GF Blog 23 – Week 19

9th June

A Major Monday Meeting leads us back into further considerations of Authority

Whoopee! I found some excellent elderflowers and made lots of sticky, messy cordial this week. They popped out at me from a hedge, just at the right height, on a walk I have never done before, one which gave me some quite unexpected sights!

The first picture shows a team of workers from Eastern Europe on an early Sunday morning all the way up a new pylon, painting it grey. What an idiotic thing to do, when the pieces of metal could so easily have been pre-painted before assembly! This still looks quite like an ordinary pylon to me, just on its own, but I have added an image found online, which goes with the many campaigns across the whole UK to prevent such monster ones covering our countryside. Actually, this picture is from a feature in the Irish Independent newspaper. Do please share concerns if this is happening near you.

The pylons are flanked on the right by the latest addition to our Meadow Barns re-cycling facilities. We can now take batteries as well as inks. Give a call if you want to bring some to recycle.

This next pair of pics leads into the report to come, on the ‘Major Monday Meeting’. On the left is a view unlike any I have seen before, of the distant aqueduct across Luxulyan valley. I cannot say for sure, but I believe the strange green monster machine is an adaptation of a water spraying hose used previously for china clay (called a ‘monitor’ in the business) and presumably adapted to spray slurry! Clearly it is a bit beyond its working life now anyway.

Next to this is an image of a restored cotton mill on the River Derwent. I searched for it, because Derwent Hydro and another partner smaller company have – with my help – put a proposal forward to Cornwall Council to lease the hydro and leat system here in the valley, with a view to making it work again. There are many parallels between Derwent Mills and Luxulyan Valley, both being World Heritage sites, as you can read here: –

A Major Monday Meeting

I am taking care not to divulge any secrets from the session, other than the outstanding one – that Derwent requested the right to a lease for 50 years! This would add a further very major and very challenging site to their list and I am delighted they think there is commercial potential. But the key question is ‘can a local authority engage with such a refreshing, new and different option?’ The answer at this point is probably ‘with great difficulty’.

As you’d expect, budget rules require any lease agreement must be subject to an open competition; the word ‘procurement’ came up at once.  But because this scheme would be a bit different a bespoke mechanism will seemingly have to be invented. As an observer, I can see it’s really hard for those council officers to ‘think outside the box’, they keep rolling in the same old grooves. And the effect appears almost to hypnotise them, preventing insights into the heart of the issues. I am not alone in thinking this; having heard the key points only, an independent expert wrote to me on Tuesday I will be interested to hear the outcome of your meeting today, although I am sceptical that the Council in its current form would really be interested in the ideas. I’d love to be proved wrong.

What will happen with the council next, I wonder. I will keep holding feet to the fire, as they say, and not let them off the hook, it’s too important.

This led my friend and London correspondent Carole to remark –

George Bernard Shaw told us about ways of achieving progress, in Man and Superman

and I always think of you, Caroline, as the Unreasonable Man!

A public event about the hydro and other engineering achievements of Treffry – Saturday 1st July

The team of 3, based here at Meadow Barns Centre, are excited to share this latest news. We will be running 2 sessions at Cornwall’s history archive, Kresen Kernow in Redruth. Both are free but quite limited numbers so good to get on and book. And please share in the usual fashion, to friends and via social media.  Thank you!

You’re invited to “Introducing Mr Treffry, a real-life 1800s Poldark & Exceptional Engineer”

You’re invited to “Young Family Session – Meet Mr. Treffry, a real-life Poldark & Green Hero”

Still more water …

On a slightly different tack, but still about water in the valley, we have another important session soon, when Meadow Barns will be hosting a team from Cornwall Wildlife Trust, helping explain all the issues around the introduction of beavers in the catchment of the river.  

Correspondence = a lot of comments and emails, for which many thanks

  1. Kate Gilmartin of British Hydro Association, who is author of a fantastic Hydro for Net Zero study, sent Dear All, we’d love to welcome you to the Hydro Network 2023 Event. We’ve got a great line up of speakers for this 1 day conference, that has been CPD accredited. It’s at Hadley Hall in Telford, 29th June – 9-5 (A date I unfortunately can’t make. How about any readers?) Please see  
  2. Elizabeth Morgan has brought me further information about the Power & Water farm slurry management project in South Wales:-

From talking to colleagues about the project, the main conclusions I can gather are:-

  • The farm on which the project took place had an extensive treatment system to treat the slurry, including a decanter/press, centrifugal disk stack and DAF. (Dissolved air flotation (DAF) is a process that utilizes air to remove suspended matter from the surface of treated water. It works by dissolving air under pressure and then releasing millions of tiny air bubbles into the water at atmospheric pressure.)
  • The purpose of P&W was to take the treated effluent from the DAF and put it through our reactor, containing a mixed metal oxide anode (MMO) for advanced oxidation, with the aim to oxidise the dissolved nitrogen within the effluent into nitrogen gas.
  • The conclusions from P&W were that the effluent from the farm was still high in dissolved solids when entering our reactor, the sugar and starch contained within these solids burnt onto our anodes, causing a layer of passivation which in turn increased the power consumption.

