Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - September 2007

Editorial September 2007


The production plan for this issue is that it is with the printer while Shirley and I are enjoying our second holiday on the island of San Pietro off the coast of Sardinia. The island is small and has only one major settlement which gives it the alternative name of Carloforte and is the home of the LIPU reserve of that name.

We are going back for two reasons, one is the excellent food and hospitality we enjoyed at the Hotel Paola just out of town and the other is to give me a better chance of photographing the Eleonora's Falcons than I had when we visited last, in June of last year.

The falcon has an interesting and unusual life style but that is nothing compared to its grace in the air, it is so swift and agile in flight that I find it almost impossible to photograph - so I have to snap the birds when they are on the ground as on the cover of this issue.

However, that was June, when they had just returned from their wintering quarters in Madagascar - and this is why they are unusual. This species has evolved into a very late breeder and I am expecting them to be feeding young on the cliff ledges and allowing me to get close enough for good photography without disturbing them. They breed late for a simple reason - to be sure of a good supply of food for the young and that supply comes from the birds which have bred in Europe and are now migrating back to the winter quarters in Africa.

We have a slightly less elegant solution to the problem of food in our garden. Our house, which is about as rural as you can get and still be within 4 miles of Sainsbury's, has an external central heating boiler which is under a glass canopy running the full length of the house, this keeps the weather off the boiler and allows me to store bicycles and so on without using the garage which is already full of other important things - except a car of course.

This environment is attractive - it is warm in winter, dry all the year and peaceful except when the residents intrude. Furthermore, if you are a sparrowhawk, it is only 4 or 5 metres from breakfast, lunch and dinner - the bird feeders in the back garden! Our guest seems to have an easy life and although it seems a bit unfair, it is nature's way and the laws of nature say that the less fit and alert birds are the ones to be taken and therefore the species is made stronger and better.

An interesting footnote is that last winter I invited a local ringer to put up nets in the garden from time to time; I was curious to know how many birds were using the garden and the BTO Ringing Scheme is the source of much sound scientific data. Imagine my surprise when, on one morning in December, we ringed 134 birds in three hours, including a flock of 17 Long-tailed Tits, none of which had been ringed before. Imagine my feelings when, within two weeks, I had recovered three of those rings from pellets which our "pet" hawk had regurgitated beside my bicycle - it makes you wonder at the resilience of nature where clutch size appears to adjust to allow for predation and other natural losses.

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by Giuliano Tallone, LIPU President

Is the concept of "sustainable development" now insufficient to answer the large scale crisis of climate change and loss of biodiversity? Limits of development and conservation were two of the main themes discussed at the conference organised by LIPU for the 42nd National Assembly.

In order to preserve birds, the environment and biodiversity, we need to consider the big themes of our time. For this reason the conference organised by LIPU, in collaboration with the Milano Province and the City of Cesano Maderno, which took place last June in Cesano Maderno (Milano) centred on the relationship between economic development and the environment. The message from LIPU was that development must take into account not only its effect on climate change, but also on the loss of biodiversity. How to accommodate the need for development and "commodities" with that for "rescuing the planet", its climate, its life, its natural habitats? We need to re-think our development plans, both at an industrial level and on an everyday, life-style basis. Everyone has to collaborate to adopt behaviours that are "sustainable. Consumers must inform themselves, and exercise their power of choice by becoming choosier. Every human activity leaves a footprint on the environment and has an effect on natural resources: on one side people consume resources, and on the other they produce waste. One of the most worrying aspects is time. We have very little of it to solve these big problems. Natural resources are depleting fast, and humans and their products are taking the place of natural activities. We can cite many examples provided not only by Associations, but also by many Institutions, such as the recent Stern Review on the economic implications of environmental damage, and the IPPC Review (International Panel on Climate Change) and the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, on which Gianfranco Bologna, Sustainability Director of WWF Italia, talked during the conference. How can we cope with the request for further economic development or the growing presence of China and India on the development scene? Should we go back to talk about "limits to development"? Is the concept of "sustainable development" still meaningful? Or is the solution the so-called "de-growth"? Should we re-think more thoroughly the forms of development, distribution of resources, life-styles? Climate, biodiversity, and economic growth: these themes require new politics, a new culture, and a new and deeper consideration for the planet. These themes should also make us think of the value of the environment, a value that is at the same time quantifiable and non-quantifiable in absolute terms. Talking about nature and economics also means underlining contradictions within Governments, in Italy, Europe, and the World. On one hand they plan economic growth, and on the other hand they send more and more alarming messages regarding the detrimental effects of human activities, scarcity of natural resources, and environmental and climate disasters.

