Environment Action - Summer 2013

Green is working in Cardiff

People wearing green helmets outside Cardiff Job Centre with a banner saying green is working.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth members showing that Green is Working. Photo: Chris Brown

By Tamsin Wallbank

On a sunny morning in October, a group of green helmeted people gathered outside the Charles Street job centre in Cardiff. They were there to demand that the Government takes the green economy seriously.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says that one third of the UK's growth in 2012 came from green businesses. The green economy has already created one million jobs.

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the Government, has said that if the UK is going to meet the target set in the 2008 Climate Change Act to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, we must decarbonise electricity generation.

The Government's energy policy is a shambles. They have announced policies that they can't implement and are not delivering the certainty that the green sector needs to thrive.

The 'Big Six' energy firms continue to announce inflation­busting price rises and record profits. These are funded by cash­ strapped households who continue to struggle with rising energy bills while our system remains hooked on increasingly costly fossil fuels.

The Government must help to stop our homes leaking heat by launching an insulation programme that would create jobs, save billions of pounds in gas imports and cut our carbon emissions. The money saved could be used to launch a clean energy revolution. This would create more jobs, boost the green economy, reduce further our dependence on fossil fuels, and give the UK energy security.

Bees stall at the Cardiff RHS Flower Show

School children doing activities at Cardiff Friends of the Earth stall

Activities for children at our stall. Photo: Amanda Stiltz

By Amanda Stiltz

Cardiff Friends of the Earth ran a Bee Campaign stall on all three days of the Cardiff Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show in April. We gave out information about the threat to bees and asked members of the public to sign up to the campaign. We showed easy ways that gardeners could help provide food and homes for bees.

The amount of interest in the bee stall was incredible ­- one of the reasons for this was us showing people how to make a bee hotel out of a two litre plastic drink bottle.

People could also make mini-­planters out of newspaper and plant bee­-friendly sunflower seeds in them which they could take home to put in their gardens. This activity was particularly popular with children. We sold wildflower seeds and a huge number of people donated money to the group.

A big thanks to to our brilliant volunteers Mandy, Gillian, Mike and Nigel for their hard work to making the stall such a success.

Creating a buzz about bees

By Raoul Bhambral

Bees and other insects pollinate £510 million of crops every year in the UK. Pollinating crops by hand could cost farmers £1.8 billion a year. The price of many fruits and vegetables would go up without bees. The price of apples would double.

The UK is home to over 250 species of bee including honey bees, bumblebees and solitary bees. But they are under threat: two bumblebee species have become extinct; wild honey bees are nearly extinct in many parts of the UK; solitary bees have declined in more than half of the areas studied.

There are many reasons for this decline in bee numbers -­ changes in farming practices, pests and diseases, climate change and the use of chemicals.

Because of pressure from Friends of the Earth and other organisations, DIY superstores such as B&Q, Homebase and Wickes have announced plans to withdraw from sale some of the most dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides that threaten Britain's bees. This is great news, but it is just the start.

We have persuaded the Welsh Government and the UK Government to adopt National Bee Action Plans. We want both plans to be ready by next spring.

Friends of the Earth Cymru Conference

Alun Davies making a speech

Alun Davies AM addressing the Friends of the Earth Cymru Conference. Photo: Chris Brown

By Gillian Bourn

I set off for my first Friends of the Earth Cymru Conference on a sunny Saturday morning in April. After arriving at Hebron Hall in Dinas Powys, I soon found myself in the company of lots of friendly people from all over Wales.

The conference began with a talk by Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, who painted a very positive picture of the future of sustainability in Wales.

That was followed by an interesting panel discussion on the future of activism in Wales, which brought out some thought­provoking ideas, and a presentation by Jules Kirby, lead campaigner for Friends of the Earth’s Make It Better campaign, who gave an interesting insight into the ideas behind the campaign and its recent successes.

After a great vegetarian lunch, we broke up into smaller groups to explore some topics in greater detail. I stuck with the Make It Better campaign as we discussed ideas for taking the campaign further and about consumption and supply chain issues generally.

Another break for a coffee and chat was followed by a presentation by Dr Stuart Capstick from Cardiff University who presented his recent findings on attitudes to climate change in Wales. It seems that the public are accepting the reality of climate change and its potentially damaging local effects.

My day at conference drew to a close with a talk from Andrew Pendleton, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns, who summed up this year’s major campaigns: The Bee Cause, including its success in Wales, Clean British Energy and Make It Better. This gave me lots of encouragement to carry on the good work next year.