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.
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.
Zilda Melo Franca, Victor-Hugo Forjaz, Carlos Alberto Ribeiro, Amélia Matias Vaz, Elvira Ribeiro, Eduardo Brito de Azevedo, Jorge Miguel Tavares e Luís Miguel Almeida. 2014
Guia De História Natural Da Ilha do Pico Pico Island Natural History Handbook. Victor-Hugo Forjaz. 400pp
As Pico is one of many islands in the Azores, this is a real feast of natural history and ecological information that is generally applicable to other islands. It is in Portugese and English, and lavishly illustrated. It is more a superb guide to Pico than a ‘handbook’ and is a long-awaited tome with many authors who have presented data. The first section is on volcanology and how the island was formed, and how this has created the landscape and habitats we see today. There is much on trails across the island and what to look out for. There is a detailed map of the island tucked in the flyleaf which will be excellent in the field, but the book (nearly 2kg) will stay at home as a reference. The natural history gems of the island, and the Azorean islands in general, are laid out in the pages of photographs and notes on mammals, fish, birds, invertebrates, trees, ferns, mosses, grasses and flowering plants. The endemism of species is particularly well done, as well as the invasive flora that is obvious wherever you go, and species are identified as endemic in Azores, endemic in Macronesia, native, invasive or introduced. This is a key work on the flora and fauna and is highly recommended.
Wildlife Matters was proudly awarded the Stansted Environmental Services (SES) Business Partner of the Year in 2016.
Howard Johns 2015. Energy Revolution – Your Guide to Repowering the Energy System. East Meon, Permanent Publications. 2015. ISBN 978 1 85623 197 8 288pp.
Some books take decades to evolve, but this one has been borne out of one man’s enthusiasm for the subject that goes back 15 years. The author is from East Sussex whose passion for renewables has seen Southern Solar, Transition Lewes and Ovesco establish themselves in the marketplace. There is an energy spirit coursing through Johns’ veins, a passion to see renewable energy succeed, even though politics repeatedly gets in the way. Given that sunlight, wind and water are free resources it is a great pity that they have not been exploited further. In 2014 20% of the energy used in the UK was from renewables, about half of that from wind. There are people who sit back, flick the light switch, watch TV and have no idea where the energy comes from, or are that bothered. The book is not just about energy in the UK, how it is produced, especially at community level, but there are chapters on the state of repowering in fifteen countries. We learn that energy from renewables in Germany peaked in May 2014 at 73% of total energy production. The chapter on ‘100% renewable’ details the advances that companies such as Ikea, Apple, Google and J. Sainsbury’s have made, and how Iceland (the country) first produced all its electricity from renewables in 2013. Overall this is an up to date and exciting book charting the rise of renewables – a good textbook on the subject; with glossary, index and list of resources.