Monday, 20 January 2020

Do Humans Really 'Risk Living in an Empty World'?

A UN spokeswoman on biodiversity has claimed that humans, by continuing to cause mass extinctions (just like a giant meteor hit), 'risk living in an empty world' (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/20/humans-risk-living-in-an-empty-world-warns-un-biodiversity-chief-aoe). Most of her points are made very effectively (that there is too much talking about the issue but much less doing) but I worry about this headline. Even with our technologies, it may not be possible for humans to avoid driving themselves to extinction by wrecking the systems that maintain complex life. There is a danger that microbes will re-inherit a much-changed planet. 

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Going to Pot to Fight the Superbugs

Yet another medical use for a cannabis extract (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/19/cannabis-compound-could-be-weapon-in-fight-against-superbugs). Studies have reportedly shown that cannabigerol, a non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, is very effective in killing the most common of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA is common (and difficult to eradicate) in hospitals and gyms where it causes difficult-to-treat infections. This could be really important as traditional antibiotics are becoming less and less effective.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Bringing Down the Giants

Giant redwood or Sequoia are supposed to live for thousands of years in the parks around the Sierra Nevada on the west coast of the USA but, recently, a number have been dying prematurely (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/18/this-is-not-how-sequoias-die-its-supposed-to-stand-for-another-500-years-aoe). It appears that this might be related to climate change (reducing water provision and increasing fire damage), which makes the trees less resistant to boring beetles that infest their tissues. Under more normal conditions, the trees are resistant to these pests.

Seeing the Changes 1369

In spite of night frost in Loughor, Marigold was in flower.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Oiling the Wheels?

Palm oil is an ingredient that is almost ubiquitous in foods and many house-hold products. The problem is that it is produced in many parts of the world by programmes of deforestation to accommodate the Palm oil plantations. Many of the western companies that use palm oil have realised that this is not a good look (especially as it endangers photogenic animals like the Orang-utan) and they have undertaken to reduce (or even phase out) their impact on deforestation. A recent report suggests, however, that very few of the food companies who publicly trumpet their undertaking have achieved much in relation to their avowed aims (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/17/biggest-food-brands-failing-goals-to-banish-palm-oil-deforestation). They talk the talk without walking the walk.

Could You Be Reported For Reading This Blog?

It is definitely concerning that a police counter-terrorism briefing document directed to medical staff and teachers in the UK reportedly includes non-violent organisations such as Extinction Rebellion; Greenpeace; Sea Shepherd and Stop the Badger Cull  along with traditional extremist right-wing neo-nazi and  jihadist groups (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/17/greenpeace-included-with-neo-nazis-on-uk-counter-terror-list). It seems to me that the definition of 'terrorism' has been stretched, in this case, to include any activity that might interfere with commercial activity or the status quo. Given the fact that a substantial proportion of  the population have genuine and legitimate  concerns about the direction (or lack of direction?) of environmental policy in this country, the document appears to block their right to peacefully demonstrate. Perhaps the 'banana republic' is already here?

Frog March

Scientists in the USA have reportedly designed 'living robots' from frog stem cells (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/13/scientists-use-stem-cells-from-frogs-to-build-first-living-robots ). The tiny 'organisms' are made from combinations of passive skin cells and contractile heart cells  and can be designed, using algorithms, to move on 'legs' in a particular direction or to have a collecting pouch. The hope is that they can be utilised for a variety of tasks such as collecting microplastic particles in the oceans or clearing plaque from the coronary arteries (which increases the chance of a heart attack). There would, presumably, have to be detailed trials before they were let loose on the world?

Do Humans Really 'Risk Living in an Empty World'?

A UN spokeswoman on biodiversity has claimed that humans, by continuing to cause mass extinctions (just like a giant meteor hit), 'ri...