Disaster of the EU Refeferendum

I found myself deeply saddened on hearing the outcome of the EU Referendum campaign on Friday morning, in fact, my stomach felt somewhat sick for quite some minutes.  I’ll grant that the current European Union is not perfect but Britain should have voted to stay, to be at the top table and to fight for reform from within it!

This potential disaster stems from out of our broken political system where a lack of proportional representation gives little chance of new parties, whether the Greens or Ukip or whoever, from breaking into the system and therefore better representing the electorate, leading to an increasingly divided society and country.

“[The referendum’s] sole purpose was to settle divisions within the Tory party and field the challenge from Ukip.”  Gary Younge, The Guardian Saturday, June 25 2016.

Serious domestic repercussions which the Leave campaign and those 52% who voted for it have failed to take into account are the scenarios of Scotland breaking away from the Union and, then there is the reawakened Irish question.

“Recklessly, casually, with barely a thought, English nationalists have planted a bomb under the settlement that brought peace to Northern Ireland and close cordiality to relations between Britain and Ireland.  …England has done a very bad day’s work for Ireland.  It is dragging Irish history along in its triumphal wake, like tin cans tied to a wedding car.”  Finton O’Toole, The Guardian Saturday, June 25 2016.

Many of the UK’s day to day standards and qualities of life are due to tough regulations imposed in place of previously lax and out-dated UK regulations – drinking water, river quality, habitat safeguards, sea and fishing regulations (and oh yes, our fishing fleet was fast disappearing before EU regs).  For example, there’s the labour directives, ease of inter-state trade, air quality and very importantly, Europe spoke with one voice at the climate change negotiations in Paris last December.

‘Very sad day for EU and for UK.  UK friends need help not isolation . Last wake-up call for all to stop the growing populism and strengthen EU.’  Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of UN International Resource Panel, Former European Commissioner for Environment.

So what of the future?  I of course hope that after the initial shocks, the economy settles down and we re-establish our place in the world order of economics, trade, fighting climate change and safeguarding environmental standards.  But with years more of Conservative government probably led by Brexiteers, a rudder-less Labour party (with Jeremy Corbyn described as ‘spineless’) and the Liberal Democrats still reeling from last year’s General Election mauling, the prognosis doesn’t look too good.  In fact, I fear for many of those EU laws referred to above which at the moment, we take for grant.

“How perverse that, thanks to a plebiscite about ending unelected power in Brussels, we shall [might well] have an unelected ruler in Westminster.”  Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian Saturday, June 25 2016.

It is reported that during the Brexit campaign Farming Minister and leading Leave campaigner George Eustice described wildlife protection laws as “spirit-crushing”, stating his desire to get rid of laws protecting our finest habitats and birds altogether.

‘Sadly, [the] environment played little role in referendum debate.  [This should] Means no mandate for govt to roll back environmental standards from EU.’  Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK Chief Scientist.

My generation – the so-called ‘Baby-Boomers’ (I’m well on the upper side of sixty!) have had a pretty charmed innings and largely been given everything: free education, a reasonable amount of disposable income, golden pensions, social mobility but many of them have voted to strip away much of the younger generations future.

‘’The Old have voted for a future the Young didn’t want, but who’ll live with the outcome for far longer.’  Akil N Awan, Academic at Royal Holloway University of London, work on terrorism, police violence, new media, religion and radicalisation.

Another thought from analysis on the voting was that education, or lack of, which had a strong bearing on the outcome with many of those who left school without reasonable qualifications voting Leave.  I also personally think that many of the more comfortably better-off in the English shires took a somewhat jaundiced ‘Little Englander’ attitude, ‘we’re all right Jack’ mentality and so voted Leave.

‘Saddest fact is that the people who voted ‘stuff you’ because their lives were tough will now get stuffed by the people who led them on.’  Jenni Russell, Columnist, The Times and Sunday Times.

‘It is in the UK’s economic and environmental interest to engage positively in international negotiations on climate change and other environmental issues and support the growth of its low carbon economy through national policy.’  Nick Molho, Executive director with the  Aldersgate Group and previously head of climate policy with WWF – UK.

