Category Archives: Environment

Tips for a Green New Year

It’s far from comprehensive, but here’s a link to some New Year’s tips for lightening our footprint on our precious planet:

Tips for a Green New Year | Easy Ideas for Organizing and Cleaning Your Home | HGTV.Happy-New-Year-2015-Beautiful-Green

New threat to Pacific humpback whales?

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Once hunted to near extinction, the humpback whales of Canada’s Pacific are back in larger numbers and their status has been downgraded from “threatened” to one “of special concern”.

However, this BBC report shows how there are now concerns that the whales face new risks from increased oil and natural gas exploration.

BBC News – New threat to Canadas Pacific humpback whales?.

Global wildlife halved in 40 years, reveals WWF

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Pic: WWF

Global wildlife populations have halved in just 40 years, according to new research by scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 found.

The key findings are:

  • Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52% since the 1970s.
  • Freshwater species populations have suffered a 76% decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.
  • The worst declines have been observed in the Tropics.

The report draws upon the Living Planet Index, a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London, which monitors trends in over 10,000 populations of 3038 species since the 1970s. It also looks at how human consumption levels have increased in the same time period. It shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

London march for global action on climate change

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Campaigners marched through central London on Sunday to demand global action on climate change, in one of thousands of events worldwide ahead of a UN climate summit.

Some 2,000 events took place in 150 countries, with more than 100,000 people taking to the streets of New York – where the summit is being held – to demand leaders take action to tackle rising temperatures. The summit has been convened by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in a bid to drive action and momentum towards talks in Paris in 2015, where it is hoped a new global climate treaty can be agreed.

In London, campaigners were joined by celebrities, including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel, and church bells rang to mark the march through Westminster to Parliament, where speeches and a rally were held.

Thompson said: “There is little time left to prevent the worst excesses of climate change, yet our world leaders continue to stall. I’ve witnessed the impact climate change is already having on the melting Arctic and on poverty-stricken communities in the developing world. We can’t go on pretending nothing’s happening.”

In a statement on his website, Peter Gabriel said: “This big blue ball is the only possible home for humanity in the near future. If our family home was being destroyed and poisoned in the same way, we would do something immediately.

“This is not just a campaign for activists, but for everyone who wants to live on a planet capable of sustaining us. We will only achieve a sustainable future if global citizens demand global action.”

Greenpeace — SAVE THE ARCTIC

PLANET EARTH NEWSLETTER blog

A must see video about our PLANET EARTH.

The Arctic ice we all depend on is disappearing. Fast.

In the last 30 years, we’ve lost as much as three-quarters of the floating sea ice cover at the top of the world. The volume of that sea ice measured by satellites in the summer, when it reaches its smallest, has shrunk so fast that scientists say it’s now in a ‘death spiral’.

For over 800,000 years, ice has been a permanent feature of the Arctic ocean. It’s melting because of our use of dirty fossil fuel energy, and in the near future it could be ice free for the first time since humans walked the Earth. This would be not only devastating for the people, polar bears, narwhals, walruses and other species that live there – but for the rest of us too.

The ice at the top of the world…

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New survey aims to halt decline in rare bird

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A national survey to assess the population of one of the UK’s rarest birds, the chough, is being launched by conservationists.

The study aims to give a picture of how the birds are faring across the UK after years of decline. In Scotland, choughs are only found in a small area of the south-west, with 90% concentrated on Islay, where numbers have struggled.

A team of surveyors has now begun work to chart the fortunes of the “acrobatic” birds, known for their striking red bill and legs and flamboyant flying style.

Researchers are particularly concerned about the survival rates of young birds in their first year. It is thought that variations in weather and food abundance could be having an impact on the survival rates. Information gathered will help target conservation efforts for the recovery of the species in areas where it is in decline.

The survey is a joint initiative between RSPB, SNH and the Scottish Chough Study Group, which has been monitoring the birds on Islay since the early 1980s.

 

Green Film Festival tours the UK

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A still from The Last Catch. Pic: UK Green Film Festival

The UK Green Film Festival 2014 celebrates seven powerful environmental films that will tour the country from 1-8 June.

This year’s line-up includes international award-winning films, and explores some of today’s big environmental issues. The films will be screened in 17 venues in 15 cities across the UK, including Clapham, Greenwich and Hackney Picturehouses.

