Friday, 30 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2018/nov/30/whos-behind-the-bid-to-get-londons-flagship-bike-lane-ripped-up). The London Embankment cycle way, used by tens of thousands of cyclists per day and occupying 1 lane of a 4 lane road, is being threatened by a combination of property groups, motorised transport bodies and taxi companies. I would have thought we needed more provision for cyclists in our cities, not less!
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/29/scientists-discover-spider-species-that-feeds-its-young-milk).Although we normally associate milk production with Mammals, other species, e.g. pigeons, produce 'crop milk'. Consequently, the idea of producing body secretions to give one's offspring a helping start is, perhaps, more widespread than was earlier thought. Some species even donate their bodies to their progeny (they get eaten).
Thursday, 29 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/29/great-british-beach-clean-attracts-record-number-of-volunteers). There was, however, a record amount of plastic and, I suspect, it will not be reducing anytime soon.
- November 29, 2018
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
https://nationalpost.com/news/world/sea-turtles-some-dead-some-barely-alive-wash-ashore). Apparently, the cold seas result in these cold-blooded animals becoming moribund and geography makes in difficult for them to escape to warmer waters. There have also been a recent mass stranding of whales in a remote area of New Zealand.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/28/report-urges-network-rail-rethink-scale-line-side-tree-felling). The rail folk seem to 'hate' the trees, whose falling autumn leaves can cause delays and storms can blow trees onto the tracks. Having said that, trees are important removers of greenhouse gases (which diesel trains contribute to); provide an effective visual (and even a bit of sound deadening) screen for people living near the tracks; give rail passengers something nice to look at and might even reduce the possibility of landslides. The rail track system (like motorway verges) makes up a surprisingly high area of unbuilt and unfarmed land in the UK. Viva the trees!
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/28/microplastic-toxins-leave-shellfish-at-mercy-of-predators-research). This behavioural change is likely to have a real impact on marine populations and at least raises the question whether these plastics can change human cognition. We are certainly getting doses of them when we eat seafood.
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/dynasties-bbc-poisoned-lion-cub-vets-crew-call-africa-a8651726.html). It reminded me of the Masters programme carried out, under my distant supervision, by Dr Kate Evans before she became @elephantkate, after changing her beast. Her animals (especially the females) also had a complex social life. It was also remarkable how much of the water obtained by the animals at certain times of the year came from their prey. There were also some interesting associations between social status and their burdens of worm parasites as evidenced by eggs in the faeces (as these had to be collected fresh, there was a fraught risk assessment for the project).
- November 27, 2018
Monday, 26 November 2018
- November 26, 2018
Sunday, 25 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/23/climate-change-america-us-government-report) and that too little is being done about it. It's just a pity that there are votes to be obtained by ignoring (or even robustly contradicting without any actual evidence) the advice presented. I have frequently noted that that the basic problem is that the time courses for global change and the political cycles have very different periodicities. Short-termism wins every time.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/25/woman-inherited-fatal-illness-sue-doctors-groundbreaking-case-huntingtons). The hospital doctors presumably did not formally inform the immediate family of the man because of patient confidentiality (but they might have suggested that the man should inform his children as they would have a 50% chance of inheriting this condition which currently has no cure). The woman claims that, had she been informed, she would have had an abortion rather than giving birth to her daughter 8 years ago (as the woman has inherited the condition, also giving her daughter a 50% chance of developing the disease). This is a difficult one (and not, in my view, one for the legal eagles). The situation seems straight forward as described but the availability of gene testing techniques is reportedly revealing odd family secrets and misconceptions (no pun intended). What if the father had not actually conceived his 'daughter' and, because she was informed of his condition, she had an entirely unnecessary abortion? Would hospital be liable for this? I think that medical ethics needs to get on the case and give some clear guidance.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/20/air-pollution-cuts-global-average-lifespan-by-nearly-two-years-study). That's one 'bonus' that the US President is presumably not thanking the Saudis for (they are reducing the oil price).
