The unseasonal cold weather in Europe of Spring 2015 caused major problems for farmers. Bees did not leave their hives because of it. That meant the fruit blossoms didn't get pollinated. No pollination means no fruit.
In 2009 and 2011 Book of Tales already reported on the plight of our bees and the dire consequences this can have for us. Continue reading >>
MISSING IN ACTION
Chris the Cuckoo, whose annual African migratory journey has been tracked for the past four years, has vanished.
Experts at the British Trust for Ornithology are worried that Chris has been affected by a drought in Europe triggered by a blistering hot summer. Chris set off on the fourth of July 2015, heading south to northern Italy and stopping for a rest in the Po Valley.
But the lack of vegetation growth has reduced the availability of caterpillars, the preferred food of cuckoos. The plump Italian caterpillars provide a much-needed boost of energy before the birds tackle crossing the Sahara desert.
The tracking data showed that Chris spent only a short time in Italy before heading to Africa. He made it to the Tibesti Mountains at the edge of the Sahara desert on the eighth of August. After that a series of poor tracking signals seem to indicate that he has been there for about eight days while he normally crosses the desert in a day or two. This is very worrying.
The tracking project of Chris and four other cuckoos is carried out to discover why fewer and fewer cuckoos return to Britain. Between 1995 and 2015 the cuckoo population spending summer in Britain fell by almost half and the number is continuing to decline. The RSPB estimates that there are now only about 16,000 breeding pairs in Britain each year.
Edited Extract from the Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 19 August 2015
There is growing evidence that we need more strategic planting of trees....
By felling trees that cover the tops and sides of mountains men everywhere have ensured two calamities at the same time for the future: lack of fuel, and scarcity of water.... Thus, the clearing of forests, the absence of permanent springs, and torrents are three closely connected phenomena. Countries in different hemispheres, like Lombardy bordered by the Alps, and Lower Peru between the Pacific and the Andes, confirm this assertion.
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) in his Personal Narrative
Despite millions of pounds spent on improving flood defences in Cumbria (UK) over recent years, the 2015-2016 winter floods were still devastating.
A study by scientists at the universities of Southampton, Liverpool, Durham and King's College London uncovered floods in the Lake District stretching back our thousands of years.
"What is worrying is that the lake sediment flood records shows that two-third of the very largest floods experienced in Cumbria have happened in the past 15 years," they wrote in an article on The Conversation website. That was before the winter flood at the end of 2015, all of which suggests that there has been a profound increase in extreme rains. And this looks like the shape of things to come.
"We need to seriously start acting to manage both landscapes, rivers and streams, to release the water more slowly," the scientists noted.
"There is growing evidence that we need strategic planting of trees in our uplands and to restore more natural rivers that connect better with floodplains."
Tree roots, for example, create channels in the ground, allowing it to absorb more water than bare fields.
The lakeside splutters under the weight of the flood that washes away the lifeblood. The pleasant wave mutters.
Winter is cold. Want takes it hold. Want and Winter are upon us. Either one, could kill us.
Once upon a time cows grazed in open, grassy woodland and pigs rootled under the trees. The wood-pasture provided shelter and forage for the grazing animals. Often used in common, the pasture was kept open through the activities of the grazing animals themselves as well as some human management. It was an old practice probably dating back to pre-Neolithic times. The widespread use of wood pastures started to decline however centuries ago. And much of the land has since been ploughed, replanted more densely, or built over. But vestiges of wood pasture persist where cows and pigs are raised like they still were in medieval times.
THE ANCIENT WOODLANDS
The ancient woodlands of Britain are under threat from foreign invaders. Pathogens - often brought in by accident through international trade - are infiltrating the forests. More vigilance is required and more resilience.
Tree species and forests are naturally dynamic and change in response to their environment. Natural selection acting on genetically diverse populations may allow tree species to cope with pathogens. While species diversity in a landscape will help to minimise the impact of losses in any one of those species.
It is a sad fact that much of British forestry has been of single-species plantations.
The Solar-Powered, POLLUTION-fighting machine
"A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees." William Blake (1757-1827), English Poet
According to its 'enhanced clearance strategy' Network Rail in the UK plans to fell potentially millions of trees from 2018 onward. Titled 'Lineside Asset Management Control Period 6' the £800 million clearance program plans the "removal of all leaf fall species" within falling distance of the track, "intensive intervention" on vegetation in proximity and the removal of emergent lower level growth. It has identified 13 million trees within falling distance of its rail tracks.
"The tree which moves some to tears of joy
is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.
Some see nature all ridicule and deformity...
and some scarce see nature at all.