Sustainable development or de-growth?

During the conference different views and propositions emerged. The main difference is in how radical we should be - can the current economic model and long-term resource conservation plans be compatible? Considering how dramatic the current situation is, should we go beyond the logic of sustainable growth? Can the concept of de-growth be a suitable alternative? Or is this concept already intrinsic in sustainable development, as Gianfranco Bologna has suggested? The dominant model of unlimited growth is becoming more and more unsustainable, as well as socially unfair. In contrast with this, it is necessary to plan a society where "the economic values are no longer central" (from the De-growth Manifesto by Serge Latouche). The main topics of the other discussions were the relationship between nature and biodiversity and the strategies followed by associations and international networks, and the alarm calls they have been sending for some time before the Governments took notice.

LIPU and BirdLife International

The presentation by Marco Lambertini, Director of Network for Birdlife International, considered a larger picture, and problems outside Italy. Strategies can be made at an international level thanks to a network based on exchanging information and experiences. One of the main themes when the environment is discussed is the relationship with agriculture and the impact that the latter has on the environment. This theme is particularly important in Europe and it is important to discuss the co-existence of agriculture and the environment, and the measures to limit the impact that the former has on the latter, especially considering the importance of this activity. Guido Tampieri, vice-Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, talked about this point at the Conference. Claudio Celeda, Conservation Director of LIPU, concluded the day with a discussion on biodiversity. Among the aims of LIPU there is an explicit reference to environmental policies, in which LIPU commits to liaise with other associations, institutions, and the scientific world. Conservation strategies aim at preventing extinctions of wild birds, and sustaining sites, habitats, and ecosystems that are important for biodiversity in general. These are, however, answers to the closest problems, the ones that are readily observable on a local scale. However, an efficient answer requires us to face the ultimate causes, globalisation, climate change and extinction crisis, all led by the economic and financial system. These are complex topics, but we need to face them with the collaboration of all national and international Institutions.

Lombardy - between development and environment

Why was Lombardy chosen as the location for this year's convention? Milan is the economic capital of Italy; moreover a quarter of all LIPU members come from the area. The region feels a strong need for environmentalism, and people here are more inclined to, or perhaps forced to, reflect on important themes linked to nature conservation and biodiversity. The tension between development and the environment is clearly evident here. But, while on the one hand this is a highly industrialised region, interested in ever-more-advanced progress; on the other hand the local councils, as well as lots of ordinary people, continue to put a lot of effort into environmental initiatives. Lombardy could be an interesting model for the rest of Italy. The provincial councils have provided some very dramatic statistics: in areas such as Brianza the built-up areas exceed, and by a long way, 50 percent of the total area available. Gigi Ponti, councillor in charge of planning for the newly-created province of Monza and Brianza, would like other councils to follow their initiative, taking the environment as a central reference point for all activities. For this reason it is important to keep our political representatives in the picture; this way they can collect ideas to implement in their own planning.

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by Massimo Soldarini

The project for the shared ecological management of the Varese and Comabbio lakes and the Brabbia marshes has been completed. It was co-financed by the Cariplo Foundation.

The waters of Lakes Comabbio and Varese are to be managed in a new way, bringing together both environmental and economic interests. Last June, after a year and a half's work, a model for the integrated management of the lakes and the Brabbia marshes has been developed by LIPU and the Province of Varese. It followed long drawn out discussions about the different and often conflicting interests within this area, which holds one of LIPU's most important reserves. Before the drafting of the project only technical, economic and social factors were taken into account and the ecological ones were ignored. This approach was not sustainable now that European law places so much more emphasis on habitat and species conservation. Today, at last, we have a management plan that brings together LIPU and public and private bodies that value and safeguard an area of great importance.

