UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fall

Adam Vaughan, The Guardian, Thursday 27 March 2014

UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by nearly 2% last year, as less coal and gas was burned to generate electricity. But official figures published on Thursday show that because of increases in 2010 and 2012, the UK’s carbon footprint is still roughly the same as it was in 2009 despite government promises to cut emissions. The fall in 2013 is likely to provide some relief for ministers ahead of a major UN climate science report next week and a renewed push for an international climate change deal in Paris next year.

Last year’s drop appeared to be largely due to a 9% decrease in coal use and a 7% decrease in gas. The share of energy generated from renewables sources was up, as a series of large offshore windfarms were connected to the grid. Onshore wind power generation was up 36.4%, and offshore wind up by 45.8%. Emissions were up in the residential sector by 2.6% and 2.9% in business, and remain static for transport.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are extremely pleased to see that greenhouse gas emissions are provisionally down and that electricity generation from low carbon sources is at its highest for at least seventeen years. This was due to record levels of renewables generation and higher nuclear availability. We are on track to meet our longer term carbon and renewables targets which will reduce emissions and improve the environment.”

The UK’s emissions have been falling gradually over the last two decades, by around 21% since 1990, as energy efficiency improved and the use of gas power displaced more carbon intensive coal. The Met Office said the average temperature in 2013 was 8.8C, a fraction below the longterm (1981-2010) average of 8.9C.

Early History of Cattle Domestication Revealed

March 28, 2014

The genetic history of 134 cattle breeds from around the world has been completed by a group of researchers. In the process of completing this history, they found that ancient domesticated African cattle originated in the ‘Fertile Crescent,’ a region that covered modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Israel.

Geneticist and anthropologists previously suspected that ancient Africans domesticated cattle native to the African continent, nearly 10,000 years ago. Now, a team of University of Missouri researchers has completed the genetic history of 134 cattle breeds from around the world. In the process of completing this history, they found that ancient domesticated African cattle originated in the Fertile Crescent, a region that covered modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Israel.

Lead researcher Jared Decker, an assistant professor of animal science in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, says the genetics of these African cattle breeds are similar to those of cattle first domesticated in the Middle East nearly 10,000 years ago, proving that those cattle were brought to Africa as farmers migrated south. Those cattle then interbred with wild cattle, or aurochs, which were native to the region, and changed their genetic make-up enough to confuse geneticists.

In their study published in PLOS Genetics, Decker and a team of international researchers compared the similarities and differences among the genetics of many different cattle breeds to determine how the breeds are related. Their research found mixing of native cattle in Indonesia with imports from India, European and African cattle in Italy and Spain, and European and Asian cattle in Korea and Japan. The MU researchers also determined that unique American cattle breeds, such as Texas longhorns, are the result of breeding between Spanish cattle, transported from Europe by explorers in the 16th century, and breeds of Zebu, or Brahman cattle from India imported into the U.S. from Brazil in the late 1800s. Decker says these discoveries help advance genetics and uncover important information about human history.

“In many ways, the history of cattle genetics mirrors human history,” Decker said. “In the case of African cattle, anthropologists and geneticists used to suspect that domesticated African cattle were native to the continent, when in fact, they were brought by migrating peoples thousands of years ago. By better understanding the history of the animals we domesticate, we can better understand ourselves.”

Decker also said that cattle breeding is important for animal farmers looking to maximize their herds’ meat and dairy production. He says that understanding the genetic history of cattle breeds is important when looking for solutions to agricultural issues.

“Now that we have this more complete genetic history of cattle worldwide, we can better understand the diversity of the species,” Decker said. “By understanding the variations present, we can improve cattle for agricultural purposes, whether that is through breeding more disease-resistant animals or finding ways to increase dairy or beef production.”

Autumn Ending Later in Northern Hemisphere is Confirmed

March 27, 2014

A study by the University of Southampton suggests that on average the end of Autumn is taking place later in the year and Spring is starting slightly earlier. A team of researchers examined satellite imagery covering the northern hemisphere over a 25 year period (1982 — 2006), and looked for any seasonal changes in vegetation by making a measure of its ‘greenness’. They examined in detail, at daily intervals, the growth cycle of the vegetation — identifying physical changes such as leaf cover, color and growth.

