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Environment

The Missing Lynx

Ross Hunter

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lynx and deer

flickr/blacktigersdream

Deer, on the surface, seem like one of the most graceful and harmless animals one could come across in the UK. Any traveller on a British railway will be familiar with seeing the fragile-looking mammal graze upon a verdant field. Yet, as unassuming as they may seem deer pose perhaps the greatest threat to the biodiversity of the country. Essentially, without any natural predators – except ourselves – they have been allowed to breed and feed unhindered. Despite attempts to cull a sufficient proportion of them each year in order to maintain the semblance of natural predation their population continues to rise. This year it is estimated that around two million deer survive in the forests and countryside of Great Britain; a vastly unsustainable number.

It’s not that deer are inherently damaging animals. Rather, the over abundance of any creature is detrimental to a natural world that requires balance in order to be sustainable – as is proven by the rapacious effect our own species has had on the planet. Too many deer harm the diversity of precious woodland habitats and spoil suitable environments for other species, particularly migrant songbirds like the nightingale. Not to mention their habit of destroying sapling trees and causing thousands of road accidents a year. Should their population continue to explode these problems will accelerate. The remaining British wilderness exists in an unnatural state where deer hold dominion over the land. The king of the British forest is a reclusive herbivore. Hardly an exciting prospect for the growing ecotourism industry, is it?

So, what’s the solution?

Currently the measures being implemented to control the UK deer population are ineffective and the philosophy behind them troubling. The British Deer Society, a charity claiming to promote the existence and sustainability of deer for the generations to come, have written on their website a peculiar phrase:    ‘…our requirements take precedence over those of other creatures, and truly “wild” habitats no longer exist in Britain’

The BDS evidently believe in the philosophy that has caused this mess in the first place: that we matter more than the animals we share the planet with. Restricting nature to convenient corrals like parks and fenced in forests is not really how one goes about creating ‘truly wild’ habitats. Deer are not cattle. They have been able to procreate so freely because throughout history we have scourged the British land of its natural predators and replaced them with livestock. Yet, as natural disasters and global warming related problems prove, despite our technological intelligence we are still very much at the mercy of nature. This issue of deer overpopulation is no different. Even the most prolific deerstalker will not be able to solve this problem with brute force. In order to find a solution a new philosophy is needed.

Lo and behold, this month saw the launch of the charity Rewilding Britain. The charity actively campaigns for the reintroduction of several species into the UK: from wolves to wild boar. In creating a more diverse ecological landscape they hope to rebuild the natural processes that over-time the British wilderness has lost. From supporting the establishment of areas seabed to be made free from dredging and trawling to new methods of farming that allow animals to roam freely around estates, Rewilding Britain take a wholly different view than the BDS does of how we should form a relationship with the environment. Of course, the concept of rewilding is driven by human intervention and could, therefore, be argued to be unnatural. However, if human intervention banished these habitats and species from Britain in the first place then surely it should be our responsibility to bring them back. Though rewilding isn’t just an apologetic conservation ideal. It could actually solve some of the UK’s most pressing environmental problems, like deer.

Enter the Eurasian lynx: an elusive, carnivorous feline that could once have kept the deer population in Britain within sustainable levels. Since its departure the only things killing deer in this country have been the

landed gentry, unsuspecting motorists, disgruntled farmers or people carrying out controlled culls (which, as the Deer Initiative have admitted, are largely feckless pursuits in actually controlling the population). A 2013 study stated that in order for the deer population to remain within sustainable levels in Britain up to 50% of the population would have to be shot each year. That works out, at current estimates, at around 1 million deer every year; a monumental task even for the most ardent hunter.

Rewilding Britain propose that instead of exerting the enormous amount of effort and financial resources such a gigantic cull would require, we simply allow the laws of nature to solve the problem for us. If deer have no natural predators then lets introduce one: the lynx.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. Lynx have been re-introduced to several habitats across Europe after human impact pushed them out and the Lynx UK Trust are currently attempting to get the go-ahead for a trial re-introduction to Britain. However, should this come closer to becoming a reality it can be guaranteed that sceptics would begin to make their voices heard. Despite the evident benefits lynx could provide to the UK wilderness – from managing the deer population to adding much needed diversity to our forests – already doubts are being broadcast by academics and farmers alike. The latter group will surely campaign for a compensation system, even though lynx have been found to be responsible for the mortality of less that 0.5% of the total number of available sheep in a given area (far less than deaths caused by disease). Professor Chris Thomas at the University of York has also stated that the endangered capercaillie could be under threat should lynx be introduced, although he provided no evidence for such an assumption in his article on the BBC News website. If the Lynx UK Trust begin to garner more success doubts such as these will only become more numerous.

