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Earth Hour 2014

Earth Hour 2014

The observant may notice that there is a wee banner saying I proudly support Earth Hour, and as I write it tells me that Earth Hour 2014 will start in 7 hours and 5 days. When Earth Hour arrives, between 20:30 – 21:30 (GMT) 29 March 2014, this blog will look something like this:

Earth Hour preview

Why, you might ask, am I doing this? Well the short answer is that I am joining millions of people across the world are switching off lights for one hour – to celebrate their commitment to the planet.

The longer answer is that it is a reminder that together we can make change happen, and it gives us a chance to think about the small things we can do everyday to help create a brighter future. And change is needed, currently we in the Anthropocene a geological epoch in which the human species is have a greater impact on the plant than any other group of organises since the rise of the cyanobacteria which formed the stromatolite about 3.5 billion years ago. They change the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, increasing the oxygen levels and so bringing about the rise of multicellular organisms. However, our current impacts is far less benign and could risk bringing about the collapse of the ecosystems which we all rely upon for life. For this reason we need to move to a more sustainable life styles, these need not be any less comfortable than the ones we currently lead, just different we just need to the drive and imagination to move on to the Sustainocene instead.

Remember Earth Hour is not about sitting, shivering in the dark (that is where we are going if we don’t make the change), it is about thinking about how to make the world a better place for all. For this reason I would urge you to sign up to Earth Hour and do the same.

It really is time to put the brakes on climate change

It really is time to put the brakes on climate change

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has produced yet another report on climate change. The report states clearly that, based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening. When I first started at university almost 20 years ago, the nature of climate change was a live debate. However by the late 1990’s, when I graduated, the evidence had become overwhelming and the debate was settled. Since that time, more and more evidence has accumulated, but the policy makers have stopped listening, as we hurtle towards the cliff edge. NOW really is the time to put the brakes on climate change before it is too late…

For the record, I have a BSc in Ecological Science at The University of Edinburgh and an MPhil in Plant Ecology, my thesis was on the potential affects of climate change on mountain vegetation in Scotland, so I am in a position to know what I am talking about.

Grow Wild update

Grow Wild update

Last month I wrote a post on the Grow Wild Scottish Vote, the vote has now taken place and almost 20,000 people took part (some of them through this blog). The winning project is the Barrhead’s Water Works project, they will have been awarded £100,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to help their development for the benefit of their local area.

The Waterworks in Barrhead aims to transform an abandoned sewage works into an industrial wildlife area for the community to enjoy, using derelict sewage tanks as giant experimental planters where beautiful displays of Scottish wild flower habitats can be carefully created. The site is located near Dunterlie in Barrhead, which is one of Scotland’s most deprived communities, the project is led by East Renfrewshire Council, in conjunction with Barrhead High School and Still Game community group for older residents.

Runners up for Grow Wild in Scotland were the Frog Pond Rises project in Livingston, West Lothian which will see a much-loved pond and park area undergo a transformation through wetland creation and the design of a wild flower structure. And Belville Community Garden in Greenock which planned to deliver a community garden on the site of former high rise flats in Greenock to encourage community participation in healthy activities. These projects will receive £4000 each to help their progress.

Grow Wild aims to engage young people by providing opportunities to take direct action and transform local green space, giving them the chance to showcase their drive and creativity for the benefit of the local community. The Scottish project was the first to go ahead in the UK, with sites in England, Wales and Ireland will follow in 2015 and 2016. Over the next three years, 250,000 seed-sowing kits will be sent out by Grow Wild partners with the aim of reaching young people, aged 12 -25, creating a new audiences who wouldn’t usually engage with environmental or community projects.

If you have found this inspiring and think there is an opportunity to do something for your community, you can apply for funding for a Grow Wild community project in Scotland here.

