It was depressing to read the news of yet another UK local council hell-bent on felling apparently healthy trees this week; part of a trend, it seems, that involves concreting every last inch of our towns and cities, often under the guise of health and safety 'to protect pedestrians from uneven pavements'.
As an excuse for hacking down a healthy tree, that one is a bit rubbish.
This time the tree felling is taking place in South Shields, whose residents are furious at the wanton destruction of their street trees by a council who appear to be oblivious to the concerns of the people they were elected to represent. The good folks of South Shields are afraid that their town will suffer the same fate as the now infamous city of Sheffield, whose sad claim to fame is that of being the tree felling capital of the UK, thanks to its reckless council. In spite of mass protests, that city has become synonymous with all that is wrong with local government.
Lessons from other countries...
While it doesn't help the growing problem here in the UK, it is nevertheless heartening to read that in other parts of the world, there still exists respect for green spaces, especially in urban areas. If only we could follow their lead.
India is a good example. Recently the high court in Mumbai acknowledged what all thinking people already know - that the felling of even one single tree will have a direct impact on the local ecosystem. Justice Abhay Oka told the court that "when permission is granted to fell [even] one tree.....the tree is permanently lost - and the loss of even a single tree can have an adverse impact on the environment." Justice Oka also reminded municipal corporations of their obligation under local Indian laws to carry out a census of existing trees every five years.
Can you imagine something as environmentally responsible as a census of trees taking place here in the UK? At the rate local councils here are cutting them down, I doubt it would take them very long to count any trees that remain. Not that many councils are noted for their competence with figures...
We can learn valuable lessons from cities such as Mumbai where clearly they have a better understanding of the essential role trees play in keeping our environment healthy and vibrant.
But alas for the distressed people of South Shields, their council appear to remain unenlightened. Worried locals have set up a group to monitor and act on tree felling in their locality. Their Facebook group, South Tyneside Tree Action Group (STTAG),
explains that they don't want to be the next Sheffield although they say that they have been encouraged by the noble battle residents of that city have been fighting: "inspired by the campaigns in Sheffield, this group has been set up by local people in South Tyneside to monitor and take action on tree felling and the revoking of Tree Preservation Orders in the local area."
South Tyneside Council claims that it will replace the lost trees in South Shields with new ones "nearby in a more appropriate location" (whatever that means) but locals best not hold their breath. Liverpool City Council 'promised' the very same thing when they felled more than thirty healthy Plane trees last year to make way for a huge multi storey car park. The new trees are yet to materialise, although as I write, the council is pushing ahead with a plan that involves cutting down yet more trees in the city centre.
The mind-set of those who propose urban tree felling is baffling to many of us. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Stupidity is on the increase and there's not much you can do when faced with that.
I recall an old saying that might possibly apply to some local councillors, perhaps the ones who make the decisions to cut down healthy trees in Spring....
Ignorance can be educated. Crazy can be medicated. But there is no cure for stupid.
Terrible news from Scotland this week with the revelation that thousands of 'protected' ravens might already have been culled under special licences granted by Scottish Natural Heritage.
SNH has approved licences which permitted the mass killing of more than 3,000 of the ravens since 2016, and has given its blessing to the extermination of 1,082 this year alone.
The distressing news comes after 100,000 people signed a petition calling on SNH to rethink its proposal last month to cull hundreds of the protected birds on a single estate in Perthshire for 'research' purposes - but many people have been deeply shocked to learn that thousands of Scottish ravens have probably been killed already.
Following a series of Parliamentary questions, it emerged that licences had been routinely issued for the mass killing of the birds, in spite of their protected status under the Wildlife & Countryside Act .
The news which was highlighted by Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind, has been greeted with horror by conservationists.
OneKind's director Harry Huyton said of the revelation "We are shocked to find that so many ravens are being routinely killed across Scotland. Ravens are supposedly a protected species, recovering after a long history of persecution. Yet instead of celebrating the recovery of these intelligent and charismatic birds, it appears that they are being routinely killed, with the approval of Scottish Natural Heritage......it is about time Scottish Natural Heritage explained why they are content with the mass killing of these creatures."
And with Scottish Natural Heritage now refusing to reconsider the proposed cull in Perthshire, in spite of massive public outrage, it seems that even the demands of an appalled public cannot save the ravens from the callous SNH.
