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Newsletter 17

Climate action news from Skye and beyond
Sphagnum moss in peatlands absorbs carbon dioxide and locks it away.
See Alan Drever's article about peatland restoration on Sleat in this issue. Photo: Dorothy Jackson
Welcome to September’s newsletter
with news and actions on the climate emergency in Skye and beyond.

Skye Climate Action is a collaborative group, networking to share information and support and encourage all those who are taking action to reduce carbon footprint and prepare for changes happening to our climate. Whether you are taking a personal stand or are joining with others, whether on issues of food, transport, plastics, building, energy or anything else, drop us an email to tell us what you are doing so we can share your story and inspire others. If you use Facebook, please join our page. Visit our website for more news, events and information.

This month we’re continuing our focus on food, and also featuring protection of the environment and nature solutions, alternative strategies for dealing with the current crises of inequality and climate, and actions you can take for climate-friendly farming and against fossil fuel banks. 


At our last Conversation on 10th August members were updated about the start of our film project with Atlas Arts, our submission of interest to the Scottish Government in forming a regional climate hub for Skye and the Small Isles, and our zoom meeting with Kate Forbes MSP. For a summary of the Members’ Conversation click here. For notes of our meeting with Kate, click here, and listen here for a short recording.
In August we launched our new project Grow Skye! Dùisg an talamh ('waken the earth') which was inspired by our Members’ Conversations over the past few months. Grow Skye! aims to build on the increase in people growing their own food during the COVID lockdown, to develop Skye’s resilience and wellbeing in the face of the COVID and climate emergencies. The project follows the seasons, so currently we are mapping and sharing information on people’s growing activities, to celebrate and be inspired by the summer productivity across the island. There is a map on on our 
project page to which you can add your own activities, along with photos and stories. Posters and leaflets are spreading the word, and you can find a template here to make your own posters to encourage your community to join in.
The outline of activities for the rest of the year is
here, with Autumn activities focusing on seed saving and sharing, and celebrations of harvest whether in your family, or small community gatherings. Atlas Arts’ Seed Saving October programme includes a seed saving workshop, sharing seeds through the Skye Zine Library, a discussion with Vivien Sansour (founder of the Palestinian Heirloom Seed library) exploring the importance of seed sovereignty and international solidarity, and film screenings of Wild Relatives (2018) by artist Jumanna Manna, about the seeds stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Details will be posted soon on the Atlas Arts website

See also the consultation and workshop on the proposed Right to Food law in Scotland later on in this newsletter.


Next Skye Climate Action meetings 

Our next Conversation on Tuesday 15th September at 7 pm will look back over Skye Climate Action’s first year, and ask for your thoughts on how we should develop as a group for the times ahead. Email us for the zoom link.
Our Plastics working group is reconvening after a pause due to Covid19, and will meet on Wednesday 16th September at 7.30 pm. Email us for the
zoom link

Nature solutions on Skye 

Nature solutions are crucial for tackling the climate emergency, as Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot explain in this short film.
Here on Skye people and groups are also adopting nature solutions. Alan Drever reports on the Sleat Community Trust's programme to restore peatlands in the Tormore Community Forest, while Scuba divers Vanessa Charles and Martin Hynd from Harrapool explain why we should be looking closely at our marine environment.  Read on….

Creating dams in Tormore Forest peatlands to raise the water table. Photo: Luke Playle 

