Sunday, 31 January 2010

What a Biodiversity Action Support Group would invovle

As I said in my previous posting "Ten Top Tips" on 23 Jan, a friend asked "What changes to our lives do we need to make to avoid to contributing to species extinction?" and "What would this mean for action on a group environmental action programme and assessment of that action?"

Just "not harming species on an individual level" whilst "living in a society whose growth is causing biodiversity loss" does not seem right. (And remember a good definition of Biodiversity is "The variety of genes, species and ecosystems on the planet")

I would like to propose a CEL "Biodiversity Action Self  Help Group", or a "Biodiversity Support Group". I propose that the group has 6 – 12 people, and we run it for a year and a quarter, starting from February – (i.e. a year but with a bit at the beginning to get going and a bit at the end to “Measure” what we have achieved.).     

Each person could commit to 6 hours a fortnight.
That might mean getting up half an hour earlier each day- or have a blitz one long evening a fortnight. (It may be that people are doing several of the things below already:       
The members of the group could have the tick list below and once a
fortnight check that they had done everything: Being part of the group would be an encouragement to get everything done.

1.      1 hour of prayer/ meditation/thought (even if that is included in going out for a walk in nature)    

2.      1 hour of communicating with the group – this could be by phone conference (we could do it by Skype and then it would be free, or we could arrange some tele-conferences, and it could be by a private Ning group or a private Google group)

3.      1 hour preparing for communicating (e.g. making coffee, deciding what we want to say, filling in tick list, showing what we have done this fortnight)

4.      1 hour “doing natural history”(Number 7 in "Ten Top Tips  post")

5.      2 hours campaigning (Number 3 in "Ten Top Tips  post")

By filling in the tick list, after a few weeks this list will be our "Assessment of Action"

People who are members of the group would not have to commit to all of points 1-10 in ten top tips, but  I would hope that they would be committed towards working towards these goals to some extent, and be able to contribute to, and give and gain encouragement from the group.

Once we've "met" we might discuss and decide to alter our commitments slightly.  We might find that we have very varying interests. But by forming a group we would get encouragement.

If anyone is interested do contact me.


Saturday, 23 January 2010

Ten Top Tips for Saving Biodiversity in the Next Ten Years

Are you concerned about wildlife loss?-
  1.  Species are becoming extinct at a rate 1000 to 10,000 times the “natural rate” leaflet
  2. At current rate of forest loss in Borneo and Sumatra, orang-utans will be extinct in  the wild within 10 years. (FOE Report from 3 years ago).
  3. 1/4 world mammals and 1/8th of the birds and higher plants are under threat of extinction by 2050..

A friend coordinating writing a Group Environmental Action Programme -"Ecocell"asked me

     “What changes to our lives do we need to make  to avoid  contributing to species extinction?”

     “What would this mean for action on a group environmental action programme, and assessment of that action?”

That got me thinking..
 I write this blog post and at the end give suggestions for a support group:

Good definition: -
Biodiversity -:  the variety of genes, species and ecosystems on the planet

Ten Top tips for reducing our “Biodiversity Bootprint” (Or bulldozerprint?)

Here are ten things we can do in our own personal lives that will reduce the rate of species loss.

1.      Pray about it. (Even if you have entirely secular views, time spent meditating / thinking about some species/wildlife problem will lead somewhere)  (even if only up the garden path feed the birds...)

2.      Join a wildlife organisation – or better, several. Why not subscribe life membership each year to a new organisation – Yes that is £500 a time, but that still works out as £10-00 a week or 4 pints of beer a week. Most of us will have 50 to 90 years to do something useful with our lives – so each year counts. What will you do with this year?     

3.      Set aside two hours a week to campaign on some wildlife issue.  Organisations such as WWF are only too happy to ask you to send emails/write leters on important issues      

4.      Become “more organic vegan”.  The Amazon is being cut down to grow Soya to export to feed out cattle, and thus produce our  milk… If we become “organic vegan” ourselves, it will have a knock on effect on other people.

5.      Buy “Rainforest Certified” and “Fair Trade” products and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) timber, and make an issue of choosing these products.

6.      If you have savings in stocks and shares type ISAs make sure they are not being invested in industries that are destroying habitats. 

