GF Blog 23 – Week 12

21st April

Weeds with surprising benefits; tipping points re fossil fuels;

Lithium in India & St Austell, where we conclude with news of super Seagrass

Acceptable on the banks perhaps
Gathering flower heads from the lawn
Making Vegan substitute honey

We kick-off with what I would call a little ‘starter!’. It is more about health of humans than health of the planet, but just might be of interest/value to some.

Weeds with surprising benefits

What a turn-around! Suddenly every hedge and bank looks like it has been spattered by a crowd of painters – splashes of pink, blue and especially loads of yellow. Gorse and dandelions mainly, but also the first buttercups. The question is, which – if any – of these should be allowed to corrupt the lawn as well? It takes only a matter of hours for the grass to be peppered with dandelions after it is mown, so finding a use for them would be good. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised by the news of a friend that she is making a type of honey substitute, with them. She has found reports that dandelion flowers & leaves, brewed with sugar into a syrup or drunk as tea can provide a long list of health benefits. How about this treatment for high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, instead of going straight to Statins? The photo illustrates her syrup, based on this recipe – 

I took a look at Medical News Today and read of 11 potential benefits, which you will find below, but I am not sure how reliable the reports are. Even more extraordinary is the news that top restaurants in New York are serving Japanese Knotweed as a delicacy!! What is the world coming to??,balanced%20diet%20and%20supplement%20regime.

Correspondence – small wind turbines and Energy Local

You may recall that I posed the rhetorical question last week – ‘Am I talking nonsense here, proposing multiple small-scale wind turbines along a farm hedge?’ It is with astonishment and a little buzz of anticipation/excitement for what might come next, that I recount the expert response on this. ‘The concept is good. Height is normally 8m but if the air flow is good and not turbulent then as low as 5m. Could be at different heights – might benefit. Distance apart – around 6m. Electrically in parallel, in a line running NW to SE so SW wind gets them all.’  Doug.

Now I am copying and pasting this, to send the farmer and thinking, which of the hedgerows runs NW to SE? Where could we take this forward?  How can it be funded? Which brings me to the next correspondence, from Energy Local and sadly it tells me they cannot help, due to being many times over-subscribed.

Energy Local CIC  

We work with communities and licensed energy suppliers to set up co-operatives, trading locally-generated power between generators and consumers for a locally-agreed price.

Generators for Energy Local Clubs must have a 3-phase import/export meter and be metered at low voltage. The generators used for Energy Local Clubs range from 24kW of rooftop PV, to a 475kW anaerobic digester. 

PLEASE NOTEDue to such high demand, we are not currently able to start more new Clubs. However, we invite you to attend one of our introductory Zoom sessions. These are information-sharing sessions for Clubs who are interested in launching from 2024 onwards. See details below. 

Tipping point – 1         

Balance – fossil fuels vs. renewable is changing
Starting to decrease as green sources go up

From all the gloom served up by the media it seems there is nothing but bad news to know. But our London correspondent has provided a short report that has a much more optimistic perspective.

New report on energy generation by David Mattin of NWSH (New World Same Humans)

This week, news of a landmark moment for energy. A new report from independent energy think tank ‘Ember’ says solar and wind accounted for a record 12% of global electricity generation in 2022. That’s up from 10% in 2021. The increase in wind generation alone in 2022 was the equivalent of the entire annual electricity demand of the UK. What’s more, says the report, it’s likely that 2023 will see electricity generation via fossil fuels (mainly coal and natural gas) hit their peak. Here is the full-size diagram.

The research team analysed data from 78 countries, representing 93% of global electricity demand.

Carole got this info because she subscribes to the newsletter of ‘New World Same Humans’ at New subscribers are always welcome but it’s less about all things green and more about digital innovations such as artificial intelligence. She writes ‘What I really like in this report is looking at electricity generation from a global perspective, which I feel is so much more helpful for seeing the big picture. It gives us a more hopeful view, to help allay the depression and anxiety felt by many, especially young people.’

NWSHcontinues: Around two-thirds of the world’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. But the transition to solar and wind is now reaching a blistering pace, thanks largely to exponentially falling cost. In 1956 the cost of one watt of solar capacity was $1,825; now it can be as little as $0.72. // If Ember are right, we’ll soon start generating more electricity via fewer fossil fuels: power up, emissions down. That aligns with the International Energy Agency’s most recent and broader forecast; they now have global demand for fossil fuels (via electricity generation or any other use) peaking or plateauing under all their future scenarios, even without any shift in current government policies. // We’re approaching, then, a historic turning point: the decoupling of economic growth and fossil fuels for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. It’s becoming possible to image a world of endless, near-zero cost clean electricity. A world of clean energy abundance. What will that make possible?

