Category: Environment

Coat of Hopes: a community-created pilgrimage to COP26

Ginny Smith
Barbara Teal wearing the Coat of Hopes before any patches have been added, leading a group in song on Newhaven Beach

From Sussex to Scotland: Coat of Hopes just embarked on an inclusive, inspiring, and uniquely creative 500-mile, 60-day pilgrimage to the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. And at its centre is a community-made patchwork coat that is transformed as it travels…

NEW WRITER

Fixing our faulty food system: how community food partnerships work

Ali Ghanimi
People cooking in Community Kitchen at Brighton & Hove Food Partnership

Across Sussex, local food partnerships are springing up to address the myriad problems stemming from the UK’s flawed food system that is not only making us ill, but also harming our planet. And our central government is lagging far behind these growing grassroots community groups…

TOXIC SHOCK

Profits from pollution: how private monopoly Southern Water is failing the public

Ginny Smith & Rick Dillon
Protesters on a Hastings beach following yet another sewage spill by Southern Water

A spate of sewage discharges and spills into our seas and rivers is prompting protests as demands grow across Sussex for Southern Water to clean up its act and stop putting profits ahead of clean water. As a private monopoly it is accountable to its shareholders rather than its customers, but a growing number of campaigners believe it’s time to bring it back into public ownership.

TOXIC SHOCK

Beautiful but deadly: the pollution of Sussex rivers

Ginny Smith & Rick Dillon
River Ouse at Barcombe - looks beautiful but the water is often polluted

Raw sewage has been flowing into Sussex’s rivers and streams – often discharged straight from Southern Water treatment works. In the second part of Sussex Bylines’ Toxic Shock series we look at the effects of this pollution on our fresh waterways – and speak to some of those demanding it be stopped…

Destroy these outdated A27 plans, NOT the South Downs

Norman Baker
Before and after images showing (top) how the countryside east of Lewes looks now and (bottom) how it would look if the proposed new A27 motorway was built right through it

“Pristine countryside lost to concrete cannot be recovered: once gone, it is lost forever. Is that what we really want to see for this beautiful section of the South Downs?” Former Lewes MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker demolishes the persistent proposals to build a new four-lane highway that would decimate the Low Weald countryside, including ancient forests, protected wildlife, working farms and historic villages, and calls on the lead Conservative Councillor to change course NOW, before it’s too late…

TOXIC SHOCK

Warning: Sussex seas may damage your health

Ginny Smith & Rick Dillon
Photo of some of the South Coast Sirens, a group of concerned swimmers who are combatting pollution in the Sussex sea

Raw sewage is being pumped into our seas at an alarming frequency and the water company responsible seems unable to stop it. Sussex Bylines talks to the swimmers who are doing something about it, in the first of our series on the polluted seas and waterways of Sussex.

LONGER READ

Further adventures on the trigging trail: The 2021 Pangdean Bottom Trespass

James Joughin
People protesting by walking on part of the South Downs that is owned by Brighton council but is not accessible to the public

Author James Joughin joins a very polite and orderly ‘mass trespass’ on the South Downs – 300 people walking into a valley at Pangdean Bottom. This is not land owned by a caricature evil landlord but Brighton Council-owned and rented out to tenant farmers. The trespassers’ point was that it was totally unavailable for use by Brighton city residents and taxpayers, even though the footprints of walkers would surely do no more harm than the hooves of cattle.

THIS LAND IS OUR LAND – how can land be treated as personal property?

Tom Serpell
Private property sign on a barbed wire fence in the UK countryside

Over the centuries, and particularly in the last hundred years or so, there’s been a decrease in wealthy land-owning aristocrats, an increase in “self-made” rich businesspeople, and therefore a larger number of owners participating in the real estate market. Yet shockingly, around half of England is owned by just 1% of landowners, and they are almost entirely a mixture of corporations, oligarchs and aristocrats. Tom Serpell asks: should anyone actually be entitled to claim ownership of land?

What legacy do you want to leave?

Tom Serpell
An adoring grandfather holds up his infant grandchild, who is smiling back

A retired, lifelong left-of-centre activist ponders what constitutes a meaningful legacy, and worries his generation is failing to leave the next with the right kind of wealth…

OUR FUTURE, OUR VOICES

Talking rubbish? – What really happens to your recycling

Chris Davis
Plastic trays and tubs for recycling

Of all the plastic routinely placed in recycle bins across East Sussex, less than 30% is actually recycled. The rest is incinerated, along with most of the non-recyclable rubbish, and – perhaps surprisingly – it is the incinerator company that decides what is recycled and what is burnt. Changes to the current equipment could allow more types of plastic to be recycled but it would cost upwards of £1million. What cost our environment?

