A Turning point?

October 15th, 2021

Hello!

This is very short notice, but maybe it will reach someone….?!

The Green Party in England now has two new co-leaders – one of these is Carla Denyer in Bristol, a city close to my heart!

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 16th), people are invited to the garden of St Mary Redcliffe Church, 12, Colston Parade, Redcliffe, Bristol (BS1 6RA), from 10am to 4pm. This will be a day towards meeting the hopes that the next Green MP for England will be elected in Bristol.

“Join us to talk to local residents about Carla, our Green vision for Bristol, and the fabulous work of our local Green Councillor, Ani Stafford-Townsend.

“Training will be provided at the beginning of the day…. We’ll spend a few hours talking to local residents in either blocks of flats or on local terraces, before meeting up for a picnic lunch (weather dependent). We’ll continue into the afternoon for those who can stay.”

For more details, phone Heather on 07988878442.

More in Bristol, England – I’ll be heading (by train from Gloucester!) to College Green at the bottom of Park Street in the centre of Bristol for 12 noon on Saturday, November 6th.

This is the Global Day of Action, demanding change from leaders at the COP26 climate meeting.

So many organisations, including the RSPB, CPRE, War on Want, Action Aid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, are encouraging people to join the rallies and marches, ‘the fight that unites’, as well as individual grandmothers like me…

Visit cop26coalition.org to find out about actions in your part of the world.

And now a sign that the climate crisis is at last a subject for ‘normal’/mainstream/‘popular culture’ conversations – Coronation Street is using climate action storylines…

Lee Rayner, head of production at the soap opera, said: “Climate action falls front and centre of what we do now, it’s part of our culture.”

ITV is one of hundreds of organisations to have introduced carbon literacy training for its staff. The Carbon Literacy Project, founded in Manchester in 2011, has trained more than 21,000 people in workplaces, communities and schools. Participants take a one-day training course covering the science of the climate crisis and potential solutions, and commit to taking two actions – one in their own life and one that involves people around them – to reduce emissions.

Dave Coleman, managing director of the project, said: “We were talking to people and thinking: wouldn’t it be great if people just got it on climate change? If people instinctively just knew what was good and bad, and these are the kinds of things we need to do….”

Jamie Saye, a senior technician at Opera North in Leeds, who has become a carbon literacy trainer and is working across a number of organisations, said: “Arts and cultural organisations are uniquely placed to do something about the climate crisis, because I feel like talking about facts and statistics has only got us so far…”

Which brings me to… if you have another spare half hour this weekend (before midnight on Sunday, October 17th?!), please could you check out https://audioverseawards.net/vote/ and vote for The Flock podcast.

A galvanising piece of art – we need to do more for birds, the skies, the Earth…..

John Kerry, special envoy for climate to Joe Biden, is optimistic about the UN Cop26 climate summit (starting on October 31st in Glasgow), saying he anticipated “surprising announcements” from key countries – the world is poised to make a big leap forward….

Greta Thunberg, is far more sceptical – the world doesn’t need more ‘blah, blah, blah’, with government actions contradicting the pledges and leading us backwards.

As John Kerry said: “If you want a definition of insanity, it’s subsidising the very problem you are trying to solve”.

Surely that is the least we can hope for – the end of fossil fuel subsidies….

Please sign Friends of the Earth’s petition and ask your MP to speak up against fossil fuels.

All around the world, people are showing that there are different ways of doing things, ways that will bring about a better future for the Earth.

A miraculous eco-town in Sweden, Skelleftea, is demonstrating what a climate-conscious future looks like.

Skelleftea runs on 100% renewable energy from hydropower and wind, and recycles 120,000 tonnes of electronic waste a year, with excess heat from the process fed back into the city-wide heating system. And now, Skelleftea has a fitting monument to its carbon-cutting credentials – The Sara Cultural Centre and its 20-storey Wood Hotel show what it is possible to build with timber, storing about 9,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere in the process.

These blueprints for a new generation of ‘plyscrapers’ were incredibly quick to build. A whole year was saved by using wood, compared with steel and concrete, with a storey completed every two days. The number of truck deliveries was also reduced by about 90%, with practically zero waste on site.

Jesper Akerlund from contractor Holmen, analysing improvements to its workforce’s mental health following the project, said: “The people building this would never go back to steel and concrete.”

A timber building site is a picture of serenity compared with noisy, toxic, ‘normal’ building sites filled with fumes and dust.

It’s fire-safe too – CLT (cross-laminated timber) is very slow to ignite, designed here with an additional 4cm sacrificial layer on each side that would char in the event of a fire, protecting the structure for 120 minutes.

Next week (October 20th), the House of Commons will begin to review a final round of amendments to the existing Environment Bill.

This is a critical time to push the government to tighten the legislation, to protect forests as well as rivers (how is raw sewage allowed to pollute our waterways…?) – please email your MP, asking them to support the Amendment rooting out deforestation in supply chains and Amendment 60 preserving waterways; and share this action with friends and family. Sign the Greenpeace petition too, for good measure!

And finally, this week, hopefully Chris Packham is getting lots of well-deserved support (I’ve tweeted…) from all of us who are trying to protect Nature, following the attack on his home….

The determined conservationist and broadcaster delivered a petition (with more than 100,000 signatures), last Saturday, to the gates of Buckingham Palace, accompanied by more than 100 school strikers. Packham said: “This is a time for action”, urging the royal family to lead by example and improve/rewild the ecological condition of their land. They could make such a difference, ahead of COP26…..Prince Charles and Prince William believe in urgency to save the Earth, don’t they?….

Sing and speak out!

September 26th, 2021

The UK’s only water songbird, a dipper

I wonder how many people were surprised, like I was, to turn on their televisions last night and see high-profile performers playing music in concerts broadcast from New York, Paris and London – Global Citizen 2021.

I’d never heard of Global Citizen, even though it was founded in 2008.….

Its headquarters are in New York, with offices in Canada, South Africa, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom – ‘Together we are working towards a world free of extreme poverty by 2030.’

This year’s concerts were organised particularly to raise awareness about the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis.

