You are one in 7 billion

Today, apparently, will be born a child who will bring the standing crop of the human population to 7,000,000,000.  Yes, that’s a lot!

The human population reached 1 billion in 1804 and 6 billion just before the millennium – we’ve stuck an extra billion people on the planet since then and 8 billion is about 15 years away.

The UK population, at about 60,000,000 is a bit less than 1% of the global population.

The UK GDP is about 3.7% of world GDP.

UK per capita greenhouse gas emissions are about twice the world average.

So you and I are about 3.7 times as rich as the average person on the planet and about twice as polluting.  Have a nice day!



Bits and pieces

    1. I was planning to do a bit of research on this subject and then found that someone else had already done it.  It seems that climate sceptic Tory MPs tend to be euro-sceptics too.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t believe that the EU exists – at least I don’t think it does.
    2. I don’t know whether this report of an eagle owl came to anything but if so it is a very interesting sighting considering the status of this species.
    3. I was in the Guardian’s relatively new office near Kings Cross on Wednesday and as I left a grey wagtail flew over calling.
    4. The Barn Owl Trust has a poetry competition.
    5. On Wednesday evening I had a lovely time at the Mall Galleries with the BTO and the Society of Wildlife Artists – not enough time to talk to everyone I would have liked to and not enough money to buy all the art I would liked.  But I saw Mike McCarthy pick up yet another award – the Dylis Breeze Medal.
    6. I think of October as a skylark month – they are moving around and you often hear them flying over, even in the middle of towns.
    7. Apparently the NFU don’t like the CAP proposals – let’s have a referendum on them and see what happens then.
    8. My trips to London are usually by train from Wellingborough station (where there were fieldfares in the adjacent field on Wednesday) and the best bird spot of the journey is usually just south of Luton Parkway Station where red kites and buzzards are now very regular sightings.
    9. On a personal note, people keep telling me how well I look, and that the freelance life must be suiting me, which might be because they are lying but might be because I looked rubbish before!
    10. I am still seeing the occasional red admiral in the countryside and in my garden – will they last into November I wonder.
    11. And if you have an image anywhere near as good as these saw-whet owlets then the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Natural Resources Defense Council would love you to enter in their Welovebirds photo competition.


Nature Improvement Areas – nature conservation’s ‘Strictly’

A few days ago Natural England put the list of 20 short-listed areas that have been proposed as Nature Improvement Areas onto their website and apparently didn’t tell anyone.  And Defra didn’t tell anyone either it seems. How odd? It’s like not mentioning the penultimate episode of Strictly Come Dancing.

Perhaps it’s because this is only the beginning of the end, as this list represents the sift of 76 proposals down to 20, en route to the ‘winning’ 12 that Defra has stretched its meagre resources to fund.  Have a look at the list and see whether you can pick the winning 12 and the unlucky 8. Who is the Jason Donovan and which is a real Lulu?

Will Defra Minister Richard Benyon be hoping that the panel selects the Marlborough Downs close to his Newbury constituency and will his boss the Secretary of State Caroline Spelman be hoping for the selection of the Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull NIA or perhaps the Birmingham and Black Country NIA near her Meriden constituency? Personally, I guess I live near the Nene Valley NIA although I have no idea whether the project is up the valley, down the valley or almost on my doorstep.  We’ll all have to wait and see, and we may be disappointed.

And that’s the point – already the 76 applications for some government funding have been reduced to just 20 and there is more disappointment ahead for eight more areas.  The ‘greenest government ever‘ has only allocated a little over £7.5m for this new initiative at a time when Eric Pickles can magic £250m to be able to announce the return of weekly bin collections at the Tory party conference  (a point made very well by the RSPB’s Martin Harper in his blog). If you were on the panel deciding the successful bids you might even omit those near Ministers’ constituencies to make a point!

If 12 successful bids will share £7.5m then the whole 76 might have cost up to £50m but the government thinks that a return to weekly bin collections is better value for money than protecting the natural environment it seems.  Is it, could it be, a very expensive bid to clear up after Ministers drop their papers in to bins?

Without more information than is available to this blog we can’t possibly tell whether the £7.5+m is going to help set up 12 fantastic areas or is woefully inadequate – just because there’s that much on offer for 12 sites and people are competing for it doesn’t mean that it will do much good but we will have to wait and see what happens on that score.

I gather that unsuccessful bids have recently received rather curt rejection letters and Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes for the Wildlife Trusts tells me that ‘Defra appears to have no real strategy for what happens next‘ as far as lengthening the list of NIAs is concerned.

The least that should happen, and the Wildlife Trusts are pushing for this, is that NIAs should be mentioned in a revised National Planning Policy Framework document.  The Wildlife Trusts suggest the following wording:

‘Planning policies should:
‘Identify, map and safeguard components of local ecological networks, including: core areas (international, national and local sites   of importance for biodiversity); buffers; features of the landscape that may act as corridors or stepping stones; and opportunities (including Nature Improvement Areas) for restoring the wildlife value of land and the recovery of priority species.’

And this would help to meet the very first recommendation of the ‘Lawton report‘ which was welcomed so warmly by Defra when it was published about 13 months ago. That recommendation was:

Recommendation 1. Local authorities should ensure that ecological networks, including areas for restoration, are identified and protected through local planning. Government should support local authorities in this role by clarifying that their biodiversity duty includes planning coherent and resilient ecological networks.

Let’s see whether Defra have the clout to make that recommendation stick or has it already been binned and taken away on the orders of Mr Pickles?

Whoever the eventual winners are in this series of ‘Strictly Come Landscape Scale Nature Conservation’, the Wildlife Trusts are right to push for a commitment for future episodes to delight the nation, naturally.



Birdwatch column

My column in the November Birdwatch magazine is on the subject of hen harriers and their persecution by grouse moor managers.

Rather than tell you what it says I’d like to tell you that Birdwatch is asking your opinion on the subject.  Is it time for a change of tack by the wildlife conservation organisations – primarily the RSPB?

What would you do? Give up on harrier persecution as an unwinnable battle? Or maybe raise the stakes? You tell us at Birdwatch and we’ll summarise the views and present them to the RSPB, the Moorland Association and others.

So, rush down to your local WHSmith and buy Birdwatch – not just for my column of course There are cracking articles on Yellowstone which brought back some memories and identification of Caspian gull (which I will find handy at my local gravel pits), or subscribe online, and tell us what you think. Do you remember ever being asked before?



I wonder how the Campaign for the Farmed Environment is going? This is the Big Society alternative to regulating  farming to replace the environmental benefits of set-aside.  It’s difficult to tell how it is going from the Campaign website.

Minister Jim Paice will have to decide how it is all going before Christmas in order to decide whether or not to continue to put about half a million taxpayer pounds a year into funding the campaign.  You see, it is a voluntary approach for farmers but there wasn’t a whip round we taxpayers to see whether we volunteered to contribute in this way.

Defra is so keen on talking about payment by results that I assume they will be chasing the NFU and CLA for a refund if the CFE does not meet all its targets – so let’s hope that it does!