OUR FUTURE, OUR VOICES

To plant or not to plant: trees

Cosmo Robertson Charlton
Tropical trees

Trees are often considered the silver bullet in our fight against global warming. But recent research has indicated a need for careful consideration when we plant and has called for a more nuanced approach. Other carbon sequestering organisms are equally worthy of our protection, such as marine algae. Help Our Kelp is a Sussex Wildlife Trust project which aims to restore our once lush underwater forest, through a 300-kilometre protection zone in which trawling is largely prohibited. Sir David Attenborough has described it as “a vital win in the fight against the biodiversity and climate crises”.

Storks versus bulldozers: saving Sussex wildlife areas

Elizabeth Riminton-Drury
A pair of storks in their nest on a tree at Knepp estate.

Developers are planning to build 3,500 houses on a greenfield site right next to the major rewilding project at the Knepp Estate, blocking a vital wildlife corridor, increasing carbon emissions, and leaving Knepp as a wildlife island in a sea of housing. Campaigners are urging the government to step in and stop it.

Building the community of the future

Paul Hannam
Graphic

We have until 2030 to reduce our carbon emissions, or face devastating climate collapse with disastrous consequences for humanity as a whole. It is not just up to governments to make policy, or businesses to develop new technology. This alone is not going to save us. We need to change our individual lifestyles, and the best way to achieve this is by working together.

A spoke in the wheel

Ginny Smith
Bicycle chained on seafront railing.

Action group ‘Bespoke’ has been campaigning for safe cycling routes in Eastbourne for many years but every time a breakthrough is close, somehow all its efforts run into the sand. Every other Sussex seaside town has a cycle lane along the front. Eastbourne is the exception, and it is almost certainly because – unlike nearby Brighton – it is not a unitary authority.

NEW WRITER

Eco anxiety is real: but here are six steps you can take this week to tackle the climate crisis

Anna Ford

Eco anxiety is real and defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. But how can we as individuals really make a difference? Group action has achieved positive change already and it can again. This article highlights six practical steps you can take this week to tackle the climate crisis, including switching your bank to a more ethical provider, changing your energy supplier to one which uses 100% renewable energy, and pledging to rewild your garden.

NEW WRITER

Local action for global change: Divest East Sussex

Fran Witt

Divest East Sussex is campaigning throughout the county, pressurising council pension fund managers to act on the climate emergency the planet faces by pulling their investments from companies mining and drilling for fossil fuels.

LONGER READ

Walking in the Downs – a lockdown odyssey

James Joughin
James Joughin and his dog Ringo on the South Downs, summer 2020

“After slouching around Preston Park a few times I was getting bored and it was then, with the startling visibility of those early lockdown weeks, that I noticed the distant peaks glistening on the horizon, and hatched a vague plan to head up there and ‘explore the South Downs Way’ as my tattered Brighton guidebook maintained I should.”

NEW WRITER

I got the power… installing solar panels

Pat Drake

This is the day the roof of my suburban semi-detached house becomes host to eight solar panels and a storage battery. I find myself excited at the tiny step towards self-sufficiency and realise, as the day dawns blustery and rainy, that my decision is the triumph of hope over experience…

NEW WRITER

How lessons learned from COVID can help us combat the climate crisis

Paul Hannam

As we begin to take stock of the enormity of this seismic shock to the global system, we should acknowledge that there is a much greater disruption on the horizon. Our Earth is in critical condition. And the lessons we’ve all learned over the past year dealing with COVID will be invaluable in combatting the looming climate crisis.

Hungry for action − an environmental protest fast

Venetia Carter

To highlight lack of action to address the climate emergency, Extinction Rebellion activist Venetia Carter is fasting for seven days. She passionately believes that the catastrophe of climate breakdown isn’t a problem that can be solved by the people of the future; it is the responsibility of all of us – the people of the present – here and now.

Mid Sussex campaigners battle over cycleway proposal

Ginny Smith

Can one of the most ancient and last remaining bridleways in Mid Sussex be saved from being turned into a cycleway? Ginny Smith uncovers a controversy involving Mid Sussex District Council, furious residents, environmentalists, developers, landed estates, the vice-sheriff of West Sussex and a seemingly endless maze of complications.

Tuning in to Your Better Nature

Viviane Doussy

This year, Global Earth Overshoot Day fell on 22 August.  This is not a fixed anniversary, but the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that calendar year.  When records began, exactly fifty years ago in 1970, Global Earth Overshoot Day was December 29. It has been […]