ISSUE 21 NOV 2008–JAN 2009
Thinking positively
Human ingenuity can save the planet
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04 Green economy could buckthe trend
The move to a lowcarbon economy
could create millions of jobs,
according to the United Nations
Environment Programme.
06 It’s not too late to save our birdlife
Effective conservation projects would be
enough to halt the decline in bird
numbers throughout world.
08 Plastic alchemy
The spiralling cost of oil could turn our
landfill sites into plastic ‘goldmines’.
10 Bluffer’s guide to...
12 Letters
Share your thoughts with other readers.
The star letter wins a Power Monkey
eXplorer solar charger worth £64.99.
14 Business briefing
Meet the car dismantlers, followa
business on its green journey and find
out who’s been in court.
18 Green withworry
Richard Cookson gets to grips with
eco-anxiety and our Greenthinker’s
approach offers up its own antidote.
20 Daretodream
Fred Pearce travels forward in time
to 2050. And finds a world where
the climate change problemis
well and truly solved.
24 Thereal story
Squaring off a round trip to Lapland.
28 If there’sone…
…bookto read, website to visit or filmto
watch, make it these.
30 Onelast thing
Will TransitionTowns really work? Penney
Poyzer investigates.
10What are
Sustainable Urban
And why shouldyou
care? All is revealed
in Bluffer’s guide...
18 Doyou lose sleep
worrying about climate
change? If so, you
could be suffering from
05The move toa low
couldcreate jobs
worldwide, according
toa landmarkUnited
Nations Environment
Programme report.
20 Dare to dream. Fred Pearce
contemplates a climate change
free future.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 28/10/08 14:10 Page 2
by Paul Leinster
Adapting to climate change is a mammoth challenge. And
many people feel apprehensive when they try to picture
their future in a world subject to its consequences.
Especially when stories of serious floods, along with food
and energy shortages are commonplace.
Climate change adaptation is not an admission of defeat
as some seemto think. It is a recognition of the reality of
the situation and that adaptation is a necessity. We need to
adapt to the changes that are already locked into the
future climate.
The Environment Agency plays a leading role in limiting
and making sure that people are prepared for the impacts
of climate change. Areas we are focussing on include the
increasing risks of river and coastal flooding, the growing
pressures on water supplies for people and the
environment and the effects on biodiversity.
We welcomed the Government's creation of the new
department focusing on energy and climate change. This
newdepartment reinforces the importance of tackling
climate change and ensuring the right actions are taken to
create a sustainable future. We are looking forward to
working with the Secretary of State, Ed Miliband, and his
The sheer enormity of adapting to climate change can feel
quite overwhelming at times. So we wanted to do
something different in this issue of Your Environment. We
wanted to help you, the reader, to feel less burdened by
climate change. Because if we approach our future with a
positive mind there’s no telling what we’ll achieve.
Paul Leinster is
Chief Executive of the
Environment Agency
Rachel Savage
Corporate Communications
Environment Agency
Rio House, Waterside Drive
Aztec West
Bristol BS32 4UD
Contributing Editor
Richard Cookson
Fred Pearce
Penney Poyzer
Tracey Smith
Advertising sales
Eddie Hemming
01707 273999 Ext 253
Subscriptions and distribution
Your Environment Mailing List
Environment Agency
POBox 7644
Ashby de la Zouch LE65 1XZ
Your Environment reports on the
environmental issues that you care
about, highlighting the need for
change and action.
Views expressed in guest articles
do not necessarily reflect the
views of the Environment Agency,
and we do not endorse products
or services advertised in this
magazine or featured in the
‘Your Life’ section.
Printed on Revive, a carbon neutral
paper made from75 per cent
recycled stock.
Cover illustration: Andy Council
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Green Jobs, the first
comprehensive study of the
green economy’s impact on
work, predicts that renewable
energy alone could create 20
million new jobs during the
coming decades. The global
market for environmental
products and services is set to
almost double from£750
million to £1.4 billion by 2020,
it says.
The report provides
examples of the potential for
massive job creation schemes
across the world. For example,
in Nigeria, a biofuels industry
based on cassava and sugar
cane crops could sustain an
industry employing 200,000
people; and India could
generate 900,000 jobs by 2025
in biomass gasification.
‘If we do not transformto a
low-carbon economy we will
miss a major opportunity for
the fast tracking of millions of
new jobs,’ said AchimSteiner,
UNEP director.
More than two million
people around the world
already work in alternative
energy and the potential for
job growth here is described
as ‘huge’.
And over a million people
now work in biofuels but this
figure could rise to 12 million
by 2030.
Manufacturing, installing,
and maintaining solar panels
could add a further 6.3 million
jobs, while wind power could
add at least two million. Even
more jobs could be created in
building, recycling, and
green transportation.
But the report also warns
that many of the jobs now being
created in the food, agriculture
Green economy
could buckthe trend
Alandmarkreport fromthe UnitedNations Environment Programme (UNEP) says
that tens of millions of greenjobs couldbe createdbya move tolow-carbonand
low-waste economies aroundthe world.
and recycling sectors as a result
of climate change are dangerous
and very poorly paid. ‘People’s
livelihoods and sense of dignity
are bound up tightly with their
jobs. A job that is exploitative,
harmful, fails to pay a living
wage, and thus condemns
workers to a life of poverty can
hardly be hailed as green,’ it
says, adding that green jobs
need to offer adequate wages,
safe working conditions, job
security, reasonable career
prospects and worker rights.
The report also warns that
climate change will continue to
have a major impact on some
workers and their families,
especially those whose
livelihoods depend on
agriculture and tourism, so
urgent action must be taken to
mitigate the effects. But this too
If you work in agriculture, manufacturing, research and development,
administration or service industries that contribute substantially to
preserving or restoring environmental quality, you’ve got a green job.
This includes work that helps protect ecosystems and biodiversity,
promotes efficient use of energy, materials or water, ‘de-carbonises’
the economy, and minimises or eradicates waste and pollution.
Howgreenisyour job?
Windpower: a windturbine under construction
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:43 Page 4
We offer
• Purchase of waste mercury metal.
• Recycling of mercury wastes, mercury lab smalls,
equipment, etc.
• Recycling of mercury-related wastes diverted
from land-fill.
• Free advice – talk to us first. We are the leading
mercury specialists and are always ready to help.
Tim Fynes-Smith B.Sc. (Hons)
Odin Research and Development
Unit 198A, Boughton Industrial Estate,
Boughton, Newark, Notts NG22 9LD
Tel: 01623 860170 Fax: 01623 835673
may have led to job losses in
some areas. ‘Sectors consuming
large amounts of energy and
natural resources are likely to
see a decline in jobs,’ it warns.
‘Although winners are likely to
far outnumber losers, some
workers may be hurt in the
economic restructuring towards
sustainability. Companies and
regions that become leaders in
green innovation, design, and
technology development are
more likely to retain and create
new green jobs. But workers
and communities dependent on
mining, fossil fuels, and
smokestack industries—or on
companies that are slow to rise
to the environmental
challenge—will confront a
substantial challenge to
diversify their economies.’
The report calls for ‘just
transitions’ for workers
adversely affected by moves to a
green economy. ‘Meaningful
social dialogue between
government, workers and
employers will be essential to
ease tensions,’ it says.
¨ 10 million: people working in
recycling and waste
management in China
¨ 600,000: people working in
solar power in China
¨ 500,000: people working in
recycling and waste
management in Brazil
¨ 150,000: people employed
on a project to replace
inefficient biomass cooking
stoves in India
¨ 100,000: number of solar
repair and maintenance
technicians to be trained
in Bangladesh
¨ 25,000: number of previously
unemployed South Africans
employed on Government
conservation project
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:43 Page 5
Some 45 per cent of common European birds
are in decline, according to the State of the
World’s Birds. They include the European
Turtle-dove (pictured), which has lost 62 per
cent of its population in the last 25 years.
Some Australian wading birds have also seen
population losses of 81 per cent, while in Asia
the White-rumped Vulture population has
crashed by 99.9 per cent.
BirdLife says the findings are evidence of
a rapid deterioration in the environment. The
charity’s head, Dr Mike Rands said, ‘Many of
these birds have been a familiar part of our
lives, and people who would not necessarily
have noticed other environmental indicators
have seen their numbers slipping away.’
BirdLife says that while key threats
include the intensification of industrial-scale
agriculture and fishing, the spread of invasive
species, logging and the replacement of
natural forest with monocultural plantations,
‘in the long term, human-induced climate
change may be the most serious stress of all’.
However, the good news is that
conservation works and is relatively cheap.
The organisation says it would cost less than
a billion US dollars a year to maintain a
protected area that would safeguard 90 per
cent of Africa’s biodiversity. Direct action
saved 16 bird species fromextinction
between 1994 and 2004. ‘Effective
biodiversity conservation is easily affordable,
requiring relatively trivial sums in terms of
the global economy’, said Dr Rands.
