BGCI Education Blog

We've set up this blog to talk about education, the environment, plants, the universe... oh yes, and botanic gardens. You can join in by leaving comments and signing up for email updates.

Friday, 15 December 2006

BGCI on Radio 4

OK, so maybe it is not a whole programme on BGCI on the BBC's Radio 4, but hopefully we will get a mention. A friend of mine who has set up a fascinating system of individual carbon trading (called Carbon Limited) at the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) invited me to debate, hosted by Radio 4, about possible societal responses and solutions for addressing climate change. The programme airs 20.00, Wednesday 20th December - have a look at the website for more info.

The debate was simultaneously interesting and frustrating. The audience, made up of conservation professionals and other individuals with an interest in the environment and climate change, put forward many excellent questions, suggestions and ideas. Some members of the panel, I have to say, responded like true professionals - changing the subject, evading answers and providing rather convoluted answers. As well they might, climate change is a desperate issue - and one which has no simple solution. It requires a total rethink of country economics and industrial development. With their huge visitor numbers and influential position within policy making, botanic gardens certainly have a vital role to play in both the climate change debate and in finding solutions.

As for BGCI's contribution - I asked a question to the panel about the role of hydroelectric power schemes as an 'alternative' energy source, as it is being promoted as a 'green' alternative to burning fossil fuels. However, the environmental damage that can be caused by hydroelectric schemes (not all by any stretch of the imagination, but particularity the large, hard engineering works) is enormous. When these schemes include flooding areas of vegetated land, the rotting plants produce vast quantities of methane (20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). An excellent book about the impacts of hydroelectric power is Silenced Rivers - the ecology and politics of large dams.

Anyway, I am sure my question will be cut out of the programme - it was impressively dismissed by the respondent. We must of course look at alternative energy sources and invest in research to minimise carbon production - but neither should we adopt alternatives without examining and questioning their impacts in the same way as we have done for fossil fuel power stations. I would love to hear your views on the send in your comments.

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