From success in treating Road Run-off, to a Major Mining Conference & our own upcoming China Event – Climate Hope comes in many shapes & forms, but the one involving big grant money is the one I do not trust!
Finally, we’ve seen some blue sky recently and felt the sun to be surprisingly warm! A hint of spring around the corner and giving such a welcome lift to the mood. 😊
Another little development that cheered me was learning of the Stover Country Park in Devon and their installation of something called an SuD (Sustainable Drainage System), to capture silt and filter contaminants from the nearby A38 highway run-off, which previously had polluted their beautiful Stover Lake. It is a good news story in itself, because the reed-bed system is working and the proof is visible, in the form of water lilies beginning to thrive in clean water. But it is good news in another way as well, because this success has come about despite having been dreamed up by government departments – who we know are not entirely reliable for implementing schemes that are practical & positive! Details of the scheme are here:-
I heard this story on BBC Breakfast and unfortunately it was a nugget of good stuff in an otherwise very sad tale, researched and reported by environment correspondent, Jonah Fisher. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-68130715 It tells how we have thousands of ‘black spots’ across the UK, black spots literally, where gunk off the roads is having a devastating impact on waterways, including our beloved Chalk Streams. Here is a quote from one of the environmental campaigners, near Lambourn in Berkshire
“Look at this black gunk,” Charlotte Hitchmough, the director of Action for the River Kennet (of which the Lambourn is a tributary) says as she scrapes a net along the bottom. In the past she has sent samples of the “gunk” away to be tested.
“There’s some really scary pollutants in there. Things like arsenic, lots of heavy metals, lots of things from oil, microplastics from tyres, we can be sure that the road is having a really negative effect on the ecology of this river.”
National Highways has a statutory responsibility to make sure that discharges from its network do not cause pollution. It said this outfall had been assessed as “low risk” and was not in line for any mitigation measures.”
I am very pleased that Jonah Fisher has flagged up this story, with his vitally important heading “Toxic run-off from roads not monitored, BBC finds”
I wonder if you agree, that this is worthy of a big petition? There was one through Change.org in 2018 but it barely got going. I will be interested to hear what readers feel. Would you sign and share? Isn’t some improvement achievable, given that there is the South Devon example?
Chinese New Year Event
From Super Fun to Super Serious and even Super Stupid, I have certainly experienced some emotional swings between writing the last blog and this one. It started with Saturday 27th January and a day of Super Fun and creativity, as you can probably tell.
Initially we had a good discussion about Culture and very little about Climate, but that first workshop was always meant to be a practical one for the younger ages. But it also was part of a careful plan, building towards the Chinese New Year, where adults will work with displays designed to challenge their ignorance and pre-conceptions of China. One element I brought up last time was the Shen Yun performing arts group and I would like to share a reader comment on this. Bridget dashed off this,on her phone:-
Caroline, I had a quick read. Nothing is ever simple – support solar therefore equals supporting labour transfer (and more). It illustrates why as individuals we are never going to make the difference, it requires government to guide, regulate, police and incentivise policies that are agreed upon and ensure supply and direction are the best possible.
Interesting about Shen Yun. I offered to buy tickets for my aunt in Vancouver as it looks absolutely beautiful. But she declined as she had been warned off by a friend who originates from Hong Kong (been at very high levels in the UN) who suggested they were a cult and their own practices were more than questionable. How are we meant to know what to believe?
She concludes, Easy to become very despondent, isn’t it? Actually Bridget, your comments have made me feel better. That my instincts about Shen Yun may be correct. And yes, we need official responses to achieve change.
China and Commerce
To widen my understanding I set myself to research the major world sources of vital materials in the 1820s, 1920s and 2020s and turn the results into a kind of quiz. I wonder if you can guess the answers?
Next, I have chosen 3 of the Chinese provinces to elaborate their stories of production. If you went through the blog last week you will already know the stories of Xinjiang, human rights and solar panel manufacture.
|The next area is Sichaun (also spelled Szechuan) and a much happier tale.
It is the centre of bamboo production and manufactures a wide range of products, from paper to socks, cutlery to shampoo and every few months is expanding to hundreds more.
Here is the story of how new machines and methods of growing are helping to increase yields and a whole new sector of tourism is growing up around it.
The image below shows a bamboo forest in Baijie township, Naxi district, Luzhou, followed by a summary of rice producing areas.
The 3rd area is not one province but a series of 5, around the Yangtze River a little inland from the south coast. These produce huge quantities of rice, using a ‘double crop’ per year:-
Historically rice has been grown primarily south of the Yangtze River. This area had many advantages over the north China plain, as the climate is warmer and rainfall more plentiful. The mild temperatures of the south often allowed two crops to be grown on the same plot of land — a summer and a winter crop.
Chinese officials are now concerned that drought could hit the Yangtze River basin, China’s main rice-growing region. Extreme weather such as drought and floods have become major threats to China’s agricultural and food supplies.
