GF Blog 23 – Week 1

3rd FEBRUARY    

Is there Joy in January? To lift the spirits, I flag up all the positive stories I can find!

Snow above the leat
Snow in the South Wales valleys

Technically there is no O in January, so we can’t squeeze “Joy” out of it! Add to that, it is the coldest, darkest time of the year with short days, which doesn’t help. But sometimes winter weather can cheer us up!

The first picture above shows St Austell Bay in the distance and in the foreground a steep drop to a point ¾ of the way down, where the old 1820s leat (waterway) used to run from the west to work the copper mines in the east. It isn’t often we see it covered in snow, but this really took me back. As children we used to put a hessian potato sack inside a plastic fertiliser bag and risk life and limb, using it as a sledge to slide top to bottom. If not careful you would go over a drop there and land in a heap in the river!!

The second picture was a moment in South Wales, close to Caerphilly. The snow lasted a little while there, but I am unclear, even consulting the experts of the Met Office, whether the previous December cold snap meant 2022 was the warmest year on record or not. However, my greater interest is not in the temperatures but rather the 2022 extremes of drought and floods.

In conversations with friends, it has emerged that the rainfall in South Wales has been pretty much as normal for winter, quite abundant through the past weeks, perhaps even greater than expected.   

Droughts and Floods – UK 2022

Average annual precipitation in the UK typically ranges from approximately 800 mm to 1,400 mm.

What was the total rainfall figure for 2022 UK?

The UK saw 159.8mm of rain, which is 30% more than average. Broken down, England saw 133.9mm (45% more than average), Wales 199.6mm (23% more than average), Scotland 199.6mm (21% more than average) and Northern Ireland 118.7mm (3% less than average)

These figures are rather meaningless to an average citizen. What does it convert into, in cups of tea per household, or number of showers or even just a total number in good ‘ol gallons?

I feel fairly sure that Cornwall rainfall has been way below average. Every customer of South West Water has just received their £30 bonus, for helping to bring the Colliford Lake reservoir up to 30% capacity, but it is still only at 45%. I am already worried that next summer will bring another hose pipe ban and further drought. It seems to be our current trend and a very worrying one.

I should really like to know from readers around the UK and indeed beyond UK, what is the status of their stored water?

Droughts and Floods – UK 2023

My first Joyful news is that schools in 2 different locations of Cornwall have now signed up to create and perform their own Climate Festival Ceremony and will study droughts and floods across the world. The launch event will be west of the River Fowey estuary and the other, at a much later date, will be across a wide area to the east.

Map from Climate Central, an incredible source of information about climate change, run from Princeton in the USA. I am very grateful for permission to use their materials

My route to finding this map was through our local news organisation, Cornwall Live online, which has more than one feature to read. It is well written but not good news!

Looking into the detail, 60m of sea level rise is quite extreme. I wonder therefore, why the figures only predict 1m or 5m increase, and then the extreme 60m? Surely, we should be seeing data predictions for a more middle number, like 15m?  I will be pursuing this further, along with research into the recovery of Pakistan, from their devastating floods last year.

A traditional rain dance

As I presented the possibilities to a small group of young people on a school council yesterday, the children participated to shape their own event and without any input from me they chose Droughts and Floods as their main focus. We will be studying drought in Cornwall and comparing with East Africa, embracing African drumming, singing and hopefully a dance that has African origins, but similarities with New Zealand Haka as well.

We start with this trad African warm up
Following on into a procession, with clear influence of the Maori Haka

Each class will be writing poems and reports and making a display of images, textiles, natural materials etc. and it was suggested one group envisages growing a mini rainforest in a plastic bottle. This is quite a common activity at kindergartens and play groups, which will be adapted, the young man concerned being particularly keen to include monkeys not tigers! This brings us to another concern – global plastic waste on beaches.

Not a tiger, a monkey please!

Plastic Waste

We are getting fired up about tackling the pollution on beaches, with an intention to make connections through a number of current personal links with Kenya, where we very much hope to establish a relationship with an amazing organisation on their coast, called FLIPFLOPI, which I came across through a heart-warming article of Far and Wild Travel – sustainability-projects-in-Africa

As it sounds, flipflopi gather up old flip flops and other waste plastics that wash up on the shores near Namu Island, then convert into a material they use for making traditional fishing boats. The boats called Dhows are now being made from tons of beach plastics, crushed, washed and dried then melted to an enormous, grey sausage! Yet the final product looks like this, because non-processed flip flop squares are also glued over the hull, in mosaic patterns!

FlipFlopi Fishing boat (Dhow) at Namu, off the Kenyan coast

Start with this film but then also include the next, because it shows a bit of the wider area and the scale of plastic they are dealing with. And is set to lovely music. It’s called Plastiki by the Loko Band.

Domestic good news (not climate news, but still)

Earlier this week I heard a lovely story of success, when a GP in the Barnstaple area of North Devon succeeded in attracting funding for a test project to help people with respiratory problems who are living in fuel poverty.

Barnstaple GP Dr Oliver Hassall got £80,000 from the NHS for the one-year programme with a community energy firm.

GPs contact people, based on NHS data, and an adviser from 361 Community Energy visits those in need.

Staff at 361, interviewed for the BBC, described such great hardship for families – but also success in upgrading their old, cold, damp houses. It was a real pleasure to see.

On the same day, I also watched a feature on how areas where ‘Virtual Wards’ have been introduced are proving to be a far better solution for many patients rather than continuing in hospital. Clearly, if the 2 options can be offered together (Community Energy support AND home-based monitoring and treatment) the combination should be very positive.

What next?

February unfortunately looks like being Filled with Gloom! There are many bad news stories awaiting inclusion, starting next week with “Buried” – a grim series of radio reports on a massive illegal waste dump in Northern Ireland and the bad health impacts that resulted. Then there are the mega profits and a court case of big oil giants. And ‘The Weakest Link’ ref Electric Vehicles, with many problems over batteries and predictions that governments will use them as ‘controllers’ of our whole lives, in future.

Happily, by March there will be the Climate Festival and the clocks changing to cheer us. We also are hoping to welcome a new resident ‘Intern’. So please let anyone suitable know of the opportunity, details below. There is no closing date, just a time of quietly waiting to see if we can find the perfect person to live in.

The Centre will open for outdoor fun with new workshops and walks for the Easter Holiday and – take note, all Members – May, with no less than 3 Bank Holiday weekends, will be a special month for Member activities and holidays.

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