threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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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.

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

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

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.

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?

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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.

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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

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Further information about light pollution can be found at:

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



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UK Government’s £40 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund opens for applications

Grants from £50k to £5 million are now available to help the nation build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced today [14 September].

The £40 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund, part of the government’s wider green economic recovery, jobs and skills package, brings forward funding for environmental charities and their partners to start work on projects across England to restore nature and tackle climate change.

The fund will help create up to 3,000 jobs and safeguard up to 2,000 others in areas such as protecting species, finding nature-based solutions to tackling climate change, conservation rangers and connecting people with nature. Up to 100% of project costs will be available.

The fund will be delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

All projects must contribute to at least one of the following themes of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund:

  • nature conservation and restoration;
  • nature-based solutions, particularly focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation such as through tree planting and restoring peatland; and,
  • connecting people with nature.

Projects will be favoured that create or retain jobs, creating opportunities and benefits for all ages, including young people. The fund is open to environmental charities and partnerships that include at least one environmental charity, while projects from both rural, urban and inshore marine areas are welcomed.

The fund will create a broad range of jobs such as ecologists, surveyors, nature reserve staff and education workers in environment organisations, and support their suppliers in areas such as agricultural engineering, horticulture, and equipment and seed supply.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, said:

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by bringing forward £10 million of money from the Nature Recovery Fund and £30 million of Nature for Climate Funding.

Applicants for over £250k must submit expressions of interest by 24 September and if successful full applications by 26 October. The deadline for applications under £250k is 2 October.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/governments-40-million-green-recovery-challenge-fund-opens-for-applications


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Nature is telling us to rebuild our economy around inclusive wealth by Pushpam Kumar

From: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/nature-telling-us-rebuild-our-economy-around-inclusive-wealth

A GDP-based approach to measuring well-being focuses on produced or manufactured capital. It pays less attention to natural capital — goods and services such as water, air, soil, biodiversity and scenic beauty that also benefit society. Even if the value of some ecosystem services is embedded in measures of GDP, many are often ignored and unaccounted for.

Inclusive wealth refers to the sum of social worth of manufactured capital (like building and machines), human capital (like health and skills) and natural capital (like biodiversity and ecosystem services). Image courtesy of UNEP

The Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI), first proposed in 2012 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others and guided by legendary environmental economist Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge, on the other hand, includes a holistic assessment not only of produced or manufactured capital, but also human capital and natural capital. It considers not only traditional kinds of wealth but also less tangible ones — such as skill sets, health care and environmental assets — that form the backbone of human progress and ultimately set the parameters for sustainable development.

A country’s inclusive wealth (IW) is the value of its natural capital, human capital and produced capital. By factoring in all three forms of capital, the IWI allows us to more accurately characterize the overall change to well-being. For example, when trees and biodiversity-supporting habitat are destroyed to build a school or hospital, natural capital decreases but human capital increases. This is very important for decision makers to know and critical for guiding efforts to enhance true sustainability.

Just as businesses do asset accounting, nations should do inclusive wealth accounting. And this accounting should include biodiversity and ecosystem health and resilience, which require investment to maintain and preserve. Because GDP does not factor in the benefits of natural capital, it doesn’t incentivize the actions needed to protect biodiversity and the services it provides — including reducing the risk of pandemic. To provide such protection requires accounting of all kinds of assets, especially natural capital. As the Resolution of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) puts it, “natural capital and natural resource valuation and accounting mechanisms can help countries to assess and appreciate the worth and full value of their natural capital and to monitor environmental degradation.” Inclusive wealth accounting can encourage accountability and allow countries to monitor progress toward conservation goals.

The Dasgupta Review for the UK’s Treasury already has started voicing the need for inclusive wealth accounting to keep track of change of natural assets and the emerging trade-offs.

The IWI was not developed with the intention of replacing GDP as an indicator of progress. Indeed, the UNEP-led Inclusive Wealth reports show that it is possible to achieve per capita growth in GDP and inclusive wealth simultaneously.