The work was aimed at providing administrators with the means properly to manage the lake basin and the waters that directly affect the natural balance of the Brabbia Marsh reserve. In fact the lakes and marshes are part of the same system and any slight change in the water level affects the balance between them. The water is fundamental to much of what goes on in the area, firstly fishing and then various industrial and agricultural enterprises and tourism. It is not surprising, therefore, that it took so long to reach a realistic and workable definition of the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. The provincial administration of Varese is responsible from the territorial and administrative point of view with the task of co-ordinating and promoting the system of managing the water levels. They have, in addition, decided on further finance that will allow work for another year in order to monitor the underground water-bearing strata.

The politicians and administrators can now refer to a scientific model when they make decisions on the management of water levels at Varese that affect both man and the environment. This, in itself, is of immense value.

LIPU has produced an education programme for first and second grade secondary students based on the Brabbia reserve on the importance of the proper management of water levels. Around 1000 pupils have so far taken part. In addition there have been public meetings and an information booklet has been produced.

The most important aspect of the research has been the relationship between the oscillating water levels and environmental quality. In other words, how the aquatic and waterside vegetation responds to the abundance or scarcity of water in the three basins. Understanding the vegetation is fundamental to understanding the wildlife. Here, attention has been centred on fish and birds.


Downscaling, yes or no?

by Andrea Mazza

A complete change in direction for economics and society in order that they are no longer founded on endless growth and the devouring of resources. Marco Bonaiuti explains the theory of downscaling.

The grave ecological crisis facing the planet has a culprit and its name is economic growth. This is the firm belief of the theorists of downscaling, a way of thinking that has its origins in the bio-economics of Georgescu-Roegen, and of which Marco Bonaiuti is one of the principal Italian representatives. We asked him a few questions while at the LIPU convention at Cesano Maderno (MI) in June.

Professor Bonauiti, as one of the foremost theorists of downscaling, how would you best define it?

The theory of downscaling heralds a complete change of direction as regards the present economic model based on unlimited growth and the arrival of a profound transformation of society towards a new economy grounded in social solidarity, based on less consumption and greater well-being, above all at the social level.

What is the connection between economic development and the global ecological crisis we are now seeing?

The fundamental aim of economics, as it has been undertood for the last two centuries, is for continuous growth in the production of goods for profit, with the consequent devouring of resources and energy. Natural resources, however, are limited and subject to an irreversible process of degradation, so that development has become unsustainable, causing grave damage to the environment and the social fabric. In particular, the ecological crisis has deep connections with the self-feeding growth of the capitalist system. One has only to look at the damage caused to the biosphere by greenhouse gas emissions and the plundering of resources. and the crisis is worsening in step with economic growth and technological progress.

But in reality, will not the proposed curtailing of production itself be in danger of creating crises, unemployment and social malaise?

This would be a real danger if there were a drastic reduction in consumption without changing the structure of the system of production. But downscaling does not simply mean negative growth. If on the one hand it implies reducing the quantity of material goods, it intends also a comprehensive transformation in social, economic and political structures, to say nothing of the collective imagination, which would bring greater social harmony and respect for nature and the environment.

The concept of sustainable growth has been criticised by bio-economic theorists and supporters of downscaling. For what reason?

Because it is an illusion, a contradiction in terms, utilised in order to maintain the status quo. In fact, if one talks of development, by definition that means increased production. But as we know, resources are not limitless, so sustainable development is impossible. It is correct on the other hand to talk of a sustainable future, whether in economic or social terms.

How would it be possible therefore to change the organisation of society according to the theory of downscaling?

I envisage processes of transformation that operate on four levels. At the first level is a change in the collective imagination: new systems of education, which favour critical awareness, autonomy, being as opposed to having. This would also imply a far-reaching change in the relationship between the media and the system of production that would impose strict limits on advertising. The second level, of economy, would be marked by the relocation of the centre of economic gravity from the global markets to regional and local ones, reducing the scale of organisations and the transport system. At the third level of transformation is placed that of social sustainability, which is based on the abolition of competitive and predatory behaviours (a cause of wars) and a greater international cooperation. A civilisation founded on expansion is incompatible with the maintenance of peace. In brief, downscaling proposes an economy founded on social solidarity.

