A view from the West

Featuring food, fuel and the future in Jersey

Perennial bit
Sustainability, community, diversity!
This is a personal view of aspects of life in Jersey, Channel Islands. It focuses on the challenges of peak oil, food production, population density and climate change on our Island's fragile social, ecological and political systems

Don't tell the atheists....

According to the JEP 10th March (Connetable) Mr Paddock added that the parish was currently working on figures to show ratepayers how much the work could cost them. These will be presented at an ecclesiastical parish assembly, which, in a break with tradition, is to be held in the church and not the parish hall, on Wednesday 21 March starting at 7.30 pm.

Oddly the notice doesn't appear on the official notices Gazette Where the previous Ecclesiastical assembly does appear.

Couple that with moving the assembly location from the usual Parish Hall to the Church itself and one has to wonder if some manipulation is going on here.

I am unclear if I can make it yet - it is my daughter's birthday today, but it seems clear to me some questions need to be raised.

The Parish is responsible for maintaining the fabric of the building - wind and water tight. £280,000 seems a lot to do that unless there has been some unexpected damage, even then that might be covered by insurance. It is a point that irritates me when the States undertake major building work too - they seldom present realistic figures for the ongoing commitment of costs for maintenance and repair. So the first question is when was work last done to the Church at this scale. The supplementary being why was there no ongoing provision in the accounts to save up funds towards this inevitable cost?

My second question is about timing. Who determines when work should be done on the Church particularly in repsect of the Parish responsibility. If it isn't urgent then can the work be postponed?

The third question: why isn't this figure being presented at a rates setting/budget meeting? Unless the work is urgent it should be set out against the other commitments and priorities of the Parish, some of which might be urgent or more timely. Perhaps the Parish would like to spend £200k on solar panels and groundsource heat pumps for the old people's homes and the Parish Hall and offices. That might reduce our fuel costs notably and even produce a bit of income from sale of energy bact to Jersey Electricity at the same time as doing something toward our obligations under the Energy Pathway 2050 plans of the States.

I can see some logic in doing both the Parish responsible work and other work at the same time - it is likely to reduce overall costs compared to two sets of work. And that brings me to the last point. The glossy leaflet on the changes writes about the Church being at the heart of the parish activities. Geographically that is never going to happen - as the church is in one corner of the Island's largest Parish. That's why St George's was built. But suppose it is successeful at becoming a focal point of activites, what impact study has been carried out on what that means for the rest of the facilities in the Parish.

Agriculture, growth , intensification and social structure.

Now there's a heady mixture of things very germane to our Island. I have often remarked how Jersey society appears far more stratified and rigid in that stratification than anywhere else I have lived. Of course there is also a case going back a few centuries that Jersey's agriculture has been very intense - one reason many political commentators of the 18th and especially 19th century came here. This paper puts some perspective on how we may have arrived where we are.

The key observation "rather than intensification of agriculture leading to social stratification, the two evolve together".

So is Jersey's hierarchic, pseudo feudal structure and its noted agricultural history a self reinforcing feedback loop. And if, as this paper suggests, it is what then do we do to change that? Can we read that the pending demise of agriculture locally foretells a break from the rigid strata of our society?

Big questions, important questions. Don't expect to hear any answers in the coming elections though.

St Ouen Ecclesiastical Assembly

​An Assembly of Principals and Electors of the Parish of St Ouen will be held at St Ouen's Parish Hall on Tuesday 6 February 2018 at 8pm to:

approve, if deemed advisable, the Act of the Ecclesiastical Assembly of the 17 May 2017

to elect replacement Church Officers for the balance of the year 2017-2018

to authorise the Rector and Surveillants to seek an appropriate retrospective Faculty from the Ecclesiastical Court in relation to the recently replaced Altar Frontals

to authorise the Connétable, Procureurs du Bien Public, the Rector and Surveillants to attend the Royal Court to be party to the Deed of Arrangement to conclude matters in relation to the amendments to the boundary of Field 630 as originally approved at the Assembly of 25 May 2016

Choice matters.
From This link gives a sharper image you can enlarge.

NPK. and two of them are a problem

Every gardener is aware of the three basic mineral requirements for plants  - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They are usual refered to by ther chemical symbols NPK.   There are planty of other elements/minerals required in micro amounts for healthy plants too, but those are the big three.

Most people have some awareness of the problems of nitrogen in the form of nitrates and nitrites in drinking water (and processed food  especially cured meats).  Very few  are aware there is a problem with  phosphorus too. In fact the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles combined form one of the nine  limits of the safe operating space of the planetary boundaries approach  advocated by the Stockholm resilience centre.  On this model we have already crossed the boundary of what is safe on both the climate change and biodiversity loss metrics.  It is also thought we have crossed the nitrogen limit, but not yet the phosphorus one.  But that does not mean there is no problem with phosphorus.   See In essence too much nutrient causes problems (eutrophication) and in aquatic systems this leads to algal blooms.

