Monday, 30 April 2018
Network Rail has, reportedly, used drones to plan and carry out an unadvertised 'culling' of trees along its tracks (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/29/millions-of-trees-at-risk-in-secretive-network-rail-felling-programme). The claimed concern of NR is the possibility of leaves from oak, beech and sycamore et cetera falling on to the rails and delaying journey times. This is a very considerable destruction of animal habitats and food supplies (the actual area of land involved is substantial) and, perhaps, should have been discussed more openly before the activity was undertaken. This exercise might well also influence the lives of people with housing near the tracks (visual and sound protections being removed) and might well also increase the likelihood of land-slides in some locations. One should add the obvious observations that rail lines are long and thin and traffic on them is much less than on the roads. Edge effects (where habitats meet) greatly increase biodiversity and vehicles kill many animals. Consequently, removing trees along these routes will have a substantial effect.
Saturday, 28 April 2018
It finally looks as if the EU will ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides throughout the union, with the exception of enclosed greenhouses (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/27/eu-agrees-total-ban-on-bee-harming-pesticides). This has led to claims that crops will be reduced (contested) but the evidence that these chemicals decimate essential pollinators (important in many areas of agriculture) and animals that feed on insects is pretty overwhelming. The decision appears to be logical.
Friday, 27 April 2018
Thursday, 26 April 2018
Tuesday, 24 April 2018
An 'autopsy' performed on a giant, sewer-dwelling London fatberg has revealed that it harbours masses of thriving bacteria (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/24/fatberg-autopsy-reveals-growing-health-threat-londoners).Unremarkably, the bacteria include listeria and good old E. coli with some being antibiotic resistant strains. The 'creature' (one was the weight of 11 double-decker buses and two football fields in length) is largely comprised of cooking fat being poured down drains where it collects human waste. It is pretty obvious that these obstructions could be dangerous to health (and not only that of the sewer-men who have to deal with it). There really needs to be a collection method for removing waste domestic and restaurant cooking fats (they could be used, with carbon-capture, to heat buildings) and substantial penalties for people who simply flush it away down drains.
- April 24, 2018
Monday, 23 April 2018
It is claimed that more than 12% of the planet's bird species are in serious danger of extinction (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/23/one-in-eight-birds-is-threatened-with-extinction-global-study-finds). The major problem is the impact of intensive farming (the most threatened species are associated with land where farming is carried out) but other factors such as over-fishing, habitat loss and the introduction of alien species play roles. There is even a suggestion that some insect-eating birds are endangered by neonicotinoid insecticides that appear to endanger honeybees and other pollinators. Some bird species encountering these agents have seriously reduced body stores of fat and are said to be defective in their migration skills. The insecticides may indeed have direct effects on the birds but the possibility must exist that the reduced fat stores simply reflect big declines in available insect prey. Birds with impoverished energy stores may not be effective in their migratory patterns.
Friday, 20 April 2018
Thursday, 19 April 2018
Tuesday, 17 April 2018
News that scientists at Portsmouth have 'accidentally' produced an enzyme that breaks down certain plastics has been greeted with great excitement (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/16/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-that-eats-plastic-bottles). The enzyme was extracted from tip-dwelling bacteria before having its potency to break down plastic bottles increased some 20% (leading the scientists to speculate that the 'eating efficiency' can be further increased by changing in the protein molecule). The idea seems to be that the bottles can be converted to the materials that could be recombined to make new plastics (reducing the needs to extract more hydrocarbons to synthesise these items). The resulting technology may well become commercially viable but will not, I think, 'solve' the plastics problem. I am not very enthusiastic about the suggestion that it could be sprayed on plastic contaminated areas of the oceans.
- April 17, 2018
Monday, 16 April 2018
Sunday, 15 April 2018
Saturday, 14 April 2018
Yet another sighting of an Asian hornet in the UK. This time in a Lincolnshire cauliflower, purchased in Bury, Lancashire (https://www.cumbriacrack.com/2018/04/13/asian-hornet-identified-in-lancashire/). These insects are well established on the near continent and climatic conditions appear to be encouraging their spread (they have now been spotted several times here). These particular hornets are rather small (by hornet standards) and their sting is not a particular danger to people. This species preys, however, upon many pollinating insects and a real concern is that they will further decimate populations of Honey bees.
A study in Utah has suggested that even relatively short exposures to particulates from diesel fumes increases the chances of people (and other animals?) developing viral lung infections (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/13/air-pollution-spikes-can-heighten-risk-chest-infections-research-Utah). This makes it even more reprehensible that the UK Government has reportedly spent circa £500k of tax-payer's money trying to overturn legal requirement to improve air quality (especially near motorways). It is worrying that many schools are located in high pollution zones.
