“IMAGINING OTHER…”

Protecting the Planet

(a WEA course)

 

Week 3:  Some other environmental problems

 

Links:

Imagining-other home page

Protecting the Planet 1: Introduction       Protecting the Planet 2: key industries          Protecting the Planet 4: strategies             Protecting the Planet 5: some solutions

Protecting the Planet 6: global warming  Protecting the Planet 7: effects of global warming          Protecting the Planet 8: species decline     Protecting the Planet 9: energy policies

 

Protecting the Planet 10: the movement

 

 

Summary: a small sample of environmental problems, in alphabetical order:

Agriculture farming & soil, soil & pesticides, sheep farming, parks

bees,

biodiversity decline & pesticides (to be dealt with in more detail later (week 8)

GM (in brief only)

waste: food, electronics, plastic, water,

population (more notes needed)

the sea and fishing (more notes needed)

 

(i) Agriculture, farming and soil:

The environmental consequences of large-scale agriculture... hedges, pesticides...

 

19th Oct 2005. Need return to localism for food production, as 4 companies sell 70% of the food in Britain – high costs in transport etc. 1500 shops feed half the country. Tim Lang: “Land around London that once fed the city now goes to stockbrokers’ ponies. It’s bonkers… Simply unsustainable” G 191005 (John Vidal, Ian Sample)

 

David Adam, G 25.05.09:

About 75% of British countryside is farmed.

During 1980s, farmers were paid a guaranteed price by EU for wheat, barley etc. àoversupplygrain mountains …

Cost of storing surplus grew, and cheaper to pay farmers not to use the land à ‘set-aside’ (“voodoo economics” acc. David Adam).

8% - 15% farming land set aside and policy continued for 20 years. During this time bird population flourished… (less chemicals, more weed seeds).

 

2007 policy dropped after poor harvests and rising food prices. More food needed, so farmers took set-aside land back into use.

Decline in cereal prices àslight rise in unfarmed land – government plans to start set-aside again (because concern over wildlife?), giving subsidies. [check/update]

 

RSPB wants mandatory 4-5% of farmland to be out of production, while farmers want it left to them (they say they can manage the problem, and compulsory measures mean farmers don’t deal with it so thoroughly/effectively – others say if farmers don’t implement set-aside, they only have to forgo the subsidies – £240 per year for each acre devoted to conservation – while growing wheat would bring £130 profit per year according to John Cousins, farmer in Hadleigh nr. Ipswich, also head of agricultural policy for Wildlife Trusts).

 

Agriculture and Brexit:  3rd August 2017, Sandra Laville. National Trust warns Brexit is damaging countryside: farmers are returning to intensive methods because of uncertainty. Director Dame Helen Ghosh says farmers have ploughed up pasture which had been created with EU money. Legislation needed now. Maintain the £3bn a year subsidy with incentives for nature-friendly farming. Provide guarantees that food and environmental standards will be maintained or strengthened. Ensure £800m of greening subsidies are redirected in 2019 (and not later) into more effective incentives. NT is part of the Greener UK coalition, along with FoE, Greenpeace and RSPB.  We need to repair historic damage, adapt to climate change, restore soil and water quality, habitats, species, natural flood protection and damaged landscapes. Over the last 50 years 60% of species have declined in the UK and 31% have strongly declined. Farming yields are suffering because the soil is exhausted largely as a result of the industrialised farming methods which have been incentivised since WW2.

 

Soil:

Soil is crucial, not only to grow food and feed animals, but we get most of our antibiotics from it, and scientists are looking for more. Soil is rich in biodiversity: it contains almost one third of all living

organisms, according to the EU Joint Research Centre. Only 1% of its micro-organisms have been identified. A teaspoon may contain billions of microbes, divided among 5,000 different types. Not to mention thousands of species of fungi, nematodes, mites etc. See the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative.

 

Repeated plowing kills off beneficial fungi and earth-worms – it requires more fertilizer and is prone to being washed away in heavy rain (and the nitrogen etc spreads into rivers and streams). Each 1% increase in soil organic matter helps the soil hold 30,000 more litres of water per hectare. It also helps the soil store carbon dioxide (reducing global warming).

