threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


2 Comments

Artificial Light at Night

NASA photo of a composite image of the Earth at night

There is considerable concern amongst biologists that turning night into day has strong effects on the natural world and is yet another stressor on biodiversity. The fact that life has evolved, over millions of years, on a planet that has had periods of darkness for some of the time, might suggest that there would be consequences of the proliferation of Artificial Light at Night (ALAN). New LED lamps are a particular cause for concern as, their spectra tend have a large blue component, and blue light is a strong signal for daytime. LED lighting is being introduced because it has lower energy consumption than other lighting but, like most technologies, it has some side-effects, causing negative impacts on the natural world.

For billions of years, all life has relied on Earth’s predictable rhythm of day and night. It’s encoded in the DNA of all plants and animals. Humans have radically disrupted this cycle by lighting up the night.

Plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators.

Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.

For example, there is evidence for melatonin suppression in vertebrates due to light:

https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/11/22/6400

Artificial Lights Disrupt the World’s Ecosystems

Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are active at night. Light pollution radically alters their nighttime environment by turning night into day.

According to research scientist Christopher Kyba, for nocturnal animals, “the introduction of artificial light probably represents the most drastic change human beings have made to their environment.”

“Predators use light to hunt, and prey species use darkness as cover,” Kyba explains “Near cities, cloudy skies are now hundreds, or even thousands of times brighter than they were 200 years ago. We are only beginning to learn what a drastic effect this has had on nocturnal ecology.”

Glare from artificial lights can also impact wetland habitats that are home to amphibians such as frogs and toads, whose nighttime croaking is part of the breeding ritual. Artificial lights disrupt this nocturnal activity, interfering with reproduction and reducing populations.

Artificial Lights Can Lead Baby Sea turtles to their Demise

Sea turtles live in the ocean but hatch at night on the beach. Hatchlings find the sea by detecting the bright horizon over the ocean. Artificial lights draw them away from the ocean. In Florida alone, millions of hatchlings die this way every year.

Birds that migrate or hunt at night navigate by moonlight and starlight. Artificial light can cause them to wander off course and toward the dangerous nighttime landscapes of cities. Every year millions of birds die colliding with needlessly illuminated buildings and towers. Migratory birds depend on cues from properly timed seasonal schedules. Artificial lights can cause them to migrate too early or too late and miss ideal climate conditions for nesting, foraging and other behaviors.

Ecosystems: Everything is Connected

Many insects are drawn to light, but artificial lights can create a fatal attraction. Declining insect populations negatively impact all species that rely on insects for food or pollination. Some predators exploit this attraction to their advantage, affecting food webs in unanticipated ways.

And there is a database of other research findings in this context:

http://alandb.darksky.org/

There are claims that brighter lighting greatly enhances public safety and these claims have been used to sell lighting but is this just a sales technique? Dr Paul Marchant questions this assumption in an article “Bad Science…..?”, based on work carried out in Australasia. Published in World Transport Policy and practice (March 2020).

____________________________________________________________________________

There is a consultation at the moment by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dark Skies Policy https://appgdarkskies.co.uk/dark-skies-consultation but it closes very shortly – Sunday 27th September 2020. Copied below from the website is further information:

Dark Skies Policy Consultation

The APPG for Dark Skies is seeking proposals and evidence from a range of stakeholders with expertise and experience in the subject of dark sky preservation and light pollution. 

The purpose of this consultation is to collect information, to identify the main threats and challenges that the cause of dark sky preservation faces in the UK, and identify the most effective and actionable ways in which legislators and policy makers can seek to address these challenges – for example but not limited to the compliance and planning policy frameworks. It will explore the environmental, economic, energy and health consequences of light pollution.

The result of this consultation will be to produce the APPG’s first policy plan since being established in January this year. It will provide a basis for the focus of our campaigns, policy briefs and the language that our extensive group of Parliamentary members use. 

Guidelines for making a submission:

  • State clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether from yourself in a personal capacity or sent on behalf of an organisation, for example the submission could be headed ‘Written evidence submitted by xxxxxx’
  • Be concise – we recommend no more than 1,000 words in length
  • Begin with an executive summary in bullet point form of the main points made in the submission
  • Include a brief introduction about yourself/your organisation and your reason for submitting evidence
  • Include any factual information you have to offer from which the APPG might be able to draw conclusions
  • Identify any legal or quasi-legal frameworks your proposal would impact or modify
  • Include any recommendations for action by the Government or others which you would like the APPG to consider.CLOSING DATE: Sunday 27th September

Please contact the APPG Coordinator Chris Cook (chris.cook@parliament.uk) with any further questions.

______________________________________________________________________________

Does light pollution affect humans as well as other species?

I think this is still to be proven but my own experience over more than seven decades of life on this planet, is a great sadness at the gradual loss of an ability to see the stars at night. This has been exacerbated by the arrival, thanks to my City Council, of an LED lamp post right outside my home. It was probably placed there for good sustainable reasons but I now find it impossible to see the stars at night and, if I wake in the night, to be able to guess what time it might be, as it is always light now.

In another post on this site, I have written about “climate change grief” and I wonder if what I have described in the previous paragraph could be described as “light pollution grief”. I certainly believe that being able to see the stars at night gives us a sense of who we are as the inhabitants of a planet, which is just a small part of a diverse and beautiful universe. Can light pollution therefore lead to a loss of identity as an important species within this vast universe? And, going further, to a loss of responsibility for the benevolent stewardship of this planet or even to an impact on human mental health?

