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

Get ready for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2022. https://rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/rspb-news-stories/get-ready-for-big-garden-birdwatch-2022/

Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for an hour over the weekend of the 28th to 30th of January. You pick an hour that suits you, and then sit to watch and record birds you can see in your garden, or from your balcony, or in your local park. You then report on line. There’s a live guide with ID tips, sights and sounds, and expert insights into garden wildlife on rspb.or.uk/birdwatch. (You can ask for a guide to be sent to you.)

Lots of excellent science and knowledge of UK birds has come from this long standing citizen science project.

12 Sustainable things to try this year https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zf26trd?xtor=ES-211-[49614_PANUK_NLT_02_ENG_RulesOfTheGame_RET_O35]-20220115-[bbcbitesize_12sustainablethingstotrythisnewyearourplanetnow_factualscienceenvironment]



Books and Periodicals

Greta Thunberg: No one is too small to make a difference. Penguin 2019.
Extinction Rebellion: This is not a drill. A climate and Ecological Emergency Handbook. Penguin 2019.
Edward Platt: The Great Flood: Travels Through a Sodden Landscape. Picador 2019.
Tom Almeroth-Williams: Building a flood resilient Future (article on Cambridge University website).
Edward Barsley: Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A guide to Building a community Design. RIBA (2020).
Free download book on energy and food etc.

Carolyn Steel: Sitopia: How food can save the world. Penguin Books, 2020.

​”Whether it’s the daily decision of what to eat, or the monopoly of industrial food production, food touches every part of our world. But by forgetting its value, we have drifted into a way of life that threatens our planet and ourselves.”


Dark Waters (2019), an American legal thriller directed by Todd Haynes and written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan. A corporate defence attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.

‘Dupont’s stock dropped when this film was released. I never knew about this deception until I saw this biopic …’ [IMDb]

U3AC takes no responsibility for the content of any external sources cited.

Radio and Television

A simple guide from the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24021772

The Green Planet https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m0013cl7/the-green-planet

Fungi: the New Frontier https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/m00132xn

Life at 5‌0°C. BBC Iplayer


Changing Landscapes: A story of Scotland. BBC iPlayer https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00118tc/changing-landscapes?xtor=ES-211-[48520_PANUK_DIV_45_IPL_Editorial2021_RET_ABC]-20211121-[bbconescotland_changinglandscapesourplanetnow_factualenvironment]

The Geochemical History of Life on Earth. Could Human Engineering Stabilise the earth’s climate and chemistry in the long run? https://www.bbc.co.uk/search?q=The+Geochemical+History+of+Life+on+Earth&page=1

Our Last Best Hope. Discussion on Radio 4 https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0010pv9

The Food Programme. Fair initiative and Share Action. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/search?q=The+Food+Programme.+Fair+initiative+and+Share+Action

Climate Change: Ade on the frontlinehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=Climate+Change%3A+Ade+on+the+frontline.

’39 Ways to Save the Planet’. Is a podcast hosted by Tom Heap and can be heard on Radio4 and BBC Sounds:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000qwt3/episodes/player

The Climate Question, BBC World Service. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct0xbl

Floods, Fire, The Future and COP26. The Briefing Room on BBC Sounds.


and https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000y0r2

Green Originals. Available on BBC Sounds. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/search?q=Green+Originals

Britain’s rivers are in crisis, with only 14% in a good ecological state. Tom Heap takes a canoe trip along a waterway he knows well, the River Cam, to ask what’s going on. Listen to BBC Radio 4 Costing the Earth, Canoeing the Cam. BBC Sounds

End of the World has already Happened. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/search?q=End+of+the+World&page=1

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).

Hope in Hell by Jonathan Porrit, 2020 https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk › books › Hope-in-Hell › Jonathon-Porritt › 978147119 is a defiant riposte to denialism, incrementalism and government intransigence. We know the science. We have the solutions. It is time to deliver them.

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.


27 Feb 2019 The book expands on a viral article, also titled The Uninhabitable Earth, which Wallace-Wells published in New York in the summer of 2017, and which frightened the life out of everyone who read it….

Children’s fiction and the climate crisis

Melt by Ele Fountain | Waterstones


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


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.

As climate talks ramp up ahead of the crucial COP26 meeting in Glasgow, new research on what our carbon emissions are doing to the planet paints a disturbing picture: New Scientist  04 /21.

PowerPoint presentation: A Future Hydrogen Economy? by Professor Peter Landshoff http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/pvl/hydrogen.pdf

IPCC author Tamsin Edwards: ‘Still possible to limit warming to 1.5°C’ in New Scientist Magazine, August 2021 issue.