 

A 2,000 hectare farm in North Dakota, and uses no tilling, and applies ‘green manures’ etc – no nitrogen fertilizers, and no fungicide, and produces yields above the county average. Organisations like No-Till on the Plains encourage it. Some 35% of cropland in US is no-tillage. For soybeans the amount of no-till land has doubled in the last 15 years (12 million hectares in 2012). (NYT/Observer article 2015).

George Monbiot: allotment holders (according to UK researchers last year) produce 4 - 11 times more food per hectare than farmers do!!

 

We have used so much of our land for (intensive) agriculture, and removed hedges, that we have removed habitats for wildlife, so the RSPB has suggested a mandatory 4-5% of farmland to be out of production. Increasingly farmers are leaving uncultivated strips around their fields. When the EU had a ‘set-aside’ policy – which lasted about 20 years until 2007 (it was dropped when food prices rose after some poor harvests) the bird population flourished. [The policy was brought in because of over-production: grain mountains etc...]

 

Soil: here is a quote from a review of book (The World-ending Fire’) a collection of essays by Wendell Berry, selected by Paul Kingsnorth (review from the New Statesman, by Andrew Marr, 2nd Feb 2017):  ‘Without topsoil the thin layer between the Earth’s scores-of-miles deep crust, and the atmosphere we breathe, we could not exist. The historian JR McNeill describes topsoil thus: ‘It consists of mineral particles, organic matter, gases and a swarm of tiny living things. It is a thin skin, rarely more than a hip deep, and usually much less so. Soil takes centuries or millennia to form. Eventually it all ends up in the sea through erosion. In the interval between formation and erosion, it is basic to human survival.’

Wendell Berry is a farmer and writer, with radical views: modern industrial capitalism is a machine based on greed and short-termism that produces grotesque unfairness and waste – and will lead us, before long, to disaster. We must return to cherish and look after the soil we depend on. ‘Our destructiveness has not been, and is not, inevitable. People who use that excuse are morally incompetent, they are cowardly, and they are lazy.... All of us, regardless of party, can be inspired by love of our land to rise above the greed and contempt of our land’s exploiters.’

Like John Berger, Berry has championed the cause of migrant workers, and he is one of the most compelling writers on racism in America.  

In Ali Smith’s novel Autumn there is this epigraph taken from a Guardian article published last July: ‘At current rates of soil erosion, Britain has just 100 harvests left.’

 

Parks – how English ‘national parks’ are ‘neither national nor parks’ (George Monbiot G 1st June 2015):

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/30/scotland-land-reform-national-parks

 

May 19th 2013 The importance of the soil: (New York Times): soil is crucial, not only to grow food and feed animals, but we get most of our antibiotics from it, and scientists are looking for more. Soil is rich in biodiversity: it contains almost one third of all living organisms, according to the EU Joint Research Centre. Only 1% of its micro-organisms have been identified. A teaspoon may contain billions of microbes, divided among 5,000 different types. Not to mention thousands of species of fungi, nematodes, mites etc. See the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. (More below...)

 

March 6th – 7th 2014: Landowners and farmers:

Useful and controversial piece by George Monbiot: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/03/rich-landowners-farmers-welfare-nfu-defra

and replies in Guardian 7th March: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/06/mistake-claim-all-farming-same

 

March 22nd 2015: Putting the Plow Down to Help the Soil (by Erica Goode):

NYT Weekly International/Observer: Gabe Brown has a 2,000 hectare farm in North Dakota, and uses not tilling, ‘green manures’ etc – no nitrogen fertilizers, and no fungicide, and he produces yields above the county average. Organisations like No-Till on the Plains encourage it. Some 35% of cropland in US is no-tillage. For soybeans the amount of no-till land has doubled in the last 15 years (12 million hectares in 2012).

Repeated plowing kills off beneficial fungi and earth-worms – it requires more fertilizer and is prone to being washed away in heavy rain (and the nitrogen etc spreads into rivers and streams).

