Category: Conservation

Sustainability at the sportsgrounds

Sustainability at the King’s sportsgrounds

Over the last couple of months, the Sustainability Team has been out and about visiting our campuses with an ecologist from the London Wildlife Trust. This forms part of our work on developing a Biodiversity Strategy for King’s, which will launch in the next few months. On our visits, we looked at the current state of biodiversity at our campuses, and at the ways in which we can improve it to make spaces more attractive for students, staff, and of course wildlife. As part of this, we also visited the King’s sportsgrounds. 

King’s has three sportsgrounds across South London: New Malden near Berrylands, Honor Oak Park near Brockley, and The Griffin in Dulwich. While sportsgrounds are not traditionally associated with biodiversity due to the need for pitches to be kept in optimal condition for the many sports clubs using them, the King’s Sport team has successfully made space for wildlife. At Honor Oak Park, biodiversity has even been integrated into the newly built pavilion, which has a green roof.

Particularly New Malden, which is situated next to the Hogsmill River and the Elmbridge Meadows Local Nature Reserve, has seen many biodiversity improvements over the years. The edges of the ground bordering the nature reserve are left untouched, creating a buffer zone between the reserve and the managed sports pitches. The vegetation of various trees and shrubs provides a valuable habitat for birds and small mammals. In addition to this, nesting boxes for various species have been installed across the grounds. Hidden just under the roof of the pavilion are bat boxes, which provide important roosting and resting space for bats struggling to find space in cities. Small bird boxes are scattered across the trees around the edge of the sportsground, and a nesting box and shelf for owls have been installed inside a shed.

While biodiversity features can often be seen as nice ‘extras’, the team at New Malden have recognised that biodiversity can also be an opportunity to directly improve the grounds. For example, instead of replacing netting on a fence, the team has planted a hedge made up of a range of native species. This can provide food for pollinators, space for wildlife once grown, looks attractive to those using the grounds, and is likely to be longer-lasting than netting.

Once our Biodiversity Strategy has been published, we will share it across the university, ask what students and staff would like to see, and work with campus teams to implement it. If you want to read about our plans once we publish our strategy, make sure to follow this blog, our Twitter, or are signed up to our monthly newsletter.

Sustainability Week 2018

Every year we hold Sustainability Week in order to raise awareness and educate staff and students about sustainability at King’s. This year we worked with student groups, King’s departments and external partners to bring to you a week based around the theme of how you can ‘make a difference’. Here are some reflections on the week…

Sustainability Pop up: This year for Sustainability Week we hosted an interactive stall across King’s campuses. We gave you the chance to win a Keep Cup by correctly guessing how long it took everyday items to degrade (many people were shocked to find out that it can take a plastic bottle up to 450 years to degrade!), quizzed you about how to correctly recycle at King’s and played a game to see if staff and students know how to use or special coffee cup bins (remember, #fliptipslip!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VegFest: Studies show that a veganism can reduce the environmental impact that your diet has, and reducing the amount of milk and dairy we consume can positively affect climate change. In collaboration with EcoSoc we hosted a VegFest with free samples of vegan cheese (thanks to Bute Island Food who were also kind enough to donate last year). Students and staff brought delicious dishes for everyone to try, talked about the environmental impact of the food we eat and discussed the issues surrounding veganism.

Careers Events: Sustainability is more and more becoming an integral part of business and big organisations. King’s Careers and Employability hosted a successful event during Sustainability Week with guests from law firm Allen & Overy, Good Business and our Head of Sustainability Kat Thorne. The event was designed to help students understand how they can find internships and develop their career in sustainability. For more information please visit King’s Internships.

Cycling: In the Sustainability Team we do everything we can to promote cycling at King’s. Because of this we held four Dr Bike sessions. These sessions provided free bike checks to students and staff throughout the week. Mechanics changed bike pads, checked chains and for whatever they couldn’t fix, gave accurate quotes for how much it should cost to get repaired.

Geography Documentary Screening: The Geography Department Sustainability Champions and King’s Climate hosted a film screening of former US Vice President and environmental activist Al Gore’s latest film ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’. A panel beforehand made up to PhD students, lecturers and Dr George Adamson  discussed our response to climate change and the best ways to tackle the issue.

