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random thoughts about environment


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A few years ago there were complaints from local residents who moved on to a new subdivision and experienced smells coming from a nearby dairy feedlot. In response the farm operators put up signs pointing out the farm had been there long before builders bought the land across the highway from them - formerly cotton fields - and then developed it to build homes on so close by.

We'd always been surprised that developers would build close to a feedlot and assumed potential buyers must not have cared. Perhaps more likely they had failed to check and didn't appreciate that smells would be unavoidable. Most times we drove by the smell was intense and unmissable - we learned to turn off the air as we drove by to avoid trapping the smell! Caveat emptor!

I haven't read about whether ground-level solar farms negatively affect the countryside. These are a growing feature of open landscapes. I think animals can graze in the fields the panels stand in but I'm not sure about that. They must throw a degree of shadow on the ground below but I don't know if the amount is great and I don't know how much research has been done on the effects overall.

Clearly fields can't be used normally to grow harvestable crops but the wild areas that result would presumably be suitable for insects and small, wild animals and desert areas such as in Arizona crops need irrigation too hence growing would be doubly impractical. The shade that solar panels provide, though, may help protect plants, insects and animals from the fearsome sun. Those that are able to move usually seek out whatever shade and lower temperatures they can find and they might take advantage of these solar farms.

Our environment is constantly changing, some of the effects are natural and cyclical whereas others are very likely to be down to humankind's activities. Often it's hard to know what we should or shouldn't be doing as we seek to improve life in various ways. Sometimes, though, we DO know what we should and shouldn't do and then it gets really hard to persuade or legislate accordingly, opposition to proposals a certainty from one group or another.

Just as with climate change we know what's likely to be driving some of it but making the changes and making them quickly enough to be effective looks highly unlikely. Many negative aspects are already 'baked in' and even a total cessation of whatever activities have brought about the changes isn't going to stop them.

In the UK, field margins provide helpful areas for wildlife and can easily be managed given the willingness of those owning the land. Countryside stewardship involves costs, of course, so grants can encourage it and help those wanting to be involved. Elsewhere I don't have a clue what's happening - can anyone help?

My pet beef is the unnecessary cutting of road verges. There is no good reason to cut them other than over short strips for traffic safety where an unobstructed view of approaching vehicles is needed such as at road junctions/intersections.

In the US we've travelled along straight roads out in the open countryside whose verges were being mown back many feet, an activity that appeared pointless and ruined huge swathes of wildlife habitat. Other than providing work for someone - important for the individual of course - we could see no benefit other than needlessly to 'prettify' the roads.