Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Write Stuff

It's always interesting to peruse the letters column of the JEP and see what subjects are considered worth putting pen to paper, or just as probably these days, in emailing in a letter. Here's a look back at a few matters arising from last month.
From 12th June comes a letter from Mike Stentiford, with a warning
"With scores of personal anxieties each of us needs to confront on an almost daily basis, it probably isn't too surprising to find that the current shockwaves relating to a dire decline in much of Britain's wildlife has passed over our heads with nary a shrug of our combined shoulders."
"After all, what difference can it possibly make to our daily lives if Britain has lost 44 million breeding birds since the 1960s, or that a decline in butterflies has now reached an astonishing 70 per cent?"
"Although it's very easy to understand such lack of interest, it seems a sad indictment of our 21st-century society that with much of nature in serious trouble, even here in Jersey, such alarming changes and critical losses appear to be regarded by so many - including much of the media - as of little or no consequence."
Mike goes on to note how the natural world has provided an inspiration for poets, artists and composers and still inspires us today. He makes a plea for more support and encouragement to all those local environmental organisations that continue to work extremely hard to give struggling wildlife a far more hospitable Island home.
What he doesn't say, but which is just as notable, is that wildlife forms part of an interconnecting pattern, and we need insects to pollinate flowers, shrubs and trees. Equally, we need birds and other creatures to keep those insects in check by feeding off them. Charles Darwin's final writing - "The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms" - was a study of the humble earthworm and how they are so vital to soil formation.
If we neglect wildlife, it will also be at our own peril. We need nature, and all its complexity, for growing food, and it is the separation from nature, and the urbanisation of culture that has led to a disastrous neglect of the natural world as something that can just be an afterthought. Food comes to many people pre-packaged, on supermarket shelves, as if by magic. The old Jersey farmers, who gathered vraic to put on the land, knew better.
Road Runner
On 20th June, Les Winton was fuming about the £950,000 that TTS have found to spend around St Brelade's Parish Hall to carry out highway works.
"Having spent over 20 years of my time at the department fighting for the funds to maintain roads in a good condition I am saddened to think that priority is being given to new road infrastructure when we cannot even maintain what we have. If, as I believe, this money has been earmarked for village improvement then I would suggest that this money would be better spent on resurfacing the roads through areas such as St Martin, where almost on a weekly basis we have further patches to add to the already 40+ that have been completed over the past few months."
He adds that "There are 120 miles of main road in the Island and no road, even if not dug up by service companies, will last longer than 30 years at most."
What he doesn't add is that the digging up by service companies and making good afterwards, only has to last for one year, after which TTS or the Parishes take over responsibility for the conditions of the roads. The state of some of the roads that are patched together by utility companies must barely pass muster. It is a patchwork mess, that as time goes on, and it contracts and expands, weakens and leads to potholes on the boundaries, until eventually the entire road surface needs revamping - by TTS.
There are long over due reforms to extend the time that a repaired and patched road surface has to remain good, but as far as I know they are still somewhere in Kevin Lewis's five year planner. In the meantime, the road surface deteriorates more than it should because the patched repair jobs are just enough. I have a degree of sympathy - they want to get traffic back moving as soon as possible. But it is a short sighted gain for a longer cost.
It's not that many years since the entire road surface from the bottom of La Haule Hill to Bel Royal was wholly resurfaced, but since that time the utility companies have been back at work and you notice the small bumps as the car goes over uneven patches. The road runner would probably trip up, because it seems as if Wile E Coyote's ACME Road Repair Company has been doing the work with all the attendant problems which we see in the cartoons when they provide a service.
Fat Chance
Len Vautier was writing on 24th June about the problems of an obese society and the lack of a proper cycle track in Grouville. He presents his case in a slightly cynical, but very amusing manner.
"The Health Minister once a year says 'obesity and diabetes are on the increase in adults and children and is costing over £4 million a year.' And that is it."
"The Planning and Environment Minister, once a year, thinks he should do something so he spoke and arranged for a 'children to walk to school for one day.' And that is it."
"The Education, Sport and Leisure Minister mentions, once a year, the importance of sport in order to be fit. And that is it."
Len is aware that not every child likes sports, but most children want to cycle. But the cycle track in Grouville is quite frankly not fit for the purpose. It is a gravel track, which simply is not the right material for a cyclist to get adequate purchase. It must be like trying to walk through some of the small dunes of soft sand at Gorey's long beach; you can do it, but the effort is out of all proportion to distance travelled.
"It has a useless gravel base which is hard work to cycle on, whereas it should be a tarmaced surface like the one on Victoria Avenue, which is well used. I would guarantee that if you dug up that route and gravelled it people would stop using it and ride along the side of it on the concrete parts."
That was written in June. The Deputy and Constable don't seem to be doing anything on this. But next year is an election year, and I suggest that Len keeps up the pressure to do something. Otherwise, there will not be so many people cycling, and the annual round of statements of action points will be made by the politicians he describes. I wonder if they diarise them to remember when to make them each year?


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