Tag Archives: ecology

30 May: Hospitality towards Barn Owls.

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At Trotton Place lived Arthur Edward Knox, whose Ornithological Rambles in Sussex, published in 1849, is one of the few books worthy to stand beside White’s Natural History of Selborne.+ In Sussex, as elsewhere, the fowler* has prevailed, and although rare birds are still occasionally to be seen, they now visit the country only by accident, and leave it as soon as may be, thankful to have a whole skin.

Guns were active enough in Knox’s time, but to read his book to-day is to be translated to a new land:

“I have the satisfaction of exercising the rites of hospitality towards a pair of barn owls, which have for some time taken up their quarters in one of the attic roofs of the ancient, ivy-covered house in which I reside. I delight in listening to the prolonged snoring of the young when I ascend the old oak stairs to the neighbourhood of their nursery, and in hearing the shriek of the parent birds on the calm summer nights as they pass to and fro near my window; for it assures me that they are still safe; and as I know that at least a qualified protection is afforded them elsewhere, and that even their arch-enemy the gamekeeper is beginning reluctantly, but gradually, to acquiesce in the general belief of their innocence and utility, I cannot help indulging the hope that this bird will eventually meet with that general encouragement and protection to which its eminent services so richly entitle it.”

There is a benevolently naive verbosity about some writers of Edwardian times, as we British count the XX Century before the Great War. This passage is from “Highways and Byways in Sussex” by E. V. Lucas, 1904, but of course the story from Knox is older still. I hope both men would appreciate today’s general good will and legal protection towards birds and the scientific study of them, but they both could tell us something of what has been lost in the years since then; although most birds are now legally protected, we should be less complacent; where are the cuckoos, martins and swallows we expected to see and hear thirty, even twenty years ago?

+ See White on Worms, 20 May, and search elsewhere in the blog.

* Fowler: someone who hunts and shoots birds (even rare ones).



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21 May: Environment Novena – Day VIII

Today is the last but one day of prayer for the environment and our place within it as users and custodians. Find the Bishops’ post here.

In his Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed (6).”

By responding to this charge, entrusted to them by the Creator, men and women can join in bringing about a world of peace. Alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a ‘human’ ecology, which in turn demands a ‘social’ ecology. All this means that humanity, if it truly desires peace, must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology.

The human person, the heart of peace with all of creation.’ 
Pope Benedict XVII, 1 January 2007.

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20 May: White on worms

Science was not always seen as attacking Christian belief, and should not be presented as doing so. Rather it challenges the believer to accept, or not, the evidence of their own observations, and the often detailed observations of honest men and women looking at Creation, trying to understand it and their place within it. As one scientist put it, you can believe that God indeed created all things inside a week, but you have to accept that he created a world that looks, sounds and tastes as though he has been creating on a larger scale and over a longer period of time than we can even begin to imagine.

Gilbert White, the curate of Selborne in Hampshire, was one such honest observer. He had his battles to convince gardeners and farmers that ‘worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation’. That is now received wisdom. As for ‘small shell-less snails, called slugs’ … well, at least the hedgehogs enjoy them. White’s Natural History is based on letters to scientist friends.

These worms are rather dirty with grains of sand and soil adhering to their skin. We thought it would be unfair to wash them down. After the photo op they were soon back in their native soil.

Selborne, May 20, 1777.

Dear Sir,

Lands that are subject to frequent inundations are always poor; and probably the reason may be because the worms are drowned. The most insignificant insects and reptiles are of much more consequence, and have much more influence in the Economy of nature, than the incurious are aware of; and are mighty in their effect, from their minuteness, which renders them less an object of attention; and from their numbers and fecundity.

Earth-worms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm. For, to say nothing of half the birds, and some quadrupeds, which are almost entirely supported by them, worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them, by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibres of plants, by drawing straws and stalks of leaves and twigs into it; and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain and grass.

