Image courtesy of Crowcombe Al on flickr
One of my mountain biking friends forwarded me a link the other day to a campaign to protect the Quantock Hills. Whilst I don’t recall having cycled in the Quantocks, the name was instantly familiar as it regularly crops up in the biking calendar for our MTB group’s day rides.
What’s happening is that Somerset County Council is finding money a bit tight and is looking to sell off 2,000 acres of woodland and moorland to pay for schools and roads in the county. Great Wood, Customs Common and Thorncombe Hill are all up for sale and, whilst the Quantock Hills are designated as an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the proposed sale has naturally angered a lot of people.
Locals are mystified that Somerset County Council would actually wish to sell the 2,000 acres of land anyway, especially considering that the land is apparently so protected that nothing can be done with it – even neighbouring landowners won’t touch it!
Friends of Quantock have lodged a formal complaint against the sale and action group 38 degrees, who have had a number of social and environmental victories in the past, have waded into the action. The campaign, Protect the Quantock Hills, already has nearly 40,000 signatories!
So, if you’re a fan or a friend of the Quantock Hills, you’ve walked or biked there or you just want to stand up for the protection of our natural habitat in this country then feel free to go over to the 38 degrees and sign their petition… Protect the Quantock Hills!
As reported, we sat down for an hour on Saturday and took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2011. What did we see?
On the Indonesian island of Sumatra is the Harapan Rainforest. For years it suffered from illegal logging – ancient trees and habitat were lost for the sake of quick profit and the natural environment was destroyed.
If you want to help restore the Harapan Rainforest, you can. Collecting seeds from the remaining areas of rainforest, the RSPB and its partners, are growing new trees in their nursery and re-establishing the natural habitat.
The intention is to plan a million fast-growing indigenous trees and let nature do the rest – all you need to do is donate just £2 and help to undo the work of the illegal log trade.
If you’re interested in helping to support this campaign, visit the RSPB’s Harapan One Million Tree Appeal.
This green and pleasant land, in our opinion, isn’t green enough. We’re not just talking about environmental and energy-saving initiatives but also the fact that this country was once covered in trees and mankind, in his infinite “wisdom”, has seen to remove so many of them. However, Norfolk County Council have been planting trees in rural villages, not for environmental reasons, but for traffic calming.
The new Coalition Government, in its ruthless drive to cut costs, has slashed the road safety budget, meaning that local authorities are free to choose whether or not they can invest in speed camera initiatives. To the complete dismay of road safety campaigners, cash-strapped councils are rumoured to be bailing out of road safety schemes despite the fact that some cameras can actually generate revenue, not to mention saving lives.
But Norfolk County Council’s innovative idea, at a cost of £70,000, appears to be slowing drivers down. On the approach to four of the county’s rural villages, Martham, Horstead, Mundesley and Overstrand, the council’s strategic planting scheme seems to be having an affect.
Planting 200 trees at these four locations, the council have created a “lazy diagonal” on the approach to the villages with the trees planted at ever-decreasing distances apart. The idea is that the tress play with the drivers’ peripheral vision so, as they approach a village at speed, the placement of the trees creates the sensation of increased speed so the drivers naturally apply the brakes and slow down.
As well as reducing speed and hopefully accidents, the initiative is also a carbon reduction scheme and, in part, a historic restoration exercise. Looking back at old photographs of Norfolk, councillors saw that the “avenue affect”, a classical sight in France, has been lost in this county and the tree-planting strategy was also restoring these bygone vistas.
Stuart Hallett, Norfolk’s casualty reduction manager said that the trees were not replacements for speed cameras, especially on fast roads, but as the planting of the trees in the rural locations was reducing speeds by around 2MPH it was showing positive results in the villages.
“What we tried to do in some locations was get over this idea of the village dominating the road environment, not the road dominating the village, so the driver’s perspective is ‘I am travelling through a community, I need to respect that and slow down’.”
said Hallett in an interview with The Independent.
The scheme has yet to release the full figures but let’s hope they get the results they need. A reduction in costs, carbon emissions and in road casualties coupled with the re-greening of this land sounds like a very positive win-win situation for drivers, for villagers and for the environment too.