People who feed pigeons are mentally ill: claim by Liverpool City Council, 2012
When some pen pushers at Liverpool City Council suggested that people who feed pigeons are mentally ill, it highlighted the problem that arises when ignorance takes over from understanding. That was 2012 and since then the irrational prejudice against birds and other wildlife - and those of us who care about their welfare - has increased.
I know many have questioned the importance of my campaign in support of people who feed wild birds. I know some will sneer and suggest that there are more noble causes in the world.
What about curing diseases, feeding people, 'saving the planet'....?
Yes, indeed. But my campaign is not only about allowing people to feed birds without being landed with a fine or threatened with violence.
It is about defending our right to express free will and encouraging our freedom of expression. And it is about compassion.
Feeding wild birds is as natural as feeding ourselves. Those who enjoy throwing food to gulls and pigeons will know the profound joy it can bring, a sense of connection to other sentient creatures, of oneness and of well being. It's all of those things and more, collectively one might call it empathy. And as far as I can see, a lack of empathy and compassion is at the root of all the problems in this world. Compassion promotes healing, both in ourselves and others, empathy allows selflessness to take the place of selfishness, which in turn leads to consuming less and having more awareness of those in need.
More tolerance. More love.
I recall a time when feeding birds was encouraged, a joyful interaction with nature. We were taught that it was a wonderful thing to do. As children, our parents and grandparents would take us to the park to feed ducks, we would go to the seaside to feed gulls and we would go to town squares to throw seed to the pigeons. It was joyous. And onlookers shared in the joy and smiled.
Now you go to a town centre and see people kicking pigeons, you go to the park and get physically attacked by thugs for feeding ducks. And councils are handing out fines to people caught feeding gulls at the seaside, acting on complaints from fools, the same fools who happily wade through mountains of litter that their fellow humans leave in their wake.
Humans are the ones destroying the planet, not gulls, not pigeons, not ducks.
The intolerance expressed by those lacking in compassion - the ones who complain about the birds and the people who feed them - that intolerance is a symptom of a broken society.
More tolerance means more empathy and understanding towards the wider world. The people who feed birds know that. They are doing something from the heart. Without a connection to other forms of life, we eventually lose the connection to each other. Insular attitudes become ever more prevalent, self absorption and greed amongst them. Intolerance of other people, other races, other ideologies and beliefs. A total lack of awareness of other animals and the natural environment. It is the recipe for a hopeless future.
Until people embrace compassion and tolerance there can't be more empathy. And it follows that without empathy there can be no hope.
So, my Feed The Birds campaign is as much about encouraging compassion as it is about feeding pigeons and gulls. It's a metaphor if you like.
We live in an age when they are trying to make it a crime to feed the birds. It's incredibly sad and it's a reflection of just how detached society has become from a natural world on which we are, all of us, entirely dependant.
Amongst those who loved and cared for pigeons and other wild birds were Audrey Hepburn, John Lennon, Elvis, Monet and Picasso. Influential, enlightened and compassionate people indeed.
In comparison, think of the ignorant people who have told us it's wrong to feed the birds, like the shady London politician Ken Livingstone who signed the death warrant for Trafalgar Square's legendary pigeons, and those pen pushers at Liverpool City Council who in 2012 suggested that people who feed pigeons are mentally ill.
Do you identify with the enlightened or the ignorant? The enlightened see the truth. The ignorant can't see their idiocy because they are dazzled by their own self importance.
The enlightened seek to change the world, the ignorant will destroy it as they pursue their futile climb up the ladder, signposted obsessive ambition, that ultimately leads nowhere.
So, when I say Feed The Birds, I am also saying defend your freedom to feed the birds, don't let the fools stop you. And express that compassion in your heart that tells you to feed them. It's important. It's your right.
And it's the same compassion you will need if you are going to change the world.
Please sign my petition HERE. Thank you.
Here in the UK, from where I write, we are very used to the scourge of wind farms.
But, even with the knowledge of just how much environmental damage they have done, and are doing, over here, it is still a shock to hear of a sinister plan to industrialise one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and remote parts of Europe, the Pindos mountains in Northern Greece.
Locals there are dejected about the plan to populate their beloved, unspoiled mountain range with huge wind turbines, threatening a fragile and immensely diverse ecosystem in the process.
