnering with the Woodland Trust in order to focus this year’s launch on trees.”

Event details

Wednesday 20th April 2011

Elam Street Space, SE5    3 – 5pm


Contact Ceri Buck, Invisible Food

07963 446605 or

The London Salad features the events held at Stannard hall in Summer 2010


We launched the London Salad publication

On Sunday 20th March, there was another Stannard Hall celebration with Eritrean food, thanks to Segen Ghebrekidan and other residents helping out.

Roasting the coffee beans

The aim of these garden events is to get residents planting their own food and we use this as an excuse to get together and cook together. It was lovely to have some neighbours over from St Gabriels next door and some gardeners from the Myatt’s fields greenhouses too. It was another lovely, warming event.

Everyone must smell the coffee beans after roasting




The beans before grinding

Invisible food was given some tree saplings, wild fruit and nut varieties, from the Royal Horticultural Society and the Woodland Trust,  and these will be planted mainly in Elam Street space in a few weeks time. Some trees will be planted at other partner organisation gardens. At Stannard hall we planted a cherry plum.

Planting a cherry plum tree


Zygny (lamb curry) and injeera bread


We sit on raised beds to eat!


Popcorn to accompany the coffee - a great combination


and finally, the coffee, poured out without stopping, into small china cups

Invisible Food Training Programme Saturdays April 2nd and April 9th 2011

Blue sky over Angell Town nettle patch


A further opportunity to give Invisible Food participants more skills and knowledge to encourage a deeper level of  participation in the workshops, (taking on more tasks, getting involved in behind the scenes preparation and organisational work) and also to start leading their own walks

To give other people who are interested in setting up a similar project in their area the skills and knowledge necessary to begin.

Cost: £10

Resources and Materials: The London Salad publication, the Invisible Food poster

Day one:

Participate in the Invisible Food walk on Saturday 2nd April. It is essential that you participate in this day if you haven’t attended one before. It is highly recommended that you attend this day if you have attended a walk already.

Day two:  Saturday 9th April

Please arrive before 10am and we’ll start bang on 10am.

Outline for the day

  • Background to Invisible Food, its aims and ethos

Invisible Food operates as a skill share, through questions, curiosity and by coming forward with your own skills and knowledge

  • Finding out Why are you here, what is your particular interest, where have you come from?
  • Intro to Wild Food identification
  • Wild food cooking and recognising diversity through cooking styles.
  • Signposting further Wild food courses and Plant Id courses and resources

  • Organisational work:  Guidelines for Urban foraging and how to do Risk assessment
  • Safeguarding Policy and signposting to Safeguarding courses
  • Basic First Aid and signposting to First Aid courses
  • Plant drawing, as an intro to complementary arts activites
  • Intro to complementary arts activities and resources.
  • Plenary: Next steps & evaluation

This month we’ll be looking for spring tonic herbs. We also have a special musical singing treat:

Communities all over the world sing together – songs of greeting, songs of joy, songs of sorrow, songs to celebrate the seasons are all traditional ‘glue’ that helps binds cultures together. As part of this session’s activities, we’ll weave in a few uplifting songs from around the world and sing them together as a group. Shilpa Shah, trained in the Natural Voice method of song teaching, will lead us in some fun warm up exercises and simple songs which will be enjoyoable and accessible for everyone, whether you feel you’re a musical maestro or if you sing only in the shower.

After walking for around one hour (the route is wheelchair and pushchair accessible) we return to the community centre to sample some spring tonic soup. Please bring other food to share. There will also be a launch of the London Salad resource book and arts activities.

Also bring tupperwares or bags for collecting things in and a good idea from a participant … bring a soup bowl and a spoon of your own.

This walk is part one of the 2 day training course, a further opportunity for anyone wishing to either work more consistently on Invisible Food or set up their own project in a different area. Second day on Saturday April 9th.Click for more details.

Call 07963 446605 or mail for further info

We’ll walk in any weather so come prepared for the rain and cold. If it your first time, please do give us a call on 07963 446605 to have more of a chat about what’s going to happen.

Start time
11.45am at Loughborough Centre, corner of Barrington Road and Angell Road, SW9 7TP We’ll leave around 12pm.

In February, we beat the winter blues with a party in Myatts Field, with some food prepared by Invisible Food participants. The end of January and the beginning of February is the time of the Fire Festival of Imbolc, when the earth in the northern hemisphere is awakening from the stillness of Winter.

Previous walks:

In November we looked for frost resilient edible plants such as the plentiful chickweed and goosegrass which loves this time of year. Now’s the time to harvest goosgrass while it’s young. We tasted goosegrass seed coffee made with seeds collected in dry July. Back at base we made festive wreaths from evergreen plants and a lavender and rose face cream.

