Doing the right thing…
This article appeared in Bird Art & Photography
Why isn’t doing the right thing easy?
I am a friend to all things feathered; I feed fistfuls of the finest food (courtesy of Jacobi Jayne™) to every finch within sniffing distance of my nyjer seed. I hang out fat balls for fat starlings, dammit, I even tolerate the posse of feral pigeons that vacuum up my offerings and snatch food from the mouths of more worthy thrushes and blackbirds.
What happens? I’ll tell you what happens my friends. The doves destroy my feeders, convincing themselves that they can plonk onto a perch designed for spadgers and blue tits. Then the wood pigeons fill their guts in my yard seemingly in order to empty them all over my car windscreen! My generosity re-paid, and from a great height!
Take my corner of the world, the Isle of Thanet… Planet Thanet as the locals call it, an island only in Roman times, it is now home to a spreading conurbation. Kiss-me-quick Margate meets Bingo-wings Broadstairs, and Palm-fringed Pegwell cuddles up to Re-born Ramsgate. The intervening fields are Cabbage City.
I always know when I am nearing home after a foray into the wider world, not because of the evocative air of ozone pricking at memories of my bucket & spade youth, but the pungent smell of cauliflowers rotting in the dying embers of September sun.
If local farmers were doing the right thing they would be rotating the crops and producing organic fruit and veg, but most choose to farm with acid and accountants. A crop is planted, grows to maturity and migrant workers pick only those cauliflowers that fit the supermarket yardstick, the rest rot and are ploughed back into a soil that is scoured with chemicals and just weeks later planted with the same seeds, thus the cycle moves on.
Now Planet Thanet is home to ‘Thanet Earth’ a massive greenhouse project set to grow 15% of the nations needs for tomatoes, peppers and the like. These ‘agricultural buildings’ were not even subject to the planning consents needed to extend a loft or knock down a folly. Acre upon acre now covers ancient fields where Celts once held off the Roman invasion.
Is this the right thing? Should I buy their cheap-as-chips packed peppers? Surely, the carbon footprint is low; it stops all those shipments of tomatoes from Holland or Peppers from Spain, which has to be a good thing? Surely an eyesore is worth having if we become more self-sufficient? This land was not very productive before and hardly a wildlife magnet?
But… look at the fine detail and you see that virtually soilless production means massive demand for water. They may pride themselves that 40% of their needs is met by collected rainwater, but where does the rest come from? In Roman times the River Wantsum was a Kilometre wide channel separating Thanet from Kent, now it is a trickle one could almost leap across, is the water-hungry project going to dry out the remaining marshes where the Stour runs!
Surely the UK’s largest offshore windfarm punctuation every sea vista that Turner ever painted, has to be a good thing. Low carbon cost power from attractive turbines that can do no harm. A positive benefit on a seawatch – now when I ask for directions to that passing Skua the answer will not be, ‘over there by that big wave’ – doh! But, ‘its going east past the 23rd windmill from Reculver towers’.
Wait-up! Low carbon cost? Don’t they have a projected life span of just about the same length of time it takes for the power to pay for their construction. Can it be right that Nuclear Power is far less costly to the planet in real terms?
But at least turbines cannot hurt birds right? Its been proven hasn’t it? That video I saw on the net of a Griffin Vulture being cut down by a turbine blade surely was a hoax?
20 odd years ago I gave up eating meat in the belief that growing cows was a lot less cost effective and productive than growing crops. I have been totally vindicated by the fact that Friesian flatulence causes more global warming that all the air-miles in the world.
But hold up, I still eat fish don’t I? Cod stocks have dwindled from over-fishing, one Tuna species is on the verge of extinction and long-line fishing is wiping out every tube-noses of the southern hemisphere!
But I only eat farmed fish, that’s gotta be OK, isn’t it? Huh?
Uneaten fish food and fish excrement causes pollution, too many nutriments causes eutrophication leading to algae blooms, and the farmed fish are fed on non-farmed smaller fish anyway! Then there is disease and…
…whoa! Stop. I can’t take any more!
Just tell me this. Can I fly off to see tropical birds or not? Will I be condemning the world to a future characterised by water wars and mass migrations or will my green pound ensure the survival of the rainforest for tourism and give a living on the land to locals?