GF Blog 23 – Week 25

21st July

Birds & Bees (4 all ages) and Half Term plans; Rubbish (diff sorts, especially political) and more on Plymouth, where TRP is showing leadership and hope

Wild flowers, herbs and cultivated flowers all feeding the bees
Birds happy too, enjoying the insects

There are multiple pairs of swallows or house martins and lots of small worker bees flying about the garden right now. Unless you can zoom very close in you will have to take my word for this, but you can see some of both in Picture 2. What are the bees up to and what about the other kinds of much bigger bees, which I am not seeing? What are they? This is not a subject I have ever investigated and now I realise my ignorance is alarming!  (PS sorry if I am telling you things you have always known)

Totally by chance I was reading a novel at bedtime these past few days, called the House in the Olive Grove, and a major part of the story was around bee keeping. Thus, the word Melissa below makes sense to me, as I just learned it is Greek for honeybee.

The text here is quite blurry, so let me pull out a few facts:-

The Queen has one role, only to lay eggs. But she is no slouch, as the expectation is she will lay up 2000 a day!

Matching her in size, but making up to 15% of the hive residents, are the Drones. Their job is to be husbands. When they have gone out and identified a Queen and mated with her, they die. 

The worker bees – as it sounds – undertake all the other tasks that keep the hive going. They start out as nurses to feed the young, progress to guarding the hive and then will be off out for all available daylight hours, collecting honey.

They bring it back as nectar, store it in an empty honeycomb and after a while it turns into their winter food e.g. honey. How lucky for humans that they can often spare some of that lovely honey for our toast and cooking.

But if we are greedy, taking more than we should, the bee keeper must provide alternative winter provisions.

Having discovered these basics I felt I had to do some further research, from a reliable source. The British Bees Veterinary Association ticked the box.

Feeding Bees in Winter

Why do we need to feed bees at all? The beekeeper takes his honey crop in late August, early September, surely the bees have plenty of time to make up stores before clustering for the winter?  Perhaps they will and perhaps they won’t. If they don’t they die, so feeding is an insurance for their survival. It does not matter if they have two or three times more than they need, you cannot predict conditions that may go against them.  Bad weather and low temperatures can confine the foragers to the box. Hives need at least 15 kgs stores to carry them through to Spring. Beekeepers roughly gauge this by hefting, ie lifting the hive on one side to subjectively assess the weight.

Sugar syrup is normally fed in the Autumn after Harvest up to November either light or heavy recipe. Light syrup is one kilo granulated sugar to 1.25 litres of water and fed in early autumn. Heavy syrup is two kilos of sugar to 1.25 litres of water and fed mid to late autumn. As the temperature drops bees have more difficulty dealing with excess water hence the stronger syrup.  In November the bees will very often slow up in their consumption of syrup and therefore should be substituted with fondant. Fondant can be purchased from a bakery in small blocks which can be ideally placed on the crown board over the feeder hole.

Beekeepers keep an eye on consumption of fondant through the winter without disturbing the cluster. The critical time when starvation can suddenly hit is February and March. The colony is becoming more active and demands on stores can increase rapidly especially as the winter bees are dying off before the new brood has developed in sufficient numbers. Pollen patties are often used at this time to provide a protein source as well.  There are many on the market and unfortunately many have a poor recipe with too much protein of the wrong amino acid constituents. Candipolline Gold would be one of the better products.

If you would like more about bees and bee keeping issues this is another good site:-

BAD NEWS for BEES – the recent situation re neonics

UK government allows ‘emergency’ use of banned bee-harming pesticide just days after EU tightens protections

Today, 23 January 2023, the government has announced that for the third year in a row, it will permit the use of the banned pesticide thiamethoxam – a type of neonicotinoid – on sugar beet in England in 2023.

A single teaspoon of neonicotinoid is enough to deliver a lethal dose to 1.25 billion bees  

In Picture 2 see the damage caused – an abandoned hive with colony collapse disorder

This comes just four days after the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) declared that providing emergency derogations for expressly prohibited neonicotinoid-treated seeds is not in line with EU law. This emergency authorisation comes a month after the UK government was advocating for a global pesticide reduction target at the UN COP15 biodiversity talks in Montreal. Despite a global pesticide target being significantly watered down in the final deal signed at COP15, UK negotiators supported more robust action. It is disappointing that the same approach is not being taken when it comes to domestic pesticides.

