Wednesday, 31 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds). This decimation is largely a consequence of many current farming and fishing practices (activities that are commonly eulogised). The result is a terrible reduction in biodiversity but also strongly suggests we are interfering with the cycles on our planet that maintain viable conditions for ourselves and much of the living world. In one sense, we are like a rampant weed that is out of control.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/26/soy-destruction-deforestation-in-argentina-leads-straight-to-our-dinner-plates). Soya bean is used to feed cattle and hens but leads to the destruction of biodiverse areas like Gran Chaco in Argentina. Will trumpeting our complicity change the drive to deforest (legally and illegally)? I really don't think so.
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323501.php). This, along with the observation that they can also identify men with prostate cancer, suggests that sniffer dogs (although they are not cheap to train) might well replace some of the high-priced electronic analytical equipment in our hospitals.
Monday, 29 October 2018
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45977524). These local variations are presumably a consequence of difficulties with funding (it's a relatively expensive procedure and not having children is not really life threatening as is the case with cancer or diabetes- although it is sad for people who really want them). Having said that, I was surprised to hear a fertility problems referred to as a 'disease'.
- October 29, 2018
Monday, 22 October 2018
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45588403) seems to be at one with a current political trend (whether it concerns air pollution, climate change, vaccination rates or food safety et cetera). It seems to me that there is an increasing tendency by politicians (with their focus on the next election) to either ignore what their or independent scientists tell them if a powerful lobby group (car manufactures, farmers, fishermen, frackers, miners, oil companies et cetera) with its associated votes or finances is set on the opposite action (in the case of badgers and bTB, most experts working in the area believe that the cull has actually done nothing to reduce the actual incidence of disease in dairy herds and may, in deed, have had detrimental effects). Politicians seem to adopt one of two strategies namely a) find a minority dissenting voice in science and amplify it or b) more subtly, use a measure that obscures the lack of effect (most of the public will not look too closely).
Saturday, 20 October 2018
Friday, 19 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/18/this-is-just-the-beginning-freed-activists-return-to-fracking-site) appears to right a serious wrong (the individuals were first offenders, apparently of good character and endangered nobody in their activities). What is less easily corrected, however, is the suspicion that the initial trial had a vindictive element as a) the three were reportedly tried under an ancient law that could, in theory, have resulted in life imprisonment; b) the judge involved had close family connections to the hydrocarbon industries and c) traditional extenuating factors were ruled out in the trial. It almost appears that someone (in authority?) wanted to deter people from even considering protesting about fracking.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2018/oct/19/the-highway-code-review-is-good-news-for-cyclists-but-should-just-be-the-start) has finally got round to suggesting that motorists should not pass cyclists too closely or 'door' them (knock them off, by suddenly opening the car doors without checking for proximity). To really encouraging the uptake of more cycling, however, several other issues need attention, namely a) reducing the noxious and health-damaging car-related fumes on our roads; b) generating 'real' cycle paths, especially in cities, that do not share the road with cars and trucks; c) giving (as in the Netherlands) priority in many traffic situations to the cyclist and d) further encouraging companies to make showering and changing facilities available for their workers.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/18/uk-recycling-industry-under-investigation-for-and-corruption). It is alleged, in an Environmental Agency report, that plastic waste exporters (6 of whom have had licences suspended or cancelled in the last 3 months) have been claiming to export 35,000 more tonnes of plastic waste than the amount recorded by customs as leaving the country. The exporters generate perns (plastic waste recovery notes) on the basis of tonnage that are then cashed in by claiming cash (currently around £60 per tonne) from retailers and manufactures as 'their' contribution (although this is probably passed on to the consumers in higher prices) to dealing with the packaging problem. Consequently some perns appear to be counterfeit. In other cases, UK plastic waste, rather than being recycled, has been allowed to 'leak' into rivers and seas (totally at variance with what the public expected and paid for) or illegally exported to the Far East (to a largely unknown fate).