Related to this, as described in Chapter 3 of my book (Human Inventiveness and the Concepts of Freedom and Responsibility”), is the description of “space junk” currently circulating our planet and being added to on a regular basis.

It is now known that walking under trees can improve mental health – it is called “tree therapy”. Is it possible that standing and gazing up at the stars can be equally therapeutic?

Maybe this is important to me because five decades ago, I travelled by road from Darwin to Sydney, Australia and spent each night sleeping by the side of the road, under the starts. Is that why I miss them so much now? Certainly, I was gobsmacked when, returning to Australia 10 years ago, and staying at a small town with little light pollution, I felt like I was bathed in the Milky Way. It took my breath away. I had forgotten what I was missing.

See also:https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.117-a20

______________________________________________________________________________

Further information about light pollution can be found at:

https://www.darksky.org/eyes-in-the-sky-exploring-global-light-pollution-with-satellite-maps/



Leave a comment

Farming for nature pays off for Wimpole Home Farm (near Cambridge)

Nature and soil health are flourishing at the National Trust’s Wimpole Home Farm near Cambridge according to the results of a full ‘health-check’ into its biodiversity, carbon levels and levels of public accessibility.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/press-release/farming-for-nature-pays-off-for-wimpole

wimpole

Cultivating at Wimpole Home Farm (with acknowledgements to Jeanette Heard)

 The results of the health check were announced as the landmark Agriculture Bill started its crucial stage in the House of Lords.  It showed increases in the numbers of breeding pairs of rare farmland birds, invertebrates and how the land is a significant sequester of carbon.

The organic farm has been focusing on nature friendly, sustainable farming methods for the past 12 years to reflect the conservation charity’s goals for farming models which are good for nature, deliver public benefit and which are profitable.

Nationally, numbers of farmland birds have declined by 54 per cent since 1970, the distribution of bees and hoverflies declined by 31 per cent between 2009 and 2014 and it is estimated that soil degradation in England and Wales costs the economy £1.2 billion a year.

The 589 hectare (1,419 acre) mixed livestock and arable farm, which is the only lowland farm run in-hand by the conservation charity, conducted in-depth surveys over two years into farmland birds, invertebrates and soil health.

Key results included:
• the doubling in numbers of breeding pairs of rare skylarks and linnets in six years which are good indicators of a healthy ecosystem
• a 38 per cent increase in invertebrate numbers over 13 years to include the recording of 95 rare and protected species, vital for pollinating crops and preying on pests
• a total carbon balance of -2,260 tonnes of CO2 per year achieved through the amount of organic matter in the soil which soaks up carbon, the number of trees and grown out hedges

As for public goods, in terms of access for the public, Wimpole also has over 40km of public rights of way and permissive paths which are enjoyed by over 350,000 visitors a year.

As a business, the farm is also returning a healthy profit.

Last year, production levels across 369 hectares (912 acres) of the arable farm reached impressive levels for an organic farming system with last year’s harvests resulting in 142 tonnes of wheat – enough to make 200,000 loaves of bread, or over four million scones – 123 tonnes of organic barley – equivalent to what’s needed to make nearly 1.5million pints of beer and 126 tonnes of organic oats – equivalent to over 2.5 million bowls of porridge.

For 2019, this resulted in £294,617 income, £117,588 profit for the farm (including subsidy payments).

Callum Weir farm manager at Wimpole said: “Many of the increases we recorded in the surveys are down to the combination of organic farming methods in the fields and the mosaic of margins, hedges and habitats that surround each field.

“That is not to say that organic farming is the only way to farm with nature.  There are great examples of farmers across the UK who aren’t organic, but are still delivering massive benefits to the environment.  Like many farmers, we dedicate areas of Wimpole to help biodiversity.  For example, we sow a variety of plants including phacelia which has purpley blue flowers, clover and sainfoin, with its bright pink flowers which flower from early April right through to October.  These attract and support pollinators and insects which have a vital role in the ecosystem.

“The survey results are vital to understanding how our holistic approach to farming at Wimpole is working.  We want to farm sustainably at the same time as being a truly viable business and it’s fantastic to see how nature friendly farming and a profitable farm business, can go hand in hand.”

Professor Dave Goulson, invertebrate expert at Sussex University said: “The intensification of farming practises over the last 100 years, with the move to ever-larger fields, fewer crops, and lots of chemical inputs, has been a major driver of biodiversity loss. It is hugely heartening to see that farming doesn’t need to be this way; Wimpole shows that it is possible to have a highly productive, profitable farm without pesticides, and to simultaneously encourage biodiversity and capture carbon. The new Agriculture Bill could learn from this.”

Mark Harold, Director of Land and Nature at the National Trust said: “Sustainable, productive and profitable farming is underpinned by a healthy environment.

“Coronavirus has shown how important it is to have a resilient food and farming system.  We know that climate change and sustainability pose the greatest threats to food security, as this year’s flooding and now drought have shown.

“The Agriculture Bill – and the principle of public money for public goods at its heart – is an opportunity to deliver this.

“At the Trust we are working to demonstrate that sustainable farming does work and that it is profitable.

“We have taken the risks, experimented and want to share our learnings with others.  At Wimpole we’ve had to overcome particular challenges such as soil degradation, decreasing returns from farming and declines in farmland wildlife.

“With a focus on sustainable land management, wildlife and soil health can recover quicker than we might think.