The Inclusive Wealth Report 2018 estimates the inclusive wealth per capita over the period 1992–2014 in 140 countries. In spite of considerable data limitations, it found that on average natural capital declined. The inclusive wealth per capita (natural, produced and human) rose, but at a slower rate than that of the GDP per capita. This does not bode well for sustainability, because it means that part of the gain in GDP is coming at the expense of natural and human capital.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require nations to strike a balance across various types of capitals — produced, human and natural. GDP per capita is inadequate for the task. The notion of inclusive wealth formalizes a way that balance can be struck. If the SDGs are themselves to be sustainable, nations must provide estimates of changes of inclusive wealth per head.

The progress report on the SDGs suggests that, with just 10 years left to achieve them, we are lagging on almost every goal. We have an opportunity to fix this problem by adopting a credible and well-rounded indicator for true sustainability. Now, more than ever, we need to use the IWI as our measure of well-being.


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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.”



 


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In a post COVID-19 future, reset the teaching of economics: Jane Morrice

This piece is copied from:

https://preparingforgovernment.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/jane-morrice-in-a-post-covid-19-future-reset-the-teaching-of-economics/

Jane Morrice (above), whose wide experience includes serving as Deputy Speaker of the NI Assembly.

Many people are wanting to see a change in economic thinking post-covid-19 but Jane Morrice’s approach is perhaps a little different, in that she wants to see the teaching of economics change to reflect current world needs and issues. In a letter to the Financial Times, she advocated a fundamental reset of the teaching of basic economic theory which would require a new culture regarding health as a nation’s wealth, natural resources as its riches and people as its priority.

Our outdated approach to economic principles should be replaced by one which links social, environmental and economic policy and places a sustainable, socially just society alongside job creation and growth in one all-inclusive new theory, “socenomics”.

Jane believes Covid-19 has proved that our economy is intrinsically linked with the health of society and the environment. But our education is divided into information management silos.

She sees the need for radical change in the way we measure and value success to overcome these divisions; the use of gross domestic product to measure national success should be replaced by a system that goes beyond pennies in pockets or investment in stocks and should measure:

  • medics per inhabitant,
  • disease control
  • and levels of air and water quality

Her conclusion: an approach which places a sustainable, socially just society alongside job creation and growth in one all-inclusive new theory, ‘socenomics’ would offer “a simple, yet comprehensive, solution to the most serious challenges facing 21st-century society”.



 


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Climate change and grief

Wikipedia recognises the existence of climate or ecological grief and defines it as:

A psychological response to loss caused by environmental destruction or climate change.”

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

Others have defined it as “the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes, due to acute or chronic environmental change.”

Scientists associated with maintaining the integrity of the Great Barrier Reef have reported to have feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and despair.

As long ago as October 2nd 2004, an article by Jo Confino appeared in the Guardian about this:

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/oct/02/grieving-pathway-destructive-economic-system

JoConfino

Jo Confino

Here is part of his introduction:

“Is it possible to hold all the grief in the world and not get crushed by it?

I ask this question because our failure to deal with the collective and individual pain generated as a result of our destructive economic system is blocking us from reaching out for the solutions that can help us to find another direction.

Our decision to value above all else comfort, convenience and a superficial view of happiness, has led to feelings of disassociation and numbness and as a result we bury our grief deep within our subconscious.

The consequence is not only a compulsion to consume even more in an attempt to hide our guilt but also a projection of our hidden pain onto the world around us and at the deepest level, the Earth itself.”

and:

“The point of recalling the rape, pillage and desecration of communities as well as the destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity is not to get stuck in anger and hopelessness, but to transcend them through the power of compassion and forgiveness.”

It is from this standpoint that several people are now running workshops to help people come to terms with their climate grief and to move on from it. Professor Jem Bendell runs such workshops, in which he describes the process as “Deep Adaptation”.  People are encouraged to express their grief in a variety of ways. Some of his talks have been recorded on youtube eg

 

in which he challenges people to ask the question “What if?” What do I (we) need to do to adapt to the changes that are ahead of us?” “What changes do I need to make in my life?” He believes that this process will lead people to cherish more what we (they) have and start seriously discussing with others strategies for the future.

