Slightly droopy sunflower above epitomises how I feel sometimes. Do please revisit occasionally – there may be new cris du coeur from the only “green in the village”.

Autumn 2017
To our delight, we have found that one of our neighbours is as keen on the local badgers as we are, and we spent a happy half-hour in his sitting room watching a couple of large badgers feeding on dog-food and peanuts on their patio, just outside the window, undisturbed by the light and our movement. We had rarely been so close to badgers, except for very brief encounters on the pavement or our doorstep, though we do get regular night-time photos of badger activity in our garden (one below) – as well as of the odd mouse and frequent visits from cats and foxes.

Summer 2017
Another walk in the woods – this time on the Capital Ring walk around London. It’s amazing how green London, just few miles out from the centre, is, with parks, woods, commons, canal- and river-side paths and greenways on every section of the walk. Hot days reminded us how welcome the natural cooling effect of trees can be.

July 2016, A walk in the woods…

… and meadows of suburban Kingston. It’s always nice to go on a guided walk with experts (I still admire experts even if 36% of the population don’t) – you notice things you wouldn’t have noticed on your own, identify new flowers, learn something… I saw new places in a borough I’ve lived in for decades and walked along rivers, through woods and fields almost the whole length of some 5 miles – probably not far from unseen houses and roads, but we could have been in deepest countryside.  One of the things I learnt was that there are ivy-haters who go round cutting the stems of ivy on trees in the mistaken belief that ivy is parasitic and harms trees – it doesn’t in fact, as ivy draws its nutrition from the ground, not the tree, and, in addition, as an evergreen with berries, it supports a variety of wildlife all year round, including birds and bats. I also heard about local people who complain when ancient meadows full of wild flowers are not mown as neatly as golf courses – sad that they can’t see the beauty and value of long grass.

24th June 2016, On leaving the EU

I woke up this morning to the really dreadful news that the UK is to leave the EU. People who care about the environment may well be sympathetic to Brexit, think that “small is beautiful” and worry about the commitments to capitalism and economic growth that are so much a part of what used to be called the “rich man’s club”; but we should be much more worried about a UK that will now disengage from EU regulations and subsidies that were intended to protect the environment (and us), improve animal welfare, and reduce pollution and CO2 emissions. And we should fear the further disintegration of Europe when there are so many environmental problems that no nation can solve on its own. Our air, our climate, our seas, antibiotic-resistant diseases… do not respect borders, and solutions to shared environmental problems have to be shared. I fear that the UK will now fall into the hands, not only of reactionary little-Englanders, but of climate-change-deniers and those who seek to deregulate everything. Nigel Farage’s triumphalist “declaration of independence” this morning filled me with foreboding for our interdependent continent – and world .

The Outers, who to want to return the UK to some rosy version of the past, seem to have forgotten that we have lost the empire we used to exploit, have exported most of our heavy industries to low-wage economies (and globalisation is probably more to blame for lost jobs and low wages than European migrants),  that we import a lot of essentials from Europe and the rest of the world, including food,  which will now cost us more and, no doubt, be less regulated, and that in the interim, climate change has become a pressing issue.

The EU was far from perfect but I used to dream of a Europe self-sufficient in renewable energy, and thus sustainable and no longer in thrall to nasty middle-Eastern oil producers, a Europe that was self-sufficient in food, and a Europe  that offered the world a model of international cooperation, sustainability and learning from each other. Well, perhaps it still can be all those things – but without us. I’ve woken up to a new reality, and I feel very gloomy about the future of the UK.

To look on the slightly brighter side, I am thankful for my friends and family and Facebook friends who are as shocked and depressed as I am – it helps to know that one is not alone. I’m also relieved that Kingston and Greater London did vote Remain (l’m proud to live in this part of the world) and that  I am probably too old to be around long enough to experience the worst effects of leaving the EU – but I feel desperately sorry for the children and young people who will.

 

Spring 2016, Litter – again

Went for a short walk today in Surrey (it rained!) and a woodland section by a B-road was full of litter, mostly drink cans and bottles, apparently thrown from passing cars (there was little or no rubbish further into the woods, and Costa cardboard cups miles from a Costa seemed like good evidence of litter from cars to us). What is it with people in cars – we all occasionally have a drink while travelling but why throw the packaging out of the window when it would be so easy to take home and recycle? Tidy car = messy roadside.

Winter 2015

I’ve always loved this photo for its complete absurdity –

escalator-fitness– and this week I saw my neighbour driving her 4×4 to the local gym, which must have been all of 500m from her house. I also like fitness groups like these – https://www.goodgym.org/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/oxfordshire/4142951.stm – if you’re going to run about you might as well do something useful while you’re at it!

Summer 2015, Dark skies – I wish!
On August 12, after a pleasant evening, we lay on our garden table to watch the Perseid meteor shower. It was a clear night and there was a tiny new moon, but it was not really dark – street lights, light spillage from windows and the reddish hue of London all contributed to a less than black sky in which we saw only a few meteors, probably just the biggest and brightest. The promised 100+ per hour remained unseen by us. Northumberland or the Alps seem a bit far to go for a really dark sky, so in the past we’ve tried Richmond and Bushy Parks, but even there the sky was far from black. Maybe next time we are visited by the Perseids we could have the Big Switch Off at the same time and have some really black skies for a change.