It seems to me that the human race has a great deal to atone for when it comes to the environment. We’re directly responsible for the extinction of several species; we continually destroy wilderness in order to make way for houses with bare, lifeless gardens; we do not even respect the creatures around us enough to know their names as common knowledge. If we can make up for our plethora of ruinous errors, if only a little, then I see no justifiable barriers as to why the lynx should not be re-introduced into Britain. Plus, who wouldn’t love to catch sight of a pointy-eared predator skulking through a British forest? It’s a hell of a lot more exciting than seeing deer through the window of a train.

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Environment

Ten Totally Awesome Ways To Save Water

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Living on a planet that’s mostly made up of water means that water is our biggest commodity here on Earth. We use it every single day whether we are showering, washing dishes or clothes, watering the garden or even using the toilet. In our homes, we use a lot of water and we rarely think about what we’re using. Most countries using water are fortunate enough not to have to worry about how much they are using each day, while there are other places in the world that do everything that they canfor the tiniest possible drop of water. 

In fact, half of the world’s global population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, so it’s our responsibility to save as much water as possible and not waste it. Water waste depletes one of our biggest resources, and it makes sense to save water – and money – as much as we can. When you are running a home, the amount of water that you use has to be a concern for you as you are paying for the service of clean water piped into your home. Much in the way you wouldn’t stand there switching the light on and off to waste electricity, you need to learn how you can save as much water as possible. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at ten awesome ways you can do just that. 

Switch It Off

Such a simple thing to do, and yet it’s one of the things that people find hardest to do! Leaving faucets running while brushing teeth is not ideal and you can save tanks of water every year by switching the faucet off until you need it again. It’s the same as running the shower for too long when you are waiting for it to warm up and you to get in – give it five seconds and get in! You should also think about limiting the time that you spend in the shower to conserve the water you are running. If you see a water source running, turn it off and you’ll be saving energy, too.

Use Composting For Food

If you have leftover food, don’t throw it down the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal wastes a lot of water and you can save yourself the money and the water waste by throwing the old food scraps on the compost pile and giving the rest to the dog. The garbage disposal relies on water running to break down the food, so you are going to be making a big difference by switching it off.

Wrap Your Pipes

While it’s helpful to purchase slimline water tanks to catch any dripping water, you can save a lot of water by insulating your pipes. In the cooler weather, pipes have a tendency to crack and split, which makes them leak water all over the place. It also takes hot water a lot longer to flow through the pipes because they’re too cold to manage. So, if you insulate your pipes properly, you can prevent these two ways to waste water. By all means, get those water tanks regardless: you could always use new ways to save water!

Repair Cracks

We just mentioned that colder weather can make the pipes crack, and it’s true that this happens easily. Instead of wasting both water and money on this, why not start looking at getting those leaks repaired? It’s not just pipes, either. Leaky garden hoses, faucets, shower heads and broken toilets can all cause leaks in the system. Bring in an expert if you can’t fix it yourself!

Don’t Do Half Measures

Washing the clothes in the house can be time-consuming, but if you’re constantly putting on half-loads of laundry, you are going to waste an awful lot of water. It’s’ not just clothes: half-loads for dishwashers are just as detrimental to the water supply in your home. Wait until the loads are full before you run them, and you’ll be able to save a ton of water. 

Embrace Handwashing

Believe it or not, you don’t need to keep the water running when you wash dishes and clothes. You can fill a sink with water and submerge whatever you’re washing in the soapy water. All you need is a plug, and you can make sure that the sink doesn’t drain out while you are washing up. There’s no need to run a whole dishwasher just for one or two items.

Adjust Garden Hoses & Sprinklers

Whether you are working on a commercial garden or on your own, you need to adjust the hoses and sprinklers to ensure that you aren’t wasting any water. Put them all on automatic timers so that you can ensure that they turn off after the right time and not just keep watering! There’s no need to waste more money on watering the garden than necessary

Know Where The Shut-Off Is

Sometimes, you can make all the adjustments in the world and still find a leak in the house. You need to know where the water shut-off switches and valves are so that in the event of a leak that you cannot find or control, you can stop the flow of water. The last thing that you need is a street full of water and a flood threatening your basement. So, work out how to turn off the water and you can save yourself a lot of money and waste at the same time.

Go For Low Maintenance

If your garden is fully lawned and landscaped, you need to look at how you can make it more low maintenance. It’s lovely to have a lot of greenery but if you are going to be risking needing to water the garden almost continuously, then you could swap to artificial grass that doesn’t need your attention as often. There are plenty of plants who don’t use as much water, either. These are the plants you want to have in your garden if you are looking at saving water.

Choose Low-Flow

Low-flow toilets and faucets can help you to save water without even trying. You can even change your showerhead to a slow-flow option and ensure that you are saving water without any of the impact on your daily activities.

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Nuclear Power and Other Power Sources: How Do They Stack Up?

