Tag Archives: Friends of the Earth

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.” 

The Big Green Bike Ride 2014

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Pic: Friends of the Earth

This year’s Big Green Bike Ride looks like being the biggest ever and it’s such a great way to raise funds for Friends of the Earth.

Overall there will be 120 miles of cycling, but you can pick the challenge that suits you. This year’s ride starts on Saturday, 17 May, and the 85 mile route will take you from the hustle and bustle of London, through the country lanes of Surrey and Hampshire, to the New Forest.

The next day will be a much shorter 35 mile ride, spent exploring the heather-covered heath, farmland, ancient woodland and mudflats of this beautiful corner of the countryside. You can take part in both days or choose just one of these challenges. All riders will receive a goody bag and there will be an evening of food and entertainment in the heart of the New Forest.

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The people vs fracking

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You’ve probably seen the headlines and TV reports. Fracking is big news as the picturesque village of Balcombe in West Sussex becomes the latest site for test drilling in the UK.

The drilling rig itself stands 78ft tall, according to the plans submitted to The Environment Agency. It also details a laboratory, canteen and a flare stack with a possible flame rising above the surrounding trees. All this for just 40 days and nights of exploratory drilling.

Cuadrilla’s licence is to look for oil and gas by conventional means, but the company has said they would apply for licences to use the chemical fracturing technique if the rock 2,000ft below fails to deliver.

Local residents are battling against the corporate giants who want to frack their community: “We in Balcombe feel bullied. Bullied by the oil and gas industry. Bullied by our government. We stand strong in the fight against this dangerous and misguided government policy,” said Kathryn McWhirter, No Fracking in Balcombe Society.”

Friends of the Earth is supporting them  by providing hands-on advice to the local community. Here’s how you can support the residents of Balcombe by sending them a message of support today and Friends of the Earth will take your messages of support down to the Balcombe residents later this week.

Tony Bosworth from Friends of the Earth said: “We have already helped strengthen the planning guidance for fracking and worked with directly affected communities in Lancashire. Together we can continue to delay the fracking industry and help move the UK to a clean energy future.”

Local residents are battling against the corporate giants who want to frack their community: “We in Balcombe feel bullied. Bullied by the oil and gas industry. Bullied by our government. We stand strong in the fight against this dangerous and misguided government policy” Kathryn McWhirter, No Fracking in Balcombe Society.”

Friends of the Earth is supporting them  by providing hands-on advice to the local community. Here’s how you can support the residents of Balcombe by sending them a message of support today and Friends of the Earth will take your messages of support down to the Balcombe residents later this week.

Tony Bosworth from Friends of the Earth said: “We have already helped strengthen the planning guidance for fracking and worked with directly affected communities in Lancashire. Together we can continue to delay the fracking industry and help move the UK to a clean energy future.”

Minister launches urgent review into bees crisis

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There was great news today when the government launched an “urgent” review of the crisis facing bees and other pollinators in the UK and introduced a national pollinator strategy.

Defra Minister Lord Rupert de Mauley announced “an urgent and comprehensive review of current policy, evidence and civil society action on pollinators to identify what needs to be done to integrate and step up our approach.”

The news was welcomed by Friends of the Earth, who said: “We’re delighted that enormous press from scientists, businesses and the public has stung the government into action. The minister’s plan of action must be in place when bees emerge from hibernation next spring: we can’t afford to gamble any longer with our food, countryside and economy.”

Bees and other pollinators fertilise three-quarters of global food crops and have seen severe declines in recent decades, due to loss of habitat, disease and harmful pesticides. In the UK, wild honey bees are nearly extinct, solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas studied and some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether.

In April, the European Union suspended the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides linked to serious hard in bees, despite the opposition of UK ministers.  

De Mauley said: “We know there are gaps in the evidence. That is why I am launching an urgent and comprehensive review of current policy, evidence and civil society action on pollinators to identify what needs to be done to integrate and step up our approach. This urgent review will form the basis of a national pollinator strategy, which will bring together all the pollinator-friendly initiatives already underway and provide an umbrella for new action.

“We all recognise that pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment In safeguarding their future, we can secure our own.”

Friends of the Earth said: “Announcing a National Pollinator Strategy is an important step in the right direction. Now the hard work starts. It will still take some time for the Government’s bee-saving measures to be finalised. So we will need to keep up the campaign pressure. The detail is everything. Today is a day to celebrate, but we can’t ease off just yet.”

Action to save bees: EU to ban killer pesticides

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Great news! After months of campaigning by environmentalists, the European Commission has taken action to protect bees by restricting the use of harmful chemicals in pesticides.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban and, even though the vote was split, the Commission imposed a two-year restriction on three neonicotinoids, which research has shown to harm bees  – and the UK cannot opt out.

The ban means neonicotinoids  will not be used on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators, there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.

The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year. After today’s vote, EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

The UK was among eight countries that voted against the ban,  arguing that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive.  Four nations also abstained. But Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said the vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. Those countries opposing a ban have failed.”

A report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded the pesticides posed “a high risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.

