Plastic Pollution and the ocean
The plastic in our oceans is causing a lot of concern at the moment, and for good reason. “Plastic is the new sewage” (Hugo Tagholm, CEO Surfers Against Sewage) and environmental campaigners all over the world are fighting hard to protect sea life and humans alike from the dangers of this material that was created to last forever. From carrier bags and millions of single-use bottles to the tiny pieces of micro-plastic being eaten by fish, an estimated truck-load of plastics (according to Greenpeace) is entering our oceans each day and destroying the habitat of thousands of sea creatures.
The UK Government has now passed the legislation for the ban of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in every day use, but this is only the beginning of the fight against single-use plastics and the devastation they can cause.
Wind Power and Climate Change
Roughly speaking: a 90 metre wind turbine (300ft) reaches 135 metres (450ft) with its blade tip and has an output of 2-3 megawatts; 20 of these would need a site extending over 160 hectares (400 acres). A conventional power station produces 500 megawatts.
The UK Government set a goal of generating 33 gigawatts of electricity from wind power by 2020, compared with an existing capacity of 1GW (1000 megawatts) around 2008.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that temperatures will rise over the next century by between 2 and 11.5 degrees F, depending partly on how successful we are at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The melting of the Greenland ice sheet would raise sea levels by 7 metres.
CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increased from approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) in pre-industrial times to 382 ppm in 2006 according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth Systems Research Lab, a 36 percent increase. Almost all of the increase is due to human activitiies (IPCC,2007). Concentration passed 400ppm in 2013.
Winters are not what they used to be
Cold winters (from information supplied by the Met Office)
The coldest winter in Britain on record is probably that of 1684, when the Thames froze hard enough to bear the weight of a coach driven across it. Another exceptionally cold winter occured in 1739-40. In spite of intensely cold months in 1795, 1814, 1855, 1895 and 1947, it was not until 223 years later – 1962-3 – that a winter arrived to rival that of 1739-40. The winter of 1947 came close – it was snowier – but 1962-3 was colder for longer, with snow lying on the ground from Boxing Day to early March.
Wolf stalking red deer in medieval times. Detail from a mural by Dickon Fell, 1997
According to legend, the last wolf on Dartmoor was killed in 1780 at Brimpts, or alternatively at Drewsteignton. Since the last wolf recorded in England was in 1509, and in Scotland probably at the end of the sevententh century, this seems unlikely, but still not impossible…
It is currently argued (for example in a recent study by Tim Coulson of Imperial College London and others) that attempts to increase forest cover are hampered by growing numbers of deer which eat young trees, and that re-introducing the wolf as a predator in Scotland might be good for ecosystems. Farmers on the other hand are understandably worried that re-introducing wolves would lead to significant predation on sheep.
Drought and Flood
MED Theatre’s Catchment (2012) was a year-long project for young people on the theme of water and school catchments on Dartmoor and the interaction between humans and the natural environment. Catchment was funded by an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award.