“The story at Wimpole paints one of hope and optimism – and the Government’s forthcoming ‘environmental land management scheme’ will be crucial to replicating this across the farming industry, as will the new Agriculture Bill in prioritising government support for this scheme.

Together, these two mechanisms will ensure all farms have a sustainable future which will be good for the environment, good for farm businesses and good for people.

“Tomorrow, the Agriculture Bill starts its next stage in the House of Lords. It’s vital that its ambition and key public goods principles aren’t weakened.  We also mustn’t see progress at home on sustainability undermined by food imports that don’t meet our standards: the Bill should therefore be amended to provide safeguards against this.”

Survey results in detail:
To fully understand the impact of 12 years of organic farming on the environment, the team carried out surveys into rare farmland birds, invertebrates and conducted an in-depth study into carbon sequestration.

Key findings from the farmland bird survey conducted across half the farm revealed that since 2013:
– Numbers of rare skylarks have increased by 75 per cent, from 12 to 21 pairs
– Number of rare linnets have doubled from three to seven pairs
– Wimpole is one of the most important populations of the rare corn bunting in Cambridgeshire  with between five and eight pairs breeding each year
– The farm provides winter feeding habitat for at least nine rare bird species – grey partridge, lapwing, linnet, skylark, starling, yellowhammer, woodcock, hen harrier, fieldfare

A total of 1,145 species were recorded in the invertebrates survey, equating to an increase of 38 per cent in the number of species between 2003 and 2019.

This included 95 rare species with formal conservation status including Bombus Ruderatus – the large garden bumblebee and Tyria Jacobaeae – the cinnabar moth.  75 species of bee, 49 species of wasps, 46 species of hoverflies and 22 types of butterflies were recorded.  Other key results from last year included:
– A 150 per cent increase in Hymonptera (wasps, bees, ants)
– A 190 per cent increase in the number of rare invertebrate species including the nationally scarce (NS) Tumbling Flower Beeting (Mordellistena variegate), the small heath butterfly (high on the Butterfly Conservation Priority List) and the (NS) Slender-horned Leatherback
– A 30 per cent increase in the number of butterfly species including the silver washed fritillary and marbled white.
– The organic field margins support on average 30 per cent more invertebrates then conventional field margins.

Callum continued: “We were so pleased by the results of the study.  It was great to see that our margins, so rich in wildlife, bordering productive farmland.  This gave me real hope that with the right support, farmers can help address biodiversity losses and play our part with tackling the climate crisis.”

margins

Wimpole’s six-metre wide field margins (Acknowedgements to Jeanette Heard)

The team used the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit, a recognised carbon measure by the farming industry, to conduct a full carbon analysis across the whole estate to include the farmland, parkland and woodland.

Thanks to the team’s holistic approach to farming on the estate, incorporating soil management, habitats and tree planting/woodland management, the land is a significant sequester of carbon, with a total carbon balance of -2,260 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Callum explains: “When you think that an economy class return flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, this is really significant.”

Over the last 12 years, by far the biggest sequester of carbon is the increase in soil organic matter (SOM).

This has been achieved by applying agroecological principles to the arable farmland which includes reducing cultivation, cover cropping, integrating livestock, utilising habitats and stewardship and embracing technology.

“Trees were a significant sequester or carbon on the estate, however the main belts and blocks of woodlands on the estate are reaching maturity and will soon stop sequestering carbon (but these old trees remain very valuable to biodiversity). However, we’ve addressed this by planting 1,000 parkland trees over the past 10 years which will help with carbon capture and biodiversity.

“We recognise that our livestock are a large emitter of carbon.  But, they are the perfect tool to manage our Grade 1 listed parkland and the traditional hay meadows.

“If we were to plough up the parkland and convert it to arable, this would release 50,000 tonnes of CO2e from this carbon sink – equivalent to 100,000 return flights to New York City (for individual people or 416 full 747 aeroplanes).  This demonstrates the value of livestock in the carbon cycle, and the benefits of grass fed meat.  If meat is produced in the right way and consumed in the right amounts, it can be sustainable.”



 


Leave a comment

Biodiversity loss and the European Parliament

Biodiversity loss: what is causing it and why is it a concern?

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20200109STO69929/biodiversity-loss-what-is-causing-it-and-why-is-it-a-concern

biodiversity

Plant and animal species are disappearing at an ever faster rate due to human activity. What are the causes and why does biodiversity matter?

Biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, mainly due to human activities, such as land use changes, pollution and climate change.

On 16 January MEPs called for legally binding targets to stop biodiversity loss to be agreed at a UN biodiversity conference (COP15) in China in October. The conference brings together parties to the 1993 UN Biodiversity Convention to decide on its post-2020 strategy. Parliament wants the EU to take the lead by ensuring that 30% of EU territory consists of natural areas by 2030 and considering biodiversity in all EU policies.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is traditionally defined as the variety of life on Earth in all its forms. It comprises the number of species, their genetic variation and the interaction of these lifeforms within complex ecosystems.

In a UN report published in 2019, scientists warned that one million species – out of an estimated total of eight million – are threatened with extinction, many within decades. Some researchers even consider we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history. Earlier known mass extinctions wiped out between 60% and 95% of all species. It takes millions of years for ecosystems to recover from such an event.

Why is biodiversity important?