Meanwhile, here in the UK, climate
change is causing a number of birds to
change their behaviour, according to a report
fromthe RSPB. The State of the UK’s Birds
says that the Chaffinch is laying eggs a week
earlier than it did in the 1960s, and Blue and
Great Tits, Robins and Swallows are showing
similar patterns. ‘Climate change is with us
already. Fromour gardens to our seas, birds
have to respond rapidly simply to survive,’
said the RSPB’s Hester Phillips.
Conservation can
save our birdlife
Commonbirds are indecline across the world, a newreport
fromthe conservationgroupBirdLife International warns –but
reversingthe trendis bothachievable andaffordable.
Afestive turtle dove
Abirdthat almost diedout inthe 1960s is
making a remarkable recovery –thanks to
climate change. The DartfordWarbler feeds on
insects andalmost disappearedinthe severe
winter of 1962to1963. But it has gone fromjust
over 10pairs inBritaintomore than1,500,
according toresearchby the RSPBwithDurham
andCambridge Universities. But globally the
outlookfor the birdis bleak–its populationin
Spainhas beenbadly affectedandits threat
level has beenupgradedby the International
Unionfor Conservationof Nature.
Warbler comeback
Richcountries’ excessive carbonemissions are
violating the humanrights of millions of the
world’s poorest people, says Oxfamina new
report, Climate Wrongs andHumanRights. The
emissions are leading tofloods, droughts,
hurricanes andsea-level rises, whichare
undermining millions of people’s rights tolife,
security, food, water, health, shelter andculture,
the charity says.
Please lookafter this frog
Aspecies of frog that diedout inBritaininthe
1990s that is being reintroducedhas received
legal protection. Pool frogs were importedfrom
Swedenthreeyears ago andreleasedat a secret
site inNorfolk. They nowhave legal protection
against being killed, taken, injured, disturbed,
ownedor sold, or having their resting or breeding
places destroyed. Natural England’s amphibian
specialist, JimFoster, said: ‘Early signs are
encouraging that the pool frogs are settling into
the current release site. However, it will be
several years before we canconfidently assess
the success of this reintroduction.’
The foodis local, the cups are recyclable, the
toilets use rainwater andthe dancefloor
generates its ownpower –a newnightclubinthe
Netherlands is hoping tomake going out a bit
greener. Watt, inRotterdam, has beendesigned
tosave about 30per cent onenergy andcarbon
emissions and50per cent onwater andwaste,
comparedtoother nightclubs.
Gardeners beware
UKgardeners are being askedtolookout for an
invasive insect, the Citrus Longhornbeetle,
whichcouldharmwoodlandareas andgarden
plants. It has beenbrought inonplants imported
fromChina andcanaffect a wide range of trees or
shrubs including oak, beech, ash, maple, apple,
pear, willow, hibiscus, horse chestnut,
hornbeam, hazel, birch, mulberry androse.
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The Fnvlrcnment Agency understands the need fcr
farmers tc run a prcftable buslness and we are here
tc help.
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D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:43 Page 7
Rising commodity prices could transformour
rubbish dumps into ‘plastic mines’, according
to the organisers of the world’s first global
conference on ‘landfill mining’.
Landfill mining involves digging up
landfill sites so that their contents, such as
aggregates, soils, plastics and metals, can be
reused. It is already practised around the
world fromthe US to the Netherlands.
According to conference organiser Robert
McCaffery, it is also happening on a very
small scale in the UK. ‘People are doing it
here. There has already been landfill mining
for metals and plastics,’ he says, though
commercial confidentiality prevents him
fromsaying where.
He claims that rising oil and plastic prices
could lead to much larger-scale landfill
mining operations. ‘When there are high
levels of plastic in some sites and the price of
plastic is very high, it’s crazy not to make use
of them,’ he says.
Peter Mills, Commercial Director of
waste and recycling company NewEarth
Solutions, agrees. ‘Interest in landfill mining
is being driven by the rising cost of oil,’ he
says. ‘Alot of material that’s in landfill sites is
oil-based and our interest is largely driven by
recovering plastics for fuel.’ He says that
there are an estimated two billion tonnes of
plastic in our landfill sites. ‘People get very
vexed about plastics in landfill sites, but don’t
do anything about it. In addition to all the
plastic, there are billions and billions of black
bin-liners in there that could be recovered for
plastic film.’
The process is relatively simple. Most
landfill sites are covered with protective
membranes that prevent methane and other
potentially dangerous gases being released, so
these need to be removed first. Then rubbish
in the site is slowly dug out and fed into an
on-site processing facility that separates out
all of the usable material. ‘This is already
being done with ‘fresh’ waste so it’s perfectly
possible, even though materials fromlandfill
are a lot more jumbled up,’ says McCaffery.
Mills agrees. ‘We already have equipment in
Dorset that could be used for landfill mining,’
he says.
However, there are difficult
environmental issues to overcome, including
dust, odour, noise and the control of leachate
– the toxic liquid that seeps out of many
landfill sites. ‘Even when you drill a borehole
in a landfill site you need to have dust and
odour control. It may create a temporary
environmental problem, but the long-term
aimis to remove the landfill entirely. It’s a
balancing act,’ says McCaffery. Mills
describes odour and noise as a ‘challenge’.
But both point out that the process will
recover not only valuable materials, but also
the land itself. ‘You don’t just get materials
out of landfill but you recover the land, too,’
says McCaffery. ‘That’s already happening in
the Netherlands – it could even be used here
for brownfield developments.’
Mills says that the idea is still ‘very much
conceptual’ but estimates that widespread
landfill mining may only be 10 years away.
McCaffery is more bullish. ‘It’s my
contention that in 50 years, landfills will
not exist because they will all have been
mined,’ he says.
Sanctuaries inthe Pacific
Almost 900,000square miles of the USPacific
Oceanmay be protectedas marine sanctuaries
or monuments, under a newproposal fromthe
White House. Includedinthe proposed
protectionplanare a groupof islands andatolls
inthe remote central Pacific, including the Rose
Atoll near AmericanSamoa, andsome of the
waters aroundthe NorthernMariana Islands in
the westernPacific. Environmental groups
welcomedthe move but urgedthe Government
toensure that commercial fishing anddeep-sea
mining were outlawedinthe areas.
China contemplates greentaxes
China is reportedtobe considering an
environmental tax onpolluters todrive down
emissions. The China Daily reportedthat the
Government has formeda teamof experts to
examine a possible tax, compensationfor
environmental damage andthe creationof a
systemfor companies totrade rights toemit
polluting gases.
Wave power for Portugal
The world’s first commercial wave-power station
has beenopenednear the northernPortuguese
townof Aguçadoura. The project, whichcost
£7.14milliontobuild, will generate 2.25
megawatts of cleanelectricity –enoughtopower
about 1,500family homes. Eventually, it will be
expandedsothat it cangenerate some 21
megawatts of power, whichwill save 60,000
tonnes of CO2 ayear comparedtoa conventional
fossil fuel plant.
Ecoaccount is nowinthe red
September 23was the day that humanity used
upthe last of the resources providedby nature
this year andslippedinto‘ecological debt’,
according tothinktankthe NewEconomics
Foundationthat said, ‘Globally, we nowdemand
the biological capacity of 1.4planets. But of
course, we only have one.
Plastic alchemy
Recordoil costs couldturnthe world’s landfill dumps
intoplastic goldmines.
Landfill site
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:43 Page 8
Many people believe that because they
recycle, use energy saving light bulbs and buy
ethically-sourced goods, they need not stop
flying – even though carbon emissions from
flights can swamp other green savings .
These ‘eco-hypocrites’ were the largest
group identified in a recent survey, according
to Dr Stewart Barr of Exeter University.
People fromgreen households who also
choose to fly tend to justify their jaunts by
suggesting that recycling, using energy saving
light bulbs and buying ethically-sourced
groceries are sufficient to ‘trade off’ the
impact of their holidays abroad, he said. But
their actions have disturbing implications for
the UK’s spiralling emissions fromair travel,
he added.
The survey of over 200 people, along
with focus groups and in-depth interviews,
reveals that even the most committed
environmentalists – those who shop ethically,
install water and energy saving appliances
and recycle – would not be prepared to
accept extra green taxes and are deeply
sceptical of carbon offsetting schemes
designed to mitigate them. Of those
questioned, 59 per cent were against the
introduction of further taxes on air travel and
just 15 per cent had used carbon offsetting.
Dr Barr said: ‘Ironically, our research
shows that even the most bleeding-heart
jetsetters aren’t willing to reduce their flying
habits significantly, despite their supposedly
impeccable green credentials. Low-cost air
travel has become embedded into our culture
here in the UK, so trying to change everyone’s
behaviour, in order to reduce the impact of
flying, will be a formidable challenge.’
waste sites
Environment Agencysteps up
its use of investigative
techniques - suchas forensics,
handwritingexperts and
crime mapping- inits fight
against illegal waste sites.
