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Hitting the high notes

Mar 16, 2014   //   by Nicholas Milton   //   Blog  //  No Comments

I’m currently taking a course at Stratford College on writing for newspapers and magazines. Each pupil was asked to write a feature on a specialist subject. This is Hitting the High Notes : If you really want to learn how to sing, look no further than the humble church choir by Elaine Barker.

Gareth Malone has been on a mission to get the nation singing.  He wants his latest series Sing while you work, to inspire a whole generation.  It’s a laudable ambition and numerous studies suggest that singing with others is very good for us on all sorts of physical and psychological levels.  Malone’s successful, watchable TV programmes have resulted in burgeoning community choirs of every description: they are ideal for inexperienced singers and those nervous of the choral societies’ membership fees, auditions and slightly high brow reputations.  Gareth has shown us that singing is for everyone and we can all have a go. But there’s one kind of choir that’s always been around, traditionally welcomed new members whatever their background, and that’s the church choir.  It’s where the likes of successful pop role models such as Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, started their singing careers. Wannabe rock stars – take note! Read more >>

Spot the adder

Mar 12, 2014   //   by Nicholas Milton   //   Blog  //  No Comments

It’s spring and Britain’s only poisonous snake the Adder is emerging from hibernation. But they are often hard to spot. The first picture shows an Adder I found in the open basking on some logs. See if you can spot the Adder in the other pictures. Sadly the Adder is seriously declining. If you are lucky enough to see one leave it alone and report the sighting to the Make the Adder Count survey, part of the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme.

George Clooney’s satellite? The women of Sudan will drink to that.

Mar 4, 2014   //   by Nicholas Milton   //   Blog  //  No Comments

We’ve all seen those slick adverts where the suave George Clooney is turned down by a series of beautiful women who are more interested in the coffee machine than him. What you may not know is that Clooney has used the large cheque he received from Nespresso to pay for a satellite to spy on Sudan.

The Satellite Sentinel Project is designed to track the movements of Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese war leader by using maps to identify the build of military equipment like tanks. In response Bashir has put out a statement asking Clooney what it would be like if a camera was following him everywhere. “Well welcome to my life” was Clooney’s witty reply.

As well as spying on Bashir, the project if slightly modified would also be very useful for monitoring a Practical Action project in Sudan.  This is designed to help limit the rate of deforestation, a major environmental problem across the country, the extent of which is not easy to monitor on the ground but it is from space.

To help counter this Practical Actions low smoke stove project is delivering ten thousand cook stoves to women in El Fasher in North Darfur. This will allow them to replace their traditional wood and charcoal fires with modern, energy efficient and cleaner burning Liquid Petroleum Gas cook stoves, in the process saving precious forest cover

Clooney’s satellite maps could show the impact of the project on the ground and so help preserve Sudan’s scant forest cover. It could also help boost Clooneys female fan base as it is being delivered in co-operation with the Women’s Development Network Association which represents over 50,000 women in Sudan, roughly the same number who log on to Clooney’s ‘official’ Facebook page each day.

The project has recently issued its first carbon credits, just in time for the start of climate week. The 35,359 credits are the first to be issued in Sudan and have been certified by the Gold Standard Foundation in Switzerland. They are also the first to be issued using new rules developed for verifying projects in conflict zones and refugee camps.

In Sudan charcoal costs a household around £20 ($33.50) per month, while using LPG costs roughly £7 ($11.70) per month. But the initial cost of the stove and the LPG canister are beyond most families so they continue to use charcoal and cut down the forest and scrub land. To overcome this Practical Action has introduced a micro-loan scheme operated by the WDNA. There is a loan repayment rate of over 90%, very high for an area ravaged by poverty and war.

SudanThe project was started in 2007 with the finance put up by Carbon Clear who are also selling the credits. The project will save more than 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over 10 years and will ensure that climate finance reaches some of the world poorest people. It will also improve their health by cutting down on smoke, another issue close to Clooney’s heart as he grew up on a farm and is the grandson of tobacco farmers.

Clooney thinks climate change issues are important but told the Guardian “I’ve been in a private jet (I imagine more than once) and once you do that you pretty much undo any good”. So if he wanted to offset all those flights Clooney now knows who to contact. The women of Sudan would drink to that.


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Nicholas Milton

I am a marketing and communication expert with over 20 years experience. Over this time I have campaigned on issues I feel passionately about - conservation, climate change, racial equality, land reform, rural poverty and most recently international development. I am also a successful freelance journalist and have been published in the Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph and the Independent.

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Email: Telephone: 0044 7880 622059

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