Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Bee & Butterfly Bonanza!

                                                                Media Release
                                                             Date:  19 April 2016

                                                       28 May 2016   
                             Bee & Butterfly Bonanza
                                     Park Walk    Shaftesbury    Dorset
                                                        10am - 4pm

                                                      Bees stand for Nature
            by helping them, all wildlife will benefit and so will we.

Native wild bees and butterflies are declining in numbers and need our help.

In Shaftesbury we are creating bee-friendly gardens and open spaces, as well as giving talks and providing information about the life cycles of these fascinating insects and how to meet their needs.

Our 'Bee & Butterfly Bonanza' will be the first of many events to draw attention to the vital work of our pollinating insects.  

There will be stalls, talks, bee-loving plants, games, quizzes, seed-planting, guided bee walks, a bee map, yoga, local beekeepers, refreshments and activities for all ages.

Talks include ‘Bumblebees' & 'Bee Decline’ (Brigit Strawbridge)  ‘Wildlife Gardening’ (Briony Baxter, Dorset Wildlife Trust) and  ‘Natural Beekeeping’ (Robert Howard).

This event is organised by ‘Bee Friendly Shaftesbury’ and Dorset Wildlife Trust and is supported by Shaftesbury Abbey - whose beautiful herb garden will be open to visitors during the day for a suggested donation of £1.

"The highlight of the day", says Brigit Strawbridge,  "will be THE POLLINATOR PARADE at 2pm, led by local primary school children. We want to celebrate the colour and diversity of our beautiful pollinators, so whether you are a child or a grown up, do please come along dressed as your favourite pollinator (bee, butterfly, beetle, bat)  and bring a musical instrument if you have one. We’d like to create a big BUZZ!"

As well as planting nectar and pollen rich flowers - and creating/conserving habitat - Shaftesbury have taken an extra step to help protect pollinators. On 23rd February this year, to help make the town a safer and healthier place for people and wildlife alike,  Shaftesbury Town Council voted to have a complete ban on the use of the herbicide Glyphosate on their land in sensitive areas for wildlife, where children play, where dogs are walked, and in important locations for tourists. Please contact Councillor Karen Tippins for further information  Karentippins@shaftesburytowncouncil.co.uk

Shaftesbury is only the second town in the UK to ban Glyphosate. Glastonbury Town Council voted to ban it in June 2015 following the World Health Organisation's finding that it is a "probable" human carcinogen  as well as being harmful to honey bees and two species of earthworms. Glastonbury is instead using 'Foamstream', a hot-foam herbicide-free form of weed control, made by Weedingtech. 

For further information about the Bee & Butterfly Bonanza, please contact Briony Baxter, Community Conservation Officer, Dorset Wildlife Trust bbaxter@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk

Bees and other pollinators are declining in number, species and range. "Of the 26 bumble bee species recorded in the UK 80 years ago, 2 are no longer present and another 6 are found in a much smaller area of the country". National Pollinator Strategy

 Butterflies: "The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 report provides "further evidence of the serious, long-term and ongoing decline of UK butterflies, with 70% of species declining in occurrence.... and 57% declining in abundance…. since 1976". Butterfly Conservation.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Dear UK Government.....

I have read your National Pollinator Strategy and although it shows forward thinking and understanding in some areas, I find it lacking in others. You are simply not doing enough to help bees and other pollinating insects and it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand why, given the enormous importance and significance of bee decline, you don't do more.

You talk about 'needing to do more research' before you will consider implementing a proper ban on neonicotinoids. You search in vain for new evidence, apparently desperate to find something to support your hope that these pesticides are NOT harming bees, whilst in the mean time, evidence that neonics do harm bees (as well as other invertebrates and wildlife) continues to stack up... and bees continue to decline in numbers and species.

Whatever happened to the precautionary principle? Or common sense? It does not take a rocket scientist to see the connection between neonicotinoid pesticides and bee decline and no amount of 'further research' is going to change the fact that these highly dangerous neuro-toxins, which are now saturating our agricultural landscape and waterways, are doing far more harm than good.