by Alan Drever
Peatlands hold most of Scotland’s carbon store and are also of benefit to biodiversity. Our Scottish Government’s Peatland ACTION programme estimates that these areas hold the equivalent of 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Maintaining healthy peatlands is therefore absolutely vital in tackling the Climate Emergency.
Peatlands depend on year-round waterlogged conditions, where plants such as sphagnum moss absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. The wet conditions slow plant decomposition to such an extent that dead plants accumulate, forming deposits that over millennia become several metres deep, locking in the absorbed carbon. Damaging peatlands by drainage, commercial tree planting, conversion to agriculture, burning and mining for fuel causes the deposits to dry out, and start releasing the carbon again.
A new project is underway in Sleat to help turn the tide on peatland degradation.
The project is in the 1000-acre Tormore Community Forest, which is owned by Sleat Community Trust (and managed by Sleat Renewables Ltd., a Trust trading subsidiary). Part of the management objective is to generate sustainable businesses and income from the forest for the community, but there are also significant opportunities to improve biodiversity and public access. These include re-structuring the forest from an exotic conifer plantation by replanting with a significant proportion of native species as well as conserving the precious small burn-side native woodland remnants. In addition, a survey carried out by Adele Beck from Torrin, confirmed that there are extensive areas of deep peat in the upper reaches of the forest that have been damaged by previous forestry operations, but can be restored.    
The Trust embarked on the first phase of this work early this year, with grant support from NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) and excellent project support from Lochaber Fisheries Trust who oversaw the work on behalf of NatureScot. One of the first peatland restoration projects on Skye was underway... 
The work was done by Iain MacDonald Plant Hire from Glen Urquhart, a specialist restoration contractor. Activities involved raising the water table, through both flattening forestry plough lines and blocking drains with peat dams – all carefully undertaken by mechanical diggers. Small pockets of poor growth conifers were also felled and piled in situ.  This first phase involved 62 acres. The work was admirably completed on schedule, with contractors often working into the dusk, during six weeks of atrocious winter weather...a great effort! 
Based on its geographic location and status as a community forest, and the excellent and extensive drone-based photographic record of work by one of the digger drivers, Luke Playle, NatureScot has adopted Tormore Peatland Project as a case study.
The second phase of peatland restoration in Tormore Forest is scheduled for 2021-22, depending on further sterling support through NatureScot. Our Scottish Government has pledged £250 million for peat restoration over the next 10 years, to help tackle the Climate Emergency.  This will provide important continuity of funding.
Monitoring the seas for a healthy marine environment around Skye

by Vanessa Charles and Martin Hynd
Healthy seas are an essential life-support system for the world. They store carbon, drive the weather and hold a complex web of life on which we depend. Our actions have a massive effect on them.

Many scientists are currently monitoring our oceans but we still know more about the moon than we do about some parts of the seabed. They are constantly changing, and it is important for us to understand what occurs naturally and what is directly, or indirectly, a consequence of our behaviour. However, it is hard to gauge what is happening if there is no established baseline of what a ‘healthy sea’ should contain. Over time, the baseline slides and what we assume to be okay is actually a lot less rich and diverse than in the past. Project Baseline was set up to document this.
We are two scuba divers who are participating in the marine recording and conservation scheme Seasearch, which was set up to map out the seabed around the shores of the UK and record what lives there. Recreational divers are trained to document what they see, and in doing so identify the richest sites for marine life, places where there are problems and areas that need protection. Several decades of data have already been collected, constituting hundreds of thousands of habitat and species records. The programme has a steering group of statutory conservation bodies, NGOs, diver training associations and independent experts, and its findings have directly influenced national decision making.

As scuba divers we have the benefit of being able to see directly what is happening in our waters. We spend a lot of time exploring the coast around south Skye and the mainland, often visiting little known sites and diving from the shore. There is huge variety in what you can see; one day you might be immersed in a waving forest of kelp, another might find you deep in the darkness of a loch. Sheltered inland sea lochs contain all kinds of unusual species that would normally live in much deeper waters, so it is a great opportunity to study them at recreational depths. In addition to carrying out Seasearch surveys, we have set up a long-term project monitoring Fireworks Anemones in Loch Alsh.

Documenting our marine environment is vitally important if we are to fully understand its diversity, and the pressures placed upon it; everything from climate change and pollution, to overfishing, intensive aquaculture and mechanical damage of the seabed. By experiencing our seas first hand, divers are in a unique position. By collecting evidence, we can plan how to protect our precious seas for years to come.

