August 27th, 2020
Animals first today!
England’s first wild beavers for 400 years have finally been allowed to live on the River Otter in Devon (great name, appropriate somehow!). Up to 15 family groups of beavers are now estimated to live on this river, after seven years in which their future success did not always look assured. Now they have legal residency, thank goodness.
Beavers’ dams both slow the speed of floods and help provide water storage that stops rivers running dry during droughts. The dams also filter out pollutants and stop topsoil being washed away.
Let’s hope the Cornwall Beaver Project, as seen on Countryfile, will result in legal permanence too..
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues to be at risk from proposed Alaska oil drilling. Polar bears are “particularly vulnerable” to oil spills – Kristen Monsell, from the US-based Center for Biological Diversity, explained: “Oil can soak a polar bear’s fur and persist for several weeks. It will be groomed and ingested, irritate the skin and destroy the insulating abilities of the fur… fatalities can occur from effects on the lungs, kidneys, blood, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs and systems.”
The push from the Trump administration is happening when the Arctic Circle recorded its highest ever temperatures. Outrageous. Another reason to hope for good news and a new administration on November 3rd – US Election Day….
World Orangutan Day took place this week. The orangutans’ last natural habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate. The rainforest is being cleared and destroyed for the benefit of palm oil plantations and mining, and large forested areas are being destroyed as a result of logging and forest fires.
I’ve been in correspondence with Barbara Wettstein from Nestle – she stresses that they are actively eliminating any association with deforestation from any of their supply chains, but that is definitely not happening fast enough. I was encouraged by her last sentence ‘hope you keep on asking the difficult questions’ – I’ll keep asking her them…!
You might have seen Tesco’s social media ads, claiming to support Greenpeace in its bid to stop deforestation. Unfortunately, sustainable soya for animal feed is very hard to source. Some Tesco meat, particularly from the terrible conscience-free JBS company, is therefore inevitably contaminated by soya grown on cleared forest areas….
Please read, and share with any of your meat-eating friends and neighbours, the online article by Chiara Vitali from Greenpeace. Tesco needs to be held to account.
And equally flawed, sadly, is the government’s new announcement introducing a law to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests by cleaning up the UK’s supply chains.
That sounds such a good plan.
But it is not positively straightforward of course – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will consider potential impacts on businesses and ‘other interests’ – sounds a recipe for disaster to me, opening up to vested interests/lobbies etc…?
And Defra’s proposal for businesses to ‘comply with local laws to protect natural areas’ unbelievably ignores president Bolsonaro’s complete disregard for Nature, as he champions the expansion of agriculture in Brazil at the expense of the Amazon rainforest.
It would be brilliant if you could all please write to your own MPs, agreeing with Zac Goldsmith (our international environment minister), but concerned that this new proposed law will not achieve its intended aims. Mr Goldsmith has said: “The UK has a duty to lead the way in combating the biodiversity and nature crisis. We have all seen the devastating pictures of the world’s most precious forests being cleared …. and we can’t afford not to act as a country.”
The bottom line, of course, is that the power actually lies with us, the consumers. As Elena Polisano, a forests campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We will never solve this problem without tackling demand.”
Now, a list of terrible extreme weather this month – a nature reserve in Surrey, England, has been destroyed by wildfire (Brian May’s home was saved…); lightning strikes causing blazes across California (“if you are in denial about climate change, come to California”, Governor Gavin Newsom said); Storm Francis battering Wales; and catastrophic Hurricane Laura lashing Louisiana.
You’re probably aware of all this, of course….sorry!
A few pieces of good news now (I hope!):
The Queen’s property managers (the Crown Estate) have given the green light to the first floating offshore wind farm to be built off the coast of Wales. Another income source for the rich ‘royal household’, but we’ll overlook that…(?!) RenewableUK, the industry trade body, has estimated that the floating offshore wind industry could create 17,000 jobs and provide an opportunity to export new skills and technologies to other countries surrounded by deep coastal waters.
An Oxford-based solar technology firm hopes by the end of the year to begin manufacturing the world’s most efficient solar panels, and become the first to sell them to the public within the next year. Oxford PV claims that the next-generation solar panels will be able to generate almost a third more electricity than traditional silicon-based panels, by coating them with a thin layer of a crystal material called perovskite.
A company in Paris is creating the world’s largest urban rooftop farm – watch the wonderful short BBC News video, produced by Daniel South and Lisa Louis!
A Bill has been introduced into the Belgium federal parliament to propose legislating for ecocide (crime against the environment) both nationally and at the international level, backing the call from Vanuatu and the Maldives last December. Proposer Samuel Cogolati, a Harvard Law School graduate, said: “If we, as legislators, take scientists seriously, we have to say as a matter of criminal law: destroying the Earth is not ok. It’s actually punishable. Because without water, without forests, without clean air, we cannot survive on Earth.”
Just before I finish, I’ll refer to the insect in the picture this week! It’s a violet carpenter bee – beautiful, yes?! If you see it in your garden (those who are lucky enough to have one…), it needs rotting wood, soft enough to create nesting holes. They have been accused of destroying wooden buildings, but they only start colonising when the wood is already rotten…
And finally, please sign my petition – we need to get a Climate and Ecological Emergency Act passed, the first of many new laws hopefully!