Emerging #8

August 19th, 2020

Three mines have been in the news this week.

In England, a surface mine, the Banks Group, in Bradley near Durham, was due to extract its last coal the day before yesterday. My sister was part of a protest group there.

It certainly feels a bit strange. Within living memory, I was part of the activist generation depicted in the films ‘Brassed Off’ and ‘Pride’, supporting coalminers’ families. And, more recently, I lived and worked next to a heritage steam railway. But the age of coal, and all fossil fuels, has to come to an end, for the health of us all…..

In America, amazingly, President Trump’s eldest son has called on his father and the Environmental Protection Agency to block the development of the Pebble mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Because he wants to continue fishing for salmon, admittedly, but this is a glimmer of hope. Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said: “Pebble would permanently destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and more than one hundred miles of streams.”

Residents of the bay and local and national environmental groups have been fighting the mine’s development since the early 2000s, when the small Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals filed plans to develop the massive deposit of gold, copper, molybdenum and other minerals discovered under two of Bristol Bay’s most productive salmon streams.

The third mine is the notorious proposed Adani coal mine, in Australia, that I’ve referred to before. A large number of companies have now refused to insure it, but it now seems as if British-based company Aon is getting involved. I’ve written to Aon’s CEO Greg Case….

Now, two island ‘stories’.

Mauritius has been subjected to an oil spill (that last word sounds so innocuous – an ecological emergency, actually), as I’m sure many of you know – its coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves are home to 1,700 species, including around 800 types of fish, 17 kinds of marine mammals and two species of turtles. Dr Corina Ciocan, a senior lecturer in marine biology at the UK’s University of Brighton, said: “There are very few such marine areas with such rich biodiversity left on the planet. An oil spill like this will impact almost everything there.”

Happier island news: local residents in the Maldives have won a campaign against developers and their government who wanted to turn two islands into a luxury resort.

The campaign to save the small islands started at the same time that a survey of coral reef damage was being carried out nearby. The study said more development could cause further damage. So, it’s a positive outcome now, but the islanders remain vigilant – have a look at the short video on BBC News.

Writing about water reminds me that I’ve noticed a news item about dragonflies – there do seem to be so many around at the moment. Beautiful, delicate, magical-looking creatures (‘here be dragonflies’ was the headline I read…!); but unfortunately, the fact there are more around for us to admire now is because the weather has been so warm. They should not all be thriving in Britain – another warning sign of climate change.

Food and farming are of course a continuing theme in my blogs.

A recent Guardian article seems positive – nearly one in five farmers are women, apparently, with the number rising all the time. During lockdown, a group of these created ‘Farms to Feed Us’, a document listing farms by postcode and what they sold. Co-founder Catherine St Germans said: “The response was really revealing as to the state of where we think our food comes from”…

She added: “Two months into lockdown, three million people bought veg boxes of direct from farms for the very first time. We want that momentum to continue.”

Mary Quicke, who farms in Devon, said: “Our challenge now is how we farm for the future in a way that supports our species being here… We’re stewards of our land and must produce and make food choices in a way that creates the kind of planet we want to live on.”

I hope she’s in touch with Henry Dimbleby; and that they all oppose the lower food standards that may well follow if/when we start trading more with the US….

The RSPCA has launched a new video, ‘exposing the realities of animal welfare’, warning consumers against US dairy, egg and meat imports. (US chickens ‘literally sitting in each other’s waste’…)

A Guardian article this week (by Sarah Mock on Monday) is headlined ‘From farm to factory: the unstoppable rise of American chicken’… So depressing, that word ‘unstoppable’.. 

At least we can try to stop that unhealthy (on so many levels..) appetite for fast-food chicken taking an irreversible hold in this country – I realise there are so many complicated factors here, advertising, cheap availability, the survival of small businesses etc; but the source (exploitative farming…) needs addressing.

Please sign the RSPCA petition, asking the government to include legal guarantees in the post-Brexit agricultural bill that will ensure “imports produced to lower animal welfare standards than our own will not enter the UK”.

And chicken farms in this country need to ‘clean up their act’ too – the River Wye, and other rivers, continue to be polluted by ‘run off’…

Now, this is so lovely!

‘Turnips’ restaurant has been opened, by a Borough Market trader (London) – ‘a clever response to challenging times’, according to Jay Rayner (yes, The Guardian…).

It’s apparently a ‘brazen, shameless display of what plants can do given the right encouragement’.

From early in lockdown, Turnips (originally a greengrocer business run by Fred Foster) was sending fruit and veg boxes to vulnerable groups in need, and cooks from some of the restaurants they usually supplied came to help. 

Now chef Tomas Lidakevicius has teamed up with Fred Foster, running the new outdoor restaurant.

And finally, ‘the kids have got it right’… My son and friend have been running music workshops at London’s Alexandra Palace – the self-styled Greenhouse Gurus, aged between 9 and 14, are working on a song. The sneak preview (on Twitter, @geckoofficial, @Si_Mole and @Yourallypally) sounds so determined and beautiful:

“We’ve only got one Earth, are we running out of time?

 We wanted to let you know, so we wrote it on a sign.”

Galvanises me for making my sign to join the Climate Activism protests in September….!

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