The project was led by University of Southampton Professor of Geography Peter Atkinson, who worked with his colleague Dr Jadunandan Dash and in collaboration with Professor Jeganathan Chockalingam from the Department of Remote Sensing at the Birla Institute of Technology in India.

Professor Atkinson says: “There is much speculation about whether our seasons are changing and if so, whether this is linked to climate change. Our study is another significant piece in the puzzle, which may ultimately answer this question.”

The team was able to examine the data for specific vegetation types: ‘mosaic’ vegetation (grassland, shrubland, forest and cropland); broad-leaved deciduous forest; needle-leaved evergreen forest; needle-leaved deciduous and evergreen forest; mixed broad-leaved and needle-leaved forest; and mixed-forest, shrubland and grassland. They analysed data across all the groups, recognizing that forests which have not changed size due to human intervention, for example through forestry or farming, provide the most reliable information on vegetation response to changes in our climate.

The most pronounced change found by the researchers was in the broad-leaved deciduous and needle-leaved deciduous forest groups, showing that Autumn is becoming significantly later. This delay in the signs of Autumn was generally more pronounced than any evidence for an earlier onset of Spring, although there is evidence across the groups that Spring is arriving slightly earlier.

Professor Peter Atkinson comments: “Previous studies have reported trends in the start of Spring and end of Autumn, but we have studied a longer time period and controlled for forest loss and vegetation type, making our study more rigorous and with a greater degree of accuracy.

“Our research shows that even when we control for land cover changes across the globe a changing climate is significantly altering the vegetation growth cycles for certain types of vegetation. Such changes may have consequences for the sustainability of the plants themselves, as well as species which depend on them, and ultimately the climate through changes to the carbon cycle.” The study used the Global Inventory Modelling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) dataset and combined satellite imagery with an innovative data processing method to study vegetation cycles.

The paper is published in the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment.

Natural History Must Reclaim its Place in Society

March 26, 2014

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Summary:  Scientists argue that the study of natural history has waned in recent decades in developed countries. Declining course requirements and support for herbaria are among the documented evidence. Yet costly mistakes in policy relating to natural resources, agriculture, and health might have been avoided by paying attention to organisms’ natural history, and future policies will be improved if natural history knowledge is used and expanded. New technologies offer ways to increase natural history research partnerships.

Support in developed countries for natural history, the study of the fundamental nature of organisms and how and where they live and interact with their environment, appears to be in steep decline. Yet natural history provides essential knowledge for fields as varied as human health, food security, conservation, land management, and recreation. In the April issue of BioScience, a group of scientists from institutions across North America details examples supporting their conviction that a re-vitalization of the practice of natural history will provide important benefits for science and society.

The 17-member group of authors, convened by Joshua J. Tewksbury of the University of Washington and the World Wide Fund for Nature’s International office, notes that 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases of humans, including avian influenza, Lyme disease, cholera, and rabies, are linked to other animals at some point in their life cycle. Control strategies rely on knowledge of these hosts’ natural history.

Sustainable agricultural practices, such as companion planting, crop rotation, and pest control, likewise rely on knowledge of natural history, much of which was however, discarded with the Green Revolution. Effective fisheries management relies on natural history; disasters such as the collapse of the Bering Sea wall-eye pollock fishery might have been avoided had it been used sooner. Rigorous forest fire suppression in the western United States during much of the twentieth century was another costly mistake that might have ended sooner if natural history knowledge had been used earlier. And recreational hunting and fishing have often benefited when interest groups applied knowledge of natural history and suffered when it was ignored.

Despite this, natural history collections are not expanding, and the number of active herbaria has declined since 1990 in Europe and North America. The majority of US schools now have no natural history requirements for a biology degree, a trend that has coincided with the rise of molecular, experimental, theoretical, and other forms of biology. These types of biology may be less expensive or be more likely to attract large grants and public recognition. The stagnation could also reflect more general public disengagement with nature in developed countries.

Although biological modelling has become more sophisticated, Tewksbury and his co-authors note that models must be built on field observations to usefully represent the real world. The important influence of microbes on human health and plants is a key new frontier in natural history research, the authors believe. And they see hope for the discipline, both within and outside of traditional natural history collections, in the rise of Internet and smart phone-based technologies that allow the growth of broad partnerships, including citizen-science initiatives. Such linkages are starting to develop, but will need established professionals to self-identify as natural historians to provide the leadership needed for natural history to reclaim its necessary role, the authors assert.

