In this Issue
- Event of the Quarter:
- Should We Be Concerned?
- Forthcoming Events:
- 28th October – Carbon Footprint Workshop
- TBC – Water Security
- God Save the King
- Tackling the Cost of Living
- Natural Flood Management
- And Now We Pollute Space
- Recent Events:
- Talk – “Eat Meat & Save the Planet”
- Project – Fuel Poverty
Event of the Quarter
Should we be Concerned?: The event of the quarter was, for us, without question the heatwave we lived through in July and August, which as the Met Office issued its most severe alert, prompted the declaration of a national emergency.
Yet, if we look further afield for the most punishing climate catastrophe of the quarter, it is possible that you will agree that Pakistan’s devastating floods are the front runner – 33 million people are affected!
What is perhaps of particular concern is that both events can be linked to rising temperatures, which scientists have described as “shockingly almost identical” to those previously predicted for 2050.
If we are in the 2050s now, where will we be by 2050, by 2080, or by the end of the century?
Forecasters predict that on present form the 2080ies could well see UK temperature extremes of 45º to 50ºC, and those for the end of the century 55º to 60ºC. This Met Office clip outlines one possible scenario Future weather forecast for the year 2050 – Met Office.
In the case of Pakistan, by 2050, in what seems a total contradiction vis a vis the current situation, the IPCC says it is highly likely that as a climate change “hotspot”, it will run out of water. An existential crisis therefore. for a variety of reasons explained here https://www.geo.tv/latest/198488-pakistans-water-taps-to-run-dry-by-2025. Imagine being without water!
It was in Eco News Q3/2017 that we quoted James Lovelock’s warning of 2008 – “enjoy life while you can, in 20 years global warming will hit the fan”. In his book, “The Revenge of Gaia” (published 2007), he predicts that by 2020 extreme weather will be the norm, causing global devastation; and that by 2040 much of Europe will be Saharan, and parts of London underwater.
The latest IPCC report (February 2022) corroborates that statement in less dramatic language, and concludes that the danger signals are already here – “Climate change including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes have reduced food and water security”.
We have already been told that extreme heat will impact our lives in such a way that even the fit and the healthy are at risk of illness and death. For more detail on these risks see our article “Temperature & Its Effect on Life” posted a year ago in our Q3/2021 newsletter, reproduced on this link https://www.quantockeco.org.uk/2021/09/25/eco-news-q3-2021/.
Global Surface Temperature Increases Relative to 1850 – 1900
We also know that regular droughts followed by floods will increase the risk of food shortages. The former will upset farming schedules, while the latter washes away both soil and livelihoods, as in Pakistan.
The evidence that we will have water shortages in Europe is also stacking up. A lack of rain combined with successive heatwaves are drying both rivers and aquifers across the globe. The Thames, the Rhine, the Danube, and many other major economic waterways (as the Yangtze) are all victims.
As Earth warms and droughts intensify, these pressures will increase. Will COP27 change attitudes and force urgent, effective, global action? Will it bring a new unified, Covid-style reaction, to resolving the Planet’s illness? The irony is that COP27 will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh on the edge of the Sinai desert, and COP28 in the UAE, a desert country. Is that a portent of Hope, or a portent of what’s to come?
It is difficult to be optimistic.
Carbon Footprint Workshop: On Friday 28th October we shall be repeating this highly successful workshop. We believe that one of the best ways to reduce emissions is for individuals to know how their own lifestyle affects Climate Change.
Please do not miss this opportunity to gain that insight. The process is very simple. Three weeks before the event we shall send out an invitation to participate in all our media. It will be accompanied by the link to the questionnaire which everyone will be encouraged to use. It is a very user friendly and informative site.
By taking part in our workshop you will be able not only to determine your own impact on Climate Change, but also see how you compare with other similar households in the community, and, most important, what steps you might take to improve your footprint.
The world is in crisis and it is up to all of us to fix it. We cannot rely on politicians alone to do so. Our part in doing our bit is fundamental to success.
For those of you who have been to our previous workshops and made pledges to improve, do come again; see whether you have met your objectives, and share your experience with others.
Water Security: We are in conversation with Wessex Water with the expectation that they will be able to provide a speaker on this subject. Should all go well the talk will be held on the last Friday of November or the first in December. For the time being please pencil in the date. We hope to have firm details early in October.
God save the King: Our most sincere condolences to the royal family for the loss of Queen Elizabeth II. She was a towering example of stability, fortitude and integrity. A figure which makes one proud to be British.