One of the UK’s largest offshore wind farms
has been given the go-ahead.
When completed, the 500-megawatt West
of Duddon Sands farm, near Walney Island
off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness, will
include 139 turbines and produce enough
electricity to power 372,000 homes. Its
construction is expected to take several years.
Asecond 150-megawatt wind farm, with
up to 30 turbines, also near Walney Island,
has also been given planning permission.
Energy Secretary John Hutton said:
‘These wind farms demonstrate our
commitment to dramatically increase the
amount of energy we generate from
renewable sources, helping to cut the UK's
carbon emissions and secure our energy
supplies. West of Duddon Sands will be
one of the three largest wind farms
approved to date and will help provide a
significant contribution towards our
renewable energy targets.’
Five more offshore wind farms are
currently under construction in UKwaters:
Robin Rigg Aand B in the Solway Firth, Rhyl
Flats near Llandudno, and Lynn and Inner
Dowsing off the Lincolnshire coast.
for windfarm
Green jetsetters
branded hypocrites
People whothinktheyleadgreenlifestyles may
contribute most toglobal warming, says a newsurvey.
The movement, storage, disposal and
treatment of waste is tightly regulated by law
and those involved in the waste industry must
obtain the appropriate permits to stay within
the rules.
Last year, more than half of the illegally
operating waste sites in England and Wales
were either forced to comply with the lawor
closed down. However, investigation and
enforcement is often a costly, complex and
lengthy process, and can involve dealing with
organised criminals who are often involved in
other serious crimes. So the Environment
Agency is extending the use of specialist
crime-busting techniques.
Environment Agency Chairman, Lord
Chris Smith, said: ‘Operating illegal waste
sites is a criminal offence and their activities
can result in serious pollution of our
environment. Over the past fewyears, we
have made great steps to tackle the problem
and we are continuing to step up our efforts.
There is no hiding place for illegal waste
operators. Our enforcement officers are
watching and we will take every step possible
to protect the environment and bring
offenders to justice.’
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:43 Page 9
‘Sustainable Drainage Systems’
(SUDS) has got to be one of the
ugliest phrases in the English
language. But what does it
mean? And why the ‘U’?
Yes, but despite its turgid
appearance this little phrase is
altering the landscape of our
towns and cities for the better.
Think of it as contemporary
and, in some instances,
beautiful drainage for the 21st
century. The ‘U’ stands for
urban. But don’t worry too
much about that.
But we have drains don’t we?
Why do we need SUDS?
Street drains and underground
pipes have been diverting excess
rainfall to local rivers and
streams since the reign of Queen
Victoria. But there are three
main reasons for updating this
antique approach to drainage.
Firstly, thanks to gravity,
rainwater drags anything in its
path down the gutter with it -
including dust, oil and litter.
Secondly, underground leaks
fromsewers to drains are
common. And thirdly, the soft
natural environment is a bit like
a sponge. When it’s wet, the
ground soaks up any surface
water. But, if the land is urban
and built on, less rain can be
soaked up and the risk of
flooding increases.
So where do SUDScome in?
Simply put, SUDS are a
‘pic‘n’mix’ of overground and
underground drainage
techniques that drain excess
water away.
The difference is that they can
be used to create natural
looking landscapes, even in
built-up areas. We’re talking
Sustainable Drainage
Systems (akaSUDS)
We love drainage: well designed drainage
systems can really enhance an environment,
as this housing site in Dunfermline shows
rainwater harvesting, green
roofs, ponds and wetlands and
permeable paving for starters.
Permeable paving? What’s that
when it’s at home?
Permeable paving does away
with the need for drains, gulleys
or manhole covers. Instead,
the roads and paths act like
giant sponges.
Rainwater seeps through
the surface and into an
underground base where it is
stored and filtered. Then it’s
slowly released into the
drainage systemand sent to
nearby rivers and streams.
This slow release dramatically
reduces the risk of flooding
and the overall systemkeeps
our rivers and streams free
of debris.
So where can we see one of
these SUDSthings?
Chances are there’s one near
you already. Emersons Green
housing development near
Bristol passes its surface water
through a systemof ponds and
wetlands. So its drainage system
is an attractive place the whole
community can visit.
And the BedZed residential
and commercial development in
Croydon, South London, uses
permeable paving, green roofs
and rainwater harvesting. Other
sites include the Oxford
motorway service area on the
M40 at Wheatley, Oxfordshire
and Hopwood Park Services on
the M42 near Birmingham.
Who decides where to put them?
Developers hold most of the
power when it comes to this.
And they need to consider
using SUDS at the earliest
possible stage of planning.
Many remain sceptical that
they take up too much land.
But SUDS can be tailored to
fit all types of development.
Fromhighly populated urban
housing to more rural places
with soft landscaped areas.
Widespread adoption of
SUDS in new developments
would vastly improve the
quality of our urban rivers for
years to come, turning them
into places where fish and
other wildlife can thrive.
They will also reduce the risk
of flooding.
Find out more about SUDSat
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 27/10/08 11:37 Page 10
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driving is a couple of steps
nearer with the completion of
two remarkable journeys.
In a world first, eight teams
of bio-fuel enthusiasts
completed a 2,500-mile trip
fromLondon to Athens using
cars fuelled only by cooking fat.
All of the cars in the ‘Grease to
Greece’ rally, brainchild of 34-
year-old Londoner Andy Pag,
collected oil to fuel their cars
fromrestaurants, motorway
cafes and fast-food joints along
the way.
Meanwhile in the United
States, a Government backed
project saw nine hydrogen fuel
cell cars make a 13-day crossing
of the entire country. The event
ran fromPortland, Maine to
Los Angeles and included 31
cities in 18 states.
For several long stretches,
the vehicles had to be carried on
lorries – but one of the goals of
the tour was to highlight the
need to build more fuelling
stations. There are about 60
hydrogen stations in the United
States, but only two are open to
the public without prior
For more information visit
fuels roadtrip
Eight teams of bio-fuel enthusiasts travelled
fromLondon to Athens thanks to friendly
restaurants, motorway services and fast
food joints along the route.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:43 Page 11
Green wisdom
‘Eat your greens, don't bin
them’ (Your Environment, Issue
20) opened my eyes to what is
really obtainable in developed
countries. Initially, I thought
developed countries have a
better attitude towards food
management. But if 1.3 million
unopened yoghurt pots, 5,500
whole chickens and 440,000
ready meals are thrown away
everyday in UK then my
assumption is wrong.
Disappointed. WRAP’s effort
towards ensuring that citizens
cut their own waste and their
own bills makes sense.
Abia, Nigeria
Squirrel wisdom
Your Environment, Issue 20
page 10 reported Defra's new
plan to identify and handle
species that seriously impact on
our native wildlife and
economic interests, but only
mentions one animal - the mink.
This is a serious threat to
several native animals, but its
overall significance is reduced
by its relative low numbers and
existing control efforts.
The Grey Squirrel has
greater numbers and threatens
more wildlife, but it is of far
greater economic importance
due to its damage to fruit and
nut production, trees and the
timber industry.
Desmond Gunner, Sussex
Making a splash
Fred Pearce made some very
good points in ‘Come the Blue
Revolution’ (Your
Environment, Issue 20) which
often get overlooked.
The supply and shortage of
water spans decades, but it still
depends on your perspective.
For some a water shortage is
caused by the lack of water, but
for others a rising population
resulted in less water available
per person.
‘Virtual water’ as he describes
is not often considered, but
he is so right in taking this into
account in his argument. The
trade of food is one example
where a great amount of ‘virtual
water’ is traded.
South African oranges are
often imported into this
nation, the ultimate result
meaning that water fromSouth
Africa is being transferred to
this country.
Water is such a vital
resource but it is under threat in
many parts of the world. War
may be triggered if countries do
not receive enough water
because neighbours are
preventing the free-flow of
water into their territory by
the use of dams.
Preventing rain in Beijing for
the Olympic games has caught
much attention recently.
Experiments to prevent rain are
purely lethal. Once there is
technology, many nations may
exploit this technology, for
political reasons.
As more and more water is
used for human purposes there
is little water left for nature to
use. It is so worrying that today
many rivers are now running
dry, for hydrological reasons
but also because of ‘water wars’
as Fred Pearce mentions.
Aquifers store water
underground and are an
important part of the
hydrological cycle. Using
underground water may not
show immediate effects, but it
certainly will in the long-run if it
is not replaced.
For thousands of years
water has been managed.
Human induced climate change
has led to many dreadful
consequences, but there are
still yet no signs that we can
manage it.
Very little is being done or is
intended to be done by the
majority, with regards to the
causes of climate change. I
suppose that this attitude will
continue until push comes to
shove and commodities and
resources which once were
copious in supply appear to be
no longer.
Frances Ryan, Luton
Recycling pottiness
There appears to be no provision,
in this area at least, for recycling
compost and grit bags, nor
plastic plant pots. Millions of
these are sent after use to landfill
each year. What a waste!
