Thursday 27 May 2010


Why a picture of a mole? I will come to that in a minute. I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of ‘Toleration’ recently as toleration is the word used by the council to describe the reasons for not removing a family of travellers whose caravans and animals are obstructing a foot/cycle path near where I live. People who join Transition tend to be tolerant by nature and their first reaction when being told of the travellers is that people should be allowed to lead their own way of life. The word traveller conjures up an image of pretty horse drawn caravans and cooking round a camp fire – an exemplary low carbon lifestyle.

The reality, in this case, is that the caravans are ordinary touring vans that were towed to the site last autumn by a truck and not by the group of horses that often graze the farmer’s crops. The fire is not used for cooking but for disposing of the plastic waste from an al fresco scrap metal business that is run from the site – the fires create clouds of smoke containing highly toxic chemicals, which then drift into nearby houses. The family has 9 children and is being tolerated on the site so that the children can attend school. Clearly this is a good thing for the sake of children but the cost is that the cyclists who regularly used the path (myself included) have given up negotiating the obstructions and fending off aggressive dogs.

There is another hidden cost - the damage done to the relationship between the settled community and the authorities, who seem powerless to stop the clouds of toxic smoke or make a public right of way available to the public. In this case it seems wrong to me that one family can pollute the air and force many people to either give up biking to work or cycle much further on dangerous roads.

The real question is whether society is prepared to make space available for a small group of people to lead their own individual lifestyle and how we define what is acceptable behaviour. In a world of dwindling resources I can see conflicts over land, water and energy becoming more common. The Transition movement recognizes the need to engage with people at an emotional level and hopefully can influence how disputes are resolved between individuals, groups and even nations. Conflicts will always arise; it is how we deal with them that is important.

Somewhat less serious but quite annoying is the mole that is causing havoc in my vegetable patch! It is hunting for worms but in the process is destroying a lot of seedlings – in dry weather moles like to tunnel along a row of seedlings where the earth has been softened by watering. I’m afraid that I won’t be tolerating this uninvited visitor to my garden and will resort to putting burning rags in the runs - which stops the mole from smelling the worms and hopefully persuades him to move away.


  1. Not being funny, but have you approached them and asked them to stop burning plastic?

  2. A number of council officials monitor the site and have explained to the travellers that burning waste is not acceptable. The council has provided bins for domestic refuse but incineration still continues.

    The last time that I came within speaking distance of the travellers they shouted something at me but there were 15 dogs yapping round my feet, 2 of which seemed to be most interested in the taste of my trouser legs - maybe they could smell my cat - so I did not hang around for a chat.