Why do you ignore existing research that shows clearly how damaging neonicotinoids are to bees? Why do you accept such inadequate research from the pesticides industry when you authorise these pesticides in the first place? Where is the research to discover how long these toxins stay in the soil? What is being done to discover the impact they are having on our aquatic invertebrates? And why are you not monitoring pollinator populations more closely....if at all?

There are so many wonderful organisations and individuals in the UK working their socks off to help our beleaguered pollinators who are already suffering the consequences of habitat loss, climate change, disease and parasites. They need your help and support.  I can only conclude that you are more interested in saving the pesticides industry than you are in saving bees. Nothing else comes close to explaining your stance on this issue. You are playing russian roulette with our pollinators.

Yours sincerely, Brigit Strawbridge

N.B. To anyone reading this blog post: the above is just my own personal view based on what I read, hear and see. I try to keep an open mind and always search for good, for common sense and for reason. I can find none of these in the UK's stance on neonicotinoids.

Others, with a greater understanding of science and politics are better able to convey the shortfalls in the National Pollinator Strategy. Please read the Bee Coalition's report  Policies for Pollinators to gain a clearer understanding of what I am writing about.

Please also read this article by Sandra Bell (Friends of the Earth) - Government must do more to protect our bees 

And check out the work being done by Buglife and Pesticide Action Network

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Dear Human Friend...can you hear me?

The natural world is reaching out to us, trying to tell us that something is terribly wrong. Birds, bees, butterflies, fish, amphibians, wildflowers, trees; all are disappearing in some shape or form, unable to compete with (or withstand) the onslaught of human 'progress' and 'economic growth'.  Species are declining in both numbers and range at an alarming rate as they struggle to survive on a planet that is gradually being taken over and poisoned species by species... flower by flower... tree by tree... river by river... and ocean by ocean.

Once these species have gone, they will be gone forever, and with their passing we will lose the sights, sounds and smells of the seasons we take so much for granted. What will mark the passing of the seasons if not the snowdrop, primrose, catkin, bluebell, swallow, and autumn leaves? What will replace the innate joy and elation we feel when we hear our first cuckoo or chiffchaff of the year, the distant sound of a woodpecker hollowing out it's nest, the dawn chorus or the gentle buzzing of bees? And in places where there are no longer trees or wildflowers, what will replace the rustling of the leaves in the wind and the smell of wild honeysuckle in the hedgerows? Or the hedgerows themselves for that matter?

If you are of a like mind you will grieve for these losses. Perhaps you are grieving already. I am. But I still have hope; hope in the Great Turning, hope that all is not lost and hope that more people will begin (are beginning) to realise that we are inextricably connected to these wild things and that without them we are not and cannot be 'whole'.

I hope for change, for new realisations, for connections and reconnections... and for a deeper understanding and respect for that which sustains and nurtures us. Most of all I hope that more people will begin to open their eyes and their ears... to allow their senses to fill with the sounds, sights, smells and sensations that abound in the natural world.

It's never too late to fall back in love with the natural world and be filled to the brim with wonderment. All you need to do is take a little time out to be still. And listen. And hear. And watch. And see.......

And if we fall back in love with the wild things, we will not harm them, for we cannot harm that which we love

Monday, 28 September 2015

Today The Earth Smiles in Flowers

Today is a day to celebrate; a day to embrace the change that is bubbling up from deep within the heart of the earth and the depths of our hearts and souls; a day full of love and magic and connections; a day to hug your friends; a day to know that all WILL be well; a (blood red) moon day; a flower planting day; a day full of the most amazing and unexpected surprises; a GOOD NEWS day; a day to wake up and climb to the top of the highest mountain (or stand on a chair if you live somewhere flat) so you can ROAAAAAAR with joy for all that is sacred and precious to you; a day to be outside in the sunshine, or wind, or rain…... and a day to make Nature Mandalas.

Today, The Earth Smiles in Flowers x

Read more here…….

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

If I could be a 'dream'….