The repercussions for Britain’s wildlife and funding for agri-environmental work carried out by farmers, local authorities and conservation charities could be dire.  For a good analysis on this aspect of the debate, visit Miles King’s blog    https://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/some-initial-thoughts-on-a-post-cap-farm-subsidy-system/

As far as Britain’s place in the world is concerned, this debacle will also undermine the UK’s global clout in institutions such as the UN security council, the G7 and NATO, assuming Little Britain still continues to have a seat in these august pillars of world politics.



Brexit Voters Almost Twice as Likely to Disbelieve in Climate Change


Adam Vaughan, Thursday 16 June 2016.

Brexit voters almost twice as likely to disbelieve in manmade climate change.


British people backing a leave vote in the EU referendum are almost twice as likely to believe that climate change does not have a human cause, according to a new poll.

Brexiters are more likely to think the media exaggerates how settled climate science is; distrust scientists; have sympathy with creationism; oppose onshore windfarms and support fracking.

The findings come in a ComRes poll of 1,618 people evenly split between those intending to vote out and in.

Many prominent leave campaigners are either openly opposed to action on climate change or have cast doubt on man’s role in it, including former chancellor Nigel Lawson, former environment secretary Owen Paterson and columnist Matthew Ridley.

Boris Johnson once penned a column suggesting snow on his windowsill means we should consider believing climate sceptics over governments and leading scientists across the world, but has not openly denied manmade climate change.

In the ComRes poll published on Thursday, 18% of leave voters and 10% of remain votes disagreed with the statement: “human activity is causing climate change.” Some 3% of leave voters said they didn’t know, versus 1% of remain voters.

The world’s top authority on climate science, the UN’s IPCC, says it is 95% certain that humans are responsible for global warming in recent decades.

Among leave voters, 68% agreed that “the media exaggerates the level of scientific agreement there is on human activity causing climate change”, compared to 52% of remain voters. But several studies have shown around 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is manmade.

The polling also found 44% of leavers thought scientists had too much influence on British politics against 25% of remainers, and 46% of leavers agreed that people who question the theory of evolution “have a point” compared to 36% of remainers.

On energy, leave voters were more likely to oppose onshore windfarms in rural areas (36% versus 21% of remain voters), and more likely to support increasing the use of fracking to extract shale gas (40% versus for 35%).

“It’s disheartening to see that so many people still refuse to acknowledge clear scientific knowledge, thereby undercutting the efforts of Britain’s world-leading scientists,” said Assaad Razzouk, CEO of cleantech firm Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, who commissioned the poll.

“Climate change denialism and anti-evolutionism are obvious hindrances to productive discussions about the future of Britain, Europe and indeed the world.”

Week Ending June 18th.

Well, what ever happened to flaming June?

Have been charmed lately by three pairs of ‘tame’ wood pigeons that seem to think they have a right to keep dropping into my small garden despite there being often being two cats about.  Actually, they perform a very good service in that they mop-up the dropped seed from to suspended bird feeders, so reducing the risk of rats etc.  (When I lived in Hartfield, a family of badgers were often attracted by the dropped seed and therefore created a ‘no-planting’ zone in that area of the garden!).

During the evenings particularly of late, these pigeons spend a lot of time in a nearby ash tree browsing on the younger leaves towards/at the top of the tree.  I have not witnessed that before.

In the Ashdown Forest SSSI area, I have for a number of years been keeping an eye on a small colony of butterwort – eight plants within an area little bigger that the laptop I’m writing this on.  This year, one plant has two flower spikes on it; image attached.  These tiny plants are insectivorous and are rare in southern England, they only being found in wet conditions on acid soils.P1000097

Less Meat Eating Equals Less Global Warming


March 22 2016.

Marco Springmann, Researcher, University of Oxford.

Eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on red and processed meat will make you healthier. That’s obvious enough. But as chickens and cows themselves eat food and burn off their own energy, meat is also major driver of climate change. Going veggie can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.


This is all at a personal level. What about when you multiply such changes by 7 billion people, and factor in a growing population?

In our latest research, colleagues and I estimate that changes towards more plant-based diets in line with the WHO’s global dietary guidelines could avert 5m-8m deaths per year by 2050. This represents a 6-10% reduction in global mortality.

