Category Archives: General

Tree Survey – NDR – initial visit

Today was one of those glorious Autumn days, cold and bright, with a lovely fresh smell in the air. For a while now I’ve been wondering how many trees the council planted alongside the new dual carriageway near me have actually survived, so I thought I go take a look. Short answer from the small survey of 216 trees on one particular stretch: 16% have died.

The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) has been open for a few years now, and had lots of trees planted alongside it to try to restore the damage done by the road. We’re supposed to call it the Broadland Northway now; I think this is probably an effort by Norfolk County Council to disguise the fact that its purpose is to open up the countryside to more development, distributing traffic to new parts of the county.

Unfortunately, many of the trees planted have died due to the extreme weather we’ve been having. It’s just been too hot and dry, and they haven’t been watered sufficiently. A plethora of plastic tree guards now stand empty in many places, grave markers for the saplings that have sadly perished. It was good to see so many other plants growing in the verge alongside the road, however I’m sure Yarrow shouldn’t be flowering at this time of year; I guess that’s because of how warm it’s been.

My plant ID skills aren’t brilliant, but I saw Comfrey, Yarrow, Ribwort and Greater Plantain, as well as thistles, Red Campion, Hogweed, Common Mugwort in abundance, Oxeye Daisies and Buttercups. There were loads of other species however I’ll have to take along a guide to ID them next time. Roadside verges can contain lots of biodiversity, I’ve seen hares feeding alongside the cycle path, kestrels hunting, and lots of insects in the summer. However, I don’t think the verges really make up for the swathe of destruction caused when the road was built.

Today was an exploratory visit. I counted trees on a hundred metre stretch not far from the Plumsteads, noting down species as well as dead or missing trees. I concentrated on the eastern side of the bank built up next to the dual carriageway, which is more shaded. The western side looked to have more empty tree guards, however it’ll need a return visit to confirm this. Results of this initial exploratory survey below.

SpeciesCountPecentage
Dead/missing3516.20%
Hawthorn4922.69%
Field Maple5625.93%
Oak (English)2310.65%
Dog Rose73.24%
Cherry73.24%
Dogwood62.78%
Apple31.39%
Blackthorn2612.04%
Spindle41.85%



Total216
TREE SURVEY 25 NOV 2022

Here’s a pie chart of the results.

Field Maple came our top, followed by Hawthorn, however it was good to see other species mixed in such as Cherry, Spindle, a good number of English Oaks, Dogwood and Blackthorn. Lots of good species for wildlife to use. Unfortunately 16% of the tree guards were either standing empty, or had dead saplings inside them. I suspect the percentage is in fact a bit higher than this as some tree guards have either been removed or have blown away. I think the western side of the bank will have a bigger percentage of dead trees, and I know other stretches have been impacted to a greater or lesser degree. I’ll have to get out and do other surveys in different locations.

I believe around 6,000 trees were cut down to build the NDR, a road that cost £205m to build. It was reported in October last year that around 3,500 of the trees planted to replace those lost when the road was built have died. Norfolk County Council pledged to plant 5 trees for every 1 they cut down, 30,000 in total. They must be a long way off this target, especially as many more trees and shrubs, lots of them replacement replacements, perished during the heatwave this summer.

It’s frustrating that Norfolk County Council think you can just replace mature trees and habitat, destroyed to make way for road building, with saplings that will take decades to do anything meaningful in terms of carbon sequestration. It will also take centuries for the soil to recover, species to translocate, and for any sort of mature woodland landscape to settle back in. The Council are planning the same with the Northern Distributor Road; it just doesn’t add up when we’re in a climate and ecological emergency, not to mention the impact it has on local communities, flood mitigation, and local wildlife. It’s also frustrating to see so many empty plastic tree guards littering parts of the landscape next to the NDR.

I hope to get out for further surveys over the coming weeks so I can report back findings to Broadland Green Party, who will be able to raise this with Broadland District Council. Tree ID gets a bit trickier as they lose their leaves, so I’ll have to put my winter buds knowledge to use.

No pictures of Gideon on this blog post I’m afraid, he’s hiding somewhere after having an argument with one of the neighbour’s cats. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a glorious Norfolk sunset from the other evening.

Just start doing something

Today has to go down as pretty memorable in terms of stuff that’s happened in my lifetime, although not in a particularly good way. Liz Truss resigns, the shortest ever UK Prime Minister; not in terms of stature, rather in terms of term served. It really seems like the blind leading the blind in the Tory party at the moment. A shambles. Complete chaos. Other adjectives no doubt apply. The ‘Have I Got News For You’ Twitter account summarised things quite well:

  • BREAKING: Only 67 more Cabinet ministers till Christmas.
  • BREAKING: The Government.
  • Truss resigns. U-turn expected imminently.

I mean, you really couldn’t make this up.

Here’s a nice picture of Gideon, my cat, just to calm things down a bit before I continue. He doesn’t really care about UK Politics, although he is a bit vexed about me going down to London repeatedly to complain about the Government and Oil companies, leaving him without lap time and treats (lies).

Gideon getting some well earned lap time
Gideon getting some well earned lap time

If this blog post ends up not making much sense it might be because I’ve caught covid again. I caught it the first time around in September 2021 and it wasn’t too bad, aside from losing my sense of smell and taste for a bit. This time I have the annoying persistent cough and am generally feeling a bit crap, hence this post might go off-road. Gideon says it’s my fault for going to the germ filled capital and leaving him to fend for himself (the latter is also lies).

Alright, on to the serious stuff. Because the farce going on in the Houses of Parliament at the moment is nothing compared with the challenges facing ordinary people in the UK. Or the challenges we face on a wider front due to the climate and ecological crisis. Thousands in the Global South (non-western nations) are already dying.

I was thinking about it today, and whilst the Tories can’t even agree on a Prime Minister and Cabinet, the following is happening:

  • UK people are being forced to choose between heating or eating, or can’t afford either. Children in the UK are suffering now, and 1000’s of the elderly may die this winter due to the cold.
  • I read about a kid today who pretended to eat stuff out of an empty lunch box cos his family can’t afford food, and he doesn’t qualify for free school meals. He didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his friends.
  • Inflation and interest rates are hitting ordinary folks hard, whilst the rich just get richer. Big energy companies like BP and Shell are making record profits at our expense, and the Government refuses to tax them.
  • Division in the UK, between the rich and the poor, as well as different communities, is getting worse. One has to conclude this is an active policy by the Government to make sure we don’t unite against them.
  • Harvests are failing around the world due to extreme weather, driving up food prices. I read East Anglian potato harvests are down by as much as 50% due to the hot and dry weather.
  • Floods in Pakistan have killed thousands and displaced 33 million people. Imagine for a minute if that happened in the UK.
  • Floods in Nigeria kill 100’s and displace over a million. One person every 36 seconds is estimated to be dying from hunger in East Africa. Drought and famine in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan – list not exhaustive. These crises are all exacerbated by Climate Change but you won’t hear about it as much because, you know, it’s Africa rather than Florida.
  • The Amazon and rainforests around the world continue to be slashed and burned to make room for farming – mostly cattle or to grow animal feed. The Amazon is now at, or may have crossed, a tipping point towards savannah/desert.
  • Wildfires still rage, heatwaves are getting worse and killing people, conflict for remaining resources is increasing often breaking out into all out war (e.g. Ukraine).
  • The refugee crises just gets worse and worse, many of them climate refugees, and we want to fly them to Rwanda.
  • Civil liberties, the right to protest and freedom of speech are being restricted and criminalised by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and now the Public Order Bill; please look the latter up as it’s truly dystopian and scary, and will turn the UK into a police state like Russia, Syria or Iran.