The organisation does seem to have successfully put pressure on governments and corporations to pledge financial aid.

But as Welsh actor and activist Michael Sheen said, when interviewed about the event, it must also fundamentally be about justice. 

We all need to care more about everyone, put very simply, and artists need to use their platform to urge action.

‘Leave no-one behind’, as my writer son says in the environmental fable, The Flock.

Tearfund Action is highlighting the experience of Norman Molina who lives in Honduras. When he was 15 years old in 1998, he first experienced the devastating force of a hurricane which killed more than 10,000 deaths and left more than a million people homeless.

Last year, Honduras suffered two hurricanes within two weeks, affecting more than 4 million people. ‘Rain has become a threat. Whenever I hear rain, I fear what’s going to happen. It makes me sad that rain, which used to be seen as a sign of blessing, is now a cause of fear.’

Central America is one of the regions that are most vulnerable to the climate crisis – yet its communities have contributed very little to causing the problem. Thousands of people have been forced from their homes by sea-level rises, droughts, hurricanes and storms that have made their already difficult living conditions even worse. Entire communities have disappeared.

And all countries around the world need to offer refuge to climate refugees….

This week Greenpeace and fishing communities joined forces to make history, sailing up the Thames to Westminster to deliver an urgent message to government.

It’s unbelievable that industrial fishing is still legal in Marine Protected Areas.

As one local fisherman, whose community is in crisis, said: “Fishermen care deeply about nature, good fishermen do anyway”.

Why didn’t this action get more publicity? 

As a friend of mine commented, mourning that fact: “One can see why people do more and more extreme things to try and raise attention to their issues.”

The nature crisis is an issue for all of us, of course. And yes, it’s so depressing that there is so much negative publicity about the Insulate Britain and HS2 activists – a judge has just sentenced an Extinction Rebellion activist (a Paralympian medallist no less…) to a year’s imprisonment.

Where is the justice in that? Taking personal risks out of a sense of despair that the Earth is heading towards manmade disaster….

Now, quiet revolution…! 

The Royal Horticultural Society has set up the first Community Awards as community gardens become more common across the UK. Kay Clark, who heads the RHS community gardening programme, said: “Where groups like this existed, communities seemed to be more resilient when it came to a crisis (like Covid) because they had a pre-established network of volunteers and people already knew each other so they could easily offer support.

With wellbeing and nature connection becoming top priority during lockdown, we had this massive surge of interest in gardening and community groups were there to help people….”

One of these gardens is Golden Hill in Horfield, Bristol – Lucy Mitchell, the only paid member of staff there, said: “Community gardens are something that nobody is priced out of – anyone can come to this organic garden, pick up a watering can and get involved. You don’t need to buy a bamboo toothbrush or an electric car… revolutionary in a quiet, non-commercial and fairly radical way.”

Restoring Nature on a larger scale is planned in Scotland – a large swathe of the Scottish Highlands stretching between the west coast and Loch Ness is to be rewilded as part of a 30-year project. Plans include planting trees, enhancing river corridors, restoring peat bogs and creating nature-friendly farming practices.

Similar to the WildEast project in East Anglia, it is a community-led effort to restore nature over a large area, the Affric Highlands, which organisers hope will be a catalyst for social and economic regeneration.

Alan McDonnell, a conservation manager at Trees for Life and the project leader, said: “Rewilding is a word that people define differently. For some people, it’s wolves and bears. For Trees for Life, it’s about the land, and what it can support.

We’re primarily motivated by the nature that will come with that…. but there are a lot of ways we can use land better and increase what it can offer.”

Native wildlife set to benefit includes a range of river species such as salmon, trout, ospreys and otters, as well as mountain species such as golden eagles, red grouse, short-eared owls and mountain hares.

Finally, check out Megan Swann, the first female Magic Circle president who hopes to perform her environmental magic show at the COP26 climate summit….?!

As she says, we need to all believe that it is possible to save our planet, and help through our united actions – magic, seemingly impossible, is achievable…..

Keeping the messages flying

September 4th, 2021

Hello.

It’s been a while since I’ve written….

The first thing I want to say is to ask you (in the UK) to please support Caroline Lucas MP’s application for a Backbench Business Committee Debate (a form of debate when backbenchers can discuss a topic and the government has to respond).

Her debate will be called ‘Keeping 1.5 C Alive’, discussing the importance of keeping a limit of global heating of 1.5 degrees centigrade within reach, ahead of COP26 the crucial climate conference in November.

Your help is needed this weekend!

Please email your MP, asking them to support the application and speak at the debate. The deadline for the application is Monday (September 6th).

A template for an email is available – visit ceebill.uk

Extinction Rebellion has been staging a fortnight of non-violent civil disobedience in London.

They targeted Buckingham Palace (the Queen’s & Prince Charles’ claims to support the environment certainly ring hollow on many levels…), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (‘stop the harm’ of new investment in fossil fuels), the Science Museum (to drop Shell’s sponsorship) and the City of London (‘If it were a country, it would be the ninth biggest carbon emitter on the planet’).

JP Morgan Bank is the biggest funder of coal, oil and gas extraction. At the beginning of my campaigning life, I wrote to Jamie (such a friendly name!) Dimon, JP Morgan Chase’s CEO. I had the fond hope that appealing to these people’s humanity would be ‘a way through’….

But I’m no longer ‘wasting my breath’/emotional energy with personal appeals….The only way such powerful people can live with themselves and their destructive actions, surely, is to hide behind layers of statistics, departments and impersonal ‘business as usual’….

A Gloucestershire GP was part of the XR protest outside London’s Canary Wharf headquarters of JP Morgan, a staged ‘die-in’, sitting and lying on the pavement to symbolise the deaths caused by fossil fuel investment.

I live in Gloucestershire but I cannot claim this admirable woman as my GP!

As Dr Grace Thompson said: “These people are killing our kids and killing kids in the global south. We just need to stop investing in fossil fuels. JP Morgan need to make their money in a different way.” 

Extinction Rebellion continues to be criticised, but it is just telling it like it is.

And using such imagination and creativity – I honestly don’t know where they get the emotional strength from….

