The United Kingdom is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The first to live in the country were the Picts, about 10 thousand years ago. Later, in the 8th century B.C., the Celts arrived followed by the Romans in A.D. 83, who built large villages, roads and ruled for almost 400 years. The United Kingdom was also dominated by Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings, Danish and Norman invaders. Are you familiar with any of them?
In the 19th century, Britain became one of the most powerful nations, with the British Empire covering more than one-fourth of the world. In the following century, after two World Wars, the empire was dismantled, but the UK remained a major influence for other nations.
In this long history, the UK has produced great artists and writers, such as William Shakespeare and, more recently, J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. The UK is also known by its mixed society, which brought some challenges on how to deal with multiculturalism and high rates of immigration.
When it comes to the environment, a lot was destroyed. Today, only around 10% of the country is covered by forests and there are not many wild places left.
Let’s learn other interesting facts about the United Kingdom!
The flag of the United Kingdom is also called Union Flag or, popularly, Union Jack. It’s actually three flags in one: the red cross of Saint George, patron saint of England; the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland; and the white cross of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, on a blue background. As Wales was a Principality, not a Kingdom, it was not included in the design of the flag.
Topic Details Full name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Capital: London Nationality: Briton(s), British Size: 242,514 sq km (93,638 sq miles) Population: 61.6 million Language: English Life expectancy: 77 years (men), 82 years (women) Major religions: Christianity 71.6%, Islam 2.7%, unspecified or none 23.1% Urban population: 90% of total
The United Kingdom was the first industrialized country of the world, a great achievement for the economy but not for the environment. Reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas has become the main environmental challenge. The country achieved the target of 12.5% reduction based on 1990 levels proposed in the Kyoto Protocol and has a new goal: 20% by 2020. The government’s dilemma is how to reduce even more without harming the economy, already in difficult times.
On waste management, the UK has achieved good results by reducing the amount of industrial and commercial waste sent to landfill sites to 85% based on 1998 levels, and recycling 25% of household waste. The country aims to recycle 33% by 2015.
The British music dates back to centuries and centuries ago, with the improvised polyphonic (more than one voice) singing of the Celts. Later, Catholic composers created their own style with the sound of organs. In the mid of the 17th century, during the so called Commonwealth period, Cathedrals and theatres were closed. The music was then composed in private houses with few voices and viol consorts. When the theatres reopened, the opera took place and the famous English composer Henry Purcell brought elements from Italy and France. In the early 18th century, George Frideric Handel went to London and his work leaded the musical scenario for nearly 50 years. The country also produced other wonderful composers visiting Britain at that time, such as Haydn, Mendelssohn and Dvorak..
Around the mid-18th century, orchestral concerts became more popular attracting the middle class, and a series of music colleges were founded. Turning the century, after two World Wars, the music style in the UK was revitalized, particularly by Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten. The opera regained an important space with the creation of national opera companies.
In the 1960s a revolution happened. The ‘British invasion’ led by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took the country’s music to the rest of the world. The phenomenon boosted the development of pop and rock worldwide. Influenced by the new trend, British artists developed other styles such as the blues rock, punk rock, drum and bass and the Britpop.
A couple of years later, British music started to reflect the underground life. More recently, in the 1990s, the country produced boy bands, such as Take That and Boyzone. The girls also had their chance with the Spice Girls.
What about today? Do you have a favourite British band? Take a look on the link below for lots of variety!
British cuisine mix traditions and recipes from different nations as a result of the British Empire and the high number of immigrants living in the country. The most traditional meals were created centuries ago.
The Sunday roast is one of the features of the British cuisine. It includes a roasted joint of meat – beef, pork, lamb or chicken, potatoes, vegetables and gravy. Sometimes it also comes with the traditional Yorkshire pudding, made of milk, eggs and flour. Another well-known dish is the English sausage, popularly called banger.
In the streets, the most popular choice is the world famous fish and chips, served by a large number of restaurants and take away shops.
Back to the traditions, you may have heard about the afternoon tea. Well, time has changed and most people can’t drop everything for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the middle of the afternoon anymore. The traditional teatime meal is still served in some restaurants, particularly in tourist areas.
Dishes from other countries such as curries from India and Bangladesh, Asian stir-fries and Italian dishes are also very popular in the country.
It is very expensive to live in the UK, particularly in London and in the south-east of England. The country is full of history and traditions that are still part of the British daily life. One of them is really green: the nation of gardeners. A lot of people have a garden in the back of their house. This love for plants and nature comes from the Roman times and you can find garden centres in almost every city. The parks are also very popular, especially in the summer.
