The Voice ‐ April 2018
Comment by Geoff
We are now at the most energetic time for gardening, so we should all be out there planting, checking for the first blooms, as well as getting ready for a successful year for our garden, window box or indoor plants. It’s therefore very annoying when local authorities, who are responsible for our public parks and gardens within the borough, lack the energy to bring life into the parks and gardens. They must do better.
Bethnal Green Gardens
The arguments rumble on, so please help save Bethnal Green Gardens by signing this Petition.
Dangers of The Eucalyptus Tree
It is always wise to understand the what and how when introducing an invasive species into the garden. We have all heard of Japanese Knotweed which is such an example and one not to be followed.
We now have the Eucalyptus which is a plant that should only be grown having taken account of Government Regulations as follows:
- The formula for growing distances from properties ‐ mature height x 0.6667. A mature tree grows to 10 metres, so the minimum distance must be 6.6 metres from properties.
- Bark and leaves are toxic to dogs, cats, so be aware of animals within the vicinity.
- Bark and dead leaves make perfect piles of tinder under the tree. When the oil in the tree heats up, the plant releases flammable gas which could ignite into a fireball. Most trees in the UK are for ornamental use or kept regularly pruned to restrict growth, so a fireball incident has not so far been heard of in the UK. However, if the tree is not properly managed, this is a risk.
Recently, The East London Garden Society was approached by residents in Bethnal Green because they were worried about a Eucalyptus tree which had reached near its optimum height of 36 metres. The tree had been planted by a previous resident fifteen years ago three metres from the entrance to a dwelling for elderly people. It is also an area festooned with animal life.
This dangerous situation as well as the Eucalyptus Tree Regulations were brought to the attention of the Local Authority, but they have refused to attend to the matter.
This is a warning, so when planting a non‐indigenous species, please be aware of the problems it may cause. Back to top
Fight Crime with Gardens
In US cities, about 15 percent of land sits vacant or abandoned; these spaces are associated with increased crime and stress to residents, especially in low-income neighbourhoods.
Researchers greened abandoned lots, cleaning up trash and debris, grading the land, planting grass and trees to create a park-like setting and installing a low wooden fence around the perimeter to signal that the lot was being cared for. Significant benefits were reported due to the greened lots, including a significant reduction in gun violence, burglaries and nuisances, with the latter two falling by 22 percent and 30 percent respectively. In neighbourhoods below the poverty line, the transformed lots reduced overall crime by more than 13 percent and gun violence by nearly 30 percent.
Residents also reported significant benefits, including feeling 58 percent less fearful of going outside due to safety concerns. Vacant lots that have been cleaned up or greened seem to have the effect and are linked with greater feelings of personal safety and lower levels of violence and crime.
Charles Branas, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, and colleagues decided to find out where vacant land restoration could have a citywide impact on crime and resident well‐being, so they worked with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Philadelphia Division of Housing and Community Development to clean up hundreds of vacant lots in Philadelphia.
The researchers specifically chose interventions that were inexpensive, scalable and sustainable, such that one day they could be applied to other US cities. A total of 541 lots were involved in the study. Outcomes were measured over three years via police reports of crime and nuisance as well as surveys of 445 nearby residents.
As any avid gardener knows, there’s something intrinsically soothing about being productive and putting your hands in the dirt. Such stress relief would seem to be a natural match for prison systems looking to rehabilitate prisoners whist also providing a valuable product ‐ food. Gardens in prisons disappeared, along with their many profound, yet little-recognised, benefits. Preliminary research in California prisons suggests that among prisoners who participated in gardening programs, less than 10 percent returned to prison. Typically, more than 60 percent will be sent back to prison after committing new crimes or violating parole, so the simple act of gardening seems to have a significant effect in keeping people out of prison.
Gardens have the power to not only transform physical spaces but also the people who tend to them. San Quentin State Prison in California is among those participating in the project. Research suggests that prison gardens and other environmental programming contribute profoundly towards transformative values and re-identification, which is integral to a rehabilitative experience that inspires lasting change.
