Thursday, 4 February 2016
Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Reports that lightening-strike caused fires on the elevated plateau of Tasmania have destroyed much of the ancient forest, thought to be a remnant of the original Gondawana, (www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/27/world-heritage-forests-burn-as-global-tragedy-unfolds-in-tasmania ) is disturbing. The loss of Pencil and King Billy pines along with cushion plants would also be expected with climate change as these high altitude plant are not, like e.g. Eucalyptus, adapted to dealing with fire. Having said that, like Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi' song we may need to create a 'tree museum' (so we can charge everyone 'a dollar and a half just to see 'em').
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
There is no doubt that mothers giving birth to microcephalic babies is a personal (as well as family) tragedy and a great financial imposition on stretched health services. Having said that, I am not certain that the putative link between this condition and mosquito-carried Zika virus in Central and South America is really in the same category as Ebola (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/01/zika-virus-world-health-organisation-declares-global-health-emergency) as claimed by WHO. For a start, human to human transmission is not involved in Zika and the level of mortality resulting from infection is much, much lower. There is certainly evidence that the mosquito vector species of the virus is extending its range but Malaria (also mosquito-borne) has been widespread in Africa for hundreds of years and causes much greater mortality (especially in children) without quite attracting the same accolades. I am not convinced that photo opportunities of soldiers distributing insecticides to kill the odd mosquito (even if they are allowed access to anyone's property) will have much effect, as the insect larvae can breed in the tiniest collections of rainwater (in foot-prints, old tin cans or roofs of buildings and holes in trees). Perhaps the criticism of the WHO over the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the siting of the Olympic games in Brazil and the potencies of the images of babies have all combined to play a role in the media reaction to Zika?
Sunday, 31 January 2016
Thursday, 28 January 2016
An interesting study involving more than 120,000 US subjects, some studied over more than 20 years (using a combination of measures and self-reported diets and life style activities), has suggested that a diet rich in brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables, rich in flavinoids, helps to limit weight gain especially in middle age (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/27/natural-compound-fruit-veg-flavonoids-help-prevent-weight-gain-study). This is interpreted as a possible help to countering the obesity epidemic (with its linkage to a variety of diseases including diabetes) but the association with these 'super foods' may be a bit more complex than meets the eye. The diets seem to have been self-selected and it is possible that the subjects eating blue berries, strawberries, cherries, citrus fruits, aubergines et cetera and drank tea were the kind of people who would be health conscious and keen to keep their weights down. These foods are also generally rich in fibre and would fill without fattening. Having said that, they sound like good food items to me!