Counting on …day 187

19th May 2022

If only 44% of plastic packaging waste is recycled, what happens to the other 56%? 

Some will litter the streets and pavements, before being blown into hedgerows and trees, into waterways and out to sea. There it will break down into smaller and smaller bits until it is small enough to count as micro plastic (less than 5mm in length). Micro plastics have been found in the ice at both north and south Poles. They have infiltrated the food chain. They have even crossed the placenta from the mother to the foetus. 

Some of this litter will be eaten by animals and birds almost certainly causing premature death. Some will go via domestic dustbins,  public waste bins and commercial waste bins, into either landfill where again it will break down over time into micro plastic particles, or it will be burnt in an incinerator further adding to air pollution. 

Want to recycle ‘hard to recycle’ plastics? Here is a partial solution – https://greentau.org/2022/04/13/counting-on-day-150/

 Prayers for Creation 

Friday 6th May 2022

From the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth, may God always give you abundant harvests of grain and bountiful new wine. Genesis 27:28

The month of May May owes its name to the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. For many May is the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Queen of  May. It is certainly the month when spring growth is at its most abundant. 

Glory be to God for the may tree –

 the happy hawthorn:

Decked in  white blossom, 

she serves a feast for insects – alleluia! 

Glory be to God for the mayfly – 

ephemera vulgate:

Older even than dinosaurs,  this insect surrenders its underwater life 

for one brief air born day of delight – Alleluia! 

Glory be to God for the maybug – 

the cockchafer:

Four years toiling as grub underground, 

she emerges a chestnut gilded member of the scarab family – alleluia!

Glory be to God for the may flower – 

the cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis:

Pink flowers veined with purple, a dainty plant 

that feeds the caterpillars of orange-tip and the green-veined white butterfly –

Alleluia!

A reading: Genesis 1: 29-31 

And look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.  And I’ve given all the grass and plants to the animals and birds for their food.”  Then God looked over all that he had made, and it was excellent in every way. This ended the sixth day.

God of all creation,

May we cherish what you have created, 

respecting each plant and animal, 

bird and insect as both unique and irreplaceable.

May we honour with reverence 

what spreads out before our feet, 

what flies in the air above, slides through the water 

or creeps in the soil below.

May we temper our lives 

to make space for others, 

ceding priority to the vulnerable 

and encouraging the faint- hearted.

May we listen with our ears, 

see with our eyes 

and comprehend with wisdom 

the harmony of your Kingdom here in earth.

Amen.

The Grace 

Counting on …day 175 

7th May 2022 

According to the recent review, the  State of the World’s Birds, 48% of bird species populations are in decline, 39% are stable,  6% showing increases whilst a further 7% have unknown trends. The major cause of decline in bird populations is the growing footprint of human consumption. Alexander Lee, of the Metropolitan University Manchester and leader of the review, says that people should not feel helpless: “We all have connections [to birds]. If a company is associated with deforestation in Brazil, don’t buy stuff from them,” he said. “And if everyone spares as much land as possible within their gardens for nature, then that adds up to quite a large area. Another lever is voting – we get the politicians we vote for.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/canaries-in-the-coalmine-loss-of-birds-signals-changing-planet

 Counting on …day 174

6th  May 2022

As a prolonged period of hot dry weather is forecast, the RSPB is inviting us to provide extra help for the migratory birds that are arriving in the UK. https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/mud-pies-for-house-martins/

The RSPB is urging the public to get their hands dirty this weekend and create mud pies to help endangered birds such as house martins, swifts and swallows get enough sludge to build their nests.

A nine-day mini-heatwave is hitting the UK, which coincides with the return of migratory birds here to breed. Many of these birds have flown thousands of miles on their journey. But conservationists are concerned that the ground is getting so hard it could stop them from being able to make their nests.

By leaving out dishes of mud mixed with water, or creating little puddles in the garden, the public can make a big difference, said Becca Smith, of the RSPB. “It’s the easiest thing that people can do to help these birds after they’ve flown all the way from Africa to our shores. Plus, a bit of mud pie-making is fun for the weekend.”

