Earth Day 2020

This is a strange one, but an important one. As we stay in our homes across the world in an aim to stop this virus, it should make everyone realise just how close we all are to each other.

People have more spare time than ever right now and there are plenty of small acts that can be done to help mother nature.

With people working and staying at home, there is much less traffic on the roads, in the air and on the water and this has led to many positives to the natural world. With a reduction in air pollution in India, the Himalayas can be seen clearly for the first time in 30 years. Wildlife are thriving from the quieter environment and have been found roaming areas that are usually highly populated with Humans. A town close to me had a family of ducks walking down the main street which is not a familiar sight in the highly popular seaside resort.

Some simple acts that can be done at home that might help:

  • Litter picking in your local area
  • Participate in Citizen Science projects like garden bird counts
  • Think of ways to reduce your waste
  • Stick to reusable bottles and mugs
  • Take the time to fix things that are broken instead of buying new
  • Try not to mow your lawn too much and let the wildflowers grow for the insects
  • Leave something out for the garden birds, the birds in my garden love Peanuts, Niger Seeds and some water
  • Watch an environmental documentary or listen to a podcast and learn something new

The most important part of this, is to spread the word and let everyone know what you are doing and maybe it will inspire others to follow suit. Social media has a strong presence during this pandemic so we should use it to spread the message of environmentalism.

Everyone I know is sharing beautiful pictures of their walks in nature and how much they appreciate it. People are finally taking a good look around them and taking the time to marvel at what has always been right in front of them. I have been trying to share as many photos and videos of my home as not everyone is able to leave their homes or get into nature right now. I am also trying to spread a little joy by sharing photos of my animals which I hope can put a smile on someone’s face. Our Earth and everything in it is incredible and I am so glad that more people are paying attention to it and I hope this continues.

This is our home and it deserves better.

What about a Spring Clean in your local area…

We have been treated to some beautiful weather here in Northern Ireland for the last few weeks. I am sure that this has helped to keep spirits up during the current lockdown going on. It is always great to get outdoors, breathe in some fresh air, stretch the legs and enjoy nature. I am lucky enough to live in the countryside and have a lot of space available to get out and about in. It has been great to see so many people outside getting their exercise and enjoying nature, however, one thing that I have noticed is that not one person bothered to lift any litter during their walks.

I am guilty myself of not picking up litter on every walk I go on, but to see the same people walking in my local area every single day just walking past the litter is disappointing. I live on a rural country road, with hedgerows on either side and for the last few weeks it has been filled with walkers, runners and cyclists of all ages. On my local beach there are facilities for walkers to use for collecting rubbish, and I have never seen anyone else use them before. I assume people might be more interested when the issue is literally on their doorstep and they will do something about saying everyone is so bored during lockdown.

So, after going for a walk with my mum last night and spotting so much litter, I made sure that this evening I brought my grabber and a bin bag to collect the rubbish. Some of my neighbours seen me out collecting the rubbish and they all gave me a strange look. I couldn’t tell if they were more surprised at what I was doing, or at how much rubbish I had collected.

In a short stretch of road, we found everything from plastic packaging, rubber, plastic bottles, takeaway containers, polystyrene, cigarette packets and buds to clothing. It is sad to think that most of these items had probably just been lobbed out of a car. Among the rubbish, the hedgerows are covered with wildflowers, especially Dandelion that are in full bloom. These hedgerows are full of birds and insects and even have evidence of foxes using them.

I keep seeing all these challenges on Facebook to help keep people active and occupied and I would like to challenge everyone to do something to help clean up the environment and make a difference to their local area during this time.

Even the smallest of acts can have the largest impact.