Good news for a change – we are not alone!
The USA is rather far away from Kingston but there is a kindred spirit there: “My township calls my lawn ‘a nuisance.’ But I still refuse to mow it, ” says Sarah Baker of Alexandria, Ohio. ” Manicured lawns are ruining the planet…” And closer to home, there is a good collection of information and resources on green spaces, trees etc on the Living Landscapes pages of Greener Kingston. (Living Landscapes was an event organised by TTK a few years ago.)

Litter, litter everywhere…
Why do people throw litter? I have a theory, based on the amount of food packaging etc at the end of my road, that some people in cars, while waiting for a gap in the traffic, think, “I’ll just give the car a little tidy-up while we’re stationary”, open their windows, et voila, a tidy car.  There was a year or two when we regularly picked up half-bottles of cheap white wine dropped by the roadside fence – clubbers pre-loading on the way into town? under-age drinkers disposing of the evidence? a secret drinker who couldn’t quite manage a whole bottle?

The good news is that a growing army of litter pickers go out and clear their roads rather than just looking at it an grumbling – see https://www.facebook.com/groups/ZeroWasteWeekHeroes/. Writer David Sedaris must be litter-picker-in-chief, and some local community groups (e g. HUG, CARA, Surbiton Wildlife group) organise neighbourhood and park litter-picks.

Talking to an evangelical Christian the other day…
…(old friend, paths diverged radically) it was clear that his fundamentalist Christian beliefs – and maybe his Daily Telegraph habit and vast wealth – had made him into a climate change denier.  He sounded a bit like Fred Upton, Chair of the US Commission on Energy and Commerce: “God created the world and God will take out the world when it suits him. That’s all you need to know about climate change.” I found it impossible to argue, especially as he was being very kind to us, though I wish I’d read http://www.climateoutreach.org.uk/portfolio-item/uncertainty-handbook/ before we met, as scientific uncertainty was one of his main arguments (religious certainty of the Fred Upton variety being so much sounder). And I’m not knocking all Christians or all religions – after all the Pope and the C of E, amongst others, are now on the right side of the argument.

“Good fences make good neighbours…”
Robert Frost must have been thinking about suburban territory marking and tidy gardens when he wrote this.

Something quite large or very strong or both (a fox? a badger?) dug a hole under my fence, moving several large stones in the process. We were happy to leave the hole, along with several others in our garden, but my neighbour recently blocked it off with a large tile, and it has stayed blocked. The idea of wildlife corridors doesn’t seem to have reached here, even though creatures that eat slugs should be encouraged by all gardeners. To quote just one expert, Simon Thompson, Hedgehog Officer for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust: “Something as basic as linking up a series of small isolated green patches with a hole no bigger than the size of a CD is a remarkably powerful and positive action for hedgehog conservation.  Making these connections between our own fenced-in islands of green spaces creates a continuous habitat corridor through which hedgehogs can forage, seek shelter and even rendezvous with potential mates.” Not in my back yard, they won’t! (In fact, I wouldn’t want to encourage hedgehogs round here as I’m pretty sure my neighbours all use slug pellets.)

At recent local meetings…
I discovered that some of my neighbours don’t know what PV panels or biodiversity or green roofs are. It’s hard sometimes not to roll one’s eyes.

I don’t often see my neighbours these days…
They seem to have taken gated estates as the ideal domestic arrangement, and their walls have been getting higher, their gates more impenetrable. Some of them (older, but not particularly incapacitated) get into their cars in their garages and then drive out, so one rarely sees them on their feet – and never on a bicycle. Occasionally we see a hovering parent when a child is playing or scooting in the road; and further afield, where children are sometimes both seen and heard, older residents tend to complain about them, so it’s hardly surprising that children stay cooped up indoors most of the time and we hear so much about them being “disconnected from nature”.

Things my neighbours say:
“They’ve mown the verge but left all the weeds” (a complaint, not a celebration of local wild flowers).

A proposed “linear park” in a proposed local development was described as “a waste of space”.

Trees are generally thought to be “a nuisance”: dropping flowers in spring and leaves in autumn, creating shade and sticky secretions all summer, attracting birds that make a noise early in the morning and produce untidy nests and droppings…

Peer pressure/social norming – doesn’t work too well in a neighbourhood where sharing (green bins, rarely used garden kit) seems to be an alien concept, solar panels are considered an extravagance, recycling hasn’t yet become universal, and invitations to thermal imaging parties are ignored. How can we get from being a minority interest to being the norm?

On the other hand – it’s always good to get together with friends from TTK and to find that there are some kindred spirits in Kingston, we’re just rather thinly spread out. And there are Kingston Green Drinks, Kingston Environment Centre, Kingston Cycling Campaign, Kingston Biodiversity Network, Richmond and Kingston Greenpeace, SW London Environment Network, people growing food on allotments and in back gardens… It’s not all bad.

I chose the slightly droopy sunflower at the top of the page as my image because it’s green, sunny by nature, but a bit tired.

TTK Editor