Counting On …

Thursday 11th November 2021

Greening our cities will make them better places both for humans and other living beings, flora and fauna. And it will address the climate crisis reducing our dependency of carbon polluting structures and carbon polluting lifestyle choices.

“Recent studies have highlighted the importance of boosting green urban areas and connecting fragments of green space with ecological corridors to improve biodiversity and animal species dispersal within the urban landscape. If adequately designed, green corridors can improve urban ventilation, allowing for cooler air from outside to penetrate into the more densely built areas, and reducing thus the urban heat island effect. Urban green areas can also have positive effects for human health and climate change adaptation. The capacity of vegetation to retain water is an important flood prevention feature that can reduce peak discharges.. 

[Where] patches of urban woodlands are generally separated from each other, [this]  affects the ability of many woodland species to disperse, or move among different locations with similar habitats. Ecological corridors or connections between urban woodlands, gardens or other green spaces are recognised as a way to limit the negative effects of fragmentation.”

https://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/metadata/adaptation-options/green-spaces-and-corridors-in-urban-areas

This concept is being developed in London, where there are already many parks and green corridors – the latter often following the course of the many small tributaries to the Thames. 

In July 2019 London because the world’s first National Urban Park. 45% of the city is green space which includes 3000 parks, 30,000 allotments, two national nature reserves a s 142 local nature reserves, 36 sites of special scientific interest and is home to about 13,000 different species of wildlife. London’s overall tree cover amounts to 21%  sufficient for it to be the world’s largest urban forest!  (The UN definition of a forest is anywhere with at least a 20% cover of trees.)

Counting On …

Wednesday 10th November 2021

“Bike is best!” Whether you are young or old or somewhere in between.  Whether you are able bodied  or disabled. Whether you are super fit or just starting out. Whether it’s simply  for leisure or for  getting from A to B. Whether it is for deliveries or commuting or the school ‘run’.  

Active travel reduces carbon emissions, improves air quality and aids healthy living. What’s not to like?

And what is included in active travel? – walking, wheeling and cycling. The following extract comes from Wheels of Wellbeing, a charity  that promotes cycling for people with disabilities.

Walking:  foot/pedestrian-based mobility that may incorporate the support of aids to mobility such  as stick/s, cane/s, crutch/es, the arm of another person and/or assistance animal/s.

Wheeling: an equivalent alternative to foot/pedestrian-based mobility. Includes wheeled mobilities such as manual self- or assistant-propelled wheelchairs, including wheelchairs with power attachments or all-terrain attachments (such as the “Freewheel”), powered wheelchairs, mobility scooters (three and four-wheeled) and rollators. Some people rely on their cycle to move (at a pedestrian’s pace) through pedestrianised environments when it is not physically possible to walk/push their cycle. Some people use their cycle as a walking aid, by leaning on it (do not use crutches but need to lean in order to walk, due to pain etc. – they can dismount but cannot park their cycle). Some people use e-scooters (with or without a seat), to wheel/scoot through pedestrianised environment if they cannot walk unaided.

We recommend never using ‘walking’ on its own (as it likely reinforces ableist stereotypes in people’s minds) but always using ‘walking/wheeling’ together. Both words represent the action of moving at a pedestrian’s pace, whether or not someone is standing or sitting, walking/wheeling unaided or using any kind of aid to mobility, including walking aids / wheeled aids, personal assistants or support animals.

Cycling:  incorporates the action of moving at speed on a wide range of pedal- powered wheeled transport that may be powered with hands and/or feet, may transport one or more person, may or may not include e-assist and usually have between 2 and 4 wheels. 

Counting On …

Tuesday 9th November 2021

Today’s agenda at COP26 includes gender equality with a particular concern to ensure full equality for girls and women. Why might this be an important issue in combatting the climate crisis?

“A 2014 survey done as part of a push by Kenya’s government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to cut poverty in the region found that 85% of land owned in the Upper Tana River drainage, in southeast Kenya, was in men’s names.

The research also found that women worked an average of 15 to 17 hours a day, while men worked six to seven hours.

Men, meanwhile, dominated decision making on what to plant and where, how much produce was sold and for what price. Women’s decisions mainly focused on what to cook for the family, and what crops to grow for consumption at home, the survey found.

Concerned that such restrictions could be holding back anti-poverty efforts, project officials in 2016 decided to try out GALS – a Gender Action Learning System developed in settings in Latin America, Asia and parts of Africa.

