Monday, March 3, 2014

There May Be Trouble Ahead

Tuesday, 25th February 2014: Is February the new April?  It seems to me that as we approach the start of the Meteorological Start of Spring (1st March) we have already received a fair amount of April showers, I blame the Jet Stream.  Certainly some weather records do seem to have either been broken or bent.

Now, apparently there are still some Climate Change deniers – although according to the Daily Mail – “Climate change denier? Well, don’t buy shares in Apple says chief executive Tim Cook”. Whereas according to the Telegraph Prince Charles calls them the headless chicken brigade.

Whilst I would agree that the science is complex with many factors affecting the weather the basic idea that the human race’s activities might have an affect on the planet’s weather is a relatively straightforward concept to grasp.

The UK is a managed landscape with very little in the way of historic wilderness. It was a process that was started, in part, when agriculture involving the domestication of plant and animals was developed (10,000B.C.) A time when there were estimated to be a world of around 1,000,000, the world population was estimated to have exceeded 7,000,000,000 on March 12th 2012.

People need shelter, food, energy and their quest for those “basics” makes an impact on our planet’s resources. As I cycle around the Fens I see a landscape that is most definitely managed and maintained.  The land drainage made significant steps in the 1630s and over time has led to the creation of the Fens with over 4,000 farms. Farms that are needed to provide food.  Farms that in order to compete have to farm efficiently.

The point is that it is not so much what we do as individuals but rather as groups, that can and does have such an impact.  The trouble is we humans aren’t always that good at reading the evidence and thinking things though, we tend to extrapolate from our immediate circumstances. Our emotions can also cloud our judgement, whether we like it or not! Of course people are different and as we grow older our care-abouts and attitudes change.

The other day as I was cycling along Airport Way in Cambridge I couldn’t believe the noise levels. No I am not talking about the airport – since it isn’t that busy and doesn’t see a lot of big planes. No it was the traffic – either I have become less tolerant to the higher pitches of tyre noise as or they have gotten louder. It is frankly appalling, I am not surprised that the shared-use path is mainly used by cyclists – it is way too noisy to walk along if you don’t need to.

As I sailed past the traffic in Cambridge (well actually I was cycling my bike really) along the Newmarket Road i couldn’t believe quite how bad the congestion was. The trouble is what most people don’t really think about is what is the cause of the problem. We all vent our spleen on the  stupid road works, or other people’s driving, or lorries or the weather or accidents of not enough lanes.  We almost never stop to think that we are the problem. Traffic causes congestion (as well as noise, pollution, climate change and parking problems, to name but a few issues).

Let’s face it the purveyors of cars as the epitome of convenience and status and comfort and success have become the victims of their own success.  There is increasingly a huge dissonance between the “brand” of car ownership and the reality. The problem is that those taken in by the promise tend to blame everyone but themselves.

We often hear that Internet Access is the fourth utility. Yet having a car to drive around has been a “utility” for ages. How else would a person with 54 points on his licence convince a judge he needs a car? Why would drivers devote so much effort to illegally evading driving bans. Why otherwise would the Daily Mail be so “outraged” by “black box” insurance systems that can “fine you”

On the other hand whether we like it or not cyclists have a “brand” – not the most flattering – “Lycra Louts”, “Red Light Jumpers” are but two facets.  Police Commissioners seem to congratulate themselves on their Cyclist crackdowns.  Some Twitterers seem to delight in making offensive comments about cyclists.

So how has it come about that cycling with all its virtues (for society) is often perceived as the problem and drivers of cars are poor hard-done by souls. It does not make sense. If the cyclists in Cambridge all exercised their right to drive the congestion would shoot through the roof.

Anecdotally I reckon that with the advent of more cycling infrastructure cycling on the roads has become less pleasant and more dangerous over the last few years.  Cars give cyclists less space.  What data might support this – well the DoT Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Quarterly Provisional Estimates Q3 2013 is one place to look. Although ignore the key findings, which read like a drug trial or marketing document – they only focus on the positive news.  Instead check out the chart at the bottom of page 3 – the elephant in the room – the numbers of cyclists killed or seriously injured  is increasing, whereas all the other road user types are shown as reducing over the period Q3 2004 to Q3 2013. Are the DoT anti-cycle or just don’t care? (or anti bad news?) 

So we are doomed – Climate Change is there – yet humankind seems pretty crap at doing much about it. Enjoy it whilst you can.

So in the spirit of calming down – with meteorological spring around the corner what does nature think?

Daffodils growing around an Apple Tree on the Way out of Lode

Farmers are also moving ahead – with ploughing and draining.  Alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode – which sits a bit higher than the land!

Ditch Clearing around a Field Ready for Drilling

The East Anglian Air Ambulance (I think)

Black Peaty Soil of the Fens being ploughed

Blossom in the Fens

Blossom in the Fens

A Farmer Inspecting the Fields? (Wicken)

Baker’s Fen

I stopped between Wicken Fen and Priory Farm to take this picture to the North of the trees with the pastel sky behind. I hadn’t realised how much open water there was and on closer inspection I noticed a Bird Hide, one of the  hides around Wicken Fen.

The view near Priory Farm

The sky was getting darker and so I pushed on. However when I reached White Fen near Lode it looked like trouble ahead. A chunk of cloud was falling to the ground, in the form of rain. Either that or it was some massive hurricane heading my way.

I got my head down and pedalled towards it.

Rain over Cambridge from White Fen

As luck would have it the rain seemed to be heading more to the right and after passing through White Fen and hitting the road to Lode I turned left. I stopped to push my luck take some pictures of the lemon yellow sky. I did feel one or two drops of rain – but nothing serious.

Lemon Colour Skies over Horningsea

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