As we leave that question hanging in the air, Carole moves on to another potentially good-news story, just released and published in The Guardian. Thank you so much, for both of these.

The new microbe, a cyano-bacterium, was discovered last autumn, in volcanic seeps near the Italian island of Vulcano. This is a location where volcanoes regularly release huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, but also (logically) where CO2 is found to have entered the water at high levels of concentration. The researchers at ‘Seed Health’ said the microbe is able to turn CO2 into biomass faster than any other known cyano-bacteria. Their research is ongoing and is also happening in the Rocky Mountains, USA. 

The report continues – The idea of using bacteria to capture CO2 potentially enhanced by genetic engineering, is an active research area. A recent review suggested that bacteria could produce useful chemicals, as well as trapping CO2, saying: ‘Using modified bacteria to manage CO2 has the added benefit of generating useful industrial by-products like biofuels, pharmaceutical compounds, and bioplastics.’

The US company LanzaTech already uses bacteria to convert CO2 into commercial fuels and chemicals. The UK-based CyanoCapture, backed by Shell and Elon Musk, is harnessing cyano-bacteria to produce biomass and biological oils. Numerous companies are working on using algae to produce biofuels … a fast-changing sector, to be sure.

Tipping point – 2

This month the population of India will exceed that of China for the 1st time
Two very different countries and cultures. Which is doing the best for sustainability?

With around 70,000 babies born every day in India and 50,000 in China, the south Asian nation is set to take the lead at some point this month, becoming home to more than 1.41 billion people. To an April baby born in India 2023, there are numbers that will matter more than the country’s growth rate (set to peak in the 2060s). More pressing is the creep of the mercury in summer – already hitting 40C in this month’s heatwave – and the rise of the Air Quality Index, a measure of deadly pollution in winter.

This content comes from, another online newsletter that just sent out an extensive analytical article covering many interesting sections of debate such as:-

  • How is India trying to tackle the climate crisis?
  • Can development be compatible with cutting emissions?
  • Cities, water, coal: How is India changing?
  • Are sustainable life-styles part of the solution?  
  • How can India make sure its citizens have enough water?

Despite the hardships of life, great poverty in many places and strife between different religious groups, significant progress is being made in some areas e.g.:-

Many Indian states face acute water shortages, as demand increases and rainfall becomes more erratic. Rainwater harvesting is now mandatory for new buildings in a lot of cities, says Minal Pathak, an expert in climate and development in cities.

Chennai, which veers between flooding and drought, ran out of water in 2019. Now it is leading on water saving practices, becoming the first Indian city to recycle wastewater at scale, to meet the non-drinking needs of its industries.

Though water dynamics look very different across India, groundwater is the main source of both urban and rural drinking water. Given competing pressures from agriculture and industry too, the water table is getting “severely depleted raising its salinity level”, warns another expert, Bhagirath Behera, Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.

Government-led conservation efforts are helping to address this. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, for example, is paying workers to create water harvesting structures. Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously pledged to provide all rural households with safe piped water by 2024. 

Modi’s target for net zero by 2070 divided commentators when it was announced at COP26 in 2021. The cabinet followed up with more detail on its national climate plan last summer, pledging to reduce the “emissions intensity” of India’s GDP by 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It also vowed that around half of its installed electricity generating capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by the end of the decade, provided finance is forthcoming from other countries.

There is another, less-quantifiable element to the plan, which goes by the acronym LiFE: Lifestyle for Environment. It’s described as a “one-word movement”, enlisting citizens “to live a lifestyle that is in tune with our planet and does not harm it.” Both Behera and Pathak support this idea, of adapting our lifestyles as well as pursuing policy change.

If you go back to my mother’s time, India was sustainable. We were reusing, recycling, everything, and that changed. It changes when people become rich,” says Pathak. “Nowadays it looks like everyone aspires to be an American citizen of the eighties; those big houses with the lawns and the big cars… that’s a dream, that’s an aspiration that a lot of young people have.”

Pathak sees a “status thing” around consumption in India. “How do you make sustainability cool?” she ponders. It’s a question with global relevance and no easy answer.

Lithium rings alarm bells, in Salal (India) and Saint Austell (Cornwall)

In the margin of this Euronews article my attention was also caught by a headline about Lithium.

I am sad about losing my home, village and the green fields.

More than one billion people in India welcomed the first ever discovery of lithium deposits in the country last month. The news arrived from Salal, a remote village in the Reasi district on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir.