Not only have they been criticised for these latest actions, but the police have also used violence against them…

One of the campaigners was Etienne Stott, who won gold in the canoe slalom for Britain in the 2012 London Olympics. He said: “I’m fed up of being criminalised for acting for the future of all life on Earth in a peaceful, disobedient and responsible way, and it feels quite wrong ….given the emergency situation that we are in.”

People were “arrested for caring about my grandchildren” and moved off private property (hurting no-one)… Where are our priorities?

OK, that’s enough of that.

I’d like to continue, by drawing everyone’s attention to The Flock (promoted in last week’s Guardian online) – an imaginative, humorous as well as serious (and wonderfully musical) podcast created by my sons, Jack Sanderson-Thwaite and Gecko (known together as A Ton of Feathers).

Inspired by ancient text The Birds, it is an environmental fable and epic adventure about the end of the world – told from the point of view of the birds.

The Wisest Bird promises to ‘leave no-one behind’. Justice for all – kind and fair: Cloud Cuckoo Land could be a reality… As Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future campaign asserts: “The climate crisis does not exist in a vacuum. Other socio-economic crises such as racism, sexism, ableism, class inequality and more amplify the climate crisis and vice versa.”

Jamie Wyver of the RSPB advised in The Flock’s planning stages. Our national charity for the protection of birds has joined with The Climate Coalition for the Great Big Green Week, which takes place from September 18th to September 26th. “Together we’ll be highlighting the dangers climate change poses for nature here in the UK – and what we can do to tackle it and protect wildlife, people and the planet.”

Check out both organisation’s websites – there are likely to be events in your area that you can get involved with.

And enjoy listening to The Flock! 

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-flock/id1581458942

Now, a few other encouraging pieces of news.

There is a campaign, by the Nappy Alliance, to encourage people to switch away from polluting single-use nappies – the government should introduce vouchers for reusable nappies.

Guy Schanschieff, chair of the group, said: “The last thing we want is parents having to pay more for disposable nappies…. There is a big enough issue with child poverty in this country already… it is about getting access to reusable ones.”

Sales of alternative nappy brands are already booming, even though the start up costs are higher.

In the long run it is estimated that parents can save £300 to £400 by using reusable ones, which can be passed on to other children.

I’m learning, from my daughter, how to use them – without the time-consuming nappy pins and terry towelling inconvenience of my mother’s day….!

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended protecting leatherback sea turtles as endangered.

This action came in response to a petition from Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity.

And another campaigning success – Subway, the American fast food restaurant franchise, has finally committed to stop selling ‘FrankenChickens’ throughout Europe, under pressure from Open Cages, The Humane League UK and Animal Equality UK.

Fifteen major insurance companies have now ruled out coverage for the dirty tar sands pipeline, Trans Mountain. Stand.earth continue to put pressure on Chubb and others.

And finally, a small (but significant for party organisers…?) ‘win’ – TerraCycle (the group that turns single-use plastic into useable items) has partnered with Card Factory and Amscan to create The Foil Balloons Recycling Programme. You can drop off used balloons and banners at your nearest Card Factory store.

Freedumb in the UK 2

August 6th, 2021

Climate Change is official…..!!!

It is so crazy, when so many of us have known for so long and when more is now happening around the world in response to it, but I actually thought ‘AT LAST’ when there was a news headline to that effect this week….

Then I listened more closely – the recommendation that airline and agricultural industries are forced to take action is not about changing their polluting and damaging behaviour, but about ‘offsetting’ it…. A way to continue with ‘business as usual’ while easing consciences….

So, not such great news, unfortunately, but people can see things are getting very serious, can’t they?

Some supermarkets in the UK are adding to the problems – Marks and Spencer, with their dubious salmon farming practices; Morrisons, with their brazen support of cruel chicken factory farms; and Tesco, with their refusal to ditch meat companies associated with deforestation.

Please shop elsewhere! And add to the unwanted bad publicity on these companies’ Facebook pages etc – customers/we need to know the ugly truth.

‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is often the way we all carry on. But it is also the way that immoral stuff perpetuates…..No more ‘turning a blind eye’….!

The second part of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy has been published. Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: “Its compelling narrative focuses attention on the urgent challenges facing the food system and how we must work together, across government and the food industry, to create a system which is good for the health of people and the planet.”

Henry Dimbleby says: “The way we produce food is doing terrible damage to the environment and to our bodies, and putting an intolerable strain on the NHS. Covid-19 has been a painful reality check.

“Our high obesity rate is a major factor in the UK’s high death rate. We must seize the moment to build a better food system for our children and grandchildren.”

The report sets out how our diets will need to change – diets of food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar need to fall by a quarter, and meat consumption by 30 per cent.

Dale Vince, activist, chairman of Forest Green Rovers (the vegan football team!) and Ecotricity founder, goes further and spells out the inconvenient truth for us. He points out that processed food and the factory farming of animals are the twin problems. On his Facebook page (follow him, he’s good!), he said: “We have massive food disparity in Britain – half the country is obese while millions of people struggle to feed their families. And incredibly, we throw away about half of all the food produced.”

He added: “Meat is not murder – it’s murder/suicide and ecocide all in one. And one man’s meat is every man’s poison – it’s not like free speech, it’s not a basic human right.”

I agree, with the added ‘wo’ or ‘hu’ to man….!!

More on food – another company to avoid, along with Colgate-Palmolive, is Ferrero.

Nutella is their big flagship – the world’s second largest chocolate and sweets producer makes so much of the chocolate spread that you could line the Great Wall of China eight times with the number of jars sold in a year. Such a scary thought….

Palm oil makes up almost 20% of a jar of nutella – so another horrible thought is to imagine how much forest destruction there might be in these hundreds of millions of jars. And there are many more products made by Ferrero that contain palm oil – like Kinder Joy, Bueno, and Ferrero Rocher of course….

As one of the biggest buyers of cheap palm oil, they are contributing to the aggressive expansion of the industry in Southeast Asia. If a ‘big player’ like this Italian chocolate giant cut ties with problematic palm oil producers, it would send a positive signal to its peers. Visit the Rainforest Action Network if you’d like to take more action.