The loch is part of an important Marine Protected Area, and this internationally rare anemone is one of several impressive species that you can find here. Part of our study includes seasonal water temperature and visibility checks, which help to build a bigger picture of what is happening.


Vanessa and Martin
                                        A colourful Scottish sea slug

Continuing the ocean theme...

The state of our beaches 

A recent haul of beach rubbish from Point, Sleat. Photo: Catherine De Vries
The Marine Conservation Society is holding its annual Great British Beach Clean from 18th to 25th September, inviting people around the UK to clean a 100m stretch of beach and put it on the MCS map. Click here for more information. Due to COVID restrictions, MCS is advising people to beach clean in family groups or safe ‘social bubbles’.  Let us know which beach you're cleaning and send us your stories and photos. 

Council skips to support volunteer beach cleaning have been disrupted due to the Covid situation, so you'll either have to put the beach rubbish in your domestic bin or take it to the recycling centre in Portree (appointments required). Why not invite one of our Councillors to join your beach clean to see the extent of the problem – with social distancing precautions of course – and start a discussion about what the Council can do to help clear up the pollution on our beaches.
Could these be a solution? 

 A beach clean centre supplied by Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Could you make your own beach clean centre for your local beach?
 Upcycling beach rope
Rebecca Johncocks makes beautiful mats, using Celtic knot patterns, from rope waste she finds on the beach near her home on Loch Caroy. See how Rebecca transforms polluting waste into a functional products on her website Contact Rebecca via her website if you would like to buy one.
Rebecca collecting rope

Highland Council gears up on climate action

The Highland Council is developing a climate action funding action plan aimed at improving alignment with Scottish Government national climate policy, demonstrating leadership and marketing Highland as a truly low carbon region.

To mark Climate Week (14th-19th September) the Council, in collaboration with Home Energy Scotland is holding talks across Scotland on the future of electric transport in Highlands. The session for Lochaber, Skye & Kyle of Lochalsh is on Wednesday 16th September 6pm. Click here to register.

The Highland Council is also carrying out a survey to better understand the needs of Highland communities, in respect of making a shift towards low carbon travel. Click here to participate in the survey.

For an update on what Highland Council's Climate Change Working Group is doing, click here.
TAKE ACTION for nature- and climate-friendly farming in Scotland
RSPB, Scottish Wildlife Trust and WWF Scotland's new report sets out 11 actions for nature’s recovery in Scotland, to build a more healthy and resilient nation, supporting diverse, vibrant communities and economies. Concern about the nature and climate emergency has risen rapidly, backed by last year’s State of Nature in Scotland Report  which found that 49% of our species have declined, and one in nine is threatened with national extinction.

The 11 actions are:
  1. Expand Scotland’s native woodlands
  2. Ensure sustainable, low-impact fishing
  3. License driven grouse shooting
  4. Manage deer populations effectively
  5. Make new developments net positive for nature
  6. Link wild places through a Scottish Nature Network
  7. End peatland burning and its extraction for horticulture
  8. Improve use of nitrogen fertilisers
  9. Stop the spread of Invasive Non-Native Species
  10. Support nature- and climate-friendly farming
  11. Protect Scotland’s seas
Scotland’s Agriculture Bill is going through parliament. It will set out how agricultural subsidies are paid post Brexit. RSPB, Scotlink, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and other groups are calling on the government to include Amendment 21 to ensure that agricultural payments are tied to the measures farmers take for nature and the climate. Read more and support Action 10 above by signing the petition here.
The right to food
Covid-19 has exposed the many fault-lines in our food system. How can we ensure that recovery is founded in human rights, with social and environmental justice at its heart? Elaine Smith MSP has opened a public consultation on her proposed law on a Right to Food. More information about responding to the consultation (by 15th September) here with a video of the UN expert on the right to food, the Special Rapporteur Michael Fakhri explaining what the right to food means and why it is important to incorporate the right into national legislation. Nourish Scotland is holding a workshop on 10th September to talk through the issues.

