Wind power and nuclear

I read today’s Guardian piece by Adam Vaughan about the cost of offshore wind energy dipping below that of nuclear energy.  That sounds like good news, and news that I don’t think we all expected say 10-15 years ago when these issues were very live.  Those who argued for renewable energy were right to say that renewable energy would get cheaper and cheaper as it was rolled out, developed and improved.

What the Guardian piece doesn’t touch on, and nor has other coverage I’ve seen, is the longer term future. An environmentalist should always be a bit wary about using the economics as the main justification for a choice of action.  We are going to need a lot more electricity to power all those cars which will switch from fossil fuels and to heat our homes etc so how many cheap wind turbines will we need? I’m sure I could find this out somewhere but my thoughts go back to a very thought-provoking book by the late Prof David Mackay, Sustainable energy without the hot air.  I’ve got a copy somewhere and I mean to re-read it to see whether it stands the test of time (a time of nearly 9 years) but you can download a free copy from the website.  The message of the book is that we are going to need an awful lot of stuff to reduce our carbon emissions and that might well mean wind turbines on a very large scale as well as tidal energy as well as wave energy as well as solar and as well as nuclear.  There is, MacKay argued, no technological silver bullet.

It’s always good when a good thing gets cheaper, and it’s good when a good thing is cheaper than a bad thing because it makes it easy for us all to be good, and for industry and government to help individuals be good.  But is nuclear energy a bad thing?  My reading of MacKay’s book pushed me into the ‘we’ll need nuclear too’ camp.  This isn’t my area of expertise and I rely on others who understand the ins and outs far better than I. One of those people was Stephen Tindale who died earlier this year and so he was in my mind when I turned a few more pages of the Guardian and found an obituary of Stephen written by Prashant Vaze (it appeared online many weeks ago).  I wonder what Stephen would have thought?


Makes me smile every time…

This sign is used for various country fairs across the land and it is used every year. As birders head north to the Norfolk coast to enjoy whatever migrants are hopping around in bushes between Holme and Cromer, many see this sign and it reminds them of…

  • a Sandringham estate gamekeeper being convicted of setting an illegal trap which maimed a Tawny Owl in November 2007 (see Fighting for Birds p 196)
  • the alleged shooting of two Hen Harriers at Dersingham Bog in 2007 (see Fighting for Birds p196-203, also p285, and Inglorious p120-124).
  • A poisoned Sparrowhawk – see RaptorPersecutionUK
  • A Goshawk dying in mysterious circumstances – see RaptorPersecutionUK and this blog
  • Sally the Montagu’s Harrier near the Sandringham estate – see RaptorPersecutionUK
  • Mo the Montagu’s Harrier near the Sandringham Estate – see RaptorPersecutionUK


The general area around Sandringham is clearly a dangerous area for raptors – Henry survived his visit.


Peak District National Park takes note?

Just as the Yorkshire Dales NP recently consulted the public on its way forward, so too did the Peak District NP.

Although the PDNP has so far been less open than the YDNP on the results of its consultation, this blog understands that new ‘Areas of Impact’ (ghastly jargon) have been inserted into the plan of which an interesting one is as follows:

Ensure that the management of grouse moors delivers environmental, social and economic benefits

We want management of grouse moors to conserve and enhance the special qualities of the Peak District National Park. 

Well, it’s good to see that after ignoring wildlife pretty much comprehensively in its consultation, the PDNP now puts the impact of grouse shooting right up there.

If you are wondering what the ‘special qualities’ (which perhaps should be ‘Special Qualities’) of this National Park are then Special Quality 2 is ‘Internationally important and locally distinctive habitats and species’ which includes the words ‘Some may glimpse the rare upland birds supported by this dramatic landscape, including ring ouzel and golden plover, or feel the powerful presence of birds of prey such as hen harrier, merlin and peregrine falcon.‘.  What this really means is that Hen Harriers are practically absent from a National Park in which they ought to be annual breeders of several pairs and that Peregrine Falcons are largely absent from the northern part of the National Park where grouse shooting is a major land use despite being present in the southern part of the National Park where grouse shooting is absent.  So you will be hard-pressed to see Hen Harriers or Peregrines in the Dark Peak in the breeding season but apparently you might feel their presence, invisible though they might be: Losehill Hall is planning to add raptor tours to its ghost-hunting events.

