Archive for March, 2013

Nature Ramble

This week we have a look at a habitat in danger.

Good old England, Kent, in fact.

Row over £1bn development plan on nightingale habitat site in Kent

Conservationists in clash with the government over Lodge Hill, once used by MoD to train soldiers, now home to nightingales

The nightingale has flown into a cabinet-level row over a proposed £1bn housing development which threatens the bird’s most important UK site. Photograph: Alamy

The nightingale has flown into a cabinet-level row over a proposed £1bn housing development which threatens the bird’s most important UK site. Photograph: Alamy

The nightingale, praised in Keats’s famous ode as “pouring forth thy soul abroad / In such an ecstasy”, has flown into a cabinet-level row over a proposed £1bn housing development which threatens the bird’s most important UK site.

The nightingale’s song has been feted, but its numbers in the UK have crashed by 90% in the past 40 years. However, it has established a stronghold on a former Ministry of Defence site, Lodge Hill in Kent, once used to prepare soldiers for service in Northern Ireland and for bomb disposal training.

But the 85 male birds that stake out their territory in the ancient woodland and scrub face the advance of property giant Land Securities, developing the site for the MoD, and Medway council, which says the 5,000 homes planned and the associated jobs are badly needed.

The clash of a major housing development, a central part of the government’s plan for economic revival, with a small flock of birds has ruffled feathers at the highest level, with prime minister David Cameron telling environment secretary Owen Paterson to fix the problem, the Guardian has learned. The intervention follows George Osborne’s reported complaints about other “feathered obstacles” to development.

The poet Sir Andrew Motion, president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and a biographer of Keats, says the cultural importance of the nightingale’s “art” – its song – endures: “It is such a small, brown bird that only presents itself at night, it could hardly be more humble. But when it opens its beak this absolutely ravishing sounds comes out” which matches a British sense of what art should be. “We don’t approve of peacocks,” he added.

Motion said there were now many places where housing developments and wild places were in conflict and said using old urban and industrial sites, rather than those rich in wildlife, must always be the first priority: “When you concrete over green spaces, that is England gone.”

The row intensified this month when Natural England, the government’s statutory wildlife adviser, declared Lodge Hill’s nightingales and wild flowers to be a site of special scientific interest, raising the barrier to development even higher.

Tory-run Medway council condemned the decision as “astonishing”. A spokeswoman said: “We have the absurd situation of a government agency, Natural England, stopping a government department, the MoD, from proceeding with their plans to relinquish their former training grounds. We are deeply unhappy with this decision.” The council, which will appeal against the SSSI decision, said the site was “littered with munitions and, due to delays, has become overgrown”.

But Owen Sweeney, from the Medway Countryside Forum, said: “The place is a treasure, a real jewel. I have taken my grandchildren up there to hear their first nightingale and it is a joy to watch their faces enraptured by the song.”

He said the blackthorn and bramble scrub, as well as the coppiced ancient woodland, was a wonderful habitat for the extremely shy bird, which spends 12 weeks or so on the 815-acre site before wintering in west Africa. “These are the remaining green lungs amid the sprawling development around: Medway is full,” said Sweeney.

Anna Heslop, an RSPB casework officer, blamed the council for the impasse. “The problem is not the SSSI designation, or that nightingales are on the site, the problem is that Medway council are not going through the proper procedures to look at whether there is any alternative or whether this is the only place this housing can go.” She said the RSPB was not anti-housing and worked with builders to make developments as wildlife-friendly as possible where there was genuinely no alternative.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Growing the economy is the government’s top priority and we can do this at the same time as we improve the environment.” She suggested that “biodiversity offsetting” – where new habitat is created elsewhere to compensate for a habitat destroyed – could be a solution.: “Lodge Hill presents a strong opportunity to test this policy to allow development while ensuring wildlife and habitats thrive.”

But Chris Packham, naturalist and TV presenter, said: “The bird migrates all the way to Africa and then it comes back to exactly the same tree. The idea that we can make a new habitat 20 miles away and expect the birds to go there is nonsense.”