To promote health activities, the government provides cheap leisure facilities in a lot of neighbourhoods, with gym and swimming pool. Some of them are bigger and offer other sports, such as football and tennis.
Getting around the country is quite easy. The rail network is one of the most extensive in Europe. For those who live in London, the best option to go to school or work is by the underground railway system – or ‘tube’ as it is popularly known. When visiting London, this is also a great way to explore the whole city.
Universal state education in England and Wales was introduced for primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August). The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools. The school year starts at the beginning of September and ends at the end of July.
Events and national holidays
The United Kingdom is involved in taking many different actions to help the environment, both as part of the European Union and nationally. Let’s learn about some of them.
Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)
Since the early 1990s, the European Commission has put in place initiatives to deal with climate change. One of them, launched in 2005, is the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). It limits the emission of CO2 by around 10,000 European heavy industrial plants – this includes, for example, power plants, steel mills and oil refineries. Together they account for almost half of EU’s total emissions. That’s a lot! As the name already says, the initiative is based on people trading permits for their emissions. So, big polluters can buy unused quota from greener industries which have more permits than they need, having made an effort to become greener.
EU Climate Package
In 2009, following months of negotiation, the European Union adopted a wide-ranging climate package. It is known as 20-20-20 targets and includes three goals to be achieved by 2020:
- 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, compared with the amount emitted in 1990. The EU promised to increase this to 30% if other major polluters adopt similar targets, especially the United States.
- 20% of energy consumption must come from renewable sources by 2020. These could be wind, solar, hydro-electric and tidal power, geothermal energy, and biomass. This objective was split up among EU members and UK’s target is 15%.
- 20% cut in energy consumption. Within this goal, 10% of transport fuels must come from renewables, such as biofuels.
To know more about EU initiatives, access http://ec.europa.eu/environment/
When the European Union adopted the Kyoto Protocol, it promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5%, compared with 1990 levels, between 2008 and 2012. Each country of the bloc received a national target and the UK goal was 12.5%. The country has already exceeded its obligation. According to 2009 provisional figures, UK emissions are now 26.3% below 1990 levels excluding the industries trading emissions that we talked about before or 24.6% including the industries involved in emissions trading. Progress is being made and ambitions are growing!
Climate Change Act
The Climate Change Act is a national initiative launched in 2008. It requires an 80% cut in emissions by 2050, based on 1990 levels. Some organizations believe that the country won’t be able to achieve the target due to a lack of government strategy good enough for the task ahead.
According to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Act will cost up to £18.3 billion - or £760 for every household in the country. To get more information about the Act, the DECC website is the perfect place to go - http://www.decc.gov.uk/
The Act also created the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent body that advises the government and report the progress made to the Parliament. Do you want to know more about it? http://www.theccc.org.uk
CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC)
To achieve such an ambitious target, the UK government is creating some initiatives. One of them is the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, formerly known as Carbon Reduction Commitment (hence CRC!). It was designed to raise awareness in around 20,000 large organisations, both public and private, and encourage a change of behaviour and infrastructure. The organisations will need to monitor their emissions and buy allowances for each tonne of CO2 they emit. The scheme will help them to reduce the energy bill and save money.
There is also a touch of motivation. Each year, the government will publish the ‘league table’, with the performance of all participants and they will have an extra reason to be at the top. The money raised from selling the allowances will be ‘recycled’ back to the organisations and the position at the ranking will define how much they will receive.
The scheme was launched in April 2010 and the first sale of allowances will start in April 2011. Do you want more information? Access the scheme page on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website - http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/lc_uk/crc/crc.aspx
School children driving UK green agenda
A Eurostar survey found that 86% of 10-12 year olds do something each day to protect the environment. (23 November 2011)
UK Coalition Government to set emissions targets
Coalition expected to adopt plans to cut UK emissions by 50% on 1990 levels by 2025 following row over carbon budget (17 May 2011)
Rich states should pay for Africa mineral advice: panel
Rich countries should pay for African governments to get advice on negotiating the best deals for exploiting their natural resources, a panel set up by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.
Reuters (13 September 2010)
Organic glow - More choices for energy-saving lighting
Another new source of lighting, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), is starting to take the spotlight.
The Economist (14 September 2010)
Climate change advisers urge UK to prepare for change
The UK needs to prepare itself quickly to deal with the impacts of climate change, government advisers warn.
BBC News (16 September 2010)
Last Updated (Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:09)