In an open letter to the Greek government published in the Parapolitics newspaper, a group of organisations and citizens opposed to the development say "The two large wind turbine installations are to be built on the unspoiled peaks of Agrafa [in the Pindos mountain range] at the highest altitude for wind turbines anywhere in the world, 1600 to 2000 meters, in a clean and protected area, which will have incalculable negative consequences.......this first series of wind turbines will cover 80% of all ridges from Evritania to Argithea..."
The area is sparsely populated and has little infrastructure, and so a huge cause for concern is that major roads will have to be built to transport the materials for the industrial development together with the construction of high voltage overhead electricity lines to feed the turbines - these will cut swathes through pine forests and untouched alpine meadows.
The desperately worried citizens point out that this will have a catastrophic effect on the rare flora and fauna of the area.
Pelicans and spoonbills are amongst the birds that live here in large colonies while mammals include wolves, jackals and bears.
All are likely to be threatened by the installation of the wind farms affecting their habitat.
The locals, whose desire is to promote eco-tourism alongside traditional farming, are horrified at the plans to develop their treasured countryside, they are calling it "criminal destruction driven by a thirst for investment".
Those of us in the UK, who comprehend the damage that wind farms have brought to our shores, stand firm with the people of the Agrafa region and we understand their anger and frustration.
We hope they win their battle.
Destroying wildlife and landscape in the name of 'green' energy is a disgrace and will be viewed with shame by future generations.
Shocking destruction of ancient hedgerows and trees has been discovered in a remote and beautiful part of North Wales.
The appalling devastation was found by keen walker Karen Roden last week as she revisited one of her favorite parts of the area, the Berwyns, a quiet and unspoilt range of upland moors and hills.
Describing the heartbreaking scene she encountered as she walked along a historic drovers' path leading up into the hills, a dismayed Karen said "The familiar beautiful hedgerow and mature trees had been completely cut down to the ground, leaving the wild bluebells and primroses exposed and forlorn."
Yet More Damage Found Nearby...
Similar damage has been found at nearby Rhos y Maerdy where, as the photographs show, yet more thriving trees and hedgerows have been hacked down, leaving a sterile fence in their place. This precious habitat would have supported a variety of wildlife, including many species of birds, wild flowers, perhaps elusive animals such as the Polecat and countless varieties of insects.
As Karen sadly points out "This hedgerow should have been covered with blossom now. In the autumn it was an oasis for the birds as there were berries bursting from every branch. All gone now."
'Protected' Area Of Conservation
Such habitat is entirely irreplaceable, a delicate and unique ecosystem wrecked.
It is especially outrageous that this could have happened in an area most of which is officially 'protected'.
The rugged and little known Berwyn range of hills and moors are a designated 'Special Area Of Conservation' and are home to a wide range of rare and endangered species, in particular several threatened species of birds such as the Peregrine Falcon and Hen Harrier as well as Owls, Plovers and Buzzards. Much of the area is also a National Nature Reserve.
Wanton Wrecking Of Our Countryside
It is believed that farmers were responsible for removing the trees and hedges though their reasons for doing so are unclear. What is certain is that the terrible extent of their reckless destruction demands answers. We must not allow this kind of vandalism, of a type that is all too common in our towns and cities, to spread to the countryside, the last refuge for our most precious flora and fauna.
When it's gone it's gone.
If those who carried out this disgraceful act thought that it would go unnoticed then they were mistaken. But, however angry we might be over this, the fact is that these ancient hedgerows are lost and can never be replaced. This particular deed might be done but we cannot let wanton wrecking of our countryside continue, nor let it happen in our name and that is why we must speak out, individually and collectively, and object.
If we don't, then as Karen points out "We're going to end up with so few natural habitats that our children and grandchildren will not see the range of species we grew up with - except in a zoo."
How dreadful- and shameful - would that be......?
Reports from St Andrews in Scotland suggest that two gulls, protected by law due to their endangered status, may have been killed by a pest control company with the permission of Scottish Natural Heritage, the same organisation that recently caused outrage when they proposed a cull of hundreds of ravens, much to the alarm of conservationists and the general public.
According to St Andrews University student newspaper The Saint, the gulls had taken up residence close to the bicycle stands near the university library and were a familiar sight to those using the library - but complaints were received from a few people who claimed to have been 'attacked' by the birds.
Regular readers will know that I question accounts of gull attacks and consider that, more often than not, they are a result of human misunderstanding and intolerance of these incredible birds.