7.      Enjoy nature and take part in some sort of natural history survey work. If a specialist then send in your results to a national survey – If a beginner then attend an event run by a local wildlife group, or record birds in your garden.    
    If we don’t appreciate our own wildlife, (however mundane) how can we expect people who live near rare animals and plants to have a respect for their wildlife?
8.      Lobby your MP and MEP on wildlife issues (See 3 above)

9.      Raise money and have awareness raising events in aid of projects in 3 above. See this guidance for journalists writing about biodiversity

10.     Join a support group to support each other in carrying out items 1-9 above.

I would like to have a biodiversity support group. I propose that the group has 8 – 12 people, and we run it for a year and a quarter, starting from January - We will meet up once a fortnight, having an hour's telephone conference call - If necessary, using skype, and by having a private googlegoup to support each other. We may have different key wildlife concerns, but we can support each other in our enthusiasm for getting things done. More about this in my next blog entry.   Do contact me if you are interested.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Grasses: Monthly tips for becoming an ace at identifying grasses

Grass of the Month

   In this, the International Year of Biodiversity, this blog will feature a different British grass each month - Follow these pages and you will be come an expert in grasses too!

(This material will be partly based on an article I wrote for the North Craven Heritage Trust last year, partly linked to the articles I am writing each month for North Ribblesdale Parish Magazine this year, and also used for the CEL website. But mostly I am writing it because I hope people will then enjoy looking more closely at grasses)

   The major civilizations evolved about 10 thousand (or so) years ago- only in places where species of grass with large seeds had evolved - In South America the Incas had maize. In China people had rice. And in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean they had wheat (and barley).

   Remember Joseph and Pharaoh's Dreams?

   The seven cows- cows need grass to eat. (Genesis 41 v 3 - The cows grazed on the reeds.)

   Seven good ears of corn:  Corn - wheat- is a cereal and a type of grass.

    Thus human civilization depended on grasses

   And going back a stage - the herbivores - such as cattle and sheep, which we eat,  need grass, and they only evolved as grasses evolved.

   No grasses - No herbivores .. No humans.

   So hey - Grasses are important!

Reed Canary-grass

January's grass is going to be Reed Canary-grass - Phalaris arundinacea - because it is the only grass near where I live tall enough to stick out above the snow. (Picture below taken on 6 Jan 2010)
Phalaris arundinacea 6 Jan 2010

Phalaris arundinacea 6 Jan 2010 a   It grows beside rivers.   The stems can reach 2m in height.

  Have you ever used a blade of grass for a whistle - by putting the blade between your thumbs and blowing? It works realy well with Phalaris.

  Underground shoots called rhizomes enable it to grow in big patches.

   Sometime variegated forms of this grass are grown in gardens. - wide leaves with longditudinal white stripes

   Could Pharaoh's cows have been eating Reed Canary-grass?

   Well, the Global Invasive species Data base of IUCN base says it is an invasive species in Egypt now and it may or may not be native - and that it is native in Iraq near by. So let's assume they did. It produces nutritious, Phalaris arundinacea 6 Jan 2010 bpalatable, succulent herbage for pasture, silage, and hay.

   So if you see a tall grass beside a river, sticking out of the snow it has a good chance of being Reed Canary-grass.

Reeds   Of course, when looking for "the largest grass beside a river or marsh" you just might just come across one of two other much much less common plants, but which fit the description "big" and "grass-like"

1.) The Common Reed (another type of grass) - see right
   As most people who have studied grasses will tell you, you can distinguish Reed Canary-grass from the Reed by looking at the ligule - the little membrane that sticks up at the blade sheath junction. In the Canary-grass (left) it IS a membrane. In the reed (Right) it is a row of hairs.
Phalaris ligule      Phragmites ligule

2.) The Reed-mace (wrongly called Bulrush) (which is not a grass at all.)

   I would have to walk 7 km east or 4 km north respectively to find these plants - which I am not going to do - not in this snow anyway. So maybe I'll talk about these in January 2011 (or if the snow is still covering the smaller grasses I may be forced to in February this year.!)

   Put on your wellies or hiking boots and go for a walk beside a river near you and see if you can see some Reed Canary-grass


Friday, 1 January 2010

New Year Night UFOs

On New Year's Eve, just before midnight, I walked along the black road, bordered by snow white fields filled with.. snow.  A thin sprinkling of sparkling new snow covered the parked car, the wall tops and all the old snow. Suddnely fireworks went off in the distance towards Settle. Some birds flew up.

At 00.15am  on Friday 1st 2010  I looked up the valley and in the sky saw a procession of lights  approaching. Three ..four.. eventually about seven. they were too low down to be aeroplanes on their way from America. I could tell they were low because of their relative speed, the size and brightness of the lights. Yet I could hear no sound.

The picture, with the camera placed on the wall and set on self timer shows three of them. They feature as lines rather than oval lights because of the show shutter - but this shows the direction they were each taking.

If they were planes, why no sound? Is it something to do with the very cold air in the valley which somehow reflects the sound back up?

Here are three more scenic pictures taken by the light of the full moon.

  My first pictures in 2010!

I wish you a Happy New Year