Damp, windy, grey, then heavy rain… perhaps not the ideal day for Valentine’s in lockdown, when the only legal way to be together is outdoors moving along at a 2 m distance?
I’m generally not a fan of the emotional mass frenzy triggered by once-a-year commemorations rooted in something positive but largely promoted and exploited as commercial opportunities to produce, provide and buy more (largely unsustainable) stuff.
For those lucky in love, sharing today is as special as yesterday and expressing love is, hopefully, not restricted to one in 365 days of the year.
For those who are lonely, today’s associations may make that feeling more acute.
So what’s the point of Valentine’s Day?
Maybe away from commerce, there still is a point:
without a single ‘buy now’ click, I walk along in the driving rain and take time to contemplate the blessing of experiencing love in all its forms and at all times of my life.
Littering is one of my pet-hates. This reminds me: I’ve said that before, during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the first series of ‘Outdoor Daily’ (now, there is consistency for you…).
Anyway, littering is unnecessary, careless, inconsiderate, unsightly, polluting, damaging to wildlife…need I say more?
The featured image shows a common occurrence in the Tamar Valley, where my daily walks with my dog T’isker take place these days. They are the plastic skeletons of shotgun cartridges and their contents. I find them in fields and along hedgerows, on field margins and in the reed beds of the estuary and the beaches of the Cornish coastline.
Likely sources are people using shotguns for controlling vermin (rabbits, rats, perhaps some crop-threatening birds) and people shooting for fun (pheasant and partridge, also rabbit and wild geese).
Question is: how many of the people using shotguns and other guns in the countryside are actually picking up their spent cartridges?
My friend Alan told me that it is a no-no to not pick up your spent cartridges…
Between 2008 and 2019, UK sales of cartridges and other ammunition were worth between a stunning £51000000 and an even more stunning £79000000. Wow! I don’t know whether this includes ammunition for the police (I doubt it) or the armed services (I doubt that even more).
Let’s just have a little back-of-the-envelope calculation:
say 50% of the money spent is on shotgun cartridges for use in nature (around £30 million)
Primer (the metal end of the cartridge, steel or brass)
Propellant (the powder that goes ‘bang’)
Wad (plastic, cork or fibre – determines how the shot disperses)
Shot (metal pellets in steel or lead, containing 2-5% antimony, perhaps some nickel or copper coating)
I guess the propellant will get burned and becomes atmospheric pollution, the shot finishes up in the game and on the ground or in the water, the primer, wad and the plastic case drops to the ground or in the water near the gun. That’s a lot of plastic and metal introduced to nature…antimony is quite toxic and so is nickel is.
The good news: there are shotgun cartridge collectors on the market, so I guess some people pick up after themselves. Perhaps a well organised shoot will lay down some rules and see that they are followed. There is a legislative move from lead shot to using steel, which is less toxic and more inert in the environment and therefore less polluting. And the use of plastic wad is increasingly frowned upon, again something that could be encouraged by rules on well managed shoots.
The bad news: I keep finding these debris in nature…and so do other people:
Featured image: plastic shotgun cartridge wads in the reed bed of the Tamar estuary, UK.
In times of monumental change and all the questions that uncertainty provokes, it can be refreshingly calming to let the mind settle on the steady rhythm of nature.
It’s the time of the year when moles become visibly active, perhaps running out of their stashes of live earthworms or getting ready to mate.
You may find their mounds a nuisance on your lawn, but I find comfort in the fact that nature is doing its thing, unaffected by the pandemic or Brexit or how the cancellation of school exams will affect young people’s life chances…
Moles will have their own threats: perhaps a predator, a cold spell curtailing food supplies, the ploughing of a field…but seasons change and with that, cycles of life are renewed.
And this brings me to another benefit of contemplated the resilience of nature’s rhythm: there is hope and positive change, too, if you choose to notice.
The election of Raphael Warnock to the US Senate for Georgia would be one of them. Fingers crossed.
Cornwall has moved into Covid-19 Tier 3 today, 31 December 2020, and as a result, we’ve cancelled our plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations at short notice.
Instead, we made good use of the sunny weather and headed for an uplifting walk along the shore.
On the way home, we encountered the pheasant shoot of a nearby country estate in full swing: beaters with dogs, pickers-up gathering dead birds off the public highway, game keepers, shooters with guns…all mixing merrily in tweeds and flat caps, their SUVs parked up by the side of the road.
According to the organisation GunsOnPegs (don’t ask, it’s a website through which you can find shoots and all that goes with it), organising and taking part in commercial shoots is permitted in Tier 3 and group shooting activities are not subject to the limits of the ‘rule of six’. However, taking part in recreational shooting is not a reasonable excuse to leave a Tier 4 area.
So, what’s wrong with that?
Let’s start with the obvious:
the principle of rearing and releasing some 60 million non-native birds (pheasants and partridges) every year to support the ‘sport’ of shooting in the UK, in spite of the fact that pheasants are classified as species that imperil UK wildlife,
the fact that most of the pheasants that are shot will be buried in large pits, rather than taken home by shooters or sold and processed into food or pet food,
the morals of killing for fun, rather than for food or culling for conservation
the intimidating stance of some members of such shooting parties: a few days ago, I was travelling on the public highway and one of the shoot’s organisers threatend to kick my car while another foul-mouthed me, even though I had slowed down to less than 10 mph while approaching an S-bend in the road that was occupied by about a dozen people with assorted dogs. I’m a dog owner and have no intention to run one over a canine or human member of any shooting party…
…I’m sure I’ve forgotten something here…
In my mind, wrong is also the message this activity conveys during a global pandemic: “we do this because we can (afford it) and we don’t care about what the local population are thinking about where we travelled from, nor whether we bring the virus with us”.
What we encountered today was legal, as long as people didn’t travel from Tier 4 to join.
Nobody actually owns Antarctica – it is governed internationally by the Antarctic Treaty.
The Australian government justifies their airport plans by arguing that it is necessary to ensure continuity of access to their research base.
Somehow I don’t fully buy into that argument, nor do many of the scientists and environmentally minded, The Guardian interviewed for their article.
Building that airport will be a slippery slope, a precedent for other big infrastructure projects on the continent.
It has the potential to broaden the pursuit of profit from the exploitation of resources and tourism in the Southern Ocean to the landmass of this great wilderness, with all the usual disrespect for nature and wildlife seen on all other continents.
Can this project, and others not motivated scientific research and unperturbed by consideration of sustainability, be stopped?
This (https://cbraungardt.com) is a personal blog and the product of my experience, research, conversations and, quite possibly, occasional mistakes. If you read and use information from this blog, then it's at your own risk. Unless credited with a citation, I only publish my own images and words, so please note that I hold the copyright for all the material and you cannot use it to reprint or publish without my written consent.
Now and then, I might change the topic of my musings, edit previous posts, or even change my mind - I consider this a natural consequence of having an open and curious mind.