The Woodland Trust is calling on the British public to oppose ongoing work by Network Rail who are felling trees at a rate of 1000 every week.
According to Dr Nick Atkinson, senior conservation advisor for the trust, Network Rail has no biodiversity plan in place to accompany the removal of so many trees, adding that "trees are important and deserve to be managed carefully – not cut down in their thousands for no good reason.”
The mass destruction of such a valuable wildlife habitat alongside the nation's railways is huge cause for concern and with so many trees disappearing each and every week, the consequences for the nation's flora and fauna must be potentially quite catastrophic.
There are an estimated 13 million trees within 'falling distance' of the country's railways, something that Network Rail claim poses a threat to safety and reliability.
The Guardian newspaper reported earlier this year that Network Rail had proposed a five-year “enhanced clearance” programme to fell all leaf fall species within falling distance of the tracks, and athough that plan has not been implemented, still the shocking number of trees that are being lost is extremely worrying. That is why the Woodland Trust is urging the British public to have their say. The Trust points out that the corridors of trees that line our railways are home to a huge array of wildlife and also help to filter pollution.
To take part in the survey - which closes in two days time so you'll have to be quick - please visit this link:-
A petition against the felling of trees by Network Rail can be signed here:-
I'd always thought I could sing, perhaps not like Pavarotti, but sing and hold a tune for sure. And I assumed that, should I ever decide, in some moment of madness, to enter the X Factor, then undoubtedly I'd win and become a huge overnight sensation. It's not so much an 'ego' thing or smug self confidence, just a hunch that I should be good at something and that singing should be it.
A little while ago, a member of the family persuaded me, after three too many vodkas, to try karaoke. And that night, in front of an inebriated crowd who clearly had poor taste in music (and, it has to be said, equally dubious taste in fashion), I discovered a whole new world of singing. It was freeing. The audience were kind, if a little indifferent - one of them even applauded.
My public performances since that initial concert have been rare and sporadic, until two days ago when I discovered Singsnap, a website that describes itself as "the karaoke party that never stops!". Hmm, I thought, that sounds like fun, perhaps I might find other sensational singers like me on there.
The idea is that Singsnap supply the backing track and you sing through your computer, all online from your own armchair, it's very clever. The result is a karaoke video of your performance to share with the whole world.
What's not to love?
Well quite a lot as it turned out.
I decided to give it a go. I sat in my office, adjusted my chair to the right height for the built in webcam and microphone of my desktop - and scrolled through the many backing tracks on offer. For some unfathomable reason I selected Elton John's 'Your Song'. The music started. I pressed the record button on the screen and sang my heart out. It was great. Feeling very satisfied, I couldn't wait to see what it looked and sounded like. While I sat anticipating the big reveal, the Singsnap website grandly informed me that they were mixing my track ready for playback. Exciting stuff. I imagined the reaction there would be from the 'Singsnap community' and even talent scouts who would be clamouring to sign me up.
Then it was ready.
I pressed 'play' and saw myself on the screen, looking a little surprised. And ouch - bad lighting! I could see big bags under my eyes. It wasn't looking promising.
Then the music started and very quickly the horror began. In a moment of terrible realisation, I became aware that I sounded truly awful. Even though I wanted to believe that it was due to Singsnap's 'state of the art' software, I was painfully aware that the horrible noise was in fact down to me. That's how I sound. And it's not pretty.
The longest three minutes and fifty eight seconds ensued as I sat squirming, open mouthed, watching my deluded self paying homage to Elton John.
Then, thankfully, it ended.
"Ready to share?" asked Singsnap cheerily (and with an air of sarcasm I thought). I was presented with options to upload my embarrassing video to Facebook, Twitter and countless other social media sites where I could be humiliated and ridiculed by strangers from all over the globe.
As if the awful revelation that I really can't sing wasn't enough, Singsnap wouldn't even let me delete this piece of art, informing me that it would remain in existence for ten days presumably in case I lost my mind, decided it suddenly sounded great and wanted the world to witness the nightmarish debacle that I had just seen and heard.
Knowing that the video still exists somewhere in cyberspace makes me deeply uncomfortable.....
