Deep into March, there seems little room in the press or on TV to think of anything other than the effects of COVID-19, and we wish all our readers and their families and colleagues well in the coming weeks (and probably months). Although NAEE is a very small part of the complexity of the UK economy, our work has been affected by the virus. The closure of schools has meant a temporary halt to our school bursary programme, and to the development projects that we are funding. Happily much on-line activities continue (as yet) unaffected.
We now know what a huge effect such a tiny organism can have. The virus (technically it’s a virion) is only 90nm across which is about a millionth of the size of the human lung cells it targets. It’s just a bit of RNA and four proteins inside a lipid sac, which is why washing hands with soap is so important, as doing this breaks up the lipids.
We normally like to encourage a positive view of living creatures and the biosphere, but we’re drawing the line at COVID-19. And we wonder whether Arne Næss would do so as well. A Guardian obituary quoted Næss saying:
“We don’t say that every living being has the same value as a human, but that it has an intrinsic value which is not quantifiable. It is not equal or unequal. It has a right to live and blossom. I may kill a mosquito if it is on the face of my baby but I will never say I have a higher right to life than a mosquito.”
It’s a thought almost as challenging as the virus. ∫∫∫
Here’s some ideas from Butterfly Conservation to consider if you’re isolated at home:
Spend some time watching for butterflies – You can identify the species you spot on the BC website . Share your sightings on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. BC will be sharing interesting facts, updates and images under the hashtag #feelbetterwithbutterflies. You can also contribute your sightings online to the Garden Butterfly Survey scheme which is run by Butterfly Conservation.
Submitt all your butterfly and moth records – Why not get out your old notebooks and check if all those records from previous years are safely lodged with your county recorder? You can submit even your old butterfly records online or using mobile apps. Find out more and submit sightings
Plant some wildflower seeds in your garden for our summer pollinators – Seeds are easy to buy online, or perhaps there’s a few left over in your shed from last year.
Build an Insect A&E – BC is encouraging us to help build special areas in the garden to support butterflies and bumblebees with the help of Channel 5’s Dr Amir Khan. You can find out more on the BC website and enter a competition to win some garden plants. ∫∫∫
Climate Change: Causes, Consequences and Solutions is a free online course from across the Atlantic. It examines (1) the factors responsible for climate change; (2) the biological and sociological consequences of such changes; and (3) the possible engineering, economic, and legal solutions to avoid more extreme perturbations. It includes a free multi-media textbook, introductory videos, course tools, weekly themes, daily mini-lectures, weekly assignments, and exams. ∫∫∫
Earth Hour is on Saturday, March 28 at 2030 your local time. This global event brings together millions of people around the world to raise their voice for nature and the climate crisis. Its organisers say that “the success of Earth Hour has always been driven by the power of the people – and your actions matter more than ever before. With your participation, the impact of this single hour will go far beyond the evening. Earth Hour 2020 has the power to change the direction not only of the year ahead, but the crucial decade to come.” ∫∫∫
Earth Hour should not be confused with Earth Day which is April 22nd each year. 2020 is its 50th anniversary. The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. “The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.”
The UN Climate Change Education, Communication and Outreach Stakeholders Community will launch its Learn4Climate campaign on Earth Day and grow over the spring and summer to build momentum towards COP26 in Glasgow in December. ∫∫∫
The hairy shore bug is so rare that there have been only three recorded sightings in Britain, but there’s hope for it on the new 3,300 hectare super nature reserve opened on an 8,000-acre site in Dorset. Purbeck Heaths joins together seven different reserves making it the largest lowland heath reserve in the UK. All told, there are 450 rare or threatened species on the heath, including Dartford warblers, small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies, water voles, sand lizards and carnivorous plants such as Godlingston sundew and bladderwort. The public is encouraged to visit. More detail here and here. ∫∫∫
The UK’s carbon emissions fell 29% in the past decade and are now the lowest since 1888 (if you ignore the General Strike). Emissions fell by 2.9% in 2019 which was the 7th consecutive year of reductions according to an analysis by Carbon Brief. A large caveat to thus good news story is that the data do not include emissions from international aviation, shipping and the production of imported goods. This is quite an omission.
There was a 29% reduction in the use of coal last year and now accounts for only ~2% of the power sources. Another caveat to the general good news is that the electricity imported from the continent that’s produced by burning coal is not counted. International data show that the UK has cut emissions faster since 2010 than any other major economy. All that said, we still look likely to miss our legally binding carbon targets. ∫∫∫
The World Wildlife Day Film Showcase is a partnership between IUCN (United Nations Development Program) and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) to celebrate World Wildlife Day. You can read about the winners here. ∫∫∫
VITAMIN N FOR THE SOUL: How Nature Can Nourish the Spirit of Children and Adults is a new book from Richard Louv. Click the title to see more details and some extracts. ∫∫∫