Derek – Friday 24th September 2021

Last weekend, the garden had a green couple of days with Dr Bike in the garden helping cyclists keep their bikes maintained, a mini open gardens trail, a plant sale and a tree climate walk. Green issues and climate are much on our minds these days as we home in on November’s COP26 summit in Glasgow. The government is taking the climate crisis seriously, at least for a couple of months while it is in the limelight.

All of which makes the hullabaloo about a shortage of carbon dioxide somewhat ironic. The gas is increasing in the atmosphere, year on year, due to the burning of fossil fuels, and this increase is the prime cause of climate change.

CO2 does have uses in our economy. The gas is utilised in the slaughter of cattle, pigs and chickens as part of the stunning process. Frozen carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice, is a coolant used in the NHS, for the transport of food, and in theatres for artistes to shimmy out of its fog. The gas is used in food packaging to keep salads fresh longer, and in apple and pear warehouses to extend storage time. CO2 is the gas used in beer pumps and the fizz in fizzy drinks.

But the recent sharp rise in the price of gas has brought about a shortage of CO2 for industry. 60% of it comes from CF Industries, whose American parent company closed the plant due to the price hike. The company is the UK’s largest manufacturer of ammonia and nitric acid, much of it used for fertilizer. CO2 is a by-product as natural gas is burnt to provide heat for the chemical processes.

The government has done a deal with CF Industries to restart its fertilizer manufacture, and to extract the CO2. All the CO2 of course will end up in the atmosphere, the route is just more circuitous. But the various ways add up: cattle slaughter plus fizzy drinks plus dry ice for pop singers plus preserving apples.

If only we were really short of CO2.

It is now autumn, both astronomically and meteorologically, in case you weren’t sure. The Autumnal Equinox was on 22 September on which we had equal day and night. The days now get shorter, the nights longer, until 21 December when we begin to come out of the darkness. Mornings are chilly, dew dripping off the spiders’ webs, even though the temperature might reach 22 degrees by the afternoon. We can no longer kid ourselves that it is late summer. Herbaceous plants are sagging, weary leaves are beginning to fall from trees, spiders know they must mate before the frosts set in. And the earth continues round the sun in its yearly cycle, giving us the seasons and our daylight hours.

The butternut squash and sunflowers, from Americana, will come down this weekend. Flowering has stopped, the leaves are dying and the squash won’t get any bigger. The wildflower bed had an extended period due to a late start, but it knows its time is almost up. We’ll be cutting back the buddleia to give us more sky, squirrels are busy, bees are gathering the last of the nectar. I’ll keep an eye out for mushrooms.

Enjoy autumn. Dress for it.

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