On the other side of the fence the grass is always greener. Post BREXIT it MUST be for the sake of our green and pleasant land!

On the other side of the fence the grass is always greener.
Post BREXIT it MUST be for the sake of our green and pleasant land!

Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.

I have been grappling with the consequences of the referendum vote and have attempted to share with you my understanding about the EU directives for Nature and Farming subsidies. We all need to be more clued up as our government will begin to frame new legislation or perhaps include EU ones. We must ensure that the UK becomes Greener however muddy the grass looks now. Nature deserves the best from us.

By 2016, the EU under the direction of Member States and the European Parliament has achieved the world’s best record of comprehensive directives and legislation to ensure the environment we humans live in and the rest of the biodiverse species that live in or visit Europe are protected. Protected from habitat destruction, air and water pollution, climate change.  Considering the EU started out as an elite club for business this record in my mind and that of many British conservation organisations had been a good reason to vote remain.

Profit before planet or planet before profit is a way of deciding actions in a very complex world.  Dare we continue to decide profit first? There is a terrific decline in the numbers of migratory and farmland birds.  Add to that the decline in our diverse range of pollinators. We will all profit if we protect the diversity of the natural world.

The wildlife trusts made a statement about why they advocated remain but also stated that whatever the outcome  it would need all organisations that care about nature to step up and ensure environmental protection is continued and improved. The cliff we are really on the edge of is a climate that will make supporting diverse forms of life more difficult. Habitat destruction, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and preserving water are paramount to all life on earth. The EU directives attempt to address this.
In Britain we should be proud of the role we have played in this within the EU. As a public we support many conservation organisations like the RSPB and have a love for the British countryside and nature. Even political parties at different ends of the political spectrum; UKIP and the Green Party, their MEPs voted against any relaxation in the EU directives and legislation which protects our rapidly dwindling natural world.

David Attenborough expressed his concern about the environmental effect of leaving the EU. It is now the time for all of the public, whichever way we voted, and the charities that look after our beautiful and green England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hold our politicians to account and ensure that our precious natural places, wildlife and countryside are at the forefront of new legislation and will abide by the EU directives for nature.

BUT we also have the thorn in the side of farm subsidies. Subsidies to support hardworking farmers manage when crops or markets fail may seem a good idea. However, these payments to farmers, landowners have not been without controversy in the history of the EU. From an investigative journalism website there were details of where this EU collected money went to in each country. Now I knew some of this but when I began to look at the ones that had benefitted from very high amounts I was shocked. From a farmer in Romania being given a subsidy of 400 euros to the Duke of Westminster( considered the third richest person in the UK) receiving half a million. His Polish distributors, Cogent received over 8 billion in dairy subsidies. Now, this might mean support for many farmers in Poland but it seems a lot. Finally,  there has been a drive to reform these subsidies.

Examples of EU work to reform aspects of farm subsidies

Luxembourg (2012) ‘Greening Instruments – menu for
Member States within the EU framework’. Presented to the
Special Committee on Agriculture. April 2012.

European Commission (2012) Concept paper – May 2012
Agricultural Council – Greening
IEEP (2012) Agriculture and Rural Development –
European Parliament rapporteur reports and conference on shaping the future CAP
Defra feedback at CAP Greening Workshop held on 5 October 2012.
The National Trust & The Co-operative Farms – ELS+
in England post 2014 – Report
Cumulus Consultants Ltd & IEEP – CC-P-570
Issue: 2.0
Date: 21.11.12

The Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) reform is intended,
to address the challenges of climate change
and sustainable management of natural resources,
look after the countryside and help
make these subsidies …GREENER!

The E.U. pays out more than half its annual budget, around €53 billion, in farm subsidies, four times as much as the United States. The subsidies cost each European Union citizen around €110 a year, according to the European Commission, a healthy chunk for a family of four. The money is raised from customs duties, sales taxes and a contribution made by each E.U. country based on its wealth.

