Down with the bilberry bees

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 9:30pm

Buxton, Derbyshire They look like animate furry fruit bonbons. The queens hatch late and their preferred food is bilberry and heather

After the most rainless spring that I can recall, the vegetation on the moor tops is frazzled to an August tinder. The full sweep of folded slopes look grey rather than the usual heathery brown, and even the deepest gullies are dry bottomed and crunchy underfoot. Yet the strong north-easterlies have kept the entire season freeze-dried, and there are almost no swallows through the blue overhead, while the pipits, parachuting down in song display, whose notes are flat at best of times, were picked to desultory shreds by the currents of cold air.

It was so dry that I could at least lie among the bilberry bushes to escape the wind and there, in a condition of enforced sloth, I chanced upon a search method for the creature I’d come to see.

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Categories: Environment

Large-scale solar industry takes off as 12 new plants secure finance

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 7:28pm

Support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has helped put large-scale solar on a solid footing despite cuts to its own funding

Australia’s large-scale solar industry now appears to be on solid ground, with all 12 plants recently awarded grant funding by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency reaching “financial close” this month.

That means they are fully financed and have locked in engineering, construction and grid connection agreements, as well as council and environmental approvals.

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'Narco-deforestation': cocaine trade destroying swaths of Central America

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 4:01pm

Drug trade’s efforts to launder profits by creating agricultural land results in loss of millions of acres, researchers say

Cocaine traffickers attempting to launder their profits are responsible for the disappearance of millions of acres of tropical forest across large swaths of Central America, according to a report.

The study, published on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that drug trafficking was responsible for up to 30% of annual deforestation in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, turning biodiverse forest into agricultural land.

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Categories: Environment

'They're Everywhere': Oil, Gas Wells Dot Developments, Raising Potential Dangers

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 1:34pm

Colorado is reviewing oil and gas operations after a fatal home explosion was linked to an abandoned, but still leaking, gas line. The tragedy is raising questions about how older wells are regulated.

(Image credit: Brennan Linsley/AP)

Categories: Environment

Millions Of Pieces Of Plastic Are Piling Up On An Otherwise Pristine Pacific Island

NPR News - Environment - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 12:01pm

Researchers found more than 17 tons of plastic debris on an uninhabited South Pacific island. It's some 3,000 miles from the nearest big city, but ocean currents bring a steady supply of trash.

(Image credit: Jennifer Lavers/University of Tasmania)

Categories: Environment

38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 12:00pm

Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn group, is covered by 18 tonnes of plastic – the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world

One of the world’s most remote places, an uninhabited coral atoll, is also one of its most polluted.

Henderson Island, a tiny landmass in the eastern South Pacific, has been found by marine scientists to have the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic.

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Categories: Environment

The sad demise of trees in our streets | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 10:12am
The privatisation of public space through redevelopment is the main culprit, writes Michael Ball. Plus additional letters from Marie Paterson, Professor Steven Rose and Beryl Wilkins

Re Ian Jack (We hardly notice them. But street trees are monuments to city life, 13 May), part of the Victorian heritage of the public realm were 8 million trees, greening public streets which had formerly been private roads on great land-owning estates. Ian Jack sets out the threat to this heritage, from disease and pollution to overzealous council pruning. But the most urgent threat is the re-privatisation of public realm through redevelopment. Local councils are offloading maintenance costs of streets and trees by granting permission for estates where the developer retains ownership and responsibility for upkeep. And private developers prefer “architect’s trees” – small, shaped, boxed, contained – rather than the sprawling London plane.

But there is hope. The ultimate symbol was the garden bridge – a private bridge across a public river and public realm, with 30 mature South Bank trees facing the axe to make way for private designer trees in planters. Thankfully, the mayor of London has pulled the plug on this landgrab. Is the tide turning?
Michael Ball
Thames Central Open Spaces

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Categories: Environment

The Lake District is indeed a sheepwrecked landscape | Letters

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 10:11am
Readers question farmers’ claims that they are proud and environmentally sound custodians of the countryside

Robin Milton, chairman of the NFU Uplands forum, and sheep farmer Louise MacArthur (Letters, 13 May) completely misunderstand the point George Monbiot is making (The Lake District as a world heritage site – what a disaster that would be, 10 May) in resisting the designation of the Lake District as a world heritage site. This landscape is totally artificial and manmade: it is a “sheepwrecked landscape” which could not be resurrected if designated as a world heritage site. Louise MacArthur’s “glorious fells” should, except for the highest ground, be partially forested, and would be but for the depredations of free-ranging sheep which prevent natural tree growth. Hence the relative paucity of forest in the British Isles, compared with almost all of our European neighbours. Of course, it is not all down to sheep. In the highlands of Scotland, deer are also significant players (as is heather-burning to sustain grouse). A major problem is that most Britons have no idea that the bare upland areas that dominate Scotland, much of Wales and the higher Pennines were once extensively clothed in trees. Our Neolithic stone-axe-wealding ancestors started the tree felling, a job that was completed during the industrial revolution.

