Saturday, 29 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/28/larva-fat-sustainable-alternative-butter-cakes). You simply soak the maggots in water and use a blender to extract the fat. The thinking is the these larvae are much more efficient in their food processing and land use than dairy cattle (plus they neither produce methane to intensify global warming nor unwanted calves). These are all important points but will they manage to overcome the yuk factor?
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51632790). This is likely to have a profound effect on the conservation of these animals (the 'species' is not as numerous as was thought and the pressures on the populations may well be different). Although the Chinese Red panda is well represented in China, animals with similar genes are also found in Myanmar and parts of Tibet whereas the Himalayan version is found in Northern India, Butan and Nepal.
Friday, 28 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/feb/26/gulls-observe-humans-to-home-in-on-tasty-scraps-study-finds). They reportedly are more likely to take items that humans have pretended to eat.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/27/rewilding-project-aims-give-thames-flood-plain-back), a move that appears timely given the increased rate of flooding and the predicted further rises in sea levels. But, as is pointed out by the leaders of the Thames project, there is an urgent need to educate the general public about the reasons why this is desirable and why simple flood defences are not a long-term solution in many places.
The Victorian concrete dinosaurs (devised in former times for educational reasons) of Crystal Palace park are reportedly cracking up (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/feb/28/crystal-palaces-lifesize-dinosaurs-added-to-heritage-at-risk-register ) and have been placed on the heritage at risk register. The reasons for the damage are unclear but might be related to earth movements or changes in the water-table.I must admit to a liking for these, not always totally realistic, constructions but do wish that more attention (and money?) would be directed to actual endangered organisms.
Thursday, 27 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/26/firs-fair-uk-must-embrace-conifers-in-climate-fight-says-forestry-chief). He claims that, in terms of removing carbon dioxide from the air, some despised alien conifers are actually superior to broad-leaved trees favoured by some conservationists (and they can be planted at higher densities). He also suggests, not unreasonably, that it would be better to plant mixtures of tree species to reduce the possibility of diseases sweeping through the new woodland areas (monocultures are very prone to disease).
- February 27, 2020
Wednesday, 26 February 2020
China has belatedly closed down more than 19,000 wildlife farms that, until recently, were being strongly encouraged as a fast way for rural communities to become richer (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/25/coronavirus-closures-reveal-vast-scale-of-chinas-secretive-wildlife-farm-industry). The farmed animals were designed to produce animals for consumption or for generating material for traditional medicine. The trouble is that some experts now feel that the recent coronavirus outbreak is linked to this activity. In deed, one of the animals that people were being encouraged to breed on these farms is the Civet cat that has been linked to the not wholly dissimilar Mers viral outbreak.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/feb/24/austerity-blamed-for-life-expectancy-stalling-for-first-time-in-century). Poverty clearly alters access to and success in education (and will consequently influence the jobs we do). It also has major effects on the quality of the housing in which we live, the food that is eaten (especially if it comes from foodbanks) and general lifestyle (not many poor people pay a gym subscription). It just seems that people have been worried about making the link in case it generates a media backlash. It's now a bit difficult to ignore as life expectancy is actually declining for some groups (e.g. poorer women in the NE) after years of improvement.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/26/toxic-sofa-eu-red-tape-flame-retardants). Although deca BDE was banned in Europe in 2019, the breast-milk of women in these 2 countries contains record levels of this dangerous chemical. Rather than finding other means of reducing the flammability of upholstered furniture and mattress's, it seems likely that, in this country, in spite of the Environmental Audit Committee's concerns, deca BDE will simply be replaced by other potentially dangerous flame retardants.
Tuesday, 25 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/25/how-no-take-zones-revived-one-devastated-scottish-fishery-isle-of-arran). This just shows what can be done by a relatively simple decision to have a properly protected marine area. It is even likely to benefit fisheries outside the area.
