The sun is shining, the snow is melting, the daffodils are out, it is marginally above zero.
The first week of spring.
The cold winter weather is projected to continue for the next 2-3 weeks.
The sun is shining, the snow is melting, the daffodils are out, it is marginally above zero.
The first week of spring.
The cold winter weather is projected to continue for the next 2-3 weeks.
“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.
Since coming to power the ConDem government has declared war on the poor, the disadvantaged, the arts, science, welfare budgets have been cut, the Tories are now bragging they intend to cut a further £10 billion from welfare budgets, libraries closed, a failed attempt was made to sell off our historic forests for commercial exploitation. Now they are wishing to destroy the British Antarctic Survey.
Everyone has heard of Scott of the Antarctic, the ill-fated attempt by Captain Scott to reach the South Pole and how he and his team died in the attempt. But even if they had succeeded they would have found they were beaten by a Norwegian team.
A legacy of Scott is the British Antarctic Survey. It was the British Antarctic Survey that discovered the hole in the ozone layer.
At a time of global warming, with warming taking place much faster at the Polar Regions, we need the British Antarctic Survey more than ever before, were the west Antarctic ice sheet to collapse sea levels would rise by 3 metres wiping out many coastal cities including London, and yet the ConDem government wish to abolish the British Antarctic Survey based in Cambridge. They wish to merge it with National Oceanography Centre based in Southampton and Liverpool.
To put a 3m rise in sea level in context, the Thames Barrier was built to cope with a 16cm rise in sea level over the next 20 years.
This summer has seen more melting of the Arctic ice beating previous records. The ice is melting far faster than previously forecast leading to the very real possibility of the Arctic free of ice during the summer within the next ten years.
The British Antarctic Survey carries out research and collects data on climate change, ice dynamics, ecosystems and fisheries, work that is vital to understanding climate change.
Next month a 12-strong team will use a custom-built hot-water drill to penetrate a three-kilometre layer of ice to reach the waters of the subglacial Lake Ellsworth on the west Antarctic ice sheet. Sixteen years to plan, this investigation will open new research into the Earth’s past climate and possibly could find new life forms or if not, the limit at which life can exist.
The Cambridge headquarters will be closed, the name lost (losing the link with Scott). This will pave the way for later sell-off of ships, aircraft, the closure of bases, redundancies, lose of expertise.
Already senior personel have left seeing no future for the British Antarctic Survey.
Only the ConDem government could be this foolish, this shortsighted.
Please sign the petition opposing abolition of the British Antarctic Survey. Please pass to all your friends and colleagues and ask them to sign.
Well done Climate Rush who this morning gave two Cabinet Ministers an early morning wake-up call. Between 5.30am and 7.00am Philip Hammond MP and Vince Cable MP had their homes wrapped in ‘Climate Crime Scene’ tape as part of Climate Rush’s doorstep protest.
On their first day back in Parliament after half term Ministers were called on to attend the United Nation Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which began yesterday and will last two weeks. Climate Rush stuck banners to Cable’s and Hammond’s house reading ‘THERE’S NO PLANET B – SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE’.
Both Vince Cable MP and Philip Hammond MP clashed with Chris Huhne MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change over proposals for the fourth carbon budget. The Prime Minister eventually stepped in, supporting Chris Huhne and the Climate Change Act – legislation passed by the last Government.
Demands for greater Government action on climate change follows news that the greatest level of greenhouse gas emissions ever were released last year, contrary to expectations that the global recession would decrease global emissions. 
Philip Hammond MP and the Department for Transport has been condemned by environmentalists as Hammond is opposed to the inclusion of Canadian Tar Sands oil in the EU fuel directive. England and Holland are the only EU countries opposing the inclusion of Tar Sands from this directive. Extraction of crude oil from the Tar Sands is up to three times more carbon intensive than other crude oil extraction methods . Hammond also plans to hike rail fares by 31% over the course of this Government.
Before election Vince Cable assured voters that economic growth would go hand in hand with green investment, however he now says that there will be no new investment in low-carbon technology until the second half of 2020. 
A blue chalk line was marked on the brickwork of the Ministers’ homes to show the danger of floods due to sea-level rises.
