US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

10/10/09: Southwark brownfields could be better for wildlife, but benefit from 'negative growth'

I was surprised at the number of brownfield sites I came across en route from London Bridge to Waterloo station.

As the invertebrate conservation charity Buglife have made clear, brownfield sites can be extremely valuable for wildlife

I was less surprised by the fact these sites weren't being worked on, given the current 'economic climate'. So yes, there are positive things about a 'recession'.

What is a 'recession'? According to the BBC the UK economy is in recession when it experiences two successive quarters of what is known as "negative growth". For this to happen, the total amount of goods and services produced by the UK - known as gross domestic product (GDP) - would have to contract on a quarter by quarter basis for a total period of six months.

Welcome to the wacko world of Westminster party extinction economics. Has our pile of existing material wealth suddenly vanished? No, but you would think so given the screaming headlines. Is it a good idea to consume more and more resources at an ever faster rate when the UK is living a three-planet lifestyle already, and according the the New Economics Foundation the world went into ecological debt for the year in September. Er, no. But according to Gord, Dave and Nick THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE. But that's because they've got everyone on the same debt-laden treadmill, so if too many people wise up and stop guzzling the goods all of a sudden a load of people become unemployed and the whole system starts to unravel. And never mind that GDP is an extremely gross measure, including all manner of damaging activities as 'positive' economic activity.

Well here, for the historical record, are the havens I came across before we 'recover' (albeit not our senses) and most probably build all over them .........

Brownfield site, Union St (south side of the London-Bridge-Waterloo railway, line which is on the viaduct above). Note some kind of art installation (?) looking like so many bracket fungi growing out of the brick wall. I quite like it!

Brownfield site a bit further west along Union St, again on the south side of the London-Bridge-Waterloo railway line.

The flora of these sites included several Tree of Heaven (see below) and typical plants for such places such as Buddleia, Canadian (or Jersey?) Fleabane, Annual Mercury, Woody Nightshade, Pellitory-of-the-wall and Oxford Ragwort. All that rubble would be great for reptiles, in the somewhat unlikely event there are any in the vicinity.

What the Americans would call a 'vacant lot' at the corner of Risborough St and Union St., with the ghostly outline of former buildings plainly visible. I couldn't resist getting the name of the bar in the shot. And although you can't read it without enlarging the picture, the upper advertising panel on that end wall says 'Rose Brand Fine Teas'.

Perennial Wall-rocket made an appearance here, along with Herb Robert, Black Horehound, Creeping Thistle and Purple Toadflax but ........

the most interesting specimen was this non-native purple Convolvulus (Ipomoea)

False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) spilling over the boarding round this large brownfield site on Bear Lane, bounded on the other side by Great Suffolk St.

The same site pictured through the small hole in the previous photograph. Row of Silver Birch as street trees in the background. Quite a lot of hard surfacing still in place here.

Large site on the east side of Blackfriars Rd, on the north side of Burrell St. , through a gap in a gate. According to an official notice posted on the hoarding, the TfL-granted licence for it to remain in place had expired on 31st May ...........

On which note, it seems to me that several of these sites were not dangerous to the public (unless ridden with toxic chemicals), and probably less so than crossing the road. It would be good if some people at least were allowed in to sow or plant things that would enhance them for wildlife, even if just for a year. I suggest that amongst other things the annual Phacelia tanacetifolia, the best bee attracting plant I've ever grown (sold as a green manure), could usefully be employed. In my experience you just sow and grow. It will self-sow itself thereafter, is not mown down by molluscs, reaches a good size and can provide flowers over a long period. It is ornamental-looking enough to keep the public happy. A few 'portholes' in the hoardings would allow anyone interested to have a look.

Going back to the Chinese Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) mentioned earlier, this is an increasingly common and invasive non-native in this part of the capital. It grows quickly and reproduces from prolific wind- and water-dispersed seeds and from numerous root suckers that allow it to re-sprout vigorously from cut stumps and root fragments.

Here is one in fruit:

Fruiting Tree of Heaven by Waterloo station

No comments:

Post a Comment