Each 1% increase in soil organic matter helps the soil hold 30,000 more litres of water per hectare. It also helps the soil store carbon dioxide (reducing global warming).

 

March 25th 2015: The Soil. George Monbiot again: according to the UN we need 6m more hectares of land every year to grow food for the growing population of the world. In fact, we are losing 12m hectares a year due to soil degradation.

Intensive methods are the problem: allotment holders (according to UK researchers last year) produce 4 - 11 times more food per hectare than farmers do!!

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/25/treating-soil-like-dirt-fatal-mistake-human-life

Soil and pesticides:

7th April 2017, Damian Carrington: research published in Nature Plants (peer-reviewed) analysed pesticide use, productivity and profitability across almost 1,000 farms in France, and found that 94% could cut their use of pesticides without any loss of production, and two-fifths would actually produce more. With insecticides the results were even more dramatic: in 86%, lower levels would produce more, and in no farms would lose production.

This comes on top of a UN report which said that it was a myth that pesticides were necessary (March 2017) and that they have ‘catastrophic impacts on the environment and human health.’ The report accuses pesticide manufacturers of a ‘systematic denial of harms.’

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/06/farms-could-slash-pesticide-use-without-losses-research-reveals

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/07/un-experts-denounce-myth-pesticides-are-necessary-to-feed-the-world - see part 5 for reference to the power of ‘dark money’.

 

Sheep farming:

Lake District: should it have World Heritage status? George Monbiot argues against, as the groups pushing for this are preserving sheep-farming, which is not good for the environment.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/11/lake-district-world-heritage-site-sheep

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/09/lake-district-world-heritage-site-george-monbiot

 

Salmon farming

Apr 1st 2017, John Vidal Guardian, posted on Facebook. Environmental costs of farming of salmon are horrific!  Main problem: lice, which are spreading and resistant to insecticides. Also the sheer amount of waste produced is unbelievable.

 

(ii) Bees and biodiversity:

Jonathan Lundgren: Bee Defenders’ Alliance – coalition of beekeeping organisations: ‘This year, we’re working around the clock to get Canada to join France in banning neonics, extend the European neonic ban, and stop U.S. grocery store giants like Kroger from selling bee-killing products. We’ll also continue to support threatened bee scientists like Jonathan Lundgren and the beekeeper alliance that’s fighting Bayer and Syngenta in court.

And finally, we’ll do everything we can to stop the Bayer-Monsanto merger from hell and continue to fight the biggest bee-killer of them all, Bayer.’

Jonathan Lundgren, from Washington Post March 3 2016

“I don’t think science can be done, at least on this subject, in any of the conventional ways,” he says. “I think we need truly independent scientists — not funded by government or industry.”

Bee declines, says Lundgren, are not difficult to understand. “Yes, the bees are in crisis, and we need to help them,” he says. “But what we have is not a bee problem. What we have is a biodiversity problem.”

U.S. corporate agriculture tends toward monoculture farming — in the simplest terms, one giant farm specializing in one crop. The two key monoculture crops are corn and soybeans. Corn alone takes up 30 percent of the country’s crop space, an area almost the size of California.

Soybean acreage is nearly as vast. The corn rootworm, the Colorado potato beetle and soybean aphids all thrive best on the crops that give them their names. And so monocultures have allowed, even caused, says Lundgren, pest populations to explode.

“We’re using all of these pesticides because we’ve created a pest problem,” Lundgren says, “and bee health is a symptom of this underlying cause.”

He says the solution is to diversify American farming. “Any other course is unsustainable,” he says. “Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides should be something we resort to, not a first option.”

 

Bees:

There are many different species of bees – see chart - and they have two extremely valuable roles: to produce honey (honey bees) and to pollinate flowers, fruit and flowering vegetables. They pollinate roughly 70% of our food crops.

In America an industry has grown up around using bees as pollinators: in the early 2000s, two things shook up this industry. First, the world discovered almonds. Thanks to global demand, particularly from Asia, the nut has taken over Central Valley, nearly doubling its hectarage to 370,000 since 2005. California produces more than 80% of the world’s almond supply today. The boom brought with it an unprecedented demand for pollination. With bees, an almond tree produces 70% more nuts than without. “Bees,” one almond grower told me, “are as important as water.”