And if you want to ‘spread the happy’ (the Nutella advert), try other ‘ethical’ spreads – they might even taste better…!

Of course price is an issue, for so many things – the more of us who make ethical/green consumption more ‘normal’, however, the more likely it will be that prices will come down ….. Consumers have the power, as I’ve said so many times….

A recent expense we’ve taken on is toilet paper made from recycled paper – supplied by NovaTissue (made in the UK) and associated with Tree Aid, the international development charity that restores and protects land in the Sahel region in Africa.

Now for three pieces of ‘Nature news’.

I had no idea that it is very unlikely to see an albatross in the UK (I only really know about the one in The Ancient Mariner poem), but it is, and one has been recently spotted.

The black-browed albatross found itself at the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs nature reserve. (When we lived in Yorkshire, I absolutely loved visiting that amazing place, especially for the puffins!) This albatross should not really be so far north, away from its home in the southern hemisphere. Please read about the Albatross Task Force, protecting these birds from threats such as fisheries bycatch, climate change and pollution, on the RSPB website.

Red squirrels are one of my favourite animals, along with red pandas! And twenty forest strongholds in Scotland could save the red squirrel from extinction. Really sad of course that they are now so rare, driven north by grey squirrels which carry the squirrelpox virus, but Nature Conservation has published research which is optimistic about their survival.

And finally, the fertile land of Norfolk (where my mother lives) is home to a host of ancient ‘ghost ponds’ where rewilding projects have revealed rare plant species, preserved in these buried ancient wetlands.

Freedumb in the UK 1

July 24th, 2021

I started this project more than two years ago, inspired by the birth of my son’s son. Today my daughter’s daughter is one week old.

I am even more determined that the Earth should be a better place.

The record high temperatures in the UK over the last week (what a week to be born in…?!), the floods in Western Europe and China, as well as more wildfires in America, should surely wake the world up to the climate emergency?

There are 100 days left until the climate conference in Glasgow (COP26). What gets decided at this summit will shape the future for everyone, but particularly the youngest amongst us…

As hosts, the UK plays a vital role in ensuring world leaders do everything they can to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C and secure a healthier, greener, fairer future.

Please visit The Climate Coalition team online, to see what they’re doing to remind Boris Johnson and co to ‘step up’…

And, to coincide with this new feeling of urgency, the Campaign for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (a new UK law to protect our precious Earth) has re-named itself Zero Hour.

“Zero Hour literally means the time an operation has to begin.

In other words…

For decades, we’ve known about climate change, for decades, we’ve talked.

For decades, we’ve hesitated.

But, now we have to take action.

Now, it’s Zero Hour nature.

Zero hour for the UK’s future.

It’s time to act….”

They have the backing of 112 MPs (no Conservatives, I think, predictably – they’re under the illusion that they’re doing enough with their Environment Bill, far from it…) and 82 councils.

Three of my local councils are named as supporters – I’ve written to my ‘contact’ at one, a large one, that’s missing….

Ben Fogle, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Konnie Huq and Thom Yorke (Radiohead) are ‘signed up’ as well – hopefully, their names will bring more publicity to the campaign.

It would be great if you could check www.ceebill.uk too, please!

Now, oat milk!

We haven’t drunk/bought dairy milk for a while …

Primarily, this is to end our support for livestock farming, a significant contributor to climate change (so much of the Earth’s land is wasted, and degraded, on feeding animals).

And cows are made to have calves, which are then unnaturally taken away from them….Too much stuff goes on ‘behind the scenes’ that we conveniently close our minds to…so that we can carry on drinking milk & eating meat…

I’ve discovered there are added benefits to drinking oat milk instead! It tastes good, much more gentle, smooth somehow!

Also, particularly noticeable in the recent heatwave, it doesn’t go ‘off’ as quickly as dairy milk – ‘best consumed within 4 – 5 days of opening’ (an unopened life, in fridge, of about 3 weeks).

I’m keen to promote the English oat milk, Pure Oaty, from Glebe Farm Foods – they’re being taken to court by Oatly, unbelievably…. That Swedish company seems to be getting ‘too big for its boots’ and turning into a typical greedy multi-national…..

Hopefully, Jord (‘Nordic oat drink’ stocked by Sainsbury’s, that we drink) isn’t going the same way.

Pure Oaty is stocked by the Co-op, but not in all stores – maybe ask for it, as I did in our local store.

Greenpeace is running a campaign to raise awareness about Tesco’s dubious environmental record. The company sells more meat and uses more soya for animal feed than any other supermarket in the UK. Tesco has made a commitment to remove deforestation from its supply chain – yet it’s still buying meat reared on South American soya and from companies (Moy Park and Pilgrim’s Pride) owned by notorious forest destroyer JBS.

I’m delivering a letter to our local Tesco manager on Monday.

Greenpeace aims to shine the spotlight of unwelcome publicity on every Tesco store in the UK, believing Tesco cares more about its public image and reputation than it does about the Earth and precious Amazon forests.

You can visit act.gp/tesco-stores to see which stores haven’t been visited yet – 438 stores ‘done’, 2,297 left apparently!

Finally, I’d like to promote 5 ethical fashion brands using recycled ocean plastic.

Discarded fishing nets (or ghost nets) make up 46% of ocean plastic.

The team at Bracenet say it’s “our mission to retrieve ghost nets from the oceans, as well as to prevent them from polluting the seas in the first place”. They make bracelets, hence the name, and also anklets, keychains, bags, dog leads and more. They even tell you which ocean your Bracenet came from!

Using organic, OceanBalance (™) recycled materials, Fish People has created a collection of clothes for both men and women, including board shorts, leggings, swimsuits and hoodies.

Oceans The Brand boasts that their range is “an absolute win-win for stylish people with a conscience”. They only make men’s shorts, but these come in funky (?!) styles and colours and are made from 100% recycled fibres that come from plastic waste.

Aava offers sea-life inspired swimwear made from reclaimed ocean waste such as plastic bottles and fishing nets. They also make towels and accessories.

And Seamorgens uses regenerated yarn to create a range of women’s leggings and swimsuits.