Healthy ecosystems provide us with many essentials we take for granted. Plants convert energy from the sun making it available to other life forms. Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients providing plants with healthy soil to grow in. Pollinators are essential in plant reproduction, guaranteeing our food production. Plants and oceans act as major carbon sinks.

In short, biodiversity provides us with clean air, fresh water, good quality soil and crop pollination. It helps us fight climate change and adapt to it as well reduce the impact of natural hazards.

Since living organisms interact in dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of one species can have a far-reaching impact on the food chain. It is impossible to know exactly what the consequences of mass extinctions would be for humans, but we do know that for now the diversity of nature allows us to thrive.

Main reasons for biodiversity loss 
  • Changes in land use (e.g. deforestation, intensive mono-culture, urbanisation) 
  • Direct exploitation such as hunting and over-fishing
  • Climate change 
  • Pollution 
  • Invasive alien species 

What measures does the Parliament propose?

MEPs are calling for legally binding targets both locally and globally, in order to encourage more ambitious measures to ensure the conservation and the restoration of biodiversity. Natural areas should cover 30% of the EU territory by 2030 and degraded ecosystems should be restored. In order to guarantee sufficient financing, Parliament proposes that 10% of the EU’s next long-term budget is devoted to conservation of biodiversity.

The Parliament also wants a better protection of pollinators, such as bees. In December 2019, MEPs criticised the EU pollinators’ initiative presented by the European Commission as insufficient to tackle the root causes of the declines.

 



 


Leave a comment

Sixth mass extinction of wildlife is accelerating: new study

Prof. Gerardo Ceballos is an ecologist and conservationist very well-known for his theoretical and empirical work on animal ecology and conservation. He is particularly recognized by his influential work on global patterns of distribution of diversity, endemism, and extinction risk in vertebrates.

Image result for Gerardo Ceballos

Prof Gerardo Ceballos

It is his published work on the sixth mass extinction that led me to choose the title of my book “Three Generations Left: Human activity and the destruction of the planet”. In this paper, Ceballos and his colleagues who predicted that, unless we make changes to our way of life, we would be facing a sixth mass extinction of species within three generations. Now, he is suggesting, through new studies, that the mass extinction is happening even more quickly than that.

GoldenLion Tamarin

Golden Lion Tamarin – one of 500 species at risk of extinction

Several sources are quoting this new research, initially published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/05/27/1922686117

The following summary can be found on the BBC website:

“Human impacts on the places on Earth with the most richness of life have brought hundreds of wild animals to the brink of extinction, a study shows.

The likes of logging and poaching have pushed 500 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians to the point where they’re hanging by a thread, research found.

This is yet more evidence that the world’s undergoing a sixth mass extinction, scientists argue. Species are disappearing at more than 100 times the natural rate, they say.

And unlike other mass extinctions, caused by volcano eruptions or asteroid collisions, we only have ourselves to blame.

Prof Gerardo Ceballos of the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, said regional ecosystems are facing collapse.

“We have entered the sixth mass extinction,” he told BBC News. “Based on our research and what we’re seeing, the extinction crisis is so bad that whatever we do in the next 10 to 50 years is what will define the future of humanity.”

Prof Ceballos worked on the study with two other well-known conservation scientists, Stanford University’s Prof Paul Erhlich, and Dr Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, US.

Using data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species and Birdlife (the bird authority for the IUCN), they identified at least 515 species that are on the brink of extinction, with fewer than a thousand individuals left.

The animals are found on every continent save Antarctica, in places highly impacted by humans, primarily in the tropics and subtropics.

They include the Golden Lion Tamarin, Ethiopian Wolf, Javan Rhinoceros, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Yellow-eared Parrot, Gharial and Green Poison Frog.

The scientists describe the extinction crisis as an existential threat to civilisation, along with climate change and pollution, to which it is tied.

And they say they have a “moral imperative” to draw attention to the loss of biodiversity, which they say is still rather ignored by most people.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Commenting, Prof Diana Fisher of the University of Queensland, Australia, said the study deserved attention because so many people don’t realise how much of the world’s wildlife faces impending extinction.

“I agree with the authors that this extinction crisis needs to be elevated to an emergency equal to climate change,” she said.

Prof Chris Johnson of the University of Tasmania said the current rate of extinction of species is higher than at any time since 66 million years ago, when the collision of a space-rock with the Earth killed off dinosaurs and many other species.

“Threats to species in today’s world – things like habitat destruction and climate change – are growing rapidly,” he said, adding that the 515 species down to 1,000 or fewer individuals are likely to be gone very soon.

And Prof Euan Ritchie of Deakin University in Australia said the study “is yet more dire confirmation that we are destroying life at a horrific pace and scale”.”


The Guardian report from Damian Carrington (1st June 2020) states that: “More than 500 species of land animals were found to be on the brink of extinction and likely to be lost within 20 years. In comparison, the same number were lost over the whole of the last century. Without the human destruction of nature, even this rate of loss would have taken thousands of years….

“The land vertebrates on the verge of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 individuals left, include the Sumatran rhino, the Clarión wren, the Española giant tortoise and the harlequin frog. Historic data was available for 77 of the species and the scientists found these had lost 94% of their populations.

“The researchers also warned of a domino effect, with the loss of one species tipping others that depend on it over the edge. “Extinction breeds extinctions,” they said, noting that unlike other environmental problems extinction is irreversible.

“Humanity relies on biodiversity for its health and wellbeing, scientists said, with the coronavirus pandemic an extreme example of the dangers of ravaging the natural world. Rising human population, destruction of habitats, the wildlife trade, pollution and the climate crisis must all be urgently tackled, they said.

