Nature and Industry in Harmony (-ish)
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.
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.