Monday, 30 April 2012

Glasgow Council Elections 2012 - Biodiversity & Open Spaces

In a few days the polls open for the council elections and the final topic in my green round up is biodiversity and open spaces. Parks and gardens are an essential part of any large city, they are the lungs bringing a breath of fresh air and give people space to relax, exercise or just escape the bustle. Despite being an urban council, or perhaps because of it, Glasgow is well endowed with public open spaces ranging on scale, from small local play parks to large areas such as Pollock Park, and in form, from the well manicured Botanical Gardens or Kelvingrove Park to the wild and windswept semi-wilderness at Robroyston Park and Cardowan Moss. There is much to be proud of but there is room for improvement, such as the North Kelvin Meadows.

So what policies do the parties propose to improve mobility around the city and improve the air quality?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

#CTWW Weekly Challenge, 25th April 2012

I'm no expert gardener but I do like to potter about and usually manage to grow some things. We started sowing seeds a three weeks ago and this weekend, to coincide with this weeks #ctww challenge, we planted our second early potatoes. We have grown potatoes for a couple of years now, planting them in sacks that can be topped up with soil as the plants grow. At harvest time, the bags are simply tipped out for lots of potatoes.

The Plan

We plan on planting three batches of potatoes: first earlies, second earlies and main crop.  According to the guides, they take about 10, 13, and 20 weeks to grow respectively. The first and mains were planted a fortnight ago and the seconds this week so we should be harvesting in July, August and September.

Getting started

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Glasgow Council Elections 2012 - Public Transport & Air Quality

A recent article (here) reported on the significant decline in bus journeys over the past year. The overall decline in Scotland was 6% fewer journeys, with 12% in Strathclyde and South West Scotland. Air pollution caused by traffic is also a problem as noted in this Herald article and Katkin's Blog.

One of the worst areas for air quality is around Hope Street and Renfield Street: the streets where almost all bus routes cut through the city centre which could lead to the conclusion that buses are the cause of the high level of pollutants.  However, elevated levels of pollution are found throughout the city and the high peak on these particularly busy streets would be similar if cars were sitting there instead of buses.  Allowing the buses to traverse this area more quickly will help and this could be facilitated by enforcing bus lane restrictions (i.e. only allowing buses, taxis and cyclists to use them).  Rather cynically, the Labour Party controlled council has chosen this week to begin enforcement of bus lanes that have been abused for several years.  Those supporting better public transport will look forward to improved services while those flouting the rules will not recieve their penalty notice until after the election...

So what policies do the parties propose to improve mobility around the city and improve the air quality?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

#CTWW Weekly Challenge, 18th April 2012

This Week's Challenge:

This week's challenge is from Stephanie

This week take a walk and pick up trash. Then, come back here and tell us what you found (photos of what you collected would be great)!

I must confess, this week time and weather got the better of me so I.m digging in to the dim and distant past for this challenge. The Thursday before Easter to be precise. I went for a fresh spring walk at Palacerigg Country Park in nearby Cumbernauld. The country park specialises in rare breeds of domesticated animals but I was there more for the fresh air and to see how spring was progressing.

I walked from the visitor centre to the start of Brockhurst Woods when I spotted a clear plastic bag snagged on a tree just above head height, so I grabbed it and stuffed it in my pocket, then headed down Glencryan with a spring in my step, pleased at doing a good deed.

Further on, I came across what I initially took to be a pond but later found was a small reservoir, pictured above. As I drew nearer, my heart sank. Beer cans, broken glass litter strewn on the banks and in the water. You can see them floating in the photo above.

The area is clearly frequented by some of the more anti-social locals for boozing, littering and fire raising, with partly burnt out living trees, like the one below.

Clearing up this area is, I feel, beyond the scope of this weeks challenge and really needs a well equipped squad with waders, protective gloves and other safety equipment to get the litter out of the reservoir.

It was really disappointing "discovering" this place only to find it trashed through lazy people's carelessness but we do need accessible outdoor places near our towns and cities.   Walks through the woods is good for us both physically and mentally. We just need to work out how to get people to take some responsibility for their actions.

Fortunately it didn't ruin the walk completely! There was lively birdsong, flowering gorse bushes, fantastic fungi and and wind blown trees of gigantic proportions.