I’ve not added lots of climate and ecological items to the above list, but lets not forget oceans are dying from over-fishing and acidification, insect numbers have plummeted, rare habitats are still being destroyed, we’re still slaughtering mammals for sport or ‘scientific research’, and parts of the world are becoming uninhabitable. Greenhouse Gas emissions are still going up, and we’re seeing dangerous levels of methane released from the permafrost that could trigger a rapid extinction level event. Oh, and storms really are getting fiercer and more frequent.

People often ask when societal collapse is going to happen? When will the apocalypse strike? I think it’s already happening right before our eyes. Given all the above how can it not be? We’re hanging on by a thread and whilst it could take years, there may be no coming back from it now.

I really think mainstream media is very much to blame for a lot of this. They fail to report key issues, concentrating instead on trivialities and celebrity culture. They vilify or ridicule ordinary people taking action to try and bring about change, and scare off anyone else who was thinking about taking action. A few billionaires own the majority of mainstream media. I think it’s safe to assume they’re just protecting their own interests at everyone else’s expense, and most are blind to it because we’re hit with their messaging day in day out. Just watch the film ‘Don’t Look Up’ to see what’s happening; terrifyingly accurate.

But it’s ok, because the world’s Governments have got this all in hand, haven’t they?

Bollocks they have. COP26 was a failure, and COP27 is likely to be too with fossil fuel companies having far too much influence, and green washing endemic. In politics short-termism is rife, egos abound, lobbyists make sure the Government doesn’t upset the status quo, and the police and criminal justice system is clamping down on any dissenting voices. Any politicians who make it into serious positions of power seem to only have their own interests at heart, or are narcissists, or frankly psychopaths.

So what can we do? Just start doing something at least. Recently I’ve been down in London taking direct action with Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. Why? Because nothing else is working and civil disobedience has a track record of bringing about a change. Writing letters, signing petitions, talking to your MP or even going on marches have very limited if no impact. Check out this film clip from Zoe Broughton of Lora Johnson, a Just Stop Oil activist.

Lora tells it like it is, whilst being arrested ✊

At the moment 100’s of Just Stop Oil supporters are being arrested down in London for demanding a different future, an end to new oil and gas projects. 1000’s of Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested over the last few years for demanding the Government tell the truth, act now, and form citizens assemblies to guide us through a just transition.

We’re not saying stop using oil and gas right now, we’re saying we can’t afford the emissions from any new projects, and yet the Government wants to license 130 new oil and gas fields. This goes against what climate scientists, the IPCC, Sir David King, Antonio Gueterres, Sir David Attenborough and many others are saying. We have 2 to 3 years to rapidly reduce green house gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels or it’s game over. Renewable energy is 9 times cheaper and much quicker to build than extracting new oil and gas, which can take decades to come online.

Why on earth would we want new oil and gas, it’s only purpose at this stage is mega profits for a minority at everyone else’s expense, especially those that live and are dying in the Global South.

Politicians and mainstream media, and members of the public led by this toxic media, are vilifying ordinary people fighting for a future which doesn’t involve more famine, war, death and societal collapse. Here a film mash up I made of a recent Just Stop Oil protest in Trafalgar Square. I’ve got more in the pipeline from last week.

These protestors, ordinary people of all ages and from all walks of life, are some of the kindest, most selfless and courageous people I have ever had the privilege of calling friends and taking peaceful action with. They’re people that have properly emotionally connected with the danger we’re in, not just understood the facts and figures. They are retired, students, have jobs and have taken holiday, or yes they might be between jobs sometimes. And yes they still have to use fossil fuel products because that’s the system we’re stuck with at the moment; we’re all hypocrites to one degree or another.

Yet we are being called selfish, arrogant, and accused of destroying the cause we’re fighting for. Critics say we block emergency vehicles when in fact we have a blue light policy which means we always let them through. The media have slammed two young women for throwing tomato soup on a Van Gogh they knew was covered in glass protection, and two climbers for shutting down the QE2 bridge for two days. People say I agree with your cause but not your methods and that we’re hypocrites; that’s ok, just do something.

You're all hypocrites
You’re all hypocrites

So many claims are being made, many of them false, about our actions, however look at what is happening. Spoke persons from Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) are being invited on TV and Radio shows to debate these issues. The newspapers are covering our actions. The public are talking about the climate and ecological crisis, new oil and gas, and insulating homes. People are starting to understand that the cost of living and energy crises are linked to the climate and ecological emergency; we can solve them together with a just transition. And thousands are joining movements like JSO, XR, Enough is Enough and Friends of the Earth. Yes, JSO actions can be regarded as radical and down right annoying, however they push the window, and as a result more people join the more moderate activist flanks.

People hated the Suffragettes and Dr Martin Luther King when they were active, yet the actions they and many others took are regarded as justified and necessary now. Martin Luther King explained the need to create tension to drive change far better than I can.

MLK theory of change
MLK theory of change

Please look beyond the headlines when you hear about people taking non-violent direct action to demand change, to demand a survivable future, to demand we stop ecological destruction and new oil and gas projects. They’re not doing it to piss you off, or because they want self-attention, they’re doing it because they’ve realised we’re screwed and this is the only option left to them. And now the Government want to clamp down even harder on these legitimate protests.

Please, whatever you are capable of: Just start doing something.

Just Stop Oil are taking action in London throughout October and into November, meet 11am ish outside Downing Street. Extinction Rebellion are planning to get one hundred thousand people out on the streets next April. There’s a big multi-movement march planned in London on 05 November. Don’t be a bystander, get involved in the fight for our futures.

A calming cat picture of Gideon to round things off, hiding in a wrapping paper tepee for some reason. He is still vexed about me going to London, but really thinks humans are making a right old mess of things and need to step up.

Not sure if I should get ill more or less often if it makes me write blog posts like this. I think I’ll go and watch Question Time to relax now, that should be interesting.

Seals and Sunsets

The title of this blog post might end up being slightly misleading, that remains to be seen. I’m not entirely sure where it’s gonna go. Best if I start off with some pictures of Gideon, in reclining mode.

The egg box is currently one of his favourite things. He sometimes sleeps on it, which looks very uncomfortable if you ask me. He is very ‘playful’ at the moment, just this morning ambushing me from behind the sofa and savaging my leg; note to self, shorts not always a good idea.

Newsflash just in from BBC – ‘Met police chef Cressida Dick to step down’. Earlier today she said she had no intention of stepping down, so the writing was on the wall really. Maybe now they can appoint someone who will really sort out the institutional racism and misogyny within the police force. I did say I didn’t know where this blog post was going to go didn’t I?

There have been some beautiful sunsets in Norfolk recently. It’s been nice taking a break from work to go and watch them. This one was particularly startling, with an amazing sequence of colours over the course of a few minutes.

Norfolk really does have big skies, which is especially evident when you visit the coast. I popped up to see the seals recently at Horsey Gap, with a couple of friends. Aside from seals, windswept sand dunes, and endless horizon, I just love the sound of the sea and being next to it. I think that’s one the things I loved so much about my Bike around Britain cycle tour in 2013; being next to the sea everyday.

Horsey Gap – sound of the sea

Horsey Gap is home to a massive seal colony, consisting of Atlantic Grey Seals and Common Seals. There must be thousands of them, with thousands of seal pups born every year. Sadly many of them perish before reaching adulthood, but they’re a delight to witness.