Global Warming Update – It’s Not Good News

Tuesday 18 March 2014 by Tom Bawden.

Official prophecy of doom: Global warming will cause widespread conflict, displace millions of people and devastate the global economy. Leaked draft report from UN panel seen by The Independent is most comprehensive investigation into impact of climate change ever undertaken – and it’s not good news.

Climate change will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of this century, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions of dollars off the global economy, a forthcoming UN report will warn.

The second of three publications by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due to be made public at the end of this month, is the most comprehensive investigation into the impact of climate change ever undertaken.  A draft of the final version seen by The Independent says the warming climate will place the world under enormous strain, forcing mass migration, especially in Asia, and increasing the risk of violent conflict.

The report also forecasts that the warming climate will take its toll on human health, pushing up the number of intense heatwaves and fires and increasing the risk from food and water-borne diseases. While the impact on the UK will be relatively small, global issues such as rising food prices will pose serious problems. Britain’s health and environmental “cultural heritage” is also likely to be hurt, the report warns. The UK’s already elevated air pollution is likely to worsen as burning fossil fuels increase ozone levels, while warmer weather will increase the incidence of asthma and hay fever.

Coastal systems and  low-lying areas

The report predicts that by the end of the century “hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and displaced due to land loss”. The majority affected will be in East Asia, South-east Asia and South Asia. Rising sea levels mean coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience submergence, coastal flooding and coastal erosion.

Food security

Relatively low local temperature increases of 1C or more above pre-industralised levels are projected to “negatively impact” yields of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions. The report forecasts that climate change will reduce median yields by up to 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century – against a backdrop of rising demand that is set to increase by 14 per cent per decade until 2050.

The global economy

A global mean temperature increase of 2.5C above pre-industrial levels may lead to global aggregate economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent, the report warns. Global GDP was $71.8trn (£43.1trn) in 2012, meaning a 2 per cent reduction would wipe $1.4trn off the world’s economic output that year.

Human health

Until mid-century, climate change will impact human health mainly by exacerbating problems that already exist, the report says. Climate change will lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, with examples including a greater likelihood of injury, disease and death due to more intense heatwaves and fires; increased likelihood of under-nutrition; and increased risks from food and water-borne diseases. Without accelerated investment in planned adaptations, climate change by 2050 would increase the number of undernourished children under the age of five by 20-25 million globally, or by 17-22 per cent, it says.

Human security

Climate change over the 21st century will have a significant impact on forms of migration that compromise human security, the report states. For example, it indirectly increases the risks from violent conflict in the form of civil war, inter-group violence and violent protests by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.

Small-island states and other places highly vulnerable to sea-level rise face major challenges to their territorial integrity. Some “trans-boundary” impacts of climate change, such as changes in sea ice, shared water resources and migration of fish stocks have the potential to increase rivalry among states.

Freshwater resources

The draft of the report says “freshwater-related risks of climate change increase significantly with increasing greenhouse gas emissions”. It finds that climate change will “reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions”, exacerbating the competition for water. Terrestrial and freshwater species will also face an increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century.

Unique landscapes

Machair, a grassy coastal habitat found only in north-west Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, is one of the several elements of the UK’s “cultural heritage” that is at risk from climate change, the report says. Machair is found only on west-facing shores and is rich in calcium carbonate derived from crushed seashells. It is so rare and special, that a recent assessment by the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism described it as an “unknown jewel”.

The IPCC also warns of climate threats to Irish peatlands and UK grousemoors and notes an increasing risk to health across Europe from rising air pollution – in which the polluted UK is already in serial breach of EU regulations.

Dungeness Nuclear Plant and Fukushima Threat

Tuesday, March 18.

ABSTRACT.  The energy giant EDF has been accused of playing down the threat of flooding at Dungeness after it emerged that one of the nuclear power plant’s reactors was quietly shut down for five months last year after experts identified risk of a Fukushima-style disaster.

EDF closed the reactor on the Kent coast on 22 May to allow work on a new flood protection wall, after alerting the Office of Nuclear Regulation that without urgent work the site was at risk of being inundated by sea water.

The reactor – which should provide power for about 750,000 homes – did not reopen again until 15 October. The closure of the 550-megawatt reactor – one of two at Dungeness – followed an internal EDF report which found that the shingle bank sea defences were “not as robust as previously thought”, raising fears that they could be overwhelmed in extreme weather, according to the ClickGreen website, which first reported the closure.