Surely it would be a simple
matter to provide recycling bins
for themat garden centres
and supermarkets.
I ama specialist, 365 days-a-year
gardener. Annually, I must
dispose of about 130 compost
and grit bags to landfill. It really
annoys me to do so. Fortunately,
I do have a use for many of the
pots. Isn't it time we addressed
this matter? It would not just
save the country a great deal
of money but prevent our
precious land being polluted by
these products.
Alan Jones, Liverpool
Ed - Good news Alan, you can now
take your old plant pots and seed
trays to most nurseries and garden
centres who will send themto be
recycled into newplastic.
We are victims of our own
health consciousness regarding
food waste. So much has been
said about food poisoning and
cleanliness, following the dates
on food packaging and
temperature guides for storage
that people have lost common
sense regarding what is safe to
eat and what isn't.
Media gives us the
impression that we must live in
a sterile environment and TV
'lifestyle shows' give us the idea
that everyone must have a
kitchen overflowing with
produce. ‘Eat your greens, don’t
bin them’ (Your Environment,
Issue 20) pointed specifically to
unopened yoghurt pots, whole
chickens and ready meals. All of
which will have the 'use by'
label and the ‘best before’
Consumers will follow
the dates to the letter, common
sense says 'open the packet and
sniff' but we have been babied
into expecting someone else to
judge when we may deemfood
to be safe, as a result, perfectly
good food is put in the dustbin
because consumers can no
longer trust their sense of smell
to tell theman itemof food is
still fine.
We need to relearn our
grandparents skills. Plan meals
for a week so that you don’t
buy things with no specific use
in mind. Use your sight, smell
and taste to judge the freshness
of food, not just the numbers on
a label when you have kept
themsafely in your fridge or
pantry anyway.
I do wonder whether the
supermarkets that throwwhole
containers of food away are just
at much at fault for food waste in
this country. I have heard that
some douse the food in dyes or
bleaches to deter Freegans from
retrieving foods fromwhat is
essentially a crime of waste.
Mrs Chris Green, Maidstone
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D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 13
Oil slip-up
ASomerset company has been ordered to pay
£12,851 in fines and costs for contaminating
land at Colerne, Wiltshire with oil.
Norton Masonry, of The Old Mill, Park
Road, Shepton Mallet, admitted that an
employee poured four or five canisters of
domestic heating oil froma drained tank onto
a fire at a building site.
Magistrates heard that a specialist firm
had to be called in to remove and dispose of
the contaminated soil.
At one stage the fumes were so bad one
local family was advised by its doctor to move
out of its home. ‘This company behaved in a
highly irresponsible manner. Its actions
resulted in significant contamination of soil
and air and left neighbouring houses affected
by odour for up to three weeks,’ said Paula
Sage for the Environment Agency.
Fly-tippers fined
Three waste criminals have been ordered to
pay over £100,000 in fines and costs. James
Penfold, George Penfold and Josephine
Pettigrove were fined a combined total of
£78,000 and £26,976 costs at Ashford
Magistrates’ Court for knowingly permitting
the deposit and keeping of waste at an illegal
site in Woodside, Nickley Wood, Ashford in
Kent from2005 to 2007.
The court heard howthe Penfolds
collected full skips and brought themback to
land owned by Pettigrove. All three
defendants were involved in the running of the
skip business. On numerous occasions,
Environment Agency inspections revealed that
there was mixed waste, including asbestos,
being deposited and kept on the land even
after verbal and written warnings.
Pool turnedred
Abrick manufacturer has been fined £12,500
and ordered to pay £2,800 costs after pleading
guilty to polluting a local stream.
Baggeridge Brick Plc admitted spilling
3,703 litres of diesel, which caused Hartlebury
Brook – a high quality watercourse that feeds
into a number of sensitive fishing pools – to
turn red.
Environment Agency officer Mark Roberts
said: ‘Baggeridge Brick’s lack of care and
management meant that the environment was
put at risk.’ But in mitigation, the court heard
that the company co-operated fully and
entered a guilty plea early.
Killer milkandveg
AGrimsby food company has admitted
contaminating a local streamwith milk and
vegetable waste, killing fish and aquatic
animals. Bakkavor Foods Ltd was fined a total
of £30,000 and ordered to pay £1,710 costs.
The pollution was spotted by a member of
public, who reported that a tributary of the
Towns Croft Drain had turned white and
smelt of rotten eggs. An Environment Agency
officer traced the discolouration back to a pipe
coming fromthe Bakkavor’s site on Athenian
Way. Inside the factory site he sawmilk
dripping froma skip and flowing into a drain,
liquid dripping fromthe effluent treatment
plant and a pile of food waste on the ground.
The next day, the officer sawthat during
cleaning of the yard, food and other
contaminants were being flushed into the
surface water drain. He found pasta, rice,
carrots and beans in the Towns Croft Drain
and told the company to stop food waste
getting into the drain.
Court in the act
Findout who’s beenbreakingenvironmental laws inthis run-downof the latest
prosecutions, fromwater pollutiontokiller milkandveg.
Water companypleadsguiltytodouble
South West Water has been ordered to pay
nearly £24,000 after pleading guilty in two
pollution cases.
In one, the company admitted allowing
sewage effluent froma pumping station to
pollute Oxen Cove near Brixham, in July
2007, which led to the closure of a nearby
shell-fishery. It was ordered to pay almost
£12,000 in fines and costs.
The incident was caused by a
breakdown of a pump while a stand-by
was being repaired. The company claimed
it was difficult to find a replacement
because all five the specialist units in the
UKhad been sent to Gloucestershire to
help out with last summer's floods.
In a separate case, the company was
ordered to pay £11,875 in fines and costs
after sewage overflowed fromthe Landkey
Pumping Station near Barnstaple into a
tributary of the River Taw.
An Environment Agency officer visited
the station in response to a reported
pollution incident in August 2007. He
spotted sewage discharging froman
emergency outflowinto the River Venn and
asked a South West Water employee to take
action to stop it. South West Water pleaded
guilty in both cases.
Since both court cases the Environment
Agency and South West Water have been
working together. And the Environment
Agency is very pleased with the company’s
improved environmental performance
during the past year.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 14
‘Some people still perceive us a
scrap metal yards, rather than
part of the recycling industry,’
according to Dawn Allen. But
her company and many others
go to great lengths to make sure
that vehicles at the end of their
lives are stripped down in ways
that provide maximum
protection for the environment.
Old cars contain a cocktail
of materials and fluids that
could prove harmful to the
natural world.
‘We buy the cars, make sure the
paperwork is done correctly,
send themoff to a specialist to
get their airbags removed, then
remove the batteries, pump out
any fluids and remove the tyres,’
she says. The company breaks
between 8,000 and 9,000
vehicles a year.
Albert Looms takes great care
to ensure that fuel, engine oil,
brake fluids and anything else
that might harmthe
environment are dealt with in
the correct way. ‘We inspect
most of our drains on a daily
basis. Waste water goes through
a series of sumps and
interceptors so anything that
leaves the site is clean,’ says
Dawn. ‘Constant monitoring
and record-keeping are
important – I walk around the
yard at least twice a week to
keep an eye on things. And any
problems are dealt with
immediately,’ she says.
‘We are inspected by the
Environment Agency every
month. They have a look round
the yard, dip some cars to
ensure they have been properly
de-polluted and sometimes even
get our drain covers up.’
Once a car has been ‘de-
polluted’, it can be stripped
down – and parts sold to people
looking for spares.
Finally, says Dawn, with the
engines and gearboxes removed
and sold on to specialist
companies, the remainder of the
car is crushed. The hulks are
processed by companies that
want to reuse the metal.
‘We believe very much in using
modern equipment and training
– it’s all part of doing this job
effectively,’ says Dawn.
‘Companies that have not been
prepared to move with the times
have fallen behind. It’s a
question of whether or not you
want to survive. The bad ones
are definitely being weeded out.’
The price of metal is falling ‘like
a stone’ at the moment – as are
prices for many of the other
materials recovered by
companies such as Albert
Looms – but Dawn is still
optimistic. ‘I can’t see prices
getting better this side of
Christmas, but it’s not as bad as
it has been in my lifetime and I
can’t see why they won’t rise
again,’ she says.
Lower prices might also force
unauthorised companies out
of the business. ‘You often
find people, especially over
the last two years when prices
were high, who would just
pick up any car, drain the
fluids into a local drain and
then take it to the shredder,’
she says. ‘Thankfully the
Environment Agency is tackling
this now.’
Endof theroadfor cars
Times have changedfor car-breakers, says DawnAllen. Andshe
shouldknow. She’s beeninthe business for 25years andis
currentlyfinance director of her family’s Derby-basedfirmAlbert
Looms andPresident of the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association.