Friday, 13 April 2018
There is something a bit disturbing about the claim that drinking a large glass of wine will reduce your life expectancy by 30 minutes (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/apr/12/one-extra-glass-of-wine-will-shorten-your-life-by-30-minutes). There is no doubt that alcohol (a rather non-specifically acting but legal drug) has detrimental effects on human health and people would benefit by limiting its ingestion but I suspect the claim only has a rather spurious accuracy. People are notoriously poor at admitting their true rate of imbibing (they often lie). Other life-event factors including 'stress', socio-economic status, diet, body weight, exposure to environmental chemicals, smoking and using other (illegal or prescribed) drugs will also influence mortality. I suspect that it is not easy to accurately evaluate the impact of these factors in subjects. Although I can see why the claim was made (it has certainly had media impact), I feel that many people will be unconvinced by use of such a specific figure .
Thursday, 12 April 2018
Interesting news that the Royal Horticultural Society is (with Salford Council support) creating a 63 hectare garden on the site of (the demolished) Worsley New Hall (https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/bridgewater/blogs/RHS-Gardens/new-rhs-garden-announced). The hall was part of the estate of the Earl of Ellesmere who built the Bridgewater canal to transport coal in the Industrial Revolution. The location, reportedly has a substantial walled garden that can be restored and an impressive array of soil types (so facilitating a wide range of plants). The garden should be an valuable amenity for the locality.
Wednesday, 11 April 2018
Tuesday, 10 April 2018
The BBC has been castigated by the regulator for not challenging a number of untrue statements made about climate change in an interview by ex-minister Nigel Lawson (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/09/bbc-radio-4-broke-impartiality-rules-in-nigel-lawson-climate-change-interview). Denier Lawson is reportedly funded by a number of large hydrocarbon-producing industries and one has to ask how being a former Chancellor of the Exchequer qualifies someone to evaluate climate change science. The BBC claimed in its defence that it had not pitted Lawson against a scientist, as this would indicate that the opposing ideas had equal currency (in which case, their interviewer needed to be better briefed or more confident in his challenges). I have been subject to the 'pitting' process by the BBC, only to be told that the programme would not be broadcast, as I had demolished my opponent, meaning it didn't make an interesting programme (I strongly suspect that, had the opposite demolition occurred, it would have!).
Progress on a replacement nuclear power station on Anglesey have been reportedly delayed whilst the effects on breeding colonies of protected seabirds (notably terns) are assessed (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/09/plans-for-welsh-nuclear-power-plant-delayed-concerns-seabirds-anglesey-tern-colonies-wylfa). I personally think that any delays are likely to be ultra-short as, almost invariably, 'jobs' and 'greenish power' tend trump environmental issues.
Eating can become dangerous? A competitor who ate a ferocious Carolina reaper chilli pepper ( 2.2m on the Scoville heat scale) was reportedly hospitalised with 'thunderclap' headaches (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/apr/09/competitive-eater-taken-to-hospital-after-eating-worlds-hottest-chilli-pepper). Although he recovered, strokes have apparently followed the ingestion of chillis (the peppers seem to have effects on the blood supply to the brain).
Monday, 9 April 2018
People are finally taking note of the amount (which is growing) of greenhouse gases emitted by shipping (https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/shipping_en). Maritime transport apparently generates about 2.5% of all emissions but these have seemingly escaped attention in climate change agreements until this present time. It is striking to note that shipping reportedly generates around the same amount of problematic gases as Germany. There seems to be urgent needs to incorporate marine transport in climate change agreements and to develop technologies to reduce emissions from this source.
Sunday, 8 April 2018
Saturday, 7 April 2018
There is a mistake in the wording of the link (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/05/air-pollution-uk-governments-failed-legal-battles-cost-taxpayers-500m). It's not £500m but £500k is still a lot of tax-payer's money to devote to legally challenging a directive to improve air quality in parts of the UK.
The rangers in the Virunga Park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo appear to be on a 'war' footing with the disparate armed groups moving into the park to take over land, take trophies and gather bushmeat (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/06/we-know-we-may-be-killed-the-rangers-risking-their-lives-for-virungas-gorillas). The gorillas are the best known endangered animals in this location but other species are also at risk. There have been fire-fights with the ranger's base being taken by insurgents and then being re-taken. Rangers have been killed but they seem determined to protect their animal charges. Conservation is difficult enough without having to fight off well-armed marauding groups!
Thursday, 5 April 2018
People in New Zealand have been warned not to consume 'sexy pavement lichen' in spite of its being claimed by some folk to act as...
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
A recent UK study looking at genetic-predispositions for producing elevated testosterone levels has apparently confirmed the view that t...
A study has estimated that the emissions of 'greenhouse gases' generated by fracking in the UK would be equivalent to the life-t...