Happiness is…

Just spent a couple of hours pottering about in the garden. Pure joy! Have created one or two new beds and pathways. Bit by bit horrid lifeless lawn is giving way to wonderful lush bushy stuff and windy pathways and already the frogs, mice, spiders and butterflies are pulling in!

…I then spread my own wonderful rich mulchy compost in the veggie patch…

..and joy of joys Tim and I created a pond!
Thanks to one of the Toad NUTS (Suzie) I was given a large rectangular plastic bath of sorts. I have sunk it into the ground and today we added rocks and water plants! Cannot wait to see who will come visiting. Our hope is that we will have many Western Leopard Toads making their way to our little corner to breed up a storm. Watch this space.

Earth Hour tomorrow

It has been a while since I last wrote here. I have been in the thick of a rather cumbersome edit and there has not been much time to surface for air! It is Earth Hour tomorrow, so I felt compelled to quickly send this one out there.

I sent this as an email last year to a local radio presenter. My hope was that he would get fired up and get going with some really effective and powerful radio to get people to start TAKING ACTION around climate change. He opted to ignore my email, which was very disappointing. (I have since stopped listening to the man, as I find him enormously arrogant and painful to listen to, but that’s another story..!).

I thought this would be a pertinent post as we dust off our candles and think of ways to mark (not just this one) Earth Hour…but all the hours thereafter by adopting many simple climate friendly actions …
[Apologies to my old ‘species of the day’ recipients, as this one might be a little repetitious…]

I am in the process of writing a series of books for kids on a range of pressing environmental issues. Issues such as biodiversity, waste, land, water and, of course climate change. I am currently researching and writing the climate change book.

As I trawl through books and the internet in my quest for information, I am becoming more and more depressed. The facts, images, stories that I am unearthing are all too real and devastating. The more I write, the bleaker I feel about things. I sometimes wish for a blissful state of ignorance!

Instead of languishing in misery and giving energy to the internal rage that I feel against humanity, I want to channel this energy in as positive a way as possible – which is why I am contacting you.

I am appealing to you – as a fellow birder and a lover of big skies and wild places. Have a look at the attached photo. It speaks volumes to me. Almost more than the endless images of the climate change poster child…the polar bear. As you probably know, this is an Adélie Penguin in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Here the bird is valiantly trying to keep its eggs from being washed away by a torrent of melt water beneath its feet. With a reduction in sea ice and a scarcity of food, populations of the Adélie penguin have dropped by 65% over the past 25 years…

This is just one of many stories and photographs I have come across in the past month. I am ‘meeting’ people – witness to climate change – from every corner of the world. I read their stories and want to weep. There are literally hundreds of them. People on the coast of Tanzania who are watching their houses and schools being washed away by rising sea levels, sherpas in Nepal who are experiencing frequent flooding from glacial melt, a ski instructor in Switzerland who may have to close down his business because the snow is simply too unreliable…villagers in parts of East Africa dealing with malaria for the first time, a beekeeper in Italy who has watched massive shifts in flowering times and subsequently in bee behaviour….I could go on.

These stories and images all come together and show a very topsy turvy world indeed…..and in so many cases, people are talking about changes in the last one or decades only.

I am appealing to you to help get these stories out into the open – to make as many people aware of what is happening. I fear that 99% of the planet is fast asleep and unaware of the astounding realities. We are all sitting on a very large tanker heading full tilt towards a massive iceberg (no pun intended). We have to wake the hell up and do everything that we can to steer the tanker around….

Can you possibly look at dedicating 2-3 minutes of your afternoon drive time to a very brief snippet on climate change. It could be a small fact, little story (about one of these ‘witnesses’ I mention) or a description of how a bird, frog, insect or plant species is being severely compromised by a warming world.

The idea is to get people talking intelligently about climate change, how it is going to be impacting on all of us and how WE CAN AND HAVE TO – MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

To ensure that we don’t just fill your listeners with despair, the emphasis will have to be on what can be done to turn the tanker around. And there are so many things that people can do to tackle this beast. These would need to be highlighted in the afternoon slot.

I would be very happy and willing to put the info together and send it to you on a daily basis.
Please let me have your thoughts on this. If it is a sponsorship issue, then again, I would be happy to take action there if needed.

I have sleepless nights about what we are doing to this extraordinarily beautiful planet of ours and feel sick to my stomach that we all seem to be passively watching it happen. There is that and the thought that so many of us simply do not know or understand the magnitude of the problem.

