Challenging Habitat Blog

I’ve been living in England for some 28 years and mostly it’s been a positive experience.

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It’s a great headline: “Plastic Is Falling From The Sky- But Where’s It Coming From?”

The answer is not so great, because most of us are contributing: rubber rubbed off our car tyres.

Read the story here:

Featured Image: “Rainbow and the rain” by Ryan Ojibway is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Today Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England eased a little, with ‘non-essential’ shops opening, along with outdoor catering, hair salons and zoos….

I didn’t go shopping.

In fact, not being able to go shopping for so many months showed me how little stuff I actually need.

This is liberating, and even if it means that I don’t contribute to the recovery of the economy just yet.

At least not with ‘stuff’.

I did invest in solar PV for our house last year, so I did my bit for the green economy.

And when I’ll physically go into work again, I’ll simply shuffle the comfy leisure wear in my wardrobe to one side and rediscover the nice things hidden in there that I have not worn for a year.

This will be even better than shopping: it’s like going into a shop, in which I like all things on the rails and they all fit me 😂.

Perfect!

This is haunting!

Sperm whales are even more intelligent and organised than we knew, which makes it even more sad and outrageous that we hunted them to near extinction and some of us still do.

Read the ‘easy’ version in the Guardian and the research paper I. The reference therein.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/17/sperm-whales-in-19th-century-shared-ship-attack-information

What have we failed to learn about all the species we eradicated out of greed, ignorance and ‘don’t care attitude?

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.

Bright city lights!

I’ve had to go to my workplace today, first time in Plymouth for two months or more.

My laptop ‘missed’ its docking station and ‘requested’ an update not available via the VPN.

It was almost like a holiday.

A different place, an unfamiliar scene: the place was deserted.

Excitement: a visit to a real shop (well, a pharmacy and a food retailer) and the hustle and bustle of two or three cars, the odd bus …

Back to rural Cornwall!

Give me nature anytime 🙂

Fog in the valley presents nature in the somber mood befitting

reflections on the human capacity for good and evil, ignorance and ingenuity, suffering and resilience

on Holocaust Memorial Day and the day after the official covid-19 death toll exceeded 100000 in the UK.

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)
  • perhaps people buy large volume to get a discount, and popular brands go for £200 – £300 per 1000 cartridges
  • so, at around £250 per 1000 rounds, that makes around 120 million individual shotgun cartridges

Perhaps that calculation is inaccurate, so I’ll try another one:

  • some 60 million game birds are reared and released into the wild every year by the industry, around half of which are killed during organised shoots
  • that’s 30 million dead birds, perhaps that means 30 million cartridges fired, but I guess it is more like four or more times that number (Alan also told me that a 1:4 hit rate is pretty good)
  • so, that leaves around 120 million shotgun cartridges spent on shooting pheasants and partridge on organised shoots
  • the rest of the cartridges are fired elsewhere, for other purposes

Either way, we are talking tens of millions of shotgun cartridges fired each year.

How many of the spent cartridges are being picked up? 30 million? 60 million? Most of them?

Either way, there is a mountain of waste generated, including valuable resources for recycling (e.g. metal from the primer)

What happens to those that are left in the landscape? Well, they contain quite a mix of stuff:

  • A plastic (sometimes paper) case
  • 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:

"Shotgun cartridge on beach" by Robin Kearney is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
“Shotgun cartridge on beach” by Robin Kearney is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Featured image: plastic shotgun cartridge wads in the reed bed of the Tamar estuary, UK.

Ironic, really…

A very powerful man and ‘professional’ bully,

with a very large audience (pretty much 7 billion people),

who, for years, shut up anybody who started a conversation about a topic he didn’t like, or simply told the truth,

by barking:

“FAKE NEWS!!!”

is now complaining about being denied popular social media platforms for inciting more violence, hate and spreading more lies (he calls it free speech).

I’d like to laugh out loud, but thinking about his four years in the White House, my laughter would be fake.

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.

The whole thing just grated a little with me…which will not come as a surprise to those who have followed my previous posts on the matter:
Outdoor Daily from 4 April 2020
Outdoor Daily from 1 July 2020
Rewilding Britain from 14 October 2020
Pheasant shoot and SUVs from 30 October 2020

The Australian government is planning to build a massive concrete airport on Antarctica, The Guardian reports today.

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?

I think it is imperative to do so.

Featured image: “Globe centred on Antarctica – Satellite image – PlanetObserver” by PlanetObserver is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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