I wish I could be a dream. If I could, I would visit our misguided leaders, policy makers and those who run the banks and multinational corporations, in their sleep. I would fill their troubled heads with images, sounds and smells of meadows and verges full of wild flowers, butterflies, crickets and bees; sunshine, rain and clouds; breezes and howling winds, muddy puddles, brooks, rivers, and oceans; dandelion clocks and daisy chains; ancient woodlands and wild forests; home made bread, cake and compost; freshly picked runner beans and tomatoes that have been grown outside and pollinated by local native bumblebees; healthy soil; rainbow coloured mosses and pale green lichen; song birds and slow worms; and lots and lots of glow worms; mountain tops and mole hills; Sunday afternoon walks and family get togethers from the days before shops were open every day of the week and Sundays truly were a day of rest; people playing music in local parks without a licence; pine martins, beavers, wolves and otters; raindrops caught in spiders webs; full moons and starlit skies; the feel of walking bare foot on wet grass; laughter; abundance for everyone; deliciously crispy but misshapen apples; fresh, unpolluted air and fresh, unpolluted (free) water; hedgerows brimming with life; more bees, butterflies, moths and crickets; and with so many more good, healthy, natural, magical, enchanting and beautiful things….. that they would fall head-over-heels in love with this amazing planet we live on. Then, they would wake up (in more than just one sense) and change their destructive elitist policies, decisions, rules and regulations to reflect their new found 'earth, people and wildlife friendly' views. Then, all would be well.

If I can't make this wish come true, I will plant more flowers for bees in the Queen Mother's Garden in Shaftesbury this weekend instead :-)

Wishing and hoping that peace, love, light and good old fashioned common sense will prevail x

Friday, 24 July 2015

Why I'm Not Burying My Head In A Harebell!

I write and talk a great deal about bees: their importance as pollinators; their beauty; the wonderful relationship they have with flowering plants; the differences between the species; the reasons for their decline; and how we can help them survive. I also write and talk a lot about neonicotinoid pesticides.

Despite how it may appear, these issues are neither insular nor as 'bee-centric' as they may seem. In fact, they encompass FAR more than the bee/pesticide issues I write and talk about…..

1. If we get it wrong for bees, it follows that we are getting it wrong for ALL life on earth.

2. At the same time as the UK government ignore and bury scientific advice, as well as ignoring public outcry about the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees….they simultaneously ignore and bury information on myriad other issues.

3. Pesticides don't just harm bees. They harm other wildlife and, of course, human beings.

4. Habitat loss does not just affect bees. It is also affecting all other wildlife & causing loss of biodiversity on a catastrophic scale.

5. If we continue to lose bee populations/species we will continue to lose the plants that rely upon them for pollination. This will, in turn bring about the loss of wild flowers, farmland birds, small mammals & the collapse of entire eco-systems.

6. Whilst multinational agrochemical corporations like Bayer & Syngenta are manufacturing toxic chemicals like the neonicotinoids that are contributing to bee decline…… other equally powerful corporations like Monsanto, Dupont, BASF and Dow Chemical area manufacturing equally toxic and damaging substances.

7. Learning to fall in love with bees is just one of the many ways we can re-establish our relationship and disconnection with the wonderful world around us.

8. Climate change is already causing noticeable problems for bees…..but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

9. Disease & infection in bee populations (honeybees & wild bees) is a symptom of what is happening on a wider scale with birds, bats, amphibians, human beings…etc. etc.

So…... planting flowers for pollinators, getting to know and recognise the bees and other insects in your garden, not using pesticides, signing petitions asking our government to listen to our views on the neonicotinoid issue……..these are all part of a FAR bigger picture. My posts may appear to be focussed on just one single issue, but choosing to concentrate on raising awareness of this single issue (bee decline) doesn't mean i am not concerned about other issues, or that I am burying my head in a harebell.
Everything is interconnected!!!
Vive les abeilles!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Putting a price tag on 'natural resources' is not a solution; it just creates more problems

I'm so tired of hearing about the importance of 'economic growth' and I despair of humanity if we've reached the stage where wildlife is only conserved for its monetary value.  The same goes for water, air and soil quality. Every time I hear references these days to the natural world and its importance to us (the human race), the commentary is dotted with phrases like 'natural resources', 'ecosystem services', 'pollinator services', 'natural capital' etc etc. Phrases such as these make me wince. I've tried to understand them and to get along with them, but I simply can't.

