Monday, September 10, 2007

Children need real: play, food, experiences, interactions & time

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We are letting children down very badly in the UK. I’ve written about the importance of understanding children and childhood, boosting outdoors education for children, the effects of air pollution and transport policies on childhood health, the rights of young people to gather in Bristol’s green spaces, and involving and empowering children and their parents within their schools, on this blog (click the label young people). Many other posts relate directly to child wellbeing, such as those on road safety, organic food, loss of community facilities like swimming pools and safeguarding the environment eg open/green spaces on into the future.

It wont surprise readers then that I fully back the letter ‘Let our children play’ sent to todays Daily Telegraph, not just because I’m a green but also because I’m a father and a teacher who worked with kids in secondary schools/colleges for over fifteen yrs.

The list of 300 expert signatories to the letter
is even more impressive and weighty than the 100 or so on a similar letter to the Telegraph in Sept 2006 (see blog entry of Feb 22, 2007).

The BBC headline when reporting this 'No outdoor play 'hurts children'...' is very appropriate. Children need: real play; real food; real first hand experiences of the world; real quality interaction with adults; and real time.

What does it take to convince some people about the need for road safety cameras?

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Bob Bull’s letter in todays Bristol Evening Post criticising the Green Party (‘Driver education is what is needed’, Open Lines, 10 Sept) for being very strongly in favour of speed/road safety cameras misses the point on several crucially important grounds as well as being plain wrong that cameras ‘…in no way contribute to safer roads or better driving.’. The national pilot scheme on safety cameras showed a 35% average reduction in casualties where cameras had been placed. The pilot also showed an average 56% reduction in the number of pedestrians being killed or seriously injured at safety camera sites. http://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/dcsc/public/speed/index.htm

Bob talks about cameras in relation to accidents but completely fails to mention that speeding not only increases the likelihood of accidents but also of deaths and serious injuries in the event of accidents. Take the 30 mph limit – the police point out that in an accident at 20mph 90% of pedestrians survive, at 30mph 50% survive but when breaking the limit at 40mph 90% die. So Bob, more speed, more death. http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/campaigns/slowdown/slowdown.htm

He also misses the point that its not just the ‘..road safety groups and the Green Party…’ that have, in his terms, ‘…naively supported the speed kills campaign..’ but also our police force, local councils and central government. Are we all na├»ve? Bob seems to forget why a speed camera can appear in a place – local community concern, evidence of breaking the law by speeding, and a history of road collisions. So Bob, despite the vocal minority against cameras, many people do actually want them and campaign for them! http://www.transport2000.org.uk/activistbriefings/SpeedandRoadSafety.htm

No-one is against the driver education and better traffic policing he calls for but we need these things along with cameras to increase road safety and the quality of life. Finally, its notable that Bob, along with others who have written to oppose safety cameras, did not condemn the illegal destruction of them by extremely anti-social people.

My household ecological footprint (approx!)

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My three person household’s ecological footprint is between 1.82 – 2.90 global hectares (comparable national average = 5.3 according to direct.gov) and carbon footprint between 4.20 and 7.64 tonnes per yr (10.22 = national average), according to various rough estimation methods available online (details below). Not bad at all given that the lowest figure I could find was 2.56 global hectares for the Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland (though note that since the methodologies and degrees of accuracy vary any comparison should be very cautious). See WWF and Wikpedia for decent background on fooprinting issues.

For various reasons I am putting together a more accurate and detailed household/personal footprint document, (with results put into context via use of a consistent method) and will make it available through a link on this site soon. By far the biggest footprints are found in the northern hemisphere and especially in the west – strikingly illustrated by this map, which expands/contracts a country’s land area according to footprint. The planet entered ecological debt in the 1980’s.

There’s an awful lot of talk theses days about our footprint, usually ‘carbon footprint’ (tonnes of carbon emitted per yr) and sometimes ecological or environmental footprint (land area needed to sustain a lifestyle) as a measure of human impact on our planet. I spend a lot of time with my environmental science and technology students discussing and calculating footprints eg using the Ecocal computer model developed by Best Foot Forward Ltd following the work of Chambers, Simmons, and Wackernagel (reported in the book Sharing Nature’s Interest for instance).

Having spent the last seven years annually measuring my own ecological footprint when my students were doing theirs I recently took an interest in the carbon footprint application available through Facebook, curious to see how the rough estimate compared with the more detailed calculations I’d been doing at work.

http://apps.facebook.com/hotonearth/ - ‘carbon footprint’ application available through Facebook gave an estimated figure of 4.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per yr for my 3 person household (1.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per yr).

This figure seemed a bit low (my own estimate is 5 tonnes, or 1.7 tonnes per person per yr – about half the national average of 10.22 tonnes given on the direct.gov website), so I decided to trawl around online, trying out some of the many sites available for both carbon and ecological footprint estimation.

http://www.bestfootforward.com/footprintlife.htm - rough estimate of annual eco- footprint = 2.9 global hectares (4.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per yr) ie 0.97 hectares per person (1.57 tonnes carbon dioxide per person).

http://www.earthday.net/footprint/info.asp - 2.8 global hectares (compared to a national average of 5.3).

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/kids_new/519308/572107?version=1 - 2.21 hectares (needing 1 x UK – great since we do only have one!!).

http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/ - 1.82 hectares – below the UK average, according to this site - (6.62 tonnes of carbon).

http://actonco2.direct.gov.uk/index.html - 7.64 tonnes of carbon dioxide (10.22 national average).