Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dolphins in the Hebrides

Hey everyone. I just thought I would put up a couple of photos of bottlenose dolphins I took on my phone in the Inner Hebrides the other week... they were just riding the bow of the boat for about 15 minutes.. wonderful stuff.... Not good photos particularly, but pretty cool all the same.

The whole area between Mull, Coll, Tiree, Iona, Ardnamurchan, Sunart and Rum/Eigg really is a global treasure. Breathtaking scenery, an abundance of wildlife, beautiful towns and forests... really restores your faith that there are things worth fighting for...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Roll up, roll up. UK countryside for sale - everything must go.

The UK government, in the person of Secretary of State for DEFRA Caroline Spelman, has announced plans to sell up to 150,000 hectares of state owned forest lands to private interests... This strikes me as a terrible idea. With the exception of nature conservation charities, who are unlikely to have the money, the only bodies willing to pay for this will be those that think they can make a return on investment. I.e. people who think they can make the land work harder. In a country like Britain, with its urgent need for more natural forest cover this is a bad idea. If not properly safeguarded it could lead to increased tacky tourist infrastructure, more commercial pine plantations, housing developments and other industrial activities.

Selling off assets of the forestry commission is expected to raise a mere £250 million, according to a report in the Guardian. This is a pretty poor amount of money to raise, particularly when it is estimated that the Forestry Commission brings in £63 million a year - a 100% return on its annual subsidy of £30 million. Put another way, the amount of money to government will make from a one-off sale is what the Commission could generate for the State in 7.5 years. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the £30 million 'subsidy' will no longer be necessary. Industry is likely to pick the most profitable land to purchase... so the taxpayer will continue to provide support for the rest (as it should) but without the payback.... This just seems like bad economics.

Okay, so the Forestry Commission has hardly been a benign ecological presence over the decades. It's mononculture pine plantations have caused terrible scarring to the countryside and have little value to wildlife. In recent years though it seems to have changed, with much more emphasis on conservation, mixed native forests (even if they are still commercially worked) and a reduction in the dreaded Norwegian Spruce. It now seems that the government want to go back to the bad old days. And for what?

UPDATE!!! The nice people over at 38 Degrees have started a petition on this. Please go to http://bit.ly/8Y41by and sign.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

Round up of UK spending review

The Guardian has a useful round up of the environmental impacts of measures in the coalition governments spending review...


Seems like it could have been worse as far as climate change is concerned, although we really need to wait and see for the green bank. DEFRA has been hacked back though, so who knows what that means for biodiversity and the countryside... my only hope is that there might be less money for micromanaging the landscape, with room for a bit more wildness. in all likelihood it will simply mean landowners being given a free reign to do whatever they want, and less support for restoration programmes and the like...

We must wait an see... nervous times though. This kind of thing can have repercusions for decades.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Will green policies survive spending review?

Fingers crossed people. Today is the government spending review in the UK. What will survive? I don't want to say much about the cuts in general. We surely need some cuts in spending, but are these too much too soon? We will see. On the environment, there are a number of things to look out for that will test the government's committment. Will the Green Bank have the finance and structure to make a real difference? Will the new ports in the North East get the support they need for the offshore wind sector? Will the feed-in tariff or carbon capture research and development fund survive? And will the funding for general science research that is so vital to developing new technologies make it through without too much of a reduction....

Take a deep breath now... this stuff matters.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

EU tells Spain it is okay to keep subsidising coal industry

Interesting post here from Mines and Communities. It seems that the Spanish government has been given the go ahead by the European Commission to continue propping up its unprofitable coal mining sector until at least 2015. This is unsurprising, but still sad. Globally the fossil-fuel industry receives subsidies of $250-$500 billion per year (according to UNEP). This is substantially larger than the entire renewable energy industry. Now I am never one to argue that industries should not recieve some support if it is for the greater good, but it is hard to see what justification there is for bailing out one of the most polluting industries in the world, and also for doing it in such a quiet way...

And on that point, where are the freemarket warriors who so love to attack support for environmental industries when coal is being subsidised?