In order to make Farming and Environmental concerns link up and be more accountable there have been a variety of initiatives. Environmental Stewardship, Ecosystem Services and general Rural Development funding.

With the Brexit battlebus and the millions to be saved in money to the EU there has already been cries from various recipients of EU money to ensure continuity. Much has been invested by EU money through CAP, to charities like the National Trust with environmental concerns and other rural development funding. It seems in Cornwall there has been major investment in rural development and the plans were for this to continue into 2020.

I have read some interesting blogs on these and on ecosystem services and new ideas from the EU. Miles King Miles King
Jeff Ollerton Jeff Ollerton
Adrian Colston

The New York Times reports
At the same time, the E.U. was shifting more funds away from farmers to a rural development plan that paid out €8.5 billion last year. The idea was to wean the countryside off its addiction to subsidies by encouraging it to diversify.
The money, according to E.U. guidelines, could flow to any number of development objectives: organic farming, farm tourism, infrastructure, renewable energy products and rural businesses. National governments were given great leeway in choosing recipients.
e.g that is how a gravel manufacturer like Arids qualifies for farm subsidies, as did Pasquina, which collected €1.13 million for its new asphalt factory in Spain. The Spanish utility Endesa also was eligible — it received €466,000 for installing electrical connections.
Cargill — the mammoth food producer that is the largest privately held company in the United States, with revenues of €120 billion in 2008. Last year Cargill received at least €10.5 million, collecting subsidies in eight E.U. countries.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/business/global/17farms.html?_
Other sources for this blog
Lawton, J.H. et al. (2010)
Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wild
life sites and ecological network
Report to Defra.
The National Trust & The Co-operative Farms – ELS+
in England post 2014 – Report Cumulus Consultants Ltd & IEEP – CC-P-570
Issue: 2.0
Date: 21.11.12

 

The UK  government with our pressure
MUST
1. Ensure the same if not better level of environmental protection and strengthen the EU nature directives. The UK helped create them.
2. Ensure any subsidies for farming is linked into the already good work achieved by many landowners in Environmental Stewardship. Have high standards for nature, farm animals and sustainable farming.
3. Public accountability and transparency in how this becomes UK law and is abided by.
4. Involvement of a wide alliance of environmental organisations in the development of any new regulations, use of tax payers money for farm subsidies, and further progress in keeping England greener than green.

We must ensure we are not ‘fracked off’ into the sidelines of environmental progress. I am not sure but I believe our role in the EU has helped lead on this. We can still help and support other countries in the EU and elsewhere through e.g Birdlife International and other groups but we will have lost the power to really influence the way the EU moves forward on the environment. We may just be too busy dealing with the outcomes of this post brexit world on our own environment and lives.

There is the loss. Nature has no Borders. There needs to be cooperation and leadership at this time in the world’s history. Joined Up thinking.

SO we must ensure we are GREENER on all sides of any fences. Then maybe,  just maybe there would be no need for fences.

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Rhodes; Nature and Responsible Tourism

My trip to Rhodes allowed me to explore some of the islands biodiversity. On a small road down from the monastery of Thari we stopped by a stream. My botanist friend Nick always recommends a good look around water. The pictures above are of some of the creatures found around the valley near Thari. The first thing that attracted my eye were these deep burgundy leaf shapes sticking up in a shady area. As we went to look crickets were jumping out from under our feet. There seemed to be thousands of them. Not for the faint hearted. I later found the name of this species and it is a Greek and Rhodian plant. It was so large that I had immediately thought invasive. Never jump to assumptions. In the stream there was a freshwater crab, some frogs and hovering above beautiful blue dragonflies.  Large lizards are found on the island, one above seen near the monastery and the others at the Acropolis and Monolithos love the ancient sites and rocks. Look carefully for them as they seem to love the tourist sites. The lizard and the lily are linked to dragons. Dragon Lily. But also Voodoo lily! And the dragon lizard. If you look more carefully at the first photo below you can see more detail and the blue. A really charming and obliging Aegean blue kind of creature. They seem to pose!

