Saturday, 26 July 2008

Bird Street Art

Good to see the locals round here taking an interest in their birds. The local kids have obviously been sketching birds they have seen- complete with notes and annotations. I can't quite work out what the bottom bird is supposed to be- I guess a Lesser Whitethoat but maybe an Eastern Kingbird, that one of the local youth found.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Sutton Up-rising

It is all kicking off around here. The illegal Iraq war didn't start it, the rise in murders in the borough didn't ignite the flames, wide scale abuse of the welfare system was ignored, illegal loan sharking by high street banks-never mind, the unjust education systems was brushed under the carpet- but at last they have had enough, they have been pushed too far and decided to make a stand. Why? because the garden waste disposal system has been changed. People have been hit where it hurts most- in the garden.

Sutton have decided to abolish the old system of free garden waste collection and disposal. They have now introduced a system which is designed to get people to take their own rubbish to the local organic dumps, to encourage composting and also to introduce a charge for a more limited collection service.

Arguments FOR:
Residents should contribute money towards a garden waste disposal service to help pay for other types of recycling- there is a cost to creating a sustainable environment and residents should be willing to pay for it
Residents should be encouraged to compost more waste and recycle in the garden environment- this is moving towards a sustainable future
By making residents drive to the dump at their own cost, it will encouraged them to compost more- it is like an anti-incentive.

Arguments AGAINST:
Residents already pay enough council tax and if it was not wasted by bad management, there would be enough to introduce more recycling without having to raise any more revenue
Composting is a slow process and it is impossible to dispose of all the garden waste generated in this way
The composting bins which are provided are inadequate. They do not generate enough heat to kill certain types of weed seeds. When the compost is spread onto the lawns- weeds are spread all over the garden.
Residents would like to dispose of all their waste by composting but it is impossible so they are forced to drive to the dump. Thousands of residents driving to the dump is not very good for Sutton's carbon footprint and it defeats the whole object of an environmental scheme. One truck going round picking up all the waste makes a lot more sense.

So the solution? We will see what they all come up with.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Surbiton Swans

You're nicked!

Accidently went into zone five, when I only had a one to four zone travel card. They fined me £20. Then today, got a £40 parking fine for thinking that parking in a car park was free on a sunday. Things come in threes- so probably get arrested tomorrow (after they look through the CCTV tapes), for carrying out consumer terrorism on a parking meter.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Whenever I tell people I like birds, they always ask- 'what? the ones with two or four legs'. Well I have never seen a bird with any more than two legs. I have also been on the look out for the other type of bird (not my reference) to see if I can find one with four legs. Yet again, this one disappointed me by only having two.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Little Oak Recycling

Getting rid of tree surgery waste is a problem. However it is potentially an energy source. There is a power station in Slough which runs off wood chip and things in the industry are gradually evolving in this direction. At the moment, our waste which has accumulated over the last six months, is being processed into wood chip for fuel for the power station. Could be a sign of things to come especially in light of the direction the price of oil is heading.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

People's Minds

Just one last bit of ranting. What I am trying to say is that the conservation of the environment is a philosophical problem. The answer is in people's minds- how they perceive wildlife and birds. If they have no value or respect for these things- they will destroy them or care very little for the preservation of the environment. Maybe the problem is that they value other things much more.

Petrels, Petrol and People

I had a conversation with Darryl (environmental consultant) yesterday which started off with Petrel taxonomy and concluded in an agreement that nothing short of fundamental change is the answer to a lot of major conservation problems.

It went something like this. Desertas Petrel has been split by the sound approach from the similar Fea's and Zino's Petrels. This split is primarily due to vocalisation differences. In essence, the split is justified because various populations of these petrels speak different languages (and have some structural and maybe tonal differences). Well such an argument would not wash if you were to apply it to human populations. I would be split into Homo sapiens cockney-ensis. However, within a population of seabirds, vocalisations could be so hard wired to present such an isolation barrier between populations, to warrant full species recognition. In humans, language is very dynamic and is not an impermeable isolation barrier to significant hybridisation. Well, we concluded that species concepts are incredibly population specific.

There are many factors which could be used to define species limits: plumage, structure, vocalisations, genetic differences and behaviour for instance. Within each one of these major group of factors there a complex criteria. For instance, genetically, McKays Bunting differs very little from Snow Bunting but in terms of plumage, the birds are so different as to warrant full species status. Some species are genetically quite diverse from each other but in terms of plumage are almost identical (if I recall correctly this applies to some American sparrow populations). These genetic differences could warrant full species recognition. Some species look identical, the Fea's, Zino's and Desertas Petrels, but are so different in language (vocalisations) that this could warrant full species recognition. Once you chuck into this mix, the spectrum of differences and where the cut off points are, the inevitable conclusion persists: the continuum of biological diversity cannot be boxed off into discrete groups. Diversity is like a landscape- with valleys, mountains, plains, hills, hummocks, cliffs and craters. The mountains (very distinctive 'species') stand out from the background but are still joined to each other by the other landforms (sister species, races, forms, subspecies etc etc) - there is no real cut off point in this continuum.

Once you throw into this mix, the human element, then things just turn into chaos. A taxonomist may be trying to define species because he/she may have a personal motive e.g the desire for ticks on a list, career advancement, personal vindiction and come to think of it- a motive propelled by any human emotion- constructive or destructive.

Well this leads to a conclusion. Species concepts are unsatisfactory at providing a fundamental basis for the conservation of diversity. It is diversity that should be protected and that means all biological life at the systems level- the big picture. The only way of protecting all life is by management from the top- governments. Conservation is ineffective unless it is hard wired into every discipline and social pursuit- the oil industry, the mining industry, the construction industry, agriculture, transport, forestry, gardening, marketing, banking, advertising, fashion, food etc etc etc.

That means that the protection and conservation of wildlife is a social problem. It is a lack of respect and an appreciation of the value of wildlife which results in destruction of the environment. This is a problem with people. It is a problem in education. Education is a problem of government. The problems of government are philosophical problems- the very nature of elitist capitalism- where only certain types of people are valued (so called successful people) . This idea is based on a philosophical error of the nature of nature. It rests on a simple mis-understanding- the survival of the fittest. In nature, the survival of the fittest are not the groups which claw out each others eyes but it is the groups that co-operate together through healthy competition.

The solution to major conservation problems- has to be down to management- government. All other attempts are piecemeal and temporary ways of trying to preserve pockets of diversity. However as climate change accelerates, the conditions in these pockets may mean these environments are unsuitable to sustain even these small areas. The environment is dynamic and it is impossible to create a 'reserve'- it will soon become a very expensive attempt at trying to preserve a museum. Ecosystems continuously evolve and are dynamic- diversity has to be given this space to do that- it needs the whole of the environment. Conservation can only work at the regional scale. There is no other way.

One small problem. The elite groups in charge of things at the moment would have to abdicate their power and wealth and redistribute it, in the light of a fairer, more democratic system, where the net of value is spread further than their own narrow fields of view. If other people's concepts of value is incorporated than there may be more balance. This abdication is very unlikely to happen. Power and wealth is generally not given away, it is seized by those who have not got it. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.