Like nitrogen there is a natural flow that happens, but also an additional loading from highly soluble forms used in agriculture.  As it happens phosphorus in large scale accessible forms for  artificial fertilizer is in fairly short supply and there are estimates we might be out of practical  mining  quantities in 50 years.   It seems obvious we need to find ways to reduce usage and losses and to recover and recycle what we do use.  And that points back to farming and growing practices. In the old days guano (dried bird droppings) was much prized as a fertilizer as it had  all three of the basic elements in useful quantities.  Any got a colombier?

Did I forget to mention  excess phosphorus in water is also associated with rapid sea lettuce  growth.  Another reason to make sure we are on top of this locally.

Nitrates in water

The levels of nitrates in the ground water in Jersey is a long standing problem.  Treatment or removal is not a simple cheap thing, and it has long been the case that avoidance is the best  option.  However some interesting ideas from Rice University might beget a solution (other than reed beds!)

Their research suggests nonparticles of gold  spotted with palladium can break apart the chemical bonds in nitrates. The result is oxygen and nitrogen gases - both components of air .  It sounds promising.  But there's a potential a catch.  Gold is pretty inert and probably harmless as a metal to most lifeforms, You'd think the nanoparticles are safe too. But that's the problem. Nanoparticles can have distinct properties.  Not only can this change the chemiistry - as in this example, but also they are of a size to be mechanically important in blocking some fine biological functions. It is an area where we still don't really know  enough .  And there is one other problem, a big one to my mind.  Once in the 'wild' we have no way to recall or  recover these nanoparticles.  If we later discover an unexpected deleterious consequence to two we have no remedy.

So this  nanoparticle catalyst looks like an inteting area of reserch, but if I were mindful of public safety and ecology I still opt for  ion exchange or red beds for the forseeable future.

Shoe in?
I have not yet read the latest partish magazine, so had not noticed that the current connetable, Mike Paddock, has publicly declared he is not restanding.

There have been rumours of a potential challenge after the rates meeting in July where an extra £10,000 item was added to the budget  from the floor for  the Youth and Community centre.  I wasn't at that meeting, but I have the draft minutes at home somewhere.

I know Richard from my time as a Constable's Officer in the Parish.  I don't doubt he has the administrative capability to do the Parish role.  I cannot see a man whose  hobbies list car racing and who was very involved in the annual rally is going to be leading the fight locally on climate change.  The piece in the JEP talks of Jersey being part of the common agricultural policy.  We never have been to date - the reason farmers don't get EU subsidies.   Jersey did have area payments locally - part of the promise to farmers that they would not lose uot competitively  under article 3 when the UK joined the EU. I see no realistic possibility of us becoming part of the EU policy while Britain is trying to exit the EU.  At the very least the price of having us in and eligible for EU payments would surely be  to have VAT like every other EU member to pay our share of the the EU costs.

I also note how the end of the piece segues from Richard's announcement to  what Mike Paddock said "The role has been fulfilling, stimulating, challenging, and at times very humbling, and I will always be sincerely grateful for the undivided loyalty I have had from long-standing supporters from within the parish,"  Almost like a baton change in a relay race.

Future imperfect
The garlic and shallots are in so there's just a small quantity of peas in the greenhouse to transplant and everything is done for the year. Since it is our Soil Association inspection today, I'm even uptodate on the paperwork.  I ought to be feeling good about things.  But I dont really.

Often this time of year I find motivation difficult.  Rainy days mean I spend more time reading and the more I read the more I see madness in the world.  Eye watering debt levels both personal and pubilc, loss of species and biodiversity, degraded environments, oil back over $60/barrel, and food inflation way outstripping wages.  And the only national or international plans to deal with the first  make the others worse.   Plans of mine for growing next year are just getting  laid, but they are in stark contrast to that lot.

There will be a couple of changes.  First I'll have a bit less land to manage if all goes well.  I've been talking to some people setting up a new not for profit venture based here.  Looks like that will go ahead soon.  Another change is herself has increased the number of laying hens upto 12. I'm happy. They help  keep  things in balance eating insects and weeds and making use of the land that is put back to grass after lifting roots and tubers.  I also get hot material to help with compost making.  The eggs are something of a byproduct.  Again rather back to front to how most commerical outfits treat layers.  In those systems birds are typically culled after 2 years when the egg production declines.

Having less land to manage doesn't mean I have less work to do, it just means I can better keep on top of the other jobs that need doing, and improve quality a bit. I see that as a far better indicator of progress than simply producing more money.  But then food is real and economics is but an abstraction.

