Forget Guy Fawkes, February now seems the month for having your bonfire.
These last couple of weeks, with their mostly dry, cold and settled weather, have brought a rash of bonfires in the countryside around us. At one time, when walking on the Downs, we counted no less than 14 plumes of smoke from burning vegetable matter.
Although no bonfire peeve, I cannot help wonder whether there is something better that we should do with the plant debris which we accumulate. But the alternatives do not seem much better: compost as much as possible and use a ‘chipper’ with its noxious petrol engine to shred the woody waste, load it all into a trailer and drive it up to the local tip, or dump it on someone else’s land?
Whatever we do, the carbon which those plants fixed from the air seems to end up back in the air. Still the fields between bonfires are now being taken over by ‘solar farms’ growing volts not plants, plumes of steam (and hidden carbon dioxide) rise steadily from the heating plants for all the glasshouses growing us vegetables out of season, and someone wants to gouge out great tracts of land to connect a demonstration tidal power system to the local electric grid.
I still cannot see any truly carbon neutral projects, such as a water-powered sawmill. I suppose those are old hat and would not attract any state subsidies.