The system, now being used across Kenya and more broadly, helps men and women learn how to speak more respectfully and honestly to each other, and aims to cut domestic violence, achieve more equal property rights and give women and men a more balanced voice in decision making.

Those changes, backers say, can help boost food production in the poorest households and help ensure more sustainable harvests – a particular concern as climate change brings wilder weather that threatens crops.

In Tharaka Nithi County, Albert Thirika, a retired secondary school principal, now involves his wife in family decision making after undergoing the training – and is giving his daughters a bigger voice too.

“We have embraced dialogue in the family since learning of GALS. Initially I used to think as an individual, but today I think as a family member and this has sharpened my planning skills,” he said.

By working more closely together and sharing their income, the family has managed to buy a dairy cow and expand an existing banana plantation, he said.

His wife, Evelyn Mwembe Thirika, a retired nurse, now manages the family money, she said.

Albert Thirika also has made a once unthinkable change: He has given title to some of his family farmland to his two daughters as well as his two sons, and allowed them to choose the pieces they prefer. 

Njiru, meanwhile, since going through GALS training, has offered to let his wife go back to school to earn a full degree – something she hasn’t taken him up on yet.

He also has helped train more than 420 out of 600 members of a farmers’ water management and irrigation group he belongs to about the importance of striving for greater gender equality.

The training has reached community members as diverse as school principals, teachers and students, and church members, he said.

According to Gabriel Njue, the chair of the water management association, the group’s production of crops such as maize, beans, tomatoes and other vegetables has quadrupled since members underwent the gender training in late 2016.”

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/kenyas-loosening-of-gender-roles-is-helping-to-beat-climate-change-this-is-how

Counting On …

8th November 2021

Today’s agenda at COP26 features adaptation, loss and damage. The extreme weather conditions we have seen in recent years – droughts and wildfires, floods and heat waves, storms and cold snaps – are here to stay as a direct consequence of the 1C warming that has already taken place. Current efforts at COP26 will hopefully constrain further rises in temperature to no more than 1.5C.

Across the globe, communities are and will have to adapt to the changes that are happening in weather patterns. In the UK we need plan how we cope with more frequent and deeper floods, spasmodic heat waves and irregular growing seasons. In the Pacific region where there are many low lying islands and around river deltas such as in Bangladesh, there is the need to plan for rising sea levels  which not only submerged land where people live but also salinates water used for drinking and farming. Many sub Saharan regions are faced with prolonged heat waves that make daily life and farming near impossible. Whilst other regions will feel the affects of drought as rivers that are normally fed during the summer by the slow melt of glaciers, dry up as the glaciers disappear altogether. 

Time and again, the solution lies with trees, whether that is trees that interrupt, and delay the speed with which falling rain becomes flood water, trees that stabilise coasts vulnerable to erosion, tree shade that reduces experienced daytime temperatures, or trees that provide shade for crops and whose roots retain moisture in the soil. 

 “Locally, trees provide most of their cooling effect by shading. How warm we feel actually depends less on local air temperature, and more on how much electromagnetic radiation we emit to, and absorb from, our surroundings. A tree’s canopy acts like a parasol, blocking out up to 90% of the sun’s radiation, and increasing the amount of heat that we lose to our surroundings by cooling the ground beneath us.All up, the shade provided by trees can reduce our physiologically equivalent temperature (that is, how warm we feel our surroundings to be) by between seven and 15°C, depending on our latitude. So it’s no surprise that, in the height of summer, people throng to the delicious coolness of the shade provided by London parks, Parisian boulevards, and Mediterranean plazas.

Trees can also cool down buildings – especially when planted to the east or west – as their shade prevents solar radiation from penetrating windows, or heating up external walls. Experimental investigations and modelling studies in the USA have shown that shade from trees can reduce the air conditioning costs of detached houses by 20% to 30%.”

https://theconversation.com/can-trees-really-cool-our-cities-down-44099

Counting On …

6th November 2021

Today’s agenda at COP26 features ‘nature’ by which one might mean the state of flora and fauna when it is un-damaged by the impact of humans. There are large parts of the world which are termed as nature but which nevertheless have been subject to human impact  where the impact has not been negative or destructive. Re-wilding projects give us some idea of what nature would look like without any human impact – and it is amazing! Sadly there are many more places – on both land and at sea – where vast areas of nature have been severely damaged by human impact. And if global temperatures continue to rise (a direct result from human activity) those areas of damage  will only grow. Yet throughout history humans have been awed and inspired by nature, and at different times and in different ways, appreciated its value. And now we realising the multi faceted value of nature to our well being.

