Global warming means that the Arctic’s fabled Northern Sea Route could soon be ice-free in summer, slashing journey times for cargo ships sailing from the Far East to Europe. The passage (marked in blue on the map) which hugs the coast of Northern Russia, and its mirror route, the Northwest Passage, which threads its way through the islands and creeks of northern Canada, have claimed the lives of thousands of sailors who tried for centuries to cross the Arctic in an attempt to link the ports of the Far East and Europe by sailing via the north pole. Thick pack ice, violent storms and plummeting temperatures thwarted these endeavours. But global warming has transformed the Arctic in recent years and its summer ice cover has dropped by more than 40% over the last few decades, raising the prospect that it may soon be possible to sail along the Arctic’s sea routes with ease – a notion that is proving irresistible to shipping lines, not to mention mining companies as well as oil and gas exploration firms. All believe the region is ripe for exploitation. More here.
The UK’s ‘March of the incinerators’ threatens the drive to recycle more rubbish with experts saying that the rise in number of plants burning waste may be disincentive to greener methods of disposal – with the UK showing its first drop in recycling rates in 30 years. Incinerators – which are replacing landfill because of EC directives, have a real consequences for recycling – as local authorities were forced to divert waste to feed the plants. Julian Kirby, waste resources campaigner at Friends of the Earth, described incinerators as a 19th-century technology used to treat a 20th-century problem saying “The growing success of recycling and food waste collections – and the potential to redesign products to cut waste and boost reuse and recycling even more – mean there are few things more pointlessly parasitic on cash-strapped councils than incinerators”.
The Church of England has got itself into a bit of a muddle over fracking. A number of church leaders including the Bishop of Chichester (Balcolmbe, where the test drilling is taking place, is in his diocese) have criticised fracking, but the Church is taking steps to register mineral rights and is pointing out the injustice of fuel poverty – whilst also seeking to protect the environment. And when it comes to jobs and the (short term) economy vs the environment – the only short term winner will be the frackers. It won’t be safe. It will have dangerous side effects. It will wreck the environment and the future health of our children. If you live near a planned fracking site (the North West seems a likely start point for shale gas, but potential shale oil fields now seems to cover a wide area in South East England in The Weald as well, according to a survey by the British Geographical Society) my only advice is move away – as fast as you can.
An Oxford University Student has been sentenced to two years in prison for dealing in drugs at the Shambala Festival in 2012. Felix Reade (21), a former pupil of Westminster School, was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court where Alexander Stubbs (also 21), a University of Chicago student and also a Westminster old boy, received a prison sentence of two and a half years last months for similar charges. Police said “Excellent work by security at the festival resulted in their arrest and the recovery of their drugs”.
Whilst the English summer turned wet and windy for the Beyonce and Kings of Leon headlined V Festival, China and Japan are seeing record temperatures. Shimanto city on the island of Shikokyu topped 41C – a record. Conditions in Eastern China have been ‘stifling’ since June with an area of high pressure trapped over the drought hit region. In Shanghai a seventy year old high temperature record has been repeatedly broken this year.
And interesting article by Conservative Minister for Universities and Science, David Willets MP, in the Observer (18.08.13) who says In the race for scientific prowess we mustn’t leave the arts behind – The rise in people studying sciences and maths is very welcome, but arts and humanities subjects are also hugely valuable, both to employers and in their own right and succinctly adds “We do not live in a world where science and art stare at each other across an unbridgeable divide. We are fortunate to have an extraordinarily broad research base in which different disciplines spark off each other. None of the complex challenges we face today – climate change, an ageing population, terrorism – will be solved by one subject alone. It is not just a matter of designing a low-carbon vehicle – you have to understand what makes people choose to drive it, or not. As soon as you are dealing with human behaviour you need the humanities. And above all, the arts and humanities are worthwhile in their own right. We should never lose the study of subjects such as medieval philosophy or ancient languages from our universities, because they enrich our understanding.” More here.
Our new extreme weather and climate change are taking their toll on wine producers – but generating some benefits too. This year in Alsace two thirds of the grape harvest in Southern vineyards have been battered by storms and hail and in the Cote D’Or storms and hail stones the size of ping pong balls damaged 40% of the crop – Burgundians rated the savage storms the worst for 40 years. 20,000 acres of the Entre-deux-Mers harvest was wiped out in a hailstorm in 10 minutes. And whilst German wine production has been hard hit by floods this year, Britain’s glorious summer may result in one of its best vintages ever – as climate change turns the South of England into a great place to produce wines as grape varieties that love warm weather can now been grown further North, leaving arid vineyards in the South of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy diminished.
The Metro reports that four more baby orang-utans have been saved by the International Animal Rescue centre in Borneo – one was found with a machete wound on its head, another caged and starved. Rickina, Rocky, Noel and Tribune are now all safe and well cared for at the centre. International Animal Rescue is the only organisation which has been authorised by the Indonesian government to rescue and rehabilitate orang-utans in this area of Borneo. They not only rescue animals in danger but also play an active role in the conservation movement, with long-term strategic goals for the future of orang-utans in the region. The project is an ambitious and costly one but it could save the lives of countless animals in desperate need, as well as contributing to the survival of the species as a whole. International Animal Rescue are determined to do all we can to help the orang-utans of Western Borneo – more here http://www.internationalanimalrescue.org/projects/24/Orangutan+rehabilitation+centre.html
Shoppers are paying more for prawns after disease ravaged sticks. Shrimps from Thailand, the UK’s major supplier, have been hit by Earth Mortality Syndrome and wholesale prices have risen by 78%.
Conservationists have counted 200 grey and 500 harbour seals in the Thames Estuary. The numbers were recorded by the fine people at the Zoological Society of London in the stretch of water extending up to Tilbury in Essex.
The Huffington Post reports that Energy Secretary Ed Davey has personally blocked a report into renewable energy and the rural economy, over fears it could expose shortcomings in his department’s renewable energy strategy. According to a report in the anti-wind farm The Daily Telegraph , Defra sources have revealed an internal battle of wills between Liberal Democrat Davey and Conservative Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the Defra boss who is known to be a wind farm sceptic, regarding publication of the report. The newspaper writes: “It is claimed that “figures” in the Department of Energy and Climate Change are concerned that the report, which has not been completed, could include negative conclusions about how renewable energy affects the rural economy.”
And don’t forget that the GO GROUP’S Green Touring Meeting at the Berlin Music Week (5-6 September 2013, Postbahnhof Berlin) now has a confirmed list of amazing speakers and panellists and a two day agenda which you can find here.
It looks sunny and warm for this weekend’s LEEDS AND READING FESTIVALS headlined by Green Day, Eminem and Biffy Clyro.