Left to right: Sally
Allen and Dawn Allen
If you’ve got avehicle that has
come tothe endof its life,
disposal is nolonger just a matter
of droppingit off at your nearest
Here’s howyoucandispose of it
1. It sounds obvious but don’t
abandonit! It’s illegal andmay be
harmful tothe environment.
2. Take thevehicle toan
AuthorisedTreatment Facility
(ATF). These are sites that have
beenlicensedby the Environment
3. This means your vehicle will be
properly ‘de-polluted’ and
4. Youcanfindyour nearest ATF
onour website. Youwill findthe
list at: www.environment-
5. If youare unable to driveyour
vehicle, call your local ATF. It will
normally be able tocollect it –
perhaps for a small fee.
6. Ensureyouprovide proof of your
identification–youwill needthis
sothat youcan…
7. Get a Certificate of Destruction
(CoD), whichends your
responsibility for thevehicle.
8. The Driver andVehicle Licensing
Agency must be properly notified
of its disposal –the ATF shouldlet
themknowwhenit issues a CoD.
9. If youhave any concerns about
vehicle dismantlers, especially
any that youmight thinkare
operating illegally, contact the
Environment Agency on 08708
506 506 or send us an email to
10. Visit the Environment Agency
website at www.environment- for more
information on End of Life Vehicles
and how to dispose of them.
10 things you
need to know
about End of Life
Vehicles (ELVs)
‘Old cars contain a cocktail of
materials and fluids that could
prove harmful to the natural world’

D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 27/10/08 11:04 Page 15
The green challenge:
A year on the Arque
Join us as we follow building contractors, Arque Building Synergy, who have
donned their green thinking caps and set about business in a new and more
environmentally friendly way - one brick at a time.
rque Construction are
building contractors led by
forward thinking MD
Bernard Keogh and based in
Exeter, Devon. They work in
the public and commercial
sectors and with architects and surveyors in
the domestic sector.
Over the coming year, we’ll chart their
progress as they implement advice from
Tom Kennard of Global Action Plan and
head towards ISO14001 Environmental
Management Standard (EMS).
Organisations are becoming
increasingly aware of the need to reduce
their carbon footprint and Jonathan Porritt,
Chair of the Sustainable Development
Commission describes Global Action Plan
as, ‘the best organisation to engage people
in environmental change’. It offers
assistance to companies who want to
reduce their carbon footprint, through to
achieving an international standard.
I asked Bernard when his pivotal
moment for change arrived. He explained,
‘Waste management in the construction
industry is notorious. I’ve always been
concerned by the high levels of rubbish that
end up in landfill. I was reminded by the
improvements that were being made when I
worked with architects who said they only
worked on sustainable projects; there was
March 2007– Arque attend a presentation
on Environment Management Systems by
Exeter City Council and Envirowise.
September 2007– They complete a
desktop questionnaire on their levels of
sustainability in business.
November 2007– Arque are presented with
a ‘Green Accordance Accreditation’ at the
Guild Hall, Exeter, followed by an audit from
Envirowise where they discuss ways to
progress further towards an EMS.
June 2008– Exeter City Council run a short
training session, that focusses on helping
participants to ‘prioritise their impacts’ on
the environment. Following this, Bernard
realises it is time for Arque to ramp
everything up a gear.
August 2008– Tom Kennard steps in to offer
ongoing consultation with Arque via a tailor
made package and subsidises training to
help them achieve their objectives. The first
recognised standard is the BS8555,
followed by the ISO14001 but at this point,
Bernard decides he wants to raise the bar
further still and aims for the coveted Eco-
Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS),
the crème de la crème of green accreditation.
It’s early days for Arque but they are driven
by a determination to improve their levels of
sustainability that works alongside the
needs of their local and global
environments too; this is going to be a
fascinating journey.
Tom Kennard (left) and Bernard Keogh (right)
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 16
clearly a growing market for them. But I
was moved into decisive action about three
years ago whilst completing tenders for
work where you had to pre-qualify by
having green credentials in order to apply.
Councils and local authorities are becoming
increasingly stringent and I see this as a
very positive move that will help clean up
the industry.
But I also feel a change in behaviour
needs to take place too. It’s important to
enthuse and encourage our employees into
believing we can make a lasting difference
and physical changes in the office are
helping endorse that. We’re evolving as a
company and the attitudes of those around
us are changing for the better.’
Tom explained, ‘The Green Accord is
Exeter City Council’s sustainability award
for the building sector. It works on a traffic
light system with a rating of red, yellow and
green and is self-governed in the first
instance, followed by audits and training in
the areas they need to develop. Rising
numbers of companies are now having to
look at sustainability and the life cycle of
every aspect of their organisation in order
to remain competitive and win business.
It can be a confusing process and there’s
not a ‘one size fits all’, which is why we
devise bespoke solutions and work with
clients at a pace that suits them.’ Global
Action Plan is one of the partners of The
Green Accord.
Climate change is the biggest
environmental challenge facing the world
and the efficient strategies contained with
an EMS help by giving people a better
understanding of their own business in
relation to the carbon emissions they
produce. And by providing them with
workable ways of reducing their footprint
too. They do this via in-house climate
change workshops, using detailed carbon
footprinting of every aspect of the business,
introducing carbon reduction plans and
offering adaption analysis, which helps iron
out any creases on an ongoing basis.
For further information:
‘The Green Accord is the award
for the building sector, which
works on a traffic light system’
Geomatics Group is a specialist business within the Environment Agency, providing world-class spatial data
products and services to the bespoke environmental survey market. Combining cutting-edge technology,
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To find out what we can do for you call 01225 487 637
Integrated spatial data
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 17
It lasted for about three months,’ says
David. ‘I’d wake up at about three o’clock
almost every night with this crippling fear
about the future. I just couldn’t
comprehend that we are doing such awful
things to the planet and no-one else seemed
to be worried. According to the media, we
were – still are – facing a really serious
threat to our survival, but everyone around
me was still carrying on their lives pretty
much as normal.’
David hoped his nightly worries would
just go away, but they didn’t and he began
to fear that he was sinking into depression.
Eventually he decided to talk to a
counsellor. ‘I never thought of myself as
someone who needed to do that sort of
thing, but I didn’t know what else to do,’ he
says. ‘Thankfully, talking about it helped
me understand why I was feeling the way
I was.’
David is certainly not alone: more
and more people are feeling deep anxiety
about the state of the planet. Many are
able to control or ignore their concerns
and carry on with their daily lives. But
for others, like David, the feelings can
become overwhelming, and a growing
number of therapists now offer specialised
counselling and even residential courses
to help themdeal with their concerns.
Over the last few years, two new phrases
to describe this phenomenon have quietly
crept into the English language: ‘eco-
anxiety’ and ‘eco-therapy’.
Clearly, for some Brits the very thought
of ‘eco-anxiety’ is likely to bring on
paroxysms of indignation. Perhaps that’s
why, amid unprecedented levels of
environmental media coverage, the
psychological impact of climate change has
rarely been reported on. But while stiff
upper lips may have served us well in the
past, discussing how we really feel about
climate change might just prove crucial in
the battle against it.
So understanding how people react to
the scale of this threat and what might
motivate themto change their behaviour is
crucial. Eco-anxiety isn’t,
therefore, a simple tale about
the neuroses of a few Woody
Allen-style eco-worriers – it’s

Climate change is a big worry for us all. But worrying about our problems rarely
solves them. So is positive thinking the first thing we need to achieve when it
comes to living withand adapting to climate change? RichCookson finds out.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 27/10/08 11:56 Page 18
much more important than that: if we want
to persuade millions of people to radically
change the way they live, we are going to
need a profound understanding of how our
fellow citizens are feeling.
Talking to psychotherapist Mary-Jayne
Rust is a good place to start. She specialises
in the emerging field of eco-psychology.
‘Just go and ask your friends and listen to
what people are saying – there’s a palpable
sense of rising anxiety about what is
happening to the world,’ she says. ‘I’ve seen
it rise in my practice also. It has risen in the
last two years in proportion to how much
it’s been reported in the media, and it makes
people anxious particularly because they
feel they can’t tackle it.’
While it may be ‘healthy’ or ‘good’ to
feel anxious about the environment, the
problem is that most people have little idea
how to react to these feelings. ‘Many people
feel confused about what the solutions are,
and further still, they feel that whatever
they do is like p**sing in the wind,’ says
Rust. ‘They think it will have no effect,
especially when we seem unable to act
together, internationally. When we cannot
find a way to respond to our anxieties,
they are left niggling us, and the niggles
grow as we hear more and more bad news
in the media.’
Steven W. Running, Professor of
Ecology at the University of Montana and a
member of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, has suggested that there
may be five distinct stages to accepting
climate change, just like different stages of
grief when we experience the death of a
loved one: denial, anger, bargaining,
depression and, finally, acceptance.’