If anyone doubts this scenario, just take a look at the richly forested countries of northern and eastern Europe or Canada. You will be hard put to match the huge expanses of bare moorland that characterise these British Isles. If sheep in Lakeland were confined to the lower valleys, where most are concentrated anyway, but excluded from the higher, steeper slopes, the landscape would revert to its true ecological state and beauty.
Alan Woolley
Weybridge, Surrey

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Categories: Environment

38,000 people a year die early because of diesel emissions testing failures

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 8:00am

Global inventory of nitrogen oxide emissions shows highly polluting diesel cars are ‘urgent public health issue’

The global human health impact of the diesel emissions scandal has been revealed by new research showing a minimum of 38,000 people a year die early due to the failure of diesel vehicles to meet official limits in real driving conditions.

Researchers have created the first global inventory of the emissions pumped out by cars and trucks on the road, over and above the legal limits which are monitored by lab-based tests. Virtually all diesel cars produce far more toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) than regulations intend and these excess emissions amounted to 4.6m tonnes in 2015, the team found.

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Categories: Environment

BP shareholders urged to reject chief's £9m pay package

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 5:38am

Campaigners claim strategy appears ‘misaligned’ with climate change threat but another successful revolt deemed unlikely

BP shareholders are being urged to vote against executive pay packages this week on the grounds they are too high and not taking climate change seriously.

The UK-based firm suffered a rare and humiliating shareholder rebellion last year when chief executive Bob Dudley’s £14m pay package was voted down, against the backdrop of record company losses.

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Categories: Environment

Let's hold Apple and Walmart to their big environmental promises | Fred Pearce

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 4:24am

It’s easy to be cynical about the recent rush of bold corporate sustainability targets, but brands that buy into a green image may find it hard to deviate too far

Call them the “moon shot” promises. The big, bold corporate sustainability targets that take your breath away, and may scramble your trust as well.

Can Apple really cease to depend on mining for any of the metal in its products, a goal it announced (pdf) in April?

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Categories: Environment

Adani may be forced to revamp Carmichael coalmine clean-up plans

Guardian Environment News - Mon, 2017/05/15 - 12:45am

Reforms touted by Queensland government would mandate targets and ratios for progressive rehabilitation of land

Adani may be forced into an expensive revamp of its Queensland coal plans if mining rehabilitation reforms touted by the Palaszczuk government prevail after the next state election.

The environmental group Lock The Gate says Adani now plans a “lowest cost” program to rehabilitate its Carmichael mine, including waiting 39 years to start on rehabilitation of huge open-cut pits that will leave more than 3,300 hectares “completely un-rehabilitated”.

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Categories: Environment

Three tales of Mogadishu: violence, a booming economy … and now famine

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 11:30pm

Somalia’s capital is buzzing: estate agents thrive and it recently hosted a TedX conference. But Mogadishu is facing a fresh challenge as drought forces half a million people to seek aid. Jason Burke visits a growing camp on the outskirts

Friday afternoon and the light is low across the waves breaking on the long shore. Behind the pocked and pitted seafront promenade, hundreds of children play football among their shattered homes. This, the ruins of the old port area of Somalia’s Mogadishu, is the war-torn city of the news stories, books and films.

Less than a 10 minute drive away down a newly rebuilt double highway, the scene is very different: hundreds of young men and women stroll along the narrow band of sand left by the high tide; they paddle, swim and drink coffee or soft drinks in cafes. An ancient stretch limousine, hired out for weddings, noses through the traffic. Rickshaw drivers shout for fares.

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Categories: Environment

Top UK fund manager divests from fossil fuels

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 10:01pm

Archbishop of Canterbury plays crucial role in BMO Global Asset Management’s decision to dump £20m of shares in firms such as BHP Billiton

One of Britain’s biggest managers of ethical funds is to dump £20m of shares in fossil fuel companies in one of the biggest divestments so far because of climate change.