Worms probably provide new soil for hills and slopes where the rain washes the earth away; and they affect slopes, probably to avoid being flooded. Gardeners and farmers express their detestation of worms; the former because they render their walks unsightly, and make them much work: and the latter because, as they think, worms eat their green corn. But these men would find that the earth without worms would soon become cold, hard-bound, and void of fermentation; and consequently sterile: and besides, in favour of worms, it should be hinted that green corn, plants, and flowers, are not so much injured by them as by many species of coleoptera (scarabs), and tipulae (long-legs), in their larva, or grub-state; and by unnoticed myriads of small shell-less snails, called slugs, which silently and imperceptibly make amazing havoc in the field and garden.

From “The Natural History of Selborne” by Gilbert White.

Let’s pray that we may never be counted among the incurious, but may appreciate that every link in the chain of nature has its part to play.

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Two More Tips.

Daily Eco Tip 38

Just because you lost that hair tie doesn’t mean it is gone, it will likely end up in the ocean or a landfill where it would take hundreds of years to break down. Try switching to 100% cotton alternatives to show your support for the environmen

Daily Eco Tip 37

You can keep your foods fresh with plastic-free covers. There are a wide array of beautiful and stunning designs of cotton/linen covers for all shapes and sizes.

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Daily Eco Tip XXXVI

Daily Eco Tip 36

Using reusable pads can make a big dent in reducing your overall plastic usage. Just throw them in the wash to clean them et voila.

https://www.peacewiththewild.co.uk/product-category/bathroom/feminine-hygiene/

https://www.bloomandnora.com/pages/reusable-sanitary-pads

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Eco tips catch-up time: XXXIV, XXXV.

Daily Eco Tip 35

Socks can contain lots of plastic microfibers that shed and can end up in the oceans. There is a growing range of socks that contain no plastics, so why not try out a pair or gift it to someone today?

https://thegreenshopper.co.uk/2020/12/04/plastic-free-socks/

https://moralfibres.co.uk/affordable-and-ethical-tights-and-socks/

Daily Eco Tip 34

If you find yourself constantly buying new plastic Tupperware, instead try to purchase stainless steel or glass. They don’t stain and are a lot better for the environment as they last a lot longer.

https://www.friendlyturtle.com/food-storage/

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DAILY ECO TIP XXXIII: Bamboo bonanza

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Daily Eco Tip 33

You can go through a lot of wipes cleaning up after your child and those wipes take almost 100 years to decompose. Bamboo alternatives are just as soft and are reusable.

https://www.cheekywipes.com/wipes-for-bums-hands-faces/bamboo-washable-baby-wipes.html

https://www.thenappylady.co.uk/washable-wipes.html

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Eco tips XXX and XXXI: how many Kilometres is that?

Daily Eco Tip 31

Stylish yet useful – glass jars are the perfect solution to storing all your loose foods, like nuts, beans and more. The Unboxed shop offers a wide variety of loose foods and jars if you forget to bring one.

Daily Eco Tip 30

Did you know that in the UK consumers go through 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year? Try reusing torn paper from last Christmas to create artsy packing for your presents. Or use different materials like tissue or plastic-free wrapping paper instead.

https://www.theplasticfreeshop.co.uk/wrapping

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Eco Tips XXVIII and XXIX: reduce, reuse, enjoy!

Daily Eco Tip 29

If you do get a takeaway when ordering, specify that you don’t need plastic cutlery. Also, if you are on-the-go, bring along a set of bamboo cutlery – more lightweight and easier to carry than metal ones.

Daily Eco Tip 28

Did you know your local charity shop might be online? You can show support while grabbing a bargain through purchasing online during the pandemic.

https://onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk

https://shop.sueryder.org

https://shop.cancerresearchuk.org

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Eco Tip XXV

Daily Eco Tip 25

Beeswax wrap is a great alternative to cling film. There are also vegan options available and you can even make your own batch of it. Beeswax wrap can keep your produce and other food fresh but without any plastics.

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/the-complete-guide-to-diy-beeswax-wraps-including-a-beeless-vegan-food-wrap

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