“The analysis examined data on 29,400 land vertebrate species compiled by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and BirdLife International. The researchers identified 515 species with populations below 1,000 and about half of these had fewer than 250 remaining. Most of these mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians were found in tropical and subtropical regions.

“Scientists discovered that 388 species of land vertebrate had populations under 5,000, and the vast majority (84%) lived in the same regions as the species with populations under 1,000, creating the conditions for a domino effect.”

 

ethiopian wolf2
Ethiopian wolf
harlequinfrog
Harlequin frog
Sumatran tiger
Sumatran Tiger
Photographs of other endangered species can be found in The New York Times article on this issue:


An analysis of the report from Vox.com outlines how the loss of one species can have an impact on other species, which are a part of a dependency web.

The researchers found that one extinction can cause ripple effects throughout an ecosystem, leaving other species vulnerable to the same fate. “Extinction breeds extinctions,” they write in their June 1 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

With the accelerating pace of destruction, scientists are racing to understand these fragile bits of life before they’re gone. “This means that the opportunity we have to study and save them will be far greater over the next few decades than ever again,” said Peter Raven, a coauthor of the study and a professor emeritus of botany at Washington University in St. Louis, in an email.

The findings also highlight how life can interact in unexpected ways and how difficult it can be to slow ecological destruction once it starts. “It’s similar to climate change; once it gets rolling, it gets harder and harder to unwind,” said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who was not involved in the study. “We don’t know what the tipping points are, and that’s scary.”



 


Leave a comment

Calling for an Economy of Life in a Time of Pandemic

15th May 2020

The following statement has been issued jointly by the World Council of Churches; the World Communion of Reformed Churches; the Lutheran World Federation; and the Council for World Mission:

“The current Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives in a world already plagued with immense human suffering. In response, our organizations – the World Council of Churches  (WCC),  the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the Council for World Mission (CWM) – through the joint New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) initiative convened an e-conference under the theme, “Economy of Life in a time of Pandemic”, on 17 and 24 April 2020.

A panel of experts who have been part of the NIFEA process contributed socio-economic analyses, theological-ethical reflections and practical recommendations with a view to systemic transformation as called for in the Sao Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for an Economy of Life which initiated the NIFEA process.[1]

The crises of the Covid-19 pandemic are rooted in human and systemic sickness. They stem from oppressive and exploitative economic systems that are based on the logic of profit-making, socio-economic inequalities, ecological indifference, political self-interest, and colonial legacies. This joint message aims not only to voice our deep concern, but also to call upon the Christian community, governments, and international financial institutions to responsible action that addresses the root causes of the crises that are now exposed before the world.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Exposes Interconnected Economic and Ecological Crises

The Covid-19 pandemic is both the product of and the spur to the current economic catastrophe. The public health emergency is symptomatic of a deeper economic crisis that undergirds it.  Decades of austerity – in the global South, as part of harsh debt conditionalities, and in the global North, as a consequence of the 2008 global financial crash – have rendered many countries utterly defenceless in the face of this threat. Moreover, ineffective and corrupt governance at national levels has exacerbated the inability of governments to support those who are most vulnerable to the pandemic.

The ecological crisis facing the world today – a direct consequence of extractive economic systems and where humanity behaves and believes as if the earth is an unlimited resource for relentless exploitation – is closely related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Scientists monitoring biodiversity and the health of our ecosystems remind us that “[r]ampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spill over of diseases”. Furthermore, the exponential spread of the coronavirus due to urbanization and global air travel exposes “the human hand in pandemic emergence” in which “[Covid-19] may be only the beginning”.[2]

Unprecedented economic shutdowns and border closures to contain the spread of Covid-19 are prompting a sudden fall in climate change-causing emissions while simultaneously triggering a truly global economic crisis, leading in turn to spiralling unemployment and increasing inequality. Measures to address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic have been merely palliative and have been mainly directed to bailing out corporations rather than people. In some places, economies are already being restarted at risk of mounting deaths, problematizing the perceived trade-off between rescuing the economy and saving lives.

As in many if not all crises, the already vulnerable, including low-wage and informal workers, the poor, women, people of colour, migrants and refugees are bearing the brunt in terms of loss of lives and livelihoods.

The present situation impacts human rights, emboldening authoritarianism. Covid-19 is being used to stir xenophobic and racist aggression, further endangering marginalized groups and human rights defenders. The lockdown has also meant many are unable to escape from domestic violence.

This crisis highlights the immense value of healthcare, the care economy, and women’s intensified care work burden. While the care economy is now being valorised, care work in the current context of capitalism has often meant further oppression of women and migrant workers. The privatization of the health sector and the profit orientation of the pharmaceutical industry and patent system have exposed the inability of the present economic framework to take care of and uphold the dignity of people.

Even as capitalism supplants the impulses to love, care, and share with the urge to compete, the crisis has seen communities all over the world mobilizing deep reserves of compassion, kindness, and generosity, particularly where markets have failed. This underscores the potential of an economy based on care of the most vulnerable, each other and the earth.