Putting out dishes of fresh water will also provide drinking and bathing for a variety of birds. House martins – which require the most mud for nestbuilding – can mix water with soil themselves, which they then combine with things such as grass, feathers and vegetable fibres to make little cup nests under the eaves of houses. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/mud-water-to-help-nesting-migrating-birds-during-uk-heatwave-rspb-aoe

 Counting on …day 173

5th May 2022

Access to green and blue spaces is important for our own physical and  mental health as well as being good biodiversity. The Green Space Index by Fields in Trust found that more than 2.5 million people lived more than a 10-minute walk from the nearest area. The Office for National Statistics reports that one in eight households (12%) does not have access to a private or shared garden. 

Campaigners are calling on the Government to do more to ensure everyone has access to green spaces.  https://action.wildlifetrusts.org/page/97830/petition/1

Eco Tips: Welcoming Garden Birds

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch results are now out – https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/

The sparrow is still the most commonly observed garden bird but we have not seen one for about 20 years in our garden.

Can we do more to encourage bird populations that frequent our gardens?

  • Fresh water – provide a bird bath, pond or shallow bowl of fresh water for both drinking and bathing. Bowls and baths should be regularly cleaned and topped up with fresh water. 
  • Food – providing food is an easy way of attracting birds. Commercially produced bird food offers a wide range of seed and fat based foods. Some are specially adapted so that spilt seeds do not sprout so preventing a mini grain field growing under your bird feeder. Different foods can attract different birds. For example nyger seeds are popular with goldfinches. 
  • Growing bird food – you can provide bird food by growing it in your garden. Goldfinches like eating the seeds from dandelion heads, from teasels and from lavender bushes (leave the ‘dead’ seed heads in place). Blackbirds like apples. Starlings like the berries from the mahonia bushes and yew trees. Blue tits and great tits like eating aphids and other insects that congregate on plants stems and shoots.
  • Hygiene – birds can be killed by germs that multiply when bird feeders become fouled by bird droppings and by stale/ rotting food. Regularly cleaning bird feeders is important, as is removing stale food. The ground underneath bird feeders can also become foul so it is good to regularly move their positions and to clean the area underneath them.
  • Shelter – hedges and shrubs provide welcome places of shelter especially for small birds such as wrens and sparrows.  Bushes can provide a safe place from which birds can check out the safety of a  bird feeder before darting out. 
  • Nesting boxes provide a particular form of shelter. Different birds have different requirements. Blue tits need boxes with only a small opening, whilst robins prefer a wider opening. Swifts and martins need high level nesting places. Hygiene again is important: winter is a good time to clean  old nesting boxes ready for the new season. 
  • Variety of habitats – by learning more about different bird species, we can understand better the habitats they prefer and how we can shape our gardens to better meet their needs. Black birds for example are ground feeders. They eat grubs and worms that they pull from the soil. Short, rather than long, grass makes this easier. Black birds can’t hang from bird feeders but they can perch on bird tables. Sparrows and wrens like hedges. Starlings like tall trees where they gather and survey the land.

Counting on ….day 171

2nd May 2022

No Mow May!

This month we are encouraged not to mow our lawns. And here’s why:

On a single day in summer, one acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers and produce 1 kg of nectar sugar for pollinators. But since the 1930s, we have lost nearly 7.5 million acres of flower-rich meadows and pastures. Just 1% of our countryside now provides this floral feast for pollinators. Against this loss, habitats such as lawns have become increasingly important. With 15 million gardens in Britain, our lawns have the potential to become major sources of nectar. 

Sign up and find out how many pollinators your lawn can support: https://nomowmay.plantlife.org.uk/sign-up/

Prayers for Creation 

Friday 8th April 2022

Happy are those  who do not follow the advice of the wicked. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season,  their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. Ps 1:1a,3

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A Reading Proverbs 22:16-18

Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss. The words of the wise: Incline your ear and hear my words, and apply your mind to my teaching; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you  if all of them are ready on your lips.