According to Bendell, one of the ways of coming to terms with this grief or, in some cases, anxiety, is to start cherishing nature and engaging with it more. This is part of the deep adaptation process.



Last year, Extinction Rebellion also ran a 3-hour workshop entitled “Feeling Nature: Grief tending Workshop”:

Extinction Rebellion: Feeling Nature – Grief Tending Workshop



When I wrote my first book, “I will lift up my eyes”, I described a feeling of climate grief in the final chapter, though at the time I did not realise that it was climate grief. I have used it as an introduction to this third book, “Three generations left? Human activity and the destruction of the planet”.  Most of the grief that I have personally felt has been about the loss of species and the destruction of habitats and ecosystems, as I am a great animal lover.  Indeed, it was finding scientific analysis about the rate of loss of species that was the first focus of this book, and its title, as it would appear that a there might be a sixth mass extinction coming in three generations time.

Other posts elsewhere on this website have provided more details about the loss of species (for example: “Orangutans and Pangolins” and several posts about coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and bush fires and floods in Australia). And there has been a suggestion that the coronavirus pandemic could have been initiated by the trafficking and eating of pangolins in China.  It is hoped that the shock of the global pandemic may save this gentle creature from extinction.

224310815-pangolin-pictures

It would appear that a Chinese NGO dedicated to the shared vision of living in harmony with nature, CBCGDF (China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation) has been active to reduce the import of endangered wildlife species into China, as well as other wildlife issues.  On 11th April 2020, 441 kilos of pangolin scales, mainly from Africa, were confiscated by customs officials; they are thought to have been removed from 800-900 pangolins, mainly trafficked from Africa. Further details can be found on their website:

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/110478502/posts/2953

China pangolin scales

441 kilos of pangolin scales seized by Chinese customs officials

China trafficked pangolin

A pangolin in captivity



But my grief has not just been about the loss of species; it has been about cruelty inflicted by humans to sentient creatures. It is so widespread that it is now an endemic part of the global culture.  It includes the poaching, killing and/or trafficking of animals from one continent to another for financial gain, certain fishing and whaling techniques, a long era of farming on an industrial scale and the use of animals in circuses.  In my book I include pictures of sows farrowing in crates, to prevent them from moving and trampling on their piglets; battery hens laying their eggs in cages and the long-distance transport of sheep, cattle and other farm animals in cramped conditions across oceans and continents to be slaughtered for meat in another country.

sheep

This image above makes me weep.  But even more upsetting is the recently-acquired knowledge that this practice has been going on for more than 120 years. Why has it never been challenged? Is the acquisition of money and the balancing of the economy considered to be more important than the suffering endured by these sheep on the long, cramped journey to their death?

Here is part of a poem written in 1896 by W.H. Davies, who worked for a time on a ship that transported farm animals from America to England:

The first night we were out at sea
Those sheep were quiet in their mind;
The second night they cried with fear —
They smelt no pastures in the wind.

They sniffed, poor things, for their green fields,
They cried so loud I could not sleep:
For fifty thousand shillings down
I would not sail again with sheep.”

Davies also wrote the well-known poem, which begins “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare, No time to stand beneath the boughs, And stare as long as sheep and cows…..”

A very old recording of him reciting this poem can be found on youtube:

 

These poems, perhaps more than anything else help to describe the situation that we, the human species, have brought upon ourselves. And the Sheep poem expresses the grief he felt 120 years ago. “What is this life..” perhaps describes the busy life of humans, which has led to the activities causing climate breakdown, now far worse than when he first recited it.



Letters to the Earth

One of the ways that people have been encouraged to cope with the Covid-19 lockdown is to write letters to the earth.  Doing this may also help in the grieving process.

https://www.letterstotheearth.com/respond-to-covid-19

In these moments of separation, stillness and unknown, Letters to the Earth is an opportunity to reconnect and for a new story to emerge.

What do you want to say? What needs to be heard?

 For our key workers, neighbours, faraway friends and family. For yourself, for others and for the Earth: Letters of love, support and hope are needed.

