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ANOTHER PLANET?

National trust logoI may have to re-think my membership of the National Trust. Why? Well they have always been a tad patronising (that oh So English ‘we know better than the members’ approach) but boss Dame Helen Ghosh has now said that whilst she is ‘open’ to consider fracking on the Trust’s lands, but wind farms have been ruled out. The Trust owns 600,000 acres of lands and 700 miles of coastline.

With ever rising fuel prices in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron is thinking of slashing green levies on domestic fuel bills – designed to promote a new sustainable energy and technologies – for greener – and cheaper – power, promote energy efficiency in homes, the feed-in tariff and roll out smart meters.

ash die backAsh dieback is a serious disease that has killed ash trees across northern Europe. It has now been found in the UK and could devastate the landscape in the same way as Dutch Elm Disease. Ash dieback is caused by a fungus, Chalara fraxinea. It causes leaf loss, lesions on the bark and dieback of the crown of the tree. The disease is spread by spores from the fruiting bodies of the fungus on dead leaves. Infected trees usually die. But scientists are now very interested in a Somerset plantation where ash trees have survived far longer than  had been thought possible. Only 10% of the 6,000 trees at the National Trust’s Honicote Estate (dang, they do good things too!) are showing signs of the disease, despite the site having first been infected 12 years ago – although the Trust has removed infected trees to slow the spread. The National Trust’s Simon Pryor said: “It’s important that the disease has not appeared to have spread very far at all” adding “Even the trees affected have not suffered as much as we’d have expected, and very few have died, despite apparently having had the disease for nearly a decade” and “Whilst we don’t want to be too optimistic on the basis of this one outbreak, this does confirm the view we’ve held from the outset that it is worthwhile removing infected trees in order to try to slow the spread – especially in places like this so far from the main area of the disease in the South East.” The Trust have passed on their findings to Defra.

Anna Friel has suffered a bit of flack recently after filming a WWF appeal for the Virunga National Park (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from nearby Uganda. Friel was apparently 25 miles from Africa’s oldest national park when she made her pleas – but whatever the kerfuffle – the fact remains that this natural treasure is under serious threat from planned oil exploration. So thank you Anna.

UK Universities and other institutional investors such as churches and charities are being urged to pull out of investing in fossil fuels after the success of a similar scheme in the USA. Fossil Free aims to focus attention on the £5 billion invested in oil, gas and coal by UK Universities’ endowment funds. The US campaign led to more than 40 institutions pulling out of fossil fuel investment.  Do Britain’s energy firms serve the public interest? An Observer columnist and the director at the free-market thinktank Institute of Economic Affairs, take opposing sides in a debate on the pros and cons.  Yes. The market is dysfunctional. We need to shape dynamic capitalism for the good of society, argues Will Hutton and No, far from a return to nationalisation, more liberalisation is what is required, argues Philip Booth.

And what about selling of the newly state owned and now very successful East Coast line in the UK – everyone LIKES state ownership now – and the profit goes back to the taxpayer. But the UK government seems set on selling off the franchise. More here in Up for sale: the public rail line passengers love in the Observer here.

You may well have spotted that the Co-operative Bank will be listed on the stock market next year, to raise money after its poorly timed purchase of the indebted Britannia Building Society – and now 70% of the bank is owned by bondholders and two US hedge funds after the Co-operative Society had to relinquish control. So – will the ethical investments and a social conscience be de-prioritised? The hedge funds say no – but many don’t believe them, and it is expected they will move their accounts away to greener pastures.

Dinner parties at risk! The drought in California and the Greek heatwave have affected, amongst many other things, the almond crop and supplies of olives. The Greek temperatures reduced the Halkidiki olive crop substantially. And to add to suburbia’s woes,  a major cull of fever infected goats has also reduced goats cheese supplies, with prices jumping 50%.  The cost of cocoa butter is also on the rise. What next ….. humus rationed? Quails eggs in peril?

Black_Rhinos_KenyaThe Dallas Safari Club, a really horrible sounding US hunting consortium, hopes to raise $1 million by auctioning off the prize of a permit allowing the moron who bids the highest the ‘right’ to kill a Black Rhino in Namibia.  Only about 4,800 Black rhinos remain in the world, and according to the WWF is probably extinct in many African countries now. The $1 million would go to conserve the rhino ………

In Breton in France 1,000 protesters blocked roads with burning hay bales and heaps of cauliflowers to protest against President Hollande’s carbon taxes. A carbon tax will be levied on lorries weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and a separate “climate energy” tax will push up home energy bills by 7%. Petrol will also face additional taxes.  In the UK, with prime Minister David Cameron saying he is ready to scrap green taxes to push down domestic energy bills, Labour have also said that they would support an over haul of green taxes,with energy spokesperson Caroline Flint  saying they are expensive, bureaucratic and poorly targeted.

American_bison_Plans by a group of benevolent billionaire investors to create a massive sanctuary for bison in Montana have come under fire from ranchers who say that they do a good job protecting the environment having safeguarded and nursed the prairie back to health since the ‘dust bowl’ years of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The American Prairie Reserve are hoping to assemble 3.5 million acres of private and public land to provide a home for 10,000 pure bred bison – and have 274,000 acres already – saying that buying 500,000 acres would then glue together almost 3 million more acres into a reserve.

In the UK, ministers have said that upgrading existing rail lines to meet increased demand – and that’s  if the new  HS2 project doesn’t move ahead – will mean disruption, major delays and weekend closures on all three South to North rail lines for the next 14 years.