The Urbane Environmentalist keeps a weather eye open for what's happening across the West Midlands and beyond.

Drop in from time to time to keep up to date with the latest updates.

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At an Evening Meeting of the Royal Geographical Society on 24th March, 1879 Sir Archibald Geike deleivered a lecture on Geological Evolution. He was one of he first people to recognise that human activity had the potential to affect the environment on a geological scale - anticpating the concept of the Anthrpopocene. Though we may find the concepts of 'subduing the Earth' and 'enslaving Nature' jarring in amodern context, surely this is one of the earliest recognitions that Humanity has to work with, not against, natural forces.

"It must be owned that man, in much of his struggle with the world around him, has fought blindly for his own ultimate interests. His contest, successful for the moment, has too often led to sure and sad disaster. Stripping forests from hill and mountain, he has gained his immediate object in the possession of their abundant stores of timber; but he has laid open the slopes to be parched by drought, or swept bare by rain. Countries once rich in beauty, and plenteous in all what was needful for his support, are now burnt and barren, or almost denuded of their soil. Gradually he has been taught, by his own bitter experience, that while his aim still is to subdue the earth, he can attain it, not by setting nature and her laws at defiance, but by enlisting them in his service. He has learnt at last to be the minister and interpreter of nature, and he finds in her a ready and unrepining slave."

Potato field

The feasibility study into the restoration of the Bradley Canal is proceeding apace, and this week the Canal and River Trust has launched an interactive map to explore 'lost waterways'.

This features the Bradley Arm as number 10 on the map (just zoom in without panning!) Other waterways high on the restoration agenda for the West Midlands are the Lapa Canal, Hatherton Btranch, Lichfield Canal and the Fens Branch of the Stourbridge canal.

Personally, I think the Bradley Canal offers more to the network in terms of increased boat traffic, economic impact and ecological benefits than any other in proportion to its size - but then I may be biased!

Sir Tony Robinson has put his name to the CRTs restoration campaign; I'm hoping Bradley will be high on the list.

Below is a rather nice map of the canal arm, as it was over a hundred years ago. It will be wonderful if those long hearder pools, that wrap around the southern sides of the locks, can be recreated as a chain of small wetlands. compare with the Google view of the area as it is today.

First Series Ordnance Survey Map of the Bradley Arm


This EU vision of green infrastructure includes cities and towns

Europe is sending confusing messages on Green Infrastructure with some of its latest reports. This short document Building a Green Infrastructure for Europe gives a very positive view of what can be achieved in all parts of the landscape. It champions the sort of ideas and interventions that can really make a difference to people's lives and livelihoods.

In contrast, a recent research report on Spatial Analysis of Green Infrastructure appears to write off all urban areas and most of lowland England.

One EU vision of green infrastructure

Well, it's a fair defence that the intended audiences and  core messages of these two documents are very different, with one advocating using green infrastructure as a way to improve the landscape, and the other focusing on restoring natural landscapes. And the study does acknoweldge it only ddresses rural GI. But the truth is, that the core difference is in how they define green infrastructure. Both perspecives - the 'ecosystem services' and the 'natural assets' views are valid, yet they throw up such contradictory actions: 'Transform the cities", "Restore the wilderness!" Surely there is a continuum from one to the other?

It's interesting that Sir John Lawton's report Making Space for Nature made no such distinction, with its vision for rebuilding an ecological network across the whole of England.


This EU vision of green infrastructure limits it to, effectively, near-wilderness areas

European Green Networks