Sunday, 30 January 2011

Woodlands for Sale?

Courtesy of Tim Ireland / the Guardian

There have been some astonishing stories in the news recently but this one really took me by surprise. Now, in a way to save money, the UK Government are proposing to sell off Britain's woodlands. 

Want to see a strategic map of the forests potentially being sold off? Check out the link below...

According to the Telegraph, the Government has announced it's intention to sell off 15% of all land owned by the Forestry Commission in the hope of raising as much as £100 million. The Forestry Commission are Britain's largest land manager of woodlands, they are responsible for turning degraded land into open space enjoyable for all and to protect species, improve habitats and preserve historical sites. 

The Telegraph has reported that "campaigners have warned that selling off public forests will lead to woodlands being destroyed and not maintained, and the public being barred access to land. There is also the fear that some sites may in time be vulnerable to developments". 

The National Trust has spoken out about the Government's plans, stating that the national wide concern over this issue is testimony to their importance and I totally agree. It is devastating to think that future generations may never see the true value of our woodlands. 

It is very clear that there is a lot of passion out there to keep our forests open and freely accessible to everyone. At the end of the day nature should be enjoyed by all... Why would someone want to sell off such an important asset. Surely a healthy Britain needs this resource?

Online campaigners 38 Degrees have put together a petition to raise the profile of the Government's proposals and bring around a real change in the UK. 38 Degrees are arguing that "even if the Government is stopped from selling off forests, this time, the Bill would allow future Governments to do it at any time". Do we really want this risk?

If you want to get involved in this campaign click on the link below and sign the petition:

Another interesting and very informative website is Save Our Woods. They are doing brilliant things to raise awareness and encouraging others to start their own campaigns. Check out their website to find out how you can help!
Following pressure from campaigners it is understood that the Government is to rethink its proposals the Guardian has reported. The Government has claimed that initial plans had been misunderstood with only commercial forests being leased to the private sector, with smaller parcels of woodland offered to community groups to manage. This is positive news which shows the influence of campaigns. 

Ben Stafford, Campaign to Protect Rural England's (CPRE) Head of Campaigns has spoken out to say: 

"We are pleased that the Government appears to be listening to the strong concerns of the public. We now want Ministers to give some clear long term guarantees that any change in woodland ownership will not undermine the quality of the landscape, the rich diversity of wildlife or people's ability to get out there and enjoy our forests". 

Good news for a closing statement.....

The Forestry Commission have since announced that "the transfer of heritage forests to charitable trusts will mean walkers, riders and cyclists will still be able to enjoy them as they do at the moment". 

© Katie J Anderton

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Value of the Bee

Courtesy of the Guardian/Judi Bottoni/AP

I was reading in the newspaper this morning that the honey bee is in decline and whilst this is not a new concept I thought I would do a little bit of research to perhaps find the reason why and more importantly see what is being done to prevent this species from extinction.

This powerful quote famously spoken by Albert Einstein highlights why we should try and protect this vulnerable species:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man”.

The reason for the decline in bees is unknown and many people believe that this is a result of a changing climate, intensive agricultural practices and the use of pesticides damaging the environment in which this species live.

According to the Guardian nearly all colonies in the wild have died out and without beekeepers to care for them, honeybees could disappear in a few years.

The BBC reports that Bees thrive from feeding off a variety of plants rather than just one. Their decline may be as a result of a decline in wild flowers. Due to the expansion of crops like oilseed rape in agricultural areas, bees are often more likely to succeed in urban areas due to the diverse range of plant life in parks etc.

I find it so saddening that, according to the BBC, due to the commercial value of the bees pollination (estimated £200m per year) the Government has started to invest resources in to finding out the reason behind this decline. Surely the decline in this species was news worthy in itself. Why is it always down to money?

That’s why campaigns such as capitalbee are so important to help support the cause and give something back to the community. This campaign focuses on the London area and one again emphasises the idea of honey bees thriving in urban areas. Their campaign aims to:

Promote community-run beekeeping in London and campaign for a bee-friendly city

They share tips and hints on how you can protect honey bees. They currently have a competition running until the 28th January 2011 for 50 local communities. The lucky winners will receive protective clothing, basic tools, a bee hive, and most importantly mentoring and support. Check out their website:

The British Beekeepers Association suggests ways that you can do to help bees. These include:

1)     Become a beekeeper;
2)     Help to protect swarms;
3)     Plant your garden with bee friendly plants;
4)     Buy local honey; and
5)     Find space for a beehive in your garden.

The British Beekeepers Association runs a programme called ‘Adopt a Beehive’ whereby you can purchase an adoption pack from the charity which includes the following:
Courtesy of British Beekeepers Association

The money raised will fund research into honey bee health, and education programmes for bee keepers.

