Edinburgh Gets Big Clean Up

Bethan Cleary

Clean Up Edinburgh strives to keep the capital’s streets clean. The project is a call for residents, businesses and community groups to improve attitudes and behaviours towards littering. Hoping to step up the campaign a notch this Friday, a spruce of litter hotspots will take place in various locations throughout Edinburgh.

The initiative supports the Clean Up Scotland Campaign, run by Keep Scotland Beautiful. Mark Bevan, the campaigns director for Keep Scotland Beautiful, detailed how detrimental this issue is to the well-being of Edinburgh residents, tourism and the economy.

Bevan said: “Littering is a problem throughout the whole of Scotland. In Edinburgh alone, we are spending £4,500 pounds every day on maintaining the cleanliness of the city. That money could be used more efficiently elsewhere. We’re hoping that these events will reduce litter. We believe that if others see people cleaning up litter, they will be more inclined to do the same thing.”

The campaign commissioned YouGov research, which showed that 70 percent of people living in the Lothians have seen litter dropped, either accidentally or on purpose in the past three months.

It is hoped that if this initiative is successful, the government funding of recycling and litter control can be used elsewhere more efficiently. Maintaining Scotland’s appearance is particularly important this year as the nation gears up for an exciting 2014. Alan Bannon, Communications Officer at The City of Edinburgh Council has overseen the operational side of the scheme. He explained how he hopes this scheme will not only clear the streets of Edinburgh’s litter, but improve upon tourism and bring communities together.

Bannon said: “Our campaign is all about changing behaviours, raising awareness and building a sense of community. The whole project is a build up to Sept 2014, when we take in the Common Wealth Games and the Ryder Cup, when the eyes of the world will be on our country. While these events are not taking place in Edinburgh, there will be a rise up in tourism in Scotland and we want to put on a show and make sure our country looks as good as possible.”

Those who are eager to change the face of Edinburgh are asked to sign a pledge, committing themselves to the task of banishing the litter menace for good. Councillor Lesley Hinds has continued to actively support the campaign.

Hinds said: “There are many cities in the world where people would never even consider dropping something in the street and that’s what we want here, to change people’s mindsets. With around 3,500 litter bins available in Edinburgh, there is no excuse. When litterbugs cannot be bothered taking responsibility for their own rubbish, everyone is affected. This is why we are asking as many people and businesses as possible to sign the Clean Up Edinburgh pledge.”

Litter issue escalates in the streets of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty Images

Litter issue escalates in the streets of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty Images

Cauldhall open cast mine plans are given the go-ahead

By Rachael Bell and Lisa Moir

Image source: M J Richardson

Cauldhall Moor
Credit: M J Richardson

Yesterday elected members agreed to approve an application from Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd for a huge opencast mine at Cauldhall Moor in Midlothian.

Durham-based company Hargreaves took control last year after the collapse of Scottish Coal. The mine will see 10 million tonnes of coal excavated over 10 years. The site will cover 500 acres of land. Restoration will be expected to take around two and a half years.

Councilor Owen Thompson, chair of the planning committee, said: “We are putting in strict conditions and have guarantees in place on the restoration of this land once mining has been completed. This will be a phased development, with each area mined and restored before the company moves onto the next area as the project progresses and that gives us some peace of mind over the future restoration of the site.”

The new mine is expected to directly employ 230 people with a further 114 people expected to be employed by related businesses. The economic benefit has been estimated at £475million.

Local residents have formed an opposition group called Stop Cauldhall Opencast.The protest group beleives the decision is a travesty to the Scottish and Local Planning Policy.

Alison Johnstone, a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee and Green MSP for Lothian, said: “The impacts on local communities from this proposal, such as noise, dust and heavy traffic, are completely unacceptable.

“Scotland has already failed its first two annual climate targets so more fossil fuel is the last thing we need, and we’ve seen landscapes across Scotland scarred by opencast being abandoned by companies that go bust.

“Hargreaves plan is contrary to the local plan and the council’s economical development strategy.”

Prior to the meeting yesterday the council received 293 complaints about the proposal and a petition of 500 names against the opening of the new mine.

Green belt campaigners challenge city council to tread carefully

 

Edinburgh City Council’s plans to build on the capital’s green spaces typify the modern day urban conflict between environment and development. The council’s recent Local Development Plan (LDP) sets out a range of proposals for the construction of new homes across much of the city’s green spaces between 2015 and 2025. Between 3750 and 5080 new homes are planned at sites across the capital – the bulk of which are located in Edinburgh’s west and southeast.

