Weasel Winter 2004-05

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There is no smoke without fire: an opinion

OCV Glove bagOxfordshire County Council is considering a future waste strategy which may include burning our rubbish in an incinerator; presently much rubbish is dumped into holes in the ground known as landfill.
Oxford Friends of the Earth is not happy about this. I think I should say right now that this does not mean protestors descending on OCV tasks where scrub is burnt, carrying buckets of water to douse the flames and screaming 'save the planet put the fire out'! No, we're talking about burning the items not recycled but chucked into those black bin bags- go on, admit it, you do it too. If the Council builds an incinerator then each year between 200,000 to 235,000 tonnes of rubbish will go up in smoke. Over a twenty year waste contract that's 4 million tonnes of materials or more. By heck! I think we must do something. Well already, three OCVers have been spotted taking part in an Oxford Friends of the Earth demonstration at County Hall: John, Jane and Andrew step forward. Others are also helping-out in more subtle ways so that now even an armchair activist can take part by signing the on-line petition at www.oxfoe.co.uk. [Editors note: OCV is completely neutral on all political matters. People attending demonstrations are not representing OCV. Thank-you.]
What's so bad about incineration, besides a waste of 4 million tonnes of a resource we call 'rubbish'? Firstly, incineration produces toxic pollution, even modern incinerators, from their chimneys and in their ash giving rise to health concerns. Secondly, incineration undermines recycling and waste reduction as incineration companies lock councils into long term contracts to deliver a guaranteed amount of rubbish; - not delivering enough rubbish, recycling too much? Well, the Council pays compensation; hardly an incentive to increase recycling. Then there's climate change from burning materials and energy wastage too, as incineration, even with electricity generation, is less energy efficient than recycling materials.
So is there an alternative? We could consider the use of local, small-scale mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) for residual waste. Oxford Friends of the Earth have drawn up 'The Oxfordshire Waste Charter' based on guidance from national Friends of the Earth. The charter says: aspire to a 'Zero Waste' strategy; set high recycling and composting rates: 50 per cent by 2010 and 75 per cent by 2015; write a flexible strategy, to allow progressive improvements in waste reduction, re-use, recycling and composting; rule out incineration, including incineration at an 'Energy from Waste' plant; use local, small-scale mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) for residual waste; ensure the County waste strategy genuinely involves, and is informed by, all key stakeholders.
The County Council hasn't yet decided what its waste strategy should be. No decision will be made until after the 2005 County Council elections and no contracts signed until winter 2005. So now is an excellent time to do something. A letter to the County Councillor perhaps? See www.oxfordshire.gov.uk to find out who they are, what their address/ email address is and then you can write that letter today.

Andrew Wood, Oxford Friends of the Earth

Please sign the No incineration in Oxford petition


The Thieving Magpie (or What Happens on Tasks)

Pica was a mischievous bird of black and white plumage. Under the tree branches, she would eavesdrop on conversations, seeking an opportunity to rob well-meaning volunteers of their thimbles and their buttons, which glistened under the foliage.
What winter has temperatures soaring in the 10s on the Celsius scale? Only the squirrels and the robins know how this changes what tasks the volunteers are faced with. Perhaps it is the rain that is more representative of this period with task leaders finding the will to carry on digging, pruning or shaping difficult to come by. Let alone encourage the eager, star struck new volunteers to do the same. But at the pub quiz and the live music events that is another matter altogether. Breath converted to steam and steaming volunteers exiting pubs and Christmas meals in houses tucked away in the depths of Wolvercote.
I am all for team building myself, as what is it humans say? One for sorrow, two for joy and three, well, three's not


How to Get to Litmore Shaw

Say you wake up of a Sunday and it is 10 am - oops, the OCV bus is well on its way to the task site. Pack your lunch and hop on your bike or get in your car. Here are some directions to one of our regular sites:
Litmore Shaw (Buckinghamshire): a privately owned nature reserve marked as a site of special scientific interest as it contains thousands of species within grassland, including orchids and butterflies.
Take the M40 South and exit at junction 5. Turn right towards Ibstone. Pass through Ibstone village and its village green on your right. There's a turning also on the right called Grays Lane. Follow this lane to the end and you will see the reserve in front of you and Litmore Shaw House on your left. Park just in front of the reserve.

More information on Grays Lane Bank, Ibstone, Buckinghamshire


Old Papadopoulos has a spot of bother...