- November 21, 2018
Tuesday, 20 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/nov/19/top-filmmakers-back-penguin-intervention-on-attenborough-show). Arguments seem to revolve around the issue of the natural history film maker's code requiring them to not normally interfere with the lives of the animals they are studying (e.g. they would not be expected to intervene, on either side, in a predator versus prey encounter). The camera folk argue (not unreasonably) that no animal was probably directly disadvantaged by digging the escape slope (picking the penguins out of the ravine would have been different). Having said that, it could be the case that some, as yet unarrived, scavengers missed out as a result of the film-makers actions. I suspect, however, that I would have done the same under these circumstances.
- November 20, 2018
Monday, 19 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/18/peanut-allergy-treatment-around-the-corner-but-cost-raises-concerns). Having said that, concerns have been raised that the cost might be a further challenge to a cash-strapped NHS as one would have to use a very purified material to get the safe doses needed. The thing is, however, that the allergy can (and does) kill.
https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/nov/19/set-age-ban-on-sale-of-energy-drinks-at-18-government-told). This is primarily an attempt to stop these drinks producing unruly behavioural changes in school settings. I personally think that more effort ought to be directed to convincing young (and older?) folk that these concoctions are of little benefit rather than attempting to cut off the supply by making the age of legal consumption higher.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/18/scientists-unravel-secret-of-cube-shaped-wombat-faeces) has suggested that the last portion of the wombat's intestine (unlike that of e.g. the pig) has sections of periodic stiffness enabling it to generate 2cm cubes. The Hippopotamus also marks its territory with faeces using a 'muck-spreader' approach. If they could generate cuboidal faeces, they might look like bricks!
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/19/gruesome-discovery-of-czech-tiger-farm-exposes-illegal-trade-in-heart-of-europe). The 'farm' had lots of rotting animal parts in freezer chests lacking the necessary electrical supply as well as strange 'stews' of animal bones and meat. This finding gives the lie to the claim that Europeans would never be involved in such an unsavoury trade.
Sunday, 18 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/sad-surprise-amazon-fish-contaminated-by-plastic-particles). Given the duration and ubiquitousness of plastic use, I would be astounded if they weren't found in all living things in every location on the planet.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/gulls-gulls-gulls-how-the-seaside-birds-took-over-urban-britain). Many of our high-rise buildings seem to have characteristics of the elevated, predator free nesting locations that these birds favour and edible rubbish still exists outside treatment areas. I predict that they will still thrive in our cities.
Saturday, 17 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/14/testosterone-therapy-could-help-tackle-male-depression-study). This essentially means that the disturbed mood in males is strongly linked to their endocrine status (so, either depression lowers testosterone or lowered testosterone, as in aging cohorts, tends to elevate depression). Although not currently recommended by NICE, testosterone might be a relatively cheap therapy for some forms of male depression.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/17/thousands-gather-to-block-london-bridges-in-climate-rebellion). It is difficult to know whether such challenges will achieve very much (although they will certainly annoy travellers in that city) but London is a good place to do it because UK media reporting is still Londonocentric. The protest, however, stands in contrast to France where people are protesting about fuel price increases. Actual change needs joined up thinking including accepting that improving the situation is likely to cost some folk.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/climate-change-champions-still-pursuing-devastating-policies-new-study-reveals). This (if we get there) is twice the 2.5 degrees optimistically guesstimated to be the maximum the planet could accommodate. The policies of the US and the UK are not much better, as they would generate an elevation of 4 degrees. So one has a situation where some of the industrialised countries that are most vocal about the dangers of 'global warming' are the biggest offenders.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/15/coffee-tea-drink-choice-study-linked-genes-how-we-perceive-bitterness). One must firstly note that the study relied on the subject's self-reports of their beverage drinking habitats but seemed to show that preference is linked to genes that alter perceptions of bitterness. In general, subjects with a gene that slightly increased the perception of bitterness of caffeine tended to drink more coffee. In addition, having genes that elevated the sensation of bitterness associated with quinine and propylthiourea produced, in contrast, small reductions in coffee drinking. The opposite seemed to be true for subjects with a preference for tea drinking. The findings might well be limited to subjects from this limited background (and Geography) and one might ask whether sugar and cream additions alter preferences.