It became clear however that I was not alone. Some poor souls had not realised they could make their videos private, and as I browsed through the catalogue of catastrophes that were the latest offerings from Singsnap's karaoke community, I realised that some of them were even worse than mine. No mean feat.
Needless to say, I won't be sharing a clip of my karaoke video here or anywhere else. Now I have to face the fact the my singing career is over. Like Marlene Dietrich I will disappear into the shadows and become a recluse.
But here's an odd thing, I haven't deleted my Singsnap account. There's something strangely alluring about their website that draws me in. Perhaps it's the voyeurism, watching other deluded souls as they realise they can't hold a tune either. Or those who cling on to a belief that they really sound amazing. And others still for whom it's all just a whole lot of fun (which I expect is actually the aim of the website). And it is fun. There are even some half decent singers out there.
Now that a few days have elapsed since my Singsnap initiation and my video is firmly tagged for permanent deletion, I'm thinking that I really wasn't the worst singer on Singsnap after all. No really.... perhaps comparatively I was even quite good. I've since discovered other karaoke websites, where apparently people who don't make the grade at Singsnap find their niche.
It's a scary world of scary singers out there. And it's a world where I seem to fit.
Maybe I should give it another go....
I thought it would be fun to write a poem based on the colours of the rainbow,
so in a reflective mood that is what I did.....
In the beginning I saw Red.
Red would light the fire,
Red was the colour
of the first light of day.
Then there was Orange.
Orange was desire.
But Orange would expire
when the sunlight went away.
Every day was Yellow,
in one way or another.
And Yellow was the colour
that calmed my troubled mind.
Green, that was my favourite,
I grew to know it well,
I would ask and it would tell.
Green was gentle, free and kind.
Blue, it never left me,
it was always in my sky.
With azure wings I'd fly.
But I'm still blue to this day.
Indigo, like blue,
would be a constant friend,
she's a song without an end.
I would sing and she would play.
Violet, is the endgame
of the dream, and better yet,
of a life without regret,
infinite and free.
The colours of the rainbow
are my life, a serenade.
Of days in light and shade.
The rainbow lives in me.
©Jason Endfield 2018 all rights reserved
A tiny fish, on the verge of extinction, is at the centre of the global conflict between nature and humankind - and is set to become symbolic of the problem that is human domination of the planet at the expense of all other species.
It might appear to be insignificant and even dull, but the Spring Pygmy Sunfish has become a major player in the battle between nature and human development. Confined to a small section of Beaverdam Creek in Huntsville, Alabama, the tiny fish is classified as 'critically endangered' and on the very brink of extinction - but its habitat is threatened by the construction of a massive 2,400-acre car manufacturing plant which could completely wipe out the last remaining population of this little creature from the planet.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a law suit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who had at one point maintained that there was "no legal requirement to stop the project". Now the agency has finally agreed to designate the area as a critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act and in doing so has identified that the river system is 'essential to the conservation of an endangered species and may require special management and protection'.
But the fight is by no means over.
The Center for Biological Diversity and nonprofit organisation Tennessee Riverkeeper have filed notices of intent to sue the city of Huntsville and car manufacturer Mazda Toyota under the Endangered Species Act. According to the CBD, a lawsuit may be necessary because Mazda Toyota and Huntsville have failed to obtain a permit from the FWS that would allow it to build in the sunfish’s habitat.
Mazda are claiming that they do care about the plight of the fish. A spokesperson for the company told the local press that “throughout the planning and design of this project, we continue....to ensure that the necessary protections are in place,” she said. “Mazda and Toyota continue to make environmental preservation a priority, and we are committed to developing the property sustainably.”
The whole sorry matter is polarising opinion between conservationists - who suggest that knowingly forcing a species into extinction is unthinkable - and those who consider that a tiny fish is worth sacrificing in the name of 'progress'.
And, unfortunately, comments in the local US press suggest that there is little public concern for the plight of a species on the brink of extinction:-
"These tree hugging bunny lovers are out of hand"
"A donation will be made and work will continue. It's how the environmentalists get paid."
"What unique contribution does this specific fish provide to the environment?"
With opinions like those is there any hope at all of saving threatened wildlife?
Some might argue that the very existence of automobiles has contributed hugely to the ill health of the planet and yet still we put cars and industrial development before nature.