And the fourth level?

It is that of political resources. By putting greater emphasis on the local dimension of the press, institutions and markets political structures are favoured which are more participatory and cooperative. The goal of downscaling is to offer greater numbers of people a higher quality of life, in organisations that do not dehumanise, but on the contrary are bearers of greater sensibility, which allow more free time, and reduce stress and alienation.

With the grave environmental crisis facing the planet, how much time do you think we have to turn things round and avoid disaster?

Obviously no-one can say exactly when the moment of crisis will come. However, all the research that counts tells us that if we do not change course it will arrive in the next ten to fifteen years. If we go on as at present, the problems can only get worse.

About Marco Bonaiuti

Marco Bonaiuti has been engaged in interdisciplinary studies for more than fifteen years, from economics to ecology. He has been among the promoters of the Anti-Utilitarian Association of social criticism, of the Solidarity Economy Network and, finally, the Network for Downscaling. He has published The Theory of Bioeconomics, and a collection of the main bio-economic essays of N Georgescu-Roegen, entitled "Bioeconomics. Towards a different economy that is socially and environmentally sustainable" (2003), as well editing Objective Downscaling (2005) the first collection of Italian contributions on the subject. Currently teaching Economics at the University of Bologna and Modena, he is among other things a founder of the "Free School of Alternatives".

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Better than a house

by Ugo Faralli

They don't go to the bank to obtain a helpful mortgage or to an estate agent to seek a good let. They take themselves to the LIPU sanctuaries - marshes, woods and protected coasts where they build and then utilise for a month or so - their "homes"- their nests. So, tens of thousands of birds, belonging to about 130 species, regularly each year, twine together strands of straw, twigs and sticks, or scoop out holes in the earth, or amalgamate grass and mud, in 31 of the sanctuaries and reserves belonging to our association. Thus, LIPU, backed up by local communes, provinces and park organizations see to it that the 110 pairs of Eleonora’s Falcon at Carloforte ( the small island west of Sardinia), the 520 heron nests at Torrile (the marshlands near Parma) and the thousands of small passerines of Bosco Neri (near Pavia) of Bianello (in Reggio Emilia) of Castel del Guido (on the coast near Rome) and of Casacalenda (in the Campobasso province) can nest in peace.

The wardens at the sanctuaries, helped by volunteers, work in the reed beds to encourage Bitterns, clean up the small islands to encourage the Little Ringed Plovers and their brother species, and tend to the foliage and hedges for the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Flycatchers, Penduline Tits and Wrens.

Although work and efforts are directed towards the guardianship of these birds, many hours are also spent monitoring and making censuses of various species. We have precise numbers for some species such as raptors, herons, ducks and waders. These birds can be counted simply by observation. For other species, generally passerines, we have to rely on estimates. The best techniques in use are linear transects and listening at focus points. In particular cases we utilize these methods. Both the counts and the estimates confirm the importance of the LIPU sanctuaries and reserves. In Italy we have as a base line the red list of birds. In addition, as a supplement we have the publication of BirdLife International "Birds in Europe" which identifies SPEC species and lists each individual with its conservation status. SPEC 1 are the birds most in danger, 2 and 3 are those with an unfavourable conservation status. The so- called non - SPEC group covers those whose status is encouraging. In addition, we keep an eye on the community directive, Uccelli 79/409. So, the LIPU sanctuaries and reserves can be justly proud. In some cases our success has been used to give a push to the Association's pledges and has been the spring for setting up more proteced areas. With reference just to SPEC 1 birds, the Brabbia marshland (near Varese), the Montepulciano lake (in Tuscany) and the Biviere di Gela lakes (in Sicily) together host 6-7 pairs of Ferruginous Duck which is almost 10% of the entire population in Italy. And then there are the c.50 pairs of Lesser Kestrel that breed in the gorge in Gravina di Laterza (near Taranto). Here 2% of Italy's total of these falcons breed. The importance of the reserves is even greater with other endangered species. Carloforte (the small island west of Sardinia) gives shelter to 110 pairs of Eleonora's Falcon, about 20% of the Italian population (of 500-600 pairs) and 2% of the entire world's population. Excellent percentage figures are recorded for the Night Heron and the Squacco Heron (at Torrile marshes, Parma, at Brabbia marshland, Varese and at Biviere di Gela, Sicily); for the Purple Heron, (at the Brabbia marshland, at the Ostiglia marshes, near Mantova and at the Montepulciano lake and also at the Torrile marshes near Parma and at the Santa Luce reservoirs, near Pisa. So, next spring then, there is an appointment not to be missed at the LIPU reserves. A visit to be paid to the "homes" where we host our dearest friends - the swallows and LIPU members.