Accepting and adapting to climate
change is something we all face. So how
can we do both and still feel better about
the future. Our Green thinkers approach
to... won’t solve everything. But it might
help you to feel more positive and, more
importantly, inspired - to make some of the
positive changes needed if we are to
successfully accept and adapt to the issues
climate change brings with it.
I'm a Freud so:
Richard Cooksonis a
freelance journalist who
writes for the Independent
and works for Channel 4’s
It is possible to achieve great things with a
positive mindset - and you don't need to
be a psychologist to work that one out.
As kids, we all said to our parents, ‘I
can't. It's too difficult. I'll never be able to
do it’ or, a bit more truculently, ‘Why
should I?’ And our parents would respond,
‘No such word as can't. And if at first you
don't succeed, try, try again’.
When it comes to climate change our
responses can be quite childlike. It is a big
problem, there are questions around
responsibility, action and denial but for all
the temptations of prevarication, we do
have to get to grips with it. So let's indulge
in a little eco-therapy and tackle some of
those statements we all dish out from time
to time. Lie down on my recycled couch
and tell me all about it:
‘It's too big a problem’
Yes, it is a big problem, but no-one is
expecting you to save the world all by
yourself. By accepting the stuff you can
change - within your own sphere of influence
- you can whittle seemingly insurmountable
problems down to a series of doable small
Many people feel overwhelmed by
climate change but as with any problem in
life, as soon as you start to do something
positive it feels a whole lot better. Think
about tackling a great big patch of weeds -
if you look at the whole thing the
temptation is to hang up your spade and
head for home. But by breaking the job
down to a square metre at a time and
realising you don't have to do the whole
thing at once, it instantly feels more
achievable. Make a plan, write a list, tick
off the tasks as you go - trust me, it is
positively addictive.
‘It's not my responsibility - it's down to the
Government and business’
Take just one word out of that phrase:
‘not’. We elected the government and most
of us rely on business for our pay cheques:
responsibility is a fact of life. A road block to
being personally comfortable with
responsibility is the fear of failure. What if we
tackle climate change and fail? It is a risk,
but without risk we achieve nothing.
Responsibility need not be seen as a burden
but as a sign of strength and a means of
empowerment to achieve great things.
‘No-one else is taking action, why should I?’
That isn't true but it can feel like that. Look at
the vast increase in people joining
community led action such as low carbon
communities and Transition Towns.
Allotments have never been so over-
subscribed and the organic food sector is
booming. Look at the increase in recycling
rates, at the upsurge in people signing up to
green energy tariffs. It is undeniable, people
are taking positive action and feeling better
about it and inspiring others too. You could
be that inspiring person!
‘It's not really happening’
Oh dear, the Ostrich complex: the consensus
is that climate change is happening. Whether
driven solely by our activities, natural
biosphere cycles or a mixture of both, it isn't
going away. Denial in the face of
overwhelming scientific evidence isn't clever
and neither is the ostrich.
‘It's too late’
Many a bus has been missed because we
didn't run for it. A little bit of effort now can
save a whole heap of trouble later. If as a
species we are running out of time to tackle
the consequences of climate change then we
had better run a lot faster to catch up.
Inaction and frankly laziness will cause the
demise of our species and no amount of
therapy will make us better. Remember,
hope is a source of renewable energy!
A positive state of mind is everything - be
the change you want to see in others - and
the planet.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 19
Dare to dream
Fred Pearce is an optimist at heart. So let’s hitch a ride
with him as he journeys through time to London in 2050.
And finds a green metropolis where climate change has
become a dim and distant memory.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 20
on’t worry. It’s going to be
alright. No, really. If we get
our act together there is no
reason why the world cannot
get over the climate change
crisis and move on.
And why we cannot find ‘tipping points’
in our own response to the perils ahead,
that will trump the scary tipping points in
the climate system.
I like to imagine a world in the year
2050, in which the climate change problem
has been solved. In which people wonder
whimsically what all the global warming
fuss of the previous half-century was about.
In the same way, perhaps, that Londoners
today scratch their heads to imagine a time
when pea-souper smogs killed thousands
and created choking darkness at noon.
I don’t say this is the future for our
children. But it could be. And I amsure the
best way of fighting the doom-mongers is to
champion the cause of optimism. Not as a
panacea, but as a guiding star.
After all, we can solve environmental
problems that seemintractable. Back in the
1950s thick smogs, far worse than anything
in China today, blighted Britain. Read the
newspapers of the day and two things were
said. First that ‘we have always had fogs;
they are quite natural; so what is all the fuss
about?’ And second that banishing smogs
would be impractical and impossibly
Illustrations: Andy Council
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 27/10/08 11:04 Page 21
They are contradictory
positions, clearly. But many
people held them both. Just as
those who oppose action on
climate change today claim both
that climate change
has nothing to do with humans,
and that to prevent man-made
climate change would destroy the
global economy.
They were wrong then. Smokeless
zones, new out-of-town power
stations and natural gas did clean up
the pollution and end the smogs (though
not of course acid rain) without
impoverishing anyone. And the naysayers
could be wrong today.
Of course combating global warming is
harder than ending smogs. But it is entirely
doable. And while some environmentalists
are closet social engineers who really relish
the prospect of us living a hair-shirt
lifestyle, it can be done painlessly for most
of us. Through a mixture of technical fix
and social transformation.
And after decades of being the villain in
the story, the US could be about to be the
catalyst for change. The one thing the US
has loads of is optimism.
Right now in the US, three things of
enormous significance are afoot. First a
new president will arrive in the US,
promising action on the twin threats of
climate change and American reliance on
‘foreign oil’. Second, the financial scions
of Silicon Valley are already investing
billions of dollars in renewables and
energy-saving technologies in the
expectation of reaping huge profits
as the US and the world transform the
way electricity is generated. And car
manufacturers are on the verge
of creating mass-market electric
cars – so even transportation can
run on renewables.
Right now, most of these green
technologies are mature and available.
They are also for the most part economic,
certainly with the aid of the kind of
support currently given by governments to
fossil fuels and nuclear power. And their
potential impact is immense. A recent
study demonstrated that the US could
generate 90 per cent of its power from solar
energy captured in an area of desert smaller
than Nevada.
Similarly, Europe could be powered
from the Sahara or from the winds of the
North Sea. What holds us up is political
will and imagination.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 22
efficiency measures could become standard,
especially as energy prices stay high.
The consumption of large amounts of
energy is clearly fundamental to our society
today. The industrial revolution was built
on it. But it is not the energy itself we want,
but the services it provides for maintaining
our quality of life. For decades now,
Western societies have been reducing the
energy intensity of their economies. Till
now the growth of those economies has
been even faster – so emissions have gone
up. But a faster improvement in efficiency
would have a major effect.
It will probably not be enough to rely
on technical fixes like renewables and
improved efficiency to break our carbon
emissions. But it is not impossible to
imagine a society in which we are more
frugal. In which we live closer to our work,
cycle rather than drive, buy products that
last rather than being instantly disposable,
and consign cheap-flight weekend breaks
to history.
Many people are living this life already.
It could easily become the norm.
Some believe that the ageing of society
will help. Ageing is not just a Western
phenomenon. It is global and escalating as
fertility rates round the world fall. And
older societies generally consume less, and
act less wastefully. In the 20th century
the average world citizen was around 20
years old. By later this century he or she will
be over 40. That will change society
in ways we have barely begun to consider.
The good news is it could make societies
substantially greener.
None of this says our problems are
solved. Not even close. None of this says
climate change won’t have the last word.
What it does say is that the doomsayers
and fatalists are dreadfully mistaken.
Lester Brown, the veteran American
environmentalist, recently said that
‘the situation is too dangerous for
pessimism.’ Or, as another American
put it: Yes, we can.
Many believe that
whatever the faults of existing
carbon trading systems, once a
realistic price is placed on
emitting carbon – through the
auctioning of emissions permits
- all manner of means will be
found to reduce those emissions.
Talk of an 80 per cent cut in
emissions by 2050 may suddenly not
seem so far-fetched.
In his now famous report on the
economics of climate change, British
economist Nicholas Stern named climate
change the greatest single failure of
capitalism. But, properly managed by
politicians, a market in carbon could
overturn that.
None of this top-down stuff will work
if we do not respond as individuals. We
cannot do it all by switching to renewables.
But what kind of response will that be?
Some of us will be willing to be activists
– taking the lead in campaigning for local
green energy, giving up air travel or
checking the small print for the carbon
footprint of everything on the supermarket
shelves. But most people simply want to
live their lives in regular, unexceptional,
uncomplicated ways.
Bad news? Not necessarily. Because the
unexceptional can change too. When
change is needed, and there is general
agreement about the way forward, most
people simply go with the flow. Look at
how we have all accepted the ban on
smoking in enclosed public places. Some
people liked it; some didn’t. But pretty
much everybody went along.
Most of us recycle now. No big deal.
