A vision for nature in 2050

An organisation recently formed which brings together people aged 15 to 30, who are interested in nature, called ‘A Force of Nature’ or AFON, and they have been encouraged to share their “Vision for Nature”, a series of blogs which are available on:  http://www.afocusonnature.org/ .

In the year 2050 I will be fewer than two years from being a centenarian.  I have pondered whether I had a vision for nature when I was of the required age, and decided that though I was not aware of it at the time, I probably did. I still have a vision for the sort of Earth I would like to inhabit then.

Science

Science is the basis of the material improvements people have enjoyed over my lifetime and before, and it is providing an increasing understanding of our wildlife populations with their needs, and how they may be conserved. It is also the foundation of our consumer economy which is in tension with the natural world.

Science should be cherished as an independent activity, to enable cleaner and more efficient ways to improve our lives and to put right the damage and the ugly exploitation of land, the living world and the people that prevail now.

Inspiration

Many things serve to inspire people; art, music, and literature. The natural world also inspires. This is probably a function of our hunter gatherer ancestry; our thought processes are tuned to the sky, the seasons, and the sound of running water . Few people demonstrate joy through having numerous possessions above a certain level of need. Future generations may yet return to an interaction with nature.  The air may be fresh, the walks may be safe and the rivers may be clear enough again.

Technology

This will continue to make strides, and may be a force for good. An ‘internet of things’ is already taking shape. While the ability to control our central heating on our mobile is a modest service indeed, this concept could be used to monitor all sorts of pollutants, our energy use and it could greatly reduce our waste.

There are choices. Transport can be made cleaner, or faster, food can be cheaper or produced in a more efficient way, we can choose to work harder, play harder, or know when to take a rest and breathe the clean air.

Citizen science

Gadgetry will increase; it has already resulted in a surge of recording of animals and plants, by means of miniature cameras, camera drones, satellite tracking and on line reference opportunities.

Meanwhile social media, smart phones and computers have enabled us to engage in publishing, filming, communication and education in ways not envisaged in the past. People will be able if they choose to engage in the natural world, and will have the opportunity to process their data in a potentially worldwide community.

Economics

This is driven by growth, one in which people are encouraged to consume ever more. This results in a feeling of wellbeing to a point, beyond which increase of contentment is diminished as affluence increases. There are people all over the world who are right to expect however to achieve these basic standards of life.

Our present economic outcomes are mixed. In 2050 I hope that societies will have chosen to stop using exponential growth based on borrowing, to be paid for by future generations, with yet more growth.

Global

The world effectively has become smaller and connected, and will never be at ease with itself while people in some areas do not get fair deals. In 2050 I hope global trade will be free, but standards of human rights and the environment will be uniform, and based on respect and science.

A new generation

Jesuits are credited with suggesting that people’s ideas are set by the age of 7; some commentators say younger than that. Einstein is said to have quoted,’ Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.’ This would suggest that even the members of AFON may be too old. However this is not a counsel of despair, fundamental changes in the aspirations of society can change and have in the past.

My vision for nature

In 20150 the people of the world will be as enthusiastic about nature as I am.

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Green Hairstreaks, and a new bypass

The Green Hairstreak was not recorded in my district of north Essex during the early 1990’s. It was long known just across the River Colne estuary, and at a handful of other sites in Essex such as the Danbury Ridge. I visited the Sandlings of Suffolk in those days to see Green Hairstreaks.  They however started to appear in more sites in the county including some in the area.  In 2005 there were several reports of new colonies.

A bypass was constructed for the villages of Weeley Heath and Little Clacton, in the early 1990’s and completed in 1995.  A deep cutting was constructed through a watershed, and a high embankment was built in order to cross a railway and stream. Local naturalists were pleased that intrusions into good wildlife habitats were few and indeed new features linked some of the previously isolated ones.

The other welcome innovation was the establishment of vegetation on the banks.  Wildflower seeds, along with seeds of Gorse and Broom were splattered on to the road-side banks, possibly in a slurry mix. Though some of the flowers were not of local provenance, and in some cases were not native to the area, the result was pleasing. Visitors to Clacton were very impressed with several miles of seasonal yellow blossom of Gorse and Broom.

Green Hiarstreak 2

In 2006, spurred on by good weather on the way home from work, I stopped in a lay-by in the deepest cutting and was delighted to discover several Green Hairstreaks, along with several other species. In 2007 on May 1st, in this same spot there were at least 20 individuals in the immediate vicinity of the lay by, and on both sides of the road.

In 2008 I discovered a similar density of Green Hairstreaks on May 9th, which prompted me to investigate the entire five kilometres of the road. I took the cycle stopping off in suitable looking spots and was surprised to see the butterflies along nearly the whole length, the only exception being the northernmost part which was being thrashed by a cool wind at the time.