The deadline for posting these Letters in Lock-Down was Earth Day, 22nd April 2020 and they can be viewed as videos on:

https://www.letterstotheearth.com/event-details/earth-day-22nd-april-2020

A similar exercise was carried out in 2019 and those letters were published in a book:

https://www.letterstotheearth.com/



Facing the Future

Some people, rather than feeling grief about the loss of, and cruelty to, various species, are more concerned about what the future holds.  Their feelings would perhaps be those of anxiety and fear.  Prof Jem Bendell thinks that some people respond by denialism. Others feel angry and accuse others of causing the climate situation. Others think we can “invent” our way out of it by designing machines that will capture carbon dioxide.

It is so difficult to know what will be the worst effects of climate change and how they will manifest.  Many people think we will experience food shortages and hunger; others may lose their homes from flooding or coastal erosion or fire. My personal view is that, whilst these situations will undoubtedly arise, that extreme climate events may be the most traumatic. Already hurricanes and tornadoes are ripping through communities; already we are seeing excess human deaths during the frequent heatwaves we now have in parts of the world; already seeing losses on a great scale due to wild fires; already seeing whole islands disappear from sea level rise.

I think that Jem Bendell’s workshops on “Deep Adaptation” deal most with fears arising from the above. By encouraging people to express their fears, they can be externalised and strategies found to cope with them, moving eventually away from hate and anger with those who have brought about this situation, to love, cherishment and acceptance.  This is a big jump but maybe the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has brought about more sense of community and an acceptance that “we are all in this together”. Maybe this has been a trial run for the future that awaits us.



The issue of denialism has been discussed by Prof. Rebecca Willis in an article for Scientist for Global Responsibility (SGR).  Here it is in its entirety:

Becky Willis

Prof Rebecca Willis, Lancaster University, spoke at SGR’s Responsible Science conference, and writes here about the challenge of overcoming social denial of the climate emergency, drawing on her new book Too Hot to Handle? The democratic challenge of climate change.
Article from Responsible Science journal, no.2; online publication: 22 June 2020
“When life gets me down, I go running. I have a collection of comedy podcasts which I plug into, as the dog and I make our way round the local hills at rather a sedate pace. My favourite is a show that is as old as me: the BBC’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. It’s a panel of very clever, very funny people doing silly things. For me, it is the best medicine for climate anxiety.

To live in a time of climate crisis is to compartmentalise. If, like me, you spend many of your waking hours thinking about climate, it exerts a heavy toll. The news of what is already afoot: the wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and floods.  The predictions for the future, within my own lifetime, and in the lifetime of my children. The intransigence of the response from politicians, media and many people. It goes round and round in my head, and I have to switch off. When I take time off work, I can feel myself disconnecting from climate change too, and it is a relief.

Responding to climate change is about balancing this dual reality: acknowledging the enormity of climate change, without being overwhelmed. But it is a difficult balance. Those of us who work on climate daily are stalked by it. But most people keep it at a distance, or laugh it off with quips about the end of the world.

When the anthropologist Kari Norgaard went to a Norwegian village to study understandings of climate change, she uncovered a paradox which, for me, is fundamental to understanding our responses. Villagers were aware of, and concerned by, climate change. They had noticed changes to snowfall, and to the ski season that many of them depended on for income. Yet they chose, together, to ignore it. It just wasn’t something that people spoke about.

As Norgaard asked, “how could the possibility of climate change be deeply disturbing and almost completely invisible — simultaneously unimaginable and common knowledge?” She labels this phenomenon ‘societal denial’.

In my own research with politicians, I have seen many examples of this. The politicians I spoke to showed a marked tendency to play down the climate threat. Like Julia (not her real name), a confident politician who expresses her views freely. As we chatted over coffee, she was deliciously unguarded in her opinions of her colleagues, criticising the vast majority of her fellow parliamentarians for not dedicating time or attention to climate. She said that just a few of her six hundred or so colleagues took the issue seriously – “you might not get into double figures”.

And yet Julia knew that she must tread carefully, not for scientific reasons, but sociological ones: she has to fit in. I asked her what would happen if she tried to interject in a debate on budget issues, to persuade her colleagues that fossil fuels should stay in the ground. She replied:  “I think they’d just think that they’d think you were a bit ‘niche’, is the way I’d put it – I say ‘niche’ in quotes like a bit of a lunatic fringe.”

