40 years ago a group of pioneering environmentalists set about transforming an abandoned Welsh slate quarry into a centre to develop sustainable technologies and lifestyles. The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) rapidly became a world-renowned leader in demonstrating practical alternatives to fossil fuel consumption and intensive resource use. Today, many of the solutions promoted by CAT (and initially dismissed by many as ‘wacky’ or ‘idealistic’) have become embedded in our energy and resource systems. Wind turbines, water power and solar power are now mainstream technologies, while many aspects of sustainable living (organic growing, composting, water efficiency, and recycling) have become far more commonplace.
Despite this progress, the environmental problems we face today – locally and globally – are greater than ever, and CAT has a crucial role to play in tackling these problems. The biggest of these challenges is, of course, climate change. The key question is whether we can keep climate change within ‘manageable’ limits, or whether government inaction will take us beyond the temperature rises that scientists predict will lead to catastrophic climate change.