National Parks do not have full powers to influence all the things that they might wish to influence in their boundaries. But they do have voices which they can use to highlight issues. For example, the PDNP could tell Defra ‘We are failing to maximise the revenue to the area from wildlife tourism as the level of wildlife crime is at a very high level. It is central government’s job to sort out this problem and we’d like you to consider introducing vicarious liability and licensing of shooting estates as quickly as possible if you cannot bring yourselves to bite the bullet and ban driven grouse shooting completely.’.

Thank you to any readers of this blog who responded to the NP consultation – you are nudging things along.


Looking forward to talking in Chesterfield tomorrow evening


Yorkshire Dales have a lead mountain to climb.

As the Yorkshire Dales National Park drags itself, with the help of a public consultation, towards the twenty-first century it may have to work very hard on some of its board members to take the journey.  Adrian Thornton-Berry is a member of the YDNP Management Plan Steering group committee, a Moorland Association committee member and it looks like he’s an officer of Dalesport sporting agency (see here and here) as well as of Farmoor Services which manages shooting.

Dalesport have some grouse days still to sell this year and I noticed a good few grouse as I travelled through Ramsgill on Saturday – not many raptors though which was a shame.  Just remember – shooting grouse for fun is not, definitely not, a rich person’s hobby.

Dalesport sporting agency:

Lastly, we recommend that all of our clients try to eat as much game as possible this season, as you will know this is an area which we as an industry need to pull together and act on now. Please do have a look at The Country Food trust and see what they are doing as a charity to encourage the eating of wild game and the feeding of hundreds of thousands of homeless people across the UK. Also I would encourage you to become an Associate Member of the Moorland Association if you have not already, to help us fight to keep this wonderful and traditional sport going for future generations. Associate Members will receive regular Newsletters addressing relevant issues within the industry of grouse shooting.‘.

This advice does not sit easily with the advice of the Food Standards Agency on eating grouse:

The FSA’s advice since 2012 is that frequent consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat.

Let’s just compare ‘eat as much game as possible’ with ‘eat less of this type of meat’.  Yep, hardly any difference really.  It’s just that the non-ministerial government department which is supposed to protect the public from food dangers says one thing and a company which makes money from selling shooting days says the opposite. Yep, hardly any difference at all.

If Mr Thornton-Berry would like to check the advice of the FSA then all he need do is pop over from Swinithwaite to see the Chair of the FSA, Heather Hancock in Arncliffe – it’s only 20 miles or so, and quite a pretty drive. In fact, I drove most of it on Saturday afternoon – damn, I could have given him a lift. Except of course, Mrs Hancock might have been out shooting (since she and her husband, who likes to be called Herbie! own a grouse moor), as might Mr Thornton-Berry of course. Maybe they were out shooting together. It’s a small world isn’t it.

The FSA advice on lead in food, which Mrs Hancock doesn’t seem to be promoting, and Mr Thornton-Berry doesn’t seem to have noticed, is what Liz Truss used as part of her excuse for not acting to protect  people from ingesting lead in game meat when she failed to act on the advice of an expert committee to phase out the use of lead ammunition in England.

Nobody in the real world knows what the FSA advice is (because they’ve never heard of the FSA and have never visited its website), and nobody in the shooting world is taking any notice of it, and the FSA looks like an expensive waste of money if it allows its advice to be ignored.

In fact, the shooters are promoting lead-heavy meat like mad at the moment.  How much respect can you have for an industry which makes money out of killing wildlife for fun, whose profits are underpinned by wildlife crime and which encourages the public at large to increase their intake of a poison against FSA advice? It’s a farce – and Grouse Shooter Moll and Defra have turned a blind eye to it.

Can we rely on Mr Thornton-Berry to be acting in the public interest when looking to the future of the Yorkshire Dales National Park? That’s our Yorkshire Dales National Park.