Lucy and the New Dawn Traders

Fare Traded by Sail

Category: Science

To Singularity and beyond!


So I’ve skipped the country to take up a position at Singularity University at NASA Ames Research Park in California. Exploring the frontiers of science and technology, with aim of solving humanity’s grand challenges…. Follow for the latest updates from Silicon Valley.

Originally posted on SupaNatures:

I’m becoming pretty experienced at turning my life upside down to leap on great opportunities. I made the bold move of accepting a position as the Food advisor on the Graduate summer Programme, Singularity University based at NASA Ames Research Park. The condition being that I get on a plane to Silicon Valley within 5 days!

Five years ago I made the pledge to stop flying and radically cut my personal carbon footprint. However when I considered the opportunity of spending 10 weeks over the summer working with some of the most passionate and brightest technologists, inventors and entrepreneurs from around the world, it was a no brainer. I felt certain that my physical presence on the programme would offset the energy required to get me here!

I arrived in Mountain view, California, just in time for the opening ceremony held at the Computer History Museum on the 17th of June and watched delighted (and seriously jetlagged) as the 80 participants from around the world, paraded in with their national flags.

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Storytelling for Sea Change! – 7th February @ Hermitage Moorings

Come on a journey with us through the arts and the seas, to hear how some ambitious projects are bringing to life stories of a sustainable shipping future and communicating climate change through more creative means.

This discussion will be aptly hosted at the Hermitage Community Moorings, on the Thames river by Tower Bridge.

We invite you to arrive on 7th February at 6.30pm to a welcoming of sea shanties and refreshments including delicious cocktails made with organic Brazilian cachaça from Abelha. At 7pm we present our three speakers and their inspiring projects, followed with a lively discussion. We hope to inspire you to run away with us and sail the seas!


Lucy Gilliam : The New Dawn Traders :

Having crossed the Atlantic and back, trading goods via sail and connecting slow food communities, the New Dawn Traders are spearheading a revival of shipping under sail and telling the story of sustainable shipping.

Sam Kimmins : Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Shipping Initiative :

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative brings together some of the biggest names in the maritime sector to plan how it can contribute to – and thrive in – a sustainable future.

Chris Wainwright : Cape Farewell :

Cape Farewell aims to instigate a cultural response to climate change, famous for its expedition taking artists, musicians and writers to the Arctic, to inspire them to communicate the effects of climate change through the creative arts.


16 Wapping High Street, London, E1W 1NG … Nearest Tubes: Tower Hill and Wapping



Chasing Ice – Must see film of 2012

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of climate change. Using time-lapse cameras, his videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.

New Dawn Traders Lucy, Alex and Rose watched ‘Chasing Ice’ last night and were blown away by the speed of documented environmental change in the Arctic.

At one point in the film they capture the collapse of a glacier the size of Manhattan and several times larger in height than the tallest buildings in new York collapse over 75 minutes. The scale and speed is breathtaking. They then show the historical change. The glacier retreated 10 miles in 100 years. Followed by 10 miles in the most recent 10 years. The long range time lapse footage is really mind blowing.

The rapid acceleration of the ice retreat is what leaves you most shocked. Given that temperatures have only risen 0.8˚C so far, what will the 2˚C, 4˚C or 6˚C changes look and feel like?! Current projections from fossil fuel emissions are that we are on a trajectory for 6˚C by the end of the century with the chances of keeping below 2˚C slim to none.

The film was followed by a Q&A session with a journalist, scientist, artist and campaigner who had all spent time in the Arctic recording environmental change. They were cautiously optimistic that we could make the changes necessary and get off a dangerous path.

Relentless optimism. What the doctor’s ordered.

The loss of the Arctic ice will trigger a rapid surge in positive feedback loops further propelling us forward to a drastically warmer world which could have disastrous consequences for life on earth. This is the tipping point for a mass extinction event.

Watch the trailer and get down to one of the UK screenings happening now. Or wherever you are in the world call on your cinema network to show this film. This is must see. The footage is breathtaking and the story compelling.

The more people that see this and start working together to tackle climate change, the greater the chance of averting disaster. Politicians have failed us in Doha. But let us not sink into despair.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

“Please, let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to find the will to take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” Filipino lead negotiator Naderev M. Saño speaking at Doha. His remarks were met with loud applause. But no action.

But we are more powerful then we realise.

We have the power to act.

Just Do It.

The rise of animalitarians


Concerned with or seeking to promote animal welfare: “groups sending animalitarian aid”.
A person who seeks to promote animal welfare; a philanthropist.

This week I was invited to the Lush Awards in London. This was of particular interest to me as during my time at Defra working on chemicals regulation, the issue of animal toxicity testing was regularly on the agenda.

Lush, a cosmetics brand that trades on its ethics, recently launched the Lush Prize. The Lush Prize is £250,000 to be awarded to science that stops animal testing.

I arrived at an obscure East London address filled with graph paper, robotics, and a range of audio visuals. This was the digital dissection room. A space specially created for Lush by Something & Son and Inition, with a vegan feast created from wonky vegetables and recovered waste food by Tom’s Forgotten Feast. 