You may find viewing this video of particular interest – https://youtu.be/j1EUsGrIgMY. In many respects it is historical, as such opinions may no longer be expressed by a constitutional monarch. The Queen is dead, long live the King.
Tackling the Cost of Living: This article has been written by Ian Myers, our co-chairman.
Everyone will have noticed that inflation and the cost of living are increasing. A 7% rise over seven years means that everything is 50% more expensive.
We also know that the levels of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere are increasing along with emissions. These things are connected as everything is related to the cost of fossil fuels that we continue to burn.
We live on a crowded planet with dwindling resources, so regardless of what happens to the cost of energy even on its own, prices of other commodities are likely to continue to rise. It’s a basic supply and demand law of economics. That sounds incredibly challenging but there are many ways in which we can save money and tackle climate change.
We are very aware of these cost pressures at this current time but we also need to think about them over the longer term and make investments that help reduce energy costs that will inevitably rise, so you can save money for many years to come. Below are a few ideas that might help.
- Don’t waste food especially high-cost items like cheese or meat.
- Better still avoid expensive meat and dairy entirely – there are plenty of other plant-based proteins that are usually far cheaper.
- Stale bread can be made into breadcrumbs even after freezing – the Italians and French have created many wonderful recipes.
- Buy vegetables in season they are often cheaper
- Buy in bulk and make food to freeze. If all else fails, you can always make soup.
- When buying food be aware of use by dates to avoid waste and look for the cost per kg rather than pack price.
- You can make your own alcohol – people have been doing this locally for years – cider is relatively easy.
- Grow food, get an allotment or use any patch of land – even fruit or nut trees can provide some food in a garden.
- Turn on hot water systems when you need them
- Turn down the heating – even one degree saves quite a bit.
- Adjust heating settings according to the weather. You don’t need heating on a set time
- Use a flask to store hot water in your kettle and never overfill
- Use pan lids when cooking – you can turn down the gas
- Wear a jumper or two or three.
- Move – being static can often shuts down your natural heating system – you’ll burn some ‘middle age’ spread and turn it into heat
- Check for draughts – so much energy can be wasted through even small draughts – it’s cheap, easy and makes a difference
- Think about PV panels – it’s an high cost up-front investment but prices have reduced massively, the technology is ‘fit and forget’ and reliable for over 25 + years – it may even be worth taking a loan.
- Insulation saves you money – look for where can you maximise it.
- Do an energy audit – what do you use, how and when.
- Buy energy efficient products – always
- Don’t leave anything on standby – ever
- Turn off your Wi-Fi at night – you won’t need it when you are asleep.
- Obviously don’t leave lights on but it’s actually cheaper and reduces carbon to change bulbs to LEDs immediately rather than hanging on to old bulbs. Change high use bulbs first.
- Avoid buying stuff – do you really need it?
- Avoid driving, get rid of your car(s) entirely maybe – join a car club or hire
- Stay local and do UK holidays or take ferries rather than long haul flights.
- Get a bike, electric bike or use public transport – off peak train travel can be cheap
- Lift share or work from home if you can
So, in conclusion you can save money and reduce your carbon impact. Regardless we need to face up to this new reality and the cost for power remaining high. We need to change our relationship with energy for many reasons – we can’t afford not to.
Natural Flood Management: This article has been written by Charlie and Emma Pascall, who have offered to share their experience with slowing the flow.
Early in 2020 Quantock Eco, organised a meeting for local land owners to meet Carina Gaertner of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) who had been given funds by DEFRA to implement the ‘Two Valleys Slow the Flow’ project.
This involved the Monksilver and Doniford streams catchment areas. She could fund any schemes that would slow the flow in the streams such as leaky woody damns or creating wet areas that would hold water. She could also fund cross slope hedge and tree planting that would slow water entering the streams. Although the primary aim is flood prevention, a major added benefit is to create wildlife habitat.
Emma and I were keen to get involved as we wanted to increase the woodland on our land and improve the management of our streams for wildlife. We walked our land with Carina in the summer of 2020 and she agreed to fund 3 new hedges of totalling 300 metres with fencing and to plant 3 areas of woodland totalling 1.5 acres, also with fencing. We also agreed to the construction of 30 woody damns on 2 streams. Our son-in-law won the contract so we were all involved in the work which was undertaken in the winter of 2020-2021.
