Building a Low Impact Den for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Tony Wrench
Tuesday, 27th November 2012

Gillian McCarthy suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity caused by organophosphate poisoning early in her career. With no home this winter, Tony Wrench and a group of natural builders are building her an emergency den.

Tony Wrench, author, low impact development activist and pioneer of Low Impact Roundhouses has become involved in a unique and compassionate project. Tony, with the help of friends and volunteers, is building a 'den' for Gillian McCarthy who suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Gillian cannot be near man-made chemicals or electrical fields without suffering debilitating allergic reactions. Her helpers say she will not survive this winter without an insulated home made from completely natural materials. 

Gillian McCarthy is a scientist, a permaculturist and expert on bee plant cultures, animal feeds and horse care. She was a national dressage judge.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

As a student Gillian worked on sheep dips and organophosphates. All her fellow researchers are now dead. (I can hardly believe this as I write it). Now she is an extreme sufferer from MCS - Multiple Chemical Sensitivity - a condition that imprisons sufferers in their own homes, unable to use cars, mechanised transport, mobiles, mains electricity, gas, wood, or oil.

Gillian lives in a shack supplied for her as a temporary measure by her local council seventeen years ago. She sleeps in a chair with several layers on. Her shack leaks, is not insulated and is not heated. It is a miracle she has survived this long, and the tangled web of bureaucratic procrastination could be the subject of fiction.

See a short clip about Gillian and why she has had such a battle with the council:

One day South Somerset District Council may find an appropriate piece of land for a proper house for her, as has been done for other sufferers elsewhere, with planning permission, with a grant from central government (as nearly happened before but the grant lapsed). In the meantime I am co-ordinating a rescue mission to build her an emergency den to get her through the winter, with a thick foamglas, limecrete and slate floor, solar warmed, with underfloor heating, straw bale walls and an ash frame. Gillian can tolerate seasoned ash.

Can You Help?

Six workers have been digging out a space in terrible weather conditions over the past two weeks, but we are just on target. The den will cost about £10,000. If you wish to find out more and offer your labour, money, expertise or fundraising skills please first check out the facebook page Gillian McCarthy Den.

You can also post donations to: Gillian McCarthy Rescue Fund c/o The Treasurer, 10 Innox Hill, Frome, Somerset BA11 2LW or pay direct into this account: Coventry Building Society sort no. 40-63-01, account no. 59239807.

Update from Tony Wrench

This account will be used exclusively for expenses and materials for the building of Gillian McCarthy's Den. We now have a full design to work to. Next week we will order 100 straw bales, organic, from a supplier we have found, and four cubic metres of foamglas plus some ancillary stuff like celing board. We will also need several hundred for the floor slates. We have ordered but not paid for the large amount of ash poles for the structure, so would welcome a number of workers to strip the bark from this wood.

Costs of these main building materials will be approx £3,000 and we are ordering them on trust that the money will manifest.

I would like to emphasise that we do not have the infrastructure, the space, the equipment or the planning permission to give Gillian the home that she deserves to have, to live, bathe, work and recover in. Such a house will include space for visitors and accommodation for a carer. Our mission is to give her a warm pod to survive the winter in, that will last as long as necessary until an appropriate home is made for her. Before that happens there will need to be a reconsideration by the local council, and the convening of a new team of professionals to help her. For us it is simply a matter of priorities.

Yesterday morning in the freezing fog Gillian recorded her temperature at 34.2degrees celsius. For most people that would be a sign for immediate hospitalisation. She has shown incredible resilience, but we are concerned that she could simply die of cold. Our priority is to prevent that within the next few weeks. We need workers in the mud for the next three weeks and if you are up for it we will eventually pay your expenses. If we receive enough we can pay for your labour too.

For more information read The Hazards of Sheep Dipping from Pesticide Action Network UK.

To find out more see Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

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