Peter Tatchell and Ellie present the awards in the Digital Dissection Dining Room

Each dining table came complete with iPads where, when placed in front of our dinner plates, an augmented reality of an organ appeared in my dish. I had a heart which could be manipulated on the screen to reveal the chambers, blood vessels and internal matrix.

Augmented reality heart dissected on my dinner plate

I curiously explored the with the same morbid fascination as when I first went to Gunther Von Hagen’s Bodyworks exhibition years ago in Bricklane. I often say ‘Science paints my world’. I am eternally curious to learn how I’m constructed, where I came from along with the world around me. But I’m also an #animalperson and don’t feel that the knowledge should come at the price of animal suffering.

The Winners of this years Lush Prize all demonstrated that human welfare can go hand in hand with animal welfare, that good science advances animal welfare, and in the 21st century testing on live animals is unnecessary.

The Science Prize went to the European Commission Joint Research Council for their work on developing a liver toxicity test. They combined a high throughput liver cell toxicity test with high resolution imaging to research the mode of action of a range of toxics. Basically its a test with liver cells in a 96 well robotics plate, where toxics are added and changes in cell colour are measured. The cells turn different shades of red depending on toxicity. This is the first in-vitro test to be developed for rapid assessment of liver toxicity. You can find out more about The EC JRC and it’s work on in-vitro alternatives to animal tests here.

All evening it was inspiring to learn how just how global and collaborative this work is, with work showcased from Russia, US, Canada, India, Japan, Latin America, Middle East, Africa… Particularly inspiring was hearing from Prize winners JAVA from Japan. This tiny NGO is comprised of only 3 full-time staff and a network of volunteers but succeeded in getting cosmetics brand Shiseido to change their animal testing policies.

InterNICHE work to normalise the alternatives to animal testing models in Universities. It’s important to ensure that students don’t become desensitised to animal suffering. InterNICHE accepted their award with their stuffed dog George. George is a very life like mannequin (doggyquin?) complete with artificial heart beat, breath sounds and realistic skeleton beneath the artificial fur.

I questioned the researchers after the presentation on how these models reduce testing even if eventually you have to move on to live animals. They explained that there is a significant training requirement for just learning basic diagnostic techniques. By providing highly realistic artificial models in training, for learning intubations of listening for heart rates, when eventually they work with a live animal they will be better skilled and less likely to harm the animal.

George the ‘doggyquin’. A model developed as a learning tool for scientists working with animals. Designed to reduce numbers of animals required for early stage skills development.

And the final piece of research to catch my attention was research from Denmark using human placenta tissue to test chemicals for endocrine (hormone disruption) activity. The hormone system is a complex system of chemical signals that maintains homeostasis (balance) in the body. Waste placenta’s are collected from maternity units and used to test for estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activities of chemicals used as ingredients in the cosmetics and skin care industry.

Many chemicals have been found to mimic or disrupt these chemical signal pathways in the body. An example of a hormone disrupting group of chemicals are phthalates which are used to soften plastics, are used as a component of perfume, and are thought to be both obesogenic (make you fat) along with interference with sex hormones.

Many ingredients of beauty and personal care products are now being shown to be toxic, exhibit sub lethal effects on your biochemistry or disrupt hormones. Do you really need it? And is it really worth it?

Another group are the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which are released as a by product of combustion and industrial processes. Exposure to even small quantities can result in significant changes as they can signal the cascade of other processes in the body. The very worst of these compounds are now subject to international regulation under the Stockholm protocol, plus the European Commission now has a specific working group on Endocrine disruption assessing the science and developing the appropriate policies. But to date much of the evidence of chemical activity has come from testing on live animals.

What is even more sad is that these tests are not well understood; small changes in variables can lead to very different answers depending on the stress levels, diet, breed of animal etc.

Evidence shows that many animals under laboratory conditions, particularly rodents, are mentally stressed. Stress is generally defined as the state that results when the brain instructs the body to make changes in order to adapt to pressure and the individual feels that needs will exceed the personal resources which are available. The response is fuelled by stress hormones that flow through the body, altering every organ and biochemical function, with wide-ranging effects on metabolism, growth, and reproduction. The stress hormones released alter the endocrine system thus potentially altering any other endocrine effects from toxicity test.

Researchers often dismiss questions concerning environmental influences on their experimental data by claiming that such effects “balance out,” because their control animals are housed under the same (stressful) conditions. But the conclusions drawn from such experiments are specific to the stressed animals and cannot necessarily be extrapolated to healthy animals.

“I think animal testing is a terrible idea. They get all nervous and give silly answers” Stephen Fry.

Apparently Lush cannot currently trade in China as the law there is that all cosmetics on sale must be first tested on animals. Sadly many beauty companies that had stopped testing on animals have resumed in order to access Chinese customers. It’s horrifying that company executives in those beauty companies will have sat around a table recently and made the decision between animal welfare and profits in China. They could have made the decision the other way and chosen to lobby the Chinese government and provide the resources to demonstrate alternatives. Therefore it is really important to communicate that these non animal testing models exist.

This image is taken from a recent Lush Campaign.
“Ask experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘because they are like us.’ Ask experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.” Charles R. Nagel.

