Thursday, 24 June 2010

How Green is Our Valley

Last Sunday I attended two events in our local green lung, the Mersey Valley. The first was a walk organised by the 'Friends of Chorlton Meadows (FOCM)' (see blog) which looked at the different species of bee which can be found in the area, with a local bee expert, Brian Robinson. I have to say that I hadn't realised there were so many different species of bumble bee in Britain alone, and also that there is still so much for us to learn about their role in the eco-system.

Bees have been in the news a lot recently and not for the right reason. The honey bee has been hit very badly by a disease called Colony Collapse Disorder, whilst in recent decades many species of bumble bee have gone into decline or even disappeared from this country as habitat has been lost.
The role of bees in the pollination of plants cannot be overestimated. Whilst larger species in danger of extinction such as the polar bear and the tiger get the publicity, the loss of the humble bee would have a far greater impact on our lives.

2010 if of course the Year of Biodiversity, and this was one of a series of walks highlighting the variety of different types of flora and fauna in this part of the Mersey Valley. FOCM Chair Dave Bishop stated that he was struck by the degree of biodiversity across the range in this small area of South Manchester. All the more reason for valuing and safeguarding this vital green lung, which brings me on to the second event.

The Save Chorlton Meadows campaign (not to be confused with FOCM) came into being last year when a plan was proposed to convert the Meadows at Hardy Farm into football pitches including floodlighting. Whilst that plan was defeated, an application has just been put in for floodlighting and other changes at the existing pitch on the edge of the meadows. Smaller scale it may be, but the floodlighting and increased capacity will still have an adverse effect on both wildlife and local residents, and the Campaign is fighting it with as much vigour as the earlier application.

Good to see the defence of our valley against the rampant god of football. It will be interesting to see if it can be defended against another local god – the Metrolink. A planned future route of the light-rail system takes it straight across this part of the Mersey Valley. This particular development has not yet secured funding, so would be some time in the future but it is definitely time to challenge the route.

One of the arguments put forward for Metrolink is that it will take cars of the road, in which case I have long felt that the lines should be run on current roadspace, and not on existing rail-lines or greenbelt. I was pleased to hear local MP John Leech, state the same opinion, and I think the newly-radicalised campaigners of Chorlton and Chorlton Park may have plenty to say when the impact of the Metrolink on this area becomes clear.. Especially those who have witnessed the line being driven though other parts of the area, such as the cutting between Wilbraham Road and the Fallowfield Loop cycleway, a matter of yards from my house.
The aforementioned Dave Bishop has plenty to say on the matter here

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Back to Normal ?

I haven’t posted on this blog for a good while – partly due to my focus on my election blog for the campaign period; my excuse since polling day is that I’m in a recovery period. However enough things have happened in my area of Manchester in the last few days for me to put finger to keyboard again.

Last Friday I got an invitation to a mass lobby of John Leech MP, following Israel’s outrageous act of piracy against the Gaza Flotilla. Mass lobby was something of an exaggeration, it was a group of about 10 students from Manchester University Action Palestine. Enough to fill Mr Leech's Office though.
The Lobby called for:

. End the Siege of Gaza

· No to an Israeli enquiry, yes to an International enquiry

· Sanctions on Israel – End the EU-Israel Association Agreement

John Leech was generally supportive and agreed to take various things forward with the relevant authorities/people but could only display limited optimism at achieving the changes being demanded particularly in the relationships between Britain /EU, and Israel. I'm pleased to see he's signed the Early Day Motionon the subject.

Eat Your Streets

Saturday was World Environment Day, and a local event in nearby Manley Park (Whalley Range) was organised by Manchester Friends of the Earth and ''Eat Your Streets'. In perfect weather, guests were served up food by a Chorlton-based group called 'Cracking Good Food', whilst the more dedicated dug a small plot on the park and planted soft fruit plants and vegetables. This planting is one of several which the group are doing in different parts of Whalley Range - watch this space (something might grow in it!).

On Sunday, St. Clements Parish Church in Chorlton put on a talk by Professor Michael Northcott St Clements of Edinburgh University, a leading expert in the field of environmental ethics (and also described as the 'thinking man's Michael Moore)'. The talk was primarily on the ethics of climate change, particularly internationally; unfortunately I missed a significant part of it, but it was a salutary reminder of both the truth and the importance of this topic, in the wake of the recent publicity given to climate change deniers in the media.

As an example Professor Northcott pointed out that whilst Britain is usually quoted as being responsible for 4% of world emissions, when all of our exploitation of resources in other countries is included it's more like 10-15%, and if the effect of all British companies is included as well it's more like 30%.

At the end of the talk there was a chance to look at a range of designs for the rebuilding of the scout hut adjacent to the church; the Centre for Alternative Technology have been brought in to advise on the most ecologically sound designs. All credit to the Church for the way they are going about this, and for arranging the talk by Professor Northcott.

Back to normal? - well, the above events are the sort of things I would like to consider normal for a weekend.