There is an interesting account of how just walking in natural locations, starting with visits to Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, helped with both mental health and addiction issues (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/25/ecological-grief-i-mourn-the-loss-of-nature-it-saved-me-from-addiction#img-1). The benefits to that individual appeared transformative (and hardly unique). The 'rider' to the account is much less positive as she rightly notes that much of the natural world/ park land in the UK is disappearing and/or being degraded. This suggests that it will be much more difficult in the future to extract benefit by communing with nature.
Monday, 24 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/23/george-eustice-refuses-to-guarantee-ban-on-chlorinated-chicken). One of his lines of logic is, that washing with chlorine is 'old-fashioned', and more US chicken producers are now cleaning carcases with lactate. Does he not understand that washing with any antibacterial agent is an attempt to compensate for the poorer housing and husbandry systems that are allowable in North America? This hardly fits with the claim that we are aiming for the best food safety and animal welfare standards.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/24/british-tourists-stranded-in-canary-islands-after-saharan-sandstorm-blows-in). It's impossible to establish a link on the basis of one event but this could be yet another piece of evidence for climate change. It's a bit sad, if you go away on holiday to escape the rain only to get sand storms instead.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/23/more-than-11000-homes-to-be-built-on-land-at-high-risk-of-flooding). These have a very high risk of flooding (with a lowered ability to be insurance) and are generally within or close to areas already suffering from repeated flooding. I know that people want homes but preferably not underwater!
Sunday, 23 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/23/world-is-approaching-coronavirus-tipping-point-experts-say). The numbers of people involved combined with our highly-dispersive travel habits on boats, trains and planes make it very difficult to confine this virus that may be passed in the air we breathe. In this respect, it is showing similar characteristics to the annual outbreaks of influenza which always tend to go worldwide.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/20/fates-humans-insects-intertwined-scientists-population-collapse). They suggest that, although it is often unclear what precisely is going wrong for each of the declining 6-legged species, there are some obvious things that can be done. We could greatly increase the sizes of reserves (with a reduced focus on bird and mammal species); reduce the spraying of harmful chemicals; cut our lawns less frequently and leave dead wood in our gardens. Insects are a very necessary part of terrestrial ecosystems.
Saturday, 22 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/21/climate-tweets-twitter-bots-analysis). Bots (web robot software applications) basically run automated tasks over the internet at a much higher rate than humans could manage. The vast majority of presumably bot-generated tweets support the climate change denial agenda. Given that Twitter allows any content (true or otherwise) about the climate crisis, this means that the denial message is much more prominent and dispersed on the internet than it has any right to be. It would be very interesting to know who pays for these bots. The likelihood must be that, at least in some cases, they are people who would lose money if responses to the climate crisis were taken seriously.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/feb/21/device-inspired-mangroves-help-clear-flood-water). The trees essentially draw up water from their roots partially via a 'pull mechanism' as water is evaporated from their leaves (as do other plants) but they have cell membranes that prevent the uncontrolled passage of salts and have waxy materials in the cells providing more protection. In this way, they effectively desalinate the water in which they are rooted. The Yale group employed a polymer membrane to remove salts (equivalent to the root); a microporous silica filter (the stem) and hydrogel-filled membranes or aluminium oxide with tiny pores (to act like leaves). Although they conclude that it would be impractical to scale up their method for actual desalination, they argue that it could be incorporated into buildings to help deal with salty flood water. The water would evaporate from the walls and roofs, with the added bonus of cooling the building.
Friday, 21 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/21/prevent-environment-animal-activists-referred-extremism). Such people may well be tempted to become involved in demonstrations and news-attracting events but they should hardly be regarded as being in the same league as others who might become motivated to destroy buildings and kill people (even there, there is a feeling in some circles, that the programme unfairly stereotypes certain groups and isn't entirely positive in terms of societal cohesion). Perhaps Prevent has shown mission creep to become concerned with controlling inconvenient (as well as dangerous) activities? It would consequently be interesting to know if the economists of JP Morgan (a major fossil fuel financier) are likely to be referred to the programme for admitting (in a leaked report) that climate change carries real risks for the survival of the human species(https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/21/jp-morgan-economists-warn-climate-crisis-threat-human-race). It might be bad for business?
