this month, All Saints Church was again packed again for a meeting
organised by Leighton-Linslade Low Carbon Town (the partnership
between Christian Ecology Leighton Linslade and South Bedfordshire
Friends of the Earth). This time the talk was presented by Brian
Eversham, Chief Executive of the Beds, Northants and Cambs Wildlife
Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants
Professor, Cranfield University, on
the subject ‘Nature and Climate: what’s happening to local wildlife?
how can nature help us?
We had intended to post a report of Professor Eversham’s talk, but
it was so full of interesting information that we’ve found it
impossible to condense; we’ll probably split it into two or three
blog posts, so we can include some of the slides he very kindly gave
us. There’s a lot to think about in it.
Meanwhile, if you fancy pre-empting us, Professor Eversham gave us
a link to a very similar one he gave a few years ago – you can find
it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4quVtXyHxGQh
And below is the press release we sent the Leighton Buzzard Observer, which will give you a flavour of the talk. Watch this space for our more detailed reports!
Nick Clarke welcomed the audience and invited our local MP, Andrew
Selous, to chair the meeting. Mr Selous commented that we would all
have noticed the decline in sparrows around our houses, and in
farmland birds generally.
Professor Eversham said that climate scientists’ predictions are
gradually coming true, with more frequent and more violent natural
disasters like the apocalyptic wildfires in Australia and California,
and the more frequent and more devastating flooding in many
countries, including the UK. It’s happening now.
Wildlife living in northern and upland areas will be worse off
than species living in southern and lowland areas, as there won’t be
so many places it can migrate to. Wildlife has had to do this before,
during ice age cycles millions of years ago, when our wildlife
managed to migrate from the Mediterranean, back to Leighton Buzzard,
and back to the Mediterranean, eight times in the last million years,
twenty times in the last three million years.
However, this time around Britain is
an island, cut off from mainland Europe. And we’ve built
major cities, and a motorway network, and a rail network – we’ve
carved the countryside up, so wildlife responding to climate change
can no longer move easily from place to place. New developments, new
roads and railways not only destroy habitats directly, but they stop
wildlife moving around in response to climate change.
Also, for the first time in sixty million years, the climate is
warming from an already warm period, which none of our current
species has ever experienced. We should take our children to walk in
bluebell woods pretty soon, because as the climate warms, trees will
come into leaf earlier, and the flowers won’t get the spring sunshine
they need to reproduce; we won’t have carpets of bluebells any more.
We need to keep any rise in temperature to one and a half degrees,
which will mean sea levels rise by up to half a metre. We’d be able
to protect the fenlands of East Anglia, which are the most productive
agricultural land in the country. But if the temperature rises more
than that, sea levels would rise by a metre or more and we won’t be
able to protect that area – we’ll have Peterborough-on-Sea, and
we’ll lose the best farming land this country has.
Another huge threat to
wildlife is tidiness on
agricultural land and in
couple of generations ago, you would never have seen a clean crop
now, if a field has poppies in it, people come from miles around to
photograph it. Wildlife needs places
where we let the grass
grow longer and where we don’t
cut things back over the winter.
For the last twenty years or so, the Wildlife Trusts have worked
on maintaining ‘Living Landscapes’, linking protected areas into
bigger nature reserves connected by wildlife corridors and better
managed with climate change in mind, and reconnected to their local
communities. If people don’t know about or hear about wildlife,
they will not protect it.
We also need to see that any development that damages wildlife
habitat puts back more habitat than it destroys. We
can’t have developers blackmailing local authorities into saying
‘Well, you can either have a road junction, or you can have green
space. You can either have a school, or you can have green space.’
If a development is to
happen, it needs to provide a full set of resources.
how nature can help us; we just need to let it. You
don’t need to plant trees to create woodland, you simply need to
stop preventing trees growing and
they will create their own
habitat of trees and scrub
and grassland. And after
seventy years, the grassland
around them will
store nearly as much carbon in its soil as the trees have in their
Peat bogs bury carbon in their peat soil, and sequesters it for
literally tens of thousands of years. The sad thing about peat bogs
is that most of them have been destroyed, mainly to be bagged up as
multipurpose compost for gardeners. And farming on drained peat soils
loses nearly an inch of peat a year.
Carbon offsetting isn’t really a
solution, thinking we can just carry on emitting carbon and plant a
few trees instead.
generations will be baffled
that we wasted all the oil and coal we
have by just
burning it. We
could have had
enough renewable energy for
the whole planet instead,
and saved the oil and coal as rare
and precious commodity
to make the plastics we
really need and which we don’t have alternative materials for.
Questions from the audience included how we can mitigate the
damage that will be caused by the proposed Oxford to Cambridge
expressway; how can new developments be built with high-quality green
spaces for wildlife and people, as at Cambourne in South
Cambridgeshire; and how we must see that when the UK chairs the COP26
meeting this autumn on climate change, we achieve real international
leadership on climate change, not just talking about it.
Andrew Selous commented, “We are building brand new houses now
that are what I call the houses of yesterday”; he mentioned the
installation of gas-fired central heating, and a lack of newer
technologies such as built-in photovoltaics and ground-source heat
pumps. He then pointed out that fitting gas-fired heating in new
homes will be illegal by 2025, so houses built now will need to be
retrofitted – why can we not get it right first time?
Afterwards, many people stayed behind to discuss specific issues
in small groups. The main message from all the groups was that we
need to make sure our local councillors know that the town’s
residents care about loss of habitats, and would like more action to
prevent climate change – only one councillor attended the meeting!
For further information and practical actions, see the South Beds
Friends of the Earth website at http://southbedsfoe.co.uk/,
email us at email@example.com ,
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