Each Friday during Lent we will focus on a different continent; this week North America

North America extends from the tiny Aleutian Islands in the northwest to the Isthmus of Panama in the south. The continent includes the enormous island of Greenland in the northeast and the small island countries and territories that dot the Caribbean Sea and western North Atlantic Ocean. In the far north, the continent stretches halfway around the world, from Greenland to the Aleutians. But at Panama’s narrowest part, the continent is just 50 km across. North America can be divided into five physical regions: the mountainous west, the Great Plains, the Canadian Shield, the varied eastern region, and the Caribbean. Mexico and Central America’s western coast are connected to the mountainous west, while its lowlands and coastal plains extend into the eastern region. Within these regions are all the major types of biomes in the world. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/north-america-physical-geography/

Glory to God 

Creator of successions of mountains ranges:

We praise you for the awe and wonder of these regions, 

their reminder that we are but humans.

We marvel at the power of water to carve out canyons 

and the power of water to generate energy.

Glory to God

Creator of forests and plains:

We praise you for the richness of their biodiversity, for tall prairie grasses and even taller trees; 

for the smallest grasshoppers to the mighty bison, 

for the whistling marmots and black bears that huff and grunt.

Glory to God

Creator of rivers, lakes and wetlands:

We praise you for the Great Lakes and the fresh water they contain, 

for the Mississippi River and the fertile soil it nurtures, 

and for the wetlands of the Everglades, the 360 plus species of bird  

and the plump grandeur of the manatees.

Glory to God, 

Creator of tundra and ice: 

We praise you for the ingenuity of life that adapts to the extremes of climate and geography.

We marvel at the diversity of life – lichens and moss, polar bears and caribou, 

and the many migrating birds such as the Arctic tern.

Merciful God,

Creator of human kind, 

Forgive our greed that has mined land and sea for fossil fuels, jeopardising our future.

Forgive our greed that industrialises farming, destroying soils and draining lakes. 

Forgive our greed that turns animals into commodities and disregards their sentient nature. 

Forgive our greed for consumer goods that strips the earth’s reserves.

Merciful God,

Creator of our brothers and sisters:

Forgive the casualness with which we let the rich grow richer 

and the poor poorer.

Forgive the casualness with which we let the rich break the laws 

and yet still penalise the poor.

Forgive the carelessness with which we discard what we buy 

ignoring the meagre pay of those who labour. 

Guiding God,

Source  of all wisdom, 

Transform our hearts and minds, turn the direction of our hands and feet 

so that with alacrity and commitment we will reform our lives 

and live only in harmony with your creation. 

Amen.

The Grace

The Green Tau: issue 39

4th April 2022

If gardens became nature reserves

Did you know that the ordinary domestic garden makes up one third of all green space in London? 

According to Greenspace Information for Greater London, GiGL roughly  47% of Greater London is ‘green’, of which 33% is natural habitats within open space and an additional 14% is estimated to be vegetated private, domestic garden land. https://www.gigl.org.uk/keyfigures/ This is not just true of London, but for the whole country. According to the RHA ‘Private garden space in Britain cover about 728,900 hectares so their potential as a haven for wildlife is considerable’.   If each garden were actively managed as a nature reserve just think what an impact that would have on biodiversity and environmental wellbeing!

https://www.gigl.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/OpenSpace-POS-PrivateGardens2018.jpg

Domestic gardens can offer a diversity of plants and micro habitats making them ideal environments for a wide diversity of insects and beetles, birds and other small creatures. 

A diverse range of plants can not only provide food and shelter for a great number of birds, insects and other creatures, they can also be chosen to provide a year round supply of blooms that ensure  constant supply of food for insects – and a good supply of insects will ensure food for other creatures further up the food chain.

A variety of height and density of plants and planting, including trees and bushes, climbers and creepers, ground cover and grasses will again meet the needs of diverse range of fauna. Areas of both shade and sun, warm hollows and places giving shelter from the wind will be appreciated. Further micro habitats can be provided with the addition of ponds or bog gardens, log piles and dry stone walls.

Encouraging wildlife is also about avoiding things that can cause damage such as pesticides, herbicides and slug pellets, and the use of peat which comes at the expense of peat bogs which are an exceedingly valuable habitat in their own right. 