A study in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports also concluded that a regular dose of gardening can improve public health and is associated with reductions in depression and anxiety as well as increasing life satisfaction, quality of life and sense of community. Research also shows that people with chronic pain had significant reductions in anxiety, depression and fatigue, and an increase in the ability to manage their pain; all from therapeutic vegetable gardening. Back to top
The Effects of Glyphosate on Your Body
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is the most heavily used agricultural chemical of all time. It’s a mind-boggling amount of usage for one agricultural chemical and it was only a matter of time before the wide‐reaching environmental and public health implications became apparent.
Monsanto advertised Roundup as biodegradable and environmentally friendly, even going so far as to claim it left the soil clean until they were found guilty of false advertising. Now it’s showing up in people at alarming levels with unknown effects on human health.
Researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine tested urine levels of glyphosate and its metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) among 100 people living in Southern California over a period of 23 years from 1993 to 2016. Genetically engineered (GE) crops were introduced in the US in 1994.
Glyphosate is used in large quantities on GE glyphosate-tolerant and its use has increased nearly fifteen‐fold since 1996. Glyphosate is also a popular tool for desiccating (or accelerating the drying out) of crops like wheat and oats, with the UCSD researchers noting in JAMA that Roundup is applied as a desiccant to most small non-genetically modified grains. As a result, Glyphosate is found in GE crops and non-GE grains crops at harvest.
At the start of the study, Paul Mills (Professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego) stated that very few of the participants had detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine but by 2016 this figure had increased to seventy percent. Overall, the prevalence of human exposure to glyphosate increased by 500 percent during the study period whist actual levels of the chemical, in ug/ml, increased by a shocking 1,208 percent.
It’s unknown what this means for human health but in 2017 separate research revealed that daily exposure to ultra‐low levels of glyphosate for two years led to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats. Mills stated that the glyphosate levels revealed by their JAMA study were 100‐fold greater than those detected in the rat study.
In response to the featured study, Monsanto was quick to say that the amounts reported do not raise health concerns and the fact that the chemical is detected in urine is just one way our bodies get rid of nonessential substances. Speaking to GM Watch, Michael Antoniou of King’s College London, had another take on the matter:
“This is the first study to longitudinally track urine levels of glyphosate over a period before and after the introduction of GM glyphosate-tolerant crops. It is yet another example illustrating that the majority of present-day Americans have readily detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine, ranging from 0.3 parts per billion, as in this study, to ten times higher - 3 or more parts per billion - detected by others.
These results are worrying because there is increasing evidence to show that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides below regulatory safety limits can be harmful.”
Concerns over glyphosate’s toxicity have been mounting since the International Agency for Research on Cancer›s (IARC) 2015 determination that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. As of July 2017, California›s Environmental Protection Agency›s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment also listed glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer‐causing ingredients to bear warning labels.
Meanwhile, in the EU, European Commission leaders met in March 2016 to vote on whether to renew a fifteen‐year license for glyphosate, which was set to expire in June of that year. The decision was tabled amid mounting opposition as more than 180,000 Europeans signed a petition calling for glyphosate to be banned outright. Ultimately, more than 2 million signatures were collected against relicensing the chemical.
The European Parliament voted in favour of phasing out glyphosate over the next five years and immediately banned it for household use. As EcoWatch reported, Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity noted:
“This wasn't just a vote against glyphosate. This was a vote supporting independent science and a vote against an industry that has manipulated, coerced and otherwise soiled independent decision-making in Europe and the rest of the world.” Back to top
Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Tabbouleh-Style Amaranth Salad
- 1½ cups cold water
- ½ cup uncooked wholegrain amaranth
- 2 cups diced unpeeled English cucumber
- ½ cup thinly sliced celery
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat‐leaf parsley
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled
- Lemon wedges (optional)
Bring 1½ cups of cold water and the amaranth to the boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is almost absorbed (it will have the appearance of mush).
Whilst the amaranth cooks, combine the cucumber and the next eleven ingredients in a large bowl.
Place the amaranth in a sieve, and rinse under cold running water until it’s at room temperature; drain well, pressing with the back of a spoon. Add to cucumber mixture; toss to blend. Add cheese; toss gently. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.
Note: It is important that the amaranth is placed in a fine mesh sieve. The grain is so tiny that it will slip through a traditional strainer. If one is not available, place the cooked amaranth on a large baking sheet, and spread into a thin layer so it will cool without clogging together. Back to top