Julia wasn’t the only one who worries about her ‘niche’ reputation. One former MP, who had been an active climate campaigner in Parliament, said “I was known as being a freak”. Another told me about how he tried to avoid being seen as a ‘zealot’. He said he had been arguing for better public transport in his constituency, and I asked him whether he had mentioned climate change. He said he hadn’t: “I think if I had mentioned carbon emissions, there would have been a rolling of eyes and saying, ‘oh here he goes again’.” These remarks were common in my conversations with politicians. Some went as far as deliberately avoiding any mention of climate, for fear that it would be an unhelpful label.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As any undergraduate sociologist learns, the way people think and act is conditioned by their social world. We are heavily influenced by our social surroundings, and by implicit rules and norms.

Speaking out

This insight brings with it an important lesson for all of us who are concerned about climate. It can be summed up in one sentence: If you’re thinking about climate, talk about it too.

It’s not an easy thing to do, because by naming climate change you are saying a lot of difficult things about how we live our lives. In the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, it is not a coincidence that it was a child who pointed out that the Emperor was, in fact, naked. As Greta Thunberg has demonstrated admirably, children have that enviable ability to ignore social convention, and say what they see. We could all learn from that. You won’t always be thanked for it, but your courage will be noticed.

You can talk to politicians. National leaders, local councillors – any and all elected representatives. Tell them you are worried about climate change, and ask them what they think. The rest of the suggestions below will help you to think about how that conversation might go. The charity Hope For The Future has a brilliant set of resources on its website to help you through the process of asking for, and planning, a meeting.

But don’t stop with politicians. You could raise it at your workplace, talk to your friends, make it clear on social media. In short: fight socially organised denial. Last year, I took a deep breath and chatted to the parents on the touchline when my son was playing football. It was a really positive conversation. Since then, I’ve tried to include it in a lot of general chat. Or rather, I have stopped censoring myself.

The UK charity Climate Outreach has been encouraging people to have these conversations, and researching the impacts. They worked with volunteers who offered to start up conversations, with strangers, family members, acquaintances and work colleagues, and to report back on their experiences. Though it was sometimes hard to start with, participants were glad they had done it. As one said, “talking about it breaks down the isolated feeling, and makes me feel more supported to take action”. This confirms research which suggests that taking action on climate is good for you: it helps overcome feelings of helplessness or grief that may emerge from contemplating something so all-consuming.

Practising what you preach?

This brings me to the all-important question of your own footprint. Of course, we should all be thinking about this.  Your own carbon footprint is a drop in the global ocean. But every drop, like every vote, counts. It counts even more if you talk about it. What better way to talk about the need to reduce aviation than to say that you have restricted your own flying, for work and for holidays? Imagine how powerful it would be if everyone who campaigned for climate action – politicians, businesspeople, celebrities, everyone – made meaningful pledges about what they would do in their own lives. Could you be the person who prompts your organisation to change?

There is a growing band of university researchers who have pledged to stop the wasteful amounts of flying that are currently a normal part of academic life. As a result, new options are opening up. International conferences have been run without air travel – like the 2018 ‘Displacements’ anthropology conference, where online presentations were watched at different regional hubs. When I write research grants, I factor in the time and money for train travel, not flights. I have also done some brilliant research using webinars rather than actual meetings. It’s different, but it can work really well. On one memorable occasion, a workshop participant in California decided to show everyone joining from round the world his beautiful stripy knitted socks. I remember him waving his feet in front of his laptop camera.

It’s not a case of all-or-nothing. My good friend Kate Rawles, an amazing adventurer and climate communicator, has set herself a budget of one flight every three years, and talks about this whenever she can. She says that people find it easier to relate to than stopping flying altogether (in rich countries, at least – it’s always worth adding the caveat that most people in the world have never got on a plane). Similarly, I’m an occasional meat-eater – I don’t think you have to choose between meat every day and a strict vegan diet. Do what you can – and tell people about it. There’s research to show that it makes a difference. As my research shows, people are heavily influenced by their social world. If people they respect have changed their behaviour significantly, this has an impact.

