Talking Dirty – An Environmental Blog.
Date: 09/12/2013 | Blogs
Apologies for the prolonged two (rather than one) week interruption in service! It would appear that some of you have been missing my ramblings as I have been coming under pressure in the last couple of days from certain followers (you know who you are) to make my reappearance in the blogisphere…so here goes!
As I mentioned at the end of my last entry, I was on holiday in Berlin for a week and, perhaps surprisingly, my trip was a good source of inspiration for this blog. In essence, there appear to be significant differences between the ‘norm’ in Germany from an environmental perspective and the position here in the UK. I’ve noted a few examples below:
- Even before landing in Berlin, I was forced to think about the environment. On my approach to the airport (south of the city), my eye was drawn to the many wind turbines spanning the vast rural landscape surrounding the city and, indeed, their proximity to it. It is no secret that the uncomplicated planning system in Germany (when compared with the UK system) has assisted the rapid development of wind energy but I have never seen evidence of it quite so blatantly before.
- Once in Berlin, the first thing you notice is the city’s cleanliness (apart from the omnipresent graffiti which is everywhere but which strangely seems to add to the city’s appeal rather than detract from it). There is a distinct lack of litter on the streets and, even more pleasant, minimal congestion and pollution, even in the city centre. This has been my experience in most German cities that I have visited in recent years and could be due, in a large part, simply to the attitude of the German public towards such matters – call it national pride! Why though, should their national pride be greater than ours? At a very interesting breakfast seminar I attended this morning, I was reminded by Andrew Thin the Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, that this country’s natural assets (both rural and urban) are one of its most distinguishing and positive features and something which we should be proud of – does that message/attitude resonate with the general Scottish/British public?
- Another good example of this positive attitude is the evidence all around Berlin of the extent to which recycling is carried out, both by businesses and by individuals. They say that a picture speaks a thousand words so….
They may need to up their game in terms of actual collection but clearly the impetus is there. With a number of provisions of Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan (including segregated waste collection) coming into force in 2014, are there lessons which we can learn from countries in Europe who have had success already in improving their recycling rates?
- The lack of traffic congestion (and consequently pollution), at least in Berlin, is facilitated by a superbly efficient transport system and the network of cycle lanes which criss-cross the entire city (as I found out by walking in them a few too many times and nearly being taken out by speeding cyclists). Whilst I appreciate that major changes to transport infrastructure and management are significant policy and economic decisions for any city, there is much that can be learnt from those who are doing it well. Perhaps pertinent given the recent press about Boris’ push to encourage cycling in London and the (almost finished) tram lines in Edinburgh. What is most notable about many mainland European cities is the ‘joined-up’ nature of their transport systems which, despite continued effort, still seems lacking in many UK cities.
- I also noticed: (a) the presence of energy efficient systems for controlling heating, lighting and water at source in a number of buildings that I visited and how well they seemed to work and (b) the creative ingenuity in the design of buildings …another picture which shows a building made from old cargo containers illustrates this point:
Not to say that such inventiveness is not at work here in the UK but perhaps it needs more support and encouragement from Government and industry?
I guess the message of this edition is whether, when it comes to issues on an environmental nature (in the built environment or waste management), we should spend more time looking at those who are doing it better than we are?