Food-related greenhouse gas emissions would also be cut by more than two thirds. In all, these dietary changes would have a value to society of more than US$1 trillion – even as much as US$30 trillion. That’s up to a tenth of the likely global GDP in 2050. Our results are published in the journal PNAS.

Future projections of diets paint a grim picture. Fruit and vegetable consumption is expected to increase, but so is red meat consumption and the amount of calories eaten in general. Of the 105 world regions included in our study, fewer than a third are on course to meet dietary recommendations.

A bigger population, eating a worse diet, means that by 2050 food-related GHG emissions will take up half of the “emissions budget” the world has for limiting global warming to less than 2℃.

To see how dietary changes could avert such a doom and gloom scenario, we constructed four alternative diets and analysed their health and environmental impacts: one reference scenario based on projections of diets in 2050; a scenario based on global dietary guidelines which includes minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits to the amount of red meat, sugar, and total calories; and two vegetarian scenarios, one including eggs and dairy (lacto-ovo vegetarian), and the other completely plant-based (vegan).

Millions of avoidable deaths.

We found that adoption of global dietary guidelines could result in 5.1m avoided deaths per year in 2050. Vegetarian and vegan diets could result in 7.3m and 8.1m avoided deaths respectively. About half of this is thanks to eating less red meat. The other half comes thanks to eating more fruit and veg, along with a reduction in total energy intake (and the associated decreases in obesity).

There are huge regional variations. About two thirds of the health benefits of dietary change are projected to occur in developing countries, in particular in East Asia and South Asia. But high-income countries closely follow, and the per-person benefits in developed countries could actually be twice as large as those in developing countries, as their relatively more imbalanced diets leave greater room for improvement.

Room for improvement.

China would see the largest health benefits, with around 1.4m to 1.7m averted deaths per year. Cutting red meat and reducing general overconsumption would be the most important factor there and in other big beneficiaries such as the EU and the US. In India, however, up to a million deaths per year would be avoided largely thanks to eating more fruit and vegetables.

Russia and other Eastern European countries would see huge benefits per-person, in particular due to less red meat consumption. People in small island nations such as Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago would benefit due to reduced obesity.

Vegans vs climate change?

We estimated that adopting global dietary guidelines would cut food-related emissions by 29%. But even this still wouldn’t be enough to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions in line with the overall cutbacks necessary to keep global temperature increases below 2°C.

To seriously fight climate change, more plant-based diets will be needed. Our analysis shows if the world went vegetarian that cut in food-related emissions would rise to 63%. And if everyone turned vegan? A huge 70%.

What’s it worth?

Dietary changes would have huge economic benefits, leading to savings of US$700-1,000 billion per year globally in healthcare, unpaid informal care and lost working days. The value that society places on the reduced risk of dying could even be as high as 9-13% of global GDP, or US$20-$30 trillion. Avoided climate change damages from reduced food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as US$570 billion.

Putting a dollar value on good health and the environment is a sensitive issue. However, our results indicate that dietary changes could have large benefits to society, and the value of those benefits makes a strong case for healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.

The scale of the task is clearly enormous. Fruit and vegetable production and consumption would need to more than double in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia just to meet global dietary recommendations, whereas red meat consumption would need to be halved globally, and cut by two thirds in richer countries. We’d also need to tackle the key problem of overconsumption. It’s a lot to chew on.

Offshore Wind Farm That Can Store Generated Energy


First offshore wind farm ‘to save energy’ creates ripple effect

Brian Donnelly, Senior News Reporter /  @BrianDonnellyHT

THE world’s first offshore windfarm that can store generated energy equal to the capacity of 2 million iPhones is set to be installed off the coast of Scotland. Dubbed ‘Batwind’, the project will see five floating turbines positioned in waters north of Aberdeen acting as a windfarm battery system which could prove revolutionary to the industry,

Statoil, the [Norwegian] gas and oil firm behind the innovative project, is installing the floating turbine project about 15 miles off the coast of Peterhead,

Higher costs required to store energy have prevented feasible schemes being set up until now.