I’m sorry I cannot provide a more in-depth report to you. In more recent times P&W have been researching into removing ammonia with advanced oxidation process (AOP), which could provide a cost-effective solution when compared to the biological treatment options that are on the market.

I have responded, “Many thanks for this update of the results. Sorry to hear about the effect on your equipment. Do I detect that the work on AOP implies you haven’t given up?! Please do keep us updated on how it is going.”

3. BruceH in Cambridge

My information on the ELMS initiative is that it never really got started. (Today the Environment Secretary, Therese Coffey, was challenged about this at the Royal Cornwall show, when she met a group of farmers, led by my friend Bridget Whell. Coffey was praising the original George Eustice initiative (tactful!). She also backed continued culling of badgers, to the horror of many, particularly as it appears not to work. Deer can carry TB. Perhaps even beavers will carry it? I grabbed my phone and filmed a number of short extracts broadcast from the show by our local Spotlight TV and will happily send the clips to anyone who asks).

The 30:30 initiative has been much discussed at the Cambridge political ecology group.  Global hopes and local pain are a constant theme. Interesting to find that it is impacting in the UK as well as the global south. The phrase from your piece, which I have quoted below is key; why does it continue to happen?  

they’re going about it all the wrong way. If they visited the area and talked things through with the farmers, then they would be more willing to help, but instead it’s all been done from a desk-top and they’ve got everybody’s backs up. They don’t seem to understand the problems that we would face.”

He ended by attaching a very depressing paper on finished solar panels, how they are not able to be recycled and this must be addressed urgently. It’s going to be a waste mountain by 2050, unless we get recycling chains going now.”

4. An invaluable source of advice for me is Jennie, from Cornwall College business unit. She wrote

Hi Caroline, Here is a link to a programme you may find interesting. Mining for the Future is tomorrow at 10.30am but you can listen whenever you are free, once registered.

The focus of this event was Rare Earth Metals and Jennie was right, I found it very interesting indeed. There were contributions by external expert speakers, each with their distinct and different perspectives from South Africa, Zambia (really strong on indigenous peoples) and Queensland. There was as much value in the typed chat as the speaking, from which source I connected with Andrea in a discussion about Deep Sea Mining:-

To answer your question, unfortunately Deep-Sea mining will have an even greater effect on the oceans (and by implication also above ground) than above ground mining already does. It could potentially release huge carbon sinks and destroy natural habitats of yet-undiscovered species, huge biodiversity loss, and pollution.  

There are many petitions out there on it, but if you Google and read up you’ll see that there are some big meetings happening this July which may decide our fate on it.

Thanks,  Andrea    Andrea Walji / Change Agent / Executive Producer / Impact Films  

The film above said the UN will accept applications for Deep Sea mining from July. It’s only been a couple of days, so I haven’t done a lot of research yet. Looked at The Guardian, Reuters, this one and

Clearly there is much more to pursue from these starting points.

TIME.COM The mining companies’ justification for deep-sea mining is based on a BIG LIE – that we need deep-ocean minerals for electric car batteries and the transition to green energy. We don’t. New longer-lasting car batteries are becoming available that don’t need deep sea minerals, including batteries based on graphene aluminium-ion, lithium-iron phosphate, iron-flow, and solid-state technologies.

We also have the option of low-cost, no-impact extraction of battery materials, such as lithium and cobalt, directly from seawater. And importantly, a circular economy that prioritises reducing, reusing, and recycling critical minerals can power the clean energy transition without deep-sea mining—and at a lower cost. Car battery recycling is already a rapidly growing industry. Perhaps the best evidence that deep-sea mining is needless is the strong message from the electric vehicle industry: forward-thinking manufacturers including BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, Renault, and Rivian are supporting the moratorium against deep sea mining.

5)  An initial comment and follow-up email from MichaelC, who originally read law but when approaching retirement took an Environmental Science degree at the OU. His observations made me feel small! I have apologised for not being better informed about 30 x 30 and thanked him for coining the phrase ‘crass and self-defeating’ to describe the implementation in West Penwith. And then I concluded apologetically ‘Every time I write there seems to be ten tons more information demanding my attention. One day I will have to stop … or explode!’

