Thursday, 9 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/09/bamboo-rats-left-in-limbo-as-breeders-push-back-against-china-wildlife-ban). Some breeders were apparently feted for their production of Civet cats, bats, Bamboo rats and Pangolins as it was official policy to fight local poverty in this way. The difficulty is that some breeders were on official programmes (and seem to have been offered compensation and encouraged to go into chicken or mushroom production) whereas others, followed the trend independently (and are on their own). Any breeders, with wild-type animals, are not allowed to sell, release or even cull their beasts. The law in this area was established in 2008 and appears very vague (many species are not referred to) and some farmers, who are paying for food, appear angry that, while the origins of Covid-19 have not been established, they are in limbo. This seems a recipe for more disaster.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/07/air-pollution-linked-to-far-higher-covid-19-death-rates-study-finds). The shutdown of economic activity in many parts of the world, has, of course, temporarily (?) improved air quality but establishing the link reiterates the importance of clean air to human health. It is interesting that whilst one can easily blame a virus for human suffering and death, human activity-created problems generally receive a carte blanc.
Wednesday, 8 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/07/how-can-coronavirus-models-get-it-so-wrong). They initially point out that modelling is most accurate where the epidemic has already peaked (e.g. Italy) and have used that information to guide predictions about the likely pattern in countries (e.g. the UK) where it is still climbing. Their predicted daily death-rate in the UK is between 800 and 8000 (a wide variation but both figures are strikingly high) and they think the epidemic will peak here around the 17th of April. Even worse, they reckon that, by August, the UK will have recorded more Covid-19 deaths than France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined. It is a model but it's scary.
Tuesday, 7 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2020/apr/07/closing-uk-parks-and-public-spaces-tipping-point-coronavirus-covid-19). Different people, of course, have different situations (ranging from a basement gym to no garden) and the curtailing of exercise will be of most detriment to the poorest in our communities. I must agree with the writer of the above article that poor folk (as well as the elderly) are most likely to find it difficult to re-engage in the event of such a ban being lifted. My own recent experience is that people out taking exercise are generally very considerate in terms of 'social spacing' and often choose times of day when people on their route are sparse. They are also 'friendly from a distance', which is a helpful form of pseudo-contact for people living on their own. Some people also just need to get out occasionally. Personally speaking, my daily jog is the high-light of my current day. I would be devastated to lose it!
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/07/plasma-from-coronavirus-survivors-found-to-help-severely-ill-patients). It seems almost certain that antibodies in the transfused plasma, dramatically reduce the viral load and its associated symptoms in vulnerable patients. The preliminary studies also suggest that the immune response to infection does offer considerable protection from reinfection (unless the virus mutates). It might even the possible to generate a drug to treat Covid-19 by using information derived from studying the structure of the antibody.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/06/magic-toilet-could-monitor-users-health-say-researchers). The system of sensors and detectors can apparently be fitted relatively cheaply to existing loos and can monitor conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract infections and inflammatory bowel diseases (it even takes pictures of stools and uses AI to classify them). Of particular interest, is the device's ability to recognise who was using it. This is either via a fingerprint scanner on the flush handle or from the pattern of creases in the anus (the 'analprint).
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/scottish-fruit-farmers-recruit-thousands-locals-save-harvest). Most of the current emergency appears to have been solved by the recruitment of local students (whose courses have been halted) and bar/restaurant staff (whose establishments have closed). What this will do for 'social isolation' and viral spread, however, remains to be seen. I suspect that the fruit farms will not find such ready replacements, if and when, the economy returns to normal.
Monday, 6 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/05/thousands-to-be-paid-for-daytime-green-electricity-use-during-lockdown). This appears to result from a combination of circumstances including;- a) the Covid-19 lockdown (with closures to workplaces, pubs and restaurants) greatly reducing energy consumption; b) the bright, windy weather powering turbines and solar panels and c) the fact that, under these circumstances, renewables (wind and sunshine) are accounting for a very large percentage of electricity generation. Formerly, being paid to use 'green electricity' was limited to occasional night-time use by certain suppliers. I only wish it could happen on a regular basis (without the lockdown).
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/scientists-ask-could-summer-heat-help-beat-covid-19). One must state upfront, however, is that this is a very new virus and people really have no idea how it will react seasonally (although it seems to be thriving in many parts of the world with variable ambient temperatures). I have always been led to believe that the 'disappearance' of colds and 'flu in the summer in the UK is more down to changes in human behaviour (becoming less likely to congregate in groups in relatively small rooms for extended periods) rather than a change in the viability of the virus. It is worth pointing out that, even if there was a decline in severe Covid-19 infections in the summer months (linked to possible seasonal changes in the immune system and/or viability of the virus in the air or on surfaces), the infection might well spread in the population to 'return' as the winter closes in. I don't think we can assume that summertime will 'cure' us but it might well be more difficult to maintain social distancing at that time.
Sunday, 5 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/05/coronavirus-testing-kits-could-be-unreliable-uk-scientists-say). Although it had been claimed to be 90% accurate, this was only when tested in hospitals using blood from people with very clear systems. Some authorities feel that the test is likely to be only have a 50% accuracy (the same as tossing a coin!) in people in the community with milder symptoms. This could never be an acceptable basis for returning people to the 'front line'. I would personally be unhappy with people testing themselves (as they do with a pregnancy test) and self-certifying
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/03/oceans-capacity-to-absorb-co2-overestimated-study-suggests). It was assumed that the photosynthetic activity of diatoms would incorporate the gas and that these, relatively large planktonic particles, would then sink into the depths where the carbon would remain for an extended period. It now appears that most of the photosynthetic activity in the surface waters is by much smaller organisms, such as cyanobacteria, which don't sink very effectively and actually release the 'greenhouse gas' relatively quickly. This probably means that we have to work harder to curtail climate change.