Most people see the sense of not drinking
and driving. (One unanticipated
consequence being the vast improvement in
the quality of food in pubs.) Once an open
hearth burning coal was seen as the
absolutely centre of every house, symbol of
the family. Smogs made that unacceptable.
Now most people don’t even remember
that time.
Not many people will want to be the
first person in their street to buy a plug-in
car. But soon it could be what most people
do. Likewise all manner of energy
Fred Pearce is Environment
Editor for New Scientist
‘And car manufacturers are
on the verge of creating
mass market electric cars.’
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 23
The Duchess of
Duke Street
Seventy-one-year-old Mary
Timbrell is the third generation
of her family to live in her home
in Duke Street in Oxford. The
house, built in 1873, had never
flooded. But in July last year
torrential rain hit the region and
to Mary's dismay and disbelief
her home and community were
severely affected.
‘Even in 1947, when there
was catastrophic flooding in the
area, my house stayed high and
dry. You walk up steps to get
into it so I thought I would
always be okay,’ recalls Mary.
Mary is a flood warden for
her street. She receives warnings
directly from the Environment
Agency which she passes on to
her neighbours so they are
aware of the associated risks.
‘There are three levels of
warning issued by the
Environment Agency,’ Mary
explains. ‘The first level is Flood
Watch. No action is required at
this stage but people are
encouraged to keep an eye on
river levels and listen to local
weather and travel bulletins in
case the situation worsens.
‘The second level is Flood
Warning. This means that
flooding of homes and
businesses is expected and the
advice is ‘Act now!’ People need
to make sure family members
and pets are safe, move
valuables and important
documents to safety, turn off gas
and electricity, prepare an
emergency Flood kit and block
doors with sandbags or flood
gates. They are also advised to
move their car to higher ground.
‘At this stage I alerted my
neighbours about what was
happening and reminded them
of the action they needed to
take,’ says Mary. ‘I also made
sure that one side of the street
was kept clear of vehicles so
that the Environment Agency’s
heavy-duty pumps could be
brought down the road.’
‘The third alert is Severe
Flood Warning,’ says Mary.
‘Immediate action is needed to
protect oneself, family and pets.
At this stage the Police, Fire and
Rescue Service and
Environment Agency personnel
become involved as there is a
real danger to life. We knew the
risk was serious last July when
the police came knocking on
our doors advising us to
evacuate out homes.’
The situation was very
frightening to Mary. Before she
knew it the water had risen up
through the floorboards,
flooding her kitchen before
affecting the rest of the ground
floor, a total of four rooms.
‘I couldn't believe what was
happening. Seeing six
uniformed police officers with
clipboards in my street
knocking on everyone's door
was surreal.
‘The real heroes were some
local lads who did a marvellous
job,’ stresses Mary. ‘On
discovering that the official
distribution depots had no
sandbags available, they drove
to a local DIY store, bought an
enormous bag of sand, and
filled the bags themselves. They
helped elderly people - including
me - by raising furniture on
bricks or taking it upstairs out
of harm's way.
Who: Mary Timbrell
What: Flood warden
Where: Oxford
Mary Timbrell outside her house
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 24
‘As I was without power I
couldn't cook any food so
neighbours who were not so
badly affected kindly invited me
to their home for dinner. There
was a tremendous sense of
community spirit.
‘I stayed in my house until
paddling around in flood water
became too much and I had to
move out.’
Mary feels the most
important aspect of her remit is
ensuring good communication.
She has found that people really
appreciate being kept updated
with accurate information
during a flooding emergency.
‘It helps to limit the
contradictory rumours which
tend to fly around and can
unnecessarily worry people, or
even wrongly persuade them
that their homes are safe. Even
if the news is bad and the
situation is worsening, people
prefer to know the facts.
‘I always have a stock of
advice leaflets to hand out to
people. And I encourage
residents to sign up to the
Environment Agency's
automated Flood Warning
service, whereby flood warnings
are sent direct to people's
landline, mobile, and e-mail
address. It is free - and stops
people relying entirely on me.
‘I am also drafting an
evacuation checklist so people
are absolutely clear about what
items they need should they
have to leave their homes in a
rush - focusing on the basic
essentials like medication, teeth,
keys, money, address book and
mobile phone,’ says Mary. ‘It is
very hard to think clearly when
your house is being flooded and
the police are waiting at the
door. I know of at least two
elderly residents who arrived at
the emergency centre without
their medication.
Mary moved back home 13
months after the floods. ‘I was
relatively lucky,’ she says. ‘I
managed to rescue most of my
furniture and possessions. But
because I had lived in
alternative accommodation for
a year I’d made it my home. So
coming back was just like
moving again. There’s still an
awful lot of unpacking left to
do. It’s quite exhausting.’
Then there’s the garden to
sort out. ‘The garden turned
into a lake. It was the first thing
to go under the flood water,’
recalls Mary. ‘I was watching it
from the window. I’ve never
seen anything like that before.
But it’s amazing how so many
things have survived.
‘And my pussycat Caspian is
very happy now he’s back
home. The central heating has
been replumbed and he’s
snuggled under the radiator.’
Even though it’s good to be
home, Mary’s flood warden
role leaves her only too aware
that there’s still work to be
done. ‘I had no idea that it
would be so tiring and
emotionally devastating.
‘We flooded for a number of
reasons. The main reason being
the unprecedented amount of
rain we had. But over the years
there’s been poor river
maintenance and building on
the floodplain and these things
have contributed. So we’ve got
to address a number of issues to
try and stop it happening again.
Clearing the rivers is one thing.
Making sure there is no further
building on the flood plain is
another. Along with looking at
flood barriers and how effective
they are; and getting individuals
to protect their own properties.
‘We all hope and pray this
will never happen to us again,
but it is important to be
prepared,’ stresses Mary.
‘There was a
tremendous sense of
community spirit.’
TEL: 01707 273999 (EXT 253)
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D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 25
Put it on your Christmas wish list
Your travel agent will not automatically
offer carbon offsetting against your
Lapland holiday. But you can use a
scheme that meets Defra guidelines;
choose from Pure, Global Cool,
Equiclimate and Carbon Offsets.
Clothing for this trip is hired to
you and included in the cost of
your holiday. The upside is you
travel with minimal baggage and
don’t have the annoyance of all
the holiday washing when you
get home.
Carbon offsetting involves calculating your
emissions and buying credits for
environmental projects - in this country
and abroad - that prevent or remove
emissions of an equivalent amount of
carbon dioxide.
But carbon offsetting should not be
viewed as a solitary solution to travel. And,
in this instance, figures for visiting Lapland
UK, both in terms of cost and carbon
emissions, make it a much more planet
and wallet-friendly option.
Can you square off a
round trip to lapland?
Holidays to meet Santa are big business. A family of four won’t see much change from
£4,500 for a three-day stay in Lapland and they will have to fly. But what if they’re passionate
about the environment too? Is carbon offsetting the answer?
Tracey Smithis a
writer, broadcaster,
downshifter and
author of The Book
of Rubbish Ideas .
For more information:
The Christmas journey
Mini-breaks to visit Santa in
Lapland by air have been designed
around the wants of the European
market and are available from
October through December. After
clearing customs, your onward
journey of 90 minutes is made by
coach, not reindeer.
Or you could stay put?
Or you could opt for the UK experience.
Lapland UK is centred around an
authentic film set in the Kent
countryside and comes complete with
guaranteed snow, log cabins and all the
trimmings. Kids have considerably
more time to work as an apprentice,
helping the elves in the toy shop,
visiting the North Pole post office, ice
skating and playing with husky dogs
and reindeer.
The carbon footprint for a
family of four.
Lapland experience
= 2 tonnes
UK experience
= 0.01 tonnes



D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 26
EMS National Forum
“Linking your EMS to the Sustainable Development agenda”
November 2008
QEII Conference Centre,Westminster
Learn how to get the most from your EMS
Develop your skills in EMS implementation
Embrace the challenge of integrating Biodiversity and Climate Change into your EMS
Discover the skills needed to revive your current EMS
Leave equipped to respond to the key EMS issues affecting your business
For more details visit or contact the IEMA EventsTeam (01522) 540069
This piece of functional artwork (pictured) is
the Cohda RD(Roughly Drawn) Legs limited
edition chair.
It is widely recognised as one of the
noughties’ iconic eco-products and was
short-listed in the category of ‘Innovation’ in
the House and Garden Classic Design
Awards at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Cohda founder Richard Liddle (also
pictured) explains, ‘Plastic is very recyclable
and can be reprocessed up to eight times.
Problems arise with interception and sorting
of the rawmaterials. At the moment, we’re
just not geared up well enough for it in the
UK. I can make beautiful pieces of furniture
using an abundantly available material and I
relish the opportunity to showrubbish being
turned into a resource.’
The manufacturing process combines
engineering skill with creative ability and
begins with raw materials being broken
down into something resembling corn
flakes known as ‘jazz plastic’. A modified
extrusion device heats it to a liquefied state
and a range of colours can then be
introduced; mustard yellows, reds, browns
and other ‘earthy’ pigments are favoured.