There was intensive lobbying in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday and campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said “leading retailers have already taken action by removing these pesticides from their shelves and supply chains – the UK government must act too”.

Marchers urge ban on killer pesticides

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Campaigners marched on Parliament yesterday, urging the British Government to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that are responsible for declining bee numbers.

The ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament Square came ahead of a crucial vote in Brussels next week, and included a number of celebrities, as well as many  beekeepers, conservationists, gardeners and environmental activists. Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and artist Rachel Whiteread were among those protesting at Westminster.

Yellow and black dominated the scene as many in attendance dressed as bees and carried signs with slogans such as “Like Food? Love Bees” and “No to Neonic,” referring to pesticide class called neonicotinoids that a number of recent studies have tied directly to the decline of bee populations.

Member states are due to decide whether or not to introduce a two-year moratorium on their use on Monday. Unlike France, Spain and Italy, Britain is widely expected to abstain or vote no against the neonicotinoid ban, saying the impact of the pesticides on bees is unclear and the restrictions could harm crop production.

The organisers of the so-called “March of the Beekeepers” included Avaaz, Friends of the Earth, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, Soil Association and the group 38 Degrees.

“Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline,” said Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Andrew Pendleton. “Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.”

So far 2.6 million people have signed the Avaaz petition, which calls for the immediate ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Get on your bike and pedal for the planet!

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It’s nearly time for the 2013 Big Green Bike Ride, which is a great way to raise funds for Friends of the Earth.

This year’s ride starts on Saturday, 27 April, and the 85 mile route will take you from the hustle and bustle of London, through the country lanes of Surrey and Hampshire, to the New Forest.

The next day will be spent exploring the heather-covered heath, farmland, ancient woodland and mudflats of the beautiful corner of the countryside. If you need any training tips, the Olympic Gold Medalist Alex Gold MBE is supporting the event and has written a blog on the Friends of the Earth website which is well worth a read.

Online petition persuades EU to act on harmful pesticides

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Success! The European Commission has listened to the 2.2 million people who signed the Avaaz online petition and proposed that member states restrict the use of  three neonicotinoid pesticides  linked to the decline of bees.

The Commission will be asking EU countries to suspend the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam  on sunflowers, rapeseed, cotton, maize and other crops which bees are attracted to. The proposals mean the chemicals could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July.

European Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent said: “We are requesting member states to suspend for two years the use of the pesticides on seeds, granulates and sprays for crops which attract bees. We hope the regulation can be adopted before March.”

The proposals will enter EU law on 25 February if a majority of Europe’s member states vote in favour. France and the Netherlands are supportive but the UK and Germany are reported to be reluctant. The Commission wants restrictions in place by July and the measures will be reviewed after two years.

Luis Morago, from campaign group Avaaz , said:  “This could mark a tipping point in our battle, but it does not go far enough. Over 2.2 million people want the European Commission to face-down spurious German and British opposition and push for comprehensive ban of neonicotinoid pesticides!”

Friends of the Earth also believes this “hugely significant EU proposal” promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline of our bees. “The UK Government must throw its weight behind this,” it said. “The evidence linking neonicotinoids to declining bee populations is growing. We can’t afford to ignore the threat they pose to these crucial pollinators.”

Insecticide ‘unacceptable’ danger to bees

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The world’s most widely used insecticide has been officially labelled an “unacceptable” danger to bees feeding on flowering crops.

Bees and other pollinators are critical to one-third of all food but two major studies last year implicated neonicotinoid pesticides in the decline in the insects. Last April, the European Commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the chemicals.

Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded on Wednesday that it is not acceptable to use three neonicotinoid insecticides on crops attractive to honey bees – including oilseed rape which is widely grown in the UK. They also found huge gaps in safety information and a lack of testing for the impact of the chemicals on other pollinating insects.

Friends of the Earth believe this is  a major turning point in the battle to save our bees.  The charity’s Executive Director, Andy Atkins, said: “The clear link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining bee health must sting the Government into action. Ministers must urgently remove these dangerous chemicals from sale, overhaul inadequate pesticide safety tests and ensure farmers have access to safe, effective alternatives.”

A spokesman for the  Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This research will be  examined by the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides and their advice will be considered by ministers. If it is concluded that restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids are necessary, they will be brought in.”

MPs create a buzz and back our bees

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Pic: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A quick update on the Bee Cause campaign. A total of 125 MPs showed their support for halting bee decline by  posing with a giant cuddly bee and sign saying ‘Britain needs its bees’ at the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party politicians all backed the Friends of the Earth campaign, including the Tory MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant (below). They learnt that the amount of honey produced by UK bees fell by 72% in 2012 compared with the previous year.

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The campaign is calling for a National Bee Action Plan to tackle the major threats facing British bees and you can give your support by signing an online petition.

Friends of the Earth’s Nature Campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said: “It’s a very welcome first step to see so many MPs recognise the importance of bees to our farmers, food prices and countryside. But they must now act urgently to halt bee decline. The effect of letting bees go the same way as ash trees would be catastrophic.”