Bees, trees and money

March 2nd, 2020

We had family visiting this weekend, so I’ll start with local/manageable actions we can all take in the climate change fight.

My husband’s busy making a raised bed for growing vegetables at this moment, and I’ve received a message from the National Trust encouraging all of us to ‘make a promise for nature’ this leap year. Planting bee-friendly flowers is one suggestion (and for other pollinating insects, including wasps!) And the National Trust has ditched plastic for the annual membership card it sends out to 5 million people. The new cards will be made from a type of durable paper featuring a tough water-based coating with the paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and will be produced in a mill powered by its own biomass. The new cards will be entirely recyclable and compostable, at a fraction of the cost of the old cards, which were made of plastic and chalk, a by-product of the mining industry. Elsewhere, the charity is looking at removing plastic from most of its greeting cards and wrapping paper, and testing drink dispensers to reduce the sale of bottled drinks (my son-in-law is involved, working to improve National Trust cafes – a family friendly blog, this….!).

Another initiative from the National Trust is looking at alternatives to plastic tree guards, for protecting new saplings.

Tree planting is one way of dealing with the climate emergency. Sir Harry Studholme, who has led the Forestry Commission for the last seven years, has warned: “A tree is for life – don’t plant the wrong ones”. The key to reaching 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025 (the government’s target) will be forestry funding via a new system of financial support for farmers – still being devised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, hopefully to help farmers shift to some forestry.

Mr Studholme said fast-growing conifers are able to sequester more carbon than native deciduous trees. The denser timber of native oak sequesters more carbon per cubic metre. But there are many more cubic metres of timber in a Douglas fir plantation because the trees can grow much closer together, and the firs grow more quickly. So mixed plantations are the answer. 

And ‘we need to do what’s right for each different bit of land.’ Deer and grey squirrels need to be controlled, too, to protect the new trees. If plastic guards are ditched, very, very good deer control will be needed – sad, but true….

On the smaller scale of schools and local communities, the Woodland Trust offers a great range of grants (even, some free offers…) to encourage more tree planting – just go to their website for an application form (if you have some land/permission sorted, of course!.).

Spring is such a heartening time, of course, with its increased light and new growth, but now it’s tinged with sadness about ‘lost’ winters. The Woodland Trust has warned that many species of nesting birds, active insects and amphibians are losing their seasonal cues as winters warm and seasons shift. Some could be tempted out of hibernation too soon and be hit by plummeting temperatures amid increasingly erratic weather. Oak trees respond by producing their first leaves earlier and caterpillars seem to be keeping pace. But blue tits, great tits and pied flycatchers are struggling to react in time for their chicks to take advantage of the peak amount of caterpillars, the food source on which they depend.

I must admit that however much I love warm, sunny weather, I’m concerned that our summer enjoyment will distract from the central issue that’s not going to go away – we must not forget the urgency of the climate emergency…..

I’ll now turn away from the personal, local domain to the human, global WORLD!

Starting with some good news, highlighted by ‘Fossil Free News’ from 350.org:

In Canada’s tar sands region, the largest ever proposed open-pit mine has been shelved – the company Teck Resources said that uncertainty over climate policy and protest in Canada convinced them to pull out.

In the Philippines, a new ban on all new coal-fired power station projects in the province of Antique has passed after years of anti-coal protests in the region. The provincial board said the ban was because of the damaging effects of coal to communities’ health.

In Brazil, what would have been Latin America’s largest open-pit coal mine was stopped by a federal court, thanks to a diverse campaign of marches, public education and advocacy. The court said the coal company’s failure to consult the local Indigenous population was a key factor.

So people power does work!

Please keep signing the petitions I post on Facebook and Twitter (#grandmaglobal); and go on Marches if you can (my daughter in law was at the last Bristol one, and my daughter in spirit…).

Now, a bit of good news that’s between local and global, drivers in Coventry could be paid up to £3,000 a year in transport vouchers to ditch their cars under a UK-first scheme. The Transport for the West Midlands pilot project is designed to reduce congestion and pollution. Those who scrap their cars will get between £1,500 and £3,000 in mobility credits to spend on public transport, taxis, bike shares or a car club. The scheme will be tested in Coventry next year, and could be rolled out across the region if successful. People will be able to apply for the trial later this year.

Jim O’Boyle, the city council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration said: “The key now is to work up the scheme in a way that benefits people who may be dependent on using a vehicle as part of their daily responsibilities.” Yes, there is the ‘rub’…. People have to be convinced that there is a benefit for them – is the reward of cleaner air, fewer emissions enough?…Can we convince people that making sacrifices and adapting to living differently is worthwhile?

Fear doesn’t work, I know, but I just had to add this shocking news: new cars sold in the UK produce more carbon dioxide than older models…

Cars that reach the latest standards of emissions use cleaner internal combustion engine technology to combat air pollution; but the demand for bigger, heavier models has led to average greenhouse gas emissions rising (according to Which?, the consumer group). Emissions rose fastest among hybrids, in part due to the weight of the two power sources.

Now, the financial sector. It’s currently reeling because of coronavirus. Maybe it will come back in a different form, a new economic model, once that has retreated…?! We can hope!

More realistically, we just have to keep putting pressure on banks and investment companies to divest from oil, coal and gas.

I’ve written to CEO Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase bank; and I hope friends and climate activists I know in America (and wherever else they have branches) will join the protest action on April 23rd (coinciding with my BP meeting date!).
Turning to the UK and friends & relations here, Barclays has one of the worst records of funding fossil fuel companies – please question this, if you bank with them….

Finally, two positive actions to promote – one, noticed on a trip to my parents’ Norfolk church: next Thursday (March 12th, 7.30pm), Tessa Wardley (who works for DEFRA) is talking about ‘Enjoying Creation and Effecting Change, Nationally and Internationally’ at St Margaret’s Church, Hempnall. She’s an author of several books, including ‘The River Book’, that seek to connect children & adults to the natural world.

The second, 8 Billion Trees, is an amazing group of people fighting deforestation in the Amazon – check out their website.

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