Thursday, 2 July 2020

Plastic Free July

 Choose to refuse plastic shopping bags poster

Plastics are in fact very useful materials, their correct use can help reduce food waste for example, but far too much plastic is used unnecessarily. 
Plastic Free July helps people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities.

Can you reduce the amount of plastic you use, by buying items that don't have plastic packaging or avoiding items made from plastic? 

The coronavirus pandemic has made the issue of plastic pollution worse as many places are now littered with discarded surgical masks and gloves, which not only are nasty pieces of plastic pollution but also a public health issue as they may be contaminated with the coronavirus. Reusable cotton masks are generally effective enough for general purpose use by the general public. (The Guardian has a sobering photo gallery of how plastic use is increasing hugely due to the pandemic).

The Plastic Free July website is full of ideas for how you can reduce your use of single use plastic at work and at home. 

What are your top tips for reducing plastic use? 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Uses for Old Socks

Crafty Green Boyfriend finally got his special office chair delivered to our flat a few days ago so he can work from home more comfortably. Once we managed to manoeuvre it through the slightly too narrow living room door, we noticed that one of the arm rests was starting to crack. I realised that it would be quicker to make a cover for it than to order a new arm rest so I pulled an old sock over the arm rest, secured the elastic round the back of it and then cut and sewed the toe end of the sock round the front of the arm rest:

It looks okay and will prevent the armrest cracking any further.

It's always worth keeping old socks, you never know when they may come in useful.

The next repair challenge is to make a cover for the seat of another chair, I hope to be able to share the results of that soon, but it will be a more challenging project.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Tall Trees Short Stories by Gabriel Hemery

This is a selection of short stories and other pieces focussing on trees and their ecology from Dr Gabriel Hemery. There are fairy tales, mythical tales, short pieces of speculative fiction and even a couple of songs complete with musical notation.The stories cover a wide range of issues around trees and woodlands including sustainable forestry, green burials, conservation of endangered species and possible roles of technology in the future of woodlands. Stories are told from different perspectives too, including that of trees themselves and the wildlife they support.

Some of the pieces look at how technology could address issues around tree conservation. In Silvabytes, Major Emar and Odren are using computer science to try to recreate trees, while in Bionic Eleanor presents the ideas from her PhD thesis which addresss the fact that climate change is altering the liveable zones for particular species of trees.

A series of short pieces inspired by the controversial HS2 High Speed railway plans includes What Will We Do with the Veteran Oak Tree (a shanty song), The Letter which reimagines the destruction of trees deemed necessary for HS2 as being a proposal to cull people (scarily prescient of some political attitudes to older people during the current coronavirus pandemic) and The Root of All Evil, a disturbingly believable sketch of a speech by a fictional British MP to the House of Commons proposing a bill to basically desctroy trees because they cause so many problems, passed without dissent. Of course in real life the politicians wouldn't be so blatant but the effect of many policies is the same. The same series includes Rise Up, the treeorism response.

Eye to Eye is a wonderful story, made up of a number of flash fiction pieces told from the viewpoints of various characters - including a birdwatching human, a mouse, a goshawk and a birch tree. The pieces wind together to create a multidimensional view of the habitat and how all the characters interact.

Other stories worth a mention include:

Memoirs of a Bonsai is a compressed history of Japan seen through the imagination of an ancient bonsai tree

In DED Zone, a committee of elm trees discuss how to combat a disease (unnamed in the story, but clearly Dutch elm disease) that is spreading through their ranks

The Woodcutters Axe is a fairy tale about a woodcutter who discovers he has special powers, an engaging tale that also acts as an allegory about the role of forestry in environmental protection

Transylvania features a Goth research student who is sent to the forests of Transylvania, to study moths. Along the way she finds herself being drawn more and more into the spooky atmosphere of the area.

In The Great Forest Heist, PC Julie Fox, a police officer in Northern Ireland considers the correct police response to the unexplained loss of vast areas of forest.

What I love about this collection is how wide ranging the stories are, incorporating trees in so many different ways, reflecting the myriad of different ways in which real trees impact and affect our real lives. It's an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Tall Trees Short Stories by Gabriel Hemery

Disclaimer: This review was  undertaken in exchange for a free advance review copy provided by the author

Friday, 26 June 2020

Thriving with Nature

We're living through very strange times at the moment and many people are finding solace in nature. Those who have gardens are spending more time in them and those who have access to nearby green spaces are exploring them for their #DailyExercise walks. We've enjoyed discovering how valuable our local cemeteries and park are for wildlife. Our latest discovery is the ringlet butterfly, which in previous years we've seen in various locations around Edinburgh, but were surprised to find today in both the local park and in North Merchiston Cemetery, it really is a lovely butterfly

Lockdown hasn't always been positive for the human nature relationship, but despite all the thoughtless people causing fires and littering in nature reserves and on beaches across the UK, I think it is true that many people have developed a stronger bond with nature than they previously had.