Three neonicotinoids (NNs) including thiamethoxam were banned for outdoor agricultural use in the UK and the EU in 2018 due to their devastating impact on bees. Despite UK guidance stating that emergency applications should not be granted more than once, last year the government handed the industry a second approval, ignoring the advice of its own expert body which cited potential impacts on adult honeybees, other pollinators and aquatic organisms as reasons that the application should be rejected. 

This year the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) once again advised against allowing thiamethoxam to be used and likewise were again ignored by the government. Despite significant public interest in the plight of bees and other pollinators, the process for emergency authorisation has been shrouded in secrecy, with no opportunity to scrutinise the application. 

This authorisation is another example of the government failing to follow their warm words with meaningful action when it comes to pesticides and biodiversity. This latest move is completely at odds with the stronger pesticide reduction targets the UK advocated for at COP15, as well as the Leader’s Pledge for Nature it signed in 2020, which sought to raise global ambition on reversing biodiversity loss. It highlights the growing discrepancy between government words and action on pesticides in particular and broader environmental issues. 

This latest authorisation also raises wider concerns over whether the government will maintain existing restrictions on neonicotinoids and other harmful pesticides, or whether they may be overturned as part of a forthcoming bonfire of regulations that protect nature, wildlife and communities as part of the Retained EU Law Bill [7].

The Pesticide Collaboration, a coalition of health, environmental, farming and consumer groups, academics and trade unions says that the government’s decision to approve its use for the third consecutive year is a total failure of responsibility to protect vital species, and shows a lack of urgency in reducing pesticide use for the sake of human health and the environment.


This has come about because governments keep pandering to the interests of a particular business sector – thus the profits from crops of sugar beet have been allowed to override the fate of all those bees. If, for exceptional moments like Covid, millions upon millions of £s could be found and some of them utterly wasted (PPE etc), how come there isn’t an emergency fund to draw on in this type of circumstance? Maybe our next government should create an official emergency climate investment bond or something? OR put a clear penny or 2 on income tax, ring-fenced for this purpose? Compensate sugar beet farmers, to save 1.25 billion bees … Compensate other businesses and people in similar situations. Do NOT let big business win.

Despite this terrible headline, I am increasingly enthusiastic and hopeful that non-government bodies, just small community groups coming together in a groundswell of activities and media storms can change the situation in time. I will share here a Greta Thunberg comment plus the silliest little ending film. Bee song was filmed 16 years ago and the final edited footage seems to have gone missing, so this is just a rough cut. But I hope it explains to some degree how workshops with songs and movement for very young children, as well as sessions for older participants, could be used to help educate and inspire.

Hopefully not too babyish for you. Stay with me, as it will connect with more sophisticated concepts coming later …


In the past week or so, Rishi Sunak has received a massive mailbag of complaints from experts.

You may have noted the phrase in the neonics report

ignoring the advice of its own expert body   and this was the central theme in an extended, really depressing report on the World at One yesterday (20th July). It is all on catch-up online, where you will find the main section, lasting 20 whole minutes, between 7 mins and 27 on the slider.

Letter One was sent by 15 experts, who originally were fully involved in Cop26 and felt Alok Sharma had done a sterling job of putting the UK at the forefront of Climate Action. Their lead spokesman Professor Bob Watson of the Tyndall Institute stated bluntly that everything has changed since Glasgow, the previous top minister for Environment (Lord Goldsmith) has resigned and all because ‘our lead position has been totally lost. We are ‘laggards’, telling lies and utterly failing to meet our own 2021 promises’ And he predicts, along with most others, that 1.5 degrees of warming is a lost cause, we are going to be facing 2 or 2.5 degrees and the knock-on effects will be disastrous.

Letter 2 was from 100 business leaders, associated with a recent review by Lord Stern from the Grantham Research Institute, which was in total agreement with the other leading voices. The combined effect was a massive bashing of Rishi and a call that he must re-state government commitment and show real action and progress immediately.

3 BY-ELECTIONS – another reflection of weak Climate policies?

In Somerset we saw a very hasty rushing out of approval for the Tata steel EV factory just before voting day. If Rishi thought that might be helpful to his cause, he was wrong. Many other factors came into play and his party was roundly thrashed. The new MP, Sarah Dyke, has a strong track record of green policies in previous local government, but it seems unlikely these were main factors.

