With the current UN climate change talks upon us, what has actually been achieved since the Paris talks last year? Well considering it has only been a year - and in political time that is very little and in geological time it is nothing at all - we have made some good starting points. As we can all agree climate change is not going to go away and we need to tackle it head to save our planet.
From 6-17 November the UN nations are meeting again in Bonn to discuss and carry on what they started in Paris. However America and more precisely Donald Trump have backed out of the agreement which is a big step back for the climate as America is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas. On the positive side of things major producers like China are still in and are surging ahead with plans for a greener future.
Image Andy Hay www.rspb-images.com
From these talks me and many others would like to see many things done to better our planet. However maybe some things are more pressing than others. 70% of the atmospheres oxygen comes from the sea, it is produced by marine plants like phytoplankton. However the ocean currently has about 10 million tons of plastic in it. 10 million tons. That's equal to 1.5 million adult African elephants in our oceans.
Our oceans are under a constant hail of pollution, with over fishing, oil spills and all the rubbish that goes in there. In a hundred years time if nothing changes then going to the beach will not be a leisurely experience as you will have to wear and full body bio hazard suit. The sad thing is that the world has enough resources to empty the seas of rubbish and prevent there to be any further build up. It would cost less than the United States defence budget for one year. So here's a thought how about we stop threatening to blow each other up and actually spend all of this money to making the world great again.
In the coming years there will be lots of tension within the environmental sector as growing countries want to produce the more and more goods to boost their economies and get themselves into the upper echelon ring of "superior" countries. This continual economic growth will undoubtedly put out a lot more greenhouse gas into our atmosphere and will therefore contribute to climate change. These developing countries will never agree to stop production however we must find ways to reduce their carbon footprint or to reach a compromise otherwise our planet will surely face its demise.
If you live near the beach, or you visit the beach in the summer, you might (if you're very lucky) have heard the distinctive squawk of a little tern or even seen one. This sea bird is the smallest of the terns in the UK.
The little tern is a mainly white bird, with pale grey upper wings and back with a dark crown. What distinguish them from other terns are their size, as well as their black tipped yellow beak.
Little tern from RSPB-images.com by Ben Andrew
The little tern is a coastal and migratory species. They migrate to Europe during the summer months of April and May to breed and take advantage of the more temperate climate. During this time, they can also been found in parts of Asia and Australasia. However, in winter months, the little terns that you see in the UK generally return back to the coasts of Africa.
Little terns, being a coastal species, like to live on the coast but can also be found in more sheltered coastal areas such as harbours, spits, and bays – about 150m from the tide line. They usually nest on shingled beaches, as this is where their eggs can be camouflaged pretty well as similar to shingle, they’re a pale grey colour with darker speckles. Little Terns also normally nest near shallow waters so that they can easily feed on types of crustacean and fish.
In spite of little terns being one of the most widespread species in the world, there are few of them, and are regarded as an amber species. In the UK, there are less than 2,000!
This is due to many reasons, one of which is human disturbance. The building of dams, sediment extraction and coastal development are examples of human activities that have affected the little tern population.
Little terns are particularly vulnerable due to their nests only being small depressions in the ground, making it easy for predators, such as foxes, or even people, to access their nests and take eggs. Another issue, come rising sea levels due to climate change, are eggs being washed away due to an amplified high tide.
This, added to their naturally low breeding rate is why their population is so low.
A growing problem that I’m particularly passionate about is ocean plastics. Over the past 50 years, the ocean has seen a huge increase in plastic, which has inevitably, affected sea life.
From micro beads in our toothpaste (which are in the process of being banned in the UK, hooray!) to polystyrene fibres from your jumper – whether we mean to or not – they end up in our ocean, creating artificial plastic islands such as the infamous ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’.
Unfortunately, this is not the total wrath of the plastic. This durable polymer has affected the ocean’s inhabitants and every fish-eating organism – including sea birds such as Little Terns.
Luckily, unlike albatross, Little Terns don’t venture far out into the ocean and don’t skim their beaks along the surface of the water to catch fish. So maybe the plastic problem isn’t currently at the top of the Little Tern’s list. However, with growing amounts of tiny, plankton size pieces of plastic, the problem of the plastic will grow to be more apparent for birds such as the Little Tern.
The RSPB have been running a project to monitor and improve the breeding success of little terns.
Learn more about the results:
Gill Lewis, the acclaimed children’s writer, will be releasing her latest book this October.
‘Sky Dancer’ is centred on the controversial topic of the illegal killing of hen harriers (‘sky dancers’) and the relationship between these birds and driven grouse shooting. Joe, the teenage son of a gamekeeper on the local grouse moors is involved, from the first page, in a moral and emotional struggle between deep-rooted tradition and the ethical arguments against some of the keepers’ practices.
When I learned of the premise of the book, I was intrigued as to how such mature and divisive themes would be presented in a book aimed at young people. Since the book explores ideas about loyalty, grief, family hardship and community tension, it was key that the book be written with a lot of balance so that it was neither too disturbing nor difficult to read. I think that this was superbly achieved and full credit must go to Gill Lewis for the way that such themes were handled.
In focusing on such issues, I also really enjoyed how informative and educational the book was. It was clearly really well researched on two levels: the different arguments for the two sides of the hen harrier debate were fully integrated into the plot and secondly, there were various facts and pieces of information which I found to be very interesting. Thus I believe that while the plot is wonderful, the educational weight that this book carries makes it a must read for any-one interested in the natural world and that this book can be a tool for learning purposes.
I always find educational books to be useful, but what sets this apart from most books on this subject is the simple fact that it is fiction. Subsequently, the characters, the setting, and the plot are all fictional, giving Lewis the chance to weave an engaging and enjoyable plot and to give a very important message. It is for this reason that I would recommend this book for all ages; some, like me, will find it relatively simple, yet brilliantly informative, and I believe that most children will be able to connect with the characters and read a book which could open their eyes and encourage them to make a difference (you can pre-order it here).
So, in an area which the RSPB has devoted a lot of time and attention, Sky Dancer brings the debate to life for young readers, and looks set to be a great success.
Author of Sky Dancer Gill Lewis