When walking down the Norfolk East Coast it’s easy to see how just a small sea level rise could result in massive flooding. It’s so flat behind the dunes, which if breached could see sea water covering vast stretches. I guess it was all under-water once, and probably will be again in the not too distant future.

Did I mention there might be quite a lot of pictures of seals? It’s worth it though, they’re so wonderful to see. The wardens are really good too, able to give you loads of information whilst also keeping the seals safe.

The wardens are very good at keeping people away from the seals, especially those who might otherwise think it’s a good idea to try to pet them, or get a selfie. I am told that if the mother can smell a human on her pup, she may well abandon them, so whilst I’d thoroughly recommend going to see them, best not to get too close.

I took pictures using my old Cannon 550D with a zoom lens, but I think the ones I got on my phone might have actually been better. The Cannon pictures just don’t seem to have picked up the colours as well as the phone. Here are some last ones of mother and pup.

We walked all the way down to Winterton, had some chips and a hot chocolate, and then walked back. I was sad to see the cafe at Winterton is no longer there, due to coastal erosion, however there was a very good circle of food vans which met requirements.

Other stuff that’s been happening. We had a great turnout for the protest versus the proposed Western Link Road. The road will cut through rare chalk stream habitat, endangered Barbastelle bat colonies, and destroy a swathe of precious Norfolk countryside; the last natural corridor into Norwich and its green lungs.

The protest was organised by Norwich Extinction Rebellion, and attended by loads of local groups including Stop the Wensum Link, the Wensum Valley Alliance, Norwich Friends of the Earth, Green New Deal, Green Party and Labour Party councillors and Clive Lewis MP, Trade Union reps and many others. It was so heartening to see so many people come together to oppose an ecocidal road scheme, one that will increase emissions, traffic and pollution, whilst also opening the countryside up to more development. We should be investing the £200m+ it’ll cost for the 4 miles of road into green sustainable transport (buses) and active transport (cycling infrastructure), instead of investing in ultimately our own demise.

Great press coverage and opposition is definitely growing versus the road, with Norwich City Council recently coming out against it. Norfolk County Council and institutions like the University of East Anglia just need to catch up a bit.

You can sign a petition against the road here – https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-wensum-link-road

But why not also get involved in an opposition group too; let me know if you want to learn more.

Ok, nearly there. I really will try to do blog posts more often so I don’t deluge you with updates.

Have you heard to the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently going through Parliament? It will criminalise refugees and asylum seekers, and allow the Government to strip people with dual-nationality of their UK citizenship without warning (clause 9). It’s pretty awful, and another step towards authoritarianism and fascism. I joined a protest in Norwich against it last Saturday, as I don’t want to see more people fleeing for their lives drown in boats crossing the channel, or get persecuted for just wanting a better life for their children. Especially when it comes to climate refugees, of which there are already thousands and will be millions. The UK is historically and currently responsible for this, and we need to help.

It feels like the Government is trying to dehumanise refugees by calling them illegal immigrants, and painting them as a burden and threat. Refugees rebuilt cities like Hamburg after the second world war, and have brought so much to this country already. They deserve a chance like anyone else.

I think that brings us about up to date. A few bullet points to round us off:

  • Still doing physio on my knee after falling off climbing wall in November, and awaiting operation to build new ligaments. Luckily I can still cycle and walking is fine
  • Planning a cycle tour for later this year – I fancy Cornwall
  • Also might be going to Scotland for a bit for some walking, will probably get lost
  • Don’t just think about how wrong things are sometimes, try and do something about it. There are tonnes of groups to get involved with, and Extinction Rebellion are taking to the streets in April on another effort change things
  • Anxiety and depression are a thing, friends are amazing. Keep on keeping on
  • Gideon wants me to let him in, so I’d better go

Stay safe and and hope to see you soon…

2022 – Here we go…again

Happy New Year, here’s to hopefully a less contagious 2022! Or at least less in the way of lockdowns and bad decisions by the powers that be. Maybe I should just stick with less contagious and hope for the best.

Gideon had a good Christmas despite me having to abandon him for a few days; he was well looked after by a friend whilst I escaped to my parents (thanks Adam). I don’t think he would have got on very well with my brother’s dog, given previous experience of him chasing canines around.

Now it’s getting colder he’s decided staying inside with blankets is probably for the best. I can’t say I blame him.

I had a good Christmas break down at my parents’ house in East Sussex, with my brother and sister-in-law’s family too. Great to be able to get together after last year’s shenanigans. Got out for some lovely walks on the beach down in Bexhill, and ate too much.

I’m generally not a big fan of Christmas. I really hate all the commercialism and pressure to buy stuff. It brings back memories of people no longer with us like Lucy. I can’t believe it’ll be 10 years since she passed away this February. Lots of happy memories of Christmas’ with her but that makes it harder when it comes round again somehow. Still, this was a good one and had lots of fun playing with my niece and nephew; just waiting for reports of what my niece has broken with the catapult I bought her. Naughty presents are what Uncles are for…right? I’m not playing Monopoly against my nephew again though, too many hotels on Mayfair for my liking, and I kept ending up in jail, which as an Extinction Rebellion person does not bode well.

In between Christmas and New Year I managed a few days of not doing very much, aside from more eating, and reading books, pretty good really. Did get out for a few nice walks including down to Salhouse Broad.

It’s really peaceful and regenerative down there at this time of year, without all the boats and bustle. Always seem to bump into someone I know as well – was good to see Nigel, an ex-colleague from work now with longer hair and living the dream playing in bands and whatnot.

I’ve got a bit of a broken knee at the moment due to falling off a climbing wall in November. Some ligaments that are quite important aren’t there anymore, and need to be rebuilt from bits of my hamstring later this year. Means I can’t climb or do Kendo, but can still walk about, albeit with one of those huge knee brace things. I can still cycle. Cycling is in fact encouraged as apparently I need (I was going to do a bad knee pun then but resisted) to have thighs like Chris Hoy’s before the operation. This could be challenging. As always I am thoroughly impressed with the NHS and how hard they work, and enjoyed the MRI scan. They weren’t very complimentary of the Government and how they’ve handled COVID, unsurprisingly.

Before going back to work I went for a walk round the Wensum Valley, to look at the proposed route for the Western Link Road. The road will destroy large swathes of beautiful and massively important Norfolk Countryside.

The Wensum Valley is a Special Area of Conservation with ancient woodland, rare chalk stream habitat, endangered barbastelle bat colonies and diverse flora and fauna. It would be a travesty if the link road went ahead.

Building the road will devastate rare habitat, plant and animal species, and increase traffic and emissions. We simply can’t afford to carry on with schemes like this whilst we’re in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency. It would be far better if the Council invested in a joined up green public transport plan, including cycling infrastructure, instead of opening up the countryside to more development and cutting 5 or 10 minutes off a journey. The Wensum Valley is the last natural corridor into Norwich, it needs to be saved.

The good news is that the EDP reported today that Norwich City Council no longer back the road, great news in fact – thank you! Just need Norfolk County Council to catch up now. More on that story here – https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/local-council/norwich-western-link-city-council-rejection-8600434

I really do dream of the day when politicians start taking the climate and ecological emergency seriously. Maybe 2022 will be the year for it after last year’s disappointing COP26. Here’s the proposed route for the link road – if you’re Norfolk based please write to your MP and/or councillor to tell them to oppose it, and you can always join the Stop the Wensum Link campaign (or XR Norwich).

Whilst you’re at it please ask them to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which could stop you protesting about anything, and will send this country sliding further info authoritarianism. Have a look at the Netpol site for more info.

