Local Government Shocks UK Couple By Requesting Removal of ‘Harmful' Solar Panels
The Skinners were encouraged by their local council to install solar panels on the roof and side of their United Kingdom home, only to later be told by the same officials that their $33,300 energy system presented a threat to the community.
According to Business Green, James and Joy Skinner, both 81, were left feeling confused by the contradiction and betrayed by town officials. The side panels are visible, but face a brewery, seemingly without agitating anybody in a conservation area of Hounslow on the banks of the Thames River. The couple's pre-installation calls to three departments in Hounslow resulted in officials assuring them that enough time remained for them to qualify for the feed-in tariff before it was cut from 21 to 16 pence per kilowatt hour, which is roughly 35 cents to 27 cents in U.S. dollars. They told the family that filing their planning permission after the fact presented a risk, but not a large one.
Weeks later, the Skinners received a rejection letter, requesting that their panels be taken down.
"It seems to me so extraordinary and unfair that the council should treat this road in one way themselves, and then [treat it differently] when we're trying to do something that is frankly not of financial benefit to us—in so far as we're in our 80s and not expecting to reap the returns," Joy told the website. "So, we are trying to do this in the public good, for the future of our children and grandchildren."
In subsequent responses, the council stated that the panels hurt the conservation area's appearance. An appeal didn't work in the Skinners' favor, either.
"The solar panels, despite being installed only to the upper stories, appear as an incongruous feature, which detracts substantially from the character and appearance of the conservation area," an inspector's report reads. "It is noted that there is considerable support for the appellant. However, that does not negate the harm to the conservation area which ... should be conserved so that it can be enjoyed for its contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations."
Though Hounslow Council says the family knew what it was getting into, James recalls an energy official telling him what an effectively advertisement the panels would be. James feels like there is more being done to prevent his family from going solar than to figure out climate change, which causes the Thames to rise in front of his home.
"It is extraordinary that the success of the fossil fuel lobby is so great that there is now a change taking place," he said. "Renewable energy investment is now falling and I think [our case] is directly involved with exactly that issue."
Leonie Greene of the Solar Trade Association told Business Green that the Skinners' case shows the need for the solar industry and local governments to get on the same page. She also believes the town council could have been less encouraging in their dealings with the family.
"There's a lot of confusion around the rules in conservation areas and councils as well as homeowners are often confused about what they can and can't do," she said. "If people are in doubt, they need to talk to the local council, but in this instance James did, which suggests the industry and government need to do more to make the planning rules clear."
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jake Johnson
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