Blue Green Algae

When we first move to Knutsford in 1986 there was no generally recognised problem of blue green algae or cyanobacteria. There was a small sandy beach by the lake in Tatton Park, where people would go to picnic and bathe in the lakewater. Dogs swam in the lake without problem; even daughter’s Westie put his toes in.

Then, in the early nineties, notices began to appear about blooms of blue green algae in the water; dogs should not go in and people should definitely not bathe. They appeared with increasing frequency, and are now a permanent feature. The sandy beach is long gone.

Almost everywhere you go in Britain these algae seem to have got a hold, with a detrimental effect on other wildlife. Last year we witnessed dead Canada geese being removed from Shakerley Mere because of poisoning, suspected to be the very evident blue green algae.

Close up the resulting scum can appear ugly, but can sometimes give almost beautiful effects, as in the following picture.

Ferry Meadows, Peterborough

So what causes these algal blooms and what changed?

Read More »

Out of the Wreckage

I haven’t had time to read George Monbiot’s book ‘Out of the Wreckage’. This excellent post by Zoe O’Kill gives a good summary – and an excellent overview of our predicament related to the insane neoliberalism that our politics seems to be increasingly in thrall to, both sides of the pond but especially the US.

After the carniverous plenty…

George Monbiot’s article Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death is a timely reminder that we are on course for the biggest of all disasters. Our increasing population and increasing demand on the natural world cannot be sustained without major change. We need as a species to eat less meat. Period.

The Guardian graphic in Monbiot’s article says it all:

guardian graphic monbiot

So after that stuffed-meat Christmas dinner, maybe you should call time on anything but the very occasional indulgence in meat.

Insectageddon

With great eloquence, George Monbiot pursues the theme of loss of insects covered in my previous post) and puts it in context with other ongoing global disasters, such as depletion/ acidification of soil/ seas, and climate change. His piece in The Guardian is well worth reading.

Our natural world is under unprecedented attack by the huge number of people seeking a lifestyle it cannot support – unprecedented except for great natural disasters such as large meteorite hits. The situation cries out for action at all levels – personal, business, corporation, local, regional, national, super-regional, continental, global. Yet we seem to be stymied by current vested interests and our own boiling-frog-like inertia.

Brexit is in a sense totally irrelevant to these problems, although we could use it to drive rapid change in the right direction in the UK. But don’t hold your breath if you keep voting the Tories into power – their radical wing appear to have nothing to offer this situation.

Featured bee image by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, Maryland, USA – Apis mellifera, via Wikimedia Commons

Inglorious twelfth

UK readers will be aware that there has been a bit of a fuss recently related to the start of the grouse shooting season on the 12th August – glorious to some, inglorious to others – and a heavily supported petition to parliament. If you read an earlier post of mine on shooting snipe, you’ll have no doubt where I stand on the issue.

In his Guardian article, George Monbiot clearly summarises the political issues, and in particular the great lengths the vested interests are going to protect their business.

It is of interest to consider why people shoot grouse, and why they defend their pursuit so vigorously. Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a useful model to do this.

1. Physiological

At the lowest level are basic needs necessary for physical survival. Here grouse would be shot for food. Today, only possibly the odd poacher would be operating at this level.

2. Security

At the next level are needs for safety and security. Financial security comes at this level, so this is a significant factor in today’s grouse business – the gamekeeper protecting his salary by sometimes nefarious means, the moor owner protecting his business eg by attacking environmental organisations.

3. Social – Belonging, Love

We can perhaps categorise three major social groups that are into grouse shooting – the traditional landed aristocracy, led by the royals; the ‘sportsmen’ who actually see this as a skilled sport; and the newly moneyed who do it because they can, and it differentiates them from ‘ordinary people’.

4. Esteem

The same groups gain recognition and appreciation of their fellow shooters, so are also at this level.

5. Self-actualizing

This is the highest of Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential. I suggest that few people at this level would be interested in shooting birds, except perhaps for balance of nature reasons.

6. Self transcendence

In his later work Maslow realised there is an additional, spiritual, level where the concerns of the individual ego are transcended, leading to altruism and concern with the general good. This includes being an integrated part of the natural world, so forget shooting birds.

Taking this perspective, and seeing that humanity and societies generally are moving in a direction up the hierarchy (but not without the odd step backwards), we can take comfort in the fact that grouse shooting will eventually be banned in the UK, just as have many other abuses of the animal world over recent centuries.

If living in the UK, maybe you should sign the petition.

Featured image of a shooting party in Wrest Park 1929