October, 2010

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London is full of life and greener than many think.
  • City crewcut – Countryside plaits, weaves and extensions

    George Osborne obviously sees the countryside as feminine and cities as masculine, as he's delivered a sugar and spice budget for farmers and and a snips, snails and puppy dogs tails budget for wildlife loving Londoners.A lovely snail with one eye on you, the other looking for threatened habitat to hang out in!

    After much campaigning and lobbying by the RSPB and others, he halted the axe,mid-swing, to save the Higher Level Scheme for farmers. This funding stream helps farmers manage their land to keep our traditional rolling hills rolling and our patchwork quilt fields from unravelling. It means the good work that's been put in to reversing declines of farmland birds can continue and that there's plenty to sustain the birds and bees that pollinate and protect our food as it's grown in our now continuing green and pleasant land.

    Life in the gritty city won't be getting any smoother though. DEFRA is the government department that has funded, either directly or indirectly, a lot of the work to maintain and improve our parks, streets, waterways and green buffer zones. The Chancellor's cut their budget by about 30%, the second biggest slashing seen in Government today (20 Oct). It's bad news for the Environment Agency and Natural England, who deliver much of DEFRA's work in London  and other urban areas. The head of Natural England London has already gone.

    It's going to be nigh on  impossible to fill the void this cut will create. Local council's can achieve great things with limited resources, our support and the goodwill of Londoners. Maybe some of the banks or big corporates will see the funding blackhole as an opportunity. If so, I'd really like to hear from them so we can get together to start attacking the vacuum. It's not just a sad loss if London's wildlife starts to shrink. It's a warning.

    Thriving wildlife is an indication of a healthy environment. That means it's healthier for us mere people; boosting our physical and mental wellbeing. It also means allotments, gardens and windowbox growbags will produce food and flowers. What do you think looks nicer to tourists and which would you prefer to live in? A barren concrete wasteland or a green leafy capital, full of cleaner air, fresher waterways and vivid, vibrant life. I may have overstressed the good points and over-egged the bad, but those are the extremes of reality and because I love London, it's what I would say, isn't it.

    Dr Mark Avery, more diplomatic than I.It's been put more diplomaticallly by our Conservation Director Mark Avery (left), who's said... "The Government still has a long way to go to prove it can be the 'greenest ever', so it's vital we kick start a debate on how nature conservation is funded in the future. There are many innovative ideas including conservation credits systems and a great role for the private sector and communities, but the political will needs to be there to make these things happen".

    Let's start the debate today! Post your thoughts on my Facebook page and let's find ways to make more of London's wildlife together. Alternatively, drop by our trailer in Greenwich Park this weekend near the Pavillion Cafe.. where there's a great view down the hill and across the Thames. Volunteer, join us or if you want to help put the green in Greenwich and flick the 'ons' in London, leave your contact details. You'll also be able to find out more about Feed the Birds Day on 30 and 31 October, a great chance to join the Big Society by doing your own thing at home to support wildlife.

  • Four easy steps towards climate heaven

    We're careering towards Feed the Birds Day at an alarming rate. This haste seems to have been maintained throughout 2010 and frankly, I'm looking forward to the Christmas holidays, which are... just eleven weeks away (sound of alarm bells and cash-tills)!

    A partridge in a pear tree is possible in Greater London, but there are plenty of other birds to enjoy too. Feeding the birds can be expensive but there is a simple and practical answer. Grow your own bird food. Any seeds and berries are welcome, as are dense shrubs and climbing plants that support both birds and bugs. Choose your plants well and you can have windowboxes, balconies, gardens or road verges full of colour and movement. Why not set aside part of an allotment or school playground for some plants?

    London is a very green city, but it can be greener. Plants soften the landscape and help keep us cool on warm days and slow down water during heavy downpours, alleviating the threat of flooding. Mayor Boris Johnson is doing what he can to improve the Capital and has just launched a consultation on his proposals for managing climate change and energy needs. He's set a welcome and fantastic target of cutting carbon emissions by 60% before 2025, much better than the already ambitious national target of 80% by 2050.

    Where Boris and the RSPB part company is on aviation. The Mayor argues that aviation is crucial to the economic well-being of London. Looking at the figures on carbon emissions however, suggests this support for aviation growth is counter to the 60% target, leaving us potentially facing the same missed targets in 2025 that we're facing with those set for 2010 that are on the Nagoya Climate Change agenda. Let's cross-out unfair subsidies and monitoring of aviationThe figures used in the Mayor's plans are those cited by the Government and only take account of emissions from the aviation industry on the ground, ignoring the impact of all the planes circling over the capital every day. The RSPB believes favouring the aviation sector also puts unfair pressure on other sectors to reduce emissions, such as housing. Retro fitting London's housing stock to modern energy standards don't come cheap.

    Mayor Johnson's other aviation campaign, for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, also hit a new obstacle this week. A fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, hosted by Conservatives for International Travel, ruled out an estuary airport, describing it as "an unworkable idea" that "has no future". 

    Tough times are ahead for all Londoners and we'll be doing what we can to ensure the Capital's people, wildlife and green spaces don't lose out. Adding your name to our Letter to the Future helps in a small way, feeding the birds helps in another, joining the RSPB is a third option and the fourth - emailing Prime Minsiter Cameron and urging him to stick to his pledge to lead the greenest Government ever - takes you closer to climate heaven.