Happy Advent (nearly!)

November 26th, 2021

Hello!

I have no idea how many ‘readers’ I have, but I like to feel I’m ‘making a difference’/encouraging people somewhere…..

The important recent news, of course, is that the climate conference COP26 has now happened….

It did not achieve the vital decision to burn no more fossil fuels after 2030 – without such a shift, we face the possibility of cascading environmental collapse, as Earth systems pass critical thresholds and flip into new hostile states. 

More climate refugees, wars over food and increased injustice…. Depressing…

BUT, I’m choosing to believe that this is the start of many unfair systems being overturned – the truth and facts emerging about so much of our modern life, to the extent that people will reject ‘business as usual’. 

George Monbiot is encouraging us – we should not give up. “Just as the complex natural systems on which our lives depend can flip suddenly from one state to another, so can the systems that humans have created. Like Earth systems, our social and economic structures have self-reinforcing properties that stabilise them within a particular range of stress, but destabilise them when external pressure becomes too great. If they are driven past their tipping points, they can flip with astonishing speed. Our last, best hope is to use these properties to our advantage, triggering what scientists call ‘cascading regime shifts’. 

“This is how the global financial crisis of 2008-9 happened: a relatively minor shock (mortgage defaults in the US) was transmitted and amplified through the entire system, almost bringing it down.

“We should seek to use these dynamics to detonate positive change….the journal Climate Policy showed how we could harness the power of ‘domino dynamics’: a small disturbance, in the right place, can cause a cascading response throughout the system.”

Now to some practical changes we can make/be aware of….

In Japan and perhaps worldwide, Toyota has a reputation of being an industrial leader that provides ‘sustainable solutions’ such as hybrids and hydrogen cars. They sponsor athletes for the Olympics and invest in various social initiatives.

The reality is quite a different story with Toyota, unfortunately – they are one of the industry’s strongest voices opposing an all-out transition to electric vehicles.

Please check out Daniel Read’s research at Greenpeace East Asia.

Greenwashing, as I think I’ve maybe said before, is becoming an industry in itself…. Don’t be fooled!

Which brings me on to Christmas adverts…

I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year, but I can’t ignore the misleading marketing that’s around at the moment – capitalising on our wish to ‘return to normal’ after the last disappointingly disrupted two years, happy family scenes abound…..

Morrison’s is one that particularly comes to mind.

That supermarket, along with Tesco, sources factory-farmed chickens; and misleads us with labels proclaiming wholesome-sounding names of real farms and suppliers, such as ‘Butcher’s on Market Street’, that do not exist.

Ecohustler is a group opposing corporations which make immense profits whilst harming nature.

Its current target is Marks and Spencer, which claims its factory farmed salmon is ‘responsibly sourced.’ Ecohustler has made stickers to alert fellow shoppers to the damage being done. You can see one in use in this video – 
https://www.instagram.com/tv/CWdzXOcKl2c/

Excellent work; but these activists will be dismissed by many as troublemakers. However we profess to care about animals, nature and the Earth, we do not want to face the truth….

A ‘legitimate’ way to protest about factory farming and insist on the truth about eating meat/chicken is to contribute to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ current Call for Evidence about Labelling for Animal Welfare.

This government consultation closes on December 6th, so please hurry!

You may be cynical and think that these consultation processes are simply ‘public relations exercises’ , so the government can do what it was going to do anyway, having asked people and not enough were interested….Consultations are certainly not publicised widely enough…

We have to take every opportunity we can, I believe, to influence decisions and speak out for justice.

I was heartened a bit after taking part in the national planning consultation last year that went on to be shelved…!

Find the document here:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/animal-welfare-market-interventions-and-labelling/labelling-for-animal-welfare/

It looks a bit overwhelming and jargon-full; but I suggest you open it on one electronic ‘device’ and answer the questions on another, if possible.

Chris Packham and charity Open Cages have got clear guidance and suggestions to help –

“Many of the questions are simple multiple choice answers. You do not need to answer every question. If you only have a few minutes, the most important questions to answer are 17, 24 and 25.

If you have a little more time, please also answer 16, 22, 32 and 53.”

At present, there is no requirement to include even basic facts about the animal’s life or death.

Factory farmed animal products should come with warnings of their negative consequences on the planet (in addition to being cruel!).

There is quite a lot of interesting information in the consultation, if you do have more time to read around …. Evidence of Henry Dimbleby’s positive impact with the National Food Strategy, I hope… 

A little Advent project for you..?!

The ‘Cow in the Room’, as Dale Vince calls it, is our obsession with eating animals…

To tackle the climate crisis completely, meat eating needs to disappear…

Probably not going to happen this Christmas, so knowing where the meat comes from is a start!

Eve of Global Day for Climate Justice

November 5th, 2021

Well, COP26 is here; and I’m more preoccupied than ever with climate news…..

Those who know me can imagine my levels of anxiety are high. Along with millions of other people, especially children and young people.

And no-one can re-assure me/us that ‘everything will be OK’….

We are not going to suddenly wake up from the nightmare of the climate crisis and discover a healthy Earth….

As writer Rebecca Solnit wrote, in ‘Hope in the Dark’, “Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action: action is impossible without hope.”

A virtuous circle of hope and action, action and hope….

I’ve read Ms Solnit’s book, but I read that quote recently in Caroline Lucas’s book ‘Honourable Friends?’ – it was published in 2015, and it is both encouraging and depressing that this country’s only Green MP is still fighting for the change that we all need.

I’ll start with the very gloomy news that global carbon emissions are shooting back to the record level seen before the coronavirus pandemic levels.

The Global Carbon Project (GCP) report shows emissions from coal and gas jumping this year by more than they fell in 2020. Oil use is also rising in 2021, but more slowly because transport activity remains below normal – a small consolation, for the moment anyway….

