Going Green: ​Trees helping breath new life into the world

​​I absolutely love trees but why do I keep hearing about people cutting them down so much? People all around the world love trees and for good reasons.

Anyone who has sought shade from them this summer will feel grateful for whoever planted them but unfortunately a small minority are wreaking havoc with a chainsaw.

We need no further evidence of that than when the Sycamore Gap was cut down in September last year. The much beloved tree was the site of many wedding proposals, featured in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and has its own hashtag too.

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The men accused will stand trial in December but the reason it’s made so many headlines is because trees are incredibly emotive; old and established ones especially.

The Sycamore Gap bordered the UNESCO world heritage site Hadrian’s Wall and its gnarly branches were believed to be over 300 years old. That means it was growing when Mozart was born and when the French Revolution started.

It’s not just old trees in special places that make headlines though. A woman who illegally cut down a protected tree on her driveway in the West Midlands has been spared a fine despite cutting down a beautiful specimen of Ash.

The tree in Solihull was protected by a tree preservation order that had been in place since the 1990s, but what a lot of people have found frustrating is that the tree existed before the couple’s home was built.

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It was there when they bought the house – they knew what they were buying, they knew the ash was big and would continue to grow. They also knew it was protected.

Also, a farmer in Wales was fined just £1,500 for destroying 20 acres of his own woodland. It’s estimated it’d cost £52,000 to restock it with the species he cut down.

13,660 hectares of trees were planted in 2020, and in England the Forestry Commission planted around four million trees between 2022 to 2023. In total, the UK has three billion trees – that’s around 45 per person.

While planting new trees is absolutely essential for the UK and tackling climate change, we need to protect the old ones we have. Mature trees are magnificent. They keep ground secure with their root systems, reducing the risk of land slides. They absorb rain and surface water and prevent flooding and they’re a haven for wildlife and nature.

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As well as their beauty, they extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and that’s essential for reducing global warming too. Over their lifetime, a tree could absorb over one tonne of CO2 – that’s the equivalent of driving 2500 miles in a car. The issue when they are cut down though is that the carbon they’ve absorbed is released back into the atmosphere when the tree is burnt or left to rot so they go from a carbon store to CO2 releaser. A 2023 study from the University of Derby found surprisingly that Brits love trees more than we love our neighbours so they need to be protected at all costs from the chop.

Celebrity spot

​​Damned United actor Michael Sheen has partnered with Radio 4 on Buried: The Last Witness.

The untold account of one of the world’s first-ever whistle blowers on ‘forever chemicals’, sees Michael Sheen join Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for an explosive new story. He said: “I think the most shocking thing that has been uncovered has been the scale of the problems, and the scale of the potential dangers to people.”

Green swap

​Swap crisps and nuts for seaweed crisps. Seaweed doesn’t require any fresh water and it absorbs CO2 as it grows. It’s sustainable and is a climate friendly fast growing snack option.

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Why not swap travel abroad for UK staycation​?

​The UK might have experienced a mini heatwave in certain places recently, but parts of mainland Europe have been sweltering for weeks.

There’ve been wildfires in Greece with extreme temperatures hitting 43 degrees andeven the Acropolis has been closed with the mercury rising across the country.

We know that temperatures are rapidly rising globally, and also that scientists like me have been banging the drum for years about this issue, but in the last decade we have also seen the increasing impact on lifestyles in a way that we hadn’t until now.

My friend spent a fortune on taking the holiday of a lifetime all the way to the Mediterranean last summer.

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When she got there with her family, they just could not enjoy the activities and all the excursions that they had planned because it was simply too hot to do anything other than stay within touching distance of the hotel pool and the pool’s cool water.

They only ventured out in the evening shade.

They had spent a four figure sum to sit by a pool for a week and, in addition, there was all the airport hassle as well, when they had in fact planned to see so much more and they were understandably disappointed.

Travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for it being too hot wherever you go.

With all this in mind, and also with the soaring global temperatures right now, doesn’t it make more sense not to fly, but to holiday in the UK, or take a train to mainland Europe and give yourself less hassle and stress?

The issue isn’t just temperatures upon arrival either.

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Flight Free have got plenty of ideas on where and how to holiday in Europe without taking a flight.

No Airport Expansion are a group set up with a mission to halt airport expansion in the UK.

Part of the issue is that – as Brits on an island – we’re conditioned to think travel to Europe has to include a flight but it absolutely doesn’t.

The train to Marseille from Paris takes just three and a half hours and the train from London to Paris takes just over two hours.

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Timed right you can be in the South of France quicker than you could fly to Paris with check in times being up to two hours before the flight.

With climate change being a global problem it’s not just Europe either.

India has been experiencing its own heat wave of over 44 degrees with over 100 deaths and 40,000 cases of heat stroke.

Climate change means changing a lot of the things we’re used to.

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We simply can’t live or travel in the way we’ve been accustomed to and the more we fly, the faster we’ll accelerate the impact.

Fact or fiction

12 per cent.

This is the share of new vehicle sales made up in May from sale of electric vehicles.


The share of EVs sold in comparison to the entire car sales market was 19 percent in June compared to 17.9 per cent for last year.