What else does 2022 have in store? More Extinction Rebellion stuff for me, it feels more important than ever to be out on the streets demanding change, for ourselves as well as the sake of future generations. With wildfires and floods raging round the planet, Antarctic ice melt getting really scary, emissions still going up and the Global South really suffering we need action now, not by 2050. I know this means big lifestyle changes, but surely that’s better than loads of people dying and society breaking down? Maybe see you out rebelling for life later this year – message me if you want to get involved.

I am also hoping for a bit of a gradual career change in 2022. I passed my level 4 Bushcraft course last year, which took two years due to COVID. I am really proud of the achievement and would love to teach stuff to others. Stay tuned for more on that soon. And I can’t recommend The Woodcraft School enough.

And I want to do more cycle touring again. Formulating plans for that too.

Have you watched ‘Don’t Look Up? And if so what did you think? I thought it was brilliant commentary on how politicians and the media don’t take the climate and eco crisis seriously, and how society reacts to it. This was reinforced by much of the media and critics slating it, cos they really don’t get it.

All the best for 2022, and Happy Birthday to Sheila and Susan who are both very young again imminently.

Just getting comfortable

Reply from Jerome Mayhew MP

The week draws to and end, and I’ve even written some Christmas cards and acquired a few gifts. Almost feel semi-organised, with only mild levels of pre-festive stress and worry about stuff I haven’t done. I like Christmas, when it gets to the actual few days of celebration, but not the weeks of build up.

Gideon has been decidedly unstressed. In fact he appears to be doing very little as we approach mid-winter. This was mostly him today.

Reply from Jerome Mayhew below, but if nothing else please watch the film from George Monbiot at the end of this post, it’s really important…beware of the clowns.

Now you’ve enjoyed the cat pictures, here’s the response from Jerome Mayhew MP, to the email I sent him earlier this week. To be fair on him, he responded very quickly and comprehensively. The bit about public transport is ok, the rest I mostly find dubious – I’ve inserted a few comments in square brackets and in italics. I shall be replying when I have some time. Let me know what you think…

Dear Mr Harvey,

Thank you for your email.  You have raised a number of points with me so please do forgive the length of my reply.

Weston Link Road

Whilst I do not have a constitutional say over whether the Norwich Western Link takes place, as this is a matter devolved away from MPs, I do support the scheme.  I agree that none of the potential routes for the WLR is without very considerable costs in terms of impact to an otherwise lovely part of our countryside [If all the proposed routes are bad, then why go ahead?].  So what we are looking for is the least-worst option.  The County Council has undertaken extensive consultation on which route to adopt and, on balance, Option C was found to be the best in terms of its impact on local communities, environmental impact, value for money and through the benefits it will provide to local transport links and safety, by removing the rat runs between the A47 and the NDR.  Whilst some people, would prefer one of the other options, without there being a significant failing in the process of consultation, I don’t feel able to argue against the outcome that the consultation produced.  In addition to those opposed to it Option C has wide-ranging support including Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich Airport, Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk Fire and Rescue and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. [Using the emergency services to justify more roads doesn’t work for me. More roads equals more traffic, more emissions, and they’ll still get held up. Plus emergency services are going to be under massive pressure due to climate crisis over the coming years]

Having spoken with the Council I understand ecologists have carried out extensive bat surveys over the last three years across a wide area to the west of Norwich, most recently completing further bat radiotracking surveys earlier this month.  Consequently, the Council are developing mitigation proposals to take account of the data collected and are planning to put in considerable measures designed to support local bat populations, including green bridges, underpasses, and improving existing habitats and creating new ones. [The Barbastelle Bat colony is one of the biggest if not the biggest in the UK. They are an endangered species and the road would destroy the colony]

The Council have asked Dr Packman several times if she would be happy to share the data behind the conclusions she has drawn about barbastelle bats and the Norwich Western Link, including the locations of any barbastelle bat roosts her surveys have identified.  To date the data has not been provided.  As I am sure you can appreciate without seeing this data the Council cannot comment on the conclusions Dr Packman has drawn and will continue to base their proposed mitigation and enhancement measures on the evidence they have collected through their surveys. [The research he is referring to is being written up and checked pre-publication – it needs to be fact checked thoroughly to ensure it cannot be disputed, only wish the Government did more of that]

Public Transport

Given the majority of Broadland is not served by rail the only realistic public transport we can talk about are bus services. I fully accept that the current service needs improving as it fails the needs of the majority of residents with infrequent, poorly used and diesel powered buses. The only way I can see the majority of the network being improved is through the adoption of new technology. For example, smaller vehicles which have the right capacity and ride sharing technology which enables on demand door to door service. This is something I have previously raised with Norfolk County Council to see if there is appetite for a trial run in Norfolk.

In addition to this technological solution, earlier this year the Prime Minister announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London. This package of investment will boost bus services by focusing on a range of priorities, set to include:

  • Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
  • More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
  • New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
  • More affordable, simpler fares
  • At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions

Cycle routes will also see a major boost across the country with over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities to be constructed across England, as part of this multibillion pound package.

[Ok, so on public transport I think we can agree, to an extent, but it needs even more investment]

Thorpe Wood

Thorpe Woods are a mixture of semi-natural woodland around compartments of commercial planting which was harvested under their FC woodland management plans.  Given the encroachment of Norwich on three sides and the increasing informal use of the woods by these residents, together with the small scale of the commercial plantation, it is no longer suitable to continue to use the site for commercial forestry.  The area of commercial forestry was planted in the first place because it was poor quality land, and had since developed poor ecological value due to its heavy monoculture [this is really outdated terminology – it’s old Heathland that would regenerate quickly if left alone. As a friend said – Here, in Thorpe, right on the edge of Norwich, we have 200+ acres of prime lowland heath / ancient woodland / wood pasture habitat, containing more rare & scarce plant species than almost any other site outside of SSSIs] .  So the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust decided that the best future use of the land was to supply local housing need and thereby secure the long term future of the wider woodland for public access, biodiversity growth and recreation.

The planning process undertaken by the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust is a matter of public record, which included the right to appeal to the planning inspector, who spent six days hearing evidence from all interested parties as well as visiting the site, before coming to her decision granting outline planning permission.  I agree that we should protect and manage the mature native woodland in Thorpe Woods, work to improve biodiversity and focus on ecological management.  As made very clear in the report of the independent Planning Inspector this is exactly what the Trust will be doing; giving for ever and for free c.140 acres of Thorpe Woods as a community woodland for everyone, whilst improving ecological management, biodiversity, public access and recreation.  The Planning Inspector found that: “… the development proposals as a whole would protect and enhance the biodiversity of the District.”  This is even after the new housing is taken into account.  She went on to conclude that the plan, “…constitutes Sustainable Development.” [I, many local ecologists, and the residents of Thorpe are going to have to agree to disgree on this. You can’t improve biodiversity by destroying important habitat]

The development site is now the responsibility of Hill Group, to whom any enquiries about the development should be directed. [Yes, we’re doing that – keeping an eye on their plans after you sold the woods to them for millions]

Planning

We do need to build new homes for younger generations as our local population expands and the size of individual households decreases.   That being said, I think any new homes that are being built should be in keeping with the area and should bring with them sufficient infrastructure investment so that the additional population do not impact negatively on local public services.  I note from your own address that you live in new build estate, which until a few years ago was a field. [Thanks for that, yes I do live in a new build that was built on old agricultural land I think – ecological deserts most of the time, due to intensive farming, not the same as cutting down woodland]

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains a huge number of useful additions to our criminal justice system, as the rather unwieldy name implies.  Many of these are uncontroversial and I would certainly not want to delay their introduction by voting against this Bill.  Many of the provisions are also a direct delivery of Conservative manifesto pledges from the election, so it would also be deeply undemocratic of me to seek to prevent their introduction.  The clauses relating to non-violent but highly disruptive protests are there to help the police to manage the new wave of protest direct action, where the aim is not so much to protest as to cause chaos and inconvenience to as many people as possible. We all have a right to protest and to make sure that our voices are heard, but it is a right to protest, not to prevent. Why should one section of the public have an unfettered right to impose massive disruption on the rest of society? What about their right to get on with life? Where competing rights clash, the law must maintain a balance.  Modern protest movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, game the system, and disruption, not peaceful protest, is their objective. The law needs to adjust to maintain the balance of competing rights, and I think this Bill helps to achieve that.