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Most everyone dreads the idea of nuclear war because of the abject devastation it would inflict on planet Earth. Yet few connect the dots between nuclear weapons and nuclear power — the same energy that makes atomic bombs and nuclear missiles so threatening is also harnessed to power electrical grids and other forms of infrastructure. When properly contained, nuclear power is the cleanest and most abundant energy source available. With all the concern over climate change and environmental degradation, it begs a huge question: why is the United States of America not generating more — much more — nuclear energy?

Capital Investment vs. Production Costs

Looking at it from one angle, a larger nuclear energy capacity is a no-brainer. Making electricity from nuclear sources is cheaper than using coal, gas or petroleum, i.e. fossil fuels. On average, using 2011 cash value, electricity cost 21.56, 3.23 and 4.51 cents per kilowatt-hour from petroleum, coal and natural gas, respectively. Nuclear power came in at 2.10 cents per kW according to data received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Yet these simple ongoing production costs fail to tell the full story.

To up the power generating capacity of nuclear sources, additional plants are necessary. Some argue that the savings in electricity production means the nuclear utilities pay for themselves. What, though, are they paying for…and how long until the payoff? Engineering and constructing a nuclear power plant is very expensive. In fact, 74 percent of the cost of nuclear-sourced electricity is in the capital costs of creating the physical facility and technology for that purpose. Some estimates range drom six-billion to nine-billion dollars. Others estimate over $5,300 per kW before it begins paying for itself…in 20 to 30 years. These figures make the prospect cost-prohibitive to many decision makers in government and business.

Plentiful Energy at Low Costs without Nuclear Power

Were we living back during the oil shocks and embargoes of the 1970s, the urgency factor would be much higher concerning nuclear power in the US. The abundance of discoveries and advancement of technology have made fossil fuels more available at modest prices. Coal and petroleum are each low compared to their peaks. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” natural gas is ever more accessible and affordable. Though people may worry about the environmental effects of burning these substances, they are likely to continue usage to maintain a decent househild cash flow.

Still, even the renewable alternatives to traditional fuels are dropping in price. In terms of sheer volume, wind turbines and solar panels — for instance — have yet to match the output of fossil fuels, much less the overwhelming energy yield of nuclear. Nevertheless, their contribution to production in the United States is growing while their financial outlays are shrinking. Added to the two aforementioned renewable sources, hydro-electric power, biomass and geothermal each come in under 10 cents per kW. According to Forbes magazine, this makes them highly competitive with oil and gas financially.

Lack of Knowledge

The absence of urgency mentioned above relates to a third factor about why Americans are not expanding their nuclear production capacity. Generations have passed that are not well-informed about the potential and reality of nuclear power. A dangerous accident at Pennsylvania’s Three-Mile Island facility in the 1970s scared public officials and policy makers into backing off of a pro-nuclear agenda. The improvements and replication found in today’s safety protocols have been ineffective in re-booting a national conversation. Granted, the United States operates 97 nuclear reactors, more than any other country. Yet only four more are under design and/or construction compared to 20 for China.

Furthermore, France relies on nuclear for three-quarters of its electricity; several eastern European nations, half; South Korea, in excess of 30 percent; while the U.S. can claim around 20 percent. Clearly, the public knowledge regarding how clean and abundant atomic energy is meager; awareness of past accidents — including the Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl meltdowns of recent decades were, by contrast, reported widely by media outlets.

Advocates of nuclear power have work to do to bring Americans on board. Otherwise, dirtier, cheaper sources will continue to reign.

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Francisco Reynés: “We have to consider gas as the energy source with the most potential in the future”

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Natural Gas

Francisco Reynés, executive chairman of Naturgy (formerly Gas Natural Fenosa), has talked about the role of gas in the world as the energy source with the greatest potential in the future, at the 6TH IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum celebrated in Barcelona, Spain.

 Francisco Reynés has explained that the world “needs to talk about the different uses of natural gas and the gas technologies and innovations towards a sustainable energy future. We have to address the role of gas in the world as a future energy source, not only as a transition source of energy”.

 “The uses of gas are, as we all know, well beyond those of power generation. Gas provides sources for non-energy uses, such as petrochemicals or fertilizers, which have no clear substitute”, he added.

 About this possibility, Francisco Reynés has explained that “all of this will benefit and service the economic growth and development of the countries and economies around the globe. It is, indeed, a joint effort which we must all face with the utmost priority and the maximum care”.

Reynés has also insisted on the cooperation between governments, producers and even consumers to strengthen the security of gas supply on international markets. “The challenge for the future is how energy systems will evolve to meet greenhouse gas emission goals, and more stringent fuel quality standards while at the same time they respond to growing demand for affordable access to reliable energy services”, he concluded.

The 6th IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum aims to sharpen a collective focus on energy policies, market trends, and technology options that enable the gas industry to deliver inclusive growth and successful transformations for a secure, inclusive and sustainable energy future. Energy and climate policies, gas technologies and innovations as well as market fundamentals are ever more co-dependent but also vary across geographies.

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