But it has been claimed that 55 out of the 420 Renewable UK group members are now investing millions in similar plans.

Stephen Bull, the senior vice-president for offshore wind at Statoil, said that including a storage option to increasing renewable supplies could give renewable firms a firmer footing to challenge conventional power stations.

“We are going into a brave new world of energy in the UK,” he said. “For coal this knocks them out and potentially old nuclear as well.”

And he added: “By developing innovative battery storage solutions, we can improve the value of wind energy for both Statoil and customers.

“With Batwind, we can optimise the energy system from wind park to grid. Battery storage represents a new application in our offshore wind portfolio, contributing to realising our ambition of profitable growth in this area.”

A structured programme is now being established to support and fund innovation in battery storage areas between Statoil and Scottish industry and academia.

This programme will be managed by ORE Catapult and Scottish Enterprise.

“We are very pleased to develop and demonstrate this concept in Scotland, which has a huge wind resource, strong academic institutions and an experienced supply chain,” said Mr Bull.

“The agreement between Statoil, the Scottish Government, ORE Catapult and Scottish Enterprise represents a unique opportunity for government, researchers and industry to work together to develop new energy solutions for the global market.”

Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Energy Minister, said earlier that “the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding will allow the signatories to work together in the development of the Batwind battery storage solution. This will help maximise the renewable generation of the Hywind offshore wind farm, whilst informing the case for energy storage and demonstrating the technology’s ability to support renewables in Scotland and internationally.”

“A recent industry and government report, produced by the Carbon Trust, concluded that if the energy market was adapted to appropriately recognise the benefits of electricity storage to the wider system, this could lead to savings of up to £50 a year on an average energy bill and a system wide saving of up to £2.4bn a year by 2030.”

Maggie McGinlay, of Scottish Enterprise, said: “We’ve worked with Statoil for a number of years to deliver the Hywind project, so it’s fantastic to remain involved in this next stage of battery storage innovation.

“This is exactly the kind of innovation in the energy sector we’re keen to encourage and support as it may have potential to advance industry growth in Scotland.”

An Approach to Carry Out Limited Protection of Elm Trees

Here is an article on an approach to carry out limited protection of our elm trees but is only suitable for non-diseased prime specimens as it has to be repeated every year.


dutchtrig_injection_vierkant_home3Dutch Trig®

History of Dutch Trig®

Dutch Trig® is a preventative vaccination for elms developed by the University of Amsterdam at the end of the 1980’s. In the Netherlands the need for this biological vaccine for elm trees to prevent Dutch elm disease was, and is very high because of the ban on use of chemicals on street and park trees.

What is Dutch Trig®?

Dutch Trig® is a non-chemical, non-toxic, biological control agent, or vaccine. The vaccine consists of a suspension of spores of a very specific strain of the fungus Verticillium, (not genetically modified), in distilled water. This spore suspension is injected in the elm in spring.

Where does Dutch Trig® come from?

The Verticillium albo-atrum used in Dutch Trig® was originally isolated from a potato field in the Netherlands. Verticillium itself is a natural soil borne fungus occurring all over the world, of which several species are capable of infecting many species of herbaceous and some woody plant species through damaged roots. Normally, natural strains of Verticillium(of both dahliae and albo-atrum species) infect the xylem tissue and cause wilting symptoms.

How does it work?

The strain of Verticillium albo-atrum used in Dutch Trig® is a natural hyaline (or white) variant of the natural strain. This specific hyaline strain of Verticillium has lost so much of its pathogenic capabilities that it no longer is able to cause wilting symptoms on trees any more. The strain has still a little of its original pathogenicity left, which is just enough to induce an immune response in the elm after injection. Dutch Trig® can be seen as a catalyst, which induces an immune response in a healthy elm tree that will protect it against Dutch elm disease during one growing season. This is called induced resistance. After injection, with its defence mechanisms up and running throughout the growing season, the elm is able to successfully fend off Dutch elm disease infections later in the growing season.

In practice, it can be compared with an influenza vaccination. Dutch Trig® does not make healthy elms sick, but prepares them for any onslaught of Ophiostoma novo-ulmi carried by elm bark beetle. Because elm trees grow a new outer layer of sapwood on the trunk and branches every year, which is separated from the growth of previous years (heartwood), the treatment has to be repeated annually.

