Tag Archives: CO2

Can you see the woods?


Looking round, we’re not doing so badly. I’m comparing things to when I was fourteen or fifteen. I can remember seeing my first buzzard. I had to go up to the Inner Hebrides to do it, and we watched it for about twenty minutes. That was as long as it was in sight. Now we’ve got one which will perch on the telegraph pole at the top of the lane, and I see them most weeks.

It’s the same with owls. On Sunday night an owl hit the office window. I went out to rescue it. It was young, barely fledged. So wearing a heavy jacket and fencing gauntlets just in case it didn’t appreciate being rescued I picked it up and set it on a ledge as high up the wall as I could reach. It then proceeded to climb up the drainpipe using its wings like arms! I went back into the house, threw everything I was wearing into the washing machine and had a shower. Bird’s nests and young birds can be bad for fleas and this one was. But we see barn owls and little owls. We’ve got more herons that you can shake a stick at and there are even egrets as well. We’ve more foxes than we need. The other morning I was fetching cows in and heard this strange yowling. Sal had discovered a fox cub. She was circling it warily, dashing in to nip it if she thought its back was turned and she was pulling away if it turned to look at her. I think she was trying to work out what it actually was. It strutted through the meshes in the sheep netting and disappeared.

We’ve also got plenty of badgers. No hedgehogs, but then the more badgers you get, the smaller the number of hedgehogs. And of course we’ve got more deer that we’ve ever had as well.

With regard to birds, the sheer amount of birdsong you hear as you walk down to get cows indicates there’s plenty of them, although I’m not qualified to go into which species.

But all in all there’s far more wildlife than I remember. So one way and another I don’t think we’ve done too badly. Indeed looking around more generally, an increasing number of people are getting regular meals and we’re even managing to increase the wildlife in some places. Farmers are making a reasonable job if it.

But I have to say, the rest of the population haven’t really been pulling their weight. Wander through any city, or look at the litter people tip out of the cars as they drive through the countryside, and it’s obvious things are pretty bad. And then there’s global warming and carbon and whatever.

Actually the whole ‘carbon’ business is remarkably simple. When I was at school we were even taught about the carbon cycle. You breathe it out. Plants take it in, turn it into food, you eat it, and breathe carbon out again. Actually for the purposes of the exercise it doesn’t really matter if you are a person, a bullock or an endangered species.


CarbonCycle_Cr Joyce Farms


Now there’s the storm over methane. But methane is just part of the carbon cycle. It does back into plants which turn it into food and then it gets eaten. We’re just recycling the carbon or methane that we have in the environment at the moment. Feeding livestock or people won’t, in and of itself lead to an increase in carbon dioxide. The problem is that by burning coal, oil and whatever we’re taking carbon out of storage and are returning it back into the atmosphere.

At the moment the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 410 parts per million. Back between 600 and 400 million years ago the level of CO2 was over 6,000ppm. That carbon got locked up by geology. We’ve got the oil, gas and coal to prove it. So when you burn them, you’ll putting ancient carbon back in the atmosphere. It’s not for nothing that they’re known as fossil fuels.

So if you want to stop global warming the first thing you can do is stop flying. Then cut the central heating or aircon. If they’re not solar or wind, (or nuclear) just forget them. Actually you can probably burn wood because it’s just recycling atmospheric carbon as well. But then we need a sense of proportion as well.

In 2017 China produced 10,877.218 Mt CO2/year and their output is increasing. Perhaps by 3% a year.

In 2017 the UK produced 379.150  Mt CO2/year. Our output is falling, by about 2.4% per year.

Let us put this in perspective. If the UK spontaneously ceased to exist, we all just disappeared and the carbon emissions dropped to zero, one year’s increase in Chinese emissions would almost replace us. Rather than worrying about whether you should eat less meat (remember methane is an irrelevance so long as it’s not fossil fuel derived, as it’s a natural part of the carbon cycle) you’ll do more good boycotting Chinese goods until they start making major cuts in their emissions. The web site




makes for interesting reading.


Indeed it is entirely possible that if we organised protests outside Chinese embassies around the world it might do some good. Provided of course people travelled there by public transport.


