human activity and the destruction of the planet

Leave a comment

Mayor of London’s new Environmental Strategy

A few month’s ago, I posted details on this site of how to contribute to the consultation on London’s Environmental Strategy.  Now it has been published and can be found at the following website:

Click to access london_environment_strategy.pdf

It includes sections on:

Mayor’s foreword
Chapter 1: London’s environment today
Chapter 2: Transforming London’s environment
Chapter 3: New approaches
Chapter 4: Air quality
Chapter 5: Green infrastructure
Chapter 6: Climate change mitigation and energy
Chapter 7: Waste
Chapter 8: Adapting to climate change
Chapter 9: Ambient noise
Chapter 10: Transition to a low carbon circular economy
Chapter 11: GLA group operations – leading by example

and is well-illustrated with colour photographs and graphic representation of data, collected as part of the development of strategy.  There are some big plans in it, one of which is to become the cleanest (least polluted) major city in the world, becoming a zero carbon city by 2050.

Chapter 6 is a lengthy section on Climate Change.  It provides data on carbon emissions by sector for the city in 2015.  These can be broken down into:

Workplaces 40% of emissions; Homes 36% of emissions; Transport 24% of emissions.

An appendix sets out a pathway to reach the target of zero emissions by 2050.


Leave a comment

Orangutans and pangolins

In recent weeks there have been a number of TV programmes that demonstrate the dire circumstances in which various animal species live, which puts them at risk of extinction.  The two which have hit me hardest are two programmes, one about orangutans in Borneo and one about pangolins in Namibia (both shown on BBC2 in May 2018).

The plight of orangutans


Orphaned orangutans being transported in a wheelbarrow

The plight of orangutan has long been known and is mainly caused by loss of habitat.  Much of the forest where they live is being felled in order to cultivate trees producing palm oil.  Although much is being done to save them, it may all be too late.  There was much of this TV programme that I couldn’t watch, as it was all too sad.  A mother, clutching tightly to her baby at the top of a tree, was darted and then caught in a net as she fell, the baby quite conscious and alert still in her arms.  Another baby being kept in a tiny cage as a pet. It was heart-breaking. But there are caring centres where these orphaned babies are safely reared.

June 6th 2018: a short piece of video posted today, shows a male orangutan confronting a bulldozer which is about to destroy its habitat. The video is from International Animal Rescue.   See:


Rainforest Rescue has recently posted this photograph of a young orangutan who has been burnt in a fire to clear land for agriculture:

Juvenile orangutan on an oil palm plantation

December 2019:

A new report from Indonesia has described how an adult orangutan was found blind and with 74 air gun pellets in his body. He is thought to have been shot by poachers. He was taken to a rehabilitation centre for an operation but the team was unable to save his sight, nor to remove all of the pellets from his body.


This insect-eating mammal may not be so well-known but it is among the ten animals that David Attenborough has said he would take on an ark in order to save them.  It is so endangered.


Photograph of pangolin (courtesy of

  • The pangolin’s closest relatives are carnivores, but they are the only mammals that are covered in scales.
  • Pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like our finger nails, and make up 20 per cent of their body weight.
  • The word ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’, which means ‘one that rolls up’.

Being able to roll up into a ball when in danger is perhaps the characteristic that makes the pangolin so vulnerable, as it is easy to pick up.  It is therefore a favourite of poachers,  many thousands being trafficked to the Far East each year. Because it is so highly prized in China and Vietnam, the pangolin has become the most trafficked mammal in the world – up to 100,000 are thought to be poached each year in Africa and Asia to have their scales ground down into “curative” powder and their meat served up as a delicacy to the very wealthiest. It is the world’s most hunted animal.

The pangolin has an unusual gait, walking mainly on its hind legs due to the long claws on its front legs (used for digging out ants to eat).  Though very much smaller, when walking it is reminiscient of an earlier era of dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus Rex, which also walked on stronger back legs.  So, it must not be lost.

Pangolin in a cage at the Riau Natural Resource Conservation Centre, Indonesia

A caged pangolin in a Chinese wildlife market

So, whilst we worry about the fate of pandas, polar bears, big cats and other endangered species, and rightly so, let us not forget the disastrous future and present circumstances, that orangutans and pangolins are already facing.