art work by Eva

Reworlding. Image © Eva Schonveld

New thinking to help us out of the crisis
How to chart a path out of this crisis? Do we need new thinking on how we got to where we are and what needs to change for the 21st century?
Recent months have seen widespread calls for a green and just recovery from the COVID epidemic that will also help tackle the climate emergency. These short Greenpeace videos explain what a green recovery is and why social justice is key to a green recovery.
The COVID crisis has made us more aware of what we value in our lives.
Several groups are exploring how we could think differently to get us out of the current crises of COVID19 and the climate emergency, which are both driven by inequality.

Even before coronavirus the ‘think and do tank’ Common Weal were working on detailed proposals for what a Green New Deal would look like for Scotland. During lockdown they have been launching the results online. You can read about their ideas for a Resilient Scotland here.  
Governments' continued focus on the desirability of economic growth measured by GDP is questioned by Kate Rawarth, who has promoted the concept of donut economics for nearly a decade. Donut economics looks at what we need to do to ensure that everyone can meet their fundamental needs without overshooting the planet’s ecological capacity. See donut economics in bitesize chunks, or watch Kate’s 2013 talk to the Royal Society of Arts and a more recent video about how donut economics could be applied to a city (and maybe an island?).
And last, but not least, is a politics of the heart possible? Eva Schonveld and Justin Kenrick unpack how we've reached the point where a small group of highly dysfunctional people and organisations have so much wealth, power and privilege that their agenda is allowed free rein. They also look into what alternatives might enable a better future and how we might begin to build towards that.
Protestors glued in front of Lloyds. XR. Gareth Morris
Protestors glued in front of Lloyds. Photo: XR News, Gareth Morris

Extinction Rebellion
We need innovative strategies and new thinking, but with the Climate Emergency upon us action is needed now. Extinction Rebellion is in the middle of its 10 day campaign to make people act on the fact that we have very little time left to turn things around in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. XR's campaign is targeting institutions of power and calling for legislation in the form of a Climate and Emergency Bill (see below) and a national citizens’ assembly to tackle the crisis. XR's overarching three demands to the UK Government are 1) Tell the truth 2) Act now 3) Go beyond politics. Read the daily updates of the XR campaign here.
XR inverness and fossil banks
On August 28th XR Inverness staged demonstrations in Inverness and Moray aimed at banks and financial institutions who invest in fossil fuels. They highlighted the three worst offenders, Barclays, HSBC and Santander (see next article) and urge people who have accounts with them to switch and write to them saying why they are doing so. Here is Transition Black Isle's model letter:

As I'm sure you are aware, given your need to assess risk, global warming is expected to reach >4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, if we do not urgently change the trajectory we are on and cease our dependency on oil, coal and gas. I am therefore shocked to find [NAME of YOUR BANK] listed amongst these "Fossil Banks", and to learn, moreover, that [INSERT THE INFO RELEVANT TO YOUR BANK & DELETE THE REST] Santander's fossil fuel financing saw the second biggest increase among European banks during 2018-19. HSBC financed fossil fuel companies with almost £67 billion over that period, making you the second largest fossil fuel financier in Europe and winning you the ignominious title of "No 2 Fossil Bank". Barclays financed fossil fuel companies with almost £91 billion over that period, making you the worst Fossil Bank in the whole of Europe, with investments in the sector outpacing other European banks by 36%.

You will no doubt tell me that you are concerned about climate change and the actions you have taken in response. However, I am afraid that smacks of greenwashing when you continue to invest heavily in a dirty, polluting industry which is so very responsible for causing and worsening the Climate & Ecological Emergency. I am disgusted to find [NAME OF YOUR BANK]'s name on RAN's list and cannot in good conscience continue to bank with you any longer as a result.