The data shows world leaders have failed to build back greener, with just a small proportion of pandemic spending going to sustainable sectors.

But the scientists also said that hopes (the important word again…) of keeping global heating to 1.5C remain alive if COP26 leads to rapid global action.

Prof Corinne Le Quere, at the University of East Anglia, UK, said: “This is really a reality check….

“The key message is to resist the temptation to be discouraged by our latest findings. The commitments being put in place at Cop26 are really important. It’s important that the countries agree on what they’re going to do and then, of course, plan for immediate implementation.”

Glen Peters, at the Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, added: “China is, on the one hand, making extremely good progress, deploying solar and wind and electric vehicles. On the other hand, its economic recovery packages tend to go back to the old way of doing things. But there’s another 70% of global emissions that are not from China as well.”

And, a good point I noticed the other day is that a substantial proportion of China’s emissions are a result of factories creating unnecessary consumer goods for us in the Western markets – a point to be made when people make the strange ‘excuse’ that China is the main culprit….

I don’t know if you get into conversations about the climate crisis/solutions with your neighbours, acquaintances, strangers….? I used to feel, and still do to a certain extent, that it’s my duty, as a responsible environmentalist, to talk about it all with information/education. But I personally find it’s very hard to do (deeply emotional for me) – I hide behind this writing! I admire everyone who ‘gets out there’….    

Conservationist Sacha Dench, (the ‘Human Swan’) has been travelling around Britain in an electric paramotor, meeting people tackling the climate emergency – a television programme, with Joanna Lumley, has covered her progress; but sadly it’s dedicated to her flight partner Dan Burton who was killed in an air collision towards the end of their trip.         

An amazing group, Camino to Cop26, have walked a 500-mile route from London to Glasgow.

Theirs is one of a number of pilgrimages, some coming from as far as Poland and Germany – one group has walked more than 1,000 miles from Sweden. From 18 year old students to 74 year old grandmothers, members of the female-run faith group Camino to Cop26, part of Extinction Rebellion, have been raising awareness about the climate and ecological crisis along the way. On some days they had 70 people walking with them. They were only able to wash about once a week. Steph Alderton, 26, said: “You have to let go of your daily shower. The older people in the group say that was normal when they were young.” Participants have a spectrum of beliefs, from devout Jews, Christians and Buddhists to committed atheists, like Alderton, who left a job as a career adviser to put more energy into climate activism. The notion of ‘intention’ is what makes a walk a pilgrimage, and for Steph it was not about reflecting on God, but learning about the UK’s people and wildlife.

German activist Arnd Drossel has collected environmental promises from passersby en route, travelling inside a giant contraption resembling a hamster ball that he made with his son.

He said: “My main aim is to inspire people. I want to show that a lot of small changes brought together can cause a wave.” 

One of these seemingly small changes could be to pledge to only use non-peat composts. 

Wet peat left in the ground is an amazing carbon store, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That is why I am also involved in the campaign to stop moorland being routinely burnt, as happens on the North York Moors (where we used to live) to enable shooting of ‘game birds’…

Check out the RSPB’s ‘For Peat’s Sake’ campaign; and also Wild Justice.

Again on the subject of the lucrative shooting and hunting businesses, National Trust members (of which I’m one – thanks Mum!) have voted to end licences for ‘trail hunts’ (often a cover for hunting of real foxes) – the resolution still needs to be approved and enacted by the NT, but I feel encouraged by the vote.

How can we expect to be motivated to save Nature and wildlife when we encourage the killing of animals?!

Another change we can make, perhaps – stop eating avocado….

I will miss it (deliciously creamy and versatile!), but I’m impressed by chef Thomasina Miers’ decision to invent a new recipe for guacamole in her restaurant chain Wahaca. Avocados have an enormous carbon footprint, requiring 320 litres of water each to grow and “are in such global demand they are becoming unaffordable for people indigenous to the areas they are grown in”.

Ms Miers has created a green guacamole-inspired dip, made from fava beans, green chilli, lime and coriander.

As well as the book by Caroline Lucas, I recommend ‘English Pastoral’ by James Rebanks – it’s a step in the right direction towards sustainable farming, and so beautifully written…..

And I’ve become aware of artist Darren Cullen – he’s created an amazing anti-Shell ‘Hell Bus’.

I really hope you’re all boycotting Shell garages – the big oil lobby has got such damaging power….and Shell particularly is trying to persuade us they’re ‘going green’ while still drilling for oil. Shame on them..

I’ll end however with an upbeat message from Bill McKibben, founder of the climate campaign group 350.org – “It’s easy to feel pessimistic about the climate. But we’ve got two big things on our side: one is the astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy, the other is the huge growth in the citizens’ movements demanding action.”

And ‘see’ as many of you as possible tomorrow, followed by the People’s Summit for Climate Justice!

News ahead of November 6th, 2021

Hello again!

I just want to let people near Gloucester, England, know that my friend is organising an event in the city on Saturday, November 6th.

It is for everyone who wants to show how many different people locally are concerned about the Climate Crisis and want to ‘do their bit’.

Organisers include groups such as the Green Party, local churches, Extinction Rebellion and the leader of Gloucester City Council, so quite a range of people.

This is the ‘fight that unites’, as the RSPB have put it.

We all want climate justice, surely?

If you’d like to get involved, whether as an individual or with a group, please email me (emilyjanethwaite@icloud.com) or contact St Mary De Crypt Church  – the event should start there, on Southgate Street, Gloucester, at 2pm and finish at the Cathedral between 3 and 3.30pm.

A mass bike ride, to coincide, is also planned.

Let’s all get out in a show of strength on November 6th – COP26 absolutely has to be the start of a better future….

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!