February, 2012

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  • Watery wonders

    How gorgeous is this bird? Kingfisher photographed at RSPB Rye Meads by Peter HewittTwo new reports have shed new light on life on earth. The first claims to have found the world's oldest living organism and the second writes off that old phrase... 'there are plenty more fish in the sea'.

    The Mediteranean Sea is home to a organism that DNA testing dates as being 200,000 years old. It's a sea grass commonly found in underwater meadows in an area spanning more than 2,000 miles, from Spain to Cyprus. The previous record holder for the earth's oldest living organism was a plant, with shiny green leaves and pink flowers which grows in Tasmania .. at a mere 43,600. Both the Tasmanian plant and the seagrass reproduce asexually. They clone themselves. But both are now deemed to be at risk, as are we all, from climate change.

    The second report has found that there are more things living in freshwater lakes and rivers than in the salty seas. The shocking revelation is that 80% of our planet's species live in just 2% of the earth's environment: our lakes and rivers. What's new is that they have also shown that most marine life descended from freshwater lifeforms. This comes at a time when freshwater supplies are dwindling and our rivers suffer from pollution.

    Extracting too much water from our rivers is part of the problem. Heavy downpours and changing weather patterns are another issue. Yet another is pollution. When was the last time you walked along a riverbank and didn't see some plastic bottles, bags or a shopping trolley? I'd much rather see a kingfisher darting over the surface or a heron standing sentinel-like in the shallows. Stare harder and it would be great to see the trout, bass, sole and eels that should be on show in large numbers in the Thames and its tributaries.

    We could shrug our shoulders and leave it to some faceless quango, charity or an unknown company we think may have responsibility for such things. Or, we could step-up our actions for nature. Collecting rainwater, not leaving taps running, taking short showers instead of baths. We could get rid of hard surface parking spaces or large patio's and replace them with surfaces that allow water to soak down into the ground rather than run-off in to drains. There are lots of things we can all do in our daily lives to clean-up our rivers.

    It doesn't end there. We can think about our shopping habits and where our fish and other food comes from and the resources and methods used to grow and supply it. Just taking a few of the steps mentioned will take us all forward towards a healthier environment; and the more steps you take, the healthier and happier you will get.

  • I am not a bird

    Tread lightly over the earthCoots, moorhens, mallard, swans, geese, pigeons, crows, grey herons and even a couple of smew dotted the ice covering Regent's Park's lakes yesterday morning.

    They all seemed happy enough and some poked their heads under water through holes in the ice. Sometimes I wish I was a bird. That I could perch high-up in a tree or on a tall building. Sadly I've not got a good head for heights. I also shiver at the thought of rain or snow. I couldn't be a bird. I was made to enjoy being outdoors, but not to spend my life 'out there'.

    I am no more a bird than Boris Johnson is a development  genius. I was never given the feathers, physique or hollow bones to be a bird, and the Thames Estuary has too much wildlife, very determined communities and too much intrinsic worth to have an airport hub for the UK built over it.

    I was walking through the park with some senior managers from a global, multi-million corporation. We're working together to ensure their staff and operations are environmentally sustainable. Together, we're looking at ways that they and we can work smarter to bring benefits not shown on their budget spreadsheets next year. Staff satisfaction is as important to them as customer service and future prosperity. Investing in nature and being in touch with nature is no longer considered "weird" or the kooky beliefs of "tree-huggers". It's business. Our partnership could improve London's wildlife, their staff morale and self-belief, while simultaneously improving their development potential.

    Our day of clarity is approaching. Not the results of the Big Garden Birdwatch, but the Chancellor's speech. George Osborne will be laying the foundations for future growth and we need tree-huggers, corporate bosses, public-sector workers and everyone of voting age to convince Mr Osborne to use our money to deliver a green revolution.