Wednesday, 17 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/17/uk-government-backs-antarctic-wildlife-reserve-worlds-biggest). This would also be a beneficial development for the planet as the seas in that location absorb enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. Having said that, it doesn't actually cost the UK any money (they have not been so 'green' on their home turf) and there is no guarantee that all other countries will support such a move.
- October 17, 2018
Sunday, 14 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/10/how-many-faces-average-person-recognises-5000). I am pretty certain there is a considerable variation as people (like myself) with Aphantasia can probably identify fewer and I have seen reports on the employment by the police of so-called 'super-identifiers'.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/12/scrapping-uk-grants-for-hybrid-cars-astounding-says-industry). I seem to remember that a) the government claim they are moving to a zero emission plan for transport; b) there have been a plethora of recent claims about the effects of air pollution (especially transport-related) on early deaths and ill-health in the UK and c) the IPCC has suggested that the need to take action on climate change is somewhat urgent. Collective attention deficient syndrome?
Saturday, 13 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/11/mice-same-sex-parents-born-same-sex-reproduction-humans). Apparently, the offspring of pups with two mothers appeared viable but those with two fathers died shortly after birth. Such experiments are a really long way from doing the same thing in humans (and this may not prove possible) but, perhaps, the role of male humans can eventually be dispensed with?
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/13/price-list-shoot-rare-deer-trophy-hunting-woburn-abbey). A company is said to be offering the opportunity to shoot an impressively mature Red deer stag for around £9000. I suppose that the argument used is that the money can be ploughed back into conservation (actually an expensive activity given the need for salaries and work in the environment) but it doesn't sit too happily with the claimed aims of the Woburn Abbey group.
Friday, 12 October 2018
https://www.livescience.com/57827-robot-bees-could-aid-pollination.html). Although this is a very interesting technical development, I suspect that it will not produce major changes on the planet as a) these drones are much more expensive than the real thing; b) they would find it difficult to operate outside monocultured crops and c) they presumably wouldn't be available for pollination duties in most of the natural world.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/12/low-emission-cows-farming-responds-to-climate-warning). The hope, however, that 'low emission' cows can safely replace the current crop doesn't really cut it as they (even if they existed) would still occupy the same land mass and consume the same amount of water. The same would apply to 'low emission' pigs and sheep.
Thursday, 11 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/09/cyberchondria-and-cyberhoarding-is-internet-fuelling-new-conditions). Cyberchondria is a term applied to behaviour, where people repeatedly explore the web and convince themselves that they have developed disease conditions that they haven't actually got (such behaviour can be a bit dicey, anyhow, because not all you read on the web is entirely accurate). Cyberhoarding can be applied to situations where the sufferer becomes incapable of deleting anything (just in case it might prove useful at a later date). These 2 conditions are, of course, just extensions of what occurred in some people in response to paper versions of information in the days before computing. Perhaps there are other, really novel conditions lurking out there?
(https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown). The authors suggest that the consumption of red meat (mainly beef, pork and lamb) should be a weekly treat; replaced at other times, by beans (hopefully not generating substantial amounts of human-generated methane?). This conclusion is based on the very substantial climate change effects of meat production and our urgent need to reduce it. All the red meat source animals produce methane (a very potent 'greenhouse gas') and their husbandry also results in substantial deforestation (reducing the uptake of carbon dioxide) in many parts of the globe. Further, the rearing of cattle, pigs and sheep occupies substantial areas of the planet (greatly reducing the biota of those areas) as well as using (and polluting) about 70% of global freshwater. Given the changing responses to meat on populations in developing countries (they generally aspire to eating more meat) as well as in ingrained habits in the developed world, it is difficult to see people adopting a dietary change of this nature. Cookery programmes will have to change and personal wealth shouldn't dictate who does and doesn't eat red meat (or take space flights?).