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/21/himalayan-wolf-lopes-recognition-species-oxygen-protection). It may look superficially like a Grey wolf, but these canids show physiological adaptations, enabling them to operate at altitudes where oxygen is in short supply. That could make them sufficiently different to be accorded separate status.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/01/scientists-are-unraveling-the-mysteries-of-pain-feature/). Particularly of interest to me were the sections on the application of Virtual Reality to reduce the sensation of pain. Programmes showing swimming jellyfish seemed particularly efficacious.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/20/meat-company-faces-heat-over-cattle-laundering-in-amazon-supply-chain). This lack of traceability throws into doubt any claims that the company makes about the sustainability of its meats.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/antibiotics). Antibiotic resistance occurs following the overuse of antibiotics (in medical treatment and in farming, where it is used as a growth enhancer for meat production). Basically, the bacteria that better survive the application are the ones (with their resistant characteristics, of which there are a variety) going on to generate the new populations of bugs (it's pure Darwinian selection). These antibiotic resistant bacteria are particularly found in hospitals, nurseries and gyms and authorities have worried that their spread will return us to a pre-antibiotic era (with increasing death rates and enormous financial losses). The new method, basically fed into the programmes the characteristics of existing molecules (from drug trials or natural products) that might counter antibiotic resistance. In an initial trial, a failed drug for treating diabetes was found to be a likely candidate. In studies, this drug, now called Halicin (after the computer in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey), was found to be highly effective in treating a number of difficult antibiotic resistant conditions. Further trials are reportedly throwing up other candidate drugs much more quickly and cheaply than could be done by traditional means.
Wednesday, 19 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/18/hundreds-of-thousands-of-mussels-cooked-to-death-on-new-zealand-beach-in-heatwave).A similar event happened in California in 2019. It appears that this will happen more commonly with climate change.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/18/bees-may-struggle-in-winds-caused-by-global-warming-study-finds). This will, of course, further reduce their essential pollinating activity.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/feb/19/researchers-find-a-western-style-diet-can-impair-brain-function). Even worse, the food makes them crave more of the same, increasing the probability of over-eating. Looks like a recipe for disaster!
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/19/european-green-deal-polish-miners). In essence, it might well have the same effect that the Common Agricultural Programme had for small, poor, subsistence farmers (i.e. giving them hope but actually benefitting rich conglomerates and land speculators to a much greater degree). The view seems to be that this is 'greenwashing' on a mega scale. Certainly, there seems to be too much faith in traditional company activities.
Monday, 17 February 2020
Dr Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, at a recent American Advancement of Science meeting, has advocated composting of human remains (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/feb/16/human-composting-could-be-the-future-of-deathcare). It is already legal in the US state of Washington and appears to be a greener way of deathcare than burial or cremation. I have always thought that we are but mobile compost.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/15/best-case-scenario-2050-climate-crisis-future-we-choose-christiana-figueres-tom-rivett-carnac) and most pessimistic (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/15/worst-case-scenario-2050-climate-crisis-future-we-choose-christiana-figueres-tom-rivett-carnac) outcomes for the year 2050. In the former, greenhouse gases have been rigorously controlled and the increase in global temperature limited to the Paris-agreed 1.5 degrees C. In the latter, the climate altering gases (and particulates) have continued to rise unchecked and the global temperature is more than 3 degrees C higher and rising. It's pretty clear which is the preferable scenario but very unclear which will actually prevail.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/15/what-lies-beneath-the-nature-park-covering-up-a-dirty-secret-aoe). The scrub land reserve was once one of Europe's largest landfill sites, serving the London area. It is now home to adders, Carder bees, cuckoos and Water voles. All these (along with many other animals and plants) thrive with reportedly little evidence of its former function.
