Our World: Watership Down

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Many, many years ago, I started to watch a film called Watership Down. It was a cartoon and, as a child, I assumed it was a children’s film. But I found the beginning traumatic and subsequently didn’t watch the rest of the film. I’m sure it featured rabbits being killed and, as an eight year old with rabbits of my own, it wasn’t what I particularly wanted to watch.

Fast-forward many years later and I bought the book in a charity shop. It’s about a group of rabbits whose home is lost because of, you guessed it, humans and their ‘need’ to develop fields.

Now I find Watership Down a sad book in a different way. Whenever I see the countryside being built on, I wonder about the wildlife that may have used that land to live, feed…

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And yes, before I am called a ‘nimby’, I accept that we all live in a house once built on green land and people need houses to live in.

My issue is not the building on some green fields but the extent of which it seems to be taking place today.

There are so many brown field sites, once built on and now standing as an eyesore, and empty, derelict buildings. These could be revamped, making our towns and cities a more vibrant and pleasant place. Win win for humans – and wildlife. 

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If I had power, when it came to building on green belt land and rural areas, I would make it a law that housing developers would have to set aside, not just an recreational open green space for people, but a sizeable additional area as a nature reserve. Why take away homes for wildlife when creating houses for people?

Why does it have to be an either/or scenario with wildlife inevitably losing out? It’s well known that much of Britain’s wildlife is decreasing because of habitat loss.

Living in a greener, more natural environment is good for people’s mental health too.

Yet another win/win!

And as for Watership Down? I haven’t finished the novel yet, but I’m hoping there is a happy ending and the rabbits do find a new home, away from the threat of the bulldozer.

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Our World: A dangerous one for badgers

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I’ve never seen a live badger except in photos or television. Being shy, retiring and nocturnal animals, it’s unlikely I will ever just bump into one on the off-chance but I did see the curious sight of a badger sett. At least that is what it looked like.

Simon and I were out for a walk along a wooded path, in Lincolnshire, when we came across a mound of earth on a sloping bank. I was about to walk on, not thinking anything of it, but Simon wanted to investigate further. Behind the mound was a large hole, much bigger than a rabbit’s or even a fox’s.

We believe it was a badger’s sett.

I have heard that setts (badger homes) tend to have large spoil heaps outside, which this one did.

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Unfortunately the British Government appear to be on a mission to kill badgers because of tb fears for cattle. The fact there is a vaccine available for cows and a vaccine available for badgers appears to have been ignored. Tb may even be caused by cows moving around – maybe increased, temporary bio-security measures may be the answer?  

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I do have sympathy for farmers and cattle but I’m sure there must be a better way of combating this issue.

I feel it’s wrong, especially when there are other solutions, and how could it ever work? There will always be badgers, unless the plan is to decimate the entire population? (Surely that would be highly immoral!)

And what if there are other causes and all these badgers have been killed and still tb continues?

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Even worse is the issue of badger baiting. This is thankfully banned but unfortunately undesirables (I’m sorry but there is no other way of describing them) are still baiting the poor creatures with dogs.

Yes, unfortunately even in this ‘enlightened’ age, this happens.

This is barbaric and cruel, both to badgers and dogs.

Maybe one day, the world may be a kinder place for these creatures. I hope so.

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Facts of the Day

1. Badgers live in large family groups.

2. Setts are mostly in woodland, near to open areas and often on a slope.

3. Badgers are relatives of the weasel.

Our World: The Road to a Healthier Earth

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I was at my book club a few months ago and they had a charity book sale. Amongst the books, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I had watched the dystopian film some years ago and fancied reading the novel.

And I picked up Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo by Michael McCarthy.

It was only later I thought, oh, how strange, two books by two authors with the same surname. It was much later when I realised that the apocalyptic novel and the nature book had something else in common.

The Road, in my view, is a great novel.

Although if you suffer from depression or anxiety, then it’s best to avoid.

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It is grim.

But it is hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

It tells the story of a father and son who are trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world. There are blood-thirsty cannibals (some of the scenes made me squirm in horror), there are remnants of meat or drinks in scavanged tins or cans or long abandoned kitchen cupboards.

There is no nature.

All the trees are dead.

It isn’t clear what caused this miserable world, a nuclear incident is my imagined belief, judging by what is said.

But whatever happened, there is now no nature – nothing to grow, nothing, it seems, to hope for.

I had given Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo to Simon, but from what I gather, that too is about the threat to the natural world.

So maybe the surname isn’t the only thing thing these books together?

The environment isn’t a particularly ‘trendy’ issue but it’s an important one. It affects us all, our planet is our home and every time we mess about with Mother Nature, we increasingly make life more difficult, if not for ourselves, for the future generations.

Even if we don’t believe in climate change being affected by humans, the evidence is there that humans are cutting down rainforests, driving other animals to near extinction and destroying wildlife habitat. We are to blame for plastic pollution, air pollution, water pollution…

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And I believe that all this vandalism of Planet Earth will impact on our health, mentally and physically.