 

The LDP has stated that development should be focused on four key areas – the city centre; the waterfront regeneration area in the North; west Edinburgh; and southeast Edinburgh. The city’s fast-growing population has placed greater demand on housing – development is inevitable. But the issue is where this development takes place. Duncan Campbell, member of Edinburgh’s Green belt network, said: “If you are going to develop anyway on green belt, mitigation must be of the highest quality so that impacts on the setting of the rest of the green belt is preserved.

 

“City planners have a tremendous challenge which is emanating from the Scottish Government through national planning frameworks which place a primacy on growth, and the local authorities have to follow that instruction. If they don’t, there are penalties.”

Edinburgh’s planning convener, Ian Perry, recently stated “we expect the vast majority of the new homes to be built on existing and future brownfield sites, such as Leith or Granton. However, we still need to find some green field sites to meet the overall need for additional housing land.” But Mr Campbell says: “It is not beyond the wit of imaginative landscape design to use green space on brownfield sites, where you would be able to have low rise developments in those areas.”

 

Achieving the right balance is key – and if more can be done to incorporate future brownfield sites into council plans, then environmental groups will be more willing to compromise. The danger amid the scuffles is that if insufficient land is identified where development is acceptable then the Scottish Government will take it on instead. That would mean losing control at a local level on decisions about where housing should go. Mr Perry says: “it may be time to review the whole process and revisit the question of how we handle Edinburgh’s growth and protect its green spaces.”

The Panda Craze

The piteously extravagant and undeserved media and public hype over the breeding of Edinburgh Zoo’s two giant Pandas, Tian Tian and her prospective mate Yang Guang, is a cause for worry and concern. Especially at a time when we have witnessed a tragic blaze at Five Sister’s zoo in West Lothian killing a substantial number of reptiles and other animals including 11 meerkats. People seemed not too bothered by these events yet any news about Tian Tian and her oestrogen levels and we quickly turn to our screens. The BBC have now featured the sensationalised scrutiny of the panda breeding in their headlines alongside more justifiable stories, in terms of news values, like the capturing of the man suspected of being responsible for the Boston Bombings and the Earthquake in China killing more than 150 people.

Artificial insemination has been carried out on Tian Tian following a week when hormones showed she was approaching her 36-hour fertile period. In a desperate and almost forlorn attempt to get the Zoo’s most popular creatures breeding, it is telling of British Society’s very needless obsession with pandas. A grassroots campaigning animals charity, Scotland for Animals said the drive to breed Tian Tian is a a purely ‘financial and commercial’ project with the intention of ‘increasing visiting numbers to the zoo’. Scotland for Animals underwent a campaign to expose the ‘lies’ of Edinburgh Zoo who, they feel, hide the commercial implication of their actions behind a blanket emphasising ‘a conservation effort’.

Once entering the official website for the Zoo one can’t help but notice a special section dedicated to buying tickets to visit the Pandas, alongside a link to the  pandacam. Even when contacting the zoo the first thing they say is to visit the website if your inquiry is connected to visiting the giant pandas. Now it’s almost impossible to contact the Zoo unless it’s an emergency inquiry because of the melodramatic amount of international attention driven towards the sex life of these sexually uninterested, animals. You can’t get away from these black and white, bamboo-eating bears. When they first arrived in 2011, loaned by the Bifengxia Breeding Centre in China, massive cheering crowds gathered as they were driven to the gates, in a spectacle as exaggerated and pathetic as the opening of Krispy Kremes in February. The media flocked like a pack of birds to the airport desperately awaiting their arrival as if they didn’t have anything else important to report on. A costly, specially-refurbished VIP enclosure was created for these celebrities as they were taken down the ‘red carpet’ into the zoo’s grand entrance. Moreover, this move signifies a wider socio-economic, cultural and political deal between the Scottish and Chinese Governments, representing the culmination of five years of political and diplomatic negotiation at the highest level. Pandas are,therefore, not just animals but ambassadors to China,and symbols of international diplomacy at the greatest standard.