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Special volunteers on the Oasis

by Barbara Ravasio

No computers, no telephones; just brushes and sandpaper were the tools for a day dedicated to nature. This "volunteer day" was the idea of a group of employees of a Milanese firm, the Carlyle Group.The adventurers were received at the LIPU Reserve of Palude Brabbia on 6 June, an overcast day. Men and women, normally office workers, turned painters to refresh the outside of a wooden building, normally used by school groups for environmental education when visiting the reserve. Wearing white overalls and armed with a brush and paint, they rolled up their sleeves to renovate the structure. Not even the rain stopped our volunteers, filled as they were with enthusiasm and the will to finish the job. Their efforts were rewarded with both satisfaction and enjoyment. Seeing the results, the experiment will be repeated again next year with another day devoted to volunteer work, perhaps in another LIPU reserve, or another similar place that is prepared to welcome this very special group of volunteers. We offer heartfelt thanks to the friendly and energetic people from the Carlyle Group for the help that they gave us, and the truly important result they achieved. Not only have they redecorated this building, they have also become an example to follow. The contribution of volunteers to our reserves is both good for the environment and for those who look after these protected areas. Our hope and wish is that this example will catch on and spread, and inspire other, similar experiences.

Voluntary day - a word from the Carlyle Group

Once a year our firm holds a Voluntary Day - a day dedicated to non-profit organisations. This year it was LIPU who welcomed us. Despite the fact that manual work is not part of our everyday jobs, we managed to do well. There were walls to sandpaper and repaint, scaffolding to dismantle, gutters to clean... and the final result was really satisfying. Let's hope that we will inspire other firms with the wish to go and help keep up the beautiful LIPU reserves.

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Let us save the Cory's Shearwater!

by Marco Gustin, Loredano Murabito and Giuseppe Rannisi

A LIPU Project to protect one of the most threatened of the Mediterranean species.

Invasive species are the principal cause of extinction of numerous birds nesting in the islands, and constitute the most important threat for sea birds, such as Shearwater and Storm Petrels. The Black Rat (rattus rattus) is the major cause of extinction of birds in the small islands. At Linosa this predator has been introduced by mankind, and its presence is not immediately quantifiable. On the island its distribution appears to spread over the whole territory, in particular in the rocky areas near the sea. Cory's Shearwater is a very vulnerable species because of its delayed sexual maturity, moreover laying only one egg a year, and with a very long reproductive cycle (April to October). It is a species in decline, especially in the Mediterranean, and so is designated SPEC2 and on the IUCN European Red List as "vulnerable". The island of Linosa is host to the most important Italian colony of this species (an estimated 10 - 15,000 pairs) the second most numerous in the central-western Mediterranean. Excluding the area of the inhabited centre that rises to the south, Cory's Shearwater nests over the whole island. The nests may be found under vegetation, either in ravines or holes in the rocks.

In 2006 LIPU began a study of the rate of predation and the impact of the Black Rat on the reproductive colony of Cory's Shearwater. In three areas under study, from 6th - 10th June 2006 231 active brooding nests were picked out and marked by GPS. To verify the effect of predation on the sample of nests observed, they were monitored successively by periodic visits in July (hatching of eggs, birth of chicks, and verification of losses), September (growth of chicks and verification of losses) and October (flight of young birds). From 20th - 30th July the first check was made. 121 eggs or chicks were found, 4 eggs abandoned, 1 egg broken, 8 eggs taken, and in two cases adults only, without eggs or chicks, were observed. The natural rate of loss is about 2%, the rate of reproduction is 39% and predation by the Black Rat overall is 59%. LIPU's study has therefore shown that predation by rats on the Cory's Shearwater colony is today the principal factor in reducing breeding success of the species at Linosa.

