Monday Musings: A World Worth Saving? And Why Aren’t Our Leaders Taking Action NOW?

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And so asks Greta Thunberg:

 

Because there’s so much we could be doing and now. See the UN’s Climate Action site: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/climate-action-areas.shtml

Meanwhile this is what the Secretary-General of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, António Guterres was saying a year ago when he called for global action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNe-jBVij-g

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. You can find all the scientific reports Here, including the special report on global warming Here.

None of us wants to think about this, but there are things we can do, beginning with our own community leaders. For instance the council of my  county town of Shrewsbury has declared a climate emergency and a 2030 net carbon neurtral target, this after energetic campaiging by residents and members of Extinction Rebellion.

Many other councils across the country have done likewise. You can see the UK map at climateemergency.uk

However, our county council leaders are dragging their heels. Under public pressure, they declared the climate emergency but seem unprepared to take action if it will upset economic interests. They further appeared not to know of the many innovative business initiatives (especially in biogas generation) already taking place in Shropshire. At the parliamentary level, only one of our 5 county all Tory MPs, Philip Dunne, has acknowledged the crisis and said he will do all he can to change resistant attitudes. Last week I wrote to ask him how he meant to do this, though I’ve since noticed that he has been pressing Government for zero road emissions. All in all though, there are still monumental obstacles to shift, and here in the UK we’re still stuck in the 3 year Brexit Effect – tactic of mass distraction.

So time for every one of us to get snapping at the heels of our local representatives/councillors/senators/MPs/ministers. Use their social media sites. Join or support a campaign group. Government inertia will take a lot of shifting. E.g. The oil men have known about the effect of carbon emissions on the climate since the 1970s yet, as Greta Thunberg states, still we use 100 million barrels a day. A staggering amount – and all those oil dollars into somebody’s pockets; all the wars and regime-change invasions involving oil. And it’s not just oil; it’s all the waste from the by-products of oil. Even the deniers of manmade climate change cannot deny the mess we’ve made of the planet.

And if this is leaving you feeling depressed then check out what the small ‘negative carbon’ nation of Bhutan has been doing to protect itself and help out its neighbouring countries, and indeed provide a wellbeing pattern for global action, and for all of us.

An Elephant In The Garden?

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That would be of the hawk-moth variety, Deilephila elpenor. The elephant in the name is not due to its size, though with a wingspan of one and half to two and half inches (45-60mm) it is quite large, but to the appearance of its caterpillar which has a trunk-like protuberance. The caterpillars like to feed on Rosebay Willowherb and bedstraws found in rough grassland, while the moth prefers to sup on the wing, from dusk till dawn, feeding at tubular flowers such as honeysuckle.

Before this particular Elephant hawk-moth was in the garden, it was in the utility room. We found it on the window blind, but decided it would be better off outside with the honeysuckle. It did not react to being moved or having its photo taken. In fact I think it was asleep. A very striking livery though, as moth colour schemes go.

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The Changing Seasons ~ July’s High-Summer Gold

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Without a doubt July’s stars in the-garden-over-the-fence are the Dyer’s Chamomile daisies, also known as Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria). They have flowered and flowered for weeks now, spilling out on to field path behind the house, tumbling into the garden through the fence. So much gold from a small packet of seeds bought from Jekka’s Herb Farm.

In fact some of you may remember that back in the winter I was worried about the plants’ survival. Some started flowering late last autumn and were still going in December. I was afraid that after such an untimely show, they would keel over and die. I needn’t have worried. I think they have magic powers, though they do have their foibles. For one thing, they are not early risers, and if you catch them too soon in the day, they will not be properly dressed. Each night as the sun goes down they fold back their petals, tight to the stem so they look like a crowd of golden lollipops. Now there’s a thought to ponder on. It makes me wonder if they do this to attract particular  night-time pollinators.

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And talking of pollinators the garden has been humming with hoverflies, bumbles and honey bees. And now as the month draws to a close, hot on Marguerite’s sunshine heels come Helianthus, Doronicum, Golden Rod, while among them, dots of mauve and purple from Centaurea, Phlox and Drumstick Allium add a touch of flair. What a happy garden. Which of course makes us happy too. So I’m passing it on Sun even though today it is raining here in Shropshire.