EDF marked the closure of the reactor with a short statement to local media saying: “Unit 22 at Dungeness station was taken offline on 20 May for maintenance work which includes completing improvements to flood defences for extreme events.” Five months later, the company said: “Unit 22 at Dungeness B power station resynchronised to the Grid at 0.522am on Tuesday 15 October.”

There was no clear explanation of the remarkable length of the outage, which was not widely reported. Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said: “EDF should have made more of an announcement. If a plant closes for five months it is not just fiddling about, it is something serious and EDF can’t pretend it’s not.

“I think there is a bad attitude in this country that we must not frighten the horses. But playing it down is the wrong way – we need to be told the truth,” Professor Thomas added. He calculates that the five-month closure could have cost EDF around £100m in lost electricity revenue, while the group would have saved very little in the way of expenses, still having to pay wages and maintain the reactor.

The EDF review that led to the flooding work was carried out with the Environment Agency and meteorological experts based on new modelling in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, which involved assessments of extreme still-water levels, wave heights and historical tsunamis. EDF notified the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in December 2012 that it “no longer had confidence” in its primary sea defence. It committed to boosting flood protection by “taking due cognisance of the need for a margin against more severe events”, ONR documents show.

This involved upgrading the defence from one that could protect against a one in 1,000-year weather event to one that occurs every 10,000 years.

According to a briefing to local community representatives by the station director, EDF originally boosted the shingle flood defences early last year. However, a further review of the site in May concluded that “the flood protection work already completed needed to be extended… to further enhance the plant resilience to this extreme hazard”, the station director said. The defence consists of “a permanent flood protection wall around the site” and is expected to be finished by the end of this month.

Dungeness is one of eight operational nuclear power plants in the UK and the Government has plans to build 12 new reactors as it looks to switch to lower-carbon energy. But none of the proposed projects has been finalised.

The spokesman said the closure was part of its “response to events in Japan which caused serious damage to Fukushima Daiichi [while] an extensive programme of analysis, modelling and physical testing has been carried out to review and update the assessments of potential flooding around our sites. We are continuously updating and improving the plant to ensure it is operating safely.”

Martin Pearson, station manager at Dungeness B, said: “The recent adverse weather has had no impact on existing infrastructure and the power station has operated normally in recent high tides and stormy weather.” A spokesperson for the Department for Energy and Climate Change declined to comment.

[It has always seemed incredulous to me that nuclear power plants were ever allowed to built on the tip of Dungeness, in view of its landscape significance and more importantly, that the ‘after life’ of these facilities is of thousands of years and the location – at the end of shingle promontory – not the most stable of geological landforms!]

This Week’s Pony News

Thursday, 20th. Heard my first chiffchaffs of the year while checking ponies at Lane End Common at Chailey.

Friday, 21st. A cool but sunny spring day, with a keen westerly wind. Two of us spent the afternoon extending the grazing area on the Downs escarpment above Winton Street near Alfriston. This involved extending the electric fencing at both the top and bottom of the hill before moving the fence that runs down the steep(!) hillside – without the ten ponies escaping!  After three hours, mission accomplished but wow, did our legs know it! On the existing area, the ponies have made quite an impression, grazing off a majority of the straw-like tor grass that sheep do not eat and that smothers neighbouring flora and fauna.

Next week, we shall be moving the 18 ponies from off Castle Hill National Nature Reserve on the Downs near Brighton. 12 will be going back to Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Old Lodge reserve on Ashdown Forest and 6 on to a smaller site. This will then allow a large important research project by the University of Sussex into bees and neighbouring oilseed rape to commence.

Fracking v Renewables? The Political Challenge for Voters

With almost a daily bombardment; with claim and counter-claim on various issues as we near the next General Election, I have done a little research into one of the most important topics – that of fracking and where this country is to find its energy in the coming decades. This has been given an added edge recently with the growing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. (The former is the world’s largest producer of crude oil; much of Europe’s gas also flows from it (often via the Ukraine) ). The following is an attempt to understand the debate, largely based on what appears to me, as three reasonable views (sources listed at the end).