Tamsin Omond, founder of Climate Rush, said:
Climate Rush is ready to hold this Government to its promise to be the greenest ever. We need a roadmap with policies that unite the needs of the environment with the need for economic growth. This Government might be considering a plan B for the economy. They don’t have that luxury with our environment: there is no planet B. Cabinet ministers that oppose these measures are gambling with our future. We need to prepare for the impacts of climate change and we need to limit our carbon emissions now. There’s no future for this or any Government on a dead planet.
It is easy to see why the LibDems were all but wiped out at the local elections in May. It was Vince Cable who helped pushed through the massive hike im student fees last year. More recently Vince Cable has threatened to push through legislation to make industrial action against public spending cuts illegal.
Climate Rush is an environmental action group which models itself on the Suffragettes. They have mounted over 20 environmental protests including storming Parliament with 1000 members dressed as Suffragettes; closing down Heathrow Terminal 1 by holding an Edwardian-style picnic and dumping a large pile of manure on Jeremy Clarkson’s lawn. They aim to raise awareness about climate change and encourage action to prevent it.
It has been unseasonably warm. We seem to have skipped Spring and gone straight to Summer.
Last Tuesday it was 26 degrees in London. Friday it hit 27 degrees, well ok, 26.9 if you wish to be accurate. Saturday it was 28 degrees at Wisley Gardens just outside Guildford, the hottest April Day since 1948!
We are a month ahead of where we would be. Parts of my garden are overgrown, but would not usually be like this until this time in May.
Peas, broad beans are all shooting up, roses are in bud.
Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are a woodland plant. First come the primroses, then the bluebells.
In the Spring, bluebell woods are carpeted with bluebells. Bluebell is an indicator species of ancient woodlands. In the United Kingdom the common bluebell is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Landowners are prohibited from removing common bluebells on their land for sale and it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild common bluebells. This legislation was strengthened in 1998 under Schedule 8 of the Act making any trade in wild common bluebell bulbs or seeds an offence.
Gerard Manley Hopkins from his poem May Magnificat:
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
Up until the 1950s, pastures would have been carpeted with cowslips (Primula veris). Now with the extensive use of herbicides and modern farming methods, cowslips are quite rare. Cowslips will quite readily cross-breed with primroses (Primula vulgaris), a plant of woodlands and woody banks. Compared with primulas, a border plant in gardens, cowslips are very delicate and far more attractive.
Primula is a genus of 400–500 species of low-growing herbs in the family Primulaceae. The genus includes primrose, auricula, cowslip and oxlip. Many species are grown for their ornamental flowers. They are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere, south into tropical mountains in Ethiopia, Indonesia and New Guinea, and in temperate southern South America.
On the Morning of January the 14th a group of protestors invaded the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and are demanding a meeting with Stephen Green, the new Minister for Trade. Calling themselves the “Big Society Trade Negotiators”, they are concerned that trade negotiations between the EU and Canada, due to start in Brussels on Monday, will dramatically boost Europe’s involvement in the Canadian Tar Sands — the most destructive project on earth.
Unbeknownst to most citizens, the EU and Canada are in the midst of negotiating an ambitious free trade deal (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA) that could open up the European market to imports of carbon-intensive Tar Sands oil for the first time . Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the talks is the plan to allow multinational companies like BP and Shell to sue national governments over social and environmental regulations . This is happening despite the increasingly urgent need for governments to crack down on the destructive and dangerous activities of such companies.
British shareholders, NGOs and campaigners have expressed increasing concern over the involvement of UK banks and oil companies in the highly polluting extraction of “dirty oil” from the Tar Sands . Emitting three to five times as much CO2 as conventional oil drilling, the Tar Sands industry is destroying the livelihoods and health of local Indigenous communities and decimating ancient forests and wildlife across an area of Alberta larger than England . The proposed trade deal would increase Europe’s involvement in the project and significantly expand the market for this dirty oil.
There will be another protest in Brussels on Monday 17th January outside the negotiations themselves, involving UK, European and Canadian groups, and Indigenous activists .
Jess Worth from the UK Tar Sands Network said: “Stephen Green has been parachuted in by the coalition government as Trade Minister. Completely unelected, this former Chair of HSBC was rapidly handed a seat in the Lords and then began his new job on the 1st of January. Given that HSBC is the world’s 13th largest investor in the Tar Sands, we are concerned that he will put the interests of oil companies and the Tar Sands industry ahead of environmental and social concerns in these, his first major trade negotiations. So the Big Society Trade Negotiators have come to help him make the right decisions.”