In my text books, it was suggested that Gorse was likely to be the main food plant in areas such as Tendring, but several cases have been observed of Birdsfoot Trefoil, being the usual food plant.

The key to the success on the bypass has been the way that vegetation was established. Already after about ten years there has been a dieing off of Broom, though this has in places germinated again.  However there are signs of habitat succession with establishment of tree saplings in places. It is hoped that resources may be found to maintain this useful wildlife corridor in the future.

‘ad a bite

It is time now to start observing adders but in the summer they are far less predictable.

In September 2009, at the reserve I look after, I ventured my right foot over a fallen branch into the unknown, and felt a bit of discomfort. I was in sandals, not a good practice, and it could have been that I had stabbed the tip of my toe with a sloe thorn.  However my colleague noticed an Adder sliding away.  He did not see how close it had been to my toe, and I was not clear if I had been bitten by it.

Returning home after finishing my tasks, I decided I should call at the minor injuries unit of the hospital.  There was a single tiny perforation of the skin on the tip of my toe, no other outward signs of a snake bite, but I was starting to feel a little peculiar.  The paramedic took my blood pressure which was seriously low.  He sent me to the District General Hospital.

The doctors there were still not convinced of this being a snake bite because the indicative blackening of the skin had not started.  Tests were done, and blood was taken. However I became sick and developed a cold sweat!  I had by then the classic black disc around the bite, some mild paralysis of the calf and thigh muscles, the right elbow and the tongue.

Eventually four pages of test results came back from the medics all of which were readings within normal range. Blood pressure had also returned to normal.  I was sent home feeling rather drained.  By the morning I felt fine apart from a throbbing toe.

This was not the end of the story.  Two days later some inflammation was moving into my foot, so I returned to the hospital to be given some antibiotics, though eventually a consultant concluded that these were not necessary; apparently what I had, was the reaction one would expect from a snake bite. Four weeks later my toe still had peeling skin, which resulted in bleeding and required some visits to the dreaded dressings clinic..

I have often told people, adder bites are no big deal; I thought that was the case, but I now know that they are not a trivial matter that can always be treated lightly.

Needless to say I am always as ever thrilled to conserve Adders.

Luke 10:19

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

However I advise no one to try this at home, least of all in sandals!

DSC00904-t

This is not a trick picture though it fooled me at first. This adder, not the one that bit me, was airing itself,reaching out of the damp zone in this tidal environment.

Why I expect to vote Green but am unlikely to join the party

A whole lot of comment recently has suggested that a high proportion of the public are not thrilled with the main political establishment, and at the same time there is a considerable swell of support for other parties, UKIP, Scottish Nationalists and Greens. At least one survey suggests that among the young voter age group the Green party is generating a whole lot of support.

I have voted in nearly every election since 1970, occasionally for each of the mainstream parties but have become angry as our national elected representatives have appeared more and more cynical. In the last general election, in the European elections and in the recent by-election, which elected the first UKIP MP, I voted for the Green Party candidate, having come to know him well during that time.

I am particularly critical of the party in our government whose leader said that he would lead the greenest government ever, before weakening the influence of Natural England, before opposing a limited two year ban on neonic pesticides, which had clearly not been adequately tested, and before a whole host of other policies which have placed the interests of business before the natural world or indeed ordinary people.

I expect the following from a party which I can support.  It must aim to:

  • allow fair opportunities for everyone
  • support a sustainable environment according to the latest science
  • promote an economy, which does not force future generations to pay for present activities

Generally the Green Party is well in line with these broad aims, though I am not sure about how far they would go with the third. This does not mean that I agree with every one of their policies.

I believe for example that the electricity we need should be partly generated by nuclear power. This cannot be the only solution any more than wind turbines could; the one you cannot quickly turn off when demand is low, and the other is useless when the wind is calmed.   We would agree on the aim of reducing energy use.  I don’t think electricity generators would be so keen.

In a similar way I think that if wheat can be made to meet its own nitrogen requirement by genetic engineering that would be fine, provided that adequate testing and monitoring were mandatory.

These two examples illustrate that I actually support government policy in these areas, despite not trusting the government; I am a scientist after all. There should be laws that prevent abuse of these matters by business, and in this I would trust the Greens more than the others.

I am now represented in Parliament by Douglas Carswell, a UKIP MP.  I would understand his defection from the conservatives better if he had become an independent as I often wish that all MPs were. However I wonder whether it is possible to prevent our representatives being influenced by lobbies anyway, whether independent or from any party.

Even if I was in a position to represent myself in parliament, though I might be able to keep to the broad aims I mentioned, I am aware that I would not be qualified to decide on the details of implementing them. It is the same for all MPs. A hypothetical parliament of independents would in any case not agree unanimously but would have to reach an acceptable consensus.

So though I expect to vote Green I would not be able to adopt every policy that a green party may promote, and even if I was the one to decide such a policy I would not always have an answer.