Grow Wild

Grow Wild

These days I often get e-mails from PR people either offering to write something for my blog about a product they are wanting to push, or wanting me to write something about a product they are wanting to push. Generally these message are of no interest to me and show that the person sending them hasn’t taken the time to read anything I have written or find out what my blog is about. These e-mails are simply deleted. However, yesterday I received an e-mail from Emmy who had taken the time to read some of posts I have written, understood some of my interests, and sent me a pitch on behalf of her client Grow Wild, a campaign from Kew Gardens, in which she to invited me to take part in the Grow Wild Scottish Vote.

Grow Wild, is a campaign bringing people together to do something positive for the place they live by sowing native wild flowers. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, it offers four local communities across the UK (one in each of the home nations), the opportunity to create and inspirational space by encouraging wild plants. There is more to this that just sowing a few packets of wild flower seed, it is based on enthusiastic community members who’d actively rallied local people to decide what their community should do with the Grow Wild funding. Youth groups, community associations and residents groups, artists, high school design students, and landscape architects have all worked to pull together to create some really inspirational plans.

Hopefully it won’t just be the horticulturists from Kew who will be supporting the winning communities, but they get the scientists involved too and teach the communities about the ecology of their local environments. I won’t tell you which community group I voted for, but encourage you to make your own decision, and please do vote. Voting runs from 14th October until midnight on 3rd November. The winning Scottish Grow Wild site will be announced in mid-November and will open in May next year.

The three short listed Scottish sites are:

If you would like to vote, you can do so using the widget below –

If this widget isn’t working then follow the link here.

Hopefully there will be another round and maybe an Edinburgh based community group will be in the running for a £100,000 Grow Wild transformation.

A short walk on the Emperor’s Chair

A short walk on the Emperor’s Chair

Der Kaiserstuhl, literally the Emperor’s Chair, a range of hills in south west Germany, is the remains of an extinct volcano rising out of the Upper Rhine Plain like an island, and a fine place to go for a walk. The place got its name from Otto III who held a court nearby in 994. At this time he was merely King of Germany and the hills were given the name Königsstuhl, the King’s Chair. Some time after Otto had himself made ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in 996, the name was changed to Kaiserstuhl, although it is not clear if this happened before his death in 1002 (the change in name may not have occurred until the 13th century).

Walking up the Kaiserstuhl

Late summer shadows on the Kaiserstuhl

The hills today are a fascinating mix of vineyards, woodland and high hay meadows, with a near Mediterranean climate. This leads to it having an interesting flora and fauna, a number of the species living here have disjunct distributions, meaning that they are away from their normal areas. One such species is the European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) which normally only found east of the Alps, sadly we didn’t get to see any. The Kaiserstuhl is also famous for its orchid flora with over 30 different species having been recorded there. However, as we were visiting in September, we didn’t see any of these either. We did get to see a range of invertebrates, including Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa) for which the Kaiserstuhl is well known, and a range of other bugs and butterflies.

Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)

Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)
Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)

Streifenwanze or Minstrel Bug (Graphosoma lineatum) on the Kaiserstuhl
Streifenwanze or Minstrel Bug (Graphosoma lineatum)

Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon) on the Kaiserstuhl
Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

Knappe (Lygaeus saxatilis)
Knappe (Lygaeus saxatilis)

Berger's Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis)
Berger’s Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis)

Euplagia quadripunctaria
Russischer Bär or Jersey Tiger (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

There where also a number of snails (as yet unidentified) hanging from grass stalks, I am told they do this to avoid the midday heat.

Snail on grass

Snail on grass

shades of autumn

The floral highlight we did come across was Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale).
Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) on the Kaiserstuhl

After the hay cut

Given that this is a wine producing area, after the walk you might suppose that we repaired to a hostelry to sample the local produce, but we didn’t. I once asked a German friend (who harks from the Mosel region) and who is something of a connoisseur to recommend a good German wine. His reply was that there was no such thing and that I should stick with French, Italian and Austrian wines, advice I have followed since (when in Germany). So instead we adjourned to sample the café culture of Freiburg, a visit I touched on in the last post, but I feel that is for yet another post.

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