Seven feature length documentaries – including several UK premieres – from all over the world will be presented at the festival, all of which will be preceded by an accompanying short film. These include:

  • The Last Catch. A study of the tuna industry’s impact on both the fish and those who catch them.
  • Lost Rivers. An exploration of the subterranean network of rivers beneath London, Montreal, Toronto and Brescia that house the secrets of each city’s past.
  • A River Changes Course. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Sundance 2013, chronicles the influence of rapid urbanisation on three families in Cambodia.

“Our aim is simple,” said the festival’s co-founder, John Long. “We want to help people understand their impact on the environment, and what they can do to reduce it. Film has the power to do that; to provoke thought, to inspire, and to entertain. That’s what the UK Green Film Festival is all about.” 

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100 Days later: Lessons from this winter’s storms

Birling Gap

Garden wildlife revealed by world’s biggest survey

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More than half of people in the UK see frogs in their gardens but only a fraction ever see a red squirrel, according to the world’s biggest wildlife survey.

This year, Big Garden Birdwatch participants were asked to tell the RSPB about some of the other wildlife that visits their gardens throughout the year, including common frogs, red and grey squirrels, badgers and hedgehogs.

The RSPB hopes to use it to build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for all types of wildlife and tailor its advice so people can help their wild visitors find a home, feed and breed successfully.

Mammals
According to the results, grey squirrels came out on top overall, with 72% of people seeing them in their gardens at least once a month. At the other end of the scale, the red squirrel, was the least-seen garden visitor, with just 3% of people reporting seeing them on a monthly basis.

The red squirrel, which is threatened by a lethal virus carried by the grey, has been lost from much of the UK. In areas where the greys don’t carry the virus, the reds are still affected, essentially being out-competed by their rivals.

However, in rural Scotland, where the red still has a stronghold almost 1 in 5 people see them in their gardens at least monthly. Although still quite widespread and seen in 67% of the UK’s gardens at least once, hedgehogs were only seen regularly in less than a third of gardens and their populations have seriously declined by around 30% since the millennium.

Badgers are spotted more regularly by people living in rural areas, with 40% reporting to have seen one. However, the black and white mammal isn’t exclusive to the countryside, with 20% of suburban and 15% of urban residents seeing them in their gardens too. Deer are also much more common in the countryside, with around 30% of rural residents seeing roe or muntjac deer in their garden at some point, compared with only 5% of urban dwellers.

Amphibians
When not hibernating, the common frog takes the lead as the most abundant garden amphibian, according to the results. Approximately half of people in the UK see a common frog in their gardens at least monthly, regardless of whether they live in a rural, suburban or urban area.

When it comes to toads, 28% of people see them monthly. The warty amphibians, which have declined especially in central and southern England, are more likely to visit gardens in rural areas, with 41% of householders in these areas seeing them on a monthly basis.

Marina Pacheco, the Mammal Society’s Chief Executive, said: “It’s fantastic to know that gardens can be a vital refuge for rapidly declining species like the red squirrel and hedgehog. As well as taking part in an enjoyable survey, participants have greatly increased our understanding of the distribution and relative abundance of UK mammals.”

 

Big Garden Birdwatch results

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Pic: RSPCA

Almost half a million people took part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and discovered some interesting changes among our most popular garden birds, with some species creeping up the rankings.

It’s all change in the top 10, with blue tits in their highest position since the Big Garden Birdwatch began, at number two. The previous occupiers of the second spot, blackbirds, have dropped to number four.

Goldfinches have climbed another place since last year, and now perch at number seven. The robin, which has been as high as number seven in the past 10 years, has dropped back to number 10. And for the first time ever, the great spotted woodpecker has squeezed in at number 20.

Scientists believe that the weather has played a role in the ups and downs in this year’s top 10, as many of the birds were recorded in lower numbers in gardens due to the mild conditions.

Some species, such as blue tits, were likely to be more reliant on food provided in gardens than others, such as blackbirds, which could easily find their favoured foods like worms and insects in the countryside.

Just 10 years ago, goldfinches were in 14th position, but scientists believe that the increase in people providing food like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise to number seven.

Overall, numbers of species such as blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings may appear to have dropped in our gardens since last year. But in many cases this is not because these populations are in decline, but because these species don’t need to come into our gardens during mild winters due to there being plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside.

However the continuing declines of some species are of greater concern. Numbers of starlings and song thrushes have dropped by an alarming 84 and 81 per cent respectively since the Birdwatch began in 1979.

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as the declines appear to have slowed, and it remains the most commonly-seen bird in our gardens. However, it remains on the red list as we have still lost 62 per cent since 1979.

Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch organiser, says: “2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild, and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.

“They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality. The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming months because more survived the mild winter.”