Chris Goodall, 2016. The Switch. Profile Books. 274pp.
With so much free solar energy the world is catching up fast in harnessing it day and night. The author, an expert on these matters, puts the case for the inevitability of the global switch and turning over to ever more efficient systems and storage in particular. The switch to a low carbon economy is convincingly told. We learn of the novel perovskites coatings on new PVs that my give an extra 20-25% boost in productivity. The book is a good read on the history of solar production which includes details of main players (and photos of them in black and white), how the ‘experience curve’ provides for cheaper materials, of Swanson’s and Moore’s laws, and all manner of alternative energy sources being trialled and honed. Altogether this is an essential guide to the subject. It has an appendix to figures and terms and an index. There are no references in the book, but reference is made to the authors website (www.carboncommentary.com) which is complete as can be, and offers updates (following publication of this book in 2016) and warns the reader to be wary of columnists in newspapers who get solar stats wrong.
UKELA’s meeting (25 Sept) on adapting to the changes brought in by the New EIA Regulations was kindly hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills. The ‘2017 Regulations’ came into force on 16 May 2017  and the evening event was a revealing and forthright résumé by experts in the field: Josh Fothergill (Fothergill Training), Rufus Howard (Royal HaskoningDHV) and Harriet Peacock (Tower Hamlets). What was made abundantly clear was that EIA in future should be scaled down from the excesses of paperwork that has escalated over the last ten years: the EIA for Hinckley ran to 35,000 pages. Less than 1% of the yearly 400,000 planning applications are EIAs and they vary enormously in quality. The way ahead is cutting through traditional EIAs to deal with ‘likely significant effects’ (LSE) simplifying planning applications for LPAs who are restricted by resources and manpower. Anything to assist LPAs deal with the paperwork is welcome, to speed the process through planning applications; a pragmatic approach is recommended, covering all relevant topics and LSE. Getting back to lightening paperwork via FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impacts) was promoted as a way to suggest alternative ways of dealing with ecological issues. Scoping should deal with which schedules to cover, and screening should screen subjects in or out. There was more on following the ‘spirit’ of the law rather than the ‘letter’ of the law. The ‘2017 Regulations’ now have a definition (there was none in the 2011 regulations). Project areas for consideration now have been brought back to 0.5ha from 15ha (1.1(a)). The ‘2017 Regulations’ still have passages which are open to interpretation such as ‘where appropriate’. There was a call to have more SEAs in the UK (to fall in line other countries in Europe). There is a brand new section on Biodiversity in Schedule 4 combining other disciplines such as assessing significant effects on population, human health, biodiversity, land soil, water…landscape, a sort of ‘gold-plating’ cross-referencing with Regulation 26 exercise to cover all important issues that also includes objectivity and bias.
S.J. Bowe 2015. Mulberry, the material culture of mulberry trees. Liverpool University Press. 124pp.
If ever there was an introduced tree that has such a fascinating historical record in the grand gardens of Britain it is the mulberry. The book looks at both the white and black mulberry species and how they are wound up in the silk industry and associated with people such as James 1 and Shakespeare as well as Morris, More and Milton. The unique part of the book is its approach to the use of mulberry in the Japanese sashimono furniture tradition, highly regarded and often used in the tea ceremony. It is beautifully illustrated in colour showing many artefacts such as whisk shapers, tea containers all made from mulberry. This is a serious, almost academic book though accessible for general readership – the author is Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University – magnificently published and ideal for dendrologists, especially those keen on the historical perspective of the Morus genus, as well as antique dealers and enthusiasts of Japanese art. Each of the five chapters has exhaustive references and there is a good bibliography and useful list of 100 UK gardens where mulberries continue the tradition.
Nikki Gammans and Geoff Allen, 2014. The Bumblebees of Kent. Kent Field Club. 164pp.
Kent has more bumblebee species than anywhere else in the UK, and it has Dungeness as an almost unique habitat that supports many. Drawing all the information together has been Nikki Gammans and Geoff Allen who have produced a key work on all the species, past, present, cuckoos and invaders. Each species has information on identification, distribution maps, autecology, and habitats together with colour photographs showing features. The book is strong on ecology, mimicry, classification and conservation with copious information on field work, and has references and glossary. It is for all field naturalists and published by The Kent Field Club from whose excellent stable other key works have been produced – a lesson for neighbouring Sussex. Dr Gammans leads the Recovery Programme for the Short-tailed Bumblebee – where national work on bumblebees is progressing well in Dungeness. Look out for all her work on bumblebee recovery.
A bright future for solars; solar installations in the UK increased year end to June 2017 to 897,135 units, representing 16% growth. There were ten weeks in summer 2016 when solars outstripped coal-fire generation. The share of generation for renewables expected to hit 50% by 2030 (STA).
John Feltwell’s book on ‘Meadows, A History and Natural History’ even more relevant today
Education is for life, not just for children.
John Feltwell’s contribution – six children’s books in at least 26 languages
RBG Kew confirms that samples from more than 50% of the 214 seed and herbarium specimens collected by myself in the 1980s in the Old and New World virgin rainforests and deserts have been sent out to researchers around the world. The collection is now safely housed in the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) at Wakehurst Place, Sussex.
Here is Dr John Feltwell’s prescient assessment on global warming and climate change as published in his 2008 book on ‘Rainforests’ 646pp (ISBN 978-0-907970-08-8). Chapter 5 Global Warming. 22pp illustrated:
RBG Kew. 2016. The State of the World’s Plants. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 80pp (also on-line).
It was a surprise that the world’s plants had not had been put under the microscope before, but this timely report sets the record straight, and will be an annual event. This is a major work brought together and verified by scores of eminent botanists worldwide. The brutal message is that the quantum of plants is declining. There are three sections to the book, first, how many plants are there (391,000 vascular plants) second, threats, including climate change, and third, policies and international trade. The stark facts are highlighted throughout the book in large print: 21% of global plant species currently threatened with extinction, one in five of plants threatened with extinction. This is not compensated by the 2,034 new plant species logged up to March 2016. Genome sequencing is running apace, with 136 species whose whole-genome sequences are known. There are an amazing 31,128 species of ‘useful plants’ and 1,771 ‘important plant areas’ but, worryingly very few of these areas are protected. There are 4,979 species now documented as invasive; they say it is inevitable that with globalisation the incidence of invasives will rise. On climate change they agree that ‘>10% of the earth’s vegetated surface demonstrates high sensitivity to climate change.’ This year the review focussed on Brazil where there 32,109 native Brazilian seed plants known to science and where more seed plants are known than any other country in the world. There are 219 scientific references in the book, just in case anyone wants to dispute the facts. It will be interesting to compare parameters next year on the world’s inventory of plants. Clearly, then, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about plants.