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The Changing Seasons ~ July 2019

Please pop over to Su’s to see her changing seasons in the southern hemisphere.

 

Bugs In My Borders And More About Climate Change

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It’s cool today after yesterday’s roasting, and thinking is easier. I’m still brooding on Boris Johnson’s climate change contentions (quote and article link in previous post) and it occurs to me that when an issue becomes polarized between sceptics and supporters, more energy goes into the argument than the resolution. In other words, nothing gets done and the conflict becomes an end in itself.

A poor end, I might add; the kind that happens in marriages, between nations, in neighbour feuds. And so when it comes to the climate-change sceptics, those cash-loaded, vested-interest, shadowy entities who fund political campaigns, and infiltrate their agendas across our mass media through advertising and sponsorship, then such wily bodies with share-holders to appease are sure to understand this very well. Distract. Confuse. Immobilize.

In some ways, then, whether rapid climate change is caused by humans or is the product of the planet’s own cycles, isn’t the point. The point is we need to act, because we’ve known for decades that environmental degradation affects the climate. If you cut down a forest, there will be less rainfall and more soil erosion. If you overgraze grassland you will create a desert. If you crop, mine or drill for natural resources and leave a wasteland of pollution you threaten the lives of the locals and their resulting survival tactics may only add to the problem.

Another fact: humans have been radically changing the natural environment for 10,000 years, ever since they took up cultivation and herding for a living. There is absolutely no doubt that these events happened. Environmental degradation creates and accelerates human poverty in a multiplier vortex of deprivation. Those of us who live in more privileged conditions may then be alarmed by the threat of arriving migrants, and this in turn starts colouring the complexion of a receiving nation’s politics – and not for the better for any of us.

But many of these things can be fixed. If we want to fix them. And since thinking globally is too big ‘a think’ for most of us, then there is much that can be done on local and regional levels. Here is a stunning example from China. Watch the video and be heartened and amazed. This is what it says about itself:

In 2005, the Chinese government, in cooperation with the World Bank, completed the world’s largest watershed restoration on the upper banks of the Yellow River. Woefully under-publicized, the $500 million enterprise transformed an area of 35,000 square kilometers on the Loess Plateau — roughly the area of Belgium — from dusty wasteland to a verdant agricultural center.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QUSIJ80n50&t=1810s

The further good news is, the Loess Plateau model is now being used to tackle desertification in other parts of the world. So you see we CAN do it. Acting locally, regionally, nationally can go global.

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copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

July Squares #26

What A Good Yarn! Knitting Bombs in Bishops Castle

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Well you can’t help but think it, can you: would that all bombing were so beautifully harmless and smile-inducing. In my last post I mentioned our ‘guerrilla garden’, but here we have a spot of guerrilla knitting found in and around our favourite small Shropshire town of Bishop’s Castle. The great knitting outbreak apparently began here a few years ago to coincide with the town’s arts festival, but I noticed some more recent additions on our last visit. It’s inspiring me to get my knitting needles out again for a little more creative procrastination, though yarn bombing Wenlock might be a step too far. Maybe the allotment…?!*&

Knitted peas and carrots anyone?

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Crocheted cupcakes at Poppies Tearoom?

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Much indulging of the imagination at the bookshop:

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And then some subtle, ‘environmentally sensitive’ yarning:

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Last but not least, in the entrance of the Town Hall you may also see a knitted version whose accompanying notice says it was created by Nigel. It’s there to serve a particular good cause, inviting donations for the care and renovation of this lovely building that sits so finely at the top of the town:

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July Squares #16

The Changing Seasons ~ Wenlock In June

The header photo was taken early on Friday evening, after my orchid hunt on Windmill Hill. It was hot on the hill, the light reflecting off the windmill’s masonry. No shade up there, only sweeping views of the farmland behind Wenlock Edge. I was glad to retreat to the path through the woods. It brings you to the old railway line and the Linden Walk. Stepping into that pool of greenery was like a soothing embrace. I was struck, too, by the play of light through  the canopy.

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But when I turned to look back across the Linden Field I was amused to see a true sun worshipper, flat out on the grass and soaking up every last ray.