Second, the bees started to die. During the 2006 winter, beekeepers reported losing anything from 30% to 90% of their hives to disease, an unprecedented amount compared with previous decades, in which losses hovered around 10 or 15%. (The average death toll has since leveled to just under 30% each year.) Even Johnson, a second-generation keeper with “honey in the blood”, finds boxes and boxes of dead colonies every winter, and has to scrape out the crusted nectar and tiny corpses.

In the UK, hive losses were between 20% and 40% in the last few years. Factors that contribute are: loss of wild flowers, meadows, etc. the varroa mite, climate change (see above), and finally pesticides.

What became known as “colony collapse disorder” – a lethal combination of disease, drought, land loss and pesticide use – brought the industry to its knees, forcing hundreds of keepers, unable to maintain their hives through the cold winter, out of business.

Consequently, the national supply of bees fell, while demand for pollination has since quadrupled alongside almond growth. This year, almond farmers paid $180 to rent a single hive. And every half-hectare requires two hives... Hives are so valuable that there is large-scale theft: in 2015, poachers stole more than 1,700 hives...

Scientific research has demonstrated that insecticides – especially neonicotinoids – are perhaps the main factor in the decline of bees. (Some apiarists blame disease – and the varroa mite - first, but the counter-argument is that neonics must weaken the bees’ immunity). It is believed that neonics disrupt the bees’ nervous system, resulting in disorientation – not knowing how to find pollen/nectar, or to get back to the hive.

 

In 2013 the European Union placed a moratorium on three types of neonicotinoids on flowering crops such as oilseed rape three years ago but these insecticides have not disappeared. (Britain abstained in the vote).

 

In fact (says Dave Goulson of Sussex University) their use in British farming continues to rise. They are deployed on non-flowering crops such as wheat. We use them in horticulture, and daub them on our pets: flea powders for cats and dogs contain imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid. Dave Goulson says the “plausible deniability” he encounters from neonicotinoid makers is “rather similar to what the tobacco industry did for 50 years claiming that smoking didn’t cause any harm”.’

 

2015: ‘Scientists this year calculated that these insecticides caused a 10% reduction in the distribution of bee species that forage on oilseed rape. Another study found neonicotinoids cut live sperm in male honeybees by almost 40%. Two studies show a strong correlation between neonicotinoids and declining butterfly populations, while another showed the insecticide accumulating to dangerous levels in nearby wildflowers.

2017 (Report by Damian Carrington): The world’s most widely used insecticides harm the ability of bees to vibrate flowers and shake out the pollen to fertilise crops, according to preliminary results from a new study, led by Penelope Whitehorn of the University of Stirling in Scotland and presented at British Ecological Society conference.

Some flowers, such as those of crops like tomatoes and potatoes, must be shaken to release pollen and bumblebees are particularly good at creating the buzz needed to do this.

We are talking about tiny doses of these chemicals: The researchers took two colonies of bumblebees in a laboratory setting and split the bees in each into three groups. One control group was not exposed to the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, but the other two groups were fed solutions containing two parts per billion or 10ppb of the pesticide, doses similar to those found in crop fields.

 

The study adds to a large body of evidence from lab- and field-based studies that neonicotinoids reduce learning and memory in bees, impair their communication, foraging efficiency and immune systems and, crucially, reduce their reproductive success as well as the pollination services that they can provide.

Bees and biodiversity, Jonathan Lundgren:

Bee Defenders’ Alliance – coalition of beekeeping organisations: ‘This year, we’re working around the clock to get Canada to join France in banning neonics, extend the European neonic ban, and stop U.S. grocery store giants like Kroger from selling bee-killing products. We’ll also continue to support threatened bee scientists like Jonathan Lundgren and the beekeeper alliance that’s fighting Bayer and Syngenta in court.

And finally, we’ll do everything we can to stop the Bayer-Monsanto merger from hell and continue to fight the biggest bee-killer of them all, Bayer.’