We did not see the famous Rhodian fallow deer. It seems they are now more scarce since there were devasting fires destroying large tracts of forest. The symbol of the deer can be seen in many places but certainly at the entrance to the old port. We didn’t see any two headed eagles either. However, there were mosaics and many carvings in the churches. It was hard to trace back the symbolism for the use of the eagles and it became quite academic.

Rhodes deer, symbols for Rhodes
Rhodes deer, symbols for Rhodes

 

 

2 headed eagle symbol of Eastern Orthodox Church
2 headed eagle symbol of Eastern Orthodox Church
strange shaped tree Rhodes
strange shaped tree Rhodes
Brimstone or powdered brimstone found on Rhodes
Brimstone or powdered brimstone found on Rhodes
Brimstone on Bouganvillea outside Petaloudes
Brimstone on Bouganvillea outside Petaloudes
swallowtail Rhodes April 2016
swallowtail Rhodes April 2016
dragon lily and cricket
dragon lily and cricket
dragon lily Rhodes April 2016
dragon lily Rhodes April 2016

We also saw many cats. I thought of the blog of photographyofnia as she takes many wonderful photos of cats in Istanbul and comments on how they are loved and respected there. There were plenty of Rhodes cats too and am sure there is an island colour that seems to predominate. The cats we saw in a street in Lindos, a very medieval town with an Acropolis, knew which door to wait outside for food. Unfortunately, not all cats were as lucky and there was a sanctuary for abandoned cats in Kalithea. Having had one cat for 17 years, our own Tigger, every cat should be a loved cat and sterilised. Cats and in particular semi feral cats can have a devastating effect on wildlife.

Many of of the wild flowers were similar to the Mediterranean ones we find in Spain. There was the dragon lily, Dracunculus Vulgaris and Capparis Spinoza, the Caper bush which are endemic to the region. It was quite dry and Madeleine thought there were less flowers than usual for Spring. Certainly the wild carrot, daucos carrota was fully out. This doesn’t usually come out at Navasola until the dry season of July and August. These ones were flowering near some ancient archeological remains, not far from the Acropolis. Bougainvillea and hibiscus and many other flowers adorned Greek gardens, balconies and the narrow streets of the old town.


Wildlife in Rhodes did not have the status that we saw in the Azores. At Petaloudes, the butterfly valley, but where tiger moths begin to fly in their 100s around the end of June there was a nature interpretation centre. There was no person there to discuss and inform as in the Azores and the exhibits needed some updating and modernising. There was also a sense of sadness in looking at the ageing stuffed specimens but there were some resigned comments on the notices too about the difficulties of conservation.

Although there is a severe financial crisis in Greece, Rhodes benefits from a strong tourist industry. I wonder how as tourists we can engage and support the protection of flora, fauna and their habitats in the places we visit.

1. We could always express concern and a desire to know about the biodiversity in a place. The Azores did have lots of leaflets and a display of their plant life at the airport.

2. Raise issues of conservation areas and how these are protected.

3. Try and use responsible tour operators who respect the environment.

4. Write and comment on how much you enjoyed the natural world on your visit. This can be to tourist offices but also flight and tour operators. Encourage and support conservation. Or if need be express concerns.

Greece is a signatory to the habitats directive of the EU.

Some information about the Natural History of Rhodes from Wikipedia.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Mediterranean_conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf_forests

Rhodes is in the Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests Ecoregion.

The flowering plant species of Rhodes number 1,243.
Dracunculus vulgaris, the dragon lily or voodoo lily
Capparris Spinoza. Capparis spinosa, the caper bush, also called Flinders rose,[2] is a perennial plant that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers.[3][4][5]

257 bird species are recorded from Rhodes, many are passage migrants. 80 are breeding species. We saw red rumped swallows at a reservoir and many swifts around the New Marina and hooded crows
There are 33 species of mammal including the Rhodes Fallow deer, Cervidae Dama dama; E

Rhodes has 4 species of amphibia: tree frog Bufo viridis, Hyla arborea, Rana cerigensis and Mertensiella luschani. Not sure which kind of frogs I photographed.