It's a contradiction that I find very challenging. On one hand we have big companies desperately jumping on to the green bandwagon of environmental protest, publicly parading their faux green ideologies, while on the other hand they are willing to sacrifice forever an endangered species by eliminating its only remaining habitat for industrial development and financial gain.
It makes me very cynical about any claim, be it by government or industry, that they care a jot about the environment.
Now that we as a global community are fully aware of the threat that humans pose to practically every other life form on the planet, one might imagine that causing the extinction of another species would be considered criminal in the extreme. But Mazda and others seem indifferent to the debt we owe to our natural world and are pushing ahead with plans to develop the last known habitat of the Pygmy Sunfish, bulldozing the fish and its home into oblivion.
And all so that people can have more cars.
It is a sign of the times for sure. And a sad reflection on the human race. And it looks like the tiny, unassuming, but beautifully unique Pygmy Sunfish might become a symbol, like the Dodo, of mankind's total disregard for all of nature outside of himself.
The number of readers for my post about the SNH bird killing licences has topped 130,000, and still thousands of visitors are arriving every day, from the UK and around the world.
There is huge indignation about the granting of licences to kill native birds, especially those on the RSPB 'red list' of globally threatened species.
With so much interest in this news, I felt obliged to contact SNH again today in order to get an appropriate response given that such a large number of people are nonplussed at the logic behind the issuing of licences to kill such treasured birds as Robins, Swallows, Swifts and even Skylarks.
SNH had previously told me that none of the licences they had issued had related to endangered birds - clearly this was not true - and today I challenged them on this point.
This afternoon I received a reply which I will publish in full here. I feel it neither adequately explains the culling of 'red list' species nor does it reflect in any way the strong public concern over the decisions of SNH which many feel are ill-judged and out of kilter with the conservation efforts we expect to see in 2018.
Also below is a link to a petition started by Henry Wilkie which aims to overhaul SNH and ensure that the decisions it makes are responsible and won't further endanger already threatened species.
The response I received from Scottish Natural Heritage today:-
Dear Mr Endfield
On rare occasions birds on the red list do get into circumstances where they are posing a significant threat to human health and safety. This could be the risk of bird-strike to aeroplanes, a build-up of lethal carbon monoxide by nesting in a boiler flue, or their fouling on food produce, for example. These individual birds need to be removed and a licence is required to do so. Issuing a licence does not automatically mean killing the bird and all alternatives, such as trapping and releasing the bird, or removal of the nest, are exhausted first.
The impact from these licences is absolutely minimal when compared to the other threats that these species face. Often the impact (i.e. a bird lost to the population) has already occurred before the licence is granted, such as when a bird is trapped in a place from which it cannot free itself. Protecting individual birds from any bird species has to be balanced with the need to ensure public safety.
The petition "De-power Scottish Natural Heritage" can be found and signed HERE
Once again, thanks for all your interest and support, it is much appreciated.
Scottish Natural Heritage, the ironically named killers of native wildlife, recently hit the headlines for issuing licences to kill protected Ravens. But it has emerged that they have also been sanctioning the culling of other native - and protected - species.
The shocking figures include the issuing of 30 licences to kill Cormorants and another to exterminate 'an indefinite number of Swifts for public health/air safety'.
Other licences were issued to kill Robins and Swallows while the list also includes House Sparrows, Starlings, Gannets, Kestrels and Grey Partridge to name a few.
According to figures obtained through a freedom of information request, 500 licences to cull were issued last year for a number of reasons including "falconry, aviculture and protecting public health or air safety."
One wonders why the public might need protecting from House Sparrows or Robins....
Quoted in The Scotsman, SNH said “We are confident that all activities carried out under these licences do not affect the conservation status of any of our native species.”
Well it's certainly not going to do them a lot of good either.
It's time to say enough is enough and to investigate and overhaul SNH.
If indeed they are in the business of protecting native wildlife then they are failing massively.
*Please be respectful when commenting and refrain from offensive / threatening language. Thanks for all your support, Jase
With the whole world now aware of the huge problem of plastic in our oceans and the resulting threat to delicate marine ecosystems and wildlife, it is shocking indeed to hear the news that production of fibreglass worldwide is set to increase dramatically in the next few years due in large part to the use of this material in the manufacture of wind turbines.