Environmental disasters are currently at the forefront of world news with the BP gulf oil catastrophe in particular dominating the headlines over the last few months. In response, explore.org, the non-profit multi-media organization, has teamed up with HATCH to champion the selfless acts of others through a short film award at this year’s HATCHfest Bozeman film festival.
The explore/HATCH Award presented by explore.org will be given to the filmmaker who best tells the story of a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event.
Winner of the explore/HATCH award will be flown to HATCHfest Bozeman September 22-25 in a full expenses-paid trip and be presented with a Canon HD SLR camera package from explore.org’s founder, Charles Annenberg Weingarten, and HATCH.
If you’re interested in submitting your film then please visit http://explore.org/about/explorehatch_award/ for full details. The deadline for filmaker submissions is August 25th. Good Luck!
Last night I went to a climate change consultation with my local Rushmoor Borough Council.
40 local residents were invited down to Aldershot on a cold February night to discuss the borough’s policy and, arranged into small groups, we brainstormed Rushmoor BC’s plans for the environment and the future.
Of course, the number one topic raised was the issue of climate change itself. Currently, if you spend a lot of time in the media, the subject of climate change seems to be getting a real kicking. The Climategate affair, involving the leak of data from the University of East Anglia on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, followed by the controversy over the predictions of retreating Himalayan ice and now Sir David King’s attack on the IPCC mean that a lot of scepticism is creeping in and, last night, a few dissenting voices were heard in the room.
The important consensus though was that climate change is happening. It’s not just global warming or global cooling, but variations in “local” climate all over the world and, whether it’s man-made or natural, it’s best to prepare for it.
So, that first hurdle over, Rushmoor BC presented their plans for the next 20 years. The big issue locally is the Aldershot Urban Extension, meaning that our neighbouring town of Aldershot is to be the subject of a 4,500 home expansion. Whilst brownfield sites are preferable for new builds, it seems inevitable that so many more homes will be needed and the council will have to develop a new “town” of so many houses.
This will surely impact upon on our small Borough which is already a busy commuter area (with great links to London and the south coast via train and motorway). The plans are to lessen the impact of any new development, and Rushmoor BC made bold statements to meet and exceed environmental building standards by an additional 15%.
That prompted questions of “are the current environmental standards stringent enough?” meaning that beating them by 15% is a fairly easy task plus that age old question of “the council says it will meet & beat standards but will it actually do it?”
Many ideas were bandied around in our group with a lot of focus on restoring localisation, creating closer community, water run-off into the River Blackwater etc. Plus there was great interest in the proposed new power plant, powered, presumably, by local waste and providing heat & energy. The notion of creating an “eco town” was popular with the notion that Rushmoor could be as well-regarded as the city of Brighton which is always thought of as one of Britain’s greenest urban places.
The usual topics of individual wind & solar power arose with ground-heat pumps and green roofs being thrown in for good measure.
Overall, a wealth of ideas were explored and there seems to be a consensus that the majority of people were in favour of bold steps in order to make the borough a greener place in terms of planning over the next 20 years or so.
The Natural Environment
The second part of the night revolved around Rushmoor’s natural environment. Surrounded by military land, we are blessed with a fairly natural environment that is protected by its ownership under the MOD.
The consensus was that we should not only protect every single piece of green environment that we have around here but that we should also restore and improve upon it. Natural and man-made attrition of the trees in the borough is something close to my heart as I’ve seen numerous trees come down locally over the years, never to be replaced. Do we get an organisation like the Woodland Trust involved to help us re-green Rushmoor?
Cycle paths were mentioned again as local citizens expressed a desire to expand cycle routes and to encourage more use of cycles in the borough. One resident even complained that where he locked up his cycle in the North Camp part of town they had removed the cycle racks and never replaced them!
There was a very healthy discourse over the evening and a number of people felt as though this was just the first of many discussions regarding the environment in Rushmoor. The many notes that were made were taken away to be digested by the council and they will have much food for thought.
Some great ideas came out of the meeting and, for starters, I would like to see the replacement and replanting of more trees, an extension of cycle tracks and a push to get more people cycling, loft insulation for all, better buses and routes and a green roof initiative.
Every piece of green and MOD land must be fought for and preserved and the inevitable expansion of Aldershot MUST be sustainable, green and a benefit to current residents not a detriment.