As far as I can see we've already done plenty of economic 'growing' but I see no evidence whatsoever that it is making us any happier, or healthier….nor is it helping those who are most in need.  It just seems to be stripping us of the last vestiges of the connection we once had with the natural world. How on earth can you have an intimate, loving and interconnected relationship with something you have to put a price tag on?!

Economic growth seems to be about putting price tags on just about everything that moves; whether it has six legs and two pairs of wings, is composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, or lives next door and is willing to look after your small child or your elderly mother whilst you go into hospital for an operation. It's called monetisation and over the last few decades it seems to have insidiously crept its way into every area of our lives.

Surely the clue to how we should function as a species is in how we feel and see things as children? i.e our natural state of being. We are born with an innate connection to Planet Earth, a connection that (if it is nurtured) fills us with love and concern for our fellow creatures, but this connection is systematically drummed out of us when we go to school, if not before, and is mostly replaced with a very human-centric 'what can it do for me' view of the world.

Whatever happened to us caring for something and wanting to conserve it simply for the love of life? What, I wonder, has happened to the human race that we are now so disconnected from the land, from our natural surroundings, from our communities and from our own inner selves…. that we have all but forgotten who we are….?

There are of course many people who still have, or have recently re-discovered, their intimate connection with the natural world; people who hold all life sacred and who do what they can to conserve and preserve life for its own sake rather than for what is is worth in monetary terms. But these people are still few and far between.

I battle with the fact that to inspire (most) businesses, councils etc., and (some) individuals to sit up and take notice of the importance of 'bee decline', it is not sufficient to introduce them to the wonderful, enchanting and enthralling world of these incredible beings, but it is also necessary to focus on the human-centric aspect of halting bee decline. Most people need, at the very least, to understand bees importance as pollinators in the human food chain in order that they will take their decline more seriously.  Surely bee decline, or the decline of any other species impacted upon by the human race for that matter, should be a serious issue in its own right?

When I deliver talks to individuals, groups and societies I always feel extremely touched and encouraged when I witness the sadness and the raw humanity in people as they begin to understand exactly how toxic pesticides like neonicotinoids are to bees… and exactly how much habitat has been lost to modern agricultural practices and urban sprawl… not to mention the undiluted shock they express when they hear how bumblebees are bred in their thousands to 'service' commercial tomato crops, and then frozen, drowned or burned to death after the pollinating is done.

Whether or not any of what I say has a lasting impact on the way people make their choices I don't know.

There are many reasons used to justify the ongoing shift towards putting a monetary value on the natural world, and we are all entitled to think/believe what we wish, but none of them sit well with me…. despite the crazy irony that governments are paying huge attention to bee decline simply because of their so called 'value to the economy'. Lucky bees. Not so lucky if you are an insect with less (known) value to the economy though, for you are ultimately dispensable.

My own belief is that if we are to save what is left of the incredible diversity of species we share this planet with, nothing short of a complete Sea-change in our collective psyche is needed. Putting a price on wildlife, clean water and air, or healthy 'living' soil is not the solution. It just creates more problems and disconnects us further from all that is sacred. 

If only we would all spend a little time each day (or even each week) simply sitting quietly on the grass, beside a stream, on a beach, in a garden, in a park, amongst some rocks, underneath a tree (or even better, in a tree!)…. and just listen, breath, observe, watch, notice, absorb…….. connect. If we were all to do this we might collectively begin to experience once again that unadulterated wonderment, enchantment and love we felt when we were children. And we cannot hurt that which we love.

Brigit x

P.S…..when did a bee last send you an invoice?