Wednesday 29 September 2010

Prayer for Biodiversity and Nagoya

Through the organisation Christian Ecology Link, over the past week I have been helping publicise a prayer about the upcoming conference at Nagoya in Japan:-

" In 2002, countries round the world made a treaty which 192 countries signed to protect biodiversity by 2010 - all countries have failed. There is a conference in in October to make a new treaty. Is your church praying about this or publicising it?
Christian Ecology Link has made a prayer poster about this  -we encourage you to use and display this prayer.

Here is a good explanation of Nagoya -

The  prayer started
One quarter of the world's mammals and one eighth of the world's plants are under threat of extinction.

On the radio this morning Kew Royal Botanic Gardens announced that one fifth of the world's plants are under threat of extinction - that is one in five. So here is the prayer modified:

A quarter of the world's mammals, and one fifth of the world's plants are under threat of extinction.
Lord we thank you for this beautiful world with its amazing variety of animals and plants.
Be with those meeting at the Nagoya Conference in Japan, 18-29 October as they seek to find ways of preserving your world . . .
. . . ways of preventing the destruction of habitats and soil, and of saving species from extinction.
Please help us to understand your world more - to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Encourage us to make wildlife conservation areas in our churchyards, gardens, parks and farms and to take part in local nature surveys.
Help us to support wildlife conservation charities with our money and our words.
May we never forget that we are stewards of your creation and that we hold it in trust for future generations.

 Download the above poster from this page or better go to where there is background material and also similar posts with gannets and zebras as background

Friday 24 September 2010

How Bad are Bananas

Buying the trout pate earlier in the afternoon at Kilnsey Trout Farm a
On Thursday 23rd Sept  Bentham Local Food Week had organised a talk by Mike Berners-Lee based on his book "How bad are bananas? - the carbon footprint of everything". I think this is a great book and had bought it when it first came out in May.
It has lots of useful facts to quote (if only one can remember them).

Here I am holding the book and next to it the trout pate  I bought at Kilnsey Trout Farm in the afternoon.

 The Bentham Environmentally Sustainable Town group had a competition in our Jacob's Join Meal to see who could produce food with the lowest footprint. I contributed the trout pate.

Mike was asked to be the judge. He wanted to give the first prize to the delicious apple - danish pastry that someone had made but she had gone home. So then he gave joint first prize to the two breads, one made from a mill at Grewelthorpe near Ripon.. Wheat has a low carbon footprint - only 1 kg CO2 produced per Kg of wheat. (I need to check that)

I won't give his talk - you can read the book.

But he did emphasise that we should work out which things had a big effect on carbon footprints (e.g. flying, or buying a new car, buying tomatoes gown in this country in heated green houses in January) and which things had only a tiny or lesser effect - e.g. plastic bags, buying food that has been shipped to this country..

He also told us how important it is to make our views know to supermarkets. They are more likely to do "Green things" if they think we care. He does research for Booths.

I asked "If Booths do this "green" research, why don't we know about it?" His reply - "The press release only came out two days ago.." I have searched and found a press report on 21st Sept  - Well that is NEWS.-- Ah I've now found the page on BoothsWebsite - here's the link to the short report-

We had some discussion on meat sheep and cattle.- Mike was very diplomatic. Meat has a huuuge carbon footprint . But Bentham is a livestock area. The chairperson had a copy of Carbon Fields by Graham Harvey which praises the carbon storing capacity of unploughed fields.

I said how I had appreciated the fact that he says that if one wants to invest money to save carbon then investing it in "Save the Rainforest" schemes is one of the best ways- that for £3-00 one can save a ton of CO2.

.... and that would anyone like to buy some of our "Rainforest-save" greeting cards?. One friend kindly bought two.. Well that  is £3-00.  !!!!!  (I'm not sure if the charities we give our money to have quite that rate of saving carbon..)

I also raised the topic of COP10 Nagoya Japan- The Biodiversity Conference that is taking place 18-29 October, and tell people how important it is..

Saturday 11 September 2010

Zea mays - Maize (Corn)

(Sentence added on 16 Sept: Today I saw corn on the cob for sale in Booths our local supermarket - 65p or three for a pound!. I wonder if it is local?)
Pictures taken on 2nd September in a field near Gargrave
Maize Zea mays 
Grass of the Month - September
1: January - Reed Canary Grass - Phalaris arundinacea 
2: February - The Common Reed - Phragmites australis
3: March - Blue Moor-grass - Sesleria caerulea
4: April - Sweet Vernal Grass - Anthoxanthum odoratum
5: May - Meadow Foxtail - Alopecurus pratensis 
6: June - Quaking Grass - Briza media 
7: July- Timothy Grass - Phleum pratense
8: August - Common Bent - Agrostis capillaris
9. September - Maize - Zea mays

We think of maize / corn on the cob as yellow grains in a tin at the grocers / supermarket -

Yet did you know that:
The great majority of the maize grown in USA and Europe is grown as cattle feed (the whole plant is harvested)
The three cereals Maize, Wheat and Rice supplyalmost two thirds of the worlds calories
Although a cultivated plant, maize can grow as a garden escape so is now included in flower books such as Stace

My memories of maize:-
  1. In a little patch in our Yorkshire suburban garden, in July and August, hoping the summer would be long enough for the cobs to ripen.
  2. In A level biology classes -genetics- of us being shown colourful cobs with grains of different colours
  3. As a student worker at the Grassland Research Institute, Hurley:- taking some cobs away at the weekend to boil and share with relatives. Cobs from maize growing as cattle feed.
  4. In West Africa including Sierra Leone, there was a season when maize was for sale, roasted at roadsides for passing travellers. It was grown intercropped on sandy soil in Niger. In fact it was about the only plant I recognised when I first went to Sierra Leone.
  5. I once found some young leaves growing on the harbour at Watchet in Somerset, and puzzled what grass it could be. It has wide leaves and a ligule with hairs along the edge of the ligule.
  6. We see it in the UK occasionally in farmers fields in the UK - and say "Look - there's some maize"
Much of the maize imported as cattle feed to the UK is GM maize.

There is much to learn about maize. e.g.:-
Facts and figures on Food and Biodiversity

Here is another big grass:-  Miscanthus near Copt Hewick near Ripon, in the last week of August. It is used for biofuel.

"This is really not very good for biodiversity- there are no plants growing underneath it." I thought.

But then  looking at the maize, there are no other plants under that ..

and under wheat and barley there will be no other plants.  That is why the RSPB is so keen on having wide field margins that allow other species to grow, to provide food for insects and birds.

At least there is a wide filed margin here.