Is this new power open to abuse? Yes it is, like every power that the police have, but there is no difference between this power and every other power that we loan to the police. It is open to challenge and review through the press and the courts. As a democracy, we are well used to holding those in power to account. Every single member of the public has the power to become a citizen journalist immediately through their ‘phone.  As a result, the police are subject to review and oversight like never before.

The setting up of illegal traveller sites can be a nuisance for local communities and an inappropriate development of open space.  Many local residents across the country are concerned about anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, and noise related to unauthorised sites. 

After two consultations on this issue, as part of the  Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, new laws will be introduced to increase the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress.  In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.

I can reassure you that the Government has taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures.

These new measures are a proportionate and necessary increase in powers for the police.  The Government has made it clear that only a minority of travellers are causing problems, such as through abusive behaviour and extensive litter and waste at illegal sites.  The vast majority of the travelling community are decent law-abiding people and we must ensure that there are legal sites available for travellers.  As of January 2020, the number of lawful traveller sites increased by 41 per cent from January 2010.  The Government has also given £200,000 to support projects working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities to tackle discrimination, improve integration, healthcare and education.

[I don’t know where to start with his commentary around the PCSC Bill. Organisations like Amnesty say it’s bad, very bad. It is going to curtail freedom of speech, and put people in prison for speaking out against the Government. 1930’s Germany anyone? See film fro George Monbiot below for more info]

Yours sincerely,

Jerome Mayhew MP

http://www.saveoursavers.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Portcullis-logo.gif

Jerome Mayhew MP

Member of Parliament for Broadland

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Email – Jerome.Mayhew.mp@parliament.uk

Website – www.jeromemayhew.org.uk

This is the film from George Monbiot on the PCSC Bill, please watch and share widely.

Open letter to Jerome Mayhew MP

It’s been over a year since I posted on my blog. No excuses really, it’s just been a hectic, rollercoaster 18 months. I’m hoping to post a bit more from now on, on a variety of topics.

I’ve achieved some cool stuff since I last wrote anything. I passed my Level 4 Bushcraft Course (more on Bushcraft plans soon hopefully), finished some work projects, have done loads of climbing, and have been busy with lots of Extinction Rebellion stuff. Despite the pandemic messing lots of things around life goes on, exciting stuff still happens, and friends and family are always there when you need them; have really appreciated support from friends this year, through a few difficult periods.

Oh, and I adopted a rescue cat who keeps me company now I’m working from home permanently. His name is Gideon. He is a menace, but I love him.

What has motivated me to write something again? Local politics mostly. I got annoyed with Councillors talking nonsense and not answering questions, and then with my local MP on a variety of subjects. I thought I’d share the letter I sent him this evening, as I’m sure many of his constituents feel the same way. I also think people need to know more about the disastrous Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will shortly be enacted into Law and seriously restrict our liberties.

Please read on if you’re interested – I’ve tried not to rant too much!

Dear Jerome Mayhew MP,

I am writing to you after you deleted my and several other concerned constituents’ comments from your Facebook page. I will also be forwarding this to members of the Norwich press, inviting them to publish this as an open letter.

On 12 December, you posted on Facebook reflecting on your achievements over the last two years, since you were elected, and on how you’ve stayed true to your commitments. I and many others have commented, politely, challenging some of these views. All of our comments have been deleted. I find this both undemocratic, cowardly, and as one of your constituents a failure on your part to address my concerns.

Have you perhaps been taking classes from Cllr Wilby on not answering questions? He did spectacularly badly at addressing a question on the NDR recently. Or perhaps you agree with Broadland District Tory Councillors, including Cllr Fisher, that there’s no need to declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary?

I shall repeat the comments I raised on Facebook, and would welcome a response.

You claim to be enhancing our local environment, however this is at odds with both your support for the Western Link Road, as well as you and your family’s involvement in the proposed Thorpe Woodlands housing development.

The Western Link Road will destroy ancient woodland, rare chalk stream habitat, endangered Barbastelle bat colonies, and pollute the local landscape. It will increase traffic and emissions because that’s what new roads do. The road is also a blatant move to open up the Norfolk countryside to more development and destruction, for the profit of a few.

Surely public money would be far better invested in green public transport and cycling infrastructure? At a time when more people are working from home, and we need to reduce private car ownership to reduce emissions, it seems crazy to be promoting more car usage.

Turning now to the Thorpe Woodlands housing development. This woodland, a County Wildlife Site, is a remnant of ancient woodland, containing as it does ancient woodland indicator species. It acts as a carbon sink and a refuge for animals and plants to regenerate from, whilst the surrounding countryside is gobbled up by developers. It is very probable that it also acts as a flood defence, absorbing a lot of surface water, for the homes in Dussindale and Thorpe St. Andrew.

You and your family sold this woodland, no doubt for a tidy profit, to developers. This was against the wishes of local residents, many of whom grew up playing in the woods. Broadland District Council refused planning permission. However, the applicants appealed to the central Planning Inspectorate, who overturned local democracy and granted permission. Yet another example of local democracy being ignored for the profit of a small minority, even though Broadland council said the land wasn’t needed for housing.

In the midst of a biodiversity crisis, when the UK has the lowest forest coverage in Europe (13% versus around 38% in the EU), we really need to preserve our remaining woodlands and wild places, habitats and biodiversity. Planting new trees simply cannot make up for established woodland being destroyed; birds and bats can’t nest in saplings surrounded by plastic tubes, trees that will probably die anyway if many of those planted around the NDR are anything to go by.

It appears you are not being entirely successful in protecting the countryside and environment in Norfolk, and certainly not ‘listening to residents’ on this matter.

I’d also like to raise the matter of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC BIll), which is now going through its third reading in the House of Lords. This Bill, which you support, recently had last minute clauses introduced that will mean up to 51 weeks in prison for any sort of protest activity. It also persecutes Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, making their way of life illegal. It’s an attack on freedom of speech, as well as our right to peaceful protest, a right that has won the British people so much over the centuries.

The PCSC Bill, along with the Nationality and Borders Bill (Anti-Refugee Bill), are attacks on civil liberties, freedom, democracy and refugees seeking asylum. The Government is seeking to quash any dissenting voices, to silence anyone that disagrees with them. Protest by its very nature will cause an annoyance and disturb someone. We must heed warnings from history, from the 1930s as countries slid into authoritarianism and fascism after introducing similar and more stringent laws. Can you really, with good conscience, support these Bills, which have been widely condemned by organisations such as Amnesty International?

