This is a blog that is linked to the work I am doing as an independent researcher in different topics regarding urban sustainability and resilience, social justice and cultural development. www.sustainablesanti.com
Scotland had “another extraordinary month” for renewable energy in May, according to environmental groups.
Wind turbines alone provided enough electricity to supply 95% of Scottish homes.
WWF Scotland analysed renewables data provided by WeatherEnergy.
It also found that in several parts of Scotland, homes fitted with solar PV panels had enough sunshine to generate more than 100% of the electricity needs of an average household.
Wind turbines provided 863,495 MWh of electricity to the National Grid during May, an increase of almost 20% compared to May 2016 when wind energy provided 692,896 MWh.
Overall the data showed that wind generated enough output to supply 100% or more of Scottish homes on 11 of the 31 days in May.
Scotland’s total electricity consumption, including homes, business and industry, last month was 1,857,566 MWh. Wind power generated the equivalent of 46% of Scotland’s entire electricity needs for the month.
Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “Despite the disappointment of last week’s announcement that President Trump is to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, the global energy revolution is unstoppable and continues at pace here in Scotland.
“May proved to be another great month for renewables with the wind sector meeting 95% of the electricity needs of Scotland’s households.
“On one day in particular, 15 May, output from turbines generated enough electricity to power 190% of homes or 99% of Scotland’s total electricity demand. Month after month, renewables play a vital role in cutting carbon emissions and powering the Scottish economy.”
Homes with solar PV (photovoltaic) panels generated over 100% of average household electricity needs in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Lerwick.
The sunniest place was Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, which generated 114% of an average household electricity demand. It was followed closely by Dundee with 112%.
Dr Gardner added: “Thanks to a super sunny month, solar was on sizzling form and could have met more than 100% of household electricity demand in towns and cities across Scotland.”
There was also enough sunshine to generate more than 90% of an average household’s hot water needs with solar hot water panels in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Lerwick, Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling.
Karen Robinson, of WeatherEnergy, said: “Scotland again managed to pump out clean power by the bucket load during May.
“While people might not be too surprised to learn solar power output was up in May, they might be surprised to discover that wind power output was also pretty impressive.”
Across the UK, solar panels provided a record amount of power on 26 May, when the National Grid reported a 8.5 GWh peak over a half-hour from midday, almost a quarter of total demand.
The attempt to turn the Lake District into a World Heritage site would be a disaster
If this bid for power succeeds, the consequences for Britain will be irreversible. It will privilege special interests over the public good, shut out the voices of opposition and damage the fabric of the nation, perhaps indefinitely. No, I’m not writing about the election.
In the next few weeks Unesco, the UN’s cultural organisation, will decide whether or not to grant World Heritage status to the Lake District. Once the decision is made, it is effectively irreversible.
Shouldn’t we be proud that this grand scenery, that plays such a prominent role in our perceptions of nationhood, will achieve official global recognition? On the contrary, we should raise our voices against it. World Heritage status would lock the Lake District into its current, shocking state, ensuring that recovery becomes almost impossible.
Stand back from the fells and valleys and try to judge this vista as you would a landscape in any other part of the world. What you will see is the great damage farming has inflicted: wet deserts grazed down to turf and rock; erosion gullies from which piles of stones spill; woods in which no new trees have grown for 80 years, as every seedling has been nibbled out by sheep; dredged and canalised rivers, empty of wildlife and dangerous to the people living downstream; tracts of bare mountainside on which every spring is a silent one. Anyone with ecological knowledge should recoil from this scene.
The documents supporting the bid for world heritage status are lavishly illustrated with photos, that inadvertently reveal what has happened to the national park. But this slow-burning disaster goes almost unmentioned in the text. On the contrary, the bid repeatedly claims that the park is in “good physical condition”, and that the relationship between grazing and wildlife is “harmonious”. Only on page 535, buried in a table, is the reality acknowledged: 75% of the sites that are meant to be protected for nature are in “unfavourable condition”.