They also sell a range of products including bee wax candles, cards and gift packs with all proceeds being put back into the research and education.
Check out the website for more information

According to an Independent supplement today, the House of Commons is to debate the impact on bees and new generation pesticides which have been linked to bee mortality in other countries. This is a positive step. Watch this space……

A suitable closing statement for this blog is taken directly from the Guardian:

“When kept properly, bees are good neighbours, and only sting when provoked. Beekeepers wear protective clothing when they are handling bees. If a bee hovers inquiringly in front of you when unprotected, do not flap your hands. Stay calm and move slowly away, best into the shade or a tree. The bee will soon lose interest.”

Courtesy of the Guardian/Matt Cardy/Getty

Sunday, 16 January 2011

2011 - The Year of the Flood?

What's happening to the world? We may only be a few weeks in but all I seem to hear on the news is that another country has been affected by flooding. My earlier post focused on the floods in Queensland but since then many other places have been affected by this unforgiving natural disaster. 

Courtesy of The Guardian

Intense rainfall has left the eastern part of Brazil experiencing river flooding and mudslides, killing more than 400 people and disrupting infrastructure, which is now restricting the rescue of some of the more isolated areas in the region. 
According to the Guardian heavy rains triggered the worst landslides in Brazilian history, sending mud sweeping through towns and burying entire families as they slept. The picture on the left shows which of the towns have been most affected by the disastrous mudslides. 

Reported on the BBC news, residents of the affected communities feel the local government is to blame due to the lack of safe buildings and illegal operations in the area. This more than ever highlights the need to build and design sustainable communities so the people forced to live in these areas are not put at risk of flooding or any other natural disaster which may occur. Could this level of devastation have been prevented by better urban planning?

In Sri Lanka homes and agricultural land has been submerged with water leaving crop yields and ultimately a food supply destroyed. This country has experienced a heavier than normal monsoon season with the BBC claiming that over 1 million Sri Lankans have been affected by the floods here. With food crops being destroyed the only question left unanswered is who is going to help these people?

Sri Lankans affected by floods, January 2011
Courtesy of the BBC

Ahmed Lebbe, a farmer, wades through paddy crops in flood-hit Sri Lanka, January 2011
Courtesy of the BBC

Once again a heavier than normal monsoon season has led to floods and mudslides in the Philippines, killing many and displacing many more. The floods in the Philippines have had the least amount of new coverage but the BBC reports that over 300,000 people have now fled their homes in this region and are receiving government food aid. Approximately 25,000 people are currently living in evacuation centres in nearby towns. 

The eastern cape province in South Africa has also been hit recently by intense thunderstorms leading to localised flooding the New York Times reported.

According to the BBC, the South African Government are about to declare parts of the country affected by the floods a disaster area after a number of people have died during the last month.

And currently here in the UK, the Environment Agency has issued flood warning across England and Wales and are putting up temporary defences in Cumbria to protect homes from potential flooding. 

With all these terrible disasters happening all over the planet I'm going to end this blog the same way I started it - What is happening to the world?

The Met Office has recently produced a good document to try and explain the reasons for the flooding these countries are experiencing. According to the Met Office, a natural cycle known as La Nina, which occurs every few years, means that rainfall which would normally fall over the pacific has moved to the west over Indonesia and parts of Australia.
The Met Office also suggests that this is not linked to climate change as these cycles have been going on for a long time. This document is very informative and I suggest you all check it out. The link to the website is below.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Queensland Floods

With the devastating effects of the Queensland floods worsening each day I thought I would try and raise awareness of this disaster.

Whilst Britain had one of the coldest winters on record in 2010, according to the Daily Telegraph, Australia was experiencing its wettest spring on record between the months of September and November. By the 20th December the area had been hit by three consecutive periods of heavy rainfalls, followed by a further 6 days of constant rainfall which resulted in significant flooding over a vast area and ultimately led to mass evacuations.

Courtesy of the BBC

According to the BBC there are approximately 30 towns affected by the floods in the eastern Australian state of Queensland. And on top of all this, communities now face the unique danger and risks associated with snakes moving through flooded homes and spiders moving beyond their usual habitats away from the rising waters.

Some much needed relief comes as the Daily Telegraph report that the military have been handing out supplies to the town where hundreds of homes are now under water.

This disaster has now been described as the worst flood in Australia’s history.
The following link taken from the ABC News website indicates the true devastation the last few weeks of flooding have caused in Brisbane. Aerial photography has been used to produce a before and after view of the town to emphasise the scale of devastation.
Please take a look at the link this will help you truly understand the severity of these floods and what these people are no living with. 

The Queensland Government has launched an appeal to help the communities affected by the floods. If you would like to contribute to the appeal visit

The long term effects of flooding are terrible as we already know here in the UK and therefore I ask you to join me in supporting the families involved. Even by just raising awareness to what these people are going through goes a long way in supporting the communities affected.

These people need our help and now face the task of rebuilding their communities!

Courtesy of AEP/Getty/Metro