Jonathan Lundgren, from Washington Post March 3 2016

“I don’t think science can be done, at least on this subject, in any of the conventional ways,” he says. “I think we need truly independent scientists — not funded by government or industry.”

Bee declines, says Lundgren, are not difficult to understand. “Yes, the bees are in crisis, and we need to help them,” he says. “But what we have is not a bee problem. What we have is a biodiversity problem.”

U.S. corporate agriculture tends toward monoculture farming — in the simplest terms, one giant farm specializing in one crop. The two key monoculture crops are corn and soybeans. Corn alone takes up 30 percent of the country’s crop space, an area almost the size of California.

Soybean acreage is nearly as vast. The corn rootworm, the Colorado potato beetle and soybean aphids all thrive best on the crops that give them their names. And so monocultures have allowed, even caused, says Lundgren, pest populations to explode.

“We’re using all of these pesticides because we’ve created a pest problem,” Lundgren says, “and bee health is a symptom of this underlying cause.”

He says the solution is to diversify American farming. “Any other course is unsustainable,” he says. “Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides should be something we resort to, not a first option.”

Note: there are other dangerous chemicals that are the subject of bans in some countries but not in others:

 

Jan 29th 2017, The Observer (Joanna Blythman): 82 pesticides are banned in the EU on health and environmental grounds – but not in the US. These include: permethrin, a broad spectrum insecticide that is classed as a likely carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor, and atrazinea herbicide thought to affect the immune system, which has also been linked to birth defects.’ Of course, if the UK agrees a trade deal with the US after Brexit, then these protections could be lost.

 

March 2015 (New York Times/Observer): atrazine, made by Syngenta, is one of Australia and America’s most popular herbicides: 33.4 million kilos were used in US in 2013. But it is banned in Europe (2004) and Switzerland as an endocrine disruptor (can alter the natural hormonal system – frogs change sex) and because it contaminates water. Farm workers show health effects of pesticides, but as they are exposed to several it is not easy to identify specific dangerous products. However, ‘maternal exposure to atrazine in drinking water has been associated with low foetal weight and heart, urinary and limb defects in humans.’ (ATSDR – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).

 

LD50 measurements and ‘threshold doses’ controversy. 750 mg/kg in rabbits, 1,000 mg/kg in hamsters, 3,090 mg/kg in rats...  EPA’s ‘reference dose’: 0.035 mg/kg/day. 

 

NB in US the onus is on regulators to show evidence of danger – while in EU companies have to establish they are safe before they are put on the market.

 

May 2015: US lobbying led to EU not banning Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) – this was done as a result of fears of a trade backlash under the TTIP.... Further information from PAN.

 

(iii) Loss of species, and of biodiversity. Conservation (to be explored in more depth later):

 

The 2016 State of Nature report found: More than one in 10 of the UK’s wildlife species are threatened with extinction. (Damian Carrington 14/9/16). The numbers of the most endangered creatures have fallen by two-thirds since 1970. This covers birds, animals, fish and plants.

 

Overall 53% - 56% of species declined between 1970 and 2011, but some species increased - this ‘does not look like a healthy, natural situation’ (Mark Eaton, conservation scientist at RSPB) – some species going up very quickly, and others going down equally quickly, so we could end up with ‘50% left’.

Insects and invertebrates have declined most dramatically, by 59% since 1970. Thus pollination, healthy soil etc are damaged. ‘They are about the most important things out there’ says Eaton.

 

Causes: intensive farming, urbanization, climate change.

 

Public funding for biodiversity has fallen by 32% from 2008 to 2015.

 

Nature provides economic and health benefits of about 30bn a year (government 2011 analysis).

 

March 3rd 2017.

Mozambique’s ‘Google Forest’ – Mount Mabu - was ‘discovered’ by Julian Bayliss when looking at Google Earth in 2005 – with a Kew Gardens team he has discovered three new species of snake, eight of butterflies, a bat, a crab, tow chameleons, many plants, and birds that are critically endangered. Expedition by Alliance Earth March 2017 (Observer 26.03.17) to create a 3D map publish studies, seek out potential non-timber forest products and film a VR experience for museums etc. The hill was used by local people when the fight for independence from Portugal took place – 1964 – and there are holes where people hid, especially with children, so their cries would not be heard by the Portuguese looking for them...