 

2,652 insect species/subspecies are recorded from Rhodes. Commonly seen insects in Rhodes are the sail swallowtail, the scarlet dragonfly, Cleopatra butterfly, European praying mantis, cicada, glow-worm, hummingbird hawk-moth, firebug, field cricket, European tree cricket, European hornet, cuckoo wasp, carpenter bee and the rose chafer.

178 land and freshwater mollusca species/subspecies are recorded from Rhodes.

The freshwater crab Potamon potamios is found on Rhodes. It is common at Petaloudes.

There are 24 species of reptile certainly found on Rhodes. The species I photographed is referred to as the Rhodes Dragon. It is also known locally as “Kourkoutavlos”. Or the Agama lizard, Stellagama stellio.

Rodini park is a rather neglected old Italian park which has seen grander days. Local people still seem to wander in but it’s neglect means that there are quite a few native and non native species thriving. In the right season it can have tiger moths. We also saw
Terrapins or turtles, goldfish, carp, egret, peacock,
White butterflies( April)
Curry plant,
And heard many birds singing!

At Petaloudes the famous place for the tiger moths, but is called butterfly valley and is a private park, we saw the museum of natural history and some brimstones on the bougainvillea outside.

Back home: June at Navasola, Wild flowers and Wicked ways. Never pick wild flowers. No recoge las flores salvaje.

‘Wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy. Leave them alone.’ The photo is of a wild iris for all to admire, part of the ecosystem for bees and pollinators, the plant needs to fulfil its life cycle to survive and reproduce.  Never pick wild flowers. No recogas flores salvajes. Some are very rare now and some extinct. Many are extremely poisonous. Best left alone!

I have spent over a month away from Navasola. While I have experienced snow in Dorset, spring  breezes in Rhodes and hot weather in London and Manchester during April and May the weather here in the South of Spain has been mainly wet. This desperate downfall of water has created an abundance of growth: wild flowers, bracken and high grasses. My vegetable garden is hard to see and also the rock flower garden. But with a bit of work I am getting it less sneeze inducing and for better or worse a bit less wild. I struggle with this but need a few patches where I can try and grow things. This is where I have to discern rare flowers from less rare but all have their part and I love seeing how so many can self seed. I leave many but the cultivated ones struggle to survive if overgrown with the wild ones!  Below is the view from my sanctuary window after a bit of work. I moved the lemon balm which had gone mad and put in a rose from Ruth. There are some wild ones in the photo, a local lily,  three wild alliums  and some to be named! This type of red rose is cultivated and irrigated in this area. It flowers for a long time and the bees love it.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1591

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1587

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy in the UK visiting friends, family and two lovely weddings and for the last week I have had friends and family to stay with me here. We have walked around the finca and found lots of different wild flowers and exuberant growth. Lotti, Ruth’s dog also found where the boar had been taking mud baths and had left their two toe prints. For a short while we had had a stream running into our pond and out the other side. I could have grown rice!

There are also lots of wild iris and foxglove about. Higher up on the hillside it is covered with pink silene and some white ones. There are also lots of yellow flowers and tolpis with tiny white snowflake flowers close to the ground. Too hard to photograph the beauty of such a spread.

Last year outside our gate there was a beautiful wild orchid which I photographed but not clearly enough. This year I was sent a message and we joked and using the expression from the German New Year comedy ‘same procedure as last year’ . Unfortunately, this year within the last few days, someone has come and picked the flower stem.  It seems that the wild iris  is picked too. It is such a shame when wild flowers are interfered with and the orchids are rare. I can only hope that the main part of the plant will be able to flower again. I’m sure it was my parents who used to say wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy, leave them alone. Now, it is a conservation issue too. Too much of the wild is being lost by human hands.

Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

image

Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1477

 

 

 

Now I am back I hope to catch up with as many of you as I can  while trying to grow my own veg and finish that novel about the wild ones.