In Selby, Keir Mather took the seat for Labour and looked a little surprised himself, being only 25 years old. I was unable to find any wise words, or otherwise, from him on green issues. But he must come to a decision on his view of the big one up the road, which is the DRAX power station. There is much to deplore about their management methods, even if the principle of biomass use to stabilise the grid at times of peak demand is possibly no worse than using gas.

Uxbridge was the one constituency where outwardly climate appeared to play a big part, since most voters were using the opportunity to oppose Sadiq Khan’s extension of the ULEZ into the suburbs of London – that is the ultra-low emission zone, which involves banning or putting high fines onto older cars. People still keep saying that ULEZ is so needed, to clean up air but I am told the argument is hollow. Research is now showing that particulate levels are higher in the home, than on roadsides and massively higher in tube stations! More on this next time, but I think we can safely say ULEZ fails on both counts – neither a climate-friendly move, nor a people-friendly one.

RUBBISH – a final point with a slightly happier middle in it

I just took a trip to the tip, with no rubbish at all. This was only so I could photograph a sign and talk to the staff about it: –

The sign means all of the combined recycling products at the tip make up 46% of the total deposited. Therefore 54% is going to the incinerator. At the end of processing, a not too large amount of thick black sludge of leftover waste has to be buried in ultra Deep landfill. This still can have impurities in it, e.g. quite a few types of metals. The council is soon to implement opening and checking of ordinary black bags, to help remove such items and other recyclables – an unenviable task for staff, to be sure.   

I am actually cheered up by realising (although initially it looks very bad), the sign is misleading – most of people’s recycling is collected at the kerb, not needing to be delivered to the tip at all.  

Our road-side collection driver talked to me at length early Wednesday and said ‘since I started driving the collection trucks the van size has gone up in stages from 3.5 tons, to 5 and now 7. We are getting so much to collect, I would say it has increased maybe 10% even in the last year or so. Both the men I spoke to agreed (at the kerb and at the ‘tip’) that a reversal is long overdue. Weekly recycling should definitely replace the weekly ordinary rubbish collection, plus we are still waiting for the food waste bins and collection to start.

I was just lulled into thinking this was a happy ending, but no. Yesterday came this story on ITV, another scandal of incompetence and money down the drain:-

Thousands of wheelie bins and seagull-proof sacks have been kept in storage in Cornwall at a cost of £300,000.  The Lib Dems say every household in Cornwall was due to receive a new wheelie bin or reusable sack as part of the waste collection contract signed with Biffa before the 2021 council election.

However, when the Conservatives took control of the council, the bins were left in storage. A Freedom of Information request revealed that £303,511.18 has been spent so far on storing the bins.

Cornwall Council said residents will still get the bins and sacks, as well as an outdoor food waste caddy and kitchen food waste caddy, as it rolls out its new waste collection system which has been delayed, to allow for upgrades at recycling sites.

Last year, the council agreed to spend an extra £62m on getting ready for a new waste and recycling collection service. This includes new vehicles and facilities to process waste, particularly in relation to food waste.

Another week’s POSITIVE ending from PLYMOUTH

Last week we heard how tidal energy is being developed, as a result of research work and new partnerships at the University. That is leadership, that is great news and why is it not reported more by our media?

Today I want to share news of a different organisation, also displaying leadership for climate and that is TRP (Theatre Royal Plymouth). Since they appointed a new CEO (James Mackenzie-Blackman), followed by a new board of Trustees with Dame Darcey Bussell at the helm, their ‘tiller’ has been set on course to a new vision and in spring 2023 the hunt began for a new team to deliver it. In a UK theatre sector first, one of the 6 posts is an Artist for Change, responsible for the Climate Emergency.

I checked back over the years and found that most climate initiatives in theatre have involved changing light bulbs, adding solar panels to the roof and similar practical changes to the buildings. This was kick-started by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. His Theatre Green Book has become the accepted guidebook, chock-full of excellent practical stuff, but it does not expect or discuss putting together shows that deal with Climate. So, will Natasha, the new Artist for Change, receive the support she needs to run projects and performances? I have only just made contact with her, new in the post, but I do feel the management support is there and she seems to have the right qualifications and spirit. This could be the start of something marvellous! 

