COMMENT My views on some of today’s environmental issues. Will be updated as new issues occur. 

Birding Site Guide

A crazy initiative chopping down other peoples forests for fuel, shipping them all the way across the Atlantic and burning in UK coal-fired power stations as bio-fuel. You have to wonder which idiot dreams up these ideas. As well as being totally wasteful and having dubious reductions in CO2 and causing some of the highest deforestation rates in the world in the SE USA it is also not sustainable. The amount of biofuel needed has already stripped most of the available forest in just 3 years and there is no way the regrowth can ever catch up.
Why has this situation come about? Well it’s a little complicated. To reduce CO2 emissions from power plants the UK decided to burn biofuels, not a bad idea in itself but the source of biofuel makes all the difference. Waste is best, say kernels of crops and offcuts of wood, it is also best if it is produced in the country that will use the biofuel. The above fits neither of these and this is because ‘waste’ wood in Europe is already fully utilised as either chipboard, compressed sawdust fuel brickets or used in power plants in other countries, particularly in Scandinavia. This does not seem to have been realised by our policy makers.
The solution could be very simple but will never happen, or at least I cannot see it on the horizon. Industrial hemp is grown in many countries including China, Canada and France and does not require good quality soil where crops are grow, it can be grown on marginal land without chemical inputs. After primary use of the hemp crop (which could be literally anything as it is the world’s most useful plant) there can often be left over biomass with no particular end use. This can be burned as biofuel. Since hemp is the world’s fastest growing land plant and 2 crops a year even in temperate zones is possible more than 6 times biomass of trees a year can be produced on the same land. If the US legalised growing it, it could release the 12 million hectares of land it currently sows every year with corn it does not harvest or use (they tried to use it for biofuel for which it is pretty worthless taking more input to grow than energy in fuel it can give. It is sown but then uncared for as it keeps this surplus land as farmland and means farmers can claim subsidies for the crop) and grow hemp instead, which is also the number one biofuel producer on land. 12 million hectares of hemp by the way is enough to supply just about all the biofuel needed to replace US petrol and diesel completely forever. 

Am I the only person who thinks growing crops on an intensive industrial scale to feed to birds is an oxymoron? If we didn’t intensive industrial crop that land in the first place we could have made at least some of it into a nature reserve. We would then not use as many pesticides which kill insects birds eat, or herbicides that kill wild flowers and would not use fertilizers that pollute water courses. The birdseed is often produced from waste or spilt seed from the factory, I know, so it would not be human food grade. However it could still be fed to livestock and thus lower our dependence on imported genetically modified corn and soy (GM corn and soy are the main feeds for intensively reared livestock and meat and dairy fed on this does not have to be labelled in the UK or EU, despite vegetable foods for human use having to be labelled by law in EU).
People in their gardens should make their gardens more wildlife friendly overall and provide food source plants in their own gardens. If people used less chemicals in their gardens there would be more insects and if they use at least some manure or organic matter there would be more worms and soil invertebrates for the birds. A natively stocked pond is probably one of the best wildlife features a garden can have and being away from farm runoff can be good for frogs and dragonflies.

Author: BSG