Belated reaction to yesterday’s blog (and I add) confusion over numbers of different COP conferences:-

Caroline, there are two UN established bodies: the IPCC and the Intergovernmental Science-Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The latter is intended to perform the same role for biodiversity and ecosystem services as the IPCC has for climate change. It was set up following a 2010 UN resolution.
The UN holds biodiversity conferences modelled on those concerning climate change. The 15th COP was held at Montreal last year and is the meeting to which you refer in the blog.
There is much to discuss and dispute about biodiversity and ecosystem services both scientifically and morally. However, it would not, I think, be right to suggest things like 30 x 30 have come out of nowhere. There is a huge literature which I would not pretend to be competent to summarise let alone comment on. However, there is quite a lot of material available on the internet for us lay people. Try these: –×30-target

Michael continued – Thanks for your comments on West Penwith. I had not been aware of this and it certainly needs looking at. I am not trying to defend action like that you report which is both crass and self-defeating, but these government agencies have suffered cruel cuts which may affect performance. I am not suggesting proper funding is a complete answer but it might help.

More about Authority and a wheel or web of connections

Thoughts last time were that ‘An Authority’ should not be a person or organisation, but the power behind those, which should be earned over a period of time. If they can show the most important qualities, such as willingness to consult and listen, readiness to say ‘this didn’t work, let’s try something else’, wider vision and flexibility – that’s how a person or organisation might earn the right to tell others how to behave.

The more online or live sessions I observe for ‘Climate Hope’ the more I perceive we need a framework to be adopted universally. One that tries to cover all bases, in situations that are inevitably multi-layered and complex. We need this, not only for human endeavours but also the growing amount of Artificial Intelligence that is being consulted. AI can only give results that are fit for purpose if the first setting up of questions and the journey of research is sophisticated enough. All of the topics I show below must be considered, plus more. The best AI will always respond by updating and re-setting, so the flexibility is there. But I fear very much that social and emotional impacts will not be. If it fails it will be our fault.

On the image I show Change 4 Climate Hope at the top and the Outcomes we hope for at West and East, passing through the people and places, which will be impacted, on the way there. Although Outcomes are left and right, the impacts apply to any new development.

Lower down I’ve tried to remind people of the ripple-effects – you catch a fly in your cobweb and it will change the tension throughout the web. Similar idea here. And at the base, some thoughts on what new operations might look like.

My copyright. Should earn me a fortune!! Ha, Ha – Fat Chance! 😊

6) Last but not least, is an email from GrahamM about his research into A.I.

Hi Caroline – There is so much to say about this topic of AI, could we share it week by week, perhaps, like a mini-series?

There are 2 sources of AI that I use – ChatGPT and Google Bard. I would sum up the differences as mainly in 2 areas, the types of language they use and how up to date the sources are. Here is a little summary, not too technical, from    ChatGPT vs. Google Bard at a glance

(Caroline now adds further detail) At a base level, both chatbots use natural language processing, which means users type a query and the chatbots generate a human-like response.  There’s a key difference, though, that boils down to the data sources and models they’ve been trained on. 

  • Google Bard uses Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), and can offer responses based on real-time, from current research pulled from the internet. 
  • ChatGPT, on the other hand, uses its Generative Pre-training Transformer 3 model (or GPT-4, depending on what version you’re using), which is trained on data prior to late 2021. 

There is a lot of other interesting stuff in that article. Google ‘LaMDA’ language is definitely aiming to mimic human dialogue and behaviours; its ‘Bard’ sets out to pretend it is fully human. As an example, being ‘in the minute’ and dealing with feelings it was able to give a clear report on the recent book Spare, by Prince Harry. Chat GPT couldn’t say anything about it.

Personally I find the pretend-to-be-human aspect un-settling; I am happier that GPT answers own up to its own limitations, saying in effect, “As an AI tool I do not have feelings but am ready and prepared to assist you with questions or tasks”.

Graham again – Here are 3 programmes I have spent time looking at & will aim to share more about them in future:-

  • Google Earth Engine: a cloud-based platform that uses AI to analyse satellite imagery. This data can be used to track deforestation, monitor changes in sea ice, and assess the impact of climate change on agriculture.
  • Microsoft’s AI for Earth program: a $1 billion initiative that uses AI to help solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges and has funded projects that use AI to track deforestation, monitor air quality, and predict the spread of wildfires.
  • The Climate Action Tracker: an independent scientific analysis that tracks the world’s progress towards the Paris Agreement goals. AI is used to assess the impact of climate policies and identify the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He ended – I will sign off now, with this little conclusion “AI is a powerful tool that has the potential to make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change. As the technology continues to develop, we can expect to see even more innovative and effective ways to use AI to solve critical problems.”

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