The question to ask is why this intensive publicity and hype? Perhaps it’s because pandas are an endangered species, a rare and valued Chinese national treasure, meaning complete and utter precedence over every other animal in the country. There are only 1,600 of them in the wild, and around 300 in captivity. we perhaps because they are simply endearing and pleasant to look at? If 158 million people like a video of a panda sneezing on Youtube then surely they safely tick the ‘cute’ box? A more plausible reason maybe that Edinburgh is home to the only two giant pandas in the UK, surely such a rarity on our Island will inevitably give way to mass appeal and attention? Or is it something more intricate and deeper, as Henry Nicholls, author of The Way of the Panda explains, it maybe  due to their almost baby-like features with their flat face, large eyes and clumsy nature.

The panda craze illustrates wider issues to do with journalism in today’s world. If there is such international and domestic fascination and excitement over the news of two pandas breeding does it qualify as important news? The acute distinction between ‘of the public interest’ and ‘in the public interest’ should be addressed. This story is quite clearly of the public interest but not in the interest of the public. In terms of generating mass political debate and changing the face and structure of countries for decades to come, the pandas are not in the same league as the conflict in Syria or the global financial recession for example.

However, as symbols of international relations, and subjects of mass tourism, marketing, merchandise and general (and genuine) adoration, these creatures will continue to attract special journalistic heed, News and the Zoo is a business, business is commercial and commercial is about selling. The Tian Tian and Yang Guang show is to go on for a while yet.

Interview with Scotland for Animals

Councillors pedalling fast to fight pollution

Gordon MacKenzie speaks to Spokes supporters at the 2012 local election hustings.

It’s campaign time  and on May the 3rd  voters will  choose the future of the city transport. 

 Transport had been in the spotlight in recent years due to the troubled tram project.  Now Edinburgh faces another challenge with European Union strict standards on air pollution.  The Green party have highlighted the deadline for the city to reach acceptable air pollution levels by 2015.  If the council do not meet these targets the taxpayer will face a heavy financial penalty.  

Spokes is an Edinburgh charity organisation that focuses on bicycle transport but also green issues.  A hustings was held on Thursday  29th  March to question the councillors responsible for this important issue.

Tian Tian the panda is in the mood for love

Image supplied by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Tian Tian the panda, also known as Sweetie, may be ready to mate with Yang Guang as early as next week on Tuesday 3rd or Wednesday 4th April.

Edinburgh Zoo and their team of experts have identified an increase in Tian Tian’s oestrogen and a decrease in her progesterone. Female pandas only ovulate once a year, and there is only a 36 hour period in which a female panda can fall pregnant. The two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo will be introduced to each other on Tuesday for 15 minutes at at time. They will probably be put together three times on the first date of Tian Tian being in oestrus. If natural mating does not occur on the first day of oestrus, the zoo may consider the option of artificial insemination.

However, expert keepers will be keeping an eye on the two, as pandas often tend to fight after mating or instead of mating.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Zoo said has said: “We understand that the whole country is in a state of heightened anticipation, but whatever the outcome of next week, we as animal conervationists and scientists have learnt a huge amount in such a short time about this captivating species. We are just delighted to be playing our part in the essential long term worldwide panda breeding programme.”

Image supplied by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Panda Mating Facts:

 Panda mating season is from March to May.

A female panda may be in heat from two to seven days.

Pandas reach reproductive maturity at the age of seven years which lasts until they are 20 years old.

A female panda attracts a mate by rubbing against trees and urinating which leaves a scent which grabs the attention of male pandas, as well as by bleating calls.

The male panda leaves the female panda after mating and has nothing to do with the raising of the cub.

Pandas can have between one to two cubs at a time, but because newborn pandas require a high amount of care the mother will usually reject one of the cubs.

Edinburgh Castle will ‘go dark’ for Earth Hour

Last year, Edinburgh Castle went dark for Earth Hour 2011. This year, the Castle we be dark again for another hour, to combat global warming.

This Saturday, Edinburgh will go dark.

In conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour 2012, Edinburgh will join hundreds of cities from all over the world by switching off lights and electricity, and going dark, for an hour.

Earth Hour is scheduled on the last Saturday of every March, closely coinciding with the equinox,  and will happen this Saturday, March 31st at 8:30 pm.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, and since then has spread massively across the globe. In 2011, more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour, according to the WWF website.

Their website also stated “We’re delighted that all 32 local authorities in Scotland are participating again this year – promoting the event, arranging switch offs and organizing events.”

There will be a great number of monuments in Scotland that will join in going dark, including the Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament, Urqhuart Castle, and Scott Monument are just a few that will celebrate Earth Hour.

According to Mandy Carter of WWF Scotland, local authorities are working to promote Earth Hour to local communities, some by having switch off events and fundraisers. But they are using the trickle down affect to help spread the word.