Emily Coats, also from the UK Tar Sands Network, added “The CETA trade negotiations between Canada and the EU are in full swing, yet most citizens have never heard of them. Climate scientists have warned that further Tar Sands extraction could lock us into disastrous and unstoppable climate change, but Europe is sleepwalking into major involvement with the project. We’re calling for the talks to be put on hold until there can be proper public scrutiny, and the many social, environmental and Indigenous rights problems can be addressed.”
FULL BRIEFING AVAILABLE HERE Stop Tar Sands Trade Talks!
Notes for editors
 The CETA negotiations are about halfway through and due to be completed towards the end of 2011. The next round of talks will take place in Brussels next week.
 For a full explanation of the problems with CETA, please see “Keep Europe out of the Tar Sands!”, a briefing by Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network and UK Tar Sands Network, available at
 The last 18 months have seen a growing number of organisations taking action against British banks and companies with links to the Tar Sands. Both BP and Shell have faced shareholder resolutions over their Tar Sands investments, as well as protests at their offices and petrol stations. The Royal Bank of Scotland has also come under fire for being the 7th largest global investor in the industry, using British taxpayers’ money, and were targeted by the Camp for Climate Action, who camped for a week in the grounds of their global headquarters in Edinburgh last summer. For more information see:
 For more information on the destructive nature of the Tar Sands, please see:
Shot on the Panasonic GH2
Produced by “You and I FIlms“
The UK government plans to put half of England’s state-owned forests up for sale to private firms to raise billions to reduce the budget deficit and as a give-away to the nascent biomass industry. Ancient woodlands, regenerating natural forests and planted trees all provide important ecosystems and could be chopped down to make way for holiday villages, golf courses and commercial logging. This is theft of the English cultural heritage with woodlands and natural landscapes. Instead the UK government should fully protect many of these woodlands, fund forest ecological restoration and native plantation establishment, and strive in haste to get to 25% forest cover and beyond for their own ecological sustainability.
Across the whole of the UK, the Forestry Commission – the government department “responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain’s forests and woodlands” – owns or manages 18 per cent of England’s wooded areas, some 814,000 hectares of woodland, half of which could be put up for sale over the coming decade as part of the coalition government’s attempts to reduce the deficit and fund biomass energy. The British Isles have been severely denuded, down to 4% in 1919 when the Forest Commission started, and still only at 12% now – compared to Europe’s average of 30%. EcoInternet supports local calls for a doubling of UK woodland to 25% of the land base. And we need to stop these forest sell-off plans that could even potentially impact the handful of remaining ancient natural forests like The Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest. Indeed any natural vegetation – across UK’s denuded, over-industrialized and over-populated landscape – are national treasures and must be protected and assisted to expand for local, regional and global ecological sustainability.
UK is a ferocious consumer of timber and paper products, importing about 75% of the wood consumed. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, said the sale of forested land to private developers would represent “an unforgivable act of environmental vandalism… Rather than asset-stripping our natural heritage, government should be preserving public access to it and fostering its role in combating climate change and enhancing biodiversity.”
The entire British Isles are ripe for major woodland restoration by encouraging diverse natural plantings of native broad leaf species, such as larch, oak, willow and ash. There should be little if any monoculture which are particularly susceptible to climate change. Further, the UK government must seek to find ways to designate most of these state-owned forests as “conservation areas” and “carbon sinks” to recognize the fact that their value has diversified and moved away from simply being viewed as timber or biomass farms.
These woods and forests are valuable not only to the wildlife, but to the people who use them. They are open to people to wander through. Will they be once privatised? Doubtful, otherwise why would anyone buy them?
As the glaciers melted and retreated, Britain was heavily wooded. Very little of this forest remains.
There are open forests, like the New Forest, new when created by William the Conqueror. Many, like the New Forest, are former hunting grounds where Forest Law prevailed.
There are then Ancient Woodlands, the remains of the ancient post-glacial forest cover. Ancient Woodlands date from at least 1600. They are usually on the boundaries of parishes, have irregular boundaries, Old English names and are full of indicator species. Most if not all supported a thriving coppice industry. They fell into disuse, were revived during the Second World War, and have since fallen into disuse again.
We are quick in the West to attack countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil for destroying their rainforests, and quite rightly so, but conveniently ignoring that the destruction is to supply us in the West when the land is cleared for cash crops. We are hypocrites when we ignore the destruction in our own back yards.