In 2021 Carina Gaertner had to return to Germany and WWT replaced her with Bryony Wilde. Bryony was very keen to implement two scrapes on our land adjoining streams allowing water to flow into them when the stream levels rose in wet weather. These were created in the autumn of 2021 and planted with a variety of native wetland plants. Livestock fences with gates were erected around them.
We have a meadow beside the Doniford Stream, two acres of which floods for several months of the year.
Bryony Wilde of WWT designed a scheme to build a silt trap and three ponds fed by diverting part of the stream. This was a major project as we also had to remove the top soil from ½ acre of the dry part of the meadow, spread the subsoil from digging the ponds, then put the topsoil back, cultivate and reseed it. Bryony Wilde left in January 2022 and passed the project on to Milly Bowden of FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group). She project managed this and it was undertaken in May this year by Rob Barons of Gerald Barons and Son, local ground work contractors. They also planted 1500 native wetland plants and 30 trees.
The DEFRA funding for ‘The Two Valleys Slow the Flow’ project has now ended, but WWT are continuing to monitor water quality and aquatic wildlife in the streams. Their provisional results are very encouraging in that water quality has improved and number of organisms per litre of water has increased where the ‘slow the flow’ projects have been undertaken.
Milly Bowden, Farm Environment Adviser at FWAG would be keen to give advice on any tree planting, hedging or wetland creation projects. She would be happy to apply for grants for funding. Indeed she has obtained partial funding from the Somerset Rivers Authority for a 330 metre hedge with fencing that we planted last winter.
Milly can be contacted through the FWAG office at Wellington, Tel. 01823 660684, or on her mobile, 07483 051798.
And Now We Pollute Space: We all know that Humanity has created a huge waste problem on Earth. We have heard the mantra Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle constantly over the last decade, as we struggle to contain the damage which we have already done to both land and sea.
Now incorrigible Humanity is also polluting Earth’s “orbital environment”. Space is of course remote; we can neither see it, nor comprehend it from down here; so surely we can be forgiven if we have shown nil concern.
Yet, cannot ignore the European Space Agency warning that space debris in “low Earth orbit” is on the increase, and poses serious risks to communication satellites, the International Space Station and the like, as well as to future space missions.
It is scientists say “a mess up there”, as they call for its protection. It could have serious long-term consequences not only for scientific research, but also for our well-being, i.e. the people on the ground. “We are slowly trapping ourselves under an umbrella of space junk” said one!
The European Space Agency says it consists of objects ranging from small items such as bolts, old screwdrivers, plastic bags, paint flecks, broken pens, and bent CDs to large, decades-old, inoperative spacecraft.
It says the count of artificial objects that are greater than 10cm in length is likely to be approximately 34,000, with approximately 900,000 objects between 1cm and 10cm. For objects between 1mm and 1cm, the count is some 128 million!
And, junk of all sizes is on the increase!
There is therefore a strong case to consider near-Earth orbital space as another ecosystem. An ecosystem subject to the same care and regulations as the Planet’s oceans and land.
“Eat Meat & Save the Planet”: The very title of this talk, given by Hugh Warmington on 15th July, was challenging and was, as expected, challenged by several climate change supporters. In actual fact it was a thought stimulating, action provoking talk, and ranks among the best QE has put on. It laid a balanced, well explained and illustrated road map to do exactly what it says – eat meat and save the Planet.
The premise was that industrial agriculture was one of the most destructive industries we have, even more so than coal mining; and as such, was certainly not good for the Planet. He advocated regenerative agriculture as being the best solution for both the climate change crisis and human health.
He explained that low intensity, organic regenerative agriculture pays great rewards because it involves minimum soil disturbance, conserves living root systems, and fosters their symbiosis with the rich mycorrhiza beneath the surface.
Regenerative agriculture plays a most important part in the rearing of cattle as it recycles nutrients, provides just enough soil disturbance to enrich the soil, and helps the photosynthetic process produce sustainable green pastures.
This increases carbon in the soil, and that contributes to addressing climate change. It is, he maintained, the only method that can sustain a community, economy or nation.
It contrasts starkly with recent methods of ploughing land to grow grain which is then used as animal feed. Such feed not only has long supply chains, often extending to the Amazon; but also leads to the muddy water running down your lane and into our rivers. Evidence of how industrial farming causes nutrient rich soil to be washed away, only to be replaced by artificial fertilizers. No plough avoids such high-cost inputs and reduces carbon emissions.
Producing beef from cattle reared on regenerated pastures works in harmony with Nature. It is a process that has been used on the Planet’s grasslands, prairies and steppes for millennia – think bison, wildebeest.