Mozambique is still losing timber through illegal operations, and according to the Environmental Investigation Agency some $130m of hardwoods are stolen annually, much of it going to China. 

Aim is to use ecological/sustainable tourism to preserve the biodiversity: honey, mushrooms to generate income locally. It needs to be legally designated as a community conservation area.

 

Palm oil and loss of forests: Bank of England looking for other sources of fat for its notes, after row over use of animal fat, and may use palm oil. WWF says ‘Palm oil has benefits as it produces more oil per acre of land than any other equivalent crop... Worldwide demand is expected to double by 2050 but this expansion comes at the expense of human rights and tropical forest – unless it is sustainable.’

Doug Maw who started the petition against animal fats says ‘Palm oil production has brought the orang utan to the brink of extinction and coconuts are often harvested in a very exploitative way.’

 

 

Solutions (à week 7?): organic farming, more hedgerows, less pesticides, re-wilding...

 

NB: there is also a world-wide problem with the killing of elephants, rhinos, sharks etc.

 

 (iv) Genetic Modification:

Scientists are now experimenting with genetic modification of plants, and animals, and even cloning – the public is alarmed by these experiments, and there is widespread opposition, but commercial interests come into play and the experiments are going ahead in many cases.

 

John Vidal in the Guardian, 20th Oct 2011, on the ‘Global Citizens’ Report on the state of GMOs’ – this groups together 20 Indian, South-east Asian and Latin American conservation groups, representing millions of people. The report casts doubt on the effectiveness of GM crops: more insecticides have to be used, and Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont control nearly 70% of global seed sales, and are the three largest GM firms. Monsanto has control of over 95% of the Indian cotton-seed market and this pushes prices up.

250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves over the past 15 years, mainly because of indebtedness. See:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/19/gm-crops-insecurity-superweeds-pesticides 

 

The Ecologist Magazine, Dec/Jan 2009 has article on Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled with Monsanto over the contamination of his crops with GM rape seed – he argues that it is almost impossible now to buy non-GM seed in Canada, and these seeds would not be acceptable in Europe. ‘There is no such thing as containment; there is no such thing as co-existence; there is no such thing as choice. Your yields drop and you end up using three to five times more chemicals. We now have superweeds in our towns, on our golf courses, in our cemeteries and on our roads. The chemicals we have to use on them contain up to 70% of the constituents of Agent Orange.’

 

The Ecologist June 2009: French govt has agreed introduction of labelling ‘fed on non-GM feed’ on meat and dairy products, a victory for group Que Choisir. In Germany a ban on GM maize variety (because when fed to mice they showed reproductive problems) has led to lawsuit from Montano…

 

The Ecologist May 2009: criticises the publication by ‘Sense About Science’ – ‘Making Sense of GM’, which appears to have been written by people with connections with the GM industry, viz: Prof. V Moses, head of industry-funded GM lobby group CropGen; 8 contributors from John Innes Centre, which receives funding from the GM industry; and a draft version, obtained by Private Eye, shows that one of the contributors – whose name was removed from the publication! – was toxicologist Andrew Cockburn, former director of scientific affairs at Monsanto (when he was invited to author part of a government review there were questions in parliament and one of the other panellists resigned).  More disturbingly, the publishers (directors of SAS) are part of the Living Marxism group, which also is ‘behind online magazine Spiked and the Institute of Ideas – the group promotes climate change denial, eulogises GMOs, human cloning and nuclear power, and portrays environmentalists as Nazis…’ (Jonathan Matthews in The Ecologist). LM lost a libel action against ITN when it tried to argue that new pictures of starving Bosnians were faked. The magazine had to close… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Marxism. See also Zac Goldsmith’s Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/05/sense-about-science-celebrity-observations.

 

Jonathan Matthews is the founder of GM Watch www.gmwatch.eu  

 

(v) Waste:

(ifood:

In the UK we send 10m tonnes of waste a year to landfill sites.