Please lets harness the fantastic power of radio to wake people up and make us conscious human beings – who genuinely want to hand over a livable planet to our children and theirs.

I came across this very pertinent quote recently by Paul Hawken – renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, founder of Wiser Earth and author of many books – most recently Blessed Unrest.

‘Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.
Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.’

[With thanks to David Ainley for the sad photo]

Pacific horror

While my heart goes out to the many hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down, ripped apart and changed forever, I cannot help but worry deeply about the wider environmental impacts of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The apocalyptic video footage of cars, trains and trucks bobbing alongside entire houses, ships, containers and rooftops in one big, black boiling toxic wave just fills me with a deep dread.

All of that debris has to go somewhere.

Aside from the obvious ‘in your face’ debris, I shudder to think what kind of highly toxic, chemical brew is being shunted straight back into the ocean, leached into the groundwater and fed into what remains of the freshwater or estuarine ecosystems in that region.

If you look closely, the wave was already a big black, boiling mess as it hit the actual shoreline. It would have become more and more foul and toxic as it washed over airport runways, refineries, streets and farmlands…picking up millions of gallons of petrol, oil, hazardous waste, household, agricultural and industrial chemicals, sewage, medical waste and absolutely everything else…

This giant toxic soup will all seep back into the environment…wiping out pretty much everything.

The structure and function of marine ecosystems such as reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and estuarine mudflats will have been altered forever – by the sheer force of the main big wave. Flora and fauna will have been ripped up as the wave came in….and then completely smothered by sediment and debris as it retreated. Cars, trains, trucks and air conditioning units – all of these would have bulldozed any fragile corals or other benthic substrates into oblivion…

Fishing gear from all those fishing vessels that were bobbing around like corks will now be floating freely in the ocean…posing a massive threat to marine mammals or larger ocean dwelling creatures such as turtles.

I don’t even want to think about the radioactive leaks and threats thereof.

I think we all tend to think that a ‘relatively small’, isolated incident such as this will ‘take care of itself over time’. I fear that this one is going to hit the entire Pacific basin very hard indeed. I think we can brace ourselves for some real horror stories of ecosystems that were already terribly fragile – being wiped out completely or of becoming very sick indeed in the decades to come.

I am having sleepless nights about this but there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I guess this is just how natural events such as these will continue to play themselves out in our dense (and let’s face it rather toxic) urban environments.

Hope that my next post will be light and fluffy and a whole lot happier!
(with thanks to Reuters for the photo)

Glamping

I have spent the weekend ‘glamping’. That’s camping in style. No pitching tents in the dark, losing tent pegs, tripping over guy ropes or fumbling around with a dodgy head torch.

And definitely NO threat of noisy fellow campers this time round!

We spent two nights at Kolkol – a lovely spot just outside Botriver about 6 kays on the Van der Stel pass road. The farm has two ‘luxury’ tents – beautifully done with wonderful features (such as a ball and claw bath & a travelling hot tub). Real necessities when camping, you understand!

The tents are both tucked away in different corners of the farm. Ours was the ‘upper’ tent – the most private of the two, with its own little stream that bubbled below constantly and with lush restios and riverine fynbos providing welcome shelter from the sun and a little haven for birds and dragonflies.

It was our second visit – this time without small person (and to celebrate our 10 year anniversary), so an opportunity to really just enjoy the peace and quiet and catch up with some great reading!

Other than the occasional sunbird, a few robins and some pretty little grassbirds and prinias, we did not see much in the way of wildlife…

So it was quite funny that once back in Noordhoek (bustling metropolis that it is), I went on to have three pretty awesome wild sightings! The first was within minutes of getting home. I heard the birds going ballistic in the tree just outside near our front stoep. Thinking snake or something we went out to investigate and a massive Black Sparrowhawk bombed out of the tree …obviously had his eye on some of our juicy docile rock pigeons!

I then headed out for a 2 hour run in the hills behind, and about 45 minutes into the run (on the Old Wagon trail), very nearly stepped on the tail of a rather long black snake. I did not manage to see his head, so could not ID him. But he was fast and very big! As if that was not enough, I then came within inches of stepping on a very plump, very beautiful Puffie….also moving remarkably fast (for a Puffadder anyway) into the fynbos on the side of a path on the Silvermine East side.

There is something very invigorating about being SO close to something so deadly and powerful! But it did make me feel just a little jittery in the last hour of my run and I found myself picking my way ever so gingerly over the rocks of the last narrow, rocky path I had to negotiate to get home.

Three wonderful sightings in one afternoon – and all on home turf.

A perfect end to a great weekend.