I will henceforth be switching to an ethical bank that refuses to finance any kind of fossil fuel project (directly or indirectly), using the switching site switchitmoney. I have also set myself the target of telling 99 other people, via social media and personal networks, about your fossil fuel investing and asking them to follow suit.
Sadly yours, [Your name]


To connect with our regional XR visit XR Highlands and Islands and Moray. 

The Climate and Ecological Emergency bill

The Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill has been developed by a broad coalition of scientists, lawyers, activists and organisations, including the campaigners behind the UK's Climate Change Act. It was introduced to MPs on 1st September by Caroline Lucas MP. The Bill calls on the UK to make and enact a serious plan. This means

  • dealing with our real fair share of emissions so that we don’t go over critical global rises in temperature
  • our entire carbon footprint be taken into account (in the UK and overseas)
  • the protection and conservation of nature here and overseas along supply chains, recognising the damage we cause through the goods we consume
  • those in power not to depend on technology to save the day, which is used as an excuse to carry on polluting as usual
  • ordinary people to have a real say on the way forward in a citizens’ assembly with bite

You can sign up to support this bill and find out much more here.

Fossil fuel finance

Bank funding for fossil fuels continues to increase

Rainforest Action Network's annual fossil fuel finance report shows that 35 private-sector banks from across the globe have together funnelled almost £2 trillion into the fossil fuel industry since the Paris agreement (2016-2019).
To help grasp these enormous figures:
1 million seconds is about 11.5 days
1 billion seconds is about 31.5 years
1 trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

Alarmingly, these banks' fossil fuel financing continues to rise year on year.

Barclays is the biggest fossil bank in Europe. It is financing tar sands exploitation in Canada and activities in the Arctic and Guyana, and is the biggest European financer of coal and fracking. 

HSBC and Santander are also major players in the European fossil finance industry. If you bank with any of them, write to them about their actions, and consider switching to a clean account. See sample letter in previous article.
Meanwhile some good news...
Fossil fuel divestments
The UK's biggest pension fund, the government-backed National Employment Savings Trust will ban investments in any companies involved in coal mining, oil from tar sands and arctic drilling and move £5.5 bn into “climate aware” investments.  

Storebrand, a Nordic hedge fund worth more than £68.6bn has divested from miner Rio Tinto as well as US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron as part of its new climate policy to target companies that use their political clout to block green policies.
All these events and more are on our website calendar.
Check out the site as events are continually being added.

7th to 10th September, 7- 8.30 pm: Four Transition Network talks with examples from around the UK, chaired by Rob Hopkins

8th September, 6 - 8 pm: Black lives and climate justice

8th September, 6.30 - 8 pm: Caring for our Common Home in your parish

10th September, 10-12 am: Nourish Scotland Right to Food workshop

10th September, 11 am to 1 pm:  Climate change in the Highlands - How can we respond?, with Keith Masson, Highland Council's Climate Change officer.

15th September, 7-8.30 pm: Skye Climate Action Conversation. Email 

16th September, 6-7 pm: Highland Council talk & Q&A on electric transport (Lochaber, Skye & Kyle session) 

16th September, 7.30-9 pm: Skye Climate Action plastics meeting. Email

13th September, 2-5 pm: Communities for Future: Where Next? SCCAN General Assembly

15th and 22nd September, 9.30 am to 4 pm: Stories for change workshop

16th September, 2-3.30 pm What is climate justice? Perspectives from Zambia.

16th-27th September: Take One Action festival of environmental and social justice films

17th September: Start of a weekly series of six 1-hour webinars explaining COP26 and climate negotiations

18th -25th September: Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean

19th September, 11-1 pm: Imagine if buses were free - Glasgow campaign launch and conference

21st September: start of Keep Scotland Beautiful's Climate Emergency Training for Community leaders

24th September: How nature can help reduce climate change: our responsibility to help nature.
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Skye Climate Action Group · Sleat · Isle of Skye, IV44 8QL · United Kingdom

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