Of this, 60% is food, a quarter of which is reckoned to be edible. Some will be from supermarkets (2m tonnes according to Waste and Resources Action Programme - WRAP), some from households.  

In 2015 the UK threw away an estimated 15 million tonnes of food.

Tesco alone threw away 59,400 tonnes in 2015, the equivalent of 119m meals.

UK looks to be top of the EU league table for food waste!!! (Though Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat – a cult of perfection is to blame. Vast quantities left in the fields to rot).

200,000 tonnes of the food waste comes from seven major supermarkets.

70% of produce is dumped by producers and retailers before it even gets to the stores.

Each adult throws away over £400 of food a year (plus a further £400+ in packaging).

 

(One third of all waste in Havering is food...)

 

(ii) electronics:

People get a new mobile phone on average every 18 months

1.5 million computers are thrown away each year, of which 99% work perfectly.

‘Restart Parties’ may help? (See later).

 

(iii) Plastics:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/19/plastic-pollution-risks-near-permanent-contamination-of-natural-environment

 

(iv)  Water: 15th June 2017: Damian Carrington. Thames Water fined £8.5m for failure to cut leaks. It missed its targets by 47m litres a day. Amount of leakage has not decreased for at least four years. In March it was hit by a record fine of £20.3m for pumping 1.4bn litres of untreated sewage into the Thames, its tributaries and on to land. A ‘shocking and disgraceful’ situation according to the judge. TW also revealed it caused 315 pollution incidents last year – higher than the year before. Steve Robertson, chief executive, earns £700,000 a year , and has an annual bonus of £54,000.

England is the only nation to have a fully privatized water industry. TW paid out more than £1bn in dividends to its shareholders in the decade up to 2015.    It is owned by a consortium of investment funds including sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi and China, as well as investors from Canada and Kuwait.

 

************

 

Additional Problems:

 

5.11 Pesticides:

 

Sat 23rd May 2015: US lobbying led to EU not banning Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) – this was done as a result of fears of a trade backlash under the TTIP. PAN has details... http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/22/eu-dropped-pesticide-laws-due-to-us-pressure-over-ttip-documents-reveal 

 

March 22nd 2015: the use of atrazine, made by Syngenta, one of America’s most popular herbicides, is subject of a piece in New York Times International Weekly/Observer: 33.4 million kilos were used in US in 2013. But it is banned in Europe and Switzerland because it contaminates water: in US the onus is on regulators to show evidence of danger – while in EU companies have to establish they are safe before they are put on the market. Question is will the Transatlantic Trade talks lower the threshold?

 

5.12 Population: global growth: predictions for world population, from 6.5 bn in 2010 to 9.2 bn in 2050; consequences: 50 m new mouths to feed each year (= population of UK/Italy); if China increasingly eats meat, then demand for grain will increase; perhaps also demand for biofuels. So: food prices increase – and hunger unless something done. See WDM report: The Great Hunger Lottery. (Patrick Collinson, G24.07.10) Also notes that it is likely that investment in food is a good bet – but speculation will increase prices further…

 

Book: Population Ten Billion, by Danny Dorling, (Constable) professor of human geography at university of Sheffield. ********

 

5.13 The Sea: the North Sea is almost dead from over-fishing (Callum Roberts: The Unnatural History of the Sea, Gaia Books) Sep 2007 (New St 13.08.07)

Dangers of encroachment into permafrost in Arctic:  Russian gas/ plants e.g. Sakhalin, YamalBP’s Alaskan Prudhoe Bay oilfield: closed after spill… Settlements also bring environmental damage and HIV… New St 13.08.07

 

 

Updates:

31st Jan 2014:

The world currently produces enough food for 11 billion people – but so much is wasted that we cannot even feed the 7 billion people on the planet at present. (From: Farmaggedon: the true cost of cheap meat – by Philip Lynbery and Isobel Oakeshott. Reviewed in New Statesman 24 – 30 Jan.) Two thirds of the world’s 70 billion farm animals are factory farmed – with bad consequences for our food (if we eat meat!) and our environment, let alone the welfare of the animals.