Wednesday, 10 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/08/genetics-research-biased-towards-studying-white-europeans). The claim is that this prevents some groups from fully benefiting from the resulting research findings. I'm sure there is probably (an unconscious?) bias at present but will be surprised if research on people of Asian stock doesn't become more prominent in the near future. Perhaps later UK studies will try to balance the full range of ethnicities (along with gender, age and socio-economic circumstances).
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/uk-fracking-rules-on-earthquakes-could-be-relaxed-says-minister). The actual 'earthquakes' may well be low level but they surely indicate that a disturbance is occurring in shale beds (and water courses?) in the locality. The response seems greatly at variance with their current support for the 'property concerns' of home owners in the south who don't want wind turbines sited near their properties!
https://inews.co.uk/news/world/sir-richard-bransons-virgin-galactic-weeks-away-from-first-space-trip/). Have they really no idea of the emissions that are likely to be generated by these selfish 'bucket list' exponents and the message this is likely to send?
Monday, 8 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report). It is interesting that the summary (frightening enough) reportedly doesn't emphasise issues like the possibility of migration-related 'wars' triggered by climate change; the loss of virtually all corals in the oceans or the loss of many important pollinators on land (not to mention the opening up of the Amazon rainforest to 'agribusiness' by a right-wing Brazilian president). Although the scientists generating the report appear to think the changes are doable, by a combination of largely ceasing to use hydrocarbons for electricity generation and transport; planting areas to increase the photosynthetic uptake of carbon dioxide and (as yet un-established) methods of industrially removing the gas from the atmosphere, I am rather more pessimistic. I used to do research on populations of animals and one of the ideas developed by Professor V.C. Wynne-Edwards, around at that time, was so-called 'group selection'. Here, inbuilt behavioural and physiological mechanisms limited population growth, when it looked potentially damaging to the species. The problem with the idea was that developing any such such 'altruistic' mechanism in individuals could not occur by natural selection. All species (including our own?) appear to be essentially 'selfish', being driven to actions by what benefits us or our close relatives. I rather suspect that a combination of self interest and procrastination will greatly limit our species' ability to collectively do the right thing for humankind and the planet.
- October 08, 2018
Sunday, 7 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/07/caledonias-lost-forest-restored-to-glory-in-rewilding-cairngorms). Although the mounts are only a few tens of £millions, it presumably can be used to buy up tracts of land between the existing remnants (possibly with some moving of folk and demolitions). The resulting forests might well be big enough to rewild with lynx, elk, beavers et cetera, although one should note that viable populations of wild carnivores require very substantial home ranges.
Saturday, 6 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/04/build-noahs-ark-for-beneficial-gut-microbes-scientists-say). These bacteria can do many useful things including reducing our tendency for certain diseases and manufacturing vitamins. Seems a good idea but, the way things are going, there might also be a need to conserve the bacteria involved in biogeochemical cycles. Beneficial fungi might require a protected 'home' as well. Come to think of it, we really need secure protections for all types of organism if we insist on treating the planet as an infinite resource.
Friday, 5 October 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/04/vitamin-d-supplements-dont-help-bone-health-major-study-concludes). The authors consequently suggest that government advice to take supplements be rescinded. I am somewhat ambivalent about this as a) Dietary advice clearly ought to be evidence led but b) Dramatic volte-faces in such advice cast doubt on any recommendations. Perhaps the initial advice was premature (before the available data had been properly evaluated) or fluctuating advice has been driven by competing interest groups?
Thursday, 4 October 2018
Wednesday, 3 October 2018
Tuesday, 2 October 2018
http://www.gdnonline.com/Details/423723/Your-dog-may-not-be-as-intelligent-as-you-think). They do not appear to be especially bright for a carnivore species and can be out-thought, on some tasks, by a pigeon.
- October 02, 2018
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The fuss about allegedly suspect data emanating from the East Anglia University Climatic Research Unit and the 'theft' of emails fr...
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