Living through the Revelation of Covid-19 into a Renewed Creation

We are living in apocalyptic times and are reminded that the term ‘apocalypse’ means to unveil or uncover. In moments such as this, Covid-19 is not the great ‘leveller’; it is the great ‘revealer’.  In its light we see anew and afresh the distorted realities and inequalities powerful interests have passed off as ‘normal’ and unquestionable.  Covid-19 could become the great leveller if we harness its revelation for a transformation which raises up those who have been cast down by exploitive and supremacist systems. This is a call to conversion, where we are called to listen to the groaning of all creation and its hope of redemption (Romans 8: 22,23).

In the midst of harmful ideologies that distort reality and disempower the most vulnerable, we speak truthfully from theological-ethical perspectives committed to the following:

Realizing our hubris. Covid-19 offers humanity a new humility which could give us new commitment to living in ways which do not profit at the earth’s or others’ expense, nor inflict pain-fuelled systems which demand sacrifice from vulnerable people and communities.  We are realizing anew and again the sin of economic systems governed by supremacist anthropocentricism.

Nurturing our communities. Loving, caring, and connectedness are key elements for resilience in the face of Covid-19.  Physical distancing has needed to be counterbalanced by familial and social solidarity.  As we nurture community, it is possible that new  models and values for our economies could flourish rooted not in competition but in care for each other and the earth; that new conceptions of family beyond the restrictions of patriarchy and kinship relations and led by the visions of the most vulnerable would form the foundation of  our communities; that borders would fall, racism be dismantled and xenophobia be replaced by radical hospitality.

Countering vested interest.  Even in the deep crisis spurred by Covid-19, there are strong vested interests which profit from, or control how the crisis is managed and experienced.  We are in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.  The powers must still be confronted in this crisis and the death and debt from which they profit exposed.

Transforming systems.  Covid-19 is overshadowing many with fear, overturning their security and even undermining their faith. In this moment of crisis, we need a liberative theology coupled with a redemptive economy. The human causes and systemic roots of this pandemic point to the exigency of systemic change if we are to be converted by the revelation Covid-19 is offering us, even as, like some latter day Shepherd David, it brings some of those giant systems to their knees. We must build back better, to ensure an Economy of Life that is founded on justice and dignity for all.

This is a prophetic moment. As churches we can see here a path towards the new creation.  This struggle could bear the fruit of the earth’s redemption from wanton exploitation.  This is eschatological hope rooted not in the end of days, but in the fall of sinful systems. All shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51) if the truth is told, the old idolatries of empire and economy cast down, and the care of the Creator reflected in a creation not exploited endlessly but blessed deeply.

An Urgent Call to Action

Holding to the promise of a new creation, we make the following calls:

As a matter of urgency, in the immediate term:

  • We renew our call for international banks and financial institutions to cancel the external debts of low- and middle-income countries (which were at damaging levels even before the pandemic).  In the restorative and liberative spirit of Jubilee, countries, especially in the global South, need empowerment in confronting the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in assuring funding for building the resilience and livelihoods of people and communities.
  • We call upon governments to allocate the necessary resources towards public health and social protection for the hundreds of millions of people whose livelihoods have been decimated because of the lockdowns. This includes ensuring widespread testing, provision of protective and other equipment for healthcare, essential workers and hospitals; healthcare coverage for all and the vulnerable expressly; the search for an effective but also accessible and affordable vaccine or cure; basic income grants, unemployment assistance, and wage subsidy schemes; as well as support for small businesses.
  • We reiterate our call for the implementation of the Zacchaeus Tax proposals: the initiation of a progressive wealth tax, financial transaction tax and carbon tax at national and global levels; the reintroduction of capital gains and inheritance taxes; measures to curb tax evasion and avoidance; and reparations for slavery and other social and ecological debts including through debt cancellation. Furthermore, a Covid-19 surcharge must be levied on the super-wealthy, equity and hedge funds, and multinational, e-commerce and digital corporations that are reaping even greater returns from the current crisis to resource the critical response to the pandemic.

On a medium- and longer-term trajectory:

  • We call upon the United Nations (UN) to convene an UN Economic, Social and Ecological Security Council (building on the 2009 Stiglitz Commission proposal for a Global Economic Coordination Council) to provide leadership in addressing interconnected economic, social and ecological crises that require coordinated international action. No country is an island. The current juncture and the burgeoning climate disaster demand coherence, collaboration, innovation, and transformation on a global scale.
  • We call upon governments to reclaim and safeguard public goods and the ecological commons from neoliberal processes of privatization and commodification; guarantee living wages for all; and privilege such life-affirming areas as health, education, water and sanitation, agro-ecology, and renewable energy in both Covid-19 recovery and longer-term plans. Our societies must foster and invest deeply in what the crisis has unveiled as essential: community-based systems of health, care and resilience  as well as the protection and sustenance of ecosystems in which our economies are embedded.
  • We call upon the United Nations (UN) to convene an UN Economic, Social and Ecological Security Council (building on the 2009 Stiglitz Commission proposal for a Global Economic Coordination Council) to provide leadership in addressing interconnected economic, social and ecological crises that require coordinated international action. No country is an island. The current juncture and the burgeoning climate disaster demand coherence, collaboration, innovation, and transformation on a global scale.

Finally, we call upon our own Christian communities to recommit to pursuing a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA), to model an Economy of Life in our work and lives, and to join with faith-rooted and social movements in amplifying advocacy for the aforementioned emergency measures and systemic changes.

