Sustainability

A seagull could be affected by wind turbines

New answer to wind farm blades: Skybrators

Does it ever seem that every time mankind invents a solution to tackle a problem within the climate change sphere, the solution creates another problem?

Electric vehicles, for example, might not need removal of carbon emissions for petrol. But carbon emissions are, nonetheless, created, mostly by the process of making the vehicles. And of course they need batteries and for that we still need to mine the earth. The full solution is to use public transport, of course.

Likewise, while solar panels mean we don’t have to burn fossil fuels for heating, their manufacture still requires metals and the batteries to store energy require us to mine the earth. We are working through a series of “least worst” options.

These thoughts came to mind when I read about Skybrators – the reinvented wind turbine. A company in Spain, Vortex Bladeless, has invented the bladeless version, solving various complaints about wind turbines.

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Five ways to lead a more sustainable life

Many institutions have been actively campaigning for a more sustainable world and tackling climate change for years.

This year, A Rocha UK celebrates 20 years of campaigning on conservation. It began as a local Christian conservation project in Southall, West London. Now, it runs an eco-church scheme which gives out bronze, silver and gold standards to churches that can demonstrate various levels of protecting and restoring nature on land they manage. This inspires organisations to take climate protecting action.

Another group, CDP – initially named the Carbon Disclosure Project – is celebrating 20 years, too. It urges investors, companies, cities, regions and states to disclose their carbon footprint, as a way of inspiring change.

Dozens of campaigns have formed in recent years to ask Governments, regional and local, to think about changing their ways. Pressure from the first Extinction Rebellion protests led to the UK Government declaring a climate emergency. Nearly 70% of UK local councils have declared one.

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Investment graph

Surrey’s £100m fossil fuel pot shames climate stance

When Kent County Council tried to withdraw a hefty £250million investment in a Neil Woodford fund in mid-2019, it might well have triggered the collapse of the star investment manager’s career.

The fund’s value had fallen from a peak of £8.5bn to about £2.5bn and the council wanted to put the money into something more secure.

Their actions demonstrated the relevant committee’s sense of responsibility towards its investors – namely taxpayers. Like many investors at that time, they were keeping a dutiful eye on the market. They had decided that a fund in which a series of gambles by the fund manager had gone the wrong way. They wanted out.

The investment funds run by Woodford was suspended shortly afterwards and has now folded. Millions of investors, including Kent County Council, lost a huge percentage of their money.

Read More »Surrey’s £100m fossil fuel pot shames climate stance
Former gasholder site Earlswood is ripe for solar conversion

Could Redhill talk climate talk with a gas to solar tale?

Take a peek over a wall in a forgotten, derelict corner of Earlswood and you’ll see a muddy plot of land, acting as a flood plain at present, it seems. But could it be ripe for converting to a renewable energy project?

There is no sign that this abandoned pocket of this Redhill suburb was once home to a towering, cylindrical gasholder structure.

Warnings about the plot being monitored by CCTV adorn one end of this land. Nestling near a popular convenience store and surrounded by houses on pretty much all sides, its fate seems inevitable.

Housing. Yet more dwellings to add to the population, traffic to add to the busy Hooley Lane which, at the best of times, is reduced to single lane traffic because cars park on one side. Better that this site – a former industrial area – was used for more homes than, say, further large open space or greenbelt land, yes?

Read More »Could Redhill talk climate talk with a gas to solar tale?
A solar panel farm

Put a green thorn in fossil site planning laws

“I take your point,” Alok Sharma replied, when asked if the approval of a new coal mine was “an embarrassment” ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Summit.

The questions to Mr Sharma, President of the UK-hosted COP26 in Glasgow in November, came from the Commons business select committee.

Even Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, told the committee there was a “slight tension” between Cumbria County Council approving the mine and national efforts to clean up – or green up – the economy.

Ministers could have reversed the decision by “calling in” the plans. But they declined to do so, saying that the coal was required for creating the heat to make steel. Otherwise coal would have to be imported, the applicant and council agreed. This would increase carbon emissions, given the travel to reach the UK.

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Sharma’s COP26 challenge: plan to follow Greta’s lead

There are signs of progress of sustainability – saving our planet – in many walks of life. However, only with a sense of history can we judge if the Climate Emergency is truly being addressed.

Those judging whether humanity is making progress don’t have to have lived through the attempts or to have been old enough to make value judgements for all that time, either.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, has been pretty vocal for a number of years. Having only just turned 18, on January 3, she has started the year and her adult life being outspoken and caustic. Just as outspoken and caustic as she was when she shot to fame as the girl who went on strike from school to highlight climate change.

Shouting from that modern rooftop, Twitter, she has roundly condemned political leaders. They have, she said, failed to achieve any of their ambitious biodiversity goals, set in 2010 and agreed at a conference in Aichi, Japan.

Read More »Sharma’s COP26 challenge: plan to follow Greta’s lead
Bees collecting pollen

Controversial pesticide use? UK is the bees knees

Well that didn’t take long, did it? No sooner was the United Kingdom out of its European Union child reins, or however the pro-Brexiteers wish to describe it, than the Government broke a promise on a bee pesticide.

According to a report by the Guardian, a pesticide that is believed to kill bees was banned by the EU two years ago – and now it has been cleared for use in the United Kingdom.

A product containing a particular pesticide has been allowed for emergency use, after lobbying by the National Farmers’ Union and British Sugar. Wouldn’t you think these were two organisations that surely should know better? Their argument is that it will kill off the threat posed by a virus. We don’t want another one of those in 2021 to turn into a pandemic, I suppose.

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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).

Read More »Environmentally ugly, bad and good of 2020
Pomelo, artichoke, fennel and passion fruit

Unusual fruit salad and other Oddbox wonders

The joy of finding something new and environmentally beneficial at the end of a troublesome year brings hope, enlightenment and a sense of fresh beginnings. And it has been very timely indeed.

I have mentioned Oddbox before. My first delivery was fascinating. I knew this home delivered (in the dead of night no less) fruit and vegetable package to be rescuing food that would otherwise fall out of the supply chain. Items are rescued from the UK and abroad. 

I wouldn’t have bought beetroot or melon at this time of year. I was certainly pleasantly surprised by purple carrots!

Oddbox doesn’t allow you to choose what arrives. What they can deliver entirely depends on what is available – that would be going to waste. But the choices of boxes do say how many types of vegetable or fruit will be contained within.

Read More »Unusual fruit salad and other Oddbox wonders