He added: “Sadly, the nightingale is a bird that more people know about than ever will hear, because of its catastrophic decline. Most of the sites I grew up with have fallen silent now.” Only 6,000 singing males remain in the UK.

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I know this is a politically motivated ramble for which I make no apologies, but have a listen to the song.

Satireday on Eco-Crap


Make you Fink Good this Friday

If you buy your beef from big corporate supermarkets like Tesco, the chances are you helping to destroy the Amazon rainforest.

Tesco supplier accused of contributing to Amazon rainforest destruction

Greenpeace says meat products supplied by Brazilian firm JBS come from ranches in illegally deforested lands

Cattle at an illegal settlement in northern Brazil: such ranches are the leading source of rainforest destruction in the Amazon. Photograph: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images

British consumers are unwittingly contributing to the devastation of the Amazon rainforest by buying meat products from Tesco, according to Greenpeace.

The environmental group says in a report that canned beef from the supermarket chain has been found to contain meat from ranches that have been carved out of the lands of indigenous peoples, and farms the Brazilian government believes have been sited in illegally deforested lands.

The allegations stem from an 18-month investigation carried out by Greenpeace into the practices of JBS, a big Brazilian supplier of meat and cattle byproducts. The campaigning group claims it unearthed evidence of serious violations of the company’s own ethical code, and those of companies it supplies, including Tesco.

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This has been known since this June 2009 article:

Supermarket suppliers ‘helping destroy Amazon rainforest’

• Meat companies sued over Amazon deforestation
• Accused firms supplying Tesco, Asda and M&S

Brazilian authorities investigating illegal deforestation have accused the suppliers of several UK supermarkets of selling meat linked to massive destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Brazilian firms that supply Tesco, Asda and Marks & Spencer are among dozens of companies named by prosecutors, who are seeking hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation.

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So it’s not new news.

This week in Brazil steps were taken by the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets to help rectify the domestic use of such meat…

Brazil supermarkets ‘to avoid Amazon meat’

Farmers use fire to clear land for cattle, destroying huge swathes of rainforest in the Amazon region.

The main group representing supermarkets in Brazil says it will no longer sell meat from cattle raised in the rainforest.

The Brazilian Association of Supermarkets, which has 2,800 members, hopes the deal will cut down on the illegal use of rainforest for pasture.

Deforestation in the Amazon has slowed over the past years but invasion of public land continues to be a problem.

Huge swathes have been turned into land for pasture and soy plantations.

The Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (Abras) signed the agreement with the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office in the capital, Brasilia.

‘More transparent’

Public Prosecutor Daniel Cesar Azeredo Avelino said consumers would benefit from the deal.

“The agreement foresees a series of specific actions to inform the consumer about the origin of the meat both through the internet and at the supermarkets,” he said.

Mr Avelino said a more transparent labelling system would also make it easier for consumers to avoid buying meat from the Amazon and make it harder for shops to sell items from producers who flouted the law.

He said he would now work towards reaching a similar deal with smaller shops.

Under the deal, supermarkets have promised to reject meat from areas of the Amazon where illegal activities take place, such as illegal logging and invasion of public land, Mr Avelino said.

There is currently no deadline for the implementation of the measures, but Mr Avelino said they would be adopted “soon”.

According to the pressure group Greenpeace, expansion of the cattle industry in the Amazon is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the region.


If Brazilians can take appropriate measures, the big corporate supermarkets across the globe can do the same.

And, you, the consumer, can also play your part and demand to know the origin of your beef.

Do this, and you will be doing your part.



Talking about a water footprint…

Yesterday, Change the World Wednesday was all about measuring your water footprint.

This cartoon, shows some of the story.


Personally, I spend 3 minutes in the shower…

And you, how long does it take for your morning ablutions?

Change the World Wednesday – 27th

Looks a bit grotty

Looks a bit grotty

My treasures, both of them.

