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14 April 2014

Nature and Industry in Harmony (-ish)

little egret teesside

On Friday I took school holiday boy down to Teesside for a treat - not words that often go together, but despite having worked in the area for six years, I have never checked out the wildlife before. We visited the RSPB reserve at Saltholme where we notched up 45 species of bird plus a fox, and stopped at Greatham Creek where the pictures shown here were taken. All around us, heavy industry loomed large - literally and figuratively.

In many ways Teesside is a candle of hope. There was nothing here until the 19th Century when discoveries of iron and coal led to an industrial explosion. This was followed by explosives factories during the wars which were demobbed into fertiliser production and then later came the petrochemical industry. By 1960 the Tees was biologically dead, and the seals that gave the northern estuary its name, Seal Sands were gone.

Fast forward to today and the seals are back - the only colony in NW Europe to have been wiped out by industry and recovered. The seals, the fish they must live on and the large number of wading birds such as the little egret (above) show that the local pollution has been successfully dealt with. This hasn't happened by chance - instead it has been driven by a mixture of legislation, protest groups and a massive effort from the industries themselves.

seal sands

Of course, the petrochemicals, inorganic chemicals and iron works on Teesside are still not sustainable in the global sense of climate change and resource depletion. But it goes to show what you can do if you really try.


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8 January 2010

Where it all started

I've just been sorting through some old photos and slides (remember them?) for the presentation for my book launch. I came across this one of Monchegorsk in arctic Russia showing the cloud of acid rain lurking above the nickel smelter which dominates the town. Harder to see because of the contrast is the complete desolation that surrounds the town for miles and miles - a shaley desert with only a few scrubby plants clinging to existence. This land should be classic taiga - covered in birch trees - but there is nothing.

It was here in 1997 that I had my Damascene moment. It was seeing all at once the source, pathway and receptor of this pollution, and of course its enormous scale, that made me change careers. At that moment I dedicated my life to try and stop these things happening in the first place. Not by tying myself to a factory gate - I'm too much of a coward for that - but by leading people and organisations towards a sustainable future - a place where this does not happen.

So that's how it started.

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6 October 2008

Weekly Tip #29: Bund care

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Bunds* are an essential part of pollution incident prevention - here are two bunding tips:

  • Check bunds are water tight; people have a nasty habit of knocking a hole in the side to let rainwater out;
  • Check that nozzles and pipes do not reach over the sides of bunds at ground level – a passing vehicle could knock them off.

* enclosed areas which contain spillages and leaks, usually found under tanks of oil or other hazardous materials

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