I appreciate you have been working hard to try to build a ‘Better Broadland’, however not being open to criticism or answering questions from concerned members of the public comes across badly. With the Government increasingly under fire on COVID, having one rule for them and one for everyone else, it must be time to start listening to and engaging with your constituents who have different views, rather than ignoring them.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Your sincerely,

James Harvey

Salhouse

Norwich

That’s all for today. I’ll let you know if I get a reply, and hope to write more soon anyway.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Bushcraft and Autumn at Salhouse Broad – 2019

Following on from completing the Advanced Bushcraft Certificate in June, I started a year long course in October. It’s part of a plan to diversify my skill and knowledge base, with a view to future changes of lifestyle and vocation; essentially I’m going to need a new job soon, and would love to work more in the outdoors, with like-minded people. Hopefully I can combine this with a few other things I’m dabbling in when my current job winds up next year. The course, a Certificate of Applied Bushcraft, is run by the Woodcraft School down in West Sussex.

It’s a big time commitment, the course running once a month from October 2019 to June 2020. It runs over a series of long weekends, with research and practice required in between each session. I’m part of a group of 10 or so students, all with varying degrees of existing knowledge and skills, but all bound by a passion for and interest in the outdoors, nature, woodcraft and bushcraft. Am I woefully ill-prepared and lacking in the pre-requisites? Only one way to find out!

I’ll attempt to keep this blog updated as I go, and hopefully won’t poison myself, contract hypothermia, or slice off a limb in the meantime. Bit worried about the January session during which we have to overnight without a sleeping bag, relying purely on the skills we’ve learnt; let’s hope the rain eases off.

Amongst last month’s teachings we learned more about fire-starting, and left with instructions to gather natural tinder and coal-extenders. This weekend has been mostly dry so I decided to venture forth to gather suppliers to add to my ‘fire-box’. Salhouse Broad is only down the road, and somewhere I walk regularly, thus was a good place to start. I last visited after the Rebellion in October; it was still pretty green then.

Autumn has definitely advanced in my absence, the Broad having quietened down and most trees now brown, yellow or gold, or even bare of leaf.

Whilst the spring and summer months are full of life and activity, I think I prefer the autumn and winter, which bring a stillness to the area. Gone are masses of folk on holiday, as well as the constant drone from boats, and people hiring canoes or picnicking.

I wandered my usual route, taking in the changes since my last visit. I gathered tinder in the form of seed heads and dead bracken, all of which should take a spark from flint and steel (or ferro-rod in my case), and will work for the fire-by-friction test next week; bow drill is going to be a challenge if our current streak of wet weather persists. I stopped to check on the little cluster of surviving Elm trees, hidden from view of the beetle which carries the fungi causing Dutch elm disease.

Birch bark is also excellent as tinder, and taking the outer peeling bits of bark doesn’t do the tree any harm. It’s full of Betulin oil and lights very easily.

After a busy week, including an XR critical mass bike ride yesterday, it was good to pause for a bit and reflect on things. All a bit worrying with the big floods up north seemingly set to get worse, fires raging in Australia and in many other parts of the world, and water shortages in South Africa. It’s only a matter of time before we see a massive increase in the number of climate refugees, driven from their homes by lack of water, famine, or fighting over remaining resources. Part of the reason I’m doing this bushcraft course is to improve the skills I might need should things go from bad to worse, which really can’t be ruled out. Let’s not mention the general election.

With tinder gathered it was time to head back home. I might have played with the colours in one of the photos below!

I’ve now got a collection of various tinder types, which’ll hopefully work over the next few months. I need to find more in the way of coal extenders – some bracket fungi and suchlike. I’ll save that for next time.

Will keep you posted on Bushcraft course progress, assuming next weekend goes well!

Extinction Rebellion

I’ll start this post with some autumnal pictures. It’s my favourite time of year, incorporating beautiful colours in the countryside, crisp and bright days, and the Norwich beer festival; always a must visit.

Walking or cycling through the countryside, breathing in the fresh air, is a true delight. And  there’s always the joy of jumping into piles of leaves, or taking in a magnificent sunset. I don’t have any recent sunset pictures, as sometimes it’s good just to take it all in without having to photograph it. I do have the privilege to cycle past Whitlingham Broad on my way to work each morning though, which always offers a calm moment before the day starts in earnest.

Each year I wonder if we’ll see the same next year. What will have burnt, been blown down, or perished from either drought, habitat destruction or any one of a number of other human caused blights? The wildfires in California, or the increased frequency of ‘once in a hundred years’ storms, are just a few examples.

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of an environmental crisis now. The symptoms of Climate Breakdown are everywhere to see and this is just the beginning. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or Climate Breakdown as it should now be called, says we have just 12 years to avert catastrophe. I hope this is true and we’ve not already passed the tipping point.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

I’m not going to include lots of links to evidence, to scientific commentary or opinion, as it’s easy to find on the web, however if you have any doubts this is true, or are in denial, I recommend doing a bit of research (I can supply some pointers upon request).

A lot of us have had enough of this now. Of the failure of governments, corporations, and indeed most of the people on the planet, to do anything to avert the impending catastrophe. We are failing future generations of children, and indeed all life on the planet. We can’t however dwell on the past too much, or start blaming previous generations, that won’t help.

For what has probably been several years this has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I’ve experienced a full range of emotions on the subject which I now realise, with the help of friends and wiser people than I, are down to grief. You’d have thought I’d have recognised the symptoms given previous life events. Sadness, a bit of denial, despair and depression, anger, and now hopefully acceptance. You can’t move on and do anything constructive about an issue you’re grieving about unless you can accept it’s happened or happening, and the truth. If you’re going through this yourself I can thoroughly recommend looking up Joanna Macy, the deep ecologist, and the work that reconnects. It helps.

On a side note I’m really starting to think that a lot of the mental health problems we’re seeing at the moment might be related to all of this. At some level, even subconsciously and especially amongst children, are we all recognising the problem and threat? Is this why levels are depression and anxiety are soaring?

Last night I decided to go to a talk organised by Extinction Rebellion. It was a game-changer as far as I’m concerned. The talk was hosted by Rupert Read, a Green Party politician, academic and reader of philosophy at the University of East Anglia where I studied. He gave the same talk at Churchill College in Cambridge recently, and I’d really recommend everyone listen to it, challenge it if necessary, and try to understand it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzCxFPzdO0Y

If you do nothing else, or don’t ready any further, please watch at least some of this!

Yes, this stuff is really scary, terrifying. I was beginning to think that very few other people saw it the same way I’ve been seeing it. It makes one feel very alone, and question whether you’re one of the ‘crazies’. I don’t feel that way anymore. They expected maybe 50 odd people to turn up last night. There were around 120 of us crammed into the room, a brilliant turn out given it was only organised the week before. There were people from all walks of life too, lest you think it was just fringe hippies and malcontents. Finally a group of like-minded I can relate to, who are as worried as I am, and who are willing to try to do something about it.

We really do have just years to try do something about this. It’s something that will not just potentially cut your children’s lives short, it could do so for your own life, or at least future wellbeing. As Rupert says in his talk there are three possibilities at the moment.

  1. Complete breakdown of civilisation, which will start within our lifetimes – there won’t be much of anything left, we didn’t do enough, quickly enough
  2. An alternative civilisation – a partial collapse of what we have today, but things are left intact to some extent, we just about did enough
  3. A successor civilisation – we transform our current civilisation now, and quickly, bringing about the chance for massive improvements and a better way of life for all on the planet

I reckon number three is the sensible choice to strive for, if it’s not too late, but it’s also the hardest route to take, and possibly the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a species. To make it work it’ll need everyone to get on board, completely change their lifestyles, and priorities. It’s harder than previous challenges we’ve faced on subjects such as equality, voting rights, and discrimination. We are after all talking about people who are currently rich, comfortable, and enjoying a life of comparative luxury (most people in the UK relative to other parts of the world) needing to set much of what they currently value aside. However, if we can start to transform civilisation we’ll be in with a chance, and we could end up being in a much better place than we are now on many counts.