GoodGym: King’s GoodGym is a community of runners that combines getting fit with doing good. For this session the runners went to Oasis Farm Waterloo, and urban farm and community resource, to help to make planters for trees. King’s GoodGym is a great way to get fit and to also to help the local community. Read more about the Sustainability Week session on our blog.

Temple Gardening Club Winter Pruning: We teamed up with the Northbank BID to bring you this gardening session at Temple gardens. Staff and students braved the cold weather to prune rose bushes ready for regrowth in the spring.

SGDP Sustainable Labs Tour: Labs consume 3-10 times more energy per square metre than normal academic spaces like lecture theatres or offices. As a research university, King’s manages a variety of energy-intensive labs across its campuses, which is why it’s so important to make our labs as sustainable as possible. This tour of the laboratory at the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre was led by Bernard Freeman, Lab Sustainability Champion. The SGDP lab has achieved a Gold Award at the 2017 King’s Sustainability Awards, and Bernard was a Finalist in the 2017 Green Gown Awards for his efforts in embedding sustainability into labs.

This year Sustainability Week was all about how you can make a difference, which you showed us you can do in so many ways! From volunteering, bringing in homemade vegan food to finding out how you can develop your career in sustainability, you showed us exactly what the King’s Community is capable of!

It’s Sustainability Week!

Welcome to Sustainability Week! Make sure you check out our full timetable here. 

It’s gotten off to a great success so far. Our vegan lunch on Monday gave staff and students the chance to learn more about a plant based diet, as well as try some free samples of sheese and vegan chocolate.

We’ve had careers advice from expert in their fields, including our Head of Sustainability, Kat Thorne, about the best way to develop your career path in sustainability.

Still to come we have a panel discussion and film screening of the Inconvenient Sequel with the King’s Geography department. There will be free bike maintenance sessions across campuses for cyclists, as well as a King’s Move challenge running throughout the week. Sustainability Week also aims to show that no action is too small to make a difference, with a talk on how to live ‘zero waste’ and opportunities to volunteer in local community gardens and pond conservation projects.

We will also be holding pop-up stalls at all campuses to give everyone the chance to find out what King’s is doing to be more sustainable, and win prizes by playing sustainability games.

All Sustainability Week events are free to attend, though some require booking. For more information, please visit kcl.ac.uk/sustainability, follow @KCLSustainable on Twitter, or like King’s Sustainability on Facebook.

Gorilla Warfare: conservation in warzones

[Our second weekly guest blog comes courtesy of Richard Milburn, a PhD student in the Department of War Studies. The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability]

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Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Kahusi-Biega National Park. Picture courtesy of the Pole Pole Foundation, a Congolese charity working to protect eastern lowland gorillas in the DRC and promote the sustainable development of surrounding communities (www.polepolefoundation.org)

Many of the world’s most iconic and endangered wildlife species are affected by war: tigers by ongoing insecurities in Assam, India; snow leopards by conflict in Afghanistan; and elephants and rhinos falling victim to conflicts all over sub-Saharan Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where wars of different intensities have raged for the last two decades and which remains insecure to this day, is home to the Mountain Gorillas, the rare Okapi gazelle, the Bonobo and the world’s second largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon. Even outside of warzones, the effects or organised criminal poaching for the illegal wildlife trade is causing large losses of wildlife and creating insecurity for the people living around those animals, a situation which is perhaps best exemplified by rhino poaching in South Africa.

While war can be very damaging for wildlife and the environment as a whole, it can also be a most effective form of conservation. Areas such as the Korean Demilitarised Zone, where humans fear to tread, have become de-facto nature preserves. In such places, peace is more of a danger to the environment than war, for when peace comes intensive resource extraction often follows both to rebuild nations in the aftermath of war and to exploit previously inaccessible resources.

In spite of the many links between conservation and war, it remains an often overlooked topic. To help address this, the Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict and Conservation was established in the War Studies Department. In addition to publishing articles and offering an MA module on this topic, the centre holds regular talks delivered by conservation and conflict experts and experienced practioners, and each year presents the Marjan-Marsh Award, in partnership with the Marsh Christian Trust, to an exceptional conservationist working in a region of armed conflict.