Shares in BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining giant, will be among those sold by BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds, which manage £1.5bn of assets. They were previously known as the “stewardship” funds, the first ethical funds launched in Britain.

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Categories: Environment

Coralroot, a rare beauty among the old graves

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 9:30pm

North Wessex Downs, Hampshire Cow parsley and common vetch crowd around the carved words of grief and remembrance

My right hand, flushed with warmth after a day’s walking, is refreshed at the touch of the stone gate post. Standing at the entrance of an abandoned church, I can see it has been worn marble-smooth by the hands of the long-vanished faithful. Centuries of their feet, too, have passed this way and carved a dip into the threshold of one of its ancient doorways.

Although they are faint and rubbed, I’m nonetheless able to trace the radiating spokes of the witches’ marks that decorate the stone lintel. And above the squat and timbered tower a weathercock, long since rusted in place, cannot turn to greet me but instead shudders in the spring breeze.

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Categories: Environment

Ikea’s solution to peak stuff? Invest in plastics recycling plant

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 9:00pm

Furniture giant commits to reducing use of virgin raw materials but experts raise concerns about supply chain domination

Ikea has bought forest in Romania and the Baltics, wind farms in Poland and now it is investing in a plastic recycling plant in the Netherlands.

For the Swedish furniture giant, extending control across its supply chain in this way could help it become more sustainable by avoiding environmentally damaging activities like illegal deforestation and plastic waste.

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Mining company BHP drops Billiton from name in $10m ad campaign

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 5:52pm

Company announces ‘clean brand change’ as it unveils campaign to emphasise its Australian roots

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner is rebranding, changing its name back to just BHP from this week.

The company is rolling out a $10m advertising campaign that includes television ads and a new slogan, “Think Big”, to facilitate the change.

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Categories: Environment

Blackout parties: how solar and storage made WA farmers the most popular in town

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 4:19pm

Once considered an eco-warrior’s pipe dream, renewable energy is rapidly gaining ground in the traditional mining state of Western Australia

Along the remote southern coastline of Western Australia, the locals have cottoned on to a new, surefire way to keep their beer cold.

The energy grid around Esperance and Ravensthorpe is unreliable at the best of times, but after a bushfire took out the poles and wires around these far-flung outback towns last year, the power company asked residents if they might be interested in trying out a more economically and environmentally sustainable way to keep the lights on and the bar fridge humming.

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Categories: Environment

Britons throw away 1.4m edible bananas each day, figures show

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 4:01pm

Government study says £80m worth is discarded every year – sometimes simply because of a minor bruise or black mark

Britons routinely bin 1.4m edible bananas every day at a cost of £80m a year, figures reveal.

A third of consumers (30%) admit to discarding a banana if it has even a minor bruise or black mark on the skin. More than one in 10 (13%) also throw the fruit away if it shows any green on the skin.

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Categories: Environment

Gorse badly damaged by harsh winter: Country diary 100 years ago

Guardian Environment News - Sun, 2017/05/14 - 2:30pm

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 17 May 1917

Our Cornish driver said today that here they had had “two winters in one, and that a bad one.” Certainly one does not remember ever to have seen gorse so badly damaged. One thinks of gorse and ling as the hardiest of hardy shrubs, yet here there are great tracts of whin quite sandbrown, and the green, young shoots of the ling are only beginning to prevail over the dead surface. If you beat a bush of ling you have the queer experience of seeing it turn green under the taps of your stick. Another odd thing is that the succulent shoots of the Mesembryanthemum have in many places survived without harm. Of course many square feet of this rampant exotic have been destroyed, but on one sunny slope to the sea we saw a continuous sheet over a well ten feat high and about thirty foot long; it came rambling over the top of this wall, cascading down and then running along the gravel path at the foot, and out over the border and through the fence and on to the cliff beyond, like the ripples of the waves below, after they have broken, invading every crevice with silent haste. This huge tract was deeply green and full of promising buds, yet the gorse bushes with which the fleshy leaves came in contact had been killed by the winter.

Another odd effect of the very late spring is that the blackthorn was overtaken by the gorse, and we have had the very uncommon sight of gorse bushes in full glory of gold and odour, with the frothing among them of blackthorn blossoms, peculiarly thick and snowy this season. In the coves running down to the sea here the blackthorn grows very dwarf and hugs the stones, looking almost like a distinct variety.

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