Personally, I don’t feel as if I am doing enough for nature. I need to do more, much more, such as looking for palm oil ingredients, stop buying so many unnecessary items, stop driving so much, making my garden more wildlife friendly… The list goes on.

But politicians and big businesses are the ones who really could make a difference.

Oh, how I wish the powers-to-be in this world were wiser and thought more of the long-term, of nature, wellbeing and health, rather than worshipping at the altar of Profit.

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Our World: Being green in 2019

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How easy is it to be green? I think it’s about being organised and consuming less and being more aware of what we buy.

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I’m not a militant green who has forgone all unethical goods. I’m just me, who can only do a little at a time. Maybe it’s not enough. It probably isn’t. And maybe I’ll get judged for still doing this or that or the other.

But surely it’s better to do something, no matter how small?

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Every year I come up with new year resolutions, usually broken by the middle of the year. But what if this year, 2019, was different? What if that was the year in which I kept my environmental resolution?

So here goes, five green resolutions.

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1. Check for palm oil in ingredients. Making palm oil as commonplace as it is these days has unfortunately come at a high cost to the rainforests – and to animals such as orangutans who live there.

For more information: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/surprising-everyday-palm-oil-products-13588303

2. Cut down on plastic. This may mean buying fewer bottles of water and Irn-Bru. One thing I did this year was drink water from a cup at work, rather than getting plastic cups from the water machine. There is so much plastic in our seas that the less we use the better for the planet.

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3. Drive less. Get the bus, train or walk. Might do my waistline some good too!

4. Renew my membership of The Woodland Trust. They create and maintain woodland habitats for wildlife, vitally important at a time when we humans are destroying their places to live at an increasingly rapid place.

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

5. Start writing to MPs about green issues such as loss of wildlife habitat.

Are you doing anything green for 2019? 🙂

The world’s first Naturalist?

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Have you heard of Alexander Von Humboldt? I hadn’t until I read Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander Von Homboldt, The Lost Hero of Science. Long subtitle aside, the biography opened my eyes to this scientist who really was born before his time.

How did I never hear of him despite all the places, plants and animals named after him – the Humboldt Glacier, Humboldt penguin, Humboldt squid, Humboldt Current…?

Or the fact that he influenced notable scientists and thinkers of the day including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir…?

Or that his many travels – including climbing Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador – experiments, learning, studying and immense memory brought so much information about the environment to us.

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Or his view of nature, combining poetry and emotion with science, focused on the interconnectedness of the world.

His vision was called Naturgemalde, a ‘painting of nature’, which illustrates nature as being interconnected. When Humboldt learnt a new fact – and he discovered many during his lifetime – he connected it with other aspects of the natural world.

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”Individual phenomena were only important ‘in their relation to the whole” for Humboldt.

Temperature, climate, humidity, atmosphere, animals, plants… instead of focusing on one topic, Humboldt would look at them all. Instead of studying one mountain and that’s it, Humboldt would link any information gained to other mountains across the world. His interdisciplinary scientific logic partnered with an artistic, poetical view of nature, resulting in engravings and artwork to accompany scientific findings.

Born in 1769 into a wealthy Prussian family, he lived at a fascinating time in history, of revolutions, war and turmoil. He met most of the most famous people of the time, such as Simon Bolivar and American presidents, and travelled extensively to Russia, South America, Europe and the US. He also managed to fit in writing several influential books.

Despite all this, what I found most impressive about this German scientist was his insight into the ecosystem and how humans were affecting it.

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Alexander Von Humboldt

Wulf writes: ‘Humboldt was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate: the trees’ ability to store water and to enrich the atmosphere with moisture, their protection of the soil, and their cooling effect…He also talked about the impact of trees on the climate through their release of oxygen’.

‘The effects of the human species’intervention were already ‘incalculable’ and could become catastrophic if they continued to disturb the world so ‘brutally”.

As Wulf says later on, ‘Humboldt’s views sound alarmingly prophetic’.

A man ahead of his time indeed.

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The cover of Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature

The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf

 

 

 

Rang-Tan: Greenpeace launch animated story to raise awareness of the story of dirty palm oil — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

Originally posted on Life & Soul Magazine: Greenpeace has hit out at big brands including Unilever, Nestlé and Mondelez for their role in deforestation for palm oil, by launching a powerful animation that shows how orangutans are being pushed to the brink of extinction due to the palm oil crisis. The short animation, voiced by English…

via Rang-Tan: Greenpeace launch animated story to raise awareness of the story of dirty palm oil — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

I know that the above was posted nearly two months ago but unfortunately the topic is still relevant. I’ll write about my own personal thoughts on this worrying issue at a later date, but for now, here’s an article about the Greenpeace campaign earlier this year.

Dreams and Adventures