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And in case you missed the last post’s orchid expedition here are more shots. Click on one of the images for larger versions:

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Back at the Farrell house, the garden has also been looking very wonderful, while over the fence the guerrilla plot is thriving, as is the wheat in Townsend Meadow beyond it. ‘Meadow’ is of course a misnomer in this mono-crop context. A meadow is the kind of thing you have just glimpsed above – full of exuberant diversity that lightens the spirits. Still, it looks as if this year the farmer will have a good harvest, and along the field margins there are still havens for grasses, blackberries, dog roses, oh yes and a very tiny crab spider that instantly tried to hide, but then decided I posed no threat and came back to show itself off. I also have to say I quite like the visual drama of the mega-tractor’s agri-chemical delivery tracks, though it does make me wonder what most of us are eating.

The Changing Seasons: June 2019

Communing With Orchids On Windmill Hill

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Yesterday morning he who presently spends his time making a scale model of a static steam engine, surprised me by abandoning house and shed to take part in the orchid count on Windmill Hill. We had the first count last year, but this year the orchids are far more numerous. The hill is in the care of the Windmill Trust, a group of local volunteers, and in the past the limestone grassland was mostly kept in check by a flock of small ponies, brought in to graze at the end of summer. Unfortunately the little ponies had to be sold, so last year at summer’s end  the Windmill Trust had the hill mowed, the hay baled and dispatched to the local riding centre and the ground harrowed. It’s certainly given the purple pyramidal orchids a boost, though later when I went up the hill to see for myself, apart from the pyramids, I could only find this single Bee Orchid and one Spotted Orchid, though I was probably a bit late for the latter; they anyway prefer the parts of the hill where the soil is less calcareous.

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With all the rain we’ve had, the grasses are knee-high and the orchids not as conspicuous as they usually are. But there are also masses of other limestone meadow flowers: wild thyme, mallow, agrimony, viper’s bugloss, knapweed, thistles, ladies bedstraw, hop trefoil, vetches, yellow rattle, cinquefoil, brambles, St. John’s Wort and hawkweeds. The place was alive with insects too – not only bees, but also blue damsel- and dragon flies and masses of Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies. Also a Common Blue. I didn’t see the peregrine falcon though that Graham had seen in the morning, but I went home thinking what a treasure place is Windmill Hill.

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P.S. Hot off the press come the orchid count results: 3,574 pyramidal orchids (compared to 864 last year); 129 spotted orchids; 15 bee orchids.

 

Six Word Saturday

Today Is World Bee Day

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Three days ago the World Wildlife Fund and Buglife published their joint report on the state of British bees in the East of England. Their findings were based on the monitoring work of research institutions across a region whose great range of habitats make it potentially bee-rich territory. Some 228 species were included in the study.

And the conclusions:

• 25 species (11%) threatened

• 17 species (7%) regionally extinct

• 31 species (14%) of conservation concern

And the reasons? Climate change, habitat loss, pollution, disease and agricultural pesticides of the neonicotinoid variety (now banned by the EU). The report gives a county by county list of lost species, the ones most affected being solitary and rare species that occupy very specific wildlife niches: e.g. coastal dunes, heaths, woods, wetlands and brownfield sites such as old quarries and gravel pits. But it is not all bad news. At least that is to say there has been an increase in common food pollinating bee species – possibly a result of the more extensive growing of oil seed rape and efforts by farmers to create field margins to support bee populations.

For anyone interested in bees the report is packed with species specific information and excellent photos, and outlines many practical strategies for re-establishing lost diversity and habitat. In other words WE CAN DO SOMETHING.

Talking of which, my bee photos were taken yesterday morning, the first of the year, and out in the guerrilla garden on the field margin, where I have planted (among other things) verbascum grown from seed a couple of years ago. It is such a stately plant and comes in many colours (common name mullein). Certainly this particular little bumblebee (red-tailed, male?) seemed very excited by the newly opening flowers.

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Related: UN World Bee Day

From The Side-lines ~ Digging Not Flooding

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Our cottage is rather short, the upstairs rooms being contained mostly by open roof space rather than walls. Also, the house itself is set in the side of a steep bank between Townsend Meadow and the main road, which means the best views  (our only good ones) are from the bedroom roof-lights. These windows all face west and overlook the field towards Wenlock Edge and the big sky above.