I hope you’re continuing to visit my Facebook page (lots of campaigns/petitions to join!), Emily Thwaite; and also follow me on Twitter #grandmaglobal

Lockdown 3 #11

July 10th, 2021

This is a bittersweet time in my family life at the moment…..

There have been a number of big global news events since I last wrote, not least the Gulf of Mexico on fire due to oil, but I’m going to start with the ‘small’….

I’m trying to re-train my mind and view common household ‘pests’ as all part of the Earth’s rich tapestry of life. Rodents and insects are all wildlife, with a vital part to play in our ecosystem. As Laura-Lisa Hellwig, at the vegan charity Viva!, says: “Some of them have been here for a much longer time than we have. Really, we should find a peaceful way to live together instead of eradicating or cruelly killing some of them.” Tim Dowling (Guardian, July 5th) has written a pest-by-pest guide to humanely controlling them. As he says: “Unfortunately, many pest control products still associate effectiveness with lethality. The ant trap I bought says it ‘destroys ants and their nests!’ I really just wanted them off the worktop.”

With ants, the key is to find their entry point and wait for nightfall! Kevin Newell, founder of Humane Wildlife Solutions, says: “Because the ants will return to their nest at night – they don’t come out at night to forage – you just need a simple Polyfilla or something to block that hole up.” If you keep the whole area clean, with hot water mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, you’ll essentially remove the ants’ scent trail so they’re back to stage one. Clean the kitchen floor so there’s no food to be found – even if the first ant, which started laying the scent trail, comes in again, when she doesn’t find anything she’ll simply go back out, and it will be deemed an area where there’s no food for them.”

Simple solutions!

Now to wildlife outdoors – the People’s Postcode Lottery (we won The Perfect Planet book the other day!) are helping to fund 12 new Wildlife Trusts projects, focused on both climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Great North Bog project aims to put more than 4,000 hectares of upland peatland under restoration management: peat bogs are able to store large amounts of CO2. Another project, in Devon, will create a nature-based solution centre on a farm to show how nature can help reverse the impacts of intensive agriculture.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “We urgently need to be thinking about how we can let nature help in tackling the climate crisis and how it can help with adaptation. A lot of that is about holding water back in the landscape: recreating our wetlands, restoring our peatlands and reintroducing beavers.

“We know there is a lot of eco-anxiety and sometimes people feel we are not changing fast enough. If we can establish large-scale projects and actually start to turn things around, we can demonstrate what can be done in the UK.”

On the subject of farmed animals, I have only just realised the extent of the problem of supermarket chicken. Major poultry producers, stocked by all our UK supermarkets (yes, including Sainsbury’s where we shop…and the Co-op which is usually good on ethical issues), have cross-bred and interbred birds to create ‘mutant’ chickens which grow larger in a shorter space of time and need less feed. They end their lives hardly able to stand, and often in filthy conditions. (Franken-chickens, as campaigners call them, grow six times faster than a century ago, and are now slaughtered at only 35 days old…) All to feed ‘our’ billion-a-year appetite for chicken…..

Marks and Spencer has decided to end the sale of these unnatural, suffering birds.

If you want to join the campaign to put pressure on the other big supermarkets, visit the Open Cages website, or just spread the word and get friends & neighbours to stop buying….!

Here is some encouraging news (from the EU!) – the European Commission has announced it will propose legislation to phase out caged farming through the EU. This is a huge step forward in the campaign by Compassion in World Farming to End the Cage Age.

So, don’t give up hope – ‘green’ lobbying can work, not just the immoral kind by politicians and multinationals!

This month is Plastic Free July. 

A special report in the journal Science says that a binding global treaty is needed to phase out the production of ‘virgin’ or new plastic by 2040 (surely that’s manageable…?).

Science senior editor Jesse Smith writes: “The time for preventing plastic pollution is long past – the time for changing the future of plastics in our world, however, is now.”

The report calls for a new global treaty “to cover the entire lifecycle of plastics, from the extraction of the raw materials needed for its manufacture to its legacy, pollution”.

A report by Tearfund last year revealed that just four companies, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle and Unilever were responsible for more than half a million tonnes of plastic pollution in six developing countries each year, enough to cover 83 football pitches every day.

We have such a duty to ‘clean up our act’ in the rest of the world….

And there is so much to think about…!  The new traffic-light system of ‘eco-scores’, to be piloted on British food labels so we know the environmental impact of our food and drinks, is welcome. Apparently, together with British brands, Nestle is backing Foundation Earth, a new non-profit organisation which has put together this scheme. 

Mm, the same ubiquitous polluting Nestle, who are also draining millions of gallons of waters from California’s aquifers and selling it back to people in plastic bottles…

We must beware of the climate crisis being cynically used by ‘big business’, as just another opportunity – greenwashing….

Boots, for instance, has started making ‘eco’ nappies – is this to switch customers away from buying ‘Eco by Naty’ nappies? And Its own brand are not as good, only containing 40% eco/bamboo fibre…..

Or shall we just be grateful that companies are competing to be ‘green’ nowadays….?

Finally (sorry this is long – but I’ve been quiet for a while..), if you just do one ‘eco’ thing today,

please check out MakeMyMoneyMatter.co.uk – the most powerful thing you can do to protect the planet is to make sure your money is being invested ethically…..

See you!

Lockdown 3 #10

June 19th (Juneteenth), 2021

‘The Human Swan’, Sacha Dench, is starting a 3,000 mile journey, around mainland Britain, on Monday (June 21st), to raise awareness about climate change.

She is flying in a paraglider powered with an electric engine, from a location near Glasgow and returning to land in the area approximately six weeks later.

The Australian biologist, conservationist and adventurer lost her family home to bushfires last year.

She said: “I’m doing it to try and demonstrate just how far we can go in terms of decarbonising our transport and our lifestyles in general.

“The real thing we’re hoping to do though is make use of the journey, and the fact that I have to stop frequently to change batteries, to stop and land and speak to people who have solutions for climate change…brilliant projects… whilst Britain drove the industrial revolution, we can drive the green revolution too.”