Britain’s energy future, an issue fraught with complexity, is presented as a mere dual choice. Public opinion on fracking is divided 50:50, or rather, 40:40, with 20% reserving judgment. The National Trust has voiced its opposition to fracking on its own land holding. The Church of England has come out against it, saying that it presented a “choice between economic gain and a healthy environment,” reminding its parishioners of their duties as the Earth’s stewards.

A set of priorities here would be easy to establish: nobody wants to screw the environment for future generations; nobody wants the lights to go out; nobody wants to spend more and more on energy, in markets that are ever more unstable, and increasingly impossible for national governments to do anything about; nobody wants to destroy the countryside; nobody wants to cede the nation’s mineral rights to large corporations that won’t compensate the communities affected. But if we waste any more time arguing about whether or not the climate is changing, the lights really will go out.

The Conservative-led Government has recently renewed its push to promote “fracking” for shale gas, as French energy giant Total confirmed it was investing in the industry in the UK. Prime Minister David Cameron announced that local authorities in England would receive 100% of the business rates collected from shale gas schemes, rather than the usual 50%. It’s the latest move by the Government to promote the exploitation of unconventional gas in the UK, which the Prime Minister claimed, could bring the UK 74,000 jobs, more than £3 billion of investment and cheaper and more secure energy. These figures have been seriously doubted.

On a visit to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, in the area Total will be looking to develop shale gas wells, Mr Cameron defended the plans to push ahead with fracking, saying environmental concerns would be assuaged once people saw the benefits. He said: “We have the strongest environmental controls in this country. Nothing would go ahead if there were environmental dangers. I think people can be reassured by that. I actually believe it’s when these wells go ahead, when people start to see the benefit, when people see there aren’t environmental concerns, they will see that it is quite right that this is part of our long-term economic plan.”

Environmentalists have criticised the business rates incentive as a “bribe” to reluctant, cash-strapped local authorities. They warned that it raised serious concerns over conflicts of interest if the councils benefiting from the money were the ones deciding on planning applications. Fears have also been raised over the potential for small-scale earthquakes and serious water shortages and pollution. That a drive to exploit new gas reserves will turn the focus away from efforts to develop a low-carbon economy to tackle climate change. The potential reliance on shale gas and the thought that this could be the panacea for all the UK’s energy problems is simply, an absolute pie in the sky and cloud cuckoo land.

The Conservatives have gone from attacking the Labour government for failing to de-carbonise fast enough in 2009, to being gas-crazed frack-evangelists? The question about the Tories is relatively easily answered. George Osborne has oscillated wildly on whether climate change is really happening.  At the moment, it is second (read “nowhere”) to his core objective. The appeal is blinding. For one, this is easy money. Two, it plays into the classic Conservative narrative that, as long as we just stand back and let big business do it’s thing, while smart government smooth’s its way, we all get richer.

There is another flaw in this thinking, which is that if we do exploit all the shale resources we have, we will seriously overshoot our decarbonisation targets; climate objectives are being scotched to suit a party whose only objective seems to be its own re-election. However, any opposition whose fundamental principle is, “energy from anywhere, unless it’s near me” is just individualism dressed up as environmentalism is not acceptable either.

If this debate were to concentrate on carbon emissions, it would reach its critical questions pretty fast: the lowest carbon fuels are renewables. They’re not yet ready to supply all the country’s energy; those technologies need investment; the country needs a bridging fuel, which should be the cleanest we can find. And that would be gas. Questions remaining for the government would be: how best to assure and accelerate green investment (partly by not by putting all your faith, publicly, in fracking), and how to consolidate the move from coal to gas without over-committing to gas to the extent that people stop investing in wind and solar. That is the conversation we should be having. Given that the Conservatives seem mired in that climate change isn’t happening, Labour must set out and insist on the above terms.

So where is the Labour party? Ed Balls gave a speech last year, in which he pledged that a Labour government would “end the current uncertainty” around renewables, put planning for a low-carbon future at the centre of policy, not at the periphery, and give the Green Investment Bank the powers it was originally intended to have. But more often Labour’s points are like Osborne’s, rooted in political expedience. Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, said last December: “Fracking should only go ahead if it is shown to be safe and environmentally sound.” This is weak to the point of being meaningless. We already know how sound it is – far less sound than a renewables.

The LibDem’s. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have been urged to “come clean” about their professional connections to firms engaged in fracking by Labour MP, Ian Lavery, who serves on the Commons Environment and Climate Change committee, who said: “It’s really a concerning fact because they’re in positions to move, shape and develop policy. They need to come clean, put their cards on the table and declare an interest particularly in the issue on shale gas and its potential development in the UK, particularly when fracking is causing great concern up and down the UK.”