There were at the end of 2016, more than 3,500 individual turbines in the seas off Europe alone - with nearly 350,000 spinning (albeit intermittently given the nature of wind...) around the world at that time. Now the figure is likely to be substantially more and there is predicted to be a surge in planning applications both in the UK and internationally for vast numbers of new wind farms, onshore and offshore, in the coming years as energy companies take advantage of proposed subsidies, cloaking their decimation of countryside and coast in misleading 'green' marketing spin.
Fibreglass (fibre reinforced plastic) composites are used in the manufacture of wind turbine blades. It is a material that potentially poses the same problems as the other plastics that are filling our oceans and killing our marine life. According to the European Wind Energy Association, in the year 2010 alone, between 110 and 140 kilotons of composites were consumed by the wind turbine industry for manufacturing blades.*
To consider this form of energy as 'green' is to ignore the fact that by installing more and more wind turbines, we are drastically increasing the amount of plastic in the environment. This is particularly worrying in the case of offshore wind farms. Fibreglass is prone to warping, not ideal in a maritime environment, and the material itself has for some time been flagged as a potentially serious health risk.
But perhaps the biggest problem is that fibreglass is very difficult to dispose of and almost impossible to recycle on a large scale. The result - more plastic in the environment - and this time from supposedly 'green' wind turbines.
With the discovery of plastic cable castings - originating from Rampion wind farm in the UK - washed up on a south coast beach last week, this pollution of our seas in the name of green electricity is something to think about.
I'm not a scientist and I'm more than willing for someone within the wind industry to educate me about the recyclability of turbine blades - but for now I see this as just another example of contaminating our seas with plastic - only this time it is pollution flaunting itself as green, ethical and environmentally friendly.
Wind farms are none of those things and far from 'saving the planet' will ultimately only add to its destruction.
*The European Wind Energy Association. "Research note outline on recycling wind turbines blades" (PDF)
When the Vegan Society gleefully awarded 'green' energy company Ecotricity their Vegan Trademark, eyebrows were raised.
How can electricity be 'vegan'? many asked.
According to the Vegan Society, they decided to endorse Ecotricity due to that company's "ability to evidence that 100% of the energy they generate and purchase comes from a combination of onshore and offshore wind and hydro – none of which use animals or animal by-products at any point in the production process."
That's quite a claim given that some of the world's most endangered animals and birds are at risk of extinction due directly to the impact of lethal wind turbines.
Perhaps not so 'animal-free' then.
Ecotricity are trying to appeal to vegan consumers, a growing market sector, by using graphic imagery in advertisements that show ground meat pouring from electricity sockets, warning that other electricity providers use animal by-products in the process of producing electricity. They also offer to make a donation to the Vegan Society for every new customer that signs up with them for their "animal free, 100% green, ethical energy".
Aside from the catastrophic environmental damage that wind farm development causes, for a respected vegan organisation to publicly endorse a method of energy production that is known to kill wildlife is, to my mind, both unethical and inappropriate.
Worldwide, huge numbers of rare birds and bats are massacred by wind turbines each and every year.
At least one red list species, the Great Indian Bustard, is likely to become extinct within a very short time, due to the direct impact of wind farms in India.
Only 150 birds are thought to survive.
Wind farms, constructed within the Bustards' territory, have butchered some of the last remaining individuals on the planet. It's a shameful reflection on a shameful industry.
Closer to home, some of our rarest sea birds such as Puffins and Kittiwakes are likely to suffer due to the ever proliferating offshore wind farms.
Scottish Wild Cats, already in steep population decline, are the latest potential casualty from expanding wind farm development in Scotland's Clashindarroch Forest.
I could go on.
Suffice it to say that wind farms are killing some of the rarest creatures on the planet.
I would ask the Vegan Society to reconsider its decision to endorse an electricity supplier that claims to be 'animal-free', one that at the same time proudly flaunts its wind farm credentials.
Wind energy kills wildlife. Support it and you become part of that problem. I urge everyone, including vegans, to think twice before backing wind energy. How can it possibly promise to be animal-free when turbine blades kill hundreds of thousands of birds each year?
Please do some research, it will certainly give you food for thought.....and it might not be as 'vegan' as you think.....
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