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Once again it is time to look back

by Elena d'Andrea

An important moment of reflection, after the Annual General Meeting at Cesano Maderno, on what we are doing and how we are communicating it.

Dear Member,

Once a year we meet to take a comprehensive look at how the Association is doing. This takes place on the occasion of the members' AGM, which this year was held at Cesano Maderno in the month of June. From the presentation of "Budget 2006" we have seen the general trends of LIPU, to which also are closely linked the results we have achieved in terms of nature conservation, education, public awareness and members. The reorganisation that LIPU has decided to put into action, along lines of economic rigour and commitment to development, is beginning to bear fruit and producing results that are satisfactory compared with preceding years.

The continued support of our members, of our donors and of institutions for the association has been maintained and even increased: the amounts respecting membership and donations have been maintained and our conservation effort has seen a good increase. Particular mention must be made of a very generous bequest of the outright ownership of agricultural land and its buildings in Tuscany to the value of 800,000 euros made by one of our lady members to whom goes the heartfelt thanks of all of us in LIPU. 2006 has been a very positive year which has seen the whole Association united behind LIPU's new "Strategic document 2006 - 2010: five crucial years for the conservation of biodiversity". Our achievements bear this out. The long effort to stop the bill for the modification of the hunting laws has finally come to fruition (do you remember our petition which gathered 200,000 signatures?). We put a stop to the bill on "Falconry at airports". Of great importance was the case of the "derogation from the hunting laws": the European Commission has opened proceedings for non-compliance against Italy; it is now essential that the new petition should give vigorous support to this battle to save small birds. Here are some other achievements: 70.9% of the area of our Important Bird Areas (IBA) is now designated Zones of Special Protection and entered in the Network of Nature 2000; our struggle against the Mose project in the Venetian Lagoon has been intense; the work to bring agriculture closer to the environment through LIPU's criticisms of the Plan for Rural Development has been excellent.

And so many projects: the pilot study of the relationship between areas of production in Parma Reggiano and birdlife; the monitoring of birds of the countryside in the Network Nature 2000 areas in the Region of Lazio; the defence of the Lesser Kestrel in Puglia and Basilicata and of Cory's Shearwater in Sicily; the protection of wildlife in the Bellunesi Dolomites National Park. And then there is the study on migrating raptors, the SOS Passerine Project, environmental education through the medium of "Wings without Frontiers" in LIPU's sanctuaries and reserves as well as "All in the Net" for teachers. There is good news moreover from LIPU's Sanctuaries and Reserves: the Egret colony in the Torrile Sanctuary has grown, the Ferruginous Duck population in the Natural Reserves of Palude Brabbia and Lago di Montepulciano has stabilised, a pair of Lanner Falcons has nested in the Gravina di Laterza Oasis, there are 8 pairs of Black-winged Stilt in the Celestina Oasis as well as 110 pairs of Eleanora's Falcon in the Carloforte Oasis. LIPU's Wild Animal Reception Centres have made a stupendous effort with another 15,000 animals taken care of. And as for meeting the people? Over a hundred communiqués in the press at national level (practically 1 every 3 days) with 62 appearances on TV and 64 on the radio, about 2,000 mentions of LIPU by name in the press; the institutional campaign broadcast on the RAI network; 181 themed event days in the Sanctuaries and Reserves; 23,000 buns and cakes distributed during the "A Christmas for Nature" campaign. Impressive figures, as I think you'll agree, achieved thanks to so many people, volunteers, members and 138 young people from the Civil Service Volunteers. If we have a criticism to make against ourselves it is that of not dedicating enough time and resources to spreading the word of these activities and achievements to the outside world. This is not false modesty, believe me. Perhaps we are mistaken, but as long as the birds know they have someone to defend them, the members will have confidence in us. Our next task then will be to improve LIPU's visibility in order to grow and to bring together ever more people.

