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.
Sunday, 29 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/28/is-factory-farming-to-blame-for-coronavirus). In deed, one school of thought believe that the first Influenza viruses can be linked to the Chinese domestication of ducks some 4000 years ago. Although it's debatable, Covid-19 probably went from bats to pangolins to humans. It is argued, by some folk, that factory farming of chickens (good incubators in their dense monocultures of viral strains that also facilitate transmission by the close proximity of birds to human workers) by big organisations may have provided an impetus. In China, undercut smallholding farmers appear to have been pushed into farming wild animals (by these exotics being branded as 'luxury' products rather than subsistence items) in locations nearer the forests populated by virus-transmitting bats. None of this is certain but it does seem evident that we need to look carefully at our methods of raising animals for human consumption, if we want to limit the abilities of viruses to move to human hosts.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/25/parts-of-england-could-run-out-of-water-unless-urgent-action-taken-report). This will be caused by a combination of increased demand (more people and activities) and a climate crisis-induced reduction in water supply. They predict that the water companies will need to take 500m litres less from rivers and aquifers if there is not to be a total collapse of biodiversity. This will be accompanied by a 600m litre daily reduction in rainfall. If it's not one problem, it's another!
Saturday, 28 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/utrecht-rooftops-greened-plants-mosses-vertical-forest). I have long had a sneaky regard for Utrecht having lived there for a few months in the early 1970s. Many of the things they are attempting on living and transportation seem to be innovative and brave.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/28/coronavirus-tackle-climate-crisis-and-poverty-with-zeal-of-covid-19-fight-scientists-urge). Whilst wholly agreeing with their sentiments, I just can't see this happening. I suspect that when the virus problem is (hopefully) cracked, there will be a rush to get the economy working again (to pay for the eye-watering 'cost') and that corners will be cut. Short-termism will rule again?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/28/wildlife-rescue-centres-struggle-to-treat-endangered-species-in-coronavirus-outbreak-aoe). Funding for these activities often depends on ecotourists and those have largely disappeared. In addition, the movements of the conservationists themselves (for shopping for food and equipment as well as visiting the animals) has been greatly curtailed. It's not looking good for many formerly viable programmes.
Friday, 27 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/report-coronavirus-quack-cures-immediately-says-uk-government). Some have, for example, it is said, claimed that the virus was developed by the Chinese to damage the US Economy and that China's 5G networks can be used to turn off the oxygen supply to people in intensive care. Amongst the stranger cures they advocate are the drinking of lemon juice, 'liquid silver', hot water and elderberry soup. They also reportedly suggest protecting children by placing sliced onions on the soles of their feet and/or rubbing their backs with lemon and lavender oil (to move the virus away from the head?). This is yet another obstacle (no, it's not April yet) that needs to be overcome before we have any chance of dealing with this pandemic. What the internet gives on one hand, it takes away on the other!
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/27/rightwing-thinktanks-use-fear-of-covid-19-to-fight-bans-on-plastic-bags). As appears traditional in such cases, this involves a distortion of the existing Science. The virus can actually persist on a plastic surface for a relatively long period (up to 3 days) whereas its life is only a few hours on cardboard. There is actually little information about how long this agent remains viable on a cloth surface but, in spite of this, reusable bags have been banned (to be replaced by plastic) in a number of states.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/27/scientists-find-bug-that-feasts-on-toxic-plastic). This is an interesting development but it is estimated that it will take at least 10 years of development to use the bug safely to remove this ubiquitous material (so, the best plan for now, is to reduce its production).
Thursday, 26 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/25/can-chloroquine-really-help-treat-coronavirus-patients). This has led to shortages for people who really need this agent and at least 1 death in a person who took a version not intended for human consumption. The evidence for these agents being, in any sense, beneficial is extremely limited and is largely based on anecdotal evidence. They (and other candidate compounds) may have a role in the future but the last thing health systems need are people experimenting with themselves.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/25/worlds-wind-power-capacity-up-by-fifth-after-record-year). This is reportedly mainly down to major expansions of off shore and land-based turbines in China and the USA (so, there is still plenty of scope). One has to remember, however, that the construction of the turbines generates 'greenhouse gases' and this has to be deducted from the account before they actually become 'green'.
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
Tuesday, 24 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/23/fossil-ikaria-wariootia-bilateral-organism-human-relative). The beast, about half the size of a grain of rice, has been named Ikaria wariootia, but, I think, that describing it as one of our oldest ancestors is pushing it a bit. Being bilaterally symmetrical is a feature that we (along with worms, arthropods, molluscs and vertebrates) share, but the feature is broadly a characteristic seen in animals that have directional movement. There is no reason why it could not be evolved on several occasions
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/23/electric-cars-produce-less-co2-than-petrol-vehicles-study-confirms). The only place where this did not currently apply was in highly coal-dependent Poland. There appears to be little doubt that we should be rapidly expanding these technologies at the expense of petrol-fuelled cars and gas-heated homes.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/23/coronavirus-pandemic-leading-to-huge-drop-in-air-pollution). The actual substance recorded is nitrogen dioxide and, whilst it is not a 'greenhouse gas', it is generated by the same processes that produce carbon dioxide. In addition, nitrogen dioxide is one of the pollutants that has been linked, along with particulates, to respiratory diseases (and reduced lifespan) in humans, especially in people living near busy roads. Of course, any current health gains would have to be weighed against the considerable losses linked to the Covid-19 pandemic but it just shows what can be achieved in terms of air pollution over a very short period of time.