The LibDems’ links with the BG Group caused controversy in 2011 over an alleged “cash-for-access” scandal. As part of a £1m party fundraising programme, the Liberal Democrats were found to have offered business lobbyists £25,000 to join the exclusive ‘Leader’s Forum’, which offered dinners with Nick Clegg. The ‘Leader’s Forum’ was promoted to lobbyists at a launch event, attended by Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander and Vince Cable alongside representatives of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance and the BG Group, as reported by PR Week.

Meanwhile, Cable served as Shell’s chief economist in 1995 to 1997, which also engages in fracking. In 2012, the Huffington Post UK revealed a letter describing him as “the contact minister for Shell.” The LibDem business secretary has mounted a robust defence of the coalition’s “reasonable” decision to award tax breaks to fracking firms. The government’s pro-fracking stance provoked derision from Lavery, who claimed: “Clegg and Cable are up to their neck in energy policy but is it a case that they’ve been paid for it in a previous life and they’re delivering on what they’d say they’d deliver?” So more doubt for us voters.

The Greens. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said that the senior LibDem’s links were a sign of the “pervasive” reach of the fracking industry. She continued, “I know there are lots of Lib Dem members and supporters who are shocked and dismayed that their party leaders are not just accepting fracking, but enthusiastically promoting it, with Energy Secretary Ed Davey recently deliberately repeating the phrase that he ‘loves it’. I’m not surprised that many people are highlighting the fact that the two most senior figures in the party have prominent links to the oil and gas industry in their employment past. The pervasive reach of the oil and gas industries (and a number of other industries, from tobacco firms to supermarkets) through our political system is a cause for grave concern. Voters have good cause to ask about whose interests are being represented.”

Kathryn McWhirter, from Balcombe, West Sussex, where protesters took direct action while energy company Cuadrilla conducted exploratory drilling at a site on the outskirts of the village last year, claimed Mr Cameron was simply giving out mis-information on fracking to the British public.

She said: “First, he said shale gas would lower prices and create vast numbers of jobs. Both claims have been shot down by his own advisers, yet he continues to repeat them. Now he wants to bribe local people and council planners – what a conflict of interest, what desperation. After two years’ sober research, we in Balcombe are all too aware of the hazards of modern fracking and our message to him is this: Our health and our environment are not for sale.”

To sum up, what we’re currently looking at from both sides, is electioneering dressed up as energy policy, with the inevitable result that an issue fraught with complexity and dilemma is presented as a simple two-way choice. On the left, you have renewables, sustainability, retrenchment; on the right, fracking, profit, growth. Fracking and windfarms are presented as polar opposites, when in fact any likely solution will involve both. The result is deadlock in public and deals in private, inevitably reducing public trust in politics more than ever. This is an issue that shows Westminster in the least flattering light.




Spring On The Coast

Thursday, March 13.

Enjoyable walk along the coast at Hastings Country Park…  Warm sunshine, little breeze, sleeves rolled up.  Saw the first sinister growing-tips of bracken appearing above the dry, brittle litter of last year’s growth.  Ants active and plenty of small tortoiseshell butterflies engrossed in courtship flights and of course, queen bumblebees on the wing.  Much evidence of landslips and also large pools of ‘set porridge’ of downwash at a number of locations below the dishevelled sandstone cliffs.  Early pm, and a sea fog crept in over the lower portions of the coast.

Robbed In Brighton!

There we were yesterday, a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon outside the Churchill Square mall in Brighton.  Being a little ‘peckish’ we had just crossed the road from M & S having bought two custard and apricot pastries.  As we passed one of several bus shelters eating our delicious pastries as we strolled, I suddenly felt something brush the left side of my head and face.  At the same time, I was aware of something happening to my right hand.

A herring gull had swooped down upon me, snatched my pastry held delicately in my hand and glided up on to the roof of the bus shelter several feet away!  It all happened so very quickly that it took several seconds to comprehend what had happened.  The first two things I recall afterwards was a nearby woman saying something like, ‘Bloody hell!’ and I looking round and up, to see the gull perched on the bus shelter’s curved roof, just getting over having gulped down half a sticky pastry!  I was really peeved.