Heather in the Mournes

During the Summer months Heather grows rapidly amongst the mountains. The three species found in my area are Ling Heather, Bell Heather and Cross-leaves Heather, all of which boast beautiful purple hues when in bloom. Up high in the Mournes and the Ring of Gullion, the Heather is widespread and lies like a deep purple blanket upon the hillside. It is truly beautiful but also shows that the mountain side it a healthy heathland. Heather grows in bog ecosystems, with peat souls and lots of water. With such a dry Summer this year, it is encouraging to see the Heather continue to flourish throughout the Mournes. A lot of hard work has been carried out to maintain the condition of the upland bogs in this area and it has been a success.

Bogs are a common sight throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom and are key to the great biodiversity found there. Along with Heather, many plants like Bog Cotton, Bilberry and Mosses will be in fluxed by insect life. On a recent hike up Slieve Binnian, I was surrounded by Bumblebees, Flies, Midgets and Butterflies. Specifically, I spotted a few Tortoiseshell Butterflies fluttering around the Heather.

Even now as the Summer is ending and the Heather begins to die off, it still bears its beauty, as it now shows off a new orange shade. This orange symbolises the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumnas the leaves of other plants and trees will start to change colour and eventually shed and fall.

World Environment Day 2018: Beat Plastic Pollution

As ever World Environment Day works to raise awareness for protection of the environment with this year focusing on plastic pollution. Single-use plastic products has been raised as a serious concern within society with campaigners spreading their message across social media and news platforms in recent months. These single-plastics are usually straws, cutlery, bottles and cups.

 I live in a small village in County Down, Northern Ireland and plastic pollution has a minimal effect on me. I notice the odd bit of rubbish along the hedgerows that people have discarded from their cars, but this does not happen very often, and me and my neighbours tend to clear rubbish from our area rather quickly. My closest town is Warrenpoint and I frequently walk along the promenade, looking down to the shore. It is a beautiful shingle beach looking onto Carlingford Lough. Never have I once thought that this was a littered beach, so I was shocked that when Warrenpoint Port held a beach clean last week that they gathered numerous bags of rubbish. There is even a Board with information, bin bags and rubbish pickers for the public to use along the beach, all provided as part of the 2-minute beach clean project which has been implemented across Ireland and the United Kingdom.

I recently attended a beach clean at Kilkeel which is another local harbour town and is home to the largest fishing fleet within Northern Ireland. Sadly, this beach was very littered. Before I reached the sand, my bin bag had quite a lot of rubbish in it and one of the first things I found was car parts that had been dumped illegally. The issue of illegal dumping seemed to be a very big concern here as we found burnt out car parts and even burnt out mattresses. This was all in the back-beach area, away from the high-water mark. So as we moved closer to the water, it was evident that the rubbish here was litter from beach users including bottles both plastic and glass and food packaging and wrappers. What was shocking was the amount of rubbish that had been washed in by the high tide and this rubbish was specifically from the boats that are around the harbour. We found lots of rope, netting, buoys, buckets, empty petrol containers and a magnitude of rubber gloves. By the end of the beach clean we had over 30 bags ready for the local amenity centre (most of which could be recycled) a fridge, a child’s bike (in perfect condition) and three rubber tyres, one of which was too large for the amenity centre to accept. When talking to other volunteers about what we found, a woman who had been on a previous beach clean in this location told me that there was far more fishing boat equipment found the last time. This is very shocking that the fishermen think it is acceptable to dump this rubbish from their boats even when it will affect the ecosystem and organisms that their business relies upon.

However, with campaigning and increased awareness little steps have been taken to tackle the worlds plastic problems. And so It is encouraging when entering a coffee shop there are biodegradable cups offered and they will even give you money off your purchase if you bring in your own renewable cups. Some bars and nightclubs will no longer give out straws with drinks unless asked for. When in shops you can see that increasing numbers of products are attempting to use less plastic packaging, however plastic is still used and in great demand so there is still a long way to go to reduce plastic pollution.

I am glad that the United Nations chose plastic pollution as the theme for this years World Environment Day as this issue needs to remain a talking point until real action can be achieved internationally.