So, some positive actions looking ahead to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow – putting the disappointments/shortcomings of the G7 meeting in Cornwall behind us!

Children and young people are leading some of the ‘brilliant projects’ – Asha and Jia, aged 13 and 11, following on from pressuring Kelloggs, have now started a campaign to urge Colgate-Palmolive to ditch palm oil from their products.

They write: “We are sisters and we care about the environment and the world we live in.

“Do you know that most products in your house contribute towards deforestation, from toothpaste to bread?

Before August 2018, we’d never heard of palm oil either. However, after watching a documentary about the impact of deforestation, we were extremely upset to discover that most products in our house contributed towards mass deforestation.

So, what is Palm Oil? It is an oil that derives from Palm Fruit and it could be completely sustainable. But to farm this mass-produced oil, rainforests are destroyed and rows of palm trees are eventually planted instead. This is extremely problematic for every species in rainforests but it’s especially harmful for orangutans, which are already an endangered species – 25 orang-utans are killed every day due to palm oil and we must take action now.”

You can sign the girls’ petition(s) here – www.petitiongirls.com – and, better still, stop buying Colgate-Palmolive products!

As well as destroying wildlife (and even people), deforestation is, of course, contributing to devastating global heating by destroying huge areas of carbon-capturing rainforests.

The sisters have won awards and their campaigning is recognised in an inspiring book, Stone Soup for a Sustainable World.

Another positive book (that my grandson was recently given by relatives) focuses on another selection of young people around the world (including China..) who are making changes in their communities and raising awareness. Of course part of me finds it very sad that we are sharing such difficult images/stories with our precious children, but the wonderful hope of the active, caring children is inspiring.

And some of these children/young people even take their countries to court over climate inaction. I’ve mentioned the brilliant Portuguese group before, whose case has been granted priority status. Others are highlighted in this Guardian article:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/07/the-young-people-taking-their-countries-to-court-over-climate-inaction?CMP=Share_ iOSApp_Other

One statistic that seems to be moving in the right direction – the International Energy Agency (IEA) has raised its forecast for the global growth of wind and solar energy by another 25% compared to figures it published just six months ago. This ‘exceptional’ level of annual additions will become the ‘new normal’ in 2021 and 2022, the IEA says, with the potential for further acceleration in the years that follow.

Now a bit of information, about a flower that looks pretty but is causing a lot of problems.

Himalayan Balsam (an invasive species, originally ‘escaped’ from Kew Gardens I think…) is choking our waterways, causing riverbank erosion and smothering our wild flowers at a terrifying rate.

Determined to stop the plant colonising even more of Britain’s lowlands, Cumbria is the latest county to raise an SOS about Himalayan Balsam – the West Cumbria Rivers Trust is asking for volunteers in Mosser, Cockermouth and Loweswater to help vanquish them before they come into flower in mid-July.

Few plants can spread their seeds like this – when ripe, its pods explode open, shooting seeds up to seven metres away, each plant able to produce about 800 seeds, so easily dominating an area after just one season.

The good news is that, unlike other invasive species like Japanese knotweed, Himalayan Balsam is very easy to pull up. Its stout, reddish-translucent hollow stems rarely have roots more than a few centimetres deep. 

According to the article I read, they can be pulled up ‘with a pleasing tug’ – maybe that’s how you’d like to spend some summer days…?!

I’m going to draw to a close today with the lovely news that more than half the trees in two new woodlands in lowland England (in fields next to Monks Wood, a nature reserve in Cambridgeshire) have been planted not by landowners, charities or machines but by jays! During ‘passive rewilding’, thrushes spread seeds of bramble, blackthorn and hawthorn, and this scrub then provided natural thorny tree ‘guards’ for oaks that grew from acorns buried in the ground by jays. Apparently many people don’t like jays, traditionally seen as pests. I love them, those bright blue ‘side feathers’!

Finally, ‘The People vs Climate Change’ should be compulsory viewing!

It’s a documentary covering how everyday people (108 ‘ordinary Brits’) feel about the climate crisis, recording the Citizens Assembly meetings, before the pandemic…. 

I wonder how they’re all feeling now….whether the connection between the two crises is being made….

So many interesting, thoughtful people. And some shocks too – ‘ignorance is bliss’, one girl says, almost proudly. But there are no judgements – it speaks for itself… Check it out on the BBC’s Iplayer – please!

Lockdown 3 #9

June 4th, 2021

Last week there were some good ‘wins’ for the campaign against Big Oil’s part in the climate crisis.

Over the course of less than 24 hours, courtrooms and boardrooms turned on the executives at Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron. Shell was ordered by a court in The Hague to go further to reduce its climate emissions, while shareholder rebellions in the US imposed emissions targets at Chevron and a boardroom overhaul at Exxon.

Hopefully, this is a turning point in the financial and legal consequences awaiting oil companies that do not act fast to take accountability for their role in preventing a climate catastrophe.

Eli Kasargod-Staub, the executive director of Majority Action, a shareholder group, said: “For the first time in history, responsible shareholders have breached the walls protecting recalcitrant boards of directors.”

It’s not all about people/shareholders ‘seeing the light’, though – the group pushing Exxon to take action, Engine No 1, is (sadly…) keen to say its motivation is not about saving the Earth from climate disaster but about fossil fuels investment no longer making financial sense. 

Of course, the voice of money is louder than the voice of conscience!

We just have to take whatever crumbs of comfort we can….

The Green Party’s doing that too!

After the May elections, Greens gained 99 new councillors, gaining representation on 17 new councils for the first time, with the highest ever nationwide vote in the Welsh election. 

On June 13th, voters in Switzerland will decide whether to make their country the first in the world to ban ALL toxic pesticides. 

If they do it, bees especially (fundamental to the health of our planet) will be able to thrive. The campaign group Sum of Us believes a positive vote could start a pesticide-free revolution that could spread, country by country. The group, as with all struggling people-based campaign groups, needs funds!

Now, I want to tell you some lovely things about bees!

There are more than 250 wild bee species in the UK (at least 35 of these are endangered, including a quarter of our bumblebee species, due to habitat loss and widespread pesticide use).