In the foreground is Lixo P. Cat examining my recently acquired ‘table top’.

Looks a bit grotty at the moment (the drum top, not the cat) but I have great hopes that it will clean up well; then I have to find ‘legs’ strong enough to support it because it’s heavy.

Now all I have to do is overcome the inertia of procrastination. It has to dry first, that’s not a justification… It has been out in the rain. The white stuff is mould that has appeared as it dries. Updates as the work progresses.

Click for full post

On with this week’s CTWW.

I can’t complain about the difficulty of this one, because it comes about from an article that I pointed Small at some time ago.

“the water we use “behind the scenes” … the water it takes to grow our food, produce our stuff, etc. We’ve done challenges to reduce our direct water use … let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we?” – blurb by Small.

This week, consider your water footprint, particularly your indirect water use.

There’s actually quite a bit more, so click on the CTWW banner above to read the rest.

This is an interesting challenge because it looks at the water we use that we don’t see.

Okay, I have done the Extended Calculator suggested by Small, here’s the result:


My annual water footprint is 1848 cubic metres per year.


Beef, pork and poultry by Daniel Eskridge

Remember, I am living alone with Lixo P. Cat.

Clearly my biggest enemy is meat; two thirds of my water footprint.

I can change my habits here and eat more pork and chicken which have a smaller water footprint than beef and I can eat more fish.


Bloggers turn coffee into great blog posts

Bloggers turn coffee into great blog posts

I am loathe to swap coffee for tea. While I like tea, I need coffee to write quality blog posts, tea just doesn’t cut the mustard there.


How does this compare with your calculations? I would be interested to see, leave a comment with a link for me to visit.


Since I wrote this post I posted on Life is but a Labyrinth and it includes some watery details, that may entertain/surprise/shock you.

How Green are your Easter Eggs?

green_foileggsEaster is almost upon us.

There’s a fact that people who are concerned with the environment don’t know.

Many Easter eggs contain palm oil.

Some comes from sustainable suppliers, some eggs don’t have it; but there are disreputable brands available on the market.

Easter eggs rated by palm oil use

Lindt, Thorntons and Guylian come bottom of a league table of chocolate Easter eggs scored on use of unsustainable palm oil

Chocolate Easter eggs on sale in a supermarket. Photograph: Kevin Britland/Alamy

Lindt, Thorntons and Guylian have come bottom of a green ranking of Easter eggs based on their use of palm oil. Divine Chocolate came top, with the Co-operative and Sainsbury’s close behind in the survey of more than 70 brands by Ethical Consumer magazine and charity Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK).

The organisations are launching a campaign in response to the increasing threat that unsustainable palm oil is posing to the world’s rainforests, their indigenous wildlife, and the people whose livelihoods depend on the forests. Having destroyed vast areas of forest in countries such as Indonesia, palm oil companies are now planning to expand in the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Africa.

Consumers are unaware of palm oil content, the campaign says, because of current labelling laws. Palm oil is a key ingredient in many food products – including chocolate and biscuits – but companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage consumers to buy the best-rated products, forcing those companies that are not taking their environmental responsibilities seriously to use more sustainably sourced palm oil.

Divine and Booja-Booja were deemed to have the best overall credentials, with neither using any palm oil in their chocolate products. Traidcraft, Co-operative Food and Sainsbury’s also scored very highly.

The bottom three chocolate companies were deemed to be Lindt, Thorntons and Guylian. Lindt reportedly supplied inaccurate figures to Ethical Consumer, while Thorntons and Guylian failed to submit any documentation to the organisations that set international sustainable palm oil standards.

Cadbury – now owned by US company Kraft – had poor scores while stablemate Green & Black’s, well-known for its organic range, did much better.


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Are you planning on a green Easter?

