Agroecology – the Future of Food Production?

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/20/european-farms-could-grow-green-and-still-be-able-to-feed-population

European farms could grow green and still be able to feed population.

Rebecca Smithers, The Guardian, Wed 20 Feb 2019.

Europe would still be able to feed its growing population even if it switched entirely to environmentally friendly approaches such as organic farming, according to a new report from a think-tank.

A week after research revealed a steep decline in global insect populations that has been linked to the use of pesticides, the study from European thinktank IDDRI claims such chemicals can be phased out and greenhouse gas emissions radically reduced in Europe through agroecological farming, while still producing enough nutritious food for an increasing population.

Agroecology takes into account natural ecosystems and uses local knowledge to plant crops that increase the sustainability of the farming system as a whole. The IDDRI study, entitled Ten Years for Agroecology, used modelling to examine the reduction in yields that would result from a transition to such an approach.

Reductions, the authors argue, could be mitigated by eliminating food-feed competition – reorienting diets towards plant-based proteins and pasture-fed livestock, and away from grain-fed white meat. More than half the EU’s cereals and oilseed crops are fed to animals. The study models a future in which European meat production has been cut by 40%, with the greatest reductions in grain-fed pork and poultry.

“Pesticide-hungry intensive production is not the only way to feed a growing population” said Rob Percival, the head of food policy at the Soil Association. “The Ten Years for Agroecology study shows that agroecological and organic farming can feed Europe a healthy diet, while responding to climate change, phasing out pesticides, and maintaining vital biodiversity.”

The study suggests that agroecology – using ecological principles first and chemicals last in agriculture – presents a credible way of feeding Europe by 2050. But it says action is needed now, with the next 10 years critical in engaging Europe in the transition. The agriculture bill now going through parliament in the UK makes no mention of agroecology, although an amendment drafted by a cross-party group of MPs proposed that farmers using the approach should receive some sort of payment.

Could flexitarianism save the planet?

“The idea of an entirely agroecological Europe is often considered unrealistic in terms of food security because agroecology sometimes means lower yields,” said Percival. “But this new research shows that by refocusing diets around plant-based proteins and pasture-fed livestock, a fully agroecological Europe is possible.”

The study is being published in parallel with the UK launch of the Eat-Lancet “planetary health diet”, which proposes a shift towards a more plant-based diet. The agroecology study addresses similar concerns, but places greater emphasis on farmland biodiversity.

Rewilding Making Strides Across Europe

Balkan chamois

Take a look at the following link concerning the Rewilding Europe organisation which was set up in 2011 to encourage rewilding in suitable areas across Europe, with much of the funding coming from the EU’s LIFE project.  Items in the attached link include: Rewilding of peatlands in Finland, making community forests in Portugal more wildlife friendly, the RSPB’s Wallasea Island project in Essex, the bio-diverse Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria (I have been there – fantastic!) and habitat restoration in the Oder Estuary in Germany.

https://rewildingeurope.com/category/news/

 

Impassioned Speech Against Brexit

Unusual, rousing speech at end of tonight’s Prom concert by conductor Daniel Barenboim in the Royal Albert Hall with the Berlin Staatskepella orchestra, about international isolationism, education, music, Europe and rounding it of with a rousing performance of Land of Hope and Glory. Watch last 15 minutes of the concert on BBC iPlayer!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08xyskt

UPDATE  BBC have edited/blacked-out speech!  So listen to some of it at  https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://youtu.be/PmBDKk6YlF0&ved=0ahUKEwjLsLOA7Y7VAhVBYlAKHTlmAPsQhlQI9wEwHA&usg=AFQjCNEPKEHli664mh8pKFHtoXPYdGzKYg

 

Green Groups and MPs Calling for Amendments to the Repeal Bill

http://www.ciwem.org/green-groups-and-mps-are-calling-for-an-amendment-to-the-repeal-bill/

July 7 2017.  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management,  (CIWEM).

 

Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.

Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK

The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.

The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.

Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.

“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.

“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.

“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”

The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.

The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.

Amendments.  The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:

(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—

(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or

(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or

(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.

(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—

(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,

(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,

(c) enforcement of legal requirements,

(d) setting standards or targets,

(e) co-ordinating action,

(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.

(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—

(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and

(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.

(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—

(a) the European Commission;

(b) the European Environment Agency;

(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and

(d) the European Court of Auditors.

(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.

 

This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.

Political Chaos and Farce

June 12th.  And now the future of the UK is being held-up partly because of having to re-write the Queen’s Speech on goatskin parchment, the ink taking days to dry!  I’m all for tradition and to a degree pageantry but in a digital world, this is taking things to a ridiculous level!  (I am incidentally, something of a fan of the Royal family).

The UK must appear to much of the world, as an island of small-minded, inward looking people.  Most of us are not but part of a country that’s now being flushed down the drain by one selfish, ideological Conservative party who firstly called for a Referendum on Europe and then broke a promise and called a snap General Election.  With many of the population not buying into the Referendum, or their lean on facts, poorly presented manifesto, having now led to a Prime Minister with no parliamentary majority and becoming a “dead woman walking” and a laughing stock to the world.

The £ is suffering and the country’s credit rating is being reassessed downwards.  Our political system needs a damn good shake-up with for starters, ridding the House of Commons of its adversorial child-like antics; an elected House of Lords and most importantly, proportional representation to reflect fairly and conclusively the wishes of All the people.

June Sightings

June 5th.  At breakfast time, noticed a very large ship going down Channel.  It proved to be the MSC Zoe (which with several sister ships) is one of the largest container ships in the world (as of August 2015), it being the third of a series of ships built by the Mediterranean Shipping Company.  She takes her name from the four year old granddaughter of Gianluigi Aponte, the Mediterranean Shipping Company president and chief executive.