Shared Commitment: Caring for Our Common Home Together

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the fact that we live together in a common economic, social, and ecological home. Our response to this global health crisis and the more colossal, longer-standing economic and ecological emergency must recognize our intrinsic interdependence and hold together economic, social, and ecological objectives. This calls for cooperation and solidarity within and across countries embodied in networks of faith communities, civil society, and social movements as well as fresh systems of global governance rooted in justice, care, and sustainability.  Through such action and in that spirit, ways can be found, if we are bold, to root our systems, powers and hearts not in the old order, but in the new creation.

Download : CallingForAnEconomyOfLifeInATime_final.pdf


Leave a comment

Seven landowners join forces to create the largest lowland heathland nature reserve in Purbeck, Dorset UK

This report is taken from The Guardian 17th March 2020 by Steven Morris:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/17/uks-first-super-national-nature-reserve-created-in-dorset

Purbeck Heath in Dorset. Seven landowners are joining forces to create what they are billing as the UK’s first ‘super national nature reserve’.

It is a rich, complex landscape, a mosaic of heaths, woods, mires, reed beds, salt marsh and dunes that are home to a myriad of flora and fauna from rare birds, butterflies and bats to carnivorous plants.

Seven landowners have now joined forces to created what is being billed as the UK’s first “super national nature reserve” (NNR) on Purbeck Heaths in Dorset.

The idea is that by combining the disparate chunks of land, a more dynamic landscape easier to manage in a more natural way – and much simpler for wildlife to navigate through – will be created.

A stonechat, a bird the size of a robin with a call like two pebbles being hit together, provided the backing track as experts from the National Trust, RSPB and Natural England pointed out the features of the new super reserve from a vantage point high above the heathland.  Other rare species of birds, reptiles, butterflies and insects can also be found there.

A major aim of the super reserve project is to help such creatures spread further so they do not rely on just one tiny area – and so face being wiped out if disaster strikes their home patch.

Purbeck Heaths is one of the most biodiverse places in the UK – home to thousands of species of wildlife, including 450 that are listed as rare, threatened or protected.

All six native reptiles are to be found here, including endangered smooth snakes and sand lizards. As well as the smaller birds such as the stonechat, raptors including hen harriers, marsh harriers, merlins, hobbies and ospreys hunt the heathland. It is also one of the last strongholds for many specialist insects and other invertebrates, such as southern damselflies and the Purbeck mason wasp.

damselfly

the Southern Damselfly



 


Leave a comment

The impact of bushfires on coastal and marine environments

This is a report, published by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

Bushfires Impacts on our oceans report Australian Marine Conservation Society

It can be found at:

Bushfire-Report_February-2020_Final-full-for-web-1.pdf

Bascially, what the report outlines is that the full effects of the summer of disasters will take months to materialise. The report shed light on the dangers to guard against in the critical months ahead.

  • Sediment slugs harming habitats and wildlife: Nutrients, ash and debris released by bushfires can damage habitats and form into sediment slugs following heavy rains – which slowly work their way to our oceans, harming aquatic life along the way.
  • Contamination: Metals and other contaminants released by bushfires in sediment, smoke and ash can change the physiology and behaviours of marine animals and work their way into the food chain.
  • Algal blooms killing fish: Harmful algal blooms caused by nutrient enrichment can kill fish and contaminate oyster farms, forcing their closure;
  • Damage to protective vegetation: Debris, sediment and ash washed into seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and reefs could further burden these already pressured environments.

Critically, the research report has uncovered alarming gaps in the monitoring of waterways and a lack of infrastructure and resources for responding to the threats. Unless these gaps are addressed urgently, many species face an uncertain future in the face of intensifying bushfire seasons.

The report recommends:

  • Monitoring of waterways: a comprehensive and integrated monitoring program for coastal and marine environments, that builds understanding of bushfire impacts and informs responses.
  • Urgent rehabilitation funding: Increased support will be vital for programs targeting the rehabilitation of the most vulnerable catchments and restoration of damaged coastal environments.
  • Rapidly cut carbon emissions: leaders must deal with the root cause of intensifying bushfires – rising temperatures – including swift and effective action to cut carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy sources.


 


Leave a comment

NBN National Diversity Report 2019

The Nottingham-based National Biodiversity Network has published its 2019 Report and it does not make good reading.

https://nbn.org.uk/stateofnature2019/reports/

It revealed that the UK’s most important animal populations are down by 60% compared to 1970.  One in four UK mammals and nearly half of our native birds are in danger of extinction. The most vulnerable animals include hedgehogs, hares and bats. One in four moths and one in five butterflies have already disappeared. The report shows no significant improvement since the last one in 2016, which said the UK was “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”.

UK-summary-cover

“The indicator for 696 terrestrial and freshwater species shows a significant decline of 13% in average abundance since 1970, and has fallen by 6% over the past 10 years.
Within this indicator, more species have decreased than increased. Since 1970, 41% of species have decreased and 26% have increased in abundance, with the remaining 33% showing little change. Over the past 10 years, 44% of species have decreased and 36% have increased in abundance, with 20% showing little change. The UK’s wildlife is undergoing rapid changes in abundance; the proportion of species defined as showing strong changes in abundance – either increases or decreases – rose from 33% over the long term to 53% over the past 10 years.

Long-term decreases in average abundance in butterflies since 1976 (16%) and moths since 1970 (25%) have not slowed. The mammal indicator shows little change since 1994; while an increase of 43% in the bird indicator has been driven by recovery of some species from very low numbers, conservation successes and colonising species, as well as increasing numbers of wintering waterbirds. These increases mask abundance declines in common and widespread breeding species; the total number of breeding birds in the UK fell by 44 million between 1967 and 2009.