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/16/ai-systems-claiming-to-read-emotions-pose-discrimination-risks). The degree of commonality between the 'body language' of different cultures has always appeared to be more associated with the ease of producing particular responses (e.g. waving) rather than being something that is genetically encoded. So, although it may be very tempting to save time by using one of the available commercial packages, there are dangers that this will prove discriminatory for some groups and misleading/dangerous in other respects.
Saturday, 15 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/14/eu-spending-tens-of-millions-of-euros-a-year-to-promote-meat-eating). The 20 plus campaigns attempt to counter the health concerns associated with excessive meat consumption and to banish the 'fake news' of animal welfare issues (more evident in the US but certainly not absent in Europe). Given that the livestock sector reportedly generates nearly 15% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, this is not helpful in terms of countering climate change.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/14/oil-execs-environmentalists-bp-change-oil-climate). The claim of their new executive is that the company 'gets' the climate change fears and will move to a net zero carbon footprint by 2050. Much of the pessimism is generated by the emphasis on the word 'net', the proposed timescale and the fact that there appears to be no sign of the company stopping digging (drilling for oil and gas).
Friday, 14 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/14/bees-flowers-danger-pollinate-human-foodstuffs-farming). I realise that this is only a figure of speech that was probably triggered by the date (St Valentine's Day) but it's not remotely a love affair between the insect and the plant. We tend to think of the bees exploiting the flowers by gathering their nectar and pollen. More accurately, however, the flowers exploit the bees, in a 'gig economy' by providing a minimalistic reward (a bit of weak sugar solution) in exchange for facilitating sex for the plants.
Thursday, 13 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/12/car-splatometer-tests-reveal-huge-decline-number-insects). One study in rural Denmark, showed an 80% decline in insect numbers between 1997 and 2017 (with dramatic effects on the numbers of insectivorous birds). Another in Kent recorded 50% fewer insects on the splatometer in 2019 than were found in 2004. The results suggest that the declines in numbers of these important pollinators are at disturbingly high levels.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/12/giant-dams-could-protect-millions-from-rising-north-sea). It would require one dam of 475 km between Scotland and Norway and another of 160 km between SW England and France, at a current total current cost of 750 bn euros. The process would, of course, convert the North Sea into a giant lake with major changes in its ecology (even with giant pumps to expel much of the water from rivers flowing into the area). There would be major changes to North Sea fishing and marine transport systems. It is pretty obvious that there would be major arguments between the countries involved (and others who would benefit) about where the dams were sited and the sizes of the required financial contributions. I suspect that this debate would be more fraught post-Brexit. Strangely enough, some scientists have suggested that the North Sea was once a naturally-dammed, giant lake that was fuelled by melt water at the end of the last glacial period and the bursting of that dam created the channel between England and France.
Wednesday, 12 February 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/feb/12/moo-swings-cows-go-through-disruptive-puberty-too-study). Some of the animals become more shy whereas others show increased inquisitiveness. This is hardly unexpected, as there are major hormonal changes and changed behavioural imperatives at this time in both these mammalian species.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/10/italy-told-to-stop-using-malaysia-as-plastics-dumping-ground-greenpeace-landfill). They have suggested that this practise (probably also involving other countries) is simply dumping their environmental responsibilities in an era when selling plastic waste for recycling has become more difficult.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/11/boris-johnson-bets-on-hs2-to-deliver-new-spine-of-uk-transport). It is certainly easier to sell the 'positive' story (especially with media help) than to point to the losses (especially when you can trash an ancient woodland in preference to taking part of a nearby golf course). You can promise a few electric buses and even throw in a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/11/hopes-rise-bridge-linking-scotland-northern-ireland ), perhaps assuming that Scottish independence will not result in one end being in the EU?
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