I’ve visited the Kettering Starbucks a couple of time in the last two months as it’s a pleasanter place to hang around, if one has to, than the Kettering Hospital car park. On my first visit there was a guy cutting the grass with whom I got into conversation as I drank my coffee outside. I’d noticed that he wasn’t just cutting the grass but was also spraying something around some of the edges and, slightly bizarrely I thought at the time, around the bases of lamp posts.
I asked, in a friendly, chatty way, what he was doing and he immediately said ‘It’s perfectly safe‘ which is an interesting reaction, and then he said ‘It’s glyphosate‘. So I said that I knew a little about that and that some people disagree with that assessment and think it has impacts on both human and environmental health. The man, and he was a very nice man as best as I could tell from our conversation, said something like ‘It’s perfectly safe. I’ve been using it for over 30 years and it’s never done me any harm‘ which immediately took me back to many conversations with shooters, red in the face shooters very often, who have said the same to me about consuming lead with their game meat.
My friendly grass maintenance contractor then did add ‘Well, I think there is some evidence it causes cancer’ which was an interesting definition of safe, I thought. The picture above was taken more recently, and shows the circle of burned-off vegetation that resulted from the spraying weeks earlier. Now, do you look at that brown patch and think ‘I’m glad someone did that. Phew, what would have happened to that lampost if its base hadn’t been sprayed? I chill at the thought!‘ or do you think ‘Why?‘?
There must be an awful of patches of grass, owned by organisations, maybe a bit like Starbucks (I can’t speak for them), which are of little interest to the business or local authority that own them and they just want them to be ‘tidy’. And there must be lots of nice blokes and women who are contracted to keep them tidy, who do a bit of spraying of powerful herbicides.
Wild Justice has been investigating glyphosate use by local authorities and has found a very large range of customs and practices which differ widely across different local authorities even though they operate under exactly the same regulatory framework – see the Wild Justice blog and subscribe to the Wild Justice newsletter to get updates on this and other work.
I see that the wise Prof Dave Goulson, whose book, Silent Earth, I will review here tomorrow, has an active petition which seeks to ban pesticide use in built up areas – click here to see what it says. I wonder what his conversation would have been with the nice grass maintenance man.