Our indicator of average species’ distribution, covering 6,654 terrestrial and freshwater species over a broad range of taxonomic groups, has fallen by 5% since 1970. Because species tend to decline in abundance before they disappear from a site, this change could reflect more severe underlying abundance declines that we are currently unable to quantify.

Within this indicator, more species have decreased than increased. Since 1970, 27% of species have decreased and 21% have increased in distribution, with 52% showing little change. Over the past 10 years, 37% of species have decreased and 30% have increased in distribution, with 33% showing little change. The UK’s wildlife is undergoing rapid changes in distribution; the proportion of species defined as showing strong changes in distribution – either increases or decreases – rose from 17% over the long term to 39% over the past 10 years.

Of the 8,431 species that have been assessed using the IUCN Regional Red List criteria, and for which sufficient data were available, 1,188 (15%) are currently threatened with extinction from Great Britain and 2% are already extinct.”



 


Leave a comment

Natural Climate solutions

Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot have made a video that they would like everybody to share.  It talks about using natural solutions – nature itself – to restore balance in the world.  They urge that funding currently being used to subsidise fossil fuels should instead be used in projects designed to green the planet.  See it here:

 



 


Leave a comment

Extinction Rebellion joins forces with anti-HS2 campaign to save ancient woods

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/14/anti-hs2-campaigners-join-forces-extinction-rebellion-save-britains/

At least 108 ancient woods in England are threatened by proposals to build a high speed train link (HS2) across the country, with phase one already underway.

These woods are crucial spots for biodiversity, because the trees are hundreds of years old and have therefore become important habitats for rare invertebrates, as well as bats and birds.  The woodlands also absorb carbon from the atmosphere, playing a part in combating global warming. HS2 is currently under review as the government decides whether to continue the costly and environmentally destructive project – but work is still continuing on preparing its route.

ancient woods

Mark Keir, an organiser for Stop-HS2 said, “HS2 is ripping up a vast area of ancient woodland and there’s going to be such an incredible loss of biodiversity.

“We have 2,400 species in this area, we have otters, water voles, eels, glow worms, barn owls, tawny owls, little owls, kestrel, kite, buzzard, sparrowhawk, peregrines. There are 120 species of bird that nest in the trees and it’s the most biodiverse area of London; we can’t afford to lose it.

“It’s a meeting between middle England and Extinction Rebellion, what Extinction Rebellion has done really well is bring middle England into the fray. We’ve made middle England active and not before time.

“We are the lungs of London and the water supply of London, we can’t throw it away.

“Every ancient tree that gets cut down, a 900 year old tree has 900 years worth of biodiversity in it. If you plant a new tree now, it’ll take 900 years to get anywhere near that.”

Chris Packham, from BBC’s Springwatch programme, will be joining the protesters at a demonstration at Euston Station on 28th September.

A list of ancient woods in England can be found in Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_woods_in_England



Another demonstration, in the form of a march along the proposed HS2 route from the Birmingham end, took place in July 2020, with several protesters being arrested and taken to court.



An article in The Guardian on 17th August 2020 featured a 250-year old wild pear tree, which is due to be cut down to make way for the HS2 railway:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/tree-of-the-week-the-beloved-250-year-old-wild-pear-being-cut-down-for-hs2/ar-BB182FpW?ocid=msedgntp

On a recent visit to see the Cubbington pear tree, Anne Langley was sad to see that the woods around it in Warwickshire had been blocked off to visitors and a sign erected warning against trespassing. “It’s tragic,” she says. “There were people patrolling the fence when I went, to keep people out.”

The wild tree on the outskirts of South Cubbington wood is a famous local landmark and was voted England’s tree of the year in 2015. Langley, 77, decided to visit after she heard about the accolade so that she could write about it for a Warwickshire community website. When she did, she was struck by its “astonishing” size. “I was walking up the footpath and there on the horizon was this tree, standing out from the edge of the woods,” she says. “It dominates the view.”

It is thought to be the second-largest wild pear tree in the country and estimated to be 250 years old. It still bears fruit every year. In the spring, Langley loves seeing the “blackcaps and chiffchaffs singing in the woods”, with “wood anemones and a carpet of bluebells” surrounding it. Despite its popularity, it is scheduled to be cut down to make way for the HS2 railway development. Once completed, the new line will link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Langley, who is retired and lives near Rugby, is devastated by the plans, which will destroy much of the ancient woodland. “It’s upsetting,” she says. “It’s the loss of something irreplaceable.”

Until the area was closed off, Cubbington Action Group, which was set up to protest against HS2, had been leading walks to show people the tree. Students from Shuttleworth College in Bedfordshire have taken cuttings from it, so that descendants can be created for the local churchyard, schools and villages.

Save Cubbington Wood, another protest group, set up a camp last September in an effort to protect the trees from being felled by contractors, but they were evicted in March. An HS2 spokesperson told the BBC: “Seven million new trees and shrubs will be planted as part of the HS2 programme. The new native woodlands will cover over 9 sq km of land.”

Felling was stopped temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is due to resume in September. “Sadly, the pear tree appears to be doomed,” says Langley. Nonetheless, she still hopes it will be saved. “To think that it stood there for 250 years, against all the odds. You could imagine when it was little that somebody might have thought: ‘Oh, I’ll dig that up and put it in my back garden.’ The fact that it endured so long … It’s a symbol of hope for the future.”