China is building “sponge cities” to combat flooding, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-59115753

Babraham’s Forest Garden project, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/forest-gardening-tree-planting-and-biodiversity-in-south-cambridgeshire-tickets-209119872167

Learn from the Wildlife Trusts how communities can come together to campaign for wildlife, https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/events/2021-12-09-wild-live-communities-taking-action
And the local branch has launched a young peoples forum, https://www.wildlifebcn.org/take-action/young-peoples-forum

The weasel is in danger of extinction, https://www.mammal.org.uk/2021/11/new-research-shows-alarming-decline-in-small-mammals-in-the-uk/
The status of UK bird populations continues to decline, https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/bocc5/bocc5-report.pdf
And there is a loss of diversity and intensity of bird songs: https://www.earth.com/news/the-bird-songs-of-spring-are-getting-quieter/

The Cambridgeshire Flood Risk Management Strategy is open for consultation, https://consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/cambridgeshire-flood-risk-management-strategy

A new investigation into sewage treatment: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/water-companies-could-face-legal-action-after-investigation-launched-into-sewage-treatment-works

A large donation has been given to map underground fungal networks, partly in Cambridgeshire, https://www.countryside-jobs.com/article/2021-11-30-mapping-underground-fungal-networks


Upcoming events

The Fens East Peat Partnership has been awarded £800k from the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme, https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/fens-peatland-restoration-project-wins-government-climate-grant-8612678

Read about opportunities for sequestering carbon on working farms  and  agri-carbon markets, https://green-alliance.org.uk/resources/The_opportunities_of_agri-carbon_markets.pdf and https://green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Natural_capital_the_battle_for_control.pdf

Having recently watched a programme about how difficult it was to produce Dolly the sheep, I am surprised to read that a company invites orders for one or more copies of a clone of any non-primate mammal, at $35k for a cat and $85k for a horse, https://www.viagenpets.com/#

A new grafting technique promises to combat disease in certain large plants, https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/new-grafting-technique-could-combat-the-disease-threatening-cavendish-bananas

A new toolkit for climate adaption, https://localpartnerships.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Local_Partnerships_Climate_Adaptation_Toolkit_v1.pdf

Defra consultation on biodiversity net gain, https://consult.defra.gov.uk/defra-net-gain-consultation-team/consultation-on-biodiversity-net-gain-regulations/

Government proposals to stop hare coursing, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-legislation-to-crack-down-on-cruel-illegal-hare-coursing

The Government is unveiling the next stages of its plan to reward farmers and landowners for actions which benefit the environment, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-unveils-plans-to-restore-300000-hectares-of-habitat-across-england

2021 weather and wildlife review, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/2021-weather-and-wildlife-review
Counting the cost 2021: a year of climate breakdown, https://www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2021-12/Counting%20the%20cost%202021%20-%20A%20year%20of%20climate%20breakdown.pdf

East West Rail is inviting us to map our favourite local natural green spaces, https://communityhub.eastwestrail.co.uk/green-space-central

Interesting new research on how birds navigate, https://theconversation.com/natures-gps-how-animals-use-the-natural-world-to-perform-extraordinary-feats-of-navigation-173700

Reports on the status of British birds, https://britishbirds.co.uk/sites/default/files/BB_Dec21-BoCC5-IUCN2.pdf and https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/bocc5/bocc5-report.pdf

Research finds that fire can be good for maintaining biodiversity and for carbon storage, https://newn.cam.ac.uk/newnham-news/controlled-burning-of-natural-environments-could-help-offset-our-carbon-emissions-new-research-by-newnham-fellow-dr-adam-pellegrini-published-in-nature-geoscience/

The Diocese of Ely offers advice on responding to the climate and biodiversity crisis, https://www.elydiocese.org/church-in-action/environment-and-sustainability/

What’s the Worst that could Happen? Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse. Speaker is Andrew  Leigh. Intelectual Forum, Jesus College. January 17, 2022. Register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/whats-the-worst-that-could-happen-registration-221339792277?aff=IFEmails&mc_cid=7cf0770a15&mc_eid=ee902b68fd

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? https://drive.google.com/file/d/17lrqxt6NG0-QjVafJ_WHbT43kSGiK-WD/view
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, https://www.edenproject.com/media-relations/edens-hot-rocks-project-hits-target-with-successful-drilling-of-first-well

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 alarming report from the Science Panel for the Amazon: https://www.theamazonwewant.org/

An extraordinary 38 degrees C has been registered in the Arctic, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/wmo-recognizes-new-arctic-temperature-record-of-38%E2%81%B0c

Airborne DNA can be used to detect insect biodiversity, https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/the-skys-the-limit-using-airborne-dna-to-monitor-insect-biodiversity/

Dragonflies are at risk: https://www.iucn.org/news/species/202112/dragonflies-threatened-wetlands-around-world-disappear-iucn-red-list

WWF-UK is offering grants for organisations and networks who are working in the space of land-use change, sustainable agriculture and food/farming, https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-we-do/land-food-farming-fund

