Outside the Bubble: News from the Great Beyond

by ariadnesthread101

Yay to another contributor on Ariadne’s Thread! Jacob will be writing us a regular post on news relevant to the Environmental Masters courses at Essex. Without further ado – here’s the first! 
There’s a vast array of sources of stories and information relevant to the Environmental Master’s courses. I thought it would be really neat to bring a few of these together for us all to peruse, particularly as we each have our own favourite websites with unique slants and coverage.
If you have a new story, podcast, or programme to share, or would like to make a comment, please use the system at the bottom of this post. Alternatively, feel free to email me for inclusion in the next roundup.  
Best of luck for the week!

C. A. M. Lindman (1856–1928)

‘Are Europe’s ash trees finished?’

Print News / New Scientist 
A fungus deadly to ash trees has just reached Britain and Ireland, after emerging 20 years ago in Poland. Already it has devastated ash trees in mainland Europe, sweeping through more than 20 countries powerless to prevent its spread. How did this fungus develop? And what, if anything, can be done to stop it in countries like the UK, where ashes account for around a fifth of all trees? By the sound of it, the outlook is not good. New Scientist investigates.”

The full story here.

This story has been worrying me this week, as I love ash trees. They have a fairly open canopy and so other plants can survive underneath. They also can grow to be quite old and gnarly providing, for example, nest holes for birds.
We’ve imported the fungus that’s causing this disease through the movement of saplings, but now it seems the spores have also blown over from Europe naturally; demonstrating that nature rarely respects borders.
The New Scientist article is very matter of fact, but as ash trees make up a key part of the English landscape I’m sure many people will be terribly sad if they are badly affected, not to mention the loss of biodiversity entailed. I wonder if losing ash trees would make the UK’s landscape any less therapeutically valuable? [See below]
‘Health Check: Eco-therapy’
Audio: (only 17 minutes 30 seconds)
Available on iPlayer here.
This radio programme from the BBC World Service discusses our connection with nature and focuses specifically on the value of natural environments as “Green Therapy” – treatment for mental illness. There are contributions from the hugely respected writer Richard Mabey and also Rachel Bragg, whom I’m sure you’ll all remember from her lecture last week on the value of nature.

Sandy from the International Space Station. 29th October, 2012.

‘It’s Global Warming, Stupid’

Print News / Business Week.  
Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.Clarity, however, is not beyond reach. Hurricane Sandy demands it: At least 40 U.S. deaths. Economic losses expected to climb as high as $50 billion. Eight million homes without power. Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated. More than 15,000 flights grounded. Factories, stores, and hospitals shut. Lower Manhattan dark, silent, and underwater.”
The full story here.
The other big environment news story this week has been Hurricane Sandy, which as well as causing huge amounts of damage and disruption across its path from Jamaica and into parts of Canada, also stirred up the debate on the nature and reality of climate change. The Businessweek article to which I have linked is interesting because it discusses not only our perception that extreme weather events are becoming more extreme/worse because of anthropogenic climate change, but also links that change to our economic and political systems. Ultimately the article inadvertently highlights our own power to make a difference: “In truth, what’s lacking in America’s approach to climate change is not the resources to act but the political will to do so.”. You don’t have to be an engineer or scientist to have a will, and exercise it.
The debate in the comments after the article offers an interesting/horrifying contrast to the piece itself.
‘Discovery: The Age We Made’
Audio: (also 17 minutes 30 seconds)
Available on iPlayer here.
Another BBC World Service programme, so also rather low-budget! But I found this to be a rather interesting discussion of the way our activities are actually changing the rocks that are being laid down now, and that these changes may be sufficient to produce a new geological age, the Anthropocene. 
And… just for fun, if you’ve got some free time and would like some more TV:
Human Planet: Surviving the Urban Jungle
Video: (58 minutes 13 seconds)
Available on iPlayer here.
This is an episode from one of the BBC’s hugely expensive documentary series. This one is an interesting look at our coexistence and conflict with the nature within our cities. It’s full of amazing footage, but it also encapsulates the way we as a people think about wildlife. Oh, and there’s a bit about the global market, food, consumption and waste too.  The first section is mostly conflict, and the second bit deals (ok, superficially) with sustainable cities and bringing urban populations into greater positive contact with nature.