Finally, I’d like to see flights to Farnborough Airport capped as they are. I’ve seen no major benefit to the local economy from the planes flying in and, working near the airfield, the avgas fumes are unpleasant and unhealthy, not to mention the M3 motorway and the ridiculous “sound barrier” erected for residents who brought houses right next to the M3 but complained it was too noisy! (irony?) Thanks to them the sound bounces off the wooden fences and pollutes an even greater area.
Let’s hope Rushmoor Borough can only get safer, greener and cleaner.
Whilst Governments bicker over reducing CO2 emissions and take too long to consider giving away money to poorer countries to help them in the fight against climate change, the world is changing, and not for the better either.
For years the term biodiversity has been bandied around as an important factor in identifying the richness of the environments on this planet and the flora and fauna supported within each connected ecosystem. But now the United Nations has decided that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity.
For environmentalists, green people and nature lovers everywhere, every year should be a year of biodiversity but the UN campaign aims to create an awareness of the threat to the world’s dwindling natural populations.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has stated that species are being destroyed at about 1000 times the natural rate and is quoted as saying that
“business as usual is not an option”
which fits nicely in with not only biodiversity but the sustainability message too.
As usual, it’s human activity that’s encroaching upon the natural world with city-building and agricultural practices mainly to blame for the decline in biodiversity. I’d also throw in the lack of knowledge and education on sustainable practices plus the west’s greedy demand for the use of ever more natural resources plus the willingness of people to sacrifice nature for the sake of trade and money without the slightest thought for the consequences.
There will be plenty of material available after the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity today, so keep your eyes open for some incredible work in the fight to slow down man’s destruction of the natural world.
And think about the portent from some biologists who believe that if we don’t do anything this could be the earth’s sixth “great extinction” where the previous five were all caused by natural disasters such as asteroid strikes!
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been running a consultation for the regulation of inorganic phosphates in domestic laundry and cleaning products (DLCPs) since October 2009. The closing date of the consultation is 21st January 2010.
The consultation by DEFRA’s Water Quality Division seeks to gather comments on the banning of inorganic phosphates for forthcoming regulation.
In their own words, DEFRA states that:
Many rivers do not meet EU standards for phosphorous content. Phosphorous reduces the oxygen content of water and harms aquatic life. A ban will help to reduce inorganic phosphate pollution and mean the water industry has to use less energy and chemicals to remove phosphorous from sewage effluent.
So, by banning inorganic phosphates:
- Britain’s rivers will be cleaner as the water quality improves, meeting EU targets at the same time.
- Our aquatic life will no longer be harmed and
- By not adding additional chemicals to DCLPs the water companies will not need to purchase and use further chemicals in order to treat waste water to remove the chemicals that were added to it elsewhere in the first place!
Banning inorganic phosphates from DCLPs looks like a win-win-win situation from here. Not only do we clean up our rivers & environment and help our wildlife but we also make huge efficiencies by banning inorganic phosphates. With the water industry using “less energy and chemicals to remove phosphorous from sewage effluent” you would expect their costs to decrease; they would be more energy-efficient, they would have less overhead in having to not purchase and use additional chemicals and their treatment methodologies would be simplified with less processes.
In addition the water industry would be taking another step toward their corporate social responsibility which is good for their conscience and good for their public image. Efficient, clean and green; what could be better?
The only losers in this equation would be the manufacturers of inorganic phosphates but with demand for phosphates increasing, particularly due to the increase in world population and the demand for meat & crops, phosphates will continue to be used in artificial fertilisers. However, as phosphates are a finite resource prices have increased massively, so discontinuing their use is an economic benefit for manufacturers of DLCPs.
The alternatives are plant-based environmentally-friendly products such as the excellent Ecover range of cleaning products (such as their lemon & aloe vera washing-up liquid or non-biological washing powder) which have minimal impact upon the environment.
So, if you have any thoughts on banning inorganic phosphates from domestic laundry and cleaning products then head over to theNetregs “Detergent regulations consultation”, read the details of the consultation and tell them your thoughts on the matter before the 21st January 2010.
The deadline of 1st January 2015 for the complete “ban” (with it being an offence to market DLCPs with more than 0.4% inorganic phosphates) has been set up to allow the industries concerned time to change their products and packaging, although with the speed at which they can launch products, this seems far too generous (five years to remove inorganic phosphates and “redesign” the packaging?!)