So anyway, after the university had apparently exhausted all other methods of persuading the gulls to leave, Scottish Natural Heritage gave the go ahead to proceed with the gulls' removal due to the dramatic (some might say over-dramatic) nature of the reported incidents.
Though it has not been confirmed, it is believed that the gulls were in fact exterminated by a pest control company acting under authority from SNH.
As a protected species, gulls can only be culled in exceptional circumstances where there is "a significant risk to public health or safety".
Personally I doubt very much that the two gulls at St Andrews posed such a risk and I imagine that their (assumed) demise is a result of the usual hysteria that the presence of these wonderfully resourceful birds often provokes from overly sensitive humans and those ignorant of the birds' natural behaviour.
Scottish Natural Heritage claim that part of their mission is to promote and care for the country's wildlife but frankly if they are intent on killing it then there won't be quite as much wildlife left in Scotland for them to 'care for'......
"While there are many places in cloud cuckoo land eminently suitable for the construction of wind farms, we who inhabit the real world must not allow the fanciful whims of the obsessed to take hold in our ever diminishing countryside."
There was dismay from many locals this week as giant turbine parts for the construction of a mammoth wind farm ploughed through the peaceful Welsh countryside towards Brenig, a serene part of Denbighshire.
The development has meant widening country roads and pouring concrete into the Welsh hillsides to advance what is laughingly called 'green' energy.
Is this really progress?
Chinese developer CGNEE is responsible for this catastrophe, which will be an industrial eyesore in the hitherto pristine Denbighshire landscape.
As one dejected local commented " [they are] destroying the look of our beautiful countryside all in the name of money making..."
As a regular visitor to this most delightful part of the world, I know the area fairly well, and it is (or at least was) one of the quietest and most unspoilt parts of the country. It's possible here to experience absolute silence, apart from the occasional song of a skylark and the whisper of the breeze, and to look at seemingly unending vistas of moor and hill, as far as the coast and beyond.
A coast which incidentally is now blighted by some of the largest wind turbines in the world; from here they are mercifully distant though still entirely menacing.
The industrial development at Brenig is just one of many wind farms proposed for Wales. Earlier this year the Welsh assembly stubbornly ignored pleas from locals to halt the construction of yet another wind farm on the Denbighshire Moors, a worrying sign that the government is intent on developing the Welsh countryside in their frenzied pursuit of an environmental delusion. Ugly, and quite terrible, wanton desecration in the name of money grabbing, wind farms are an insane folly. But it's an insanity that is defacing our countryside and annihilating our wildlife.
Mesmerised by the spin put out by the developers and energy companies, some people are beguiled into supporting the fantasy. But a more informed - and despondent - Denbighshire resident this week said of the scheme "The Brenig area looks like a bomb site nowadays, disgraceful greed."
While there are many places in cloud cuckoo land eminently suitable for the construction of wind farms, we who inhabit the real world must not allow the fanciful whims of the obsessed to take hold in our ever diminishing countryside.
A big bouquet now for the councils of Poole and Bournemouth here in the UK, who have stated that they will not impose a ban on the feeding of gulls, thereby flying in the face of new regulations that were implemented by West Dorset district council last week.
Spokespeople for the two coastal towns said that they have ‘no plans to ban people from feeding gulls’ in spite of new byelaws which came into force in other areas of Dorset.
It seems that our campaign to allow people the freedom to feed wild birds, without fear of being fined, is making waves especially around the coast where an irrational intolerance towards gulls has been spreading in recent years.
This news is very encouraging and should send a message to other councils that feeding birds is not a crime and should not be punished.
Two other Dorset resorts, Lyme Regis and West Bay will be rolling out the ban which is likely to see innocent people being fined £100 for their compassion towards wildlife. Perhaps we should boycott these two small-minded places and instead head for the much more tolerant and friendly towns of Bournemouth and Poole both of which should be commended for their level-headed and rational response to the matter. Though signs are present in parts of Bournemouth advising people to refrain from feeding gulls where not appropriate, their measured approach does not include handing out fines and turning this pleasurable pastime into a crime.
A timely reminder to those living in areas where silly bans are being rolled out – it is NOT against the law to feed wild birds.
Although councils have the power to implement local byelaws for offences such as 'anti social behaviour', any fine received that is considered unfair can be challenged - please see my Feed The Birds section for more information.
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