An Agricultural Advice Hub has been created, to identify sources of local, environmentally focused farm advice, https://mcusercontent.com/fb1d7eb86bc790428464bd9f0/files/d8488f6c-9fad-7057-5b37-86f2fa3c0e07/AgAdviceHub_ProjectSummary_newlogo.pdf

Natural Cambridge Partnership Forum

A recording of the meeting of the Forum on 14 December is at https://youtu.be/FBMmlP0JAXg

The next meeting of the Forum will be in the morning of Tuesday 15 March, 2022

ZCC Green Connect: Food, Sustainability and Community

The next instalment of the online Green Connect Community Networking Event on Thursday 13th January from 7.30 to 9pm. This session will focus on ‘Food, Sustainability and Community’, and will feature a talk by Cambridge Sustainable Food. As usual, this will be followed by a Q+A after which we will hold breakout rooms to allow you to discuss the questions related to Food and Sustainability, and have the opportunity to get to know others in the session. Tickets are free and are available here, or on our website. We would be delighted to welcome you to the event.

Cambridge University is creating a trusted marketplace for nature-based carbon credits, https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-built-carbon-credit-marketplace-will-support-reforestation-efforts-worldwide

Declaration from the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity: https://www.cbd.int/doc/c/df35/4b94/5e86e1ee09bc8c7d4b35aaf0/kunmingdeclaration-en.pdf

Cambridgeshire County Council aims to increase resilience to flooding by encouraging communities to form Community Flood Groups and is offering grants to help protect vulnerable properties from flooding, https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/business/planning-and-development/flood-and-water/riparian-watercourse-grant

The Environment Bill has been given Royal Assent, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/world-leading-environment-act-becomes-law

Microbial biostimulants enhance the productivity and quality of crops, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354280236_Plant_Microbial_Biostimulants_as_a_Promising_Tool_to_Enhance_the_Productivity_and_Quality_of_Carrot_Root_Crops and https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355652344_Application_of_Commercial_Plant_Probiotics_Improves_the_Berry_Yield_and_Quality_of_Field-Grown_Blackcurrant

A trial has begun of feeding cows seaweed to reduce methane emissions, https://meatmanagement.com/morrisons-feeds-cows-seaweed-in-a-bid-to-cut-methane/

A guide, aimed at planners, developers, designers, contractors and other stakeholders in the planning and delivery of trees, https://www.tdag.org.uk/uploads/4/2/8/0/4280686/tdag_tpd2021.s1v1.pdf

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. More details here.

Natural capital protection & restoration in England. February 2022 (complimentary tickets are available): https://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/conference/Natural-Capital-22

How to make climate action popular: https://theconversation.com/how-to-make-climate-action-popular-169593

What’s happening locally:

Cambridge and Peterborough Climate change commission report:


look here for vital signs of the climate warming.


Proposal for Cambridge Nature Network launched by local Wildlife Trust

A proposal for a Cambridge Nature Network was launched earlier this month. The vision is for Cambridge to have significant areas of downland, fens, meadows and woodlands where nature can recover and thrive and to provide a systematic approach to bring about nature’s recovery in and around the City for the benefit of wildlife and those who live, work, study in and visit Cambridge. More details here.

From: Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust

IMPACT Community Carbon Calculator

Recently launched by Centre for Sustainable Energy, this online online community carbon calculator gives you a visual representation of your community’s carbon footprint, helping you spot the areas where your community climate change activities can make the biggest difference. Take a look at your local village or government area and see how your emissions stack up. https://impact-tool.org.uk/

Natural Cambridgeshire

aims to deliver this vision, [of doubling nature] through the creation of extensive and accessible nature recovery areas across Cambridgeshire, designed, led and supported by residents, landowners, farmers, businesses and parish councils. These nature recovery areas will be supported by Natural England and other statutory agencies and incorporated into local policy documents including Local Plans. To support the ‘doubling nature’ ambition, we have produced this local nature recovery toolkit.

Please click HERE for Local Recovery Tool Kit organised by Natural Cambridgeshire

Repair Cafés

Repair Cafés are community events that match people who need stuff fixed with people who like fixing things. They are completely non-commercial. There are no promises and no guarantees, but if something can be saved the repairers will give it their best efforts, and show you how to do the repair.

There is no charge but donations are gratefully received and help pay for costs such as room rental. You’ll find a friendly café at each event, serving hot drinks and delicious homemade cakes.

Your nearest Repair Café is listed on the Circular Cambridge website, where you can also book an appointment.

Litter Picking

Want to join in litter picking? Contact Cambridge City Council organiser: Caterina Dunning called Rina on sosvolunteers@cambridge.gov.uk

South Cambridgeshire contact03450 450063 or email refuse@cambs.gov.uk