We are now seeing higher levels of concern about climate change than ever before. This is thanks to many brave people who have decided to speak out, and confront societal denial. It’s a lesson that bravery and honesty are as important as technology in the climate struggle.”

 

Biography

Rebecca Willis is a researcher with twenty years’ experience in environment and sustainability policy and practice, at international, national and local level. She is a Professor in Practice at Lancaster Environment Centre, and an Expert Lead for Climate Assembly UK, the national Citizens’ Assembly commissioned by Parliament. In 2009 Rebecca founded Green Alliance’s Climate Leadership Programme, an initiative to support Members of the UK Parliament, and still supports Green Alliance’s work in this area. Previously, she was a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the UKRI Energy Programme, Council Member of the Natural Environment Research Council, vice-chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, and Director of Green Alliance.

 


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Wildlife collapse related to climate change could happen suddenly

A number of daily newspapers and news sources from across the world are citing an article from Nature, which predicts that the collapse of wildlife species could happen abruptly, rather than gradually.  These include:

The New YorkTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/15/climate/wildlife-population…

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/08/wildlife…

BBC; Reuters; msn etc

deadelephant

The original Nature article is here:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2189-9 and is entitled:

The projected timing of abrupt ecological disruption from climate change,

with authors, Christopher H. Trisos, Cory Merow and Alex L. Pigot in Nature published 8th April 2020.

However, here is a more simply worded analysis from msn:

“Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published this month in Nature.

The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it.

“For a long time things can seem OK and then suddenly they’re not,” said Alex L. Pigot, a scientist at University College London and one of the study’s authors. “Then, it’s too late to do anything about it because you’ve already fallen over this cliff edge.”

The latest research adds to an already bleak picture for the world’s wildlife unless urgent action is taken to preserve habitats and limit climate change. More than a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because of the myriad ways humans are changing the earth by farming, fishing, logging, mining, poaching and burning fossil fuels.

The study looked at more than 30,000 species on land and in water to predict how soon climate change would affect population levels and whether those levels would change gradually or suddenly. To answer these questions, the authors determined the hottest temperature that a species is known to have withstood, and then predicted when that temperature would be surpassed around the world under different emissions scenarios.

When they examined the projections, the researchers were surprised that sudden collapses appeared across almost all species — fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals — and across almost all regions.”

 



 


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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



 


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Zero Carbon Schools Project in The Marches

Zero Carbon Schools in The Marches (Herefordshire)

The Marches Climate Education Group are inviting all schools to take part in a Marches-wide programme that will support schools to write their own carbon reduction plan. Pupils, parents and teachers at schools in The Marches, are asked to encourage their school to take part!
Marches
The following invitation is also being sent to all schools by Herefordshire Council. West Worcestershire and South Shropshire schools are also going to be invited.
The Marches Climate Education Group invite you to attend

‘ZERO CARBON SCHOOLS’

A FREE one day event for Headteachers, Eco Leads and Eco reps,

in partnership with Herefordshire Council

Friday 19th June 2020 (09:00-14:00)

Venue: Hereford Shirehall, HR1 2JB

Aim of the event: how to write & implement your school carbon reduction plan

To book your free places copy this link into your browser
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/zero-carbon-schools-workshop-tickets-95516527505

Up to 4 places per school – eg 1 adult and 3 eco reps.

(Students must be accompanied by an adult!)

The Marches Climate Education Group is a group of likeminded schools

who care about the climate crisis and want to take action.

Run by teachers, for teachers.

To join, or for further information about this event, email Bryony John
bjohn@orleton.hereford.sch.uk

To find out more about the Green Schools Project within the Marches and to receive regular newsletters, email
beth@greenschoolsproject.org.uk



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Message from the Future

This post was written on Facebook by an Australian man, who grew up in Queensland in the 70s and 80s and now has a young family of his own.



Great-Barrier-Reef

I lived in Australia for three years during the early 60s and have returned for short visits in 1994 and 2010.  On both occasions I found the country to be hotter and drier.  This last month my brother, who has lived in NSW most of his life, had his home threatened by bush fires for the very first time.