Palm Oil poster 1

Give an orangutan a present this Easter…

Monday Moaning

The moment of truth has arrived…

One in five French bottled waters ‘contain drugs or pesticides’

Researchers analysed 47 widely available brands, and discovered 10 were contaminated with miniscule amounts

Traces of pesticides and prescription drugs have been found in some brands of bottled water in France. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

They are sold as being cleaner, healthier and purer than the water that spouts from the average French tap.

Now, however, an investigation has discovered traces of pesticides and prescription drugs – including a medicine used to treat breast cancer – in almost one in five brands of bottled water on the shelves of France’s supermarkets.

While scientists insist the contamination is minuscule and the water remains safe, consumer groups are warning of a “potential cocktail effect” for drinkers, and say the findings raise serious environmental concerns.

The study was carried out by the consumer magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs and the non-governmental organisation specialising in global water issues, Fondation France Libertés.

Researchers analysed 47 brands of bottled water widely available in French shops, and discovered that 10 contained “residues from drugs or pesticides”.

“The biggest surprise was the presence of tamoxifen, a synthetic hormone used in the treatment of breast cancer,” wrote the magazine. It reported finding traces of the powerful prescription drug in the popular brands Mont Roucous, St-Yorre, Salvetat, Saint Armand and the Carrefour discount label Céline Cristaline.

It added that the quantity was minute but “enough for us to question the purity of the original produce imposed by regulations covering mineral water”.

Traces of the prescription drugs buflomedil and naftidrofuryl, known as vasodilators and used to dilate arteries in those suffering from high blood pressure, were found in Hepar and Saint Armand mineral waters.

Molecules from pesticides banned in 2001 were found in bottles of Vittel, Volvic, Cora and Cristaline.

After the mineral water companies contested the results, the magazine commissioned a second round of tests, which confirmed the first results.

“It’s true the micropollutants found were present in very small quantities, but the range of them raises concerns about a potential cocktail effect,” 60 Millions de Consommateurs reported.

“This is serious enough to call for a much bigger study,” it added, calling for tighter controls on bottled waters to identify what it called “new pollutants”.

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Well, it looks like we’ve done it!

If this is true in France, then it stands to reason that it’s true for much of the world.

The question remains, how long now before the ‘micropollutants’ become a serious health hazard in doses that require medical supervision?

atoxic-cocktailThe world is in deep shit!

Because once we have put these pollutants in the water, we can’t take them out!

We, as a race, are doomed now to drinking toxic cocktails, that are becoming more lethal with time. Because as sure as the process has started, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

From this report, one can only assume that there are no truly unpolluted water resources left.

The air, the water, the sea and the land are all poisoned.

Our irresponsibility and stupidity know no bounds.


Nature Ramble

This week off to the USA and a fish that I’d never heard of before.

American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

Currently found in 22 U.S. states that are part of the Mississippi River basin, including the Missouri River into Montana, the Ohio River, and their major tributaries .

Paddlefish – image & info: Animal Communication

Apparently, these guys are in trouble.

Beluga Caviar

Beluga Caviar

Because the world needs caviar…

Appetite for caviar could see paddlefish suffer sturgeon’s fate

As beluga sturgeon become scarce, illicit traders are turning increasingly to the paddlefish as a substitute

American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) – the species’ long, signature snouts are lined with sensors that detect plankton. Photograph: Norbert Wu/Corbis

Caviar, the glistening black beads that slip down millions of throats globally, is at the centre of a crime saga in the United States. More than 100 people in Missouri have been implicated in an international black market trade in American paddlefish eggs, which can easily masquerade as upmarket caviar.


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Earth Hour Came and Went

Image from ECOCRED blog

There has been considerable debate over the effectiveness of Earth Hour. From my own perspective it merely raises awareness rather than actually doing something physical. Everybody who participates turns off their lights, then they light candles or use some fossil fuel lamp for illumination. Does the production of carbon not remain roughly the same?

Certainly as a publicity campaign it must be rated as a success.

A good post on the subject from ECOCRED about sums up Earth Hour.


I forgot to add the link to ECOCRED’s current post.

Satireday on Eco-Crap


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