Many of these bees are small and brown (a sweet fact, somehow!), making them difficult to distinguish from each other; some are so tiny they are hardly visible to the naked eye, while others are restricted to rare coastal habitats.

The hairy-footed flower bee is one of the easiest to spot – large and round with a velvety black body, she has a distinctive hovering movement and flies rather comically with her long, straw-lie tongue outstretched in preparation for reaching nectar in bell-shaped flowers.

The wool carder bee teases out the fibres from the soft leaves on the lamb’s ear plant. She rolls them into balls nearly as big as herself, to plug her nest.

Mining bees make burrows underground to lay their eggs in, leaf-butter bees plug their nests with circular pieces of leaves (often cut from a rose bush, leaving it looking as if attacked by a hole-punch…). Carpenter bees fashion their nests from wood.

My final lovely fact – few of the wild bee species sting.

I’ve learnt all this from a Guardian article by Alison Benjamin – she co-wrote ‘The Good Bee: a Celebration of Bees and How to Save Them’.

I just want to add that it would be brilliant if we could avoid killing wasps this summer season – they do sting, of course, and I’ve been very guilty of killing them in the past (when we ran a coffee shop, especially…). But they all provide important ecological services – pollination, predation, and parasitism. Each summer, social wasps in the UK capture an estimated 14 million kilograms of insect prey, such as caterpillars and greenfly.

Now, the opposite end of the scale of human attitudes to living creatures – the ‘Shooting Times’.

A headline appeared in that newspaper earlier this year: ‘Shooting for a perfect ten’.

It headed an article about a contributor’s day’s shooting when he went out to shoot 10 different species of wildlife in a day, ‘just to see if it could be done’. He’d never done that before. A photograph with the article shows him proudly standing with his ‘kill’ – Red Fox, Rabbit, Carrion Crow, Red-legged Partridge, Woodcock, Mallard, Teal, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon and Jay. A nice day out…I felt sick for a day after I’d seen this – the human gloating, as much as the deaths…

Chris Packham of Wild Justice (and Countryfile!) is questioning whether the General Licence conditions were met when the shooter killed three of the species. All wild birds are protected by law, but licences provide cover for the casual killing of protected wildlife simply for ‘fun’.

Chris Packham is also campaigning for chicken welfare. Many of the chickens sold in supermarkets are still fed on soya sourced through deforestation; and they are often housed in overcrowded, cruel conditions. Of course it would be great if people stopped eating chicken all together, but that’s not going to happen – so we need to spread the word about the negative associations. 

Some supermarkets have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, but Morrisons are refusing to put animal welfare before profits. So, on Thursday June 10th, to coincide with its AGM,  Mr Packham’s campaign is holding a ‘Facebook event’. If you’re on Facebook, you can join in, an opportunity for anyone with a stake in Morrisons (customers and shareholders) to ask decision-makers important questions.

Finally, this time (nearly a month since my last post – I’ve been having 2nd anniversary anxieties…), I’d like to point you towards a clip from the television programme ‘Years and Years’.

Anne Reid’s character brilliantly (with dark humour, cleverly) points out that we are all responsible for the state of the world. Stick with it, please! She’s not directly referring to the climate crisis, but the fundamental principle rings true and can be applied to so many human situations.

Every choice we make affects the future…..we need to all ‘step up’….!

Lockdown 3 #8

May 7th, 2021

Following on from my enthusiasm about Ade Adepitan’s television series (On the Front Line of Climate Change), I’d like to draw attention to The Bahamas.

More than 80% of The Bahamas’ land surface is only a metre or less above sea level, making it particularly vulnerable to climate-related hazards. Nearly two years after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, for example, sensitive ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs are still being damaged by the weight of marine debris and exposure to toxic contamination.

A major injustice of this situation is that The Bahamas remains one of the world’s lowest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions while suffering the collective consequences.

Now, the optimistic part – the work of Bahamian climate justice advocates, marine scientists and community members to foster ocean resilience within their country and around the world is important and inspiring. Check out (and donate to?!) The Tide, a global community who care deeply about the ocean. I got my information from ‘Only One’, a ‘nonprofit’ based in New York.

Some good packaging news now – I got ridiculously excited when our Sainsbury’s delivery of recycled toilet paper this week arrived in paper wrapping, not plastic….it is very easy to feel overwhelmed by knowing about the stifling amount of plastic rubbish in the world.

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz determinedly and inspiringly looks ‘on the bright side’…. Based in Perth, Australia and author of ‘Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters’, she started Plastic Free July in 2011 with 40 people committing to going plastic-free one month a year. Now 326 million people pledge to adopt the practice today. And people/consumer power drives companies to replace single-use plastic.

So, keep complaining about too much plastic packaging, people, and even congratulate when you see companies bowing to our pressure?!

Well, this morning in the UK we’re waiting for some good news from local council elections. It’s not looking brilliant…

But many councils at least have declared climate emergencies (action being slower to follow: pension funds need to divest from fossil fuel companies urgently..).

And now ‘climate emergency centres’ (CECs) are opening up across England and Wales. Owners of vacant retail premises in high streets have the option to reduce their business rates payments by up to 100% through leasing the property for community benefit to a not-for-profit or charitable organisation, such as a CEC. The sustainable centres are run by the communities themselves and offer a range of activities that focus on both addressing the climate emergency and bringing people together – from hedgehog protectors to church groups, including art exhibitions, exercise classes, sustainable living workshops, bike repair facilities and vegetarian & vegan cafes.

Pete Phoenix, one of the organisers of the centres, said: “As well as trying to protect the planet, people are desperate for community and connection after the year we’ve had. These centres bring together the energy of younger people and the wisdom of the elders.” A former William Hill betting shop in Staines, Surrey has been renamed Talking Tree; and a former River Island in Swindon, Wiltshire is also being transformed into a climate emergency centre.

In April last year, Cardiff Council in Wales introduced ‘Bee Bus Stops’, inspired by a scheme in Utrecht, Holland. Installing green roof tops onto bus stops has created a bee friendly space for the endangered species. The wildflower roof tops will also help absorb rainwater, capture dust/pollution from the air and regulate temperatures. Adding urban plants also has the benefits of increasing biodiversity, reducing stress and noise pollution and beautifying cities.