John Gorrill Whatsa matta me, eh? In jail is what, and been here since the Olympics. You think I took the steroids? You think I dodge the drugs test? You outta your mind. Is a fit-up!
Now I have a time to ask to myself what makes a good conservation group. First of all is not about the wildlife because of that looks after itself. Plants been on this planet millions of years before people, so who say they need us? They need less of us is true! No, in a strong group the human side must be right. Must be equal in number of men and women. If you can't fancy a conserver, who can you fancy (and do it in the rain)? I not pervert - I aesthete and flirter! OCV gone a bit gay: too many men, not enough women, and those extremely too serious - especially Helena in the zebra clothes. So is less fun. In Scotland is other way: Kate worry that Jamie go off with sexy outdoor girl of Lothian Conservation Volunteers. They have more women, less men - so prove my point, innit?
Every group need a botanist, so she or he can bore people with names of wildflowers made up a moment before. After I hear about three species, they all sound the same but is good to know someone is interested. Maybe that person wear the anorak, but who cares? Every group need a preacher, but not in the God squad. No, someone to tell everyone about green campaigns and BIG IDEAS IN GENERAL. Act local, think global is what we say! We have Woody and Fishy - they the Gandhi and Mother Teresa of grassroot activism in Oxford. You read the letter page of Oxford Times and Woody always there - he gotta more letters than Postman Pat and he look almost the same!
Every group need a mix of jokers and thinkers, rough and posh, quiet and noisy - but OCV now too quiet, meetings too dull and feels tired. How to stop this? Put viagra in kettle maybe? Is difficult because in every group is tension between people want the new people and people want a little group of old friends like comfy warm carpet slipper. If you not all agree what you want, you never get nothing! In my jail cell I cannot help you, but I hope you be strong team together.
Finally, I get angry with groups use the animal as the logo. Symbolic? Symbollocks! That Red Kite of the Chilterns very boring now - I seen a million already. Where is Blue Kite? Where is Purple Kite? When it learn sing dance, eh? That panda of Wideworld Fund of Nature too cute for wild animal! If it so clean, why it need help? That badger of BBOWT never do nothing - why it not bite them in the bum? More fun and more fund-raising, you betcha! Animals not fashion badges nor teddy bears. Show some respect or change your animal every year. Is better for education. Is better to avoid disappointment and boredom. OCV weasel change all the time - now is popstar Badly Drawn Weasel.
Complacency! Is the baddest enemy of conservation. So give energy and imagination is what I say to solve the problems. Happy life to you. Now I finish cook the porridge...
Ol' Papadopoulos (alias John Gorrill)


A Conservative Dresser

Zebra Girl!It has recently come to my attention, there in the ivory tower where I make my abode, that conservation though hard work is actually a laugh. But looking deeply into my wardrobe and casting furtive glances at the mirror I fear that nothing can quite suit the outdoors.
I have requested searches in fashion magazines and on the global internet highways for items that are both glamorous and relay carefree abandon. But to no avail; no, not even country casuals are appropriate for donning loppers and mattocks in my manicured hands.
Barboor jackets and riding boots I've discarded as being too passe; thereby also quite upsetting for the odd fox.
All my old clothes I have given away to charitable institutions, of which I am a most esteemed benefactress let it be told. Gone are the faded, hole-ridden cashmere polo-necks. Camping gear appears too drearily practical for me. So, it is to the dismay of the general public that I have resorted to camouflage. What better than a striped top to hide easily amongst the Serengeti (Oxfordshire) fauna?


Scientific Analysis of David Beckham

awstatsQ. So, Publicity Officer, tell us what is it like creating a website for an organization as intricate as the OCV- it stands for the Oxford Conservation Volunteers, am I right?
A. Sure, yes that's right. Well, it's simple really. Once you establish a shell and combine it with a matrix of the...
Q. A shell, what kind of shell? Tortoiseshell, or are we talking ammonites? How long ago should our readers be thinking of, Jurassic period?
A: Well, I last updated the website only a year ago now, though I have been thinking of changing some of the features and formats. Make it even more amenable; perhaps a change of image, so to speak.
Q. Is image important for a charity then?
A. Well, if we are to attract more members perhaps it is.
Q. And what is it that you do exactly- tell us; our readers have been asking, how useful is the work you do?
A. Well, I have been with the OCV for close on nine years and we have built paths that are still functional today. And we certainly have been cutting down lots of shrubs; generally putting our stamp on the scenery.
Q. And how relevant is the website towards that?
A. As it happens I have a piece of paper with me. Here you are, all the information should be there if you look.
Q. Who's been looking at the website?
A. Unique visitors are real people (as opposed to things like Google) and the Number of visits is the number of times these people have visited; the average was 1.4 visits per user. Pages are number of web pages viewed and the Hits column includes images and other files so is considerably higher. October was a popular month; maybe it was a term time boost?
Q. How long did they stay?
A. 73% of people looked at the site for less than 30 seconds (but when you read what they were searching for maybe that's not a surprise?). On the other hand two people with nothing better to do stayed looking for an hour.
Q. How have people found the website?
A. Some people came from sites like the daily info and the University's volunteering page but most people came from a search engine and Google represented 85% of those searches. Most of the searches were for sensible terms like 'ocv' or 'conservation and oxford' but some were quite surreal. Here are some of the most amusing:
whats the lowest score you cannot get in darts; ore stabit fortis bench; standing around by fire photo; volunteers waders bog; medieval cappers -coventry; Scientific Analysis of David Beckham; Mark Reedy Comedian; how to make a chinese meal; narrow cardboard tubes; wooden v-shaped entrance; number of beers in a quater barrel.
A. Glad you all managed to find us.