Environment group

Coordinator: Leslie Miller-Bernal
Contact: environmentu3ac@gmail.com

The objective of the U3AC Environment Group (EG) is to inform and educate members in all aspects of the natural and built environment, meaning factors such as climate change, emissions, water pollution and extraction, energy supply options, and the effects of government policies in environmental matters. We also take an interest in local sustainability issues and provide links via our webpage on the U3AC website, to local events and information on how people can become involved in Cambridgeshire and surrounding regions. 

The EG meets regularly to discuss environmental issues, and some members present on topics of their choice for information and debate. The EG also organises seminars from time to time on major issues with expert external speakers, open to all members of the U3AC.

For more information on the Group contact the Chair, Leslie Miller-Bernal, on environmentu3ac@gmail.com or the U3AC Office.

Reports of previous workshops and seminars


Radio and Television

The Green Planet – Please click HERE

Fungi: the New Frontier – Please click HERE

Life at 5‌0°C. BBC Iplayer – Please click HERE

Our Last Best Hope. Discussion on Radio 4  – Please click HERE

The Climate Question, BBC World Service.  – Please click HERE

INSIDE CULTURE. Can Art Save the Planet? Click here.

Book Reviews

Andrew Leigh is a Member of the Australian House of Representatives, and author of ten books, including most recently What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics (MIT Press & Penguin).

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by Bill Gates.

Reviewed by U3AC Sustainable Books Group.

Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Allen Lane, 2021)

ISBN-10: 0241448301; ISBN-13: 978-0241448304

Written by the well-known technologist, business leader and billionaire philanthropist , this is a very readable book covering the major questions of how best to reduce CO2 emissions from the current 51 billion tonnes per annum to net zero. Gates suggests a range of technological innovations while not neglecting actions which individuals can do in their daily lives to reduce the problem. The chapters are illustrated with statistical examples from the USA but the issues are as relevant to the UK as elsewhere.

(SP April 2021)

Novels on climate change (taken from Front Row. BBC sounds)

Thawing Permafrost by van Huissteden, J. 2020. (ISBN: 9783030313784) : Permafrost carbon in the thawing Arctic,

In particular, the book covers the role of the large quantities of ice in many permafrost soils which are crucial to understanding carbon cycle processes.An explanation is given on how permafrost becomes loaded with ice and carbon. Gas hydrates are also introduced. Structures and processes formed by the intense freeze-thaw action in the active layer are considered (e.g. ice wedging …

Richard Powers: Bewilderment. (ISBN: 9781785152634) With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, tantalising vision of life beyond it and the ferocious love of a father for his young son, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers’ most emotionally powerful novel to date.

Jeff  VanderMeer: Hummingbird Salamander. 11 Apr 2021

a hummingbird, now thought to be extinct. The author of this message and its mystery is a well-known eco-terrorist and corporate heiress, Silvina, believed to be dead. Jane follows the clues that Silvina…

David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth. – Please click HERE

Children’s fiction and the climate crisis

Melt by Ele Fountain | Waterstones

Please click HERE

A boy lives in a remote, snow-bound village with his elderly grandmother. Their traditional way of life is threatened by the changing snow and ice: it melts faster every year. When the sea-ice collapses while he is out hunting, he only just escapes with his life and is left stranded in the Arctic tundra.

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, Levi Pinfold | Waterstones

Please click HERE

Synopsis Both absorbing animal adventure and subtle commentary on climate change and the plight of endangered species, The Last Bear revolves around April, the daughter of an Arctic researcher, and her chance encounter with a lone polar bear. There are no polar bears left on Bear Island.

The Wild Before by Piers Torday. 2021 Pushkin Press.



Cambridge researchers will tackle environmental threats that could affect a third of the UK’s home-grown vegetables and more than a quarter of its rare and endangered wild animals, CLICK HERE

Research on the value of local green spaces, Research on the value of local green spaces, CLICK HERE.

Restoring East Anglia’s Wetlands, CLICK HERE

Nature in Cambridge has received a boost thanks to a grant award of £425,000 from Natural England’s Nature Recovery Programme, CLICK HERE.

New Countryside Code advice for visitors and for land managers, CLICK HERE.

A new, faster, strategy on climate change has been approved by the County Council, CLICK HERE.

The Landscape Recovery scheme provides funding for long-term, large-scale projects in England, CLICK HERE.

The Fens East Peat Partnership has been awarded £800k from the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme, Please click HERE

Read about opportunities for sequestering carbon on working farms  and  agri-carbon markets, Please click HERE and HERE

East West Rail is inviting us to map our favourite local natural green spaces, Please click HERE

Interesting new research on how birds navigate, Please click HERE

Research finds that fire can be good for maintaining biodiversity and for carbon storage, Please click HERE

The Diocese of Ely offers advice on responding to the climate and biodiversity crisis, Please click HERE

Does the fact that more than 30 companies worldwide are investing in the development of controlled fusion encourage the hope that within two decades there will be access to unlimited clean electricity? Please click HERE
Meanwhile, Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project advocates that oil companies use their drills to access the heat deep down below the Earth’s surface, Please click HERE

The Cambridge Independent reports that the local Wildlife Trust has decided that it is better to lose a few saplings than to continue to use plastic tree guards.

An extraordinary 38 degrees C has been registered in the Arctic, Please click HERE

Airborne DNA can be used to detect insect biodiversity, Please click HERE

Dragonflies are at risk: Please click HERE

WWF-UK is offering grants for organisations and networks who are working in the space of land-use change, sustainable agriculture and food/farming, Please click HERE

Cambridge University is creating a trusted marketplace for nature-based carbon credits, Please click HERE

A guide, aimed at planners, developers, designers, contractors and other stakeholders in the planning and delivery of trees, Please click HERE

Homes wanted for retrofit study

A project team of Bioregional, Transition by Design and 3GCC are carrying out a study of how to retrofit private housing stock in Cambridge for the City Council. The study will produce a public facing guide on how to retrofit your home to zero carbon and how much it might cost. The project team needs your help to conduct this study in gaining an accurate understanding of typical homes in Cambridge. We need to carry out simple site visits (around 1 hour) of homes to check assumptions of the condition, construction and energy use. In addition, selected homes will receive a free air tightness test and basic retrofitting advice. The homes we need are ones of typical condition and without significant retrofit measures already in place. If you would like to put your home forward, please fill in this form Many thanks in advance for your help.

What’s happening locally:

Cambridge and Peterborough Climate change commission report: Please click HERE

look here for vital signs of the climate warming. Please click HERE

China is building “sponge cities” to combat flooding, Please click HERE
The weasel is in danger of extinction, Please click HERE
The status of UK bird populations continues to decline, Please click HERE

The Cambridgeshire Flood Risk Management Strategy is open for consultation, Please click HERE

A new investigation into sewage treatment: Please click HERE

A large donation has been given to map underground fungal networks, partly in Cambridgeshire, Please click HERE

Last year the World Bank issue a policy brief on urban nature and biodiversity for cities, CLICK HERE.

Outline of progress by Cambridge University towards its commitment to zero carbon, CLICK HERE

All new homes in Greater Cambridge will be required to install integrated nest boxes and gaps in fences for hedgehogs, and will be encouraged to have green roofs, CLICK HERE