But there is some positive news about the pangolin.  A Chinese NGO, dedicated to the shared vision of living in harmony with nature, CBCGDF, has been instrumental in campaigning on their behalf.  They were instrumental in getting 441 Kilos of pangolin scales (from 800-900 animals) being confiscated by customs officials and 12 suspects being detained.

China pangolin scales

Pangolin scales being seized by Chinese customs officials

June 2020:

A new report from China:

China has granted a reprieve to the world’s most trafficked nonhuman mammal—the pangolin. The country’s 2020 list of approved traditional medicines does not include pangolin scales, as it has for decades. The scales have long been sold in traditional pharmacies in China as an ingredient in legally allowed medications to treat everything from lactation problems to arthritis.

Medicinal use of the scales has pushed the world’s pangolin species—four in

Asia and four in Africa—toward extinction. Tens of thousands of the animals, which resemble scaly anteaters, are killed annually for their meat—considered a luxury food in China and Vietnam—as well as their scales, curved disks of keratin, the same substance that’s in human fingernails.

“This is the single greatest measure that could be taken to save the pangolins,” says Peter Knights, CEO of the environmental nonprofit WildAid, an organization that focuses on reducing demand for wildlife products. “This sends a clear message that there are alternatives in traditional Chinese medicine and so you don’t need to use pangolins,” he says.

The revelation that scales are no longer an approved medicinal comes days after China announced that it was upgrading pangolins’ standing under the country’s wildlife protection law. Pangolins now are ranked Class 1—the status given to the nation’s beloved panda—which prohibits almost all domestic trade and use of the animals.



These TV programmes set me wondering about the cruelty and barbarity of the human species and what kind of mind-set leads people to exploit their environment and their fellow creatures in such devastating ways, all for personal benefit.  It is about greed and the acquisition of money, without doubt, but also about status and the maintenance of it.  Elsewhere on this website I have written about how the richest people in the world are mainly responsible for a situation in which the future of this planet is uncertain, all because they are promoting industries that burn fossil fuels, releasing carbon emissions, which act to warm the planet. And this is no different to the exploitation of, and cruelty to, endangered species.  Money, selfishness and greed is destroying our planet and its wonderful life forms.

Not all my readers will be Christians, as I am, so I have tried to keep this website secular.  However, what comes to mind when meditating about this situation is a passage in the Bible:

“We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time.”

In chapter 35 of my first book, “I Will Lift Up My Eyes” (2002), I discuss the human characteristic of acquisitiveness.  It was written whilst I was visiting Calcutta (Kolkata) in the 90s, when I was struck by the huge differences there between rich and poor – the vast contrast between the hedonistic affluence of the Grand Hotel and the pleading destitution of the beggars and lepers living on the streets outside.  Whilst I don’t think the poachers who prey on pangolins could be described as affluent, they are just trying to find their own way out of depriving circumstances, but there are many in the trafficking chain who have become affluent by it.  In the Hong Kong markets too, I had seen tiny monkeys, too young to be separated from their mothers, being kept in small cages to be sold for a profit.  Where is the compassion and conscience in all this?

Further thoughts on all of this can be found in the Introduction to “Three Generations Left?”

May 31st 2018

And today, I have been sent another posting from a colleague.  This is about UK mega-farms and how they are fattening up livestock for market, with little concern with the suffering that is caused by this.  Again it is all about profit.

With thanks to my colleague, Barbara, I copy the piece in its entirety below:

Drone footage and satellite images have recently revealed that thousands of British cattle reared for supermarket beef are being kept at some sites in outdoor pens, known as corrals, sometimes surrounded by walls, fences or straw bales. Although the cattle will have spent time grazing in fields prior to fattening, some will be confined in pens for around a quarter of their lives, until they are slaughtered. Disease spreads easily in such conditions and traces of the medication needed to prevent or treat the animals will be present in the meat offered for human consumption.

Who owns these companies? Who are the directors? Do they donate to party funds?

Why are there no official records held by DEFRA  on how many intensive beef units are in operation?

Government regulations  say that an environmental permit is needed if you operate any of the following:

-an industrial facility,
-manufacturing facility
-or other business that produces potentially harmful substances, eg:
-a landfill site, a large chicken farm, a food factory

Why is government not requiring an environmental permit before their construction – and indeed consulting those in their neighbourhood?