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War-damaged gorilla statue in Bukavu, DRC. Picture courtesy of the Pole Pole Foundation

Outside of the College, November 6th has also been set aside by the UN as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict to highlight the damaging effects of war on the environment, such as: the use of the defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam; the burning of oil wells in Iraq and Kuwait; and the ongoing impacts of war on the environment around the world, which are summarised in a very good recent article by the Guardian. Work is also underway to try to establish ‘ecocide’ as a war crime, and to generally improve the protection of the environment during times of war.

For those interested in conservation, protecting the environment during and after war is critically important. While arguments about the moral case for protecting the environment during war are often presented, these arguments regularly fall on deaf ears. Given the toll of human suffering as a result of war, arguing for the preservation of the environment can be difficult. For instance, around 5 million people have died as a result of war in the DRC over the last two decades, so dedicating resources to protecting gorillas or forests in that country might strike many people as a waste of resources. While the moral arguments for conservation are still valid, they are often not effective, and so more anthropocentric arguments need to be put forward, focusing on the importance of the environment as a threat to security and a tool for promoting post war recovery.

The loss and degradation of the environment undermines the natural resource base upon which many poor people in countries such as the DRC depend. Additionally, the sale of illegal ‘conflict-timber’ and ‘conflict-ivory’ may provide funds to actors in the conflict; Charles Taylor used conflict timber to finance the war in Sierra Leone and the illegal ivory trade has been linked to rebel and terrorist outfits such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and Al-Shabab. Further, since climate change has been identified as a ‘threat multiplier’ to international security, the preservation of large areas of forest in warzones, which act as carbon sinks, is vital.

While the exploitation and degradation of the environment may contribute towards armed conflict, it can also help to bring an end to war and support a resilient post war recovery.

‘Peace Parks’ are being established to support peacebuilding between countries previously at war. These are trans-border national parks where countries cooperate over their management and use that cooperation as a mechanism to help establish trust and create a platform for peacebuilding. Additionally, some ex-rebel soldiers are being given jobs as park rangers, helping to provide alternative jobs as part of the disarmament and reintegration process in the aftermath of war.

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Sunset over Lake Kivu, DRC. Picture courtesy of the author and the Pole Pole Foundation

The environment also provides a host of economic benefits. Forests help to anchor soil and improve its fertility, and also provide an array of valuable ecosystem services to support agriculture. Additional revenue may be generated from carbon offset schemes, such as the UN’s REDD+ scheme, that can generate millions of dollars for countries that protect their forests. Tourism may also provide revenue and improve the image of a country emerging from conflict.

However, in spite of the many potential threats to security and the support for post war recovery provided by the environment, it is important to stress its limitations.

The environment is rarely, if ever, a direct cause of conflict. Environmental loss and degradation may place stress on weak institutions and increase ethnic, religious or other divisions within society, but it will not cause conflict by itself. Additionally, illegal trades in wildlife and timber are rarely the sole, or even main, source of finance for actors in conflict; resources such as diamonds, gold and coltan that are easier to extract and transport and which have a higher value will tend to be more readily exploited.

Similarly, with post war recovery, Peace Parks have been shown to offer some benefits for peacebuilding, but this has usually occurred at a low level and not translated into broad-reaching effects. The economic benefits are also often intangible and difficult to generate revenue from. Ecosystem service valuation remains fraught with difficulty and is often poorly understood by people on the ground. Tourism takes time to establish, and even a well-established industry can be destroyed by any renewed outbreak of conflict or a fear of insecurity.

Clearly, then, conservation is not the main issue in warzones. However, it is still an important component of the causes of war and the processes required to build peace. Effective conservation work can reduce the likelihood of conflict breaking out, prevent exploitation of the environment to fund conflict and help promote post war recovery. The key is to ensure that the value of the environment is realised and that it is seen as a core component of preventing war and promoting peace.

– Richard Milburn (richard.milburn@kcl.ac.uk)