So what challenge is in store for us tomorrow...  

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Glasgow Council Elections 2012 - Recycling

I have previously posted on the subject of Glasgow City Council's dire record on recycling: lowest recycling rates out of 32 Scottish councils and 20th place out of the UK's twenty largest cities. A new system was introduced during the past year but we have yet to see whether it has led to any significant improvements. Reducing the total amount of waste and increasing the proportion that is recycled is crucial to achieving a sustainable society. We are rapidly running out of "away" to throw our rubbish.

So what are the parties saying on this issue?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Glasgow Council Election 2012 - Fuel Poverty

Households in fuel poverty have been defined as those which spend more than 10% of the household income on fuel for heating, lighting, cooking, etc. The particularly cold winters of 2010 and 2011 combined with record high gas and electricity prices have pushed a greater number of households in to fuel poverty. Increased unemployment and pay freezes have also caused an increase in the number of households affected.  Local authorities can not decree the weather, nor can they influence energy prices but they can provide favourable conditions for employment to help move people out of fuel poverty, although this doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.

The vast majority of homes affected by fuel poverty are older, poorly insulated homes and this is where the council can have a much greater impact. Insulating these properties would lift people from fuel poverty and reduce the carbon footprint of the city now and in the future. Insulating older homes is one of the most cost effective ways of reducing energy use and hence carbon emissions.

Some of the worst houses are former council houses that were sold to their tenants at knock down prices for ideological reasons. Many of the owner/occupiers are elderly and struggle to pay their utility bills, therefore can not afford to invest in double glazing, loft insulation, wall insulation or efficient central heating systems. Their neighbours that were not persuaded to buy their council houses have had all this supplied by their housing association.

So where do the parties stand on this issue?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Scottish Council Elections, 2012, An Introduction

In less than a month, Scots go to the polls to elect their councillors for the next four years. Nominations for candidates have closed and councils have published lists of the candidates, although I have not seen much campaigning yet.

The local election campaigns do not make the headlines to the same extent as a General Election but our councillors can have a significant influence on local environmental issues through local policies and their implementation of national policies. Particular environmental issues in my area include, not in any particular order:
  • Fuel Poverty - a significant proportion of households are now in fuel poverty in Glasgow
  • Air Pollution - Parts of Glasgow regularly fail to meet air quality standards
  • Sustainable public transport - public transport use has declined over the past year and operators are threatening to cut services further
  • Recycling - Glasgow has the poorest recycling record of all local authorities in Scotland
  • Biodiversity - Although Glasgow is a predominantly urban local authority, biodiversity and access to open places is still important
  • Local development plans - through local development plans, councilors have the ability to influence how green the city is for decades to come
  • New Housing - by insisting on the highest standards for new housing, councilors can set the city on a more sustainable path.

Monday, 9 April 2012

#CTWW - Daily Challenges 2012

Change the World Wednesday is a fantastic concept curated by  Reduce Footprints which sets a weekly challenge to reduce our environmental impact.  Over the period of Lent, Reduce Footprints has set a daily challenge under the banner of an Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast.  I have been following these challenges on and off but March has been a particularly busy month and I haven't had the time to blog or otherwise respond to most of the challenges but now as Lent draws to a close I have some free time to reflect on the challenges and post some comments.

The challenges:

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Plastic bags: it's not all about carbon

I recently read an article which discussed how we could tackle the problem of the 800,000 tonnes of plastic bags thrown away each year in Europe, an average of 191 for every citizen of the European Union.  It highlighted the much smaller carbon footprint of disposable single use plastic carrier bags compared with alternatives.  Part of the article described re-using plastic bags as bin liners rather than using purpose made bin liners and it had a nifty graphic .  To a point, this makes sense but considering that many people use plastic bags for almost all of their domestic purchases, then to use every carrier bag once as a bin liner would require all that was bought to be disposed of in the bin.  I know that there is a lot of waste packaging in groceries but it does generally compact down to a smaller volume than the original (unless you live entirely on tinned produce) therefore assuming that all plastic bags are re-used in this way is stretching things a bit.  To then hypothesise that they could be used three times as bin liners is clearly not relevant.