Monday, 23 March 2020
Sunday, 22 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/22/conifer-oak-britain-forest-change-to-meet-climate-targets). Trees do, in deed, remove substantial quantities of carbon dioxide from the air but so do other entities e.g. bogs and sea grasses. I personally would not like to see the animals associated with heathland displaced (I appreciate that these relatively treeless areas are human-generated but they do help generate positive responses to nature in a way that acres of conifers wouldn't). There have also been several cases, in recent times, when some of the monocultures of non-native conifers have had to be removed to counter fungal infections. I appreciate that broadleafs also get infections but they are seldom in such obvious monocultures. Conifers may be quicker to plant, faster growing and can operate at higher densities than oaks et cetera but I think we are more likely to get a higher long-term benefit (in terms of carbon dioxide removal) from mixtures of species in appropriate locations.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/22/animals-cities-coronavirus-lockdowns-deer-raccoons). The beasties involved depend on geography but include Sika deer in Japan, raccoons and wild turkeys in the USA and Wild boar and Red foxes in Europe. All these animals appear to be creatures that normally live on the margins of built-up areas, commonly moving in under the cover of darkness. The marked reductions in human activity appear to have made them a lot less nervous. If you can go outside, it is said to be a good time to see wildlife.
https://news.yahoo.com/africas-mountain-gorillas-risk-coronavirus-091258411.html). As humans with Covid-19 can be unsymptomatic for periods of time, it is timely that a total ban on visitors is being advocated. People with cold and 'flu symptoms were already restricted in terms of access, but the coronavirus could be much worse! Just an additional thought. What about endangered primate species in zoos?
Saturday, 21 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/16/the-big-question-over-coronavirus-can-a-person-get-it-twice). The answer appears to be that this is unlikely, especially in the short term (with, of course, the proviso that the virus doesn't mutate rapidly, 'returning' from some part of the world like influenza). Second infections by viral agents rarely do occur (e.g. Shingles) but these are generally after long periods of time. Immunity developed after exposures to viruses, are generally sufficient protection and long-term persistence of the virus in living tissues has only been demonstrated thus far in bats. One must also note that there are occasional failures in any testing regime and the Japanese woman may have been one such. There is, of course, an awful lot to still learn about this coronavirus.
Friday, 20 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/20/coronavirus-anxiety-nature). Although the power of nature to help mental health can be overstated, there is no doubt spending some time in parks is helpful to a wide range of people. It is consequently good news that many bodies (like the National Trust) are keeping their gardens and parks open for the general public to walk in freely at this time.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/20/nature-is-taking-back-venice-wildlife-returns-to-tourist-free-city). The curtailing of tourism has resulted in motorised transport (both large and small) largely ceasing in the lagoon, resulting in a clearing of the waters (they are no longer churned up). This means that diving birds can return to hunt for the small fish in the waters. It is even said that ducks are nesting in some of the small squares of the city.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2020/mar/20/why-not-encourage-cycling-during-the-coronavirus-lockdown). This fits oddly with the announcement that, in France, cycling is to become a banned activity, along with jogging being restricted to a maximum of 2 km from home (https://www.thelocal.fr/20200319/france-tightens-rules-on-jogging-during-coronavirus-lockdown). Other countries, such as Spain and Denmark, appear to be encouraging cycling as being safer alternatives to sharing public transport. It seems to me, that people will need to be able to take exercise outside their homes (exercise in the home depends on equipment and is just not the same) over what is likely to be an extended period of 'lockdown'. Pretty obviously, mass cycling and running events should be out of the question but individual activity (cycling or running), whilst maintaining social distance, must be broadly beneficial.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/19/greenland-ice-melt-sea-level-rise-climate-crisis). This may sound like a tiny amount but the amount of ice melted to produce this effect is astounding. Yet another reason why we need to counter the release of 'greenhouse gases'.
Thursday, 19 March 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/18/billion-dollar-wildlife-industry-in-vietnam-under-assault-as-law-drafted-to-halt-trading). This is following similar changes by the Chinese government. The changes mainly relate to the farming and capture of animals for food (but, even in parts of the UK, so-called 'bushmeat' is said to be illegally available) but the situation in relation to the use of animal products in 'medicines' is less clear. Both uses of wild animals endanger both the animals and humans.
Bees are very important insect pollinators. Some species are, of course, also commercially-important because they produce honey and bees-wa...
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
Flies (Diptera) can be quite impressive on a snow-white back drop. I show a number of candidates I have encountered on my travels.
The fuss about allegedly suspect data emanating from the East Anglia University Climatic Research Unit and the 'theft' of emails fr...