The five year term of the current European Commission officially draws to a close on the 31st October 2014. As the EU policy cycle renews with the influx of new Commissioners, it is a good time to take stock, review the progress that has been made, and think about the challenges ahead. The EU has a strong history of promoting environmental protection and has the potential to be a political space for the development of progressive environmental policy which is underpinned by sound science.
As a life-long naturalist with nearly three decades running an ecological consultancy, I find myself reaching boiling point over biodiversity offsetting, and simultaneously becoming sad because our native wildlife desperately needs all the help it can get. Every site’s ecology is particular to its specific location: you may be able to consider compensation for destroying it but it will never truly be “like-for-like” so you can’t “offset” it. Perhaps a better word than offsetting would be "compensation" and with an emphasis that this does not equal "equivalence".
George Monbiot’s recent attack on biodiversity offsetting misses the point of the scheme and undermines the work of the scientists who developed it. It is not the principle of placing a value on what nature does for us that is the problem; it is the recent interpretation of value that is at fault.
I work for a local authority and have spent several years encouraging reluctant residents to recycle. More recently I have been working with the Environment Protection team within the council to help local industries avoid releasing dust and chemical pollutants into the air. However, at heart I am an "old-school" environmentalist who wants to help save the planet, so while I acknowledge my professional work is worthwhile, it annoys me that I cannot work on projects which directly mitigate climate change or promote renewable energy and sustainable development.
As part of the IES' commitment to creating original, though-provoking content, research and commentary relevant to the environmental science sector, we have launched a new Analysis section of the website. This new platform is aimed at members and other interested readers and will help them discover in-depth explorations of topics relevant to science and the environment, professional skills and current sector thinking.
The Analysis section will carry the following types of content:
Urban development and regeneration in the UK commonly favours geographically defined and marketable projects over more dispersed investment throughout a city’s local high streets. The creation of new, branded urban centres (for shopping, recreation and premium residential) may be regarded by investors and planning officers as more economically and politically effective in ‘enlivening’ a city’s economy.
“161 micrograms of ozone per meter cubed of air as an eight hour rolling mean”.
Behaviour change interventions have so far had surprisingly limited success in motivating wider society into taking positive environmental actions. Despite constant bombardment of messages regarding melting ice caps, drowning polar bears and exceptional droughts, a significant majority of the population still do little more than put the recycling out and buy Fairtrade bananas from their local supermarket.
Urban areas have become a place of growing focus for the mitigation of climate change, and cities all over the world are increasingly engaging and acting where nations are failing to. As complex systems and places of concentrated consumption, urban areas are acknowledged to have a significant environmental impacts and therefore responsibility in providing solutions. Their low carbon potential and ‘win-wins’ for the environment and society are increasingly recognised. However, in reality it appears that despite good intentions a gap between rhetoric and action persists.
The current Zeitgeist of sustainability has pushed the role of the ‘ethical designer’ into the forefront of industry. Design is about improving the life of the end user. The decisions we make in the early stages of the design process will affect the way people interact with the world around them, so responsibility for making ethical decisions as this stage is paramount.