Emerging Early Career Artists with Hearts of Green – another source of Hope

Tom & Natasha, part of the new team at TRP
Jon the Piper with the Bishop at our Ceremony4 Climate in March
Alex, starting out with us as a Film maker 4 Climate Hope

In Picture 1 my son Tom (who is a bit older so you wouldn’t say he is Emerging) is shown with Natasha Pavey, who has kindly written her personal story for us and describes the way the new job will intertwine with her colleagues and the Plymouth area:-  

I join TRPs new creative leadership team along with four new Associate Directors (Tom Jackson Greaves, Sara Rhodes, John Haidar and Malaika Kegode) and Bee Jarvis, another Artist for Change with a focus on Diversity and Inclusion (both these positions supported by the Jerwood Developing Artists Fund).

I am an early career creative producer, theatre maker and climate justice activist from Exeter. I have recently moved back to the Southwest after studying Theatre and Social Change at Rose Bruford. I’ve been collaborating with and learning from artists, activists and “artivists” within the arts industry, pushing boundaries and making work that challenges the status quo.

My aim is to put the climate emergency at the forefront at the theatre and more widely in Plymouth, encouraging the creative industries to take responsibility for their part to play in the climate emergency and working with the local community. I hope to bring my expertise as a youth climate justice activist to the task of creating new projects and I am extremely excited about the year ahead in this new role. I am grateful to work alongside such a talented team to champion new thinking and learn more about how we can combine the arts and social and climate justice as a force for change. 

Let’s pick up one element here – the degree course at Rose Bruford, with Community building and Social Justice front and centre. This has much in common with the Meadow Barns philosophy of a Ceremony 4 Climate Hope, especially in its most recent shape. Community is at the heart of it all and – to my surprise – those teachers, church members and musicians who came together to plan, discuss and record film with me this past week, helped me reach a decision that allows even more Community involvement. Instead of burdening schools, who are already trying to deliver on so many levels (food banks & clothing, obesity challenge, mental health etc etc with simply no space for climate), our trial projects this October will most likely happen as Half Term Harvest Ceremonies 4 Climate Hope.

We envisage there will be a number of activities every day, hopefully on a rolling programme in  different venues a) A village hall or scout hut for learning sessions b) A farm or food business we can walk to c) A kitchen for preparing and eating relevant food items d) A sports hall or studio, for practising music, movement and the Procession of the Produce and last but essential e) A spiritual building and leader(s), e.g. in a church for lighting candles and making pledges.

It seems potentially we could see 3 locations hosting these in October in Cornwall, but my hope is that we can spread the word and get it happening everywhere. Can you join? PS Plymouth could do this brilliantly, I am sure!

Last but not least their contributions  

From Alex a young graduate of the Falmouth uni TV production degree course, newly recruited to working on Climate Hope. On Monday we took the first footage now edited in rough, to illustrate a Procession of Harvest Produce with young Jon piping and it is here:-

Natasha’s review of the mining show, ALL THAT GLITTERS

Last week I was excited to catch (my new colleague!) Tom’s show that has Social Justice at its heart. Here are my thoughts about it …

All that Glitters is a lifelong search for queer joy interwoven with a myriad of voices and perspectives on mining in Cornwall. Is mining good? Is it bad? Should there be more? Do we actually know how much mining impacts our day-to-day life?

Told through a backdrop of movement and stories of Tom’s grandmother’s challenges when fighting for a greener future in Cornwall, I was inspired by how Tom captivated a local audience. The show turned an unrepresented topic into an urgent talking point. I loved the makeshift stage made from a sandpit lined by lights next door to a centuries old Cornish mine. The gorgeous soundscapes depicting poetry and local nature alongside projections of birds and water made me feel at home in the Cornish countryside. The multiple mediums from comedic lip syncs to interview audio clips and retold family histories to contemporary dance meant we were never bored. I didn’t realise I could be so immersed into a conversation around Cornish mining and how much I depend on lithium mining to live day to day! In collaboration with Exeter University Arts and Culture, Tom quite literally makes us question whether we could live without our cars, our phones, all things that are reliant on lithium mining, through an interactive audience quiz.

I thought each side of the argument was black and white. Tom, however, takes us with him on his journey from being a novice to starting to understand the relevance of Cornish mining and its effects on both the local community and the wider world of environmental and social justice. As a youth environmental activist from Devon, I particularly connected with Tom’s grapples with identity and freedom of expression growing up in Cornwall. He shows that everything is interconnected and it’s time to make our Southwest home our own: a place of compassion, connection and a collaborative community that puts people and planet at its heart. 

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