Thursday, 15 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/15/tree-planting-double-uk-climate-change). They suggest that pigs and chickens would be less problematic in terms of climate change. The CCC also recommends that farmers should be financially rewarded for planting trees to take up surplus carbon dioxide. These are all sensible suggestions but some environmental organisations evidently feel that the magnitudes of the suggested changes are too small to deal with the developing crisis. Clearly, one would hope for similar drives in other areas of the globe.
- November 15, 2018
Wednesday, 14 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/13/heatwaves-wipe-out-male-insect-fertility-beetles-study) as heatwaves can completely destroy the fertility of the male beetles. No tight underpants were involved.
- November 14, 2018
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
It is pretty certain that the tragic, unusually intense Californian wild fires are much more a consequence of climate change (although fire, generally more manageable, is actually a natural phenomenon in such localities) than they are of inappropriate vegetation management (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/12/california-wildfire-latest-camp-woolsey-fires-refugees). Do the claimants to the contrary expect every tree and bush in the state to be removed as a potential 'fire hazard'?
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/13/researchers-discover-why-being-overweight-can-lead-to-depression). It has been suggested that developing a poor body image is one causative factor. Yet another repudiation of the jolly, fat person stereotype!
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/13/farming-industry-to-blame-for-tb-crisis-not-just-badgers-report). The results are hardly surprising with a note that wild animals (including the badger, a species which may not always be a prime suspect) can make a modest contribution to the spread of bTB in dairy herds. The actual main conclusion is that cattle-to-cattle transmission is a major factor and that farmers need (even though it is an expensive option) put into place improvements in biosecurity (using better, more sensitive tests for bTB; taking more care when purchasing cows and restricting the movement of animals when there are any doubts about disease-free status). Somewhat predictably, some farming lobbies are pushing for a continuation of badger culling, claiming that it is 'one string to their bow' when fighting bTB spread. Still, I suppose someone else would be paying for this.
Sunday, 11 November 2018
Friday, 9 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2018/nov/08/i-suffer-under-my-age-dutch-man-seeks-to-legally-change-his-age-video). His argument seems to rest of the observation that, in that country, people can now officially change their gender on documentation. The self-designated 'young god' also maintains that his actual age discriminates against him in terms of e.g. taking out a mortgage and getting hits on Tinder. I can see where he is coming from but, if you can officially change every bit of factual information about yourself, we have the end of data!
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/07/david-attenborough-world-environment-bbc-films). The charge is essentially that he 'does not tell it how it is' preferring to present images of a pristine world with lots of animal and plant wonders (in deed, he has gone on record as saying that too much concentration on the environmental challenges facing life on the planet is 'a turn off'). It is really difficult to strike a balance on this one as Attenborough appears to be one of the few individuals who can front natural history programmes that appear relatively frequently and are viewed by a substantial audience (sometimes leading to intense media attention as in the case of effects of marine plastics on wildlife). I seem to also remember that he had the bravery to suggest that limiting human population growth was a worthwhile undertaking if one really wanted to save the planet. There is no doubt that the films with which he is associated tend to give a somewhat 'Disneyfied' view of the real state of nature but, without him, I suspect there would be much less natural history on the BBC. Perhaps, as in the case of many prominent figures, the truth is that they have their good points but you can't expect them to be flawless?
Monday, 5 November 2018
Sunday, 4 November 2018
- November 04, 2018
Saturday, 3 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/horseshoe-crab-population-at-risk-blood-big-pharma). Strange how a beast can outlive the dinosaurs and fall victim to a medical procedure.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/02/plan-create-worlds-biggest-nature-reserve-antarctic-rejected). It really does appear to be very difficult even to stop people exploiting some of the last semi-pristine areas of the planet that are not even within their borders. The prognosis for protected areas within their own (and other countries) land masses appears even worse.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/experts-fear-impact-of-china-lifting-trade-ban-on-tiger-and-rhino-parts). Even if the parts traded are from historical or even 'farmed' sources, it makes it easier to bring poached materials to the market place (and poaching continues to threaten these mammals even when they are maintained in zoos).
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/stop-biodiversity-loss-or-we-could-face-our-own-extinction-warns-un). They feel that a likely consequence would the destruction of our own species. The loss of biodiversity, it is claimed, is at least as much a challenge to our survival as climate change. Unfortunately, it is just much less obvious to most people than are extreme weather events.
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