Green and blue spaces are good for our mental and physical health, as places of calm and relaxation, places for exercise, and as places of stimulus. 

From rain forests to peat bogs, oak trees to whales, we now better understand how nature provides the lungs for the planet absorbing and storing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. 

At the same time, many constituent parts of nature remove and absorb pollution, be that particulates produced by motor vehicles or by products of sewage and other waste.

Plants can be key ingredients in shaping localised climates creating more congenial living conditions.

Nature is ultimately the source of what we eat, as well as  providing medicines and health treatments. It is also the source of jobs – in farming, tourism and manufacturing.  

Mangroves like their land coastal and their water salty. This tree and shrub family is adapted to spend their lives between land and saltwater, sometimes growing up to 200 feet tall in the process. Mangroves can have their roots in shallow, salty water because they are also exposed to air for part of the day. Their roots use this time above water to sequester oxygen for when they’re submerged. Mangrove roots create some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth, as their intertwined structure provides habitat for sessile creatures like barnacles and creates protective nurseries for juvenile fish. Mangrove roots provide more than habitat though: they trap sediment to stabilise coasts, and bio-filtrate nutrients and pollutants out of the water. These ecosystems are massive carbon sinks, taking in and storing excess carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and water—an important attribute in the face of climate change. By Jessica Knoth, Marine Conservation Institute Communications Intern

Counting On …

Friday 5th November

Counting On … is a follow on from the 100 days count down that preceded the start of COP26. Counting on is counting the days thereafter but I hope more importantly it will help us focus on people and groups – including ourselves – that the world is counting on to restrain and transform the current climate crisis. Today at COP26 the theme is youth and public empowerment – and young people both here in Britain and across the world are keen and willing – and already participating in transformative action. 

“The YCCN’s relay to COP26 is currently covering 1,200 miles from Cornwall to Glasgow to campaign for decisions to be made that protect people – not bank balances – and that ensure no country will go into debt tackling climate change.” 

Whilst in the Caribbean Christians Zakour is one of the young participants of the ‘Our Action, Our Future’ project. She is a master’s student in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinidad and Tobago.

“My generation are the inheritors and rights holders of the future with significant capacity and drive to make changes for the better. In this action research project, the team of researchers and policy leaders get together to capture the value of youth, convert the youth as an asset class so that our action and future can be aligned”. (https://thecommonwealth.org/media/news/empowering-youth-small-states-forefront-commonwealth-cop26-agenda)

Counting On …

4th November 2021

Replacing fossil fuel powered energy with alternative renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis. But as well as being green, renewable energy can also provide remote communities with the advantages of electrical power without the need for large scale infrastructure. This can enable some amazing projects!

Practical Action has installed “ solar powered pumps [that] lift water from the river and distribute it to reservoirs close to Nepal’s farming communities, where pipes are installed to  distribute water. Local reservoirs also naturally collect rain water, which is then turned into clean water and can be distributed too.

Even when the sun is at its hottest in the most arid regions of Nepal, it continues to provide the solar powered irrigation systems with energy – and gets water to crops when they need it most.

By having a reliable and safe source of water, farming communities can enjoy bigger harvests that produce enough to feed their families, with enough crops to spare for selling at a profit at the market.

Areas in Nepal that were previously famous for apple farming – but threatened due to climate change – are now viable spaces for orchards again, alongside crop and vegetable farming, according to local farmers. The use of solar pumps helps farming communities produce crops all year round, even during the dry season. The result is hugely positive. Not just financially, but environmentally and for the health of the farmers. Not only does it enable them to drink water safely, it means they can grow crops and enjoy a more balanced diet”. https://practicalaction.org/news-media/2021/03/09/how-solar-power-lifts-water/

Counting On …

3rd November 2021

The topic for COP26 today is finance. 

In order to tackle climate change finance is needed, both state and private finance. This comes in the form of investment needed to facilitate the transfer from carbon-based to green technologies, and to train those who will work in these new industries; to transfer from animal based agriculture to plant based agriculture, and from a meat and diary based food industry to a plant based food industry; the need to invest in restoring, enlarging and maintaining  carbon sequestering land and seascapes; the need to adapt existing and build new infrastructure to cope with the changes in climate that are already happening such as flooding and heat waves, including paying for those individuals and groups who cannot afford to pay for these adaptions themselves; to develop the new systems and infrastructure needed to cope with the future changes in the climate which have already been locked into world and which may increase if global temperatures rise significantly above the current 1C increase.  

