ANOTHER PLANET?

floodIt’s now officially the wettest January in the south of England since records began. From Kent to Devon – it’s been a wet one – and now military planners are carrying out a recce on the Somerset Levels, the Ministry of Defence has said, after the government ordered the army to help flood-stricken residents and businesses. Experts are spending the morning surveying the Levels and working out how they can help the emergency services, local authorities and other agencies. Once that assessment is complete they will sit down with county council chiefs and draw up a plan. The government has said marines and soldiers may help to deliver food and supplies, ferry around stranded villagers, and lay out more sandbags in preparation for the weekend, when more rain and a high tide could cause more flooding. The Red Cross have already provided a Unimog vehicle to drive through flooded areas and reach cut off settlements with heavy goods that cannot be carried by boats . Heavy rain and high winds were forecast for the first weekend in February. Glastonbury Festival boss Michael Eavis whose Worthy Farm is just a few miles from the Levels said that the problems was that money previously spent on dredging rivers had been diverted into conservation at the behest of organisations such as the RSPB (according to the Times). Eavis had previously campaigned to raise £4 million to dredge rivers – the Environment Agency has said it can only partially fund dredging. Wildlife groups have suggested that farmland should be abandoned and that dairy farming was not suitable for large parts of the Levels, with commentators saying that “people living slap in the middle of the flood plain’ should be paid to move” and that intensively farmed land should be reverted to flood resilient grasslands and nature reserves. Whilst the first official weather records began in 1910 – records from the Radcliffe Meteorological Station at Oxford University recorded more January rainfall since its own records began in 1767 – nearly 250 years ago.

prince charlesPrince Charles has called climate change sceptics the “headless chicken brigade” during an awards ceremony recognising a leading young green entrepreneur. Prince Charles, who has campaigned for years to reduce global warming, also spoke out against “the barrage of sheer intimidation” from powerful anti-climate change groups during the event held at Buckingham Palace last night where Gamal Albinsaid won the inaugural Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize. Mr Albinsaid is the founder of the Indonesian social enterprise Garbage Clinical Insurance, an innovative project which helps the poorest communities gain access to health services and education through the collection and recycling of rubbish.

Mutant bees that act like “a sort of a combination of zombies and aliens mixed together” and which first surfaced in the North East of the US are spreading along the West coast of North America. The bees are infected by fly called the Apocephalus borealis, which lays eggs in honeybees that hatch and then eat the host’s body from the inside out, causing havoc. The disease causes the bees to behave like zombies before it drives them out of their hives and kills them within a few hours.

The spectacular migration of millions of Monarch butterflies from the USA and Canada to mexico is facing a new problem – vast areas f GM crops that can be sprayed with weedkiller means that milkweed – a primary foodstuff for the beautiful butterflies’ larvae – is being eradicated. Monarchs are at their lowest levels since 1993.

Shell has suspended its $5 billion Alaskan exploration programme saying the group will withdraw from environmentally and politically sensitive  programmes including North American shale gas andoli sands  – but only because of a shock profits warning two weeks ago.

PenguinPenguins are suffering from climate change according to two new scientific studies – with heatwaves killing Magellanic penguin chicks in Argentina, and Adelie penguins in Antarctica are finding it harder to feed as melting sea ice fragments to form giant icebergs

Mohammed Hussein, a 38-year-old from The Drive in Peterborough, has been fined £500 with £525 court costs after he decided to dramatically prune a tree in his garden – that was subject to a preservation order – he had removed around half the branches from the 50ft horse chestnut in his front garden before a neighbour contacted the council, who took him to court. Preservation orders are applied to trees which are considered to be important to the character of the area. When a tree is covered by an order you cannot take it down or damage it – or indeed touch it in any way without the permission of the council.

In the USA an anti-fracking activist has been barred from 312.5 sq miles of Pennsylvania – the court injunction brought in by oil and gas company even makes supermarkets and restaurants off-limits for Vera Scroggins. Judge Kenneth Seamans barred her from any properties owned or leased by one of the biggest drillers in the Pennslvania natural gas company, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. Cabot said it holds leases on 200,000 acres of land, equivalent to 312.5 sq miles. That amounts to nearly 40% of the largely rural county in north-eastern Pennsylvania where Scroggins lives and where Cabot does most of its drilling. In the five years since fracking came to north-eastern Pennsylvania, Scroggins has been relentless in trying to exposing the risks associated with the industry and has organised bus tours of frack sites for anyone who is interested – including Yoko Ono and Susan Sarandon and visiting Canadian elected officials.