Parish Assembly

An Assembly of the Principals and Electors of the Parish of St Ouen will be held at St Oue​n's Parish Hall on Tuesday 21 November 2017 at 7.30pm.

  1. receive, and if deemed advisable, approve the Act of the Parish Assembly held on 19 July 2017

  2. consider the following application for recommendation to the Assembly of Governor, Bailiff and Jurats for 2018

    Name: Supermarket Alliance Limited
    Business address: Tesco Alliance, La Grande Route de St Ouen, St Ouen
    Category: 6th (Off Licence)

  3. elect from the inhabitants of the Parish, without regard to Cueillettes, a Vingtenier for the Cueillette de Grantez, the term of office of Mr Christopher Joseph Lamy having expired

  • in accordance with Article 5 of the "Loi sur la Voirie" elect three Principals residing in the Parish to act as Members of the Roads Committee, the terms of office of Messrs. Ronald John Vibert, Basil George Carré and Richard John Michel being due to expire

I'm struck by a point about the supermarket.  This is next to the St Ouen Motorworks.  We have two food shops in the parish about 400 metres from each other.   That is it in the largest parish geographically.  It seems to me to be a failing of any useful planning.  Much better to have one by the village and one by St George's state I woudl think.  Especially if we are serious about persuing strategies to reduce car usage.  To achieve that you have to put facilities near to where people are, not all bunched together in one place.

The commercial imperative.

Things are now slowing down notably in the field.  My greenhouse staging is full of  stuff not quite ready to go out - broad beans, peas , celery and winter lettuce.  Jerusalem artichokes and yacon have started being lifted and many gone to sale, and the last half dozen pumpkins are slowly going.  The garlic is in , earlier than normal, and two beds have been prepared for shallots to be planted  hopefully next week.  Overall I'm somewhat ahead of usual for this time of year, and the sales of modest quantities of surplus more than coverd the costs of seeds etc.  So much in fact that I've taken the opportunity to buy a few big glass cloches when they were on sale.

Last week I went to the farming conference at La Mare.  We were back to a full day affair with lunch, and the numbers seemed up a little.  I'd estimate 120.   The format was a little different with just 15 minutes at the end for questions.  The type of speaker also seems to have changed - more of the lobbyist and marketting types less of the academic. In previous years the agenda has taken some care to be  of wide appeal.  We have had  a local chef, equine people, researchers in alternative crops, organic producers and more .  This time it was very much focussed on commercial big players - dairy, potatoes and Jersey Water.   I suspect that reflects the fact the organisation of the conference has changed and now is run by JPPL  - the body that oversees Genuine Jersey - very much a promotional body.

Scott Meadows from the Environment Dept gave a talk at the end about the rural economy, LEAF etc.  I was particularly struck that the number of businesses getting financial support under LEAF has dropped from the previous scheme.  It was 67 , now 50.  Those now not  in the scheme are egg producers - the red lion scheme is too expensive it seems,  About half the equine businesses have not joined, and the rest are the very small producers.   The law of unintended consequences at play?

Elsewhere in the big world argiculture has been getting some attention.  Agriculture is a big source of greenhouse gas emissions, but there has been relatively little progress at the international climate change meetings, because it cuts across trade concerns. COP23 at Bonn has seen something of a breakthough that may mean some progress see In Ireland there is even a proposal to tax farm emissions see

But that is only half the story.  As the likes of the Soil Association and Rodale Institute have been saying for years, well managed soil sequesters carbon.  Stanford University have a recent paper looking at the potential of reduced tillage etc to sequest carbon and seem positive about it.  See

Glyphosate has also made the news. The EU parliament voted to ban it.  The EU commission, who  really make the decisions, were suggesting renewing the license for 10 years, then reduced it to 5 years.  But when it came to the vote  it did not succeeed.  By default glyphosate's license in the EU expires on the 15 December.   There is likely to be another vote to renew the license at the end of November, probably on a Fench proposal to renew for 3 years and then phase out  shortly after.  California's state government is now being sued by Monsato who are themselves being sued by a class action of hogdkins Lymphoma sufferers. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which is named in the federal lawsuit, said it stands by the decision to include glyphosate on the state’s list of products known to cause cancer and believes it followed proper legal procedures. 

But none of that big important stuff made it to our farming conference.  Jersey persist in talking about its greenhouse gas targets that are based on Kyoto targets when currently every country in the world has signed up the Paris agreement  (although the USA wants to withdraw).   Locally the Environment Minister  sees no reason to ban glyphosate , saying only that it isn't anymore a concern than eating bacon and doesn't acknowledge other concerns.

Time now to get planning for my  next season's artifical fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, insecticide and most certainly glyhposate free growing.


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