Spending time in nature is good for your physical and mental health and wellbeing.Nature offers a space for slowing down and focussing on things that can distract from problems in life. Learning about nature can offer an engrossing and interesting hobby that can keep you mentally alert and engaged. Walking in nature is great gentle exercise and any time spent in green spaces can lift your mood.

I was interested earlier today to discover that the World Wide Fund for Nature has collaborated with the Mental Health Foundation to produce the Thriving with Nature Guide.

This is an accessible, inspiring booklet to get people thinking more about nature, spending more time in nature and using it as inspiration for creative projects. The book is broken down on a seasonal basis, with plenty of ideas for enjoying and benefiting from nature whatever the time of year.

There are also some charities working specifically in the area of ecotherapy or the related area of horticultural therapy. Thrive is a charity that brings together horticultural therapy projects across England (Trellis being the equivalent in Scotland) while Scottish Association for Mental Health is just one of the mental health charities that offer horticultural therapy in some of its projects (though of course these projects are currently closed or working online during lockdown).

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Take Part in Citizen Science for 30 Days Wild

According to some reports, the COVID-19 lockdown has encouraged people to become more interested in nature (though seeing the careless attitude to natural areas shown by many people who are littering more than ever, setting barbeque fires left right and centre and using beaches as a toilet, not everyone cares).

For those who are becoming more interested in nature, citizen science is a great way to learn more and get involved in conservation work.

Citizen science basically means research projects that include input from members of the general public. These can be field based natural history or online based projects such as those hosted by Zooniverse.

One of the most fundamental ways you can help citizen science is to record the wildlife you see and then send your records to one of the following:

an online recording scheme such as iRecord,
your local wildlife records centre (in the Lothians this is the The Wildlife Information Centre)
a specialist wildlife recording scheme (such as the UK Hoverfly Group, which collects records through its Facebook group).

The recording schemes then feed records into data that should inform the conservation of species and habitats - building up a picture of which species are thriving and which need special attention to protect them.

Theoretically all the various recording groups should share information, but that doesn't seem yet to always be the case, specially when it comes to controversial developments on greenspace when the 'ecologist' advising the developers often seems unable to come up with information that keen amateur naturalists in the area are almost certainly sharing with the recording schemes.

If you take part in citizen science, what is your favourite project to get involved with?

Monday, 22 June 2020

National Insect Week

During Lockdown, we've walked round two local cemeteries almost every day. We've really come to appreciate what wildlife havens these graveyards are! Particularly for insect life. There are 20 or more species of hoverflies in the two cemeteries including the pellucid hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) which is particularly common just at the moment, it also has the advantage of being relatively easy to identify!
You can read more about the hoverflies in the cemeteries in this recent post.
At the moment, the bramble patch in Dalry cemetery is full of bees including tree bumblebees (below),

there are also buff tailed and white tailed bumblebees, common carder bees, and the occasional red tailed bumble bee and solitary bees. This is particularly good to see as bees are really in trouble these days and need all the good quality habitat they can get.
There are butterflies too, including speckled wood butterflies, which are becoming more common in Edinburgh these days as they are one of the few species to be benefiting from climate chaos as warming temperatures are allowing them to move north.
The most amazing insect we've seen in the cemeteries though is one that has finished its season now so is rarely seen at the moment, but a few weeks ago was present in the hundreds in North Merchiston Cemetery. It's the green longhorn moth, which we had never seen before lockdown, it's incredibly beautiful too, specially when gathering in large numbers to dance.
Just near Dalry Cemetery is Gorgie Dalry Community Park, where early in lockdown we discovered a real drama among the solitary bees and bee flies, which you can read about in this post here.
So, there's lots to celebrate in our local patch for National Insect Week, which encourages people of all ages to learn more about insects. The week is organised by the Royal Entomological Society, supported by partner organisations with interests in the science, natural history and conservation of insects.

This year we are being encouraged to appreciate the ‘little things that run the world’ by doing some entomology at home. ideas for activities include:

Take a photo and enter the photography competition,

find out more about insects using the discover insect pages or the learning resources such as the Garden Entomology booklet to find out what kind of insect you have found.

Help scientists understand more by making a biological record of what species of insect you've seen and where and when you saw it. 

If you want to get creative you could create an artwork inspired by insects and contribute to the Insect Isles project.

Now is the ideal time to sign up to become an Insect Champion with People's Trust for Endangered Species!

For National Insect Week, Nature Notes and 30 Days Wild.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Beautiful Bunnies!

Today we decided to visit the golf course that we pass on the way to Corstorphine Hill as we had heard that lots of rabbits live around there!

The first bunny we saw was this little one

then a little further on, this much older bunny, who seemed to have made friends with a magpie and a jackdaw

Then we passed the grounds of a care home that borders onto the golf course and this is where the bunnies seem to gather

The golf course is a lovely area to walk round, whether or not the bunnies are out!

There's a path round the perimeter of the golfcourse, which for a large part of its length is separated from the course by trees.