It is a natural, cyclical process by which herds perform high intensity, mob grazing in one area; deposit natural fertiliser while doing so; and move on to new areas as grazed areas regenerate, ready for their return some time in the future. As the herd feeds and moves around it tramples decaying matter into the soil, fertilising it and helping store CO2 in the ground. The herd acts not only as mower, but also as fertiliser, trampler, decompactor, and inoculator for its offspring.
This age-old method results in a superb carbon sink, more fertile pastures and healthier animals; and that in turn explains why beef derived from such animals has been proven to be more nutritious than grain-fed beef.
A kilo of grass-fed beef has three times more Omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid than a kilo of lot-fed beef. It is also richer in vitamins A and E. It will, in a balanced diet, help lower blood pressure; reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, and cancer. Grain-fed beef is on the other hand, higher in overall fat and in artery-clogging saturated fat. (Editor – and, it doesn’t taste as good!).
Hugh’s conclusion was “It’s not the cow, but the how!”. He encouraged us to eat meat, but less of it; and to buy meat that is produced locally using organic, regenerative methods. He recognised that to move away from industrialised to regenerative farming and its associated diets, will require huge cultural change.
So, “It’s not the cow, but the how!” And that begs the question “How can we all pull together to make the quantum cultural change that is needed?”
Hominoids have been eating meat for over 2.6 million years, ever since homo erectus stood up, looked over the top of the tall grass and spied that succulent mammoth. Anthropologists say the result was that erectus developed a bigger brain and went on to become sapiens, while the herbivores remained in the trees. Is that not a good reason for not giving it up?
The USA, the lead influencer of the 20th century, is the largest producer of beef on the Planet; but 96% of its production is lot-fed. That not only affects the nutritional value of the final product, but also employs huge swaths of ploughed, re-ploughed and artificially fertilised land for the production of feed. Is that not a waste of resources?
One can understand why it is a favoured method – producers turn their capital over three times a year as opposed to one (if that) for pasture fed production. Profit is the driver, and wins again! Can we really ask producers to invest for a lesser return?
To add to that conundrum, is not the principal problem that there are too many of us? Eight billion on a Planet that can only sustain four and half billion. Is it not understandable that those who have not been able to afford beef for decades should aspire to have it as their income increases? What is the right balance?
Project – Fuel Poverty: Our strategy has now been agreed and we are working with Danesfield School Family and Parent Support personnel to formulate the budget requirements for our Pilot Study of 10 households. The school has direct contact with families in need of help, which helps us enter a household with an established trust link.
Once our Budget has been established we shall apply for funding to carry our Pilot Study. On its completion we shall move forward to doing similar work with schools in Taunton and Bridgwater.
Our Mission Statement is:
The very high percentage of households in fuel poverty in West Somerset is a huge concern for all. It is a socio-economic problem driven by the energy efficiency of the property, the cost of energy, and household disposable income.
It affects households with children hardest, as this demographic is particularly sensitive to changes in the economy. In 2019 over three million households in England (13·4%) were fuel-poor. Of these over 40% included children, with lone-parent families showing the highest rate at 28%.
The Lancet states categorically that infants in cold houses risk lifelong “pulmonary function deficit”, and underlines its concern with “In the UK the harms of fuel poverty to children remain unaddressed, because children are not considered a priority”.
We know that draughts account for a substantial proportion of heat loss (it can be as much as 50%), yet it too is unaddressed in Government funding programmes. This despite the fact that draughtproofing is a simple, cost efficient, effective way to make homes warmer.
Our Fuel Poverty project mission is to help in these two neglected areas – the little recognised effect of fuel poverty on the health of children, and the lack of government support for draughtproofing.
In draughtproofing households in this socioeconomic group we aim to help create warmer homes by the simplest means, at no additional cost to the householder.
We know from our contacts with local schools that many pupils come from families which face the cruel dilemma of whether to eat and not heat, or heat and not eat. As a result we agreed that the best way of fulfilling our aim is to work in partnership with schools. They will give us a trusted, well focused entry to the homes in greatest need, and reap benefit for their pupils.
The QE team formed to lead this project consists of a well-renowned heat loss engineer, an experienced community support worker, a landlord with great experience in the construction and design of houses, a retired businessman, and the Family & Parent Support persons in West Somerset schools.
This is the talent base from of which our Fuel Poverty objectives are being developed and will be executed.
We welcome discussion, so please let us have your views by email at email@example.com.
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