Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Off to Kenya and street lights closer to home (Mar09)

Denuded landscape near Mombasa

Sustainable agriculture training plot near Mombasa


The offending street light on Coker Hill


Rural view from my house

Another morning digging ourselves out of the drive. As I was heaving large mounds of snow into the bank I was thinking about where I’ll be in a couple of days time. I’m off to Kenya tomorrow.

I’m heading straight to Mombasa, from where I only have a short drive North to my destination. The purpose of the trip is to go and see how much progress has been made by a charity I co-founded in 2002 – Haller. Louise Piper, who really got the organisation going and has run it ever since, was inspired by the work of Dr Rene Haller. Rene suggested that she get in touch with me and it started from there. We really wanted to replicate Rene, but failing that decided that we wanted to keep his legacy going way into the future.

Rene’s approached, which we’ve christened ‘The Haller Way’ is to use eco-system thinking. He’s rehabilitated large areas of land destroyed by quarrying for cement and taken it from a barren landscape to a lush and fertile forest. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s managed to create over 50 different business enterprises, employ hundreds of local people and demonstrate that saving the environment can go hand in hand with sustainable and thriving communities.

The brilliant thing about Haller is that we’ve been able to do so much with relatively little funds. Money invested in Kenya goes a lot further than in the UK – and we’ve got people and projects already working on the ground. To date, we’ve managed to set up an environmental education centre, run training programmes on sustainable agriculture, build dams and operate a mobile medical clinic, amongst other things.

It will be really exciting to see how these projects have progressed – the last time I was there they were in their infancy. I saw the plans for the education centre but there wasn’t yet any sign of it emerging from the ground.

Back to Coker Hill in Somerset, where I live. I’ve just been sent a letter telling me that one of other residents on the ridge is asking for street lighting. We live in a rural area with spectacular views over the countryside and they want to pollute it with a horrible haze destroying the clear night skies we currently enjoy. I’ve already written a blog entitled ‘Street Light Rant’, so no-one will be surprised to hear that I’m less than keen on the idea!

There’s one street light close to my house (see photo above) and it shines in my bedroom window. Far from introducing more, we should be getting rid of the one that’s already there. These concerns may be far from my mind when I’m in Kenya but I hope that I won’t be alone in opposing them, when I return.

Some reasons why this should not be permitted:

– Suburbanisation: Coker Hill is a rural area and should not be suburbanised.
– Light pollution: Street lights block out the night sky
– Climate change: We should be cutting back on energy use (and waste) rather than adding more
– Unnecessary: If people are concerned about getting to their properties they should get torches or failing that install movement sensitive lights that only come on when needed.
– Public money: Waste of public money

Comment Section

0 Responses

  1. If my local authority is anything to go by, then spending money on street lighting is the very least of the worries about wasting public funds. £46 million for what is effectively a swimming pool? They could buy one of my paintings for that!

    I will be keen to read how the visit went. Doing much with little funds sounds an exciting and rewarding prospect in this economic climate.

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