Hinterland - 24 June 2019

In Hinterland this week – an amazing innovation with the potential to save energy, the depressing back beat of under funded special education needs provision, are schools doing enough to help keep the rural skills pipeline flowing? another “flowing” story this time with a depressing plastic tone,  Breixt and its impact on diary and perhaps the greenest Glastonbury ever. Read on....

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Cool running: supermarket fridges could help power UK

If you’ll pardon the pun this is such a cool idea! The article tells us:

Supermarket freezer aisles could soon help power the National Grid after trials found that hundreds of thousands of fridges could provide a nationwide “virtual battery”.

The trials were undertaken by Tesco along with researchers at the University of Lincoln in a mocked-up supermarket, built to test whether fridges can help to balance the energy system.

Researchers found that complex algorithms, developed by the software firm IMS Evolve, can temporarily cut the electricity supply to fridges when needed while still keeping the food cold.

These mini power cuts to the freezers could automatically create short pulses of extra electricity on the grid to match any dips in the grid’s energy frequency.

The system operator already pays firms that own utility-scale batteries to provide this service but the trial indicates that retailers can also play a role, while at the same time reducing their carbon footprints.

Professor Simon Pearson, of the University of Lincoln, said: “Cold food is, in fact, the UK’s largest battery. There is sufficient ‘cold energy’ in the food to keep a refrigerator cold if the system reduces power for short periods to help offset power shortages on the National Grid.”

Every industrial fridge is turned off at least once a day as part of a standard defrost cycle to remove ice buildups in the system.

“Our work effectively replicates a defrost cycle but matches the timing of the cycle to the power availability on the National Grid,” he said.


Crisis in special educational needs drives parents to court

This article helps me reflect on how sad it is that Local Government is taking the rap for a gross dereliction of duty in using national resources to fund an issue which is way beyond the scope of local communities. It tells us:

A funding shortfall for children with special educational needs has led to a surge in court appeals, as families turn to legal action to secure extra help from cash-strapped councils.

With a 26% rise in the last financial year in the number of court appeals by families, MPs are warning of a crisis in special needs care. It is the third successive year that an increase has been recorded. The total of 6,374 appeals lodged in 2018-19 was almost double the number of three years earlier, according to analysis by the Special Needs Jungle website.

The increase in legal action comes amid what insiders describe as a perfect storm hitting provision for special educational needs and disabilities (Send). Schools are struggling to meet the extra costs. That is heaping further pressure on councils, which have a legal obligation to provide care for children that require it. That in turn has led more families to the courts to fight for resources for their children.

A backlog of cases is growing, and more judges are being recruited to deal with the workload. And after almost a decade of funding cuts to local authorities, families are now challenging the government at the high court over its funding for Send.


Urban schools are making more of an effort to teach children about gardening than rural counterparts, RHS says 

It is tempting to just say “good thing too” in relation to this article. There is a more fundamental point however about the value of reconnecting people with the rural environment through education. We need to take a good look at how to do this and in the process address the grievous lack of a skilled worker pipeline for many rural professions connected to the land. In the meantime this article tells us:

Urban schools are making more of an effort with their gardens than their rural counterparts, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has said, because children in cities are less likely to have green space at home.

For the first time, every category in the RHS School Gardeners of the Year competition was won by an urban school, as teachers planted vegetables in enterprising places such as on the roof and pushing raised beds onto concrete playgrounds.

Alana Cama, Schools and Groups Programme Manager said: “We know that growing crops is the most popular school gardening activity but I was impressed by how these city schools have really embraced it to inspire themselves and others – from getting parents involved to inspiring their peers and incentivising them to push their own boundaries.

“We know that for many young people in towns and cities school gardening clubs are their only touchpoint to nature. Not only do these serve as spaces to learn about the importance of plants for the environment and wildlife but our work with teachers has also shown that it can improve health and wellbeing as well as educational attainment.


Plastic waste swamping UK rivers, with one waterway more polluted than Great Pacific Garbage Patch, report says

This rather depressing story speaks for itself, with most of the rivers involved having deep rural connections. It tells us:

Analysis of the samples by scientists at the University of Exeter using an infrared detector found microplastics were in 28 out of 30 locations tested.

A total of 1,271 pieces of plastic ranging from fragments of straws and bottle tops to tiny microbeads less than 1mm across in size were fished out of the rivers.

Greenpeace said the concentrations of plastic waste in the Mersey were recorded at 2 million microplastics per square kilometre, making it proportionally more polluted than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Greenpeace ocean plastics campaigner Fiona Nicholls said: “When processing the samples, I remember thinking that this was an outrageous amount of microplastics, just hundreds and hundreds of microplastics nestled among the twigs, leaves and feathers that were also making their way down the river.

“During this campaign we witnessed voles eating plastic, swans using it to build their nests, and caddisfly larvae using it to make their protective casings.”

She added: “Fiddling around the edges of the plastic pollution problem by banning straws simply doesn’t cut it.

“We need to see bold new plastic reduction targets in the upcoming environment bill, and aim to at least halve single-use plastic production by 2025.”


Post-Brexit tariffs risk huge shock to UK milk production

I fear there is a storm brewing in terms of key economic sectors. This article gives us an insight into the issues facing just one area of economic activity. It tells us:

The government’s no-deal Brexit plans to impose import tariffs on cheese will fail to protect British milk producers’ livelihoods, Dairy UK has warned.

If the UK leaves Europe without a deal by 31 October, about 18% of total dairy imports will attract a temporary tariff to try to protect our market. For cheese, the rate would be set at about €214/t (£190/t).

But Dairy UK, representing milk processors, has branded the proposal “inadequate”.

Speaking at the organisation’s annual dinner, vice-chairman Ash Amirahmadi called on the government to rethink its policy.

Mr Amirahmadi told delegates that Dairy UK had commissioned an independent report on the potential effect of a no-deal Brexit on milk products.

“It showed there would be a massive shock to raw milk prices if the dairy sector faced WTO tariffs going out and zero tariffs coming in,” said Mr Amirahmadi.

He added that the report findings were shared with the government.

“We were pleased the government recognised tariffs were necessary. However, the level chosen for cheddar cheese is not sufficient to avoid volatility and potentially the loss of productive capacity in this sector,” Mr Amirahmadi warned.


And Finally

Emily Eavis hopes for a greener Glastonbury festival

Here’s not only to Glasto (one of my most favourite examples of the contemporary power of rural places) but to  greener Glasto this year. This article tells us:

Anyone who's seen the aftermath of festivals will know that it can end up looking more like a rubbish tip than a celebration of music. 

About 23,500 tonnes of waste are produced each year at UK music festivals, according to Powerful Thinking - a group which looks at the festival industry. Roughly two thirds of that goes into landfill.

But Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis hopes measures the team there has taken will inspire fans to be greener at this year's event.

"Sustainability and the need to live in harmony with the land, has always been vital to Glastonbury Festival," Emily told the Press Association.

Single-use plastic bottles have been banned on site, anyone going to the festival has been asked to asked to leave non-essentials at home and non-compostable plates, cups, straws aren't allowed either.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.



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