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by Danilo Mainardi, LIPU Honorary President

There was a time, long ago, when human beings were forced by necessity really to understand nature because they depended on it. Man is responsible for the current environmental emergency, an emergency which is now affecting the whole planet. To understand the cause we need to go back in time and see just how our lifestyle has evolved. Nature is at the centre of human life; this was true in the distant past, and must undeniably return to being true today. Our distant forefathers were able to take resources from the environment without impoverishing it. Then, about ten thousand years ago, man began to domesticate plants and animals, practising agriculture and husbandry. This increase in resources led to a distancing between the human presence and territoriality. With the later appearance of settlements, coupled with a large demographic growth, there was a major impact on nature. Today more than ever, we can see a clear difference between the slow pace of biological evolution, and the rapid, ever-faster pace of cultural evolution, a difference that has upset the natural balance and the maintenance of biodiversity. During the last thousand years of cultural evolution, man has taken only short-term profit into account when making his choices and planning his actions; ignoring the long-term negative ecological consequences. This is the way man has thought in the past, and is still, unfortunately, how the larger part of humankind thinks today. Recently, as the impact of environmental damage has become clear, applied ecology has developed in response to so-called alarm bells and the search for ways to stop them ringing. But we must go beyond just curing the symptoms, and realize that at the root of every ecological problem there is, without exception, a cultural problem. Ten thousand years on, man, however modern, is forced once again to recognise that his own wellbeing - possibly even his own survival - depends on a naturalistic culture.


Sponsored events are a great way of fund raising and the following account by new member John Abrehart of Ashbourne in Derbyshire shows just how much he was prepared to do for LIPU - thank you, John.

Following David Lingard's talk to the North Northumberland Bird Club in January and having become aware of the annual Chevy Chase event, (51st. this year) I decided to attempt the walk section of this annual challenge, initially as a personal test but then as a fund raising effort for LIPU.

David's talk was emotive and for those of us who love our song birds, not to mention the larger raptors, the evenings talk and discussion left us in an angry state of mind. LIPU is already doing the many "mainstream" fund raising missions, so the Chevy Chase challenge seemed a fortuitous opportunity to do something different and challenging at the same time.

In order to avoid duplication with local fund raising in Northumberland, the team and funding was to be based from my main home in Derbyshire and friends and family in the Midlands and South.

We encountered a lot of feedback, such as "I knew that this sort of thing went on, but didn't realise the scale and that there was such an organisation". Well, apathy rules and we hope that some of the contributors will become regular supporters. Being classified in the over 60s section, I decided to embark on a training and diet regime. I lost about 5kgs in weight and did several training walks, both over The Cheviots and in the Derbyshire hills.

One walk, four weeks before the race, was from the northern end of the Pennine Way in Kirk Yetholm. I ascended The Schil, ( 601 m) then a long walk in the mist and rain to the summit of The Cheviot (812m). I met some "proper walkers", doing the Pennine Way, some camping out and all carrying their possessions for the week with them, dirty washing and all!

Descending in the mist, I lost my way to Wooler and ended up by Middleton Hall. My wife, Wendy was due to meet me in Wooler, but thanks to the mobile phone, she diverted just in time to meet me wading through a ford on the back road. My time was 7 ¾ hours for about 18 miles. The Chevy Chase event is 20 miles long so I was not unduly disheartened.

After a check with the Organisers to ensure that all protective clothing, refreshments, whistle, map and compass were being carried, the walking event started from Wooler at 9-30 am. There were 7 check points on the course, many marshalls and designated retirement points. The weather was fine, clear with some sharp showers on the hills.

At first the walk went well for me and I was about half way in the field at the first check point. Now the climb started, up Scald Hill, which wasn't too bad, then The Cheviot itself. This got steeper and people started going past me. Then the first fell runner went by, they started at 10-30 am from Wooler. By the time I got to the summit (third check point), most of the runners had gone past, and a lot of the walkers.

No time to stop and consume sandwiches; I started the descent at the steepest but quickest point. Being so steep, it was just as slow going down. The fell runners just leap from point to point and make little of it.