Here in Edinburgh, the City Council has launched an Earth Hour photography competition that is running from 5th March to 13th April with the theme, ‘ What we’re doing about climate change’ to help promote Earth Hour.

To find out more about Earth Hour, or how you can get involved at the WWF Scotland website or at the WWF Website.

Local residents campaign to preserve Craighouse grounds

by Boyana Atanasova

Local community group Friends of Craighouse Grounds & Woods have raised concerns on the future of the green fields and woodland surrounding Craighouse in Morningside, Edinburgh.

They oppose plans by the new owners, which include constructing 3-storey housing across the orchard, with 3 to 4-storey blocks dotted about the site, and a very substantial new-build development across a large area of Open Green Space and mature woodland.

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None of these proposals were previously mentioned by the developers in their recent public consultation exhibition.

Friends of Craighouse have created an online petition to show “how much people care about this incredible site and how much they value this important green space and woodland where kids play, people walk, run, enjoy the spectacular views, walk their dogs, watch the fireworks, and catch a glimpse of some of the local wildlife.

Read more about the campaign on Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood‘s website.

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Tea grown in panda poo most expensive worldwide

Green tea grown solely in panda excrement will command high prices worldwide.  An entrepreneur in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu plans to charge up to £2,000 per 500 grams for his product, which he claims says will make it the world’s “most expensive tea.”

An Yanshi says he chose to grow tea in panda poo after learning of its high nutritional value. “The digestive and absorption abilities of the panda are not good. . .They are like a machine that is churning out organic fertilizer. Also, they absorb less than 30 percent of the nutrition from the food and that means more than 70 percent of the nutrients are passed out in their faeces,” he said.

Because pandas only eat wild vegetation, An also claims tea grown from panda feces is truly organic.

He also says using his unique fertilizer eliminates environmental damages caused by chemical fertilizer. He hopes to promote use of animal dung by other farmers throughout China.

Some locals have expressed cynicism at An’s high prices. “It’s sold at such a sky-high price, perhaps this is just hype. I don’t think the most expensive tea in the country is sold at such a price” said 49-year-old Li Ximing.

An defended his decision to charge high prices for his tea, saying that a portion of his profits would be set up a fund used to support environmental projects.

Council ‘underhand’ with removal of trees

 

Council contractors have cut down five trees along the Water of Leith, despite earlier promises they would be protected.

One of the trees at risk of removal along the Water of Leith
Image: Alexandra Wingate

Stop the Chop campaigners were informed of the reversal on Thursday, with three trees removed within 24 hours. The two remaining trees were cut down earlier today.

Stop the Chop’s anonymous petition organiser said that local residents had been given “no time to respond to this Council U-turn”, adding that “the Council have acted with a lack of transparency and in a cynical, underhand manner”.

The Water of Leith Flood Prevention Scheme has seen numerous trees removed along the river between Stockbridge and Warriston Crescent in recent months, prompting a petition signed by 1,159 people to save the trees on the Canonmills stretch of the river.

In December 2011, Dave Anderson, director of city development, confirmed that the five trees in question could “be saved without any negative impact on the flood works programme”.

However, this government-backed decision was overturned by Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, convenor of the council’s Transport, Infrastructure and Environment Committee, after the trees’ removal was deemed necessary to “provide a safe access for the construction team”.

All of the trees along Warriston Crescent have already been removed
Image: Alexandra Wingate

Scotland climate change warning

Scotland is at increasing risk from climate change,
a new report published today claims.

The report, entitled, ‘How well is Scotland preparing for climate change’, argues that there will be both benefits to Scotland, and risks. It urges the Scottish government to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Some of the benefits of a warmer climate detailed in the report include: fewer winter deaths, lower demand for heating, new opportunities for tourism, and increased agricultural capacity.

At the same time, the report details a range of risks. Flooding is a risk for densely populated urban regions, while Scotland’s disparate rural community is more likely to struggle with extreme weather, if transport links and essential services are disrupted. Scotland’s population profile is increasingly ageing, and the elderly, together with groups already vulnerable to health problems in deprived communities, are both identified as less adaptable to extreme weather.

Stan Blackley, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “With the UN climate talks starting in Durban next week, this is a timely report. At those talks, we need all of the countries in attendance to commit to serious action to reduce carbon emissions and support those who are being worst affected by the impacts of climate change.

