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ANOTHER PLANET

Scientists at Kings College London have devised a way of putting an economic value on nature – giving a worth to so called ‘eco-system services’. Dr Mark Mulligan, Reader in Physical Geography and his team at Kings have developed a tool dubbed ‘Co$ting Nature’ that uses satellite derived data to measure the worth of carbon, water related and tourism services provided by protected areas – and gives a value to ‘services’ such as the environment’s role in filtering clean water, providing carbon catire and storage, and the value of tourism benefits – all of which have an economic value.

Edie.net reports that Japan produced record-low levels of greenhouse gases in the year to March 2010; continuing the country’s downward trend. It is the second consecutive year that Japan’s numbers dropped; down 5.6% on 2008/2009. Under the 2008 Kyoto agreement, Japan pledged to cut emissions to an annual average of 1.186 billion tonnes over five years. This would see levels 6% lower than they were two decades ago when Japan first started recording information on greenhouse gases. 

Leading figures in the water industry have moved to dispel fears of significant droughts this year, after a spate of unseasonably dry weather across the UK.  Water UK, an organisation representing all water and wastewater suppliers across the nation, claim that despite the dry start to spring, utility firms are not foreseeing a need for water restrictions to be put in place in the coming summer. However, Southern England in particulr is now extremely (and unusually) dry and firefighters have been tackling extensive blazes Swinley Forest in Berkshire.  Berkshire fire service had crews in 10 engines working at the site overnight but shad scaled up resources to 100 firefighters in 20 engines on the 6th May and a a spokesman said it was likely 50 more firefighters would be drafted in saying “Inroads are being made into this fire but as the hot weather continues it’s still causing a problem.”  The fire service said the blaze had exceeded the scale of the 1992 Windsor Castle fire, in terms of resources deployed.  The BBC reported that water had been drawn from a lake at Sandhurst Military Academy in an attempt to double the capacity of water available for fire crews. Meanwhile, residents and workers evacuated from nearby houses and businesses have been told they will not be allowed back for the “foreseeable future” unless there is considerable rain. Two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of arson.

At a time when rising fuel prices, road congestion, parking charges, increasing insurance costs and the general hassle of being stuck behind fat 4x4s (driving along in a gas guzzling world of its own) means that more and more passengers are looking at rail and bus alternatives, The UK Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, has promised to review the ‘perverse’ pricing of rail fares that mean that one train at 06.59 might be almost empty, whilst one just two minutes later at 07.01 has passengers fighting just to get on. Hammod said that rail operators needed incentives to deliver “what passengers want”  adding that this hadn’t happended under the UK’s current revenue sharing systems, and saying that changes to forthcoming rail tenders for Virgin services from London Euston and trains from London’s Liverpool Street would hopefully tackle the anomalities. I have to say I find Virgin’s pricing on the West Coast line one of the better examples of fairer pricing – especially when compared to trains to and from the South West and The East Coast line. But overall train ticket pricing in the UK is absurdly complex and clearly does deliver some ridiculous ‘cruch points’ in timetables that could surely be avoided.

The Lake District is under attack! Two new ‘alien’ invaders have been found to be rapidly spreading in the Lake District and residents and visitors are being asked to be vigilant.  Australian Swamp Stonecrop – a small plant that spreads rapidly in water and on lakewshores and damp land – is already in Bassenthwaite Lake, Windermere, Coniston Water, Grassmere, Tydal Water and Derwentwater and is seen as a major problem. Himalayan Balsam, a pink flowered annual which can produce 800 seeds per plant, and which has no natural predators in the UK, is also a real threat with the Lake District National Park, Natural England, The National Trust and the Environment Agency all taking action to combat the plant’s spread.