Much time can pass at these windows, studying cloud movements or the wheeling of rooks and jackdaws.  Sometimes the odd soul (with or without companionable dog) walks by on the field path just beyond our garden gate, and sometimes on Monday mornings, the town’s entire ‘walk for health’ mob, several dozen strong with high-vis vested leaders and bringers-up of rear, trails by. Now and then, too, the farmer can also be spotted, driving his latest substance-spraying rig back and forth across the crop (this week it was a top-dressing of fertiliser for the wheat which – after the rain – is already shooting up like multiples of Jack’s beanstalk). So given this general lack of activity out back, the appearance of a big digger and very large dump truck on the near horizon was an exciting event.

The work in progress (over the brow of the hill and out of sight in the field’s top corner) is the excavation of an attenuation pond. (There is another larger one to the south of the town). They are basically reservoir basins, but without water – designed to stem the impact of any flash flood off  Wenlock Edge. The town sits in a bowl between the Edge and several hills, and has been designated a rapid response flood zone. This sounds alarming, and indeed could well be, but the conditions for flash flooding are very particular: i.e. if a severe storm hits our catchment after prolonged periods of rain when the ground is sodden, or in winter after hard frost. Water that cannot drain into the land flows into adjacent roads which then act like rivers, speedily conducting the run-off into the town centre. This can all happen in the space of 20 minutes.

As far as we know, and despite its shortness and low-lying position, our house has no history of being flooded. In the last big flood of 2007 the water seemed to flow around us. I watched the rain pour off the garden terraces behind the house, flow by the kitchen door in a fast running stream before emptying on to the main road where it doubtless contributed to the flooding of properties downstream of us.

It was unnerving to see, and later we heard that at least 50 houses in the centre of town had their cellars and ground floors deluged. That evening, coming home from work across the Edge, Graham had to abandon the car on the far side of town and take an upland ‘cross-country’ route home.

How well the ponds will serve us is yet to be demonstrated. After 12 years without a flood, it is easy to imagine that it won’t happen again, though last month The Man from the Environment Agency did come specially to town to tell us we must remain vigilant. As many round the world know to their cost, climate change is responsible for an increase in extreme weather events and, in the most extreme scenario, our ponds will only slow the flow, not stop it. There are probably further measures that could be taken: urging (enforcing would be better) landowners to plant more trees, create more flood plains  round water courses, stop selling their land for large housing developments whose roofs and access roads accelerate run-off.

For now, though, all thanks are due to the workforce who toiled, excavating and landscaping the ponds, which may one day save our most vulnerable residents the distress of having to spend a year and more drying out a flooded home. In the meantime, I keep watching the sky over Wenlock Edge. At times when the rain closes in, day after day without let up, it’s easy to wonder: is this flooding rain?

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copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: from the side

Earth Sense: The Sweet Smell Of Wet Soil

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There’s nothing like it: either the word or the phenomenon. Petrichor is the term coined in 1964 by two Australian scientists, Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G Thomas, derived from the Greek word petra  meaning stone and ichor the fluid that flows in Greek gods’ veins (Nature, Volume 201, Issue 4923, pp. 993-995) and they used it to describe the smell of soil when it rains after a prolonged dry spell. They even defined the component parts. Oils from drying plants are absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks and when it rains, these are released in the air along with the aromatic exudations of actinobacteria in the soil.

And that’s what happened here today, spot on 2 pm just when the weather forecast said it would, and after several weeks of drought. I’d just made it back from the allotment where I had been moving raised beds, making new terraces and breaking up compacted soil in readiness for the promised rain. On the way home, draped in emergency polytunnel mac – a somewhat scabby garment I have to say, I noticed how the blossom on the crab apple tree by the garden gate is already going over, and I had only posted its picture the other day, the flowers so pink and freshly unfurling. Today the petals are white and shedding, here and there revealing the makings of miniscule apples on their stems. The procreative imperative in full swing then, which naturally induced a fit of gardener’s panic, a feeling that somehow I was lagging behind. So much to do, and so little time.

But then down came a soft and steady rain that made the garden sit up tall, and pretty soon filled the air with those delicious earth scents, the sort you breathe up your nose and into your soul, that make you one with antique divinities whose veins flow with ethereal fluids. No need to rush. Just breathe. Aaaaah. Petrichor!

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Copyright 2019 Tish Farrell