Of all the cultivated crops on the planet, rice is the most vulnerable to Climate Change.
In periods of drought there may not be enough moisture to allow the seedlings to grow. At other times there’s too much water, which means that the plants in effect will ‘drown’.
Rice Paddy Fields are often found on flat land e.g. by the Yangtze River or near the coast, making them vulnerable to rising water levels, either inland or coastal with resulting salt. Even rising temperatures threaten the ability to grow rice; the heat can prevent flowers from pollinating, which in turn can greatly reduce the yield for the grower.
Farmers may be struggling, but they also damage the environment and add to global warming themselves. The amount of water they use in traditional farming methods to flood the Paddy Fields, depletes deep stores, in aquifers. And burning rice straw, after harvesting, contributes around 10% of man-made methane emissions globally.
But there is hope, if we feel able to trust new, innovative technology – called CRISPR. It involves editing DNA in different strains of rice plants, with the aim of breeding ones that may prove more resilient to pests, to heat, to saline and to extremes of drought and flood. It also seems they can capture and store CO2. https://ricetoday.irri.org/crispr-rice-could-help-tackle-the-impacts-of-climate-change/
The final section of display will be about transport of goods, from China to UK. A distance of about 12,000 nautical miles via the Suez Canal and 4000 miles more around the tip of South Africa. This is a really difficult topic to nail down factually; I will tell you more next time. But please now sign up to JOIN US!
With one week to go, please think who do you know that might enjoy the Ceremony in Truro? Or the cooking in the morning? But, please tell them it is important to book a place. Thanks.
Last but not least we come to
MINING FUTURES, UK wide
For almost 5 years I have been aware of the potential for warm water from deep inside mines to be used for heating houses. Until now the biggest development has been in the Northeast of England, 150m below ground in large redundant coal mines.
Gradually the level of interest in this has widened to all areas of the UK, including the South West. I will tell you shortly about Cornwall, but there is also news, outlined in this Guardian newspaper report, of a feasibility study for a similar system in Somerset. The idea and funding comes from West of England Mayor (since 2021), Dan Norris, who comes from a mining family. He has teamed up with 82 year old Bryn Hawkins, who began his career down the pit around 60 years ago and is buoyed up by the prospect of the mines that provided a livelihood for him and his family being repurposed for the benefit of the environment.
Norris has committed £1.5m to a mapping study to establish the extent of the mine network in Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Once this is established, the authority will zone in on the most viable locations for further tests.
MINING FUTURES, Cornwall
To my surprise I received an invitation to attend a conference being held on Thursday (1st Feb) at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. I say ‘surprise’, because the title seemed to be way above my head, and the rest of the delegates were highly respected and impressive mining experts. So why was I invited?
The answer is that the business development and mining sections of the University have successfully bid for and been allocated millions of pounds (about £1m in this Geo-Resources for mining, £5.6m in Entrepreneurial Futures, which so far as I can tell breaks down into many smaller pots such as ‘Evolve Futures’, ‘Green Futures Solutions’ and ‘The Future is Green’), all of them part of a total £137m fund called the SPF or Social Prosperity Fund.
Looking it up, one discovers this is just a re-naming of the previous ‘Levelling Up”pot … a Boris agenda rather than a Rishi one, but Rishi is now in charge of how to spend the allocated funds:-
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is part of UK government’s commitment to level up all parts of the UK by delivering on each of the levelling up objectives: Boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging.
OK this does not fully answer my opening question, “what has it got to do with me and Meadow Barns?” The truth is, there is so much money available that any vaguely linked business, even one that works with young children, can be deemed eligible. If I can create, either on my own or more likely in tandem with an education officer of a place like Geevor Tin Mine, a plan to deliver STEM or (my preference) STEAM training (including the Arts with Sciences), this in the very long term could be deemed to have created the new geologists and engineers required to expand the mining sector.
The Down Side – upcoming Election impact
Does all this funding sound good? Great even? Well, there is a downside, because every penny of these millions has to be spent and boxes of outcomes ticked, within the next 13 months! I cannot believe this nonsense. Has government learned nothing over the past twenty years? Think of the wrong turns that were taken when rushing to implement new ideas and targets, such as the pressure to adopt CFL bulbs in 2006, Boris Johnson’s first push for EVs in London (2009), the insistence that diesel cars were all bad for the environment and needed scrapping (2009 & 2015) and (over many years in the energy field), incentives to embrace vast burning of imported biomass pellets at Drax. It is important to see in this list that all except 2006 involved an approaching general election. This year is the same with the election around the corner and that is why money is being thrown around madly, with such paucity of planning and logic. I need to think more about whether to get involved, not be seduced.
At the conference, as you would expect, there was much more content set out for us to digest and discuss, but I will leave that for another day and choose to wind up with some images of the afternoon sessions, which involved being taken around the labs and the Deep Digital suite in Camborne School of Mines. These were incredible facilities, which are now beginning to be out of date and so will deservedly benefit from quite a lot of the new investment.