Saturday, 4 April 2020
Friday, 3 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/03/broadband-engineers-threatened-due-to-5g-coronavirus-conspiracies). It really beggars belief that people can get such ideas although they do appear to be a ramping up of claims in the early days of mobiles that they could damage the brain. The evidence is extremely weak and we do need to have the people connected as effectively as possible at this time
Thursday, 2 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/01/uk-coronavirus-testing-what-ministers-said-and-what-stands-scrutiny). Two types of test are needed namely a PCR test to detect the virus's genes in a person's body and an antibody test to determine if an individual has contracted the disease and made a recovery. The first tells you which individuals carry the agent and should be placed in situations (lockdown or quarantine), where they are unlikely to infect others. This test (which would need to be repeated at intervals) is essential for all 'front-line' workers especially those in the medical or caring professions. It should also be extended to police officers and workers in supermarkets et cetera. I think that this is actually more important than using the test (especially given its apparently limited availability) to confirm a diagnosis that a patient has Covid-19. The second test, tells you (with limited confidence, because we cannot be sure, at the present time, how long immunological protection to this virus lasts) which individuals can safely return to work after symptoms have abated. This, again, is something that would enable self-isolating medical staff (and others) to return to their essential activities.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/01/betrayal-of-trust-hs2-criticised-over-removal-woodland-soils). The idea of moving the soils, was to facilitate the establishment of 'replacement' wooded areas but, doing it now, in April, when things are growing, is self-evidently, at exactly the wrong time. I cannot believe that the engineers (keen to push their schedule) were unaware of this basic biological fact!
Wednesday, 1 April 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/31/new-blood-test-can-detect-50-types-of-cancer). In the days of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it could get the patient classified as someone with 'an underlying medical condition' and thus not being a candidate for scarce resources.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/01/the-losses-could-be-profound-how-floods-are-wreaking-havoc-on-wildlife-aoe). For example, the Lugg and Hampton flower meadows are still under the waters of the river Lugg and there has been serious damage to wetland habitats and river ecosystems across the UK. A sign of things to come with climate change, as systems and organisms cannot adapt in time to the changed circumstances?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/31/climate-killing-products-should-come-with-smoking-style-warnings). It's an interesting suggestion but I'm not sure it would work as well as the anti-smoking advertising. Cigarettes damage the health of the smoker (and those in their immediate vicinity) relatively quickly, whereas the climate-damaging effects are much more diffuse, being seen planet-wide, and taking (hopefully) decades. It has also been pretty easy to determine what images (disease conditions) will have an impact on tobacco use but what pictures (floods, starving people?) would clearly carry the message for climate change? It is also relatively easy to put an image on to a fuel pump or a plastic bottle but where would you put it for maximal effect on a natural gas supply or food that has been transported by air freight? An awful lot of what we consume damages the environment!
Tuesday, 31 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/30/monsanto-crop-system-damage-us-farms-documents). What they broadly did was to develop crops that were tolerant to another of their herbicides, dicamba, knowing that its volatile nature would result in it causing drift damage of nearby plants. Emails suggest that the companies were fully aware that their assurances on spraying technology would not solve the problem. They also appear to have discouraged any third party studies on their 'voodoo science' (their words). This is a strange application of science.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/30/campaigners-attack-japan-shameful-climate-plans-release). The Japanese were one of the first major countries (they are the 5th largest polluter) to publish their plan in advance of the proposed Glasgow meeting. Broadly speaking, their aspirations don't seem to have improved over what they agreed to in 2013 in Paris (although it is now recognised that this would have been inadequate to limit the increases in the global temperature to a 'safe' level). A number of authorities appear worried that Covid-19 pandemic will be used by countries to 'water down' their emissions targets
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/31/report-reveals-massive-plastic-pollution-footprint-of-drinks-firms). If the plastic packaging was burnt, it would reportedly generate 4.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide which is equivalent, they feel, to the exhaust fumes of 2 million petrol/diesel cars. This, at least, gives people an idea of the size of the problem (but there are, of course, there are many more companies and countries).
Monday, 30 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/30/giant-leap-for-toadkind-after-yorkshire-fell-runs-are-cancelled). The races just so happen to correspond with the toad's migration to a pond near the route in order to mate. It has been suggested that, when the races resume, the course could be changed, moving it away from the breeding site. Other possibilities include holding them at a different time of the year (outside the breeding season) or earlier in the day (so the runners are more likely to see animals that might otherwise be trampled).
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/29/uk-wildlife-enjoys-humans-lockdown-but-concerns-raised-over-conservation). These include a high incidence of moles foraging on the surface (rather than lurking underground) and ground-nesting birds flocking into areas suddenly vacated by walkers and their dogs. Although public footpaths have remained open in and around many parks, the car parks serving them are mostly closed, greatly reducing the footfall. Our absence (along with our 'best friend') has also reportedly caused foxes and weasels to roam more widely. Of course, there may be problems, especially for ground-nesting birds, if the gates are suddenly thrown open without considering what the animals are currently up to.
https://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/health/coronavirus/police-dye-water-buxton-blue-lagoon-deter-swimmers-during-coronavirus-lockdown-2521350). I can appreciate that, in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic, they would want to deter reported groups of swimmers from gathering in the location but, even if the dye is harmless to humans, one cannot be sure that the chemical or its obscuring effects would not be detrimental to other animals and plants in and around the pool. If this had been done by anyone else, it would have been classified as vandalism or a polluting event.
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