A small section of a group of intensive units photographed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism/ Guardian

Though environment secretary Michael Gove said, in a parliamentary statement. “I do not want to see, and we will not have, US-style farming in this country”, it’s here.

The Guardian and Bureau last year revealed that 800 poultry and pig “mega farms” have appeared in the British countryside in recent years, some housing more than a million chickens or about 20,000 pigs.

Following the revelations, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, pledged that Brexit would not be allowed to result in the spread of US-style agribusiness.

Readers who want to know the extent of this problem and the location of megafarms for dairy, pigs and poultry, may find this information by looking at the interactive maps produced by  Compassion in World Farming: The snapshots show information about intensive pig rearing in Gloucestershire, where the writer lives.

A Moseley reader draws attention to research by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism establishing that the UK is now home to a number of industrial-scale fattening units with herds of up to 3,000 cattle at a time. Sites in Kent, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were identified, the largest farms fattening up to 6,000 cattle a year.

The practice of intensive beef farming in the UK has not previously been widely acknowledged – and these findings raise questions over the future of British farming.

Richard Young, Policy Director at the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “Keeping large numbers of cattle together in intensive conditions removes all justification for rearing them and for consumers to eat red meat…

“More than two-thirds of UK farmland is under grass for sound environmental reasons and the major justifications for keeping cattle and eating red meat are that they produce high quality protein and healthy fats from land that is not suitable for growing crops.”


Leave a comment

Norway aims for its fjords to become zero emission zones

This story has been taken from another wordpress website, with acknowledgements:


Norway, a well-known leader in electric car adoption, is now leading the charge when it comes to electric ferries. Its fjords have become popular tourist attractions over the years.

More than 300.000 cruise passenger visited Geiranger last year and as a result, local air pollution has become a periodical health hazard.

The Norwegian Parliament has acted to halt emissions from cruise ships and ferries in the Norwegian world heritage fjords – making them zero-emission zones by 2026.

Norway’s world heritage fjords, like the Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord, are fjords that UNESCO has included on its World Heritage List and in an effort to protect them, environmental organizations campaigned for the resolution adopted by the Norwegian Parliament.

Marius Holm, head of the environmental foundation ZERO says: “For the first time in the world there is a requirement for emission-free sailing in the fjords and their harbours. Norway has long been a world leader in emission-free ferries based on sound political decisions on zero-emission requirements. Now the country is taking a step further in the maritime green shift, that has global repercussions.  At the national level, this will mean a welcome development towards emission-free solutions on many tourist ships, a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and a halt to harmful local air pollution.”

The operators of the first all-electric ferry in Norway, the ‘Ampere’, reported some impressive statistics after operating the ship for over 2 years. They claim that the all-electric ferry cuts emissions by 95% and costs by 80%.Unsurprisingly, the potential cost savings are attracting a lot of orders for new electric ferries and for the conversion of existing diesel-powered ferries.

Fjord1, a major Norwegian transport conglomerate which operates 75 ships, placed an important order with the Havyard Group to build a fleet of battery-electric ferries shortly after. Havila Holding AS, which operates some of the routes in the fjords, welcomed the decision. Per Sævik, CEO of Havila, commented: “Havila welcomes this decision, and not a moment too soon. We’ll be ready to sail emissions-free with our cruise ships in the fjords as early as 2021.”

The Norwegian authorities have also recently demanded zero-emission technology solutions as part of the effort to reduce emissions from the country’s ferry fleet outside the fjords, which is one of the most important in the world.

Leave a comment

UK Government seeks to weaken commitment to Paris 2015 targets before Brexit

An article in The Guardian by Arthur Nelson (9th May 2018) claims that a secret plan, to stretch targets backwards to comply with the Paris 2015 commitments, has been leaked by MEPs.

The EU has committed to a 20% in energy use by 2020, as a first stage in its more ambitious promise to the Paris conference of a 40% emissions cut by 2030.

The secret documents seen by The Guardian show that the UK plans to stretch its timeline backwards by four years, in order to use pre-2014 energy efficiences to be compliant with the EU directive. Then, once the UK has left the EU, it will no longer have to comply with the directive.