This great national property has degenerated into a sheepwrecked wasteland. And the national park partnership, that submitted the bid, wants to keep it this way: this is the explicit purpose of its attempt to achieve world heritage status. It wants to preserve the Lake District as a “cultural landscape”. But whose culture? Whose landscape? There are only 1080 remaining farms in the district. Should the entire national park be managed for their benefit? If so, why? The question isn’t raised, let alone answered.
I can see the value and beauty of the traditional shepherding culture in the Lake District. I can also see that the farming there, reliant on subsidies, quad bikes and steel barns, now bears little relationship to traditional practice. As the size of landholdings has increased, it looks ever more like ranching and ever less like the old system the bid describes. The bid’s claim that farming there is “wholly authentic in terms of … its traditions, techniques and management systems” is neither intelligible nor true. Remnants of the old shepherding culture tend to be represented ceremonially, as its customs are mostly disconnected from the farm economy.
Shepherding is not the only cultural legacy in play. The other is that the Lake District is the birthplace of the modern conservation movement. Inspired by the Picturesque and Romantic movements, much of our environmental ethic and the groups representing it, such as the National Trust, originated here. Attempts to preserve natural beauty in the district began in the mid-18th century, with complaints against the felling of trees around Derwent Water. Today, the national park cares so little for this legacy that, as the bid admits, “there are no data available” on the condition of the Lake District’s woodlands.
The small group favoured by this bid sees environmental protection as anathema. Farmers’ organisations in the Lake District have fought tooth and nail against conservation measures. They revile the National Trust and the RSPB, whose mild efforts to protect the land from overgrazing are, with the help of a lazy and compliant media, treated like bubonic plague. As one of these farming groups exults, world heritage status “gives us a powerful weapon” that they can wield against those who seek to limit their impacts. If the plan is approved, this world heritage site would be a 230,000-hectare monument to overgrazing and ecological destruction.
This is not the only sense in which the bid is unsustainable. Nowhere in its 700 pages is Brexit mentioned. It was obviously written before the referendum, and has not been updated. Yet the entire vision relies, as the bid admits, on the economic viability of the farming system, which depends in turn on subsidies from the European Union.
Without these payments, there would be no sheep farming in the Lake District: it operates at a major loss. European subsidies counteract this loss, delivering an average net farm income of £9,600. Unsurprisingly, people are leaving the industry in droves: the number of farms in the national park is declining by 2% a year. And this is before the payments cease.
What is the national park partnership, that prepared this bid, going to do – march people onto the fells at gunpoint and demand they continue farming? Or does it hope that the government, amid the massacre of public investment that will follow Brexit, will not only match but exceed the £3bn of public money currently being passed to UK farmers by the European Union? Your guess is as good as mine. This omission alone should disqualify the bid.
The failure to mention this fatal issue looks to me like one of many attempts to pull the Herdwick wool over Unesco’s eyes. The entire bid is based on a fairy tale, a pretence that the rural economy of the Lake District hasn’t changed for 200 years. If Unesco grants world heritage status on these grounds, it will inflict irreparable harm on both our natural heritage and its own good standing.
The hills, whose clothes so many profess to admire, are naked. The narrative we are being asked to support is false. The attempt to ensure that the ecological disaster zone we call the Lake District National Park can never recover from its sheepwrecking is one long exercise in woolly thinking.
Danish toymaker LEGO announced Wednesday that they are three years ahead of schedule on their commitment to run on 100% clean energy by 2020.
LEGO invested $900 million in wind farms and renewable energy over the past four years. Now, all LEGO offices, factories, and even stores will be powered by clean energy.
“This development means we have now reached the 100% renewable energy milestone three years ahead of target,” Balli Padda, LEGO’s CEO said of the new Burbo Bank wind farm in Liverpool which opened today. Burbo Bank is just one place from which the company will be sourcing renewable energy.
LEGO’s investment in the wind farm also helps make clean energy an option for 230,000 homes in the UK.
And as another fun aside, LEGO locked in a Guinness World Record for the LEGO wind turbine they built in honor of the Burbo Bank wind farm opening. The LEGO replica is 24.6 feet (7.5 meters) tall.
This is one of several clean energy initiatives the toy company has adopted since they announced ambitious plans to create all LEGOs from sustainable materials by 2030in 2012.