In the UK energy Minister Greg Barker has said that true greens should embrace fracking. Barker says ideological convictions rather than sound science motivates anti-fracking campaigners saying “If you are really against climate change, then to be anti-fracking is incredibly dangerous,” he said. This was because coal-fired power generation could be replaced with gas, which burns with lower carbon dioxide emissions. “The knee-jerk reactions to fracking is [based on] ideology, it’s not science-based.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving said that it will allow the hunting of shark species known to attack man – including the Great White and the Tiger shark, Australia now said plans to cull saltwater crocodiles. Police and rangers are hunting a crocodile that snatched a 12-year-old boy from a northern Australian waterhole, with shoot-to-kill orders for any creature longer than two metres and fresh calls for a cull.  Saltwater crocodiles can grow up to seven metres long, weigh more than a tonne, and are a common feature of Australia’s tropical north. Their numbers have increased steadily since the introduction of protection laws in 1971, with government estimates putting the population at 75 000 to 100 000 as their habitat  has extended into proximity with humans – recently being seen at the popular resort of Broome.  Western Australia  decided to capture and kill sharks that come within a kilometre of the state’s coast and which are over 3M long . With the Federal Government’s approval, the scheme involves shooting sharks longer than 3m caught in strategically placed “drum lines”. The cull was introduced following seven fatal shark attacks in the state in the past three years – but now faces opposition with 15 protests planned and celebrities including Sir Richard Branson,  comedian Ricky Gervais and diver Tom Daley have added their voices to the anti-cull campaign. Great white sharks are so imperiled that they are on the World Wildlife Fund’s “10 Most Wanted” list. A poll undertaken by UMR Research showed that 82 per cent of Australians think the sharks should not be killed and that people use the ocean at their own risk.

The build-up of ‘circular’ supply chains that increase the rate of recycling, reuse and remanufacture could generate more than $1trn (£600bn) a year for the global economy by 2025, according to a new report. The report, by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and released in Davos, calls for companies to understand the opportunities available through a circular business model.  The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has alsp announced plans to develop a metric tool that can measure how effective a product or company is in making a transitional shift towards a circular economy – it should be ready by 2015.

Philips global president and CEO Frans van Houten has emphasised the increasing value of electronic waste, arguing that it could provide a richer source of gold than mining if recovery efforts were stepped up.

Wembley Stadium has become one of the first national stadiums to be certified to ISO 14001, the international standard for the implementation of Environmental Management Systems. Since the new Stadium opened in 2007, the management team has been working on implementing changes in the operation of the stadium and infrastructure to improve environmental performance.

Busineses in Scotland have been told to ensure their operations take into account environmental risk, following an incident where thousands of litres of whisky polluted the River Ayr. The message from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) comes after Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd was fined £12,000 at Ayr Sheriff Court last week for failing to prevent the spillage of 6,600 litres of whisky spirit, of which approximately 5,000 litres of 67% strength entered the River Ayr.

Edie.net reports that the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to slash 80,000 pages of environmental guidance by March 2015, in an effort to save businesses around £100m per year. In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses, Cameron said more than 3,000 rules will be cut or amended, saving more than £850m a year.  Rules that fall under the Prime Minster’s plan include 380 pages of waste management rules, 640 pages of cattle movement guidance and 286 pages of hedgerow regulations.

great barrierAnd finally – and again from Australia – ahhh the folly of man: Having suffered some of the planet’s most extreme weather over the last few years – extreme heat, long term drought and severe flooding – you might have thought Australian politicians should have started to take note of the environment – and climate change. Well think again: In Northern Queensland there are plans to dump vast amounts of sediment inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – as part of plans to expand the Abbot Point coal port. Whilst Greg Hunt, the Environment Minister said that measures would be in place to protect the sensitive ecology of the Reef, campaigners are alarmed that damage will be done to the World Heritage site  – not helped by Queensland’s premier, Campbell Newman, reportedly saying “we are in the coal business – if you want decent hospitals, schools and police on the beat – you have to understand that”.

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