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Alex Maclean Bristol

Blog Article: Alex Maclean Bristol

Alex Maclean Bristol, Returned Volunteer from China 1989 and former member of staff shares his thoughts on his experience of Project Trust and why he is committed to shaping Project Trust’s future Sustainability Strategy.

I went to Shantou University in southeast China in 1989.  The experience of living and working in China gave me a love of the Far East that has endured ever since.  Seonaid, my wife, was a fellow Volunteer in China that year and Archie, our eldest, is hoping to go to China as a Volunteer this autumn, so you could say it has shaped my life in a very personal way!  The experience of living and working abroad at such a young age affected my world view, and I find myself reliving my experience of 32 years ago as Archie finishes school and looks (hopefully) to his year ahead.

I live on Coll and have been involved in renewables since putting up three turbines on my farm 9 years ago.  I believe that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to mitigate against climate change and I am seeking to assist others in this (I am part way through an MSc at Edinburgh University as part of this).  Project Trust, as a youth organisation sending young people overseas, should, in my mind, be at the forefront of this, and indeed needs to demonstrate to future Volunteers that they are taking this seriously.

Realistically Project relies on international travel and the emissions that causes.  Project Trust needs to be doing what it can to reduce the emissions that it has control over which are principally those created by its operations on Coll.  I also feel that international understanding is becoming more vital than ever.  The Covid pandemic has stopped travel and tensions between China and the West have increased.  The founding aim of Project Trust was for young people to learn about other countries and cultures while living and working with them for a substantial period of time.  Preventing the growth of barriers between peoples is vital, particularly as we are all threatened by the common challenge of climate change, and spending a year abroad with Project can contribute to this in a small way.

In order to support Project Trust to become more sustainable I have helped the process of beginning recording the emissions of the organisation. This enables a base level to be set to compare subsequent years against in the future.  For an international organisation reliant on travel this is quite a difficult challenge, so we have started with UK emissions which largely means those at the headquarters on Coll.

In order to reduce these, I assisted Project Trust in a successful application for a substantial Scottish Government grant which will pay for an electric vehicle and some renewable generation to reduce the electricity imported to Ballyhough.

I think that we can all live our lives a little greener but also think that there are limits to what individuals can do themselves.  Political pressure as electors can help.  Thinking about choices too.  Do we really need to take so many flights a year?  I do wonder if the Pandemic as well as climate concerns will have killed the weekend break market to European destinations?  Time will tell.  At the end of the day we are going in the right direction. UK emissions are 51% down on 1990.

There is a long way to go however and the low hanging fruit has been picked.  Now we are having to work our way up to the higher branches.  It is all possible though so there is no need to be despondent and feel that it is all too difficult (if you want a positive film recommendation watch 2040 on Netflix!).

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