In addition to clean energy, LEGO launched a campaign, Planet Crew, for kids to get excited about clean energy and climate action.
The plan also included a $150 million investment in plastic alternatives, and “sustainable plastic” sources. They created the LEGO Sustainable Materials Center and hired 100 scientists to help out.
While “sustainable plastic” sounds very much akin to jumbo shrimp or any other oxymoron, LEGO says it’s a real thing.
“The feedstock for plastic can come from many places that are not fossil based—bio-based, renewable or even recycled sources,” Tim Brooks environmental sustainability officer at LEGO said.
Another scientist at LEGO’s SMC told WIRED they were close to developing an alternative material made from corn.
There is no set definition of sustainable material, but LEGO takes the term to mean anything that cuts down on environmental impact, carbon footprint, and has a positive social impact on human rights and climate change. This can mean new sourcing or adding recycling and biodegradable initiatives for sustainability.
LEGO says not using oil-based plastics can minimize their carbon footprint in the meantime.
“Our aim is to have a positive impact on the planet, and that means searching for new materials in a broader sense to have alternatives to the oil-based plastic used for bricks and plastic packaging, but also to continue improving our paper-based boxes to be more sustainable,” Bisgaard Vase, a LEGO spokesperson told Environmental Leader.
“All of which are significant contributors to our environmental footprint, and therefore we are focusing on several efforts at the same time,” he said.
Others are skeptical about the vague definition of “sustainable plastic,” claiming it doesn’t represent real change
But with 100% clean energy, an attempt to avoid oil-based plastic, and a campaign on climate action, it seems the brand is staying true to its motto: building a better tomorrow.
Building sustainable cities, taking climate action, and access to affordable clean energy are all essential parts of the Sustainable Development Goals. LEGO just hit all three goals with their 100% clean energy target.
LEGO isn’t the only company aiming for 100% clean energy. LEGO is one of 100 companies signed up to make the switch by 2020. Others include Apple, which is 93%of the way there, and Google. Microsoft has run on 100% renewable energy since 2014.
For seven years, people in Britain have been forced to hold their breath and wait for a comprehensive plan to tackle the nation’s toxic air crisis. After a series of humiliating defeats in the courts, Friday’s government plan was meant to finally deliver.
The only sure way to bring the toxic nitrogen dioxide spewed out by dirty diesel vehicles down to legal levels is to keep them out of cities and towns. The law demands the fastest possible action, which means deterring polluting drivers with charges – as will happen in London. But backing new taxes on drivers in the heat of an election campaign promises a political car crash, so ministers have simply swerved and crashed into the nation’s health instead.
Pollution haze over London. Diesel pollution causes 23,000 early deaths every year in Britain. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
The most shocking aspect is that buried in the documents are candid admissions that the crisis is the “largest environmental threat to public health in the UK” and that it is a “direct result” of car makers gaming emissions tests for years, so that their vehicles pump out far more pollution on the road than in the official lab tests.
Ministers even say: “We will continue to press car manufacturers to develop options for recalling existing vehicles to improve their real world emissions performance.” But unlike in Germany and France, the government’s pressing of car makers has driven precisely zero action.
Rather than tackle air pollution head on, the government has passed the buck to local authorities, daring them to impose the needed charges instead and face the electoral consequences. Ministers suggest councils should penalise any diesel cars more than two years old – most of them – but lack the courage of their convictions.
In place of meaningful action, the government’s plan suggests gimmicks such as removing speed bumps and re-phasing traffic lights, measures as likely to increase traffic and emissions as to cut them.
One of the few good parts of the new plan is funds to clean up older buses, lorries and taxis but even this is old money, already announced in the budget. The much vaunted scrappage scheme is mentioned only as a possibility and even then would only cover 0.1% of all diesel cars.
The new plan will leave the nation gasping for years to come and it seems likely that ClientEarth, the lawyers who have twice had the government’s plans declared illegal, will return to the courts for a third time.
The government is likely to view its manoeuvring as a political success, having buried its feeble plan under the local election results. The government’s cynical calculus is that diesel drivers are more of a political force to be feared than people angry about the health damage being caused to them and their children.