A member of the EU’s Environment Committee told The Guardian that:

“The UK’s proposal to widen ‘flexibilities’ is completely mad and undermines the principle of additionality, as well as the overall ambition of the energy efficiency directive. This approach would risk failure in our efforts to reach even moderately ambitious overall targets, while the higher – and beneficial targets – that we need to strive for could become lost altogether.”

According to the Shadow International Trade and Climate spokesman, the UN has asked countries to ratchet up their commitments on climate change in 2018.  Instead the UK government is weakening ours.

At present, almost all of the UK environmental policy derives from EU law but Michel Barnier, has insisted that a ‘non-regression article’ be included in any final EU-UK agreement to prevent backsliding.


Sunday May 20th 2018

And now, the United Nations is getting in on the act.  In a report in the Huffington Post today, it is said that Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN’s environment programme, has said that Britain must keep its promise to deliver a green exit from the EU.  This story is also reported in The Observer.

Solheim has said that “Any dilution and the UK reputation would be damaged. People in government need to make sure that does not happen. We need to make sure they have those standards or improve them, or meet the ones under the European Union.”



Leave a comment

Dr Mayer Hillman’s contribution to knowledge about climate change reality

Dr Mayer Hillman is an 86-year old social scientist and he has been contributing articles about carbon emissions, global warming and climate change for much of his life.  A recent article in The Guardian sets out his current stance.

In an interview with Patrick Barkham, published on 26th April 2018, he points out that, because humans are so dependent on fossil fuels, there is not much longer for this planet to sustain life here.  He believes that climate change is in runaway mode and that “we are doomed” (to quote The Guardian headline).


Dr Hillman is a senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute and has contributed over the years to a number of policy decisions, one of which was a recommendation that homes should be energy-rated, finally adopted by Government in 2007.  He has also, for more than 40 years, challenged society’s preoccupation with economic growth.

He has been a keen cyclist, though cannot cycle at present for health reasons.  He is quoted in The Guardian article as saying:

“With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”


Dr Hillman has done much work in the past on road safety and has written at length about society’s failure to challenge the supremacy of the car.

In 2016 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was confirmed as beyond 400 parts per million, the highest level for at least three million years (when sea levels were up to 20m higher than now). Hillman is quoted as saying, “Concentrations can only drop if we emit no carbon dioxide whatsoever. “Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return.”

Most of Dr Hillman’s comments are in line with the theme of my book, so I recommend readers to look at The Guardian article to learn more about his predictions.

Leave a comment

How long will Donald Trump’s ice-carved face last in the Arctic melt?

According to a report in the Independent, a Finnish environmental group, Melting Ice, plan to carve Donald Trump’s face into an iceberg in the arctic region.  They are raising money in order to do this.

The Project Trumpmore sculpture will be 115 ft high.  On their website (, the group ask the question, “Will it melt or last a thousand years?” They are building it to demonstrate that climate change is real. A statement from the chairman of the group is quoted as saying, “Often people only believe something when they see it with their own eyes.”

It is well known that Mr Trump often questions whether climate change exists, or has blamed the Chinese for inventing it “in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

The following statement is on the group’s website:

What are we trying to achieve?                                                                                                         Global warming is a huge, abstract concept. It’s been a topic of discussion among environmental specialists for a long time, and you see it mentioned in the news every day. Many wonderful organisations do great work in acting against it as do politicians and people all over the world. We think that in its intangibility, global warming lacks a concrete symbol. One that would prove it exists, or not. That’s what we are setting out to do: a scientific art project. We understand that our plan is ambitious, but the fact that you are reading this means that we have already succeeded, even if just a bit.

People don’t follow politicians, politicians follow people. We hope that the more conversation takes place around our monument and global warming, the better possibilities politicians have to make concrete fact based decisions.

A Crowdfunding enterprise is aiming to raise 400k Euros and the plan is to build the sculpture to match the size of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture will be carried out by a world-leading team of Finnish and Mongolian ice sculptors. Estimated building will take four weeks and the process will be documented and broadcast via a live feed.  The team are currently searching for a location for the project. The monument will be carved on the melting Arctic glacier, where the effect of global warming is said to be its most concrete.

project-trumpmore (2)

The Independent provided an image of what the sculpture may look like.