Lush are to be commended for their progressive market place advocacy. They boldly highlight that their business model does not require animal tests so why do others? Hopefully more businesses will follow suit. But what I have increasingly come to understand is that there are cosmetics and skin brands brands that say they don’t test on animals but when you investigate a little deeper you find out they are owned by another brand that does. If you are interested in finding out more check out Ethical consumer. The Sept/Oct issue is ‘beauty products’ special issue.

I wonder what the response would be if instead of labelling something as free from animal testing, that companies had to clearly state that ‘this product has been tested on animals’. Would that change consumer behaviour and company policy?

I’m going to nail my colours to the mast on this issue. Animal testing for cosmetics is pretty twisted. My hope is that animal testing will soon be seen in a similar light as slavery; unacceptable and brutal. Animal testing belongs in the history books not in laboratories.

Sail Renaissense

It’s been a long time since I have written on this page and a lot has happened in that time. But I’m inspired to get back into this story after receiving a message from our guide from the Angostura factory in Trinidad who thanked me for the stories!

The decompression after an intense 6 months away has been more challenging than I would have expected and it has been tricky charting the new territories of no income and plotting next steps. But finally I think the mists of doubt are lifting and the light of the stars reappearing. I read a quote a few days ago that said “don’t plot your way by the lights of the passing ships, but set your course by the stars”. I’ve dusted off my sextant, opened up the charts and got my diary out. I’m back in business! Question is what next?

Well turns out I’ve had a rather epic week last week whereby I took the bold step of travelling to the launch of a sustainable shipping conference to explore the realities of Sail cargo. Without really much idea of the people involved or the outcome I travelled for 10 hours across Europe by train to investigate (yeah have I told you I love trains to!).

Along the route I was joined by Gavin Allwright from Greenheart Project. Greenheart are in the final throws of their very first crowdfunding campaign to build their first prototype sail cargo ship destined to transform island communities in the pacific. This is a great project on many levels. I really like the open source collaborative model of design and the fact that the basic design can be customised to a range of different purposes from cargo to fishing to environmental monitoring. The ships could also make great disaster relief ships imprtant in a rapidly changing world!

I finally arrived in the misty hinterlands of Fryslân which is surrounded by water, below sea level and surrounded by dykes to keep the seas at bay. I was instantly blown away by the tranquil beauty of this land in twilight as the sun set casting over pink rippled skies. Dozens of paddlebarges and folk boats dotted the waterside. In a moment I considered ditching London to move here to potter and paint before remembering my mission.

Not long after Jorne and Arjen from Tres Hombres arrived. Quickly they introduced me to the project team and I explained my unexpected presence at the meeting, my adventures and visions of sail freight. I rather boldly challenged the organisers on whether they believed they could change the world.

The following morning I arrived for the opening of the meeting and quickly approached by the organisers. A presenter had dropped out and they wondered if I would consider presenting my vision. ‘Hell yes’ I replied! No time like the present.

The meeting was opened by Dutch Olympic Sailor and Silver medal winner Marit Bouwmeester, a Laser Radial racer (Class of boat). She gave a brief account of her days racing in Weymouth. A little bit of trivial gossip is that Marit is dating Ben Ainslie from Olympic Team GB. Ben stormed into the record books when he became the first person to win 5 medals in sailing across 5 separate Olympics.

There were a range of presenters from the NGO North Sea Foundation which aims to promote sustainable management of the North sea and promote interdisciplinary understanding of the marine environment. They play a key role in tracking and coordinating EU level actions relating to the marine environment. An overview of the significant range of pollutants and emissions from shipping. While shipping is ‘efficient’ by per tonne transported it still forms a significant proportion of global pollutions as it burns the heaviest and most toxic of fuels. Currently shipping is not included in the EU emissions trading scheme. Shipping and aviation were purposely prevented from being included in the United Nations negotiations on emissions reductions as it is difficult to apportion the origin of emissions to particular nations. The EU recently launched a consultation on creation of a shipping emission trading scheme which could go someway to driving innovations in clean tech for ships.

The naval architects from the dutch firm Dykstra (who designed Rainbow warrior 3!) presented their designs for sail propelled ships and their work on alternative propulsion mechanisms. A range of renewable and hybrid technologies were presented that could significantly reduce the fuel bills and pollution emissions of shipping, along with policy and economic challenges in bringing sail freight to market. Gavin from Greenheart also presented his visions for small sail cargo ships for the developing world and an overview of the current range of sail cargo designs while Jorne gave the final rallying cry that we all act together now to build these incredible designs. The oil is running out, the environmental problems increasing and there is not time for waste. You can find details of the aims and objectives here.

Certainly at the end of my stay the process of sharing my dreams and hearing the aspirations of others across 7 EU countries has painted a far clearer picture in my mind of what the future could look like. And what about my presentation you might ask? Well after months of fermenting, reflecting, networking and pondering I leapt at the chance to test out the concept of New Dawn Traders on a professional audience. I got loads of great feedback and literally can’t wait to share ideas with my ship mates now I’m back home…. Time will tell. But I predict the Sail Renaissence!

“When the wind of change blows some build walls while others set their sails”

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