People may ask isn’t the Paris Climate Change Agreement supposed to avert all these problems? Doesn’t the IPCC report offer hope? The answer to that, in brief, is no. The Paris agreement is effectively burnt, especially if the US pulls out. It doesn’t go far enough and won’t prevent the temperature rises that are going to cause so many problems. These reports and agreements don’t take into account things like feedback loops from ice-melt and the permafrost thawing. If methane emissions soar (releasing the dragon), which is entirely possible, we’ll see the release of massive amounts of a greenhouse gas far worse than CO2.

It would appear therefore we have years to try to fix this, and we need to get as many people involved to completely change the way we live, consume, travel, grow our food, enjoy our leisure activities etc. I’m not sure this is possible but surely it’s got to be worth a go? It really is time for people to wake up to this, for people to start talking about it and for action to start happening on a major scale. And we have to approach this in the right way, not with accusations and trying to force people to see your point of view, but by providing information and the facts, and asking them questions, so they can reach their own conclusions, go through the grieving process, and come out the other side to add a positive contribution. This is much bigger than Brexit, or the NHS crisis, yet it’s not anywhere near the top our governments agenda. They are letting us down.

That’s where Extinction Rebellion comes in (@ExtinctionR

https://rebellion.earth

Governments and corporations aren’t doing anything quickly enough, or anything at all in many cases. They need to start listening and the only way to make that happen appears to be via non-violent direct action, which is what Extinction Rebellion is trying to organise. We need to stop the destructive spiral that is going on at the moment and make change happen.

I’d invite anyone reading this (there’s got to be at least 2 or 3 people who got this far), to check out Extinction Rebellion yourself. Spread the word. Get involved and consider non-violent direct action to make the government listen. There are ‘Holding actions’ we can undertake to slow things down. There’s going to be some good stuff happening in London this weekend. This has the potential to be huge, and even if it doesn’t work I don’t want to be in situation in 10 or 20 years time wishing I’d tried to do something. It’s got to be worth a shot whilst we still have a chance hasn’t it?

In the meantime though, I might do a bit of prepping, just in case…

Where do we go from here?

I love it when it snows, and after several years of nothing significant the ‘Beast from the East’ brought buckets of the stuff over the past week. The only draw-back, from my point of view anyway, is that it makes cycling a little tricky; I don’t have any studded tyres.

Imagine if we could control the weather; but would that really be a good thing? The potential benefits around, for example, a predictable climate for agriculture, sunshine for the tourist industry, or rain for drought hit areas all sound good. But what about the impacts we couldn’t foresee or chose to ignore?

Controlling the weather in one region could adversely impact another geographical area, where perhaps they didn’t have as much money or influence. This downstream area could get hit by extreme weather, or mass species die-off events could become more common-place, such as the Saiga antelope catastrophe in Kazakhstan. In excess of 200,000 of this endangered species died in 2015, when human-caused climate change increased temperatures to such an extent it’s thought they triggered a bacteria present benignly in the antelopes at lower temperatures to cause hemorrhagic septicemia (blood poisoning and internal bleeding), with thousands dying within a few days of each other.

An increase in life-threatening diseases due to climate change could happen to human population centres, and some would argue it already is. For example Nigeria is currently experiencing an outbreak of Lassa fever, which in extreme cases has symptoms similar to Ebola, and has no vaccine. There are some theories that the increased frequency of this disease could be down to changing weather patterns.

So no, I don’t think we can be trusted to control the weather responsibly. We’re already doing it indirectly via human-caused climate change due to fossil fuel burning. The recent snowy weather resulted from unseasonably warm air being drawn up to the arctic, the Jet Stream slowing down and disrupting the polar vortex, which forced cold air and blizzards down to the UK. Whilst we experienced temperatures well below freezing in Norfolk, it was above freezing in parts of the Arctic, melting yet more of the already at record lows sea ice. This is explained much more eloquently and in far more detail on this website – well written and easy to understand; definitely worth a read.

Where am I going with this? I’m pointing out we often don’t really understand, or are unable to predict, the consequences of our actions on the planet.

As I mentioned in a previous recent blog post I’ve been pondering where we’re going as a species, and why we keep pursuing unsustainable growth and consumption, whilst the world literally collapses around us. Climate change is becoming a very tangible symptom of our labours. Surely we should be petrified for the future of our children and grandchildren, if not the other species we share the world with. Yes, the planet will survive us, however will anything else on the Earth be left by the time we check out?

There are lots of examples of as yet un-checked unsustainable activity in the present day, which we seem to be in denial about. All these have either obvious, as well as I suspect as yet unpredicted consequences. Here are a few examples.

  1. Human population growth. The world’s population is growing at around 83 million or 1.1% a year, although this rate has slowed down since peaking in the 1960’s at about 2.1%, and is predicted to fall further to around 0.1% by 2100. The graph below shows how dramatic this growth has been in the last 200 years. The impact this puts on the environment, especially as more of the population start to live ‘western’ lifestyles, is unsustainable. 
  2. Agricultural land use. As this article in the New Scientist from 10 years ago says; humans are living completely beyond their ecological means. We knew this a long time ago but still pump fields full of fertilisers and pesticides, which in the long-term degrades the land and makes it less productive, as well as poisons the underlying substrates and surrounding countryside, reducing biodiversity. That coupled with soil erosion means scientists are predicting we only have a limited number of harvests left, maybe 100, due to our unsustainable farming practices. The good news is this should be reversible, given the right techniques and less reliance on chemical fertilisers. The big agrochemical companies, such as Monsanto, don’t really want you to know this for obvious reasons. Check out this video from Dr Elaine Ingham if you want to find out more, a real eye-opener.
  3. Fishing. In many areas of the world we’re literally stripping the oceans bare of life to feed our appetite for seafood. Huge industrial trawlers and dredgers indiscriminately take everything, and even if by-catch is thrown back it’s probably not going to survive. Studies have shown that fish numbers have halved since the 70’s, with some species being hit particularly hard such as tuna and mackerel; a 75% decline in numbers. Continued unsustainable fishing practices driven by consumer demand, coupled with horrific plastic pollution and coral reef bleaching, paint a grim picture as far as recovery is concerned. If however large areas of our oceans are designated as marine conservation areas, such as the Arctic, perhaps they’ll stand a chance.
  4. Meat eating. There are hundreds of articles out there, such as this one, describing the impacts of raising livestock on the environment. As demand grows due to an increasing population and new markets, the impacts will grow. These include a large contribution to the greenhouse gases causing climate change, increased pollution due to run off, increased water use, and more land being needed to for livestock resulting in deforestation. The amount of land needed to feed a human on meat is about 20 times more than needed for a vegetarian diet. This is clearly unsustainable. The answer seems obvious, eat less meat and dairy products, with the associated health benefits as side-effects.
  5. Fossil fuel use. We continue to burn vast amount of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, in order to generate energy, heat our homes, or power transportation. The CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning continue to increase, despite the Paris Climate Change agreement being signed in 2015. Burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change.  We have perhaps 100 years left of these primary fossil fuels, which means we’ll have used up what the world has to offer over the course of about 300 years, reserves that took millions of years to create. This has to be one of the best examples of unsustainable human-based activity, however with continued research and development hopefully alternatives such as electric cars (go Tesla!), renewables, or fusion energy will increase or come online soon.

    CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning

    CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning

Those were a few examples of unsustainable activity, which seem to make less and less sense to a growing number of people, especially the younger generation who don’t understand how we could, as a race, have been so ignorant, and how we continue to pursue these activities. I think they’ll be an accounting at some point, and the history books won’t look back kindly on what will come to be regarded as criminal practices. It can be summarised quite simply…

Infinite economic, industrial and agricultural growth is unsustainable and therefore impossible when based on finite resources, coupled with environmental constraints

…not sure one can argue with that. A basic example of this can be found from studying the growth of a bacterial colony in a petri dish. The colony starts off slow, then grows exponentially using up the finite resources available, then dies off once the agar jelly runs out. A simple example but with obvious parallels to humans and the Earth.

There’s a lot of hope out there in terms of alternative more sustainable options, however these are reliant on:

  • Public take up of the alternatives, and a willingness on everyone to make sacrifices to ensure long-term sustainability
  • Funding for the research and development of these initiatives
  • The same initiatives not being blocked due to profit seeking by the incumbent industries, who wield so much power and influence
  • Politicians actually listening to their constituents and scientists

I’ve been reading recently about shifting baseline syndrome. Over time knowledge is lost concerning the state of the natural world, as people don’t perceive the changes taking place. Today’s younger generation won’t for example remember that gardens used to be full of butterflies, or that birdsong used to be so much louder, or that rhinos were once commonplace in Africa. It has to be a concern that the environment and biodiversity will continue to decline due to unsustainable activity, but people won’t realise the extent of the decline because they have no first hand experience of what things used to be like.

Over the last 25 – 30 years: (Source: WWF-UK Living Planet Report)

  • 80% of freshwater species have declined
  • Over 50% of populations of land species have declined
  • 40% of our forests have disappeared to agricultural land with 15 million trees lost each year just for soy production
  • 1 in 6 of the planet’s species are at risk of extinction from climate change

I hope that education will fill this gap, and Deep Ecology will start to become part of the syllabus; humans are just one of many equal components that make up the global ecosystem. We’re not above or apart from it, we’re a part of it, and could not only survive but thrive if things are done the right way.

I don’t know how we change public opinion quickly enough to make the changes needed to ensure we can survive and thrive. Most governments don’t seem to give it a high priority, or are swayed by lobbyists driving their own commercial agendas, and whilst industry is changing it’s debatable whether it will happen quickly enough. It’s bizarre that we can continue so blithely down this path when you can for example see the ice melting, species dying, diseases increasing, the plastic in our oceans, antibiotic resistance rocketing, and extreme weather events due to climate change happening. I can only assume most people are in a massive state of denial, and refuse to wake-up, because to do so would cause a mental breakdown.

The underlying causes of all this have to be the drive to consume (we’re all indoctrinated to do so from an early age via marketing), what we are taught to regard as being successful in life, the pursuit of unreasonable profit and therefore money by a relatively small percentage of the population, and the often mistaken belief that more money will make you happy. After being on my bike for six months travelling round Europe, I realised you need very little in order to be happy. It looks increasingly like we need an alternative model from capitalism, which no doubt had its place in the past, in order to endure. That’s maybe a topic for another blog.

If you don’t already know about it Earth Hour takes place this weekend, where people are encouraged to turn their lights off from 20.30 in a show of solidarity for the planet. Here’s a link to the WWF website which has more detail on it – https://www.wwf.org.uk/earthhour

Well done and thank you if you made it to the end of that one. As usual my opinions are my own, however I hope that many of you will agree seeing as the evidence around all this is so easy to come by (see sources), and that you’ll conclude that we need to stop now and make some changes. I think everyone really can make a difference, because trends and movements spread and grow when they make sense. Let’s rectify this:

People and nature in Venn diagrams

People and nature in Venn diagrams

As always, safe cycling, and please feel free to comment with any feedback, opinions or interesting links to further information.

Sources

  1. BBC – Lassa fever: The killer with no vaccine – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43211086
  2. Robert Scribbler – Sudden Stratospheric Warming and Polar Amplification: How Climate Change interacts with the Polar Vortex – https://robertscribbler.com/2018/02/28/sudden-stratospheric-warming-and-polar-amplification-how-climate-change-interacts-with-the-polar-vortex/
  3. World Population Growth by Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina – https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth
  4. Unsustainable development ‘puts humanity at risk’ – https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12834-unsustainable-development-puts-humanity-at-risk/
  5. Youtube – The Roots of your Profit, Dr Elaine Ingham, soil microbiologist, founder of Soil Foodweb Inc – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2H60ritjag&t=3511s
  6. Huffington Post – Ocean Fish Populations cut in half since the 1970s: Report – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/crucial-marine-populations-cut-in-half-since-the-1970s-report_us_55f9ecd2e4b00310edf5b1b2
  7. The Guardian – Animal agriculture is choking the ​Earth and making us sick. We must act now – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/04/animal-agriculture-choking-earth-making-sick-climate-food-environmental-impact-james-cameron-suzy-amis-cameron
  8. The Guardian – Fossil fuel burning set to hit record high in 2017, scientists warn – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/13/fossil-fuel-burning-set-to-hit-record-high-in-2017-scientists-warn
  9. Wikipedia – Deep Ecology – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_ecology
  10. WWF – Earth Hour – https://www.wwf.org.uk/earthhour

Anger…

Most of the time cycling to work is great. It’s relaxing, keeps you fit, non-polluting, burns calories, and all the other positives.

Sometimes however it can leave me feeling a bit angry, for various reasons.

Today was one such day. I wrote a poem about it on my lunch break.

Anger
As I cycle…

Fields flash past
Forest, stream
Wild hedgerows
Full of thorns
Rooks caw
Cold, clear
Fresh, free, clean
Relax…
Turn the pedals
Breathe deep
Enjoy the moment

Then
I sigh…
Two young hedgehogs
Hit…
Dead
On the verge
Did they crawl there to die?
A blackbird
Head crushed, slain
Will sing no more
A pigeon
Ragged, bloodied, feathers everywhere
I pass more corpses
Rat, deer, rabbit
Hawk, pheasant
Lying on a tarmac altar
Sacrificed for what?

Plastic, litter
Infesting hedges, ponds
Fields, woodland, paths
No-where is spared
Polluting, poisoning
More jettisoned
From car windows
No thought
Heedless of damage
Why no shame?
Why so lazy?
Why think this is okay?

Fumes, foulness,
Exhausts belch
Black smoke, invisible toxins
More poison
Choking, chest hurts, throat burns
And new roads
Scar the countryside
More bad smells
Bitumen
Strangling Earth
Infected arteries
Opening the countryside
To more…
Death

Past the Broad
A small sanctuary
Peace
Smile returns
Weave down the road
Morning dogs!
Wildfowl paddling
Early morning rowers
Swans gliding
Majestics presences
Not enough

Drivers, many good
Some, not so
No indication
Pass too close
Abuse…thanks
3 mile commutes
Or less
Why not walk, cycle?
They won’t
Don’t think
Too hard
Too much effort

That’s why
I’m sometimes angry
Depressed, despondent
Can this ever change?
People won’t
Too selfish
Too…someone else
Until it’s too late
Then they’ll blame
Others
Instead…
Look in the mirror

END

 

Thankfully it’s not all bad, and a lot of people are trying to make things better. That was, however, cathartic.