MSC Zoe was constructed by Daewoo in South Korea for $140m.  The ship’s particulars are: at a length of 395 metres and has a draft of 16 metres.  She has a capacity of 19,224 TEU (containers) and a deadweight of 199,272 DWT.  The vessel’s massive main engine is a two-stroke MAN B&W 11S90ME-C diesel engine, which has a height of 15.5 m (51 ft), a length of 25 m (82 ft) and a breadth of 11 m (36 ft).  The engine has a maximum continuous rating of 62.5 MW (83,800 hp) at 82.2 rpm and a normal continuous rating of 56.25 MW (75,430 hp) at 79.4 rpm.  Her single five-blade propeller has blade lengths of 10.5 m (34 ft) producing a service speed of 22.8 kn (42.2 km/h; 26.2 mph)

By Hummelhummel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42056503

June 6.  In view of last night’s un-seasonal gale, I have added a Page* setting-out the Beaufort Scale, the universally accepted scale for wind speed.  In mid-Channel at about 8-9am this morning, it reached Severe Gale force.  Nowadays – even in tv/radio weather forecasts, the term ‘gale’ or ‘storm’ are often misused, so here’s the correct calibration!  *Scroll back to the top of the ‘Reflections’ blog screen and click on Beaufort Wind Scale.  The sea has been wild all day with 2-3 metre waves breaking on the beaches; even by the evening, the wind speed was still registering in the region of Force 7 – ‘Near Gale,’ very un-seasonal for June!

June 11.  There was very good visibility tonight out into the Channel where the cruise liner Arcadia, was slowly passing west along the Sussex coast on passage to Southampton, when I noticed a cluster of lights and orange glow on the very far horizon.  On doing a simple exercise or two on Google Earth, it would seem to be Boulogne, some 45 miles to the south-east!

Today, a 350 tonne transformer was transported by road from Shoreham to Ninfield, see link  https://sussex.police.uk/news/drone-footage-captures-abnormal-load-journey-through-east-sussex/

June 13.  After an apparent absence of about a week due to the un-seasonal windy weather, swifts have returned this morning to hawk insects high above St.Leonards old town. These enigmatic birds have been one of my favourite birds since early childhood.

RSPB image

Late afternoon on the 13th and one Hastings Arrows that’s never going to find its destination!  The engine compartment and almost the whole of interior of the bus being gutted.

June 18.  My strawberries now in full production on the wonderful Marina Allotments!  I came across this thought prvoking quote while on Twitter: “For every kilogram of vegetables you grow yourself, you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms…”

Noticed this colony of relatively large digger wasps under the attractive stone flagstones in Pevensey Road.

June 19.  Heatwave.  These  fella’s have the right idea while working in the heat!

While picking another dish-full of strawberries this evening, I heard an approaching bird call and immediately thought I know what’s making that call.  On looking up, a pale-looking ring-necked parakeet flew over, did a circuit nearby and then disappeared towards neighbouring housing.  A summer escape or from a feral colony nearby?

News from ‘British Wildlife,’ April 2017

BATS.  Two interesting facts on long distance migration of bats have been made known.  In December 2013, a specie of Pipistrelle was found in northern Netherlands, having been ringed in Somerset some three years earlier.  The second involved one being trapped during October 2015 in East Sussex, it having been ringed as a sub-adult two months earlier in Latvia.  In its first year of life, this bat had made a journey of 1,460km over a period of some seven weeks.

COUNTRYSIDE STEWARDSHIP.  England’s agri-environment scheme is said to be a shambles.  With an inflexible start date of 1st January, some farmers are being left financially high and dry because their previous HLS Scheme ends after 1st January, they then being out of pocket for 11 months.  Complexity of CS and insufficient Natural England staff to administer the scheme are making matters worse.

PESTICIDES and GAMEBIRDS.  Work carried out in Sussex by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust have shown that foliar insecticides and insecticidal seed dressings are having a significant effect on the species of insect that are important food sources for young game birds.  No wonder many of our farmland bird species are struggling!

PESTICIDE BAN.  Meanwhile, perhaps France is showing the way forward, for there will be a total ban on pesticide use in public gardens, parks and forests.  As from 2019, this ban will be extended to prohibit use in private gardens (apart from use by professionals).  This seems a good idea when seeing the amount shelf space devoted to pesticides in our garden centres (not to mention the stench coming from them).  Many people reach for their killer of choice without a clue of the environmental damage some of these concoctions can have!

NITROGEN.  The Plant Link UK network has issued a new report, ‘We Need To Talk About Nitrogen…’ and it has the backing of the National Trust, Woodland Trust and the RSPB.  It highlights the serious damage that nitrogen deposition is having upon the UK’s semi-natural habitats and wildlife.  I’ve been banging on about this problem for years, one which partially instigated my setting-up in the 1990’s of conservation grazing by ponies in Sussex.

Prof Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology has been appointed Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative.  Prof Sutton said that ‘in the EU alone, the fertilizer value of nitrogen losses from agriculture is around 14 billion Euros per year, equivalent to losing 25% of the European Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget (or 10% of the entire EU budget) up in smoke or down the drain.’

DEFRA DEFICIENT.  There’s a widespread feeling in Westminster that DEFRA will not be up to the job of sorting out the huge amount of environmental law and new agricultural regulation following Brexit.  Since 2006 the department has lost 2,285 members from its core staff. It has also suffered from crippling and on-going cuts to its budget.  Put in context, currently the Civil Service is leaner than it has been since the Second World War and simply does not have the capacity to deal with the gargantuan task of leaving the EU.

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

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/16/brexit-voters-almost-twice-as-likely-to-disbelieve-in-manmade-climate-change?CMP=share_btn_tw

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.”