Saturday, 2 June 2018

A bit of environmental concern.

Flash floods and warnings of the same in various parts of the country leave us oddly isolated here. As a rule, even when the sun shines elsewhere Saddleworth, with its proximity to the Pennines, remains gloomy and more than a little damp. In the last few weeks we have seen rather a lot of decent weather, with the notable exception of Whit Friday, of course! We had a bit of a thunderstorm last night but that seems to have been the limit of our extreme weather.

Naturally enough, there are complainers and moaners. This morning was very cloudy and dull when I ran round the village and popped into the co-op for the newspaper. Coming back I saw Edna, the lady who runs Edna’s cafe, and I commented on the lack of sunshine this morning. I’ve got used to bright mornings even when it clouds over later. But Edna was pleased to see the clouds. It has been too hot and sticky, she informed me. She thought it was time we had some cooler weather. Too hot and sticky? Really? I know we’ve had some nice weather but a high of 21 degrees hardly constitutes too hot and sticky! No accounting for taste!

My wild front garden, full of small yellow and orange poppies, multicoloured aquilegia and loads of pink-flowered London pride has benefitted from the sunshine and has been looking splendid. It has also been full of bees. Which is a good thing! And a rather surprising thing since everyone keeps going on and on about the bees disappearing. And not just bees. Lots of other insects, moths and butterflies have also been on the decline.

I have been reading stuff about this again recently. One writer noted the difference between now and twenty to thirty years ago as regards leaving your windows open in the evening. Time was that you would find your room full of moths and other insects attracted by the light. Nowadays it just doesn’t happen. We just get daft bees in the kitchen when we have the door and windows open. They are not attracted by the light as this is usually in the afternoon. They just bumble in distractedly and then need rescuing as they can never find their way out again.

I am told that it’s all down to overuse of insecticides, and the removal of hedgerows from the countryside, taking away the habitats of all sorts of insects and small animals. On the positive side, we noted a possibly unexpected benefit to the development of the tram system in Manchester, the Metrolink. In the places where the tram makes use of former railway tracks, masses of plants flowers, some wild and some escapees from cultivated gardens, have thrived alongside the tracks, providing a relatively unpolluted space for wildlife. Serendipity!

It might be too late, however, to reverse all the contamination. I read about something called Pops: Persistent organic pollutants. At an EU environment ministers’ meeting back in 2003 they took blood samples from 14 EU ministers, including Alun Michael MO, then minister of state for rural affairs and local environmental quality. All 14 ministers were found to be contaminated by Pops, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl, known to cause skin diseases and suspected of causing birth defects and cancer) and flame retardants.

If all, not just one or two, of the ministers tested were found to be affected, then it’s more than likely that we all are.

We worry about the shortage of bees, the reduced numbers of other insects, the disappearing species of small birds. Time to start worrying about the human beings as well!

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