Restoration, demonstration, reforestation – challenges and opportunities

Another dip into the deep green pot of environmental issues with veteran conservationist Mike Stentiford

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IN February 2020, some 15,000 mostly young people formed a massive green huddle on Bristol’s College Green.

It was all part of the ‘Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate Change’, a passive demonstration that also laid claim to the star attendance of mega environmentalist Greta Thunberg.

The obvious casualty from such a large gathering was the once green and pleasant grassland of College Green, the restoration of which required some visionary post-demo imagination.

A public appeal has since been set up to resurrect the area on the understanding that the final result must be directed towards rewilding. With surprisingly speedy financial support from local businesses and august foundations, the foot-trodden College Green is now set to become a paradise for pollinators and a haven for people and wildlife.

From trampling feet to happy bees – another one of life’s more pleasant eco-surprises.

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WHILE some rivers are allowed to twist, turn and generally choose their own direction of travel, others have their progress curtailed by dams, detours and man-made pollution.

Once recognised as the heavyweight of all rivers, the mighty Colorado and its truly remarkable ecosystems are now between what might be described as a ‘rock and a dry place’.

According to reports, the drying out of the Colorado River is altering its character big time.

The reasons are many and varied: excess demands for water from agriculture and an increasing population, sand mining, pollution, inept planning of certain dams plus everyone’s classic new global enemy, climate change. With a rapid increase in invasive species, wildlife, too, is feeling the ‘Colorado pinch’.

Some promising news is that collaboration between the USA and Mexico has resulted in an agreement bizarrely code-named ‘Minute 319’. Through a combination of rerouting and restoration, a start can be made to at least renew part of the delta as bio-friendly wetland.

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ADMITTEDLY, there are always two sides to every argument but, with environmental issues now taken more seriously, one has to question the insatiable demand for airport extensions.

Up for grabs in 2020 was a proposal to extend the runway at Southampton Airport by 164metres – or 538 feet in ancient currency.

The proposal was delayed but is likely to be on the table again in 2021. One of the principal objections at the time came from the city council itself, which raised the issues of noise pollution and environmental impacts.

With lives disrupted for an entire year by coronavirus, it is likely to take an accurate crystal ball to determine whether future flights of fancy will be regarded as essentially airborne or morally grounded.

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THE word is that if the USA intends to soak up carbon emissions through an explosion of newly created forests, then an open season for seed-hunting needs to be at the top of the eco-agenda.

Environmentalists, politicians and corporations are all apparently chomping at the bit to do their level best on behalf of the changing climate through a collective regime of tree-planting.

But to achieve this, US tree nurseries and volunteers need to produce and collect at least three billion seedlings each year.

It’s a big ask although I would imagine that launching a massive ‘whitebark-pine-cone-seed-collecting competition’ could ‘grow’ into quite an event.

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Hats off to Stanley Johnson who has joined a group of 50 other signatories in a letter to the Prime Minister demanding far tougher action in addressing the calamities facing British wildlife.

It has been widely known for a long time that the UK has the unsavoury distinction of being one of the most nature-depleted countries in Europe.

Anyone owning a shred of environmental conscience cannot help but be alarmed to hear that half of British wildlife has decreased within the past half century with one in seven species now on the cusp of extinction.

While the ‘Boris Team’ has pledged to protect 30% of both terrestrial and maritime habitat by 2030, the signatories to the letter – environmentalists, politicians, and celebrities – state that such pledges fall far short of the potential to set world-leading nature targets.

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AND finally… A team from Polymateria, a start-up campus initiative at Imperial College White City, is reported to have created an ultra-thin flexible plastic that breaks down in 226 days.

The versatile material can be used as cling film and even for food and storage package bags. Because it can be recycled and biodegrades in such a comparatively short time, its arrival robustly confirms what technology can achieve in the war against single-use plastic.

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