Around 5.9 million tonnes of this soft white metal were found on 9 February, following deep drilling by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in the area. Lithium found in India is technically in the ‘inferred’ category – meaning further tests are needed to check its quality. But the official geologists are claiming that “salal lithium is almost 3 times better than normal grade lithium.”

If the country’s hopes are realised, it stands to hold the fifth-largest lithium reserves in the world.

How do locals feel about the lithium discovery?

Krishan Kumar, a local, believes that the discovery of lithium-rich bauxite deposits has come as a mixed blessing for the residents of Salar. He said that villagers are happy for the country but are sad for themselves because the village has to be relocated in order to mine the bauxite terrain.

“I believe fiddling with nature can be dangerous and at some point we will have to bear its consequences.” 

Kumar’s words are not a million miles from those of people in Cornwall. Now, to my surprise, the University of Exeter and Camborne School of Mines are paying for a creative artist/performer to interpret the conflicting sides of the arguments about Lithium mining. Can you guess who has been chosen to lead this project? Well, it is my son Tom, theatre director, choreographer and dance performer. As the weeks go by, I will share a few snippets of news, when allowed.

So, the big question – should we mine lithium here? Personally, I do not object to the processes of British Lithium, because I see their environmental aspirations are high and the list of probable outcomes not too devastating. In fact, remediation at the end could leave the landscape looking better than it does today.

This is quite detailed, so I will quote only a portion from : –

The EU has implemented legislation that requires more than 50%, and up to 70%, of an electric vehicle to originate from the UK or EU to avoid trade tariffs and to improve the carbon footprint of the electric vehicle supply chain. It is essential to develop local critical raw materials to support this, which have been designed to have the minimum impact on the environment.

British Lithium, with the help of the UK Government, has developed an innovative best-in-class sustainable technology to economically extract lithium from Cornish granites. We believe our lithium project can have the best environmental performance of any lithium producer in the world, because:

  1. Our project is based on a brownfield site that needs remediating; when completed the project site will be returned to a far better condition than it is today.
  2. Recent development of electric- and hydrogen-based mobile plant will allow for off-peak charging and emission-free mining.
  3. We have co-located our mine and refinery to minimise haulage distances.
  4. The ore body is right at the surface, resulting in a significantly lower stripping ratio than other hard rock deposits.
  5. Beneficiation (removal of waste, leaving best ore) by our patent-pending physical process gives higher recovery than other methods without the need for any chemicals.
  6. Our process uses a single calcine at significantly lower temperatures than required for spodumene-based processes (the lithium rock in Australia) and research is being completed to do this using green energy.
  7. Our leach will take place at neutral pH without the need for a second roast, or the creation of acidic waste products.
  8. Our principal reagent will be recycled using our patented technology.
  9. We will use sustainable, local solar- and wind-generated green electricity.
  10. Production in the UK avoids the long supply chain from China, Australia or South America.

One thing is sure, this part of mid-Cornwall previously known mostly for China Clay production, is likely to be mentioned in dispatches for environmentally responsible lithium mining. Good ol’ St Austell. And even more impressive is the following news! The more we keep working, pushing ahead with green developments like this, the more realistic is our 2030 target for being net zero here in Cornwall.

One of the UK’s largest known seagrass beds discovered in St Austell Bay – Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Matt Slater’s photo

A report published this April by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural England has revealed that St Austell Bay supports the largest known subtidal seagrass bed in Cornwall – and is one of the largest known seagrass beds in the UK.

St Austell Bay supports the largest known subtidal seagrass bed in Cornwall at 359.1 hectares (887 acres) – and is one of the largest known seagrass beds in the UK. The findings come from the St Austell Bay Blue Carbon Mapping Project, part of the ambitious G7 Legacy Project for Nature Recovery announced by the Prime Minister at the G7 Summit held in Cornwall in 2021.

This news follows on from a report last summer that substantial seagrass beds had been discovered in Mount’s Bay and the Fal and Helford estuaries.

The St Austell Bay findings are the result of acoustic surveys carried out in partnership with the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA). Boats used echosounder techniques to identify ‘blue carbon’ habitats – areas of the sea that act as highly effective carbon stores. The surveys focused on the historically under-recorded habitats of seagrass, which can flower and photosynthesise just like meadows in shallow seas, and beds of the delicate and brittle pink, coral-like algae known as maerl.

In addition to the acoustic mapping, volunteer dive surveyors from Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Seasearch programme monitored the sites over the course of 22 dives during the project. The team found an incredible total of 122 different species of plants and animals within the seagrass and maerl beds, proving these sites to have real biodiversity importance. They even discovered the rare short snouted seahorse in St Austell Bay, and multiple economically valuable scallops.

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