There again, what do I know


As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”

Cannot see the woods for the trees

I was in Penrith on Saturday and had an hour or so to spare, so I walked up to the Beacon. It’s the hill that overlooks Penrith from the east, and promises fabulous views out over Penrith and the North Lakes.
It was hot, but the hill itself is well wooded and there is plenty of shade. It was Penrith Show Day, so there were no dog walkers and I never saw a soul.
Eventually I got to the top; now for the view. Except you couldn’t see anything for the chuffing trees; instead you stand on the top vaguely trying to peer through one spot where the trees are a bit lower and if you stand on tiptoe you might just catch a glimpse of the business park.
On the top of the Beacon is a building, constructed by our ancestors so those who made the walk could shelter if it got wet, and could get that bit of extra height. Except of course, it’s got bars on the windows and a heavy steel door of a thickness that submarine bulkheads aspire to. So Penrith has a view you cannot see and a monument that is quite literally, neither use nor ornament.
The problem is, people can get so caught up in the detail, they miss the point. At the moment trees are ‘a good thing’. This has become almost an article of faith with some. So obviously you cannot fell a few around the summit of the Beacon because the sudden outpouring of C02 will cause the oceans to boil and the atmosphere to stream off to space.
I’ve seen similar across in Yorkshire. When I was a kid I got to know some of the North York Moors pretty well; and there were some fabulous views. When I took my own children, the trees had grown up and the seats and picnic tables they’d put at the viewpoints were rotting in the long grass because there wasn’t a view any more. That forestry was commercial so it’s probably been clear felled and replanted and the view might be back by now.

This seems to be part of the human condition. We lose the plot. Someone asked me about ‘dinner parties’. Now that is part of polite society that I’ve entirely managed to avoid.
First you have to decide what you’re holding it for. Is it to impress and bedazzle folk with your sophistication and wealth, or is it supposed to be a chance for fellowship, fun and catching up with old friends. Decide which one it is and go for it, but don’t confuse them or expect to attempt the first and to simultaneously achieve the second.
We do it with homes as well. Is the home somewhere you live, a combination of den, office and sanctuary? Or is it the exquisite setting designed to set you off and display your talents to perfection? Again, make your mind up. Especially make sure that all the denizens agree, because the two aims are not mutually compatible.

I suppose life is like that as well. Every so often you have to look at your life and decide whether you are living the life you want; or the life you have just drifted into.
Because I’m like that, I’ll finish with a quote from ‘Dead Man Riding East’, available from all good electronic bookshops and even from

Alissa pointed to a chair and Benor obediently sat down in it.
“Where am I? What’s going on?”
“Introductions first. I am Alissa, a senior concubine of the Prince of Talan. You are in the Harem of the Prince of Talan. So, other than being a dead man, who are you?”
Benor concentrated on the important bit. “What do you mean, ‘dead man’?”
“You are a man in the Harem of Prince Cirramar, Prince of Talan. He is a cheerless individual, paranoid, capricious, although apparently occasionally whimsical. He has decreed that death is the penalty for any man who enters here, other than him. And whilst I don’t claim to know the Prince too well, I’m pretty sure you aren’t him.”
Benor stood up, “I am Benor Dorfinngil, also known as Benor the Cartographer, of Toelar.”
“I am Alissa, originally of Watersmeet.” She smiled, “I suspect Watersmeet means as little to you as Toelar does do me.”
Benor nodded. “But why have you brought me here?”
Alissa turned away from him, a gesture which allowed him to admire her figure. She turned back with two glasses and a decanter she had lifted from a small table behind her.
“I am thirty-five, I am the concubine of the current Prince of Talan, as I was concubine of the previous one, and have met neither of them. I have been trapped here long enough and have decided to leave. A lifetime of embroidery lacks appeal. But to leave I need a helper and a companion, ideally one who is as desperate as I am.
When I saw you arrive I realised you fitted the bill. You are, to put it bluntly, perhaps the only man in Talan who dare not betray me, as by being here you are automatically condemned to death.”
Benor took the wine glass she offered him and poured himself a drink from the decanter, he sniffed it carefully, sipped and smiled. He raised his glass to her.
“Madame, Benor Dorfinngil at your service.”