Forests are essential, not only for their own sake for the myriad of species they constitute and the complex web of life therein, but also as an essential Gaian control mechanism. We can limit our carbon emission, limit the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but all would be for nought if we had destroyed the Gaian control mechanisms.
The sell-off of the UK’s forests would make an insignificant difference to the Budget Deficit. A deficit that is widely exaggerated. Yes it should be reduced, but at a much slower rate that the economy can cope with. We are not on the brink of bankruptcy as claimed. The budget deficit is being used as an excuse for slash and burn of welfare.
£7 billion has been slashed from welfare, from the poor, from the disabled, from the environment.
Meanwhile Vodafone has been let off a £6 billion tax bill!
We are seeing more and more civil unrest, people are willing to take direct action. Vodafone stores across the country have been occupied and shut down the last two weeks. A couple of days ago angry protesters smashed their way into the party offices of the ruling Tory Party.
Contrary to the kneejerk reaction from the mainstream media what we saw at Millbank Tower was not Class War or Hard Core Anarchists as it lacked all the hallmarks and they would not have put themselves in the position of being identified or arrested. This was pent up anger from students who felt they have been betrayed, who see university will once again be for the rich and privileged.
Excellent pictures though in the Mail.
What we are seeing is the beginning of mobilisation against the cuts. As we have seen with Vodafone protests, a whole new generation is taking direct action, making full use of the internet to mobilise very fast.
Those in power do not give up power, they are forced to relinquish power.
People are saying NO! NO to cuts. NO to sell off of our forests!
Please sign the letter opposing sell-off of our forests
Please also sign the on-line petition
Hawley Wood is just one example of a wood now under threat. A decade ago when the MoD was going to sell it, it was earmarked for a housing. It could be under threat again.
Top story in The North Kent Marshes Daily (Saturday 8 January 2011).
I was on my way up to London on the train to Zero Carbon by 2030 and the news was coming in fast, Vodafone stores were dropping like flies. A good start to the day! [see Nationwide shut down of Vodafone stores]
Zero Carbon by 2030 organised by Campaign against Climate Change was a look at how we get to an economy free of carbon by 2030. We have a window of opportunity of five, maybe ten years, before it will be too late. How do we get there?
I missed the introduction on the science, but as I am already very familiar with all the positive feedbacks I probable did not miss anything of importance.
I caught the tail end of Stephen Murphy from Zero Carbon Britain talking about how they intend to get there. From what I heard it sounded very fuzzy and not well thought through. All become veggies and yes we can still fly if we plant lots of crops for biofuels! [see Sustainable Energy]
Ben Brangwyn talked of Transitions Towns. He gave two examples from opposite ends of the spectrum, Totnes in Devon and Heathrow. How do we oppose a new supermarket? Talk to planners, take direct action or set up an alternative food network so people do not have to go to the supermarket? At Heathrow a derelict site had been brought back into food production and it had brought about community involvement. The police had seen a 50% reduction in crime rate. David ‘Big Society’ Cameron please note.
We will have to change to adapt to the future. If we start to change now, future shocks will have less impact, we will be more resilient.
I have mixed feelings re Transitions Towns. Nothing wrong per se, growing local food etc. is all a step in the right direction but does it give a warm cuddly feeling that we have done our bit? Ben Barngwyn admitted the jury was out on this. On the other hand if it makes people more political aware, empowers them, then yes, it is a good direction as nothing is going to happen without direct action, we can forget politicians and big business doing the right thing. [see Transition towns]
Vicki Hird from FoE talked of the need to restructure agriculture to be less energy intensive. She urged everyone to support the campaign Join the Moovement.
John Stewart from Airport Watch told us that even for cheap flights, it was the rich that were using the flights not the poor, it was not the myth that is often peddled that is is bringing aviation for all. The rich benefit but it is the poor that suffer, especially the poor in the Third World. We are suffering second-hand noise, second-hand pollution.
Aviation has to pay its way. It is not as easy though as John and others would have us believe to slap on taxes. It is international treaties that give aviation tax exemptions. We can though be creative. Air Passenger Duty is ill-conceived as the airlines simply pass it on to their passengers. It should be a tax per flight. The worst offenders pay the highest tax. This would be a combination of emissions, nuisance and loading factors. There is then an incentive to improve.
