It is a matter of how bad we’re willing to let it get
We’re already effed (as an eminent climate scientist put it on Twitter) and it’s rapidly getting worse – our changing climate that is – how much worse we let it get depends on how many of us act. It won’t go away if we ignore it and the task is now two-fold as we have delayed for far too long – we need to adapt to the changing climate as well as change our energy supply and shift our diets towards a far more plant-based one. The massive climate catastrophes not only in the Global North (Siberia, northwest America and China to name a few) but also close to home – Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium – are shaking people out of their denial, where it was unfortunately easy to feel ‘safe’ when such disaster seemed confined to the Global South or was predicted for even just a few years in the future. But neither awareness, nor hope nor fear alone, will fix anything. Act. Now. Choose to burn less fossil fuel.
What’s going on? One factor is that our formerly strong Jet Stream used to be fuelled by a pressure and temperature difference, keeping cold weather on the north side of it and warmer weather on the south. Now, fossil-fuelled ice-free open water in the Arctic allows it to get much warmer when exposed to the sun and constant higher-than-normal temperatures, and the Jet Stream is weakened, allowing colder weather to push down further south or hotter weather to push up further north. It becomes like a slow meandering stream; and the equivalent of oxbow lakes may break off and get stuck in one place with disastrous consequences. So, when the Jet Stream wobbles, an extreme in one place is accompanied by extremes of different types elsewhere as we have been seeing. We need to save all the ice we can. Governments have made commitments but the gap between the words and the action is widening. As well as reducing our own personal emissions with every choice we make, it’s literally vital that governments (and organizations and businesses) also tackle this crisis with the urgency it needs. What can you do? Protest; provide financial support to organisations such as Greenpeace or Transport Action Network who are mounting legal challenges to the government’s plans to ignore our predicament. It’s especially timely to do so now as we approach the COP26 talks which the UK is heading up; the UK is not showing climate leadership at the moment, as the government’s own Committee on Climate Change makes clear. Raise your voice for those you care about. We’re at a pivotal point for human history and the future of our loved ones.
Wow! The survey we have been carrying out, thanks to the Hunt family, has taught us so much. I underestimated hedgerows! And, despite having my own hedges, took for granted they’d last for ever regardless of their management or lack of it. But no. Hedges will eventually die if not rejuvenated by laying or coppicing at (long) intervals and also if they are always cut to the same point. The data recorded through hedge surveys generates tailored recommendations for management and there is a splendid diagram of what and how to rejuvenate an overgrown or overcut hedge.
Hedges flower on the previous year’s growth so cutting every autumn or winter means no flowers next year; cutting every other autumn means less shelter and no winter berries and nuts for birds and mammals, and so a 3-year cycle, cutting back slightly less than the previous cut, is best.
As well as sequestering carbon and being fantastic habitat for wildlife (their leaves, flowers, berries, nuts and seeds providing food, shelter and breeding sites for birds and other wildlife throughout the year, with potential for over 2000 species in one 85m stretch) and vital corridors for species dispersal, hedges provide so many other benefits too:
- Natural beauty and a sense of history in the landscape
- Shade and shelter for livestock
- Shade and shelter for walkers
- Pest control for adjoining fields
- Crop protection
- Flood control
- Pollution reduction
- Soil protection
- Shelter and food for pollinators
There is lots more information on hedgerows on the People’s Trust for Endangered Species’ web-site, including details of how to carry out either a brief or more detailed survey.
Hedges, field margins and roadside verges alike are vital relics of wildlife habitat so we all need to remember they need to flourish and understand it’s important they aren’t kept cut and neat as gardens – but that equally, management outside the flowering and breeding season time is necessary! We’ve a lot to thank farmers for when it comes to hedges!
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