“While we already know the devastating effects climate change is having and will increasingly have on developing countries, this report shows that climate change will also impact negatively on Scotland, and that we need to both prepare for it and mitigate against it.”

Potential economic and ecological impacts are also identified by the report. One aspect singled out for particular attention is the potential loss of peat from Scotland’s sensitive peatlands. As well as providing an important ecological environment, peatlands form a significant carbon store, the report contends.

The Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change, who produced the report, make a number of recommendations to the Scottish government. These include setting specific ‘adaptation outcomes’ which seek to address potential consequences from climate change. They urge greater uptake of ‘low-regret adaptation actions’, the integration of adaptation thinking into policy and decision-making, and effective collaboration with the UK national adaptation programme.

Green spaces can improve your quality of life

As the Woodland Trust says: "life is better with trees." Photo: Sunny Johnson

Plant a tree, save a life.

That’s the idea behind the Green Gym charity. With the help of the Dunfermline and West Fife Community Health Partnership, they aim to improve the lives of patients at Lynebank Hospital by planting trees.

The Green Gym charity encourages communities to work together to enhance their local areas by creating a green space. The aim of the scheme is to create a garden area at the hospital to promote positive health and wellbeing among patients, staff and visitors.

The charity running the Green gym claim a daily walk in a park can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes by 50%, cut breast cancer by 30% and Alzheimer’s by 25%.

They received a free 240-tree pack from the Woodland Trust. The environmental organisation has received over 1,000 community packs resulting in more than 200,000 native trees being planted all over the UK.

The Woodland Trust is supporting this project as it coincides with its main aims “we want to see no further loss of woodland and the creation of new native woodland.”

But the community packs are part of a bigger project. The Jubilee Woods scheme has a target of planting six million trees by the end of 2012.  It is one of a few projects in the UK that carry’s official Royal approval, with HRH the Princess Royal as its patron.

The charity’s aim is to raise awareness of the importance of parks. Over 33 million people in the UK choose to use their green spaces. Statistics show that the more often a person visits open green spaces the less often he or she will report stress related illnesses.

The Woodland Trust and Green Gym feel it is important to encourage people to take part in creating green spaces. This is because the local authorities are not legally required to provide, invest or maintain public parks and green spaces.

The Green Gym project will run for ten weeks in total with volunteers coming every Tuesday from 10am – 1pm. The initial five week period will finish on Tuesday 6th December. But it will pick up again on Tuesday 17th January until Tuesday 14th February.

The marketing and communications manager for Love Parks Week states “the Love Parks week is definitely the biggest public campaign”.

Edinburgh Zoo prepares for panda-monium

by Pamela Paterson

Tian Tian, Edinburgh's future female panda.

Edinburgh Zoo is gearing up for the arrival of two Giant Pandas
that are being sent from China for a 10 year stay in Scotland.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are currently in quarantine in China preparing for their 5000 mile journey to Scotland, where they will stay in a purpose-built enclosure in the zoo. It is hoped the pair will breed, helping to conserve the species which is in rapid decline. Pandas are notorious for their unwillingness to reproduce. Their future keeper Alison Maclean, who has just visited the pandas in China, believes that they will let her know if and when they are ready to take the plunge. She said, “Although they’ve both bred before, our two pandas haven’t met yet, so I’m looking forward to introducing them when the time is right.”

She added, “The conservational implications of this 10 year project are huge. It’s about working together globally to conserve this iconic species and contributing to the breeding programme.”

According to Ms Maclean, the Scottish climate is perfect for pandas, as they prefer cool, damp environments and do not like excessively hot weather. She said, “I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how they react to snow – they’re supposed to love it and are well used to it in the area of China they are from.”

The date has not yet been fixed for the panda’s arrival. The zoo is paying up to £600,000 a year for the privilege of keeping the pandas, not including the bill for the endless supply of bamboo needed to feed them. The zoo plans to grow a small amount of bamboo themselves (around 15%) and import the rest from a German supplier. Pandas eat up to 20, three-metre, bamboo stems every day.

The excitement is slowly building as the Scottish public awaits the special arrivals, whose enclosure includes bullet proof glass and a ‘love tunnel’. Ms Maclean, who has spent the past three weeks getting to know Tian Tian and Yang Guang, believes visitors will immediately fall in love with the pair. She says, “They’re actually enchanting – from how they sit down, to how they hold things, how they eat and how they take everything in around them. I think when people actually see them they will be mesmerised.”

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