The most obscene offender by far is the business aviation at Farnborough Airport. Average of 2.5 passengers per plane. A Boeing Business Jet is a re-configured Boeing 737.
Deepak Rughani from Biofuelwatch was a breath of fresh air. He said there was too much focus on carbon and we were ignoring ecosystem destruction. That if we destroyed the Gaian control mechanisms it would make no difference were we to reduce carbon emissions, reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere as these targets have no meaning if our Gaian control mechanisms are destroyed.
Plantations have about 4% the carbon of pristine rain forests. Every time we destroy a living species, we destroy part of the complex web of life with unknown and often unknowable consequences.
Deepak Rughani attacked the presentation earlier suggesting we could reach Zero Carbon Britain by growing crops for aviation fuel! Sadly there are some folk living in cloud cuckoo land. But most of the NGOs are not listening.
There are plans to import wood chips as biofuels. This means forest destruction in Canada and the Third World. We also see human rights abuses associated with the production of biofuels.
Land should be used for Food not Fuel.
There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil production. The land could be used for growing crops or restored to forest.
For years I have been highlighting biofuels is bad. Biowaste yes, but not the growing of crops as fuels. It has to be seen as a sick joke when earlier in the week Rainforest Action Network were promoting sustainable palm oil plantations. But then RAN also supports the logging of primary forests.
Wood burning stoves, associated with traditional coppicing of ancient woodland improves the biodiversity of the woodland. Picking up dead wood from the woodland floor is destroying the lifeforms within the dead wood.
Bolivian Ambassador Maria de Souviron said the poor countries were not going to be bullied into an international agreement that left them worse off. Global temperature rises had to be limited to no more than one degree centigrade. In Bolivia there was a grass roots movement Mother Earth. The Cochabamba Declaration argues for a target of limiting temperature rise to no more than one degree centigrade and a maximum limit of 300 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere.
Speaking to Maria de Souviron afterwards I asked what brought an ambassador to such an event. She said she was only too happy to lend her support as climate change effected the poorest countries. Some countries would disappear or be devastated by rising sea levels. In Bolivia the glaciers would melt. In the winter they would have floods, in the summer drought.
A trade unionist gave the trade union viewpoint. We could create a million green jobs. But we should not as he asked, stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the picket line with Luddite Trade Unionists to protect jobs in dirty industries, but we will support the workers in the call for the creation of green jobs.
Andrew Simms from The New Economics Foundation spoke of the limits to growth. We live on a finite world with finite resources. We are citizens, not consumers. In one day he counted over 400 adverts calling for us to consume, but only three that asked for good behaviour from us as citizens. The news links High Street spending with the state of the economy. NEF has launched a programme The Great Transition.
Alexis Rowell from Camden CAN and 10 by 10 Campaigning forward told us of what is happening in Camden. Council vehicles powered by fuel from biowaste, education of Camden planning officials on what green means, buildings that recycle grey water, green roofs. In Wales there was initiatives with New Economics Foundation on the use of well-being indices. As a Libdem councillor he was very outspoken against the Libdems in the coalition government.
The one aspect of our energy use that was not discussed was embedded energy.
Caroline Lucas who had hoped to be there sent her apologies. She was attending a rally on cuts in Brighton.
John McDonnell was due to speak but sent a video message with his apologies.
In the evening we had entertainment. Poetry and music. Songs from Seize the Day. An amazing guy on guitar with another guy on violin. A lovely poem on the earth shedding tears (the words please).
There was a meet up in a pub the Cock Tavern in Kings Cross later but the map was illegible, many people had gone home.
I called it a day. I had a chat with Shannon, lead singer in Seize the Day, she signed a copy of Standing Strong, only released that day, mine was number five she told me. The first track, Boys on the Balcony, which Seize the Day performed live, is about the Vestas workers who last year occupied their wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight to try and prevent its closure.
Nearby in the back streets at the side of Euston Station are some very good Indian restaurants. I had a dosa, two glasses of water, then caught the overcrowded train home.
There is to be a big (or hoped to be big) march in December I would question the timing and the futility of such a march. Who is wanting to march on a cold December day? What is the purpose of marching on Parliament on a Saturday when no one is there? Lessons are not being learnt. Marches attract zero publicity and do not achieve anything. It is direct action that achieves change, that gets publicity.
The suffragettes learnt a hundred years ago that marches gets you nowhere. Change comes through direct action, through confronting those in power, by making the status quo costly.