In October we harvested apples and pears on the estate and made plantain cream for rashes and stings. We also had a delicious sri lankan curry made by one of the walk participants.

In August, we collected blackberries from Ruskin Park and added them to a few mulberries from Loughborough Park and sat in Myatts Field for hours while we waited for the jam to reach setting point on a wood burner. Great picnic!

In July, we walked from the Loughborough Estate, Brixton, SW9 to the Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park, SW2 where we created startling dishes of wild flowers we’d found on the way and ate mallow and hazelnut cake and rosepetal jam.

Ramya is our resident playworker who interacts with the kids and is an extra pair of hands to look out for the children’s safety and enhance their enjoyment of the whole event. Children very very welcome but must be accompanied.


The aim of Invisible Food is to strengthen social cohesion in disadvantaged areas throughout Lambeth, and specifically in the Coldharbour ward, through engaging with the natural environment. Invisible Food walks and workshops aim to increase opportunities for local residents to contribute their environmental, botanical and culintary knowledge and experience as part of a reskilling process towards a low carbon future.

A snake in recent Queensland flooding, Australia

To accompany the (all action but what’s the message??!!) Greenland production at the National Theatre, there have been a few conversations with leading climate scientists.

On Thursday, I listened to Tim Flannery, author of the Weather Makers and now, Here on Earth, in conversation with David Shukman, the BBC’s Environment and Science correspondent. The following are various notes I took from the discussion.

They covered the issue of how it’s difficult for the public to turn to for credible information regarding climate change, and how this is related to the way, as Flannery put it, that science works. For him, the scientist is the ultimate sceptic, there is no truth out there and the scientist is constantly questioning and testing hypotheses.  Climate scientists can’t predict the future but they can produce various insights into a range of probabilities about future climatic events.

Most people these days want to know if an extreme weather event such as floods, can be attributed to climate change, and Flannery, despite stating that ‘the Climate is the sum of all weathers’ and that one weather event is not ‘the climate’, also mentioned recent research conducted that studied data around the floods in 2000 in the UK, and concluded that there are consistent links.

Flannery is from Australia and he said, that unlike the political consensus in the UK around climate change, there is great tension in Australia, due to the facts of it being the world’s greatest coal exporter and therefore has a vested interest in maintaining the world’s dependence on fossel fuels, and also it has a strong resource extraction lobby wielding power and influence over government. On the other hand, Australia is a hot, dry, flat continent and is therefore extra vulnerable to climatic changes.

Map of areas prone to flooding, Australia

Flooding in Queensland, January 2011

They discussed Copenhagen briefly, and the crazy, dysfunctional negotations that took place, but Flannery said that he thought the  tiny, 5 page document that was actually signed up to is an important milestone.

Flannery came across as an optimist and a pragmatist, saying various times that for the next couple of decades we have to muddle along, trying to reach agreements about how to reduce CO2 emissions.

His latest book, Here on Earth, he describes as a ‘biography’ of our planet and ourselves and is asking the question ‘Regarding Climate change, is evolution on our side or not?’  The concept of natural selection, as it has been traditionally used, implies a dog-eat-dog world, and he states that Darwin’s research was taken up to promote injustice. He, however, looks at evolutionary science in a more holistic and spiritual manner; he illustrates species interdependence by citing an example of  how the human body is covered in microbes and funghi and that we could not live without them as they perform some vital function. He closes Here on earth, by stating that loving one another and loving god/ the earth is the only basis for a sustainable future.

In response to a question from the audience about Gaia theory’s inventor, James Lovelock’s ‘giving up’ on the possibility of change, Flannery said  first that Lovelock’s discovery of CFC’s in the atmosphere was a massive leap forward in the evolution of climate science. He then went on to say that Lovelock’s scientific position is reached at by writing through empathy. For Lovelock, Gaia is a frail old lady – Lovelock himself is now 91 years old – and she can’t stand what is being done to her through human interference. Flannery said that for him, Gaia is more like a new born baby than a frail old lady and therefore, not developed enough to deal with the consequences of its own behaviour. Humans could be seen as the ‘brain’ of Gaia; only 2% of body mass but consuming more than 20% of the body’s resources (blood, nutrients, oxygen etc). The brain inherently selfish. It will shut down other parts of the body when under threat in order to survive itself.

And then to conclude, a question from the floor. What does he think about carbon trading?

His response –  it all depends on the cap. Carbon tax is definitely a way forward. Governments need to use multiple approaches. We have to accept direct action as one method of bringing about change. And finally, it doesn’t matter where the cuts come from, we just need to reduce the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

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