As a molten, workable substance it is hand-
woven around a frame and transformed
into various items including tables, chairs
and light fittings.
They say it’s all in a name and as ‘Cohda’
is a derivate of ‘ad hoc’, meaning ‘forming
and arranging for purpose’, this description
fits themlike a glove.
Richard concludes with a profound
statement about the industry’s future with
regard to peak oil , ‘Any designer who isn’t
working in the area of sustainability in the
next five to eight years won’t be working for
very much longer.’
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 27/10/08 11:04 Page 27
The Book of Rubbish Ideas
Tracey Smith
Fragile Earth Books
If your household aspires to a ‘size zero
waste’ bin-day this book is for you. Join
Tracey Smith on her maiden voyage
through each room of your house, as
she shares her wealth of ideas for
reducing the amount of waste that
crosses your threshold on its way to
the nearest landfill site.
This book is light. It’s chatty. And if,
like me, you promise to do just one
thing a week, your waste pile will soon
dwindle, painlessly and effortlessly.
Some people believe that the state
of your house reflects what’s going on
in your psyche. ‘Tidy house, tidy mind’
they say. And this book will help you to
reduce the clutter in both.
Tracey ventures into every nook
and cranny and leaves no cupboard or
drawer unturned. Even bedroom toys
are fair game, so to speak. Yes, the 10
million adult toys bought in the UK each
year can now be stripped down and
recycled when they lose their spark.
You heard it here first!
Review by Rachel Savage
The Riverford Farm Cook Book
Guy Watson and Jane Baxter
£16.99, Fourth Estate
Over 400 pages of honest imagery and
non-fussy recipes written with
simplicity at the forefront. This book
begs you to embrace the seasons and
cook alongside them.
Will Work For Nuts
Matthew Cole
£9.99, Collins
Light-hearted accompaniment to the
recent TV series. Packed full of
interesting, mini-projects like goldfish
football and slug safaris, you’ll start to
view the animals around you for the
smart creatures they really are.
Smart Planet
If you’re looking for an unbiased
opinion on what’s available for eco-
savvy consumers, look no further.
Smart Planet is packed to the gunnels
with in-depth news and reviews on
beauty, fashion, finance, food,
household, leisure, technology and
even transport. They dissect the
hottest environmentally friendly
products on the market and their goal
of helping to create a greener, fairer
world is right on the money. Their
esteemed editor Adam Vaughan
explained, ‘we know buying and living
green can be confusing. Where once
there was one organic coffee, today
there are dozens. We look beyond the
hype and buzzwords, read the reports,
weigh up the evidence and steer you
towards the smart choice’. Their expert
writing team combines authority and
specialist knowledge with a wink and
a sense of humour. They never preach,
proffer green-guilt or use jargon, which
makes for comfortable and easy
reading. Having a green Christmas is
about to become a whole lot easier -
bookmark their website today.
The ‘Love Food Hate Waste’
An excellent resource from the team at
WRAP helping you sharpen up in the
kitchen, reduce waste and get creative
too. Interactive features explain simple
portion control and menu planning
and the seasonal recipes will make
your mouth water.
Christmas Fun and Games!
Have a little festive fun with your
colleagues or children. Start by writing
a letter to Santa, then try the draughts
quest, or trim the tree.
The 11th Hour
Warner Bros
Certificate PG
This fact-packed documentary,
narrated and part-produced by
Leonardo DiCaprio, is the most
compelling and evocative eco-film
I’ve ever seen.
Its fast-paced imagery almost
gives you a sensory overload to begin
with, but it soon levels out to deliver
the sobering reality on the state of our
fragile earth and goes on to explain
the consequences if we don’t take
stock and live more sustainably now.
Don’t let Leonardo’s celebrity
status steer you away from giving this
movie a chance. His heart is clearly
embedded in the message he tries so
sincerely to convey and the combined
use of powerful dialogue from various
environmental experts, along with
hopeful and inspiring suggestions for
how we can maintain stability on our
volatile planet, gives us real hope that
it can be achieved.
There are too many doom and
gloom movies out there when it
comes to climate change, but this
certainly isn’t one of them.
How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
Community Service Inc
A powerful film, produced to give hope
to the developed world as it wakes up
to its oil addiction. It charts Cuba’s
recovery after supplies plummeted in
1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Dr Iain Stewart explains how planet
earth has shaped and formed itself
over the past 4.6 billion years. Tackling
the changes that have affected it and
the environmental conditions it will
face in the decades ahead.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 28
Think this couldn’t happen to you?
Floods are devastating. Find out if you are at risk.
We can help.
Don’t ignore the risk.
Be prepared for flooding.
Call 0845 988 1188
or visit
*BT calls cost up to 2p/min plus 7p set-up fee from your home.
Other providers and mobiles may vary.
D86_CA443_YE21_journal.qxd:Layout 1 23/10/08 15:44 Page 29
You don’t have to look too far to
find folks who are feeling pretty
disaffected with the status quo:
the current system is rocking
people in all the wrong ways.
Global finances are up the spout,
food shortages are on the menu
(or off the menu), energy prices
are too hot to handle and water
bills are set to rise again.
People are looking for
something different, they want
positive change and to be part
of it.
Unless you have been hiding
in a deep hidey hole for the last
year or so, you can’t have failed
to notice the upsurge of the
Transition Town movement. It’s
even taken root in Ambridge –
the heartland of Radio 4’s
The Archers.
It is proper grass roots stuff
and to paraphrase Prince - who
has made many a transition in his
time - it is ‘a sign o’ the times’.
Rob Hopkins and Ben
Brangwyn began their social
experiment in 2005 and there are
around 100 established
Transition Town Groups (TTs).
A number of them are overseas in
the Antipodes, North America
and even one in Japan. There are
another 600 communities in the
mulling it over phase.
While you can replicate a
formula you can’t replicate a
community so it will have to
adapt and change to each
location. For example, Totnes is a
largely white, rural, fairly
affluent, stable community -
Brixton’s is hugely diverse, with
many people on low incomes.
It is a fascinating process and
anything that promotes social
cohesion has to be a very good
thing indeed.
But how will it all turn out in
the end? Will the tickers of boxes
get some juicy outcomes and a fat
list of indicators? Will it be a
damp squib? Will it raise more
questions than answers? Who
knows, but it is vastly better than
doing nothing at all.
At the heart of TT is the very
important thing of encouraging
everyone to grow as much food
as they can, wherever they can. It
makes a huge amount of sense to
me - and if you look back to our
efforts during the last war, we can
be excellent at it. But we would
need about eight million people
to be growing food in order to
get anywhere near our
wartime tonnage.
But it isn’t just a question of
looking back - Cuba is arguably
a good example of what a
‘transition-ed’ community
can achieve.
In the World-wide Fund for
Nature’s 2007 report, Cuba
was the only country listed as
having an ecologically
sustainable economy.
In late September this year, I
went to a talk by Roberto Perez,
a leading permaculturist from
Cuba. His talk was fascinating
and gave an overview of Cuba’s
journey: they did it in 18 years -
they had no choice and no time
to hang about. But do we have
that long?
The Cuban Revolutionaries
of 1959 inherited a devastated
country. Over 86 per cent of her
natural eco systems have been
wiped out. The environment was
left polluted by US companies
who owned just about all of its
natural reserves.
The collapse of Cuba’s main
trading partner - the Soviet Block
in the early 1990s meant that
Cuba’s sources of food, markets
for exports, sources of credit and
primary materials were wiped
out with cataclysmic results for
the people.
The nation had to be fed and
without the use of oil and natural
gas derived fertilisers. This meant
an overwhelming need to turn to
organic growing methods. Cuba
was the heaviest user of agro-
chemical fertilisers in South
America - it was a massive shock
to their food system.
The rest as they say is history.
What Cuba has already faced
because of political change may
well will be faced by the rest of us
for a bleak array of causes;
climate change, the reduction of
all natural resources - particularly
drinking water, the rapid growth
of the global population, an
unprecedented global financial
crisis and of course, peak oil
which according to some experts,
we hit in 2005.
The Transition Town
movement in the UK is still
young but it is grooving along -
propelled by deeply passionate,
highly knowledgeable, skilled
activists who are under no
illusion that time is not a friend.
of this movement. We really can’t
afford to cock it up.
I’m part of the Nottingham
TT and the members are a very
impressive bunch including an
eco-economist, renewables
specialists, permaculturalists,
makers of hurdles, management
consultants, educators and
many more - all them very
practical people - we hope it is a
winning combination.
Penney Poyzer is a proud member of her local Transition Town. But
will this new movement really achieve what it has set out to do?
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Recycling quadrupled since 1997
Producing 1/3 UK’s renewable electricity
2 out of every 3 voters call ours
the most valued local service
Waste and secondary resource managers
achieving sustainability across the UK
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