Poorer countries and small island states are in particular need of support from affluent countries like ours. The intention – although not yet the fact – is that developed nations will be supplying $1 billion to finance support for these more vulnerable nations. 

Counting On …

As participants meet, discuss, negotiate and take action at COP26, what is at stake is the wellbeing of the amazing ecosystem in which we live. Caring for and improving biodiversity is essential. So many of the earth’s ecosystems can protect us from the adverse effects of climate change, and yet they are so vulnerable to damage from human activity!

Pray for, and support, action to enhance global biodiversity.

Seagrass, the only flowering marine plant, grows in the shallower waters of our seas and oceans as it is reliant on sunlight for photosynthesis. Where it is well established it forms meadows where its roots stabilises sediment on the seabed preventing erosion. Its roots also oxygenate the sediments supporting many burrowing organisms. As it grows it sequesters carbon dioxide and does so at rates 10 to 40 higher than that of forests! It provides food, breeding grounds and nurseries for many marine species – from seahorses to seals, dog fish and octopus.

However world wide seagrasses are under threat. These marine meadows are damaged and destroyed by sewage and chemical effluents, by algal blooms that restrict sunlight penetrating the water and so preventing photosynthesis, by mechanical damage from anchor chains, marine vessels, and dredging as well as from over-fishing which disturbs the balance of the ecosystem. It is estimated that the UK has lost 95% of its seagrass meadows. Restoration projects are in progress in Swansea Bay, Dale Bay Pembrokeshire, in the Solent and off Skye – but they are still very small in scale.

Counting On …day 394

1st December 2022

Collage: The Kinship of Creation

Kinship of all creation: we are all interconnected, dependant upon each other, bound into a finely wrought ecosystem that abounds in beauty. Pray that the interests of all our kindred will be valued and protected.

Climate change is affecting all parts of the world, from the Artic southwards. it affects people, plants and creatures alike.

Reindeer herd, Canada © Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada  

Reindeer numbers across the Arctic have fallen by more than half in the past two decades. They survive by migrating to find food, using their hooves to dig through the snow to eat the nutritious lichen buried underneath. But climate change means herds must swim across previously frozen rivers and many young calves drown – and rising temperatures mean more rain, covering plants with ice instead of snow, making grazing harder.
https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/11-arctic-species-affected-climate-change

://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/11-arctic-species-affected-climate-chang

And from The Guardian: 30 Oct 2021, Gennadiy Shukin Taymyr, north Russia

I was born in 1962 in a family of deer herders in Taymyr, on a peninsula in the very far north of Russia. I am part of the Dolgan community: we are an indigenous Russian group and there are about 6,000 left of us living in the tundra.

Growing up, the Soviet Union tried to deny us our traditional way of life, but since then climate change has become the biggest challenge to our survival. Our community lives by hunting, fishing and herding deer. Scientists say that Taymyr has the most rapid temperature increase in Russia, and we can really feel it.

Because of the warmer winters, we have seen that deer are giving birth earlier in the year. Many are born too weak and don’t survive the long journeys they have to make. This means there is much less deer for us to hunt and it hurts the whole ecosystem.

Rivers and lakes that we use for fishing have also started to dry out. Others are too polluted after all the big oil and gas plants have sprung up over the years in our lands. Some days we don’t catch any fish at all.

For generations, we have sold the food we caught to local towns and cities to buy basic products like sugar and wheat. Without animals, we cannot survive.

Big craters are also forming because the Arctic permafrost is starting to melt under our feet. This means the routes that we have used for decades to travel, hunt and fish have to be adjusted as whole roads have sunk. It is also dangerous as you never know where the next crater will form.

Our ecosystem is changing quickly: animals like sables that I have never seen before in my life have appeared in the tundra. And now we also have to deal with giant mosquitoes and bugs that attack our livestock. The summers are becoming unbearable. It’s madness.

The young people see that climate change is making our traditional way of life impossible and they are forced to move to the bigger cities to find jobs, which are often low-paid. Our culture is disappearing.

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-guardian-supplement/20211030/281732682701562