I’ve been spending time in nature as part of the DP for about 18 weeks now, and it has been wonderful watching the seasons change and seeing the different behaviour of animals, the migrating birds and the blooming flowers and trees.
This week’s nature awareness exercise is about considering ecology, becoming aware of my relationship to nature and its interconnectedness on a much larger scale. So, The Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year gives a set of questions to answer. They’re quite long, so are below the cut:
1. Where does your trash go?
In my region (East Anglia), trash either goes to recycling, or else to a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant housed around 6 miles away to the north. According to the local council, “the MBT mechanically removes some items from the waste and then treats the rest in a huge composting hall. This breaks the waste down as much as possible, helping to reduce methane and carbon dioxide emissions it might release if it were simply landfilled.”.
2. Are there options for recycling that you’re making use of?
Recycling is compulsory in my local area. The council provide green bins for compostable garden and kitchen waste and blue bins for plastic, paper, tins and glass. The green waste is composted and used for local agriculture, and the blue bin goes to a sorting plant where the different materials are divided and sent to processors to turn into new items, such as recycled bottles, or else be re-used as aggregates in construction.
3. Are there steps you can take to reduce the amount of waste you create?
I already recycle up to 80% of my household waste, have a compost heap in the garden, and get my food shopping delivered without plastic bags where possible, as well as using hemp bags instead of plastic ones when I go to the local shop. I could possibly reduce my waste further by buying food from the local farmer’s market without packaging, but that is expensive and difficult since I don’t have a car to drive there in. I think I’m doing pretty good!
4. What happens to your waste water?
Most of my region’s water comes from boreholes drilled into the chalk strata underground, before being treated and sent to taps. Once it is used, waste water goes into the sewers and is pumped to one of over 1,000 water recycling plants throughout the wider region. There it is cleaned, filtered and treated to an Environmental Services Agency standard that makes it safe to drink and re-use.
5. What rivers are nearby? Do you have a connection to them? What sort of connection?
The local river is the River Cam, which flows to the north east and joins with the River Great Ouse, which then joins the North Sea in Norfolk. The river gives its name to the main city of the region, Cambridge. I have a long personal connection to the river, and walk by it most days to observe the moorhens, coots, ducks and geese as well as the occasional water vole and kingfisher. The river is crossed by many old bridges, one of which has a carving of “Father Cam” as a personified god of the river, depicted in the style of Poseidon. The river seems ancient and placid, a slow constant observer of the changing landscape.
6. Describe the basic climate of your area. Is it often wet and rainy, or dry and sunny? How has this affected the kinds of plants and animals in the area?
The climate of East Anglia is generally dry and mild for the UK. The region is amongst the driest in Britain, with some areas receiving less than 700mm of rain per year. Maximum temperatures can range from 5-10C (41-50F) in winter to 20-25C (68-77F) in summer. Minimum temperatures tend to be around -4 to -1C (24-30F) in winter and 7-12C (44-53F) in summer. Despite this, we still do get rather a lot of rainy days and summer can bring river floods. Plants that grow here tend to be hardy and resistant to drought, frost and floods. Animals are often either equally hardy (e.g. squirrels, badgers, foxes) or else migratory (Canada geese, swallows etc.).
7. What visible effects have humans had on the natural landscape around you?
Humans have been living in the region for thousands of years, and have completely changed what natural landscape there once was. The name of the region, East Anglia, comes from the Angles, a tribe that originated in Angeln, Germany, and settled here in around the 5th to 7th centuries CE, bringing with them Germanic Pagan culture and religion. The land is very flat, being mostly reclaimed Fenland which was drained in the 17th century for agriculture. What woodlands there are tend to be more recent plantings, often on private land. The region has several nature reserves, including preserved or re-flooded fens that provide homes for wading birds. Cities and towns have been built on the land for centuries, and continue to expand today.
8. Where do the winds usually come from? Are there different winds at different times of the year?
The prevailing wind throughout the year normally comes from the east or south-east, making East Anglia one of the first areas in the country to be hit. Due to its location and very flat landscape, the region can be very windy.
9. What major crops are grown in your region? Why are these particular crops grown here?
East Anglia is one of the major arable agricultural areas of the UK. About half the farmland is used for growing cereal crops such as wheat and barley, for both human and animal consumption. The rest of the land is divided between sugar beet, potatoes and pulses, all of which are climate-hardy crops that can grow well in the well-drained and often dry soil of the region.
10. Where does your power come from (i.e. nuclear, solar, coal, gas etc.)?
Power is generated by a variety of means, including coal-fired power stations, nuclear and renewables. A largescale project is currently underway to develop an offshore wind farm for the region. Due to mains power being mostly non-renewable at present, I try to limit power usage in the home wherever possible.