Sam Durham


Recommended reading:

Posts by Sam

  • Access to energy – in the UK?

    September 10th, 2012

    I have just come across a thought-provoking set of photographs from Save the Children supporting their campaign on child poverty in the UK.  You can find them at . They are all pictures of children living in east London and each child was asked to write down what poverty means to them.

    The picture that stood out for me was of Amira, aged 8.  Amira lists the things she wouldn’t have if she didn’t have electricity and she comments;

     “I feel lucky that we have enough money to pay for electricity because we can enjoy stuff more than when we don’t.”

    There are issues with access to energy in all countries of the world, and many of the solutions Practical Action are calling to help the 1.4 billion with no access to energy would translate to those living in energy poverty in the UK.

    It struck me how similar Amira’s words are to the words we hear from Practical Action projects across the globe, and how many people living in poverty are so grateful to get basic access to energy.

    For example, Mamdhur from Nepal

    “Now we have electric lighting, we are very much relieved. We have more time to spend with our children and families, and no longer breathe in the smoke from the kerosene lamp that used to hurt our lungs. It was my dream to have lighting facilities in my village. The dark has turned to light.”

    Practical Action can show in many of our projects that, wherever you live:

    • Energy enables people to work their way out of poverty.
    • Energy provides better access to education and other basic services.
    • Energy improves health and wellbeing, especially for women and children.

    Please Make Your Point that energy is vital for poverty reduction because it gives people the power to improve their lives at


    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Let’s hear from the YIMBYs

    August 22nd, 2012

    At a recent meeting I heard from a group of Wiltshire climate change activists who were very angry about their local council’s recent decision to effectively ban wind turbines in the county (on health and safety grounds, in case a blade shears off and hits someone)

    The Council seems to have been lobbied by some loud and persuasive NIMBYs. Opposition to wind farms in the UK is very vocal; amongst politicians, the media and celebrities and we don’t often hear from wind energy supporters. I was struck that the group I was listening to weren’t saying “Not in my back yard” and are actually very keen to see a wind farm in their back yards. They were, in fact, YIMBYs (saying “yes in my back yard”  – and I was very proud of myself for inventing a new word). As it turns out, I hadn’t – there are YIMBY movements in Sweden and North America – but, even so, in the renewable energy debate we only seem to hear from some very noisy NIMBYs. We certainly don’t hear from millions of communities in Africa, Latin America and southern Asia who have no access to energy.

    Small scale wind power scheme in Peru

    YIMBYs in Peru

    Wiltshire County Council’s health & saftety concerns would seem ludicrous to the communities we work with at Practical Action. These communities  would see a wind turbine in their backyard (or a solar panel on their roof) as a real opportunity to get the energy they need to work their way out of poverty. They are definitely YIMBYs . In fact, if you could make an acronym out of it, wind turbines are “Essential  In Millions of  Back Yards”.

    So, I propose that the #YIMBYs of the world must unite, if you are in Wiltshire, Kenya, Peru or Nepal make your voice heard for sustainable energy for local people.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • CAT’s Energy Day to celebrate positive change towards a brighter energy future

    Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
    August 2nd, 2012

    On August 8th, I’m off to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) for their Energy Day (part of their Festival of the Future). I’m going to be there for Practical Action, to talk about our work on energy access and hopefully meet lots of people interested in energy issues.

    The day will have lots of activities, including interactive energy workshops, panel discussions with leading environmental thinkers, presentations from CAT experts, talks, and energy-themed kids’ activities and games.Visitors will get to grips with renewable technologies in ‘behind-the-scenes’ tours of CAT’s on-site renewables. Householders can discover more about how they can make small, achievable changes in their homes and communities to support the transition to a more sustainable and energy efficient society. As well as Practical Action, Friends of the Earth will talk on the UK’s energy policy, and the Guardian’s John Vidal will lead an insightful panel discussion on our energy futures.

    CAT’s own Zero Carbon Britain research team and experts will be on hand to discuss sustainable solutions to our current energy scenario, whilst renewable energy companies and representatives from community energy projects will be here to share their industry experience.

    The day will also be packed full of entertainment for children and young people. Energy-themed workshops and activities will take place throughout the day, and specially designed wide-games for kids and adults will be taking place across the CAT site. There will also be film screenings, music from a bike-powered sound system and pizza fresh from a wood-fired earth pizza oven.

    For more info: see

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • We’re all in this together?

    June 19th, 2012

    Hello, a quick introduction first! I’m Sam and I have just started at Practical Action as an Energy Campaigner.  Prior to joining Practical Action, I have been doing a lot of campaigning on various issues, including fuel poverty in the UK.  One thing that has struck me in this role is that although the difficulties facing people in the UK and people in the developing world seem worlds apart, with the issue of access to energy there are many similarities.

    Of course, there are countless differences – in the UK, we do have access to modern clean energy supplies; and we don’t have to hunt for firewood to cook our food and the smoke from that cooking doesn’t damage our health.

    But even so, fuel poverty does exist in the UK; many people cannot afford to heat their homes, and cold homes cause many winter deaths and long term health problem. UK government figures show illnesses caused by cold homes cost the NHS more than £850 million a year.

    It is scandalous that, in the 21st century, energy poverty exists across the globe; particularly when solutions are readily available.

    In the UK, this means making our building stock energy efficient. In the developing world, Practical Action provides many clean and sustainable ways for people to access energy.

    So, perhaps the issue of energy access does highlight the similarities between the UK and the developing world. Showing that everyone, no matter where they live, can struggle to access the energy they need to live full and healthy lives. As the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development begins, we have a fantastic opportunity to offer sustainable solutions for everyone.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the UK government’s mantra for the times of austerity, “we’re all in this together”, was applied to all people of the world? And they demonstrated this commitment by using their voice at Rio+20 to ensure the conference backs the UN’s call for Sustainable Energy for All by 2030?

    No Comments » | Add your comment