Tag Archives: environment

You Can’t Tax Your Way Out of Environmental Destruction

One month ago the United Nations published an official paper detailing the sheer level of destruction the natural world is suffering at human hands.

The same size as a honey bee, and very similar, but this is a Chocolate Mining Bee, which is probably the most common of all bees at this time of year. Instead of pollen sacs on its legs this female has special hairs which pollen sticks too, and which you can see here very clearly.

The U.N. divided the problem into three separate principal causes, starting with the direct destruction of nature, usually for financial gain. The second cause was indirect destruction by pollution, or other side effects of industry or human activity, which could be dumping of plastics in the sea or the clearing of land to build houses on, or any other number of side-effects. The third on the list was Climate Change.
However, by the end of the week most of the media had changed the story, suggesting that environmental destruction was a mere side-effect of Climate Change, and ‘pundits’ were clamouring for carbon taxes. This is very dangerous reasoning because carbon taxes are nothing much more than a licence to politicians to do absolutely NOTHING about environmental destruction, while making the lives of ordinary people more difficult.

Governments love taxes and will always be more than happy to impose them. The problem with carbon taxes is that they are supposed to be a deterrent, but big business and heavy industry, who should be taxed, will instead, with the complicity of politicians, externalise these taxes so that they are passed on to the public while they continue to pay as little tax as possible into economies of the countries hosting them. It doesn’t matter what the excuse, politicians will happily go along with any idea which allows them to tax the public – the public NOT Big Business.

It is very important to remember that most big newspapers and media corporations are owned by the same people who do most of the environmental destruction. They buy into media in order to push their own agendas. And state broadcasters are largely controlled by governments and therefore they too are controlled and must toe-the-line, and push the messages their political masters want pushed on the public.

A beautiful Gold Spot moth, which is on the wing right now. Keep an eye for them – they come to lights and night time windows.

The problem with carbon taxes is they amount to the turning of a practical problem into a mathematical equation, allowing governments to claim they are doing something, when they’re not, while allowing those who destroy the environment to continue to do so unopposed. Occasionally fines are imposed on the nation-states that pollute too much, or produce too much carbon, but they can then BUY carbon ‘credits’ from poorer nations which are not polluting. It’s all a completely ridiculous situation , and surely encourages environmental destruction?

A certain amount of pragmatism is always necessary – to live is to use resources. There’s no escaping that. But we should be aiming to stop destructive  practices, not creating carefully orchestrated systems which allow and encourage them to continue while forcing ordinary people to hand over their hard-earned money while giving them nothing in return. Because NOTHING is what carbon taxes amount to. Carbon taxes are the same as the selling of Indulgences, when the Church literally sold people places in heaven – they have no use here on earth. They are impractical and entirely corruptible.

If you really want to understand the problems the environment faces then the very best documentary on the subject is this 21 minute-long gem, the Story of Stuff, which is so good it will change your life:

 

Sahara Dust and Irish Rain

Now that it’s Autumn Ireland is suffering some very damp weather, and Wicklow is experiencing a ‘classic’ Autumn, cold wet and muddy, but quite beautiful too. This is largely the result of two very warm and balmy summers in a row –  not in Ireland but in Africa, in the Sahara Desert. After hot summers in North Africa huge amounts of dust are blown westwards out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The direction of Saharan dust and how it travels around the Atlantic and brings heavy rain to Ireland and the rest of Europe.
The direction of Saharan dust and how it travels around the Atlantic and brings heavy rain to Ireland and the rest of Europe. Ireland is marked in red.

Some of the dust is carried northwards directly into the Bay of Biscay to the south of Ireland, but most goes to Brazil in South America and the Caribbean. Some of the dust lands on the Brazilian coast where it has been directly identified as damaging the rare coastal cloud forests. Much of it lands in the Caribbean where it sinks to the sea floor and smothers coral reefs, in some cases directly killing them.

The lighter dust that doesn’t land on the sea begins to do something quite different. At the heart of every single drop of rain lies a tiny particle of dust. Water molecules evaporating from the ocean are attracted to this dust and slowly begin to collect around it. The dust is carried from the Caribbean on the air currents that flow above the Gulf Stream, the same current that keeps our temperatures mild despite the fact that the island of Ireland lies very far north. When they arrive over Ireland’s southern coast the combination of cold land air and the fact the droplets are too heavy to stay airborne causes them to fall in torrents, sometimes causing terrible flood damage to coastal communities in the south west.

The rains of autumn are going to get worse over the years, for the simple reason that the Sahara is expanding at ‘an alarming rate’. How and why this desert originally began to form throusands of years ago is still something of a mystery, but the cause of its rapid expansion in the 20th and 21st centuries is not a mystery – UN studies have found that it is largely due to cattle-farming in sub-Saharan Africa.

Areas around water sources begin to suffer extreme climate change and erosion because grazing animals congregate within only a few hours walking-distance of them. These 10-12 km desertification circles around drinking wells were identified and termed “Piospheres” by an Australian ecologist, Dr. Robert Lange, as early as 1969. The width of these desertification circles exactly matches the distance that a bovine animal can travel in one night . The big problem now is that the population of sub-Saharan Africa has grown and led to a demand for more and more cattle, which has caused the Sahara to grow faster and faster.

So the secret to solving this problem can only be a change in farming practices, which will require a cultural change and the developments of new methods of irrigation to restore the damaged environments of sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, back in Wicklow…

We are having a magnificent spring this year. The last two weeks have been almost completely sunny, with just the right amount of rainfall to keep the plants happy. Blooming dandelions are providing an extra amount of pollen for the bees, and there are many very happy bees around this year. And bees are not all aggressive stinging insects. Many are quite laid back, such as this female Early Mining Bee below. They seem to be quite inquisitive insects.

A female Early Mining Bee perched on my finger today. They can be very relaxed and curious insects if they don't feel threatened.
A female Early Mining Bee perched on my finger today. They can be very relaxed and curious insects if they don’t feel threatened.

But the mining bees don’t have it all their own way. There are also ‘cuckoo bee’, species which will lay their eggs in the mining bees’ nests but which do not themselves make nests. Instead the young of the cuckoo bee hatch out early and feed on the eggs and grubs of the mining bees. These cuckoo bees can be very handsome species, but look more like small wasps. The species photographed below seems to be Nomada panzeri, a species that parasitises the nests of Tawny Mining Bees.

A Nomada cuckoo bee flying close to ground level, beneath blades of grass just above the ground in search of mining bee nests.
A Nomada cuckoo bee flying close to ground level, beneath blades of grass just above the ground in search of mining bee nests.

But the insect you will probably be noticing most of all at this time of year is the male Orange-tip butterfly. This species only comes out for a few weeks in spring, usually appearing around mid-April and then completely disappearing usually before the end of the first week of June. They are extremely difficult to photograph, but somehow I got decent shots of two different individuals today.

A male Orange-tip basking in the late afternoon light today.

A male Orange-tip feeding on nectar along a hedgerow today. Females are all white with not even a little bit of orange colouring on them.
A male Orange-tip feeding on nectar along a hedgerow today. Females are all white with not even a little bit of orange colouring on them.