Covid-19

Environmentally ugly, bad and good of 2020

A few years ago, at a social function with a fish and chip dinner, I remarked to a friend of my eldest offspring about the evils of using our plastic knives and forks.

Plastic – so useful and adaptable for many things – was humanity’s scourge, I started. It never breaks down fully, I ventured, becoming microplastics. Much of it ended up in our waterways and ultimately in our seas, I added. (The statistic that the plastic in our seas could outweigh the fish by 2050 if we continue to use it at the same rate is still a well floated one. Source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.)

I told my captivated, shocked, listener that plastics – microplastics – end up in the very bottom of our seabed, nibbled on by plankton. If not the larger fish before that. So it could well be in our food chain already. (And last week a published study found microplastics in placentas – we’ll come to that).

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Masks are now needed in shops

Relish anomalies to survive second lockdown

We’re more set up to cope this time aren’t we? For Covid-19 lockdown two I mean. We’ve done this once. Society can tough it out. We’re thinking positive…except…

This time there are several changes – and many people are still out of work.

The first lockdown was all new and scary. People thought it might be short, sharp shock of no more than a few months. At least, that’s what they hoped.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) was hard to find. For that, the NHS was the priority customer. But if you wanted to wear a mask in the shops – the supermarkets and food outlets – they were initially hard to find. Certainly at a reasonable price.

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Original vegetable plot

Upcycled wood makes perfect new vegetable beds

There’s a reason why a carol at Christmas is entitled In the Bleak Midwinter. It’s Anglicised of course, because Jesus was from the Middle East. But little has changed since Christina Rossetti wrote the poem of that name, published in January 1872. Winter in Britain is mostly bleak.

While it hasn’t been frosty yet – so I haven’t pulled up the sweet potatoes – the skies are often dull, the weather drizzly – uninviting for gardeners for example.

Yet some planning can take place for the growing season next spring, in anticipation of the season of hope, weatherwise. I am always impatient to plant my seeds, in the hope of growing my own edible produce.

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We export more salmon than we import

How food trade deals bloat UK’s carbon footprint

Food prices could rise by 48 per cent after Brexit, if the UK cannot agree a trade with the European Union, warned one headline in the past few days. Actually, that’s the tariff that could be imposed on imported beef mince, spurring the average tariff up to 20 per cent. But there is nothing like a scary headline to inspire us into reading a story.

The possible rise in food prices leads to the question – if we really must have Brexit, why import so much food? Why not “buy British”, rather than allow goods we grow in the United Kingdom to be exported?

A report called The Trade and Investment Requirements for Zero Carbon presents buying local as a solution to not Brexit, but reducing carbon footprint.

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A forest

I’d love to change career to plant trees

Just how many lockdowns because of pandemics could we have? It’s a reasonable worry, if deforestation – particularly for farming – is pushing animals, which carry diseases, closer to human contact.

But let’s take a step back. Theories include that animals are forced to live closer to humans, increasingly the likelihood of spreading diseases. Or that destruction of habitats, such as forests, disturbs the places that host diseases.

Human-induced land use changes are among the drivers of disease from the forests to communities, one scientist told Unearthed Greenpeace, adding that scientists were agreed on this theory.

A United Nations summit on biodiversity, scheduled for this month, will be told there is a strong link between environmental destruction and unlocking deadly diseases, according to a report in the Guardian.

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Tea is a traditional part of a cricket

Will Covid-19 kill the traditional cricket tea?

Sandwiches, cakes, crisps, maybe some fruit and a good old English cuppa. Summer would be nothing without cricket – and cricket would be nothing without the traditional cricket tea. Or would it?

Since time immemorial, it seems, a tea has been produced by volunteers. It is gratefully consumed in a convivial break between two sides going out to bat on a beautifully manicured village green pitch.

This has been depicted in any number of television dramas, from an occasional story line to a full backdrop to conversations in Outside Edge in the mid-1990s.

One tea making company even ran “The Great Cricket Tea Challenge” featuring former England captain Michael Vaughan, in 2014.

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Rubbish outside allotment

Litter tossers have no respect – for area or themselves

It is hard to know which is worse: hundreds of discarded piece of litter, scattered over a reasonably wide area, or dumping rubbish in a concentrated spot, otherwise known as fly-tipping.

One, at best, involves a negligent slip of an item out of a hand, pocket or perhaps a vehicle; the other is a completely deliberate act to avoid disposing of items responsibly, perhaps at cost.

Both types of rubbish disposal could be deliberate, cigarettes or crisp packets flicked from cars for example. And both types of littering have been noted in the Earlswood area in recent days.

One hopes that the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s Joint Enforcement Team, whose attention has been brought to the pile of debris outside the entrance to the Earlswood allotments, will find evidence to point to the culprit.

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Newts just get in the way of housing

Build back better: newt very green at all

Did he say “build back better, greener, faster?” Yes, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a broad list of a £5bn plan to kick start our economy. But it left many who have called for a properly “green” recovery cold.

The banner underneath his podium said “build, build, build” – and it turned out the real emphasis was on building. Building greener was tertiary, behind the concept of “faster”. Environmentalism came across as an after thought.

Build HS2. Build links to north and south; build to sort out the transport bottle neck at Manchester; build a wider road to Scotland, he said, to make good the promise made in 1992; build homes; build 50 schools; build the election pledge of 40 new hospitals.

And, yes, he wanted 4,000 new carbon zero buses and he highlighted a “massive” investment that is underway in cycle way improvements.

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Generic picture of oil refinery

BP’s answer to climate emergency: shed staff

When BP announced on Monday that it would shed 10,000 staff by the end of the year because of a drop in demand for oil and investing more in renewable energy forms, on a drive towards being carbon neutral, it raised many more questions than it answered.

CEO Bernard Looney wrote up on LinkedIn what he had told staff in his briefing. It became listed as an “editor’s choice” story on the news feed of the business social networking site.

Commentators offered many viewpoints. One was that this shedding of staff was inevitable. It was merely delayed from March and in fact the company’s line about there being a drop in demand for oil pre-dated the Covid-19 crisis, when there was a large drop in demand for oil.

Readers might have noticed that there were far fewer aeroplanes, that far fewer people drove – including to work – and the petrol prices dipped to about £1.00 per litre at the pumps.

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