Yasmin Zoe Muir has created a petition on change.org with the ambition of making all bus stop shelters wildflower gardens, starting with her home town, Brighton. Please search out and sign!

I’ve been reading about an amazing all-women project in China, run by WWF, protecting tigers which are seriously in danger of extinction. Thank goodness for them; but also for the knowledge that as well as the red list of threatened species, there is actually a ‘green list’ – this is also compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN has high standards for protected and conserved areas; and recently, 10 more sites – in Switzerland, France and Italy – achieved green list status, bringing the total to 59 sites in 16 countries. Contamines-Montjoie national nature reserve near Mont Blanc was among seven added in France, increasing the country’s sites to 22, the highest number in the world. About 500 sites in 50 countries are working the meet the 17 requirements on good governance, planning, management and preservation of nature to achieve the green list status.

I’ll end with another appeal for people to keep up the climate activism.

Six Extinction Rebellion activists have been found ‘not guilty’ at Southwark Crown Court – they had caused criminal damage to Shell headquarters and the judge said they had no defence in law BUT a jury took the amazing, extraordinary decision to clear them on moral grounds. 

One of the defendants, Simon Bramwell, said: “It is a significant victory for the truth of these times, when despite the letter of the law, jurors can clearly see that a broken window is a just response to a breaking world.”

I just hope more of the ‘general public’ will also come to their senses soon (before it is too late…. that is a real possibility, so sadly…). Apparently, television coverage of recent XR ‘Rebel of One’ protests predictably only highlighted the ‘inconvenience’ caused to people instead of focusing on the indisputable facts of the climate crisis and the genuine passionate concern expressed by despairing people…. Inconvenient Truth…!!! 

One man passionate about climate protest is Roc Sandford, trying to change things from a shed on a tiny Scottish island in the Hebrides… Hopefully, his actions will be noticed, for the right reasons, by more people through a television programme, ‘Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over’ – to be shown at 10pm on W channel (I’ve never heard of that, but I’m sure we’ll all find it!) on May 17th.

Lockdown 3 #7

April 23rd, 2021

Today’s post is going to be one of contrasts.

First, it is in memory of my father, a keen nature-lover – he was born in 1930 when England was home to many more wildflowers and insects than today: there was an estimated overall decline in butterfly populations, for instance, of 84% between 1890 and 2017.

Yesterday was Earth Day; and there are many amazing projects fighting for the Earth’s future.

BUT those in power still don’t seem to realise the urgency of the climate crisis – they are too ‘cosy’ with vested interests and don’t have the political will to turn words into actions.

I was heartened to know that Joe Biden held a virtual White House climate summit yesterday; but enough is definitely not being done.

Boris Johnson has finally realised/admitted that reducing carbon emissions ‘could also be good for the economy’ (the Green Party could have told you that, if you’d only listen…). And he’s ‘urging world leaders… to step up with plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions this decade’ (quoting The Guardian newspaper). BUT, crucially, for all his grand-sounding commitment, the UK’s policies are going in the opposite direction.

Johnson’s government is cutting overseas aid, hurting countries trying to cope with the impacts of climate breakdown (caused by us, the rich countries); giving an initial green light for a new coalmine in Cumbria; appointing Australia’s climate sceptic Mathias Cormann, next head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; giving new oil and gas licences in the North Sea; and scrapping the green homes grants for insulation, just as many people applied for them.

We must not be fooled…!

Please watch Greta Thunberg’s amazing ‘Mind the Gap’ video, in response to all this…It’s on Twitter, but I’m sure you can find it in other places too…

Other recommended (even required…?!) viewing is her television documentary, ‘A Year to Change the World’ (Monday evenings), preceded by Ade Adepitan’s ‘Climate Change: Ade on the Frontline’ (Sunday evenings).

All very sad, but galvanising too – campaigning/activism is essential!

It was also my birthday during this strange week (‘When I’m 64’!) and my son and his girlfriend gave me a brilliant book, ‘Back to Nature – how to love life and save it’.

Basically, it’s celebrating Nature (a consolation for many of us during lockdowns), but also funny, informative, warm and political… I’ll quote Chris Packham, who wrote it with Megan McCubbin, here: ‘even the humblest, everyday, still-common creatures have lifted our spirits in the darkest days of a terrible crisis. When it comes to protecting them, we have plenty of tools in the conservation box; we can rebuild, restore, reinstate or reintroduce. We can march, lobby, sign petitions, we can demonstrate. We can take action. We can make a difference…….. We don’t all have to agree about all the details, but we must stand shoulder to shoulder with all who care enough to take some action.. Our wildlife needs us, and it needs you more than ever.’

Here’s a boost for some wildlife – landowners and farmers in Wensleydale, the Yorkshire Dales, have grown a six-mile continuous stretch of woodland and hedgerows to provide a highway to join up two fledgling populations of native dormice, a very endangered species. They have become extinct in 17 English counties in the last 100 years. Ian White, from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, said “If you get it right for dormice, you help a broad range of other species as well.”

My GP friend has passed on this interesting information, connected to the NHS striving to become a zero carbon institution. Apparently 20% of all journeys are health related. These have been reduced dramatically by necessary adaptations to the pandemic – e-consulting, video consulting, phone consulting – and, happily, some of this reduction is set to continue.

Also, 5% of our water pollution (and resultant reduction in biodiversity) is due to people flushing unwanted medications down the loo… what?! Who would think that was fine….? Anyway, let’s encourage people to return unwanted medications to any chemist (for safe disposal).

Finally today, returning to the gap between words and actions (even Jacinda Ardern’s government has shortcomings….), Greenpeace New Zealand has alerted us to the emerging industry of seabed mining. This is an experimental process that involves extracting minerals and metals from the ocean floor, disturbing the precious and fragile animals and ecosystems that live there. The ocean, as we know, already faces a growing number of threats from plastic pollution to oil spills, climate change and overfishing. Greenpeace’s campaign aims to ban seabed mining in Aotearoa/New Zealand.