Many creatures will need more than the space offered by one garden. Their normal habits maybe to move or roam over a wide area – hedgehogs for example can travel up to 2km as part of their nighttime forays. Whilst robins may guard one garden as their territory, other birds such as swallows, long tail tits, and jackdaws will feed across a much wider area. Gardens can act as corridors and stepping stones linking one garden to the next as well as linking into wider green spaces such as parks and commons. Small holes at ground level will allow hedgehogs to travel from one garden to the next, whilst trees, shrubs and climbers will provide safe stopping off places for small birds.

Gardens also benefit our own well being. The National Open Gardens Scheme identifies 5 ways in which we can benefit from our gardens – https://ngs.org.uk/gardens-and-health-week/

  1. Do something (physical) – gardening itself, or playing, doing yoga, making a bug hotel, painting
  2. Do nothing! Spend time relaxing, just observing what’s there, de-stressing 
  3. Be alone – your garden can be an escape form the  demands of world and work. Find a quiet corner that is your personal retreat.
  4. Be sociable – share the garden with friends, chat over the fence, take tea together, eat meals outside, play games 
  5. Go natural – look at the shapes and colours, absorb the scents, feel the textures, listen to the sounds

For those without gardens, house plants can be equally beneficial and rewarding – https://ngs.org.uk/a-haven-of-houseplants/

Gardens are places to grow food and make us aware of the journey from fork to plate. Growing food encourages us to eat more healthily. Growing your own salads, herbs and soft fruits can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of what you eat.

Gardens can also protect us from some of the effects of the climate crisis. Gardens with plenty of vegetation will add moisture to the air making it feel comfortable during hot weather and trees of course provide shade as do climbing plants trained over pergolas. Climbing plants can shade walls from the sun and keep the building cooler, whilst plants trained around windows can cast shade that cools the room inside.  Gardens are good at both absorbing rainwater especially if there plenty of soft areas – lawns, flowerbed and vegetable plots – rather than hard surfaces such as pavements, patios and compressed soil. Gardens with plenty of plants are good at slowing the rate at which water drains into the water table as leaves and roots trap and delay the rain. Longer grass is better in this respect than short grass, and will equally better withstand periods of drought. Both absorbing and delaying the rate of water  flow reduces the risk of flooding. You can even be proactive by emptying water butts in advance of heavy rainfall. 

Gardens are natural carbon sinks. Trees, plants and lawns all absorb carbon as they grow. So does a well tended soil. This is a soil that is not over worked or compacted but rather is well supplied with hummus that makes the soil home for a multitude of worms, beetles, bugs, bacteria and fungi, all busily absorbing carbon and releasing nutrients into the soil. Further ideas for reducing the carbon footprint of your garden include composting garden and uncooked vegetable food waste, recycling canes and flower pots etc, growing plants from seeds, and using hand rather than power tools – https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-in-the-garden/ Or visit the RHS web site https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardening-for-the-environment/low-carbon-gardening/the-low-carbon-garden 

“When we garden, not only do we make the world a more beautiful place, we also improve local biodiversity, cool overheated cities, mop up pollution and mitigate against flooding, all while improving our own health and well-being, which together have been shown to directly determine how effectively our society functions. Plants are key solutions to pretty much every major problem that faces our species today.” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/feb/26/green-planet-how-gardening-can-save-the-world

Eco Tips

4th April 2022

Gardens are our very own nature reserve right on our doorstep!  

There are many ways in which we can boost their biodiversity and make them even more environmentally friendly (space permitting).

  • Let your garden grow wild at the edges
  • Choose plants so that there is always something in flower throughout the year.
  • Create different habitats with trees and shrubs, ground-cover and climbers
  • Maintain plant cover over all the soil to protect; have different layers of planting. 
  • Use intercropping techniques, sowing fast growing vegetables between those that need more space, eg radishes between cabbages, or eggplant daises between leeks. 
  • Install a water butt 
  • Leave seeds heads and dead stalks in place over winter
  • Use hand tools rather than power tools 
  • Plant some soft fruit bushes or strawberries or rhubarb

P

  • Plant a fruit tree