Weather extremes pose plant and animal disease threat

We didn’t all have the same weather last week, but most parts of our area had at some time full days of mist and drizzle.

Saturday, 12th April 2014, 8:34 am

Some had that for three or four days in a row and it’s surprising how that sucks out enthusiasm and energy. But onwards and upwards, although the spells of heavy rain we have also had in the past fortnight have slowed land work and reminded us of what mud is. In my optimistic way I still expect the sun to break through any day now to give man, and beast, a welcome boost.

Climate change permitting, I suppose. The most recent apocalyptic warning that we’re all doomed unless “something is done” has come from the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change. It reported that the extremes of weather caused by a forecast 2C increase in average world temperature will increase the threat of plant and animal disease, reduce food production, mean poverty for millions and even lead to wars. Cynics with some knowledge of history might suggest that’s business as usual for humanity, then, but the UN panel say their report is a call for action.

That call suggests an urgency hardly supported by a 2,600 page report by 300 scientists that took more than three years to complete. No layman and precious few specialists are going to read that in its entirety or even in parts. Throughout history it’s simple ideas and short books or pamphlets that have had an effect, not tomes. Climate change might be the threat it is claimed, but a 2,600 page report isn’t going to spur action.

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I sometimes wonder when enough is enough for big landowners, specifically most recently the Crown Estate. Already with 360,000 acres in a property portfolio worth an estimated £8.6 billion, the Estate has just added Rio Tinto’s 4,500 Alcan estate near Lynemouth, Northumberland, for a reported £20 million. Small stuff for an estate that also owns Regent Street, Kensington Palace Gardens, more than £1 billion worth of regional shopping centres, racecourses, potash mines and about half of the entire UK coastline. But enough for most of us to be going on with. At least Crown Estate income is put to good use – 15 per cent of annual profit goes to the Royal family. Jolly good.

As long as some of that reaches the Princess Royal. Acerbic, but sensible, and capable of making her own breakfast, she told ‘Countryfile’ on Sunday night that genetically modified crops do have a part to play in feeding the world. It’s a serious business looking after the countryside, she said, but a much more serious business trying to feed a world population that is increasing by the billion. Compare and contrast with the reactionary views of Prince Charles, a man who in the difference between way he preaches and the way he lives has almost perfected the art of eating your cake and having it.