Where does the vaccine go?

Dutch Trig’s mode of action is based on inducing natural resistance in healthy elms. This means that there is no relation or direct interaction between the Dutch Trig® and the Dutch elm disease fungus. Dutch Trig® does not produce any phytotoxins in the elm to fend of the Dutch elm disease infection, nor does it “grow all throughout the trees xylem tissue where otherwise Ophiostoma would grow”. The vaccine does not “travel” to the elms branches, roots, or leafs.

In fact, after injection, Dutch Trig® stays within a circle of 4 inches around the point of injection in the trunk, and within two to three weeks after injection, the elm has removed all the injected Verticillium from its xylem tissue. Two weeks after injection, Dutch Trig® can no longer be re-isolated from the injected tree.

The vaccine has no curative properties. Vaccinating elm trees which already have Dutch elm disease is of no use. Injecting disease trees can be compared to vaccinating humans after they already have fallen ill, which is of no use because the body will already be at work trying to get the disease out.

Is Dutch Trig® harmful?

Dutch Trig® is safe for humans and animals, because Verticillium is not a human or an animal pathogen and because the vaccine has no chemical or toxic substances. Dutch Trig® is safe for trees too: Dutch Trig® has been injected in several tree species (amongst which Verticillium susceptible species such as maple) to check in the vaccine would induce any wilting. None of the injected species showed any signs of wilting after injection (for species injected see list below).

Acer macrophyllum

Acer saccharum

Aesculus hippocastanum

Betula papyrifera

Castanea spp.

Cornus nuttallii

Crataegus monogyna

Fagus spp.

Magnolia spp.

Malus spp.

Prunus lusitanica

Prunus serrata

Quercus rubra

Rhododendron spp.

Sorbus aucuparia

Ulmus americana

  1. carpinifolia
  2. hollandica
  3. laevis
  4. procera
  5. pumila

Viburnum spp.

Does the vaccine have any side effects on treated trees?

Wilting of trunk suckersDutch Trig® does not have any significant side effects on the treated trees. The only one visible side effect of the Dutch Trig® injection so far has been noted on a few trees in the US, showing wilting of specific suckers low on the trunk of the elm, above the site of injection. The wilted trunk suckers would sprout new leaves later in the growing season.

Week Ending Saturday, June 4th.

Early in the week, I had to check the 12 ponies on the combined commons at Chailey.  They were together with the 9 longhorn cattle, both groups in exactly the same spots, the ponies grazing, the cattle laying down chewing the cud, again exactly the same.  Very dé-jà vu!

Wednesday, 1st.  A cold, windy and at times, wet day with the wind from the north-west and unseasonably cool.  There’s still a lot of truth in the old saying, ‘cast not a clout till May is out.’  I always maintain the weather is always very variable through much of this month of May.

As I was leaving the downland escarpment above Berwick, driving parallel along the base of a spur that runs out from the main escarpment, I noticed about 200m, away a buzzard making hard work of gaining height, into the strong wind.  What really caught my eye, was what was hanging from its talons?  I quickly reached for my binoculars and trained them on the bird; it had caught a middling-sized rabbit which was held by its back, the rabbit appearing to be looking down though in reality it was probably dead.  Having gained a considerable height, it then let the wind carry it away to the south-east and out of site over the spur.

Thursday, 2nd.  Whilst checking out a potential pony grazing site that the Trust had been approached about to the east of Woodingdean, I walked past a small, isolated group of elm trees high up on the wind-swept Downs just to the lee of the crest of the hill.  I last walked past these in the early 1970’s with a party being led by my great friend, David Harvey of the then Nature Conservancy Council.  I believe they might be of the Cornish clone of the smooth-leaved group?  Anyway, they are currently free of the dreaded dutch elm disease.

Saturday, 4th.  Whilst driving home, particularly in the Wilmington/Berwick area, I was amazed by the number of moths on the wing.  They were probably very largely, all a small whitish specie.  The last time i saw numbers like that was whilst driving one evening in the Brecon Beacons nearly 20 years ago.