But to the eyes of the man of imagination,
nature is imagination itself." William Blake (1757-1827), English Poet
A JEWEL LOST
"... the palo de vaca. What moved me so deeply was not the proud shadows of the jungles, nor the majestic flow of the rivers, nor the mountains covered with eternal snows, but a few drops of a vegetable juice that brings to mind all the power and fertility of nature. On a barren rocky wall grows a tree with dry leathery leaves; its large woody roots hardly dig into the rocky ground. For months not a drop of rain wets its leaves; its branches appear dry, dead. But if you perforate the trunk, especially at dawn, a sweet nutritious juice pours out."
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) in his Personal Narrative
The commonplace but dim view of life is that the wild natural world is something we grow out of. The truth is that losing the wild is a tragedy too many people live with.
The wild world enriches adults as much as it does children. A Lost Jewel >>
Nature reminds us that we are a small part of something vast, complex, ever-evolving and infinitely precious. It reminds us that, as part of this system, we are precious too.
Yet humans have intervened so decisively in the processes that create life on Earth that we are increasingly aware only of our own interventions, and not of the vast ecosystems that make them possible.
Alienation from nature makes it easier for nature to be destroyed, on the planet or in a single human body.
Once upon a time(in the 1980's) a scientist called Roger S. Ulrich ran an experiment on patients recovering from surgery in hospital. The scientist discovered that those who were able to see trees from their windows were discharged from hospital faster, had fewer complications and required less pain medication than patients who only had a view of a brick wall.
HUMAN RUBBISH COVERS SEABED The Times, Wednesday April 30 2014
... our rubbish got there before us.
Much of the seabed resembles a rubbish tip filled with bottles, plastic bags, discarded fishing nets and other litter, a survey has found.
Scientists took nearly 600 samples from across the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the Mediterranean Sea at depths ranging from 35 metres to 4.5 kilometres. Litter was found at each site.
Christopher Pham, from the University of the Azores, said: "We found that plastic was the most common item, while trash associated with fishing activities was particularly common. The most dense accumulations were found in deep underwater canyons."
Co-researcher Dr Kerry Howell, from Plymouth University's Marine Institute, said: "Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us."
Slowly but surely the impact of our behaviour on the planet that sustains us and on our own quality of life is becoming bigger and bigger. Read more in the tale of The Milkman >>
The plastic milk bottles that supermarkets use and are only used once, are one example of that behaviour. Recently, though, we all have become aware of the dangers our habitual use and abuse of plastics creates for our oceans and marine life.
Great Britain, the land of tradition and old customs, is lucky enough to still have milkmen around and it will be relatively easy for people there to revert back to buying the milk in glass bottles from the milkman. Other countries need to reinstate the old glass bottle systems and their milkmen from scratch.
But as we are doing so what about yoghurt, orange juice, apple juice, bottled water etc. etc. in glass bottles? These could all be picked up by the milkman and be used again and again and again.
SHOULDN'T DO THAT BOY!
Once upon a time - actually not that long ago - there was a farmer who loved to wander across his fields and taste the different varieties of his vegetables as they grew. One day, he visited another farmer, who was growing lettuces for the supermarkets. As they walked around the fields he bent down - as was his custom - to pick and taste a leaf. "Shouldn't do that, boy!" the farmer warned him. His lettuces were sprayed every week for aphids. This farmer wouldn't eat his own food. How wrong is that?
The region of Kerela in India has proclaimed itself 'God's own country' with good reason. There is a fantastic array of food plants, mostly perennial and normally cultivated in complex mixtures, which provides a rich environment. In addition to the dominant coconut and banana there is papaya, cacao, coffee, jack fruit, mango, black pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, tamarind and curry leaf, with the understorey cultivated for annuals such as cassava, ginger, okra and chilli. The only monocultures of annuals are the rice paddles.
There is not a tractor to be seen, nor even an ox in harness as without the recurrent need to prepare seedbeds, there is no need for horsepower.
This is in stark contrast to western agriculture, which is devoted to pampering highly bred annuals, and maintaining the unsustainable environment needed to coax a crop from them in their short lives. This approach uses vast amounts of energy and chemicals, stripping the land of ecological diversity in the process. It actually spends ten calories to produce one calorie of food.
Yet, most aid from the West, trade agreements and conditions associated with World Bank loans, seem bent on forcing developing nations into annual monocultures of globally traded crops rather than developing best practice of local knowledge, crops and materials.
Albert Howard, who was sent to Indore in India in 1905 to teach modern agriculture, ended up concluding he had more to learn than to teach. He became a proponent of composting, advocated studying the forest in order to farm like the forest and was a key influence on the founders of the Soil Association. He was a wise and humble man of whom more are needed.
It is a fact that most people think of other people as fools. Despite thinking of each other as fools we still think mankind is a very advanced species, the most advanced on this planet for that.
Just as we think of others as fools, we think of other species as less gifted, less humane and definitely less smart. It looks like we have a general tendency to consider every being except ourselves a fool, which begs the question who the fool is?