At the bottom (now valley level), a scramble over the swollen Harthope Burn, and the ascent of Hedgehope Hill began. This began to take it out of me and about all of the remainder of the field passed me by. By the time I reached the summit of Hedgehope (714m), (fourth check point), over 2 hours had passed since the Cheviot summit! Being exactly half way, (10 miles) and 5 ¼ hours had elapsed, I realised that I was not going to make the target time of 8 hours.

The second half of the course would be easier I thought, as it would be mainly downhill. But I hadn't reckoned with the very boggy conditions on the flatter sections! At one point, every step I took went down to my ankles. Through the next two checkpoints in pretty good time and I caught up with some stragglers and we walked comfortably all together for several miles. I was assured at the 6th check that I wasn't last and that several competitors had dropped out, so that was a little reassuring!

Passing through some wild and wonderful scenery, (especially some waterfalls on Carey Burn), where cars cannot go, my six companions and I arrived at the 7th and final check point, with 3 miles to go. We were offered water and I felt good, in the certain knowledge that I was going to finish the course.

However, the rigours of the final section called Hell's Path proved to be a tough challenge for myself. I had heard some competitors on the way out refer to this, but failed to realise the significance! This was uphill, not that steep but very energy sapping as far as I was concerned. I had to stop and told my new companions to proceed without me. They were very encouraging and went ahead. I continued, more slowly now, but at my own pace and arrived at the finish in 8hours, 55 mins and 8 minutes behind the rest of the field.

However, I was the last to finish; the Organisers were waiting for me and I got a big cheer as I crossed the line!

After being presented with a "goodies bag", T shirt and energy drink, one of the Officials presented me with a cup, The Alan Gardener Trophy, which is presented each year and celebrates the Spirit of the Chevy. As there were no records set this time due to the conditions, they decided that I should have the trophy, for my determination to finish. I have to return it next year, so it looks like I will have to do it all over again. My name is now proudly engraved on the trophy, along with all the other winners and Wendy has had a replica made.

I would like to thank the organisers for all their hard work in ensuring a successful day, the kindness and concern of the marshalls and my fellow competitors and the encouragement and support of my wife and family. I really respect the fell runners for their fitness and dedication; is this the last truly amateur sport? Thanks of course to my sponsors, especially as I failed to make the standard time.

Lessons to be learned; obviously more stamina training, lose a bit more weight, don't try to go too fast at the start and never under estimate the conditions. Many fellow walkers were older than myself, so I have no excuses. However, on reflection, it was an immensely enjoyable and worthwhile day out in England's grandest county and £243 raised for LIPU.


Paul Gladstone of BirdVoice has kindly given LIPU-UK a complete set for a prize in our annual draw and I thought that brief review would be of interest. I have to say that this is one of those things that makes you wonder where technology will take us next, but it is far from being a useless gadget.

The heart of the device is the "pen", it's actually quite large for a pen but it will fit easily in a pocket as a pen would. It has a sort of bar code reader in the "nib" and an mp3 player in the body, but it is how it is used that is interesting - there are three ways it can help.

1. A bird guide in the wallet has 3-coloured "patches" beside the picture and description of the bird. Point the "pen nib" at these patches and listen to a description of the bird, its call or its song!

2. A simpler laminated weather proof list to go in the pocket, has a list of birds and the "magic patches".

3. Pages of the labelled self-adhesive patches which can be peeled of the sheet and stuck in your own field guide so you can access the same sounds from your favourite guide.

We asked people to try it out at the BirdFair and all agreed that it works well and is an innovative approach to identifying birds by call or song in the field. BirdVoice can be seen at or you could win a complete BirdVoice kit in the annual LIPU-UK prize draw.

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Please support this year's annual Prize Draw which offers attractive prizes to the winners as well as raises around £2,000 to be spent on conservation work in Italy. The major prizes include a pair of 8x32 FL binoculars donated by Zeiss UK, which sell for around £900, our cash prize of £500 and a BirdVoice pen set, reviewed above.

For those who don't wish to buy tickets please recycle them, there's no need to return them.

My thanks go to the translators of this issue: Cicely Adelson, Joanna Bazen, Daria Dadam, Bryan Lewis, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty, John Walder and Brian Horkley, the line drawings are by courtesy of the RSPB.