Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Nature's Connections

On the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.

Simple cause and effect is not enough to explain a chaotic world. A single action seldom result in a single reaction. More often, it triggers a chain of reactions, a wave of perturbations through the fabric of reality, like ripples on a pond. Some are obscure, like dropping a small pebble in a big ocean while others stand out like a large rock dropped in a mill pond with long lasting ripples reflecting back from the edge generating complex interference patterns. 

It may sound philosophically abstract but here are two examples of such complex interactions in nature.  The first involves the smallest primate, Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur and the second involves the largest land mammal, the African Elephant.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Commitment to Low Carbon Electricity

I received the following e-mail from Greenpeace on a very important topic: the UK's commitment to reducing greenhouse has emissions in electricity generation. The draft Energy Bill does not yet have such a commitment so read on to find how you can help ensure it makes it into the final bill and please spread the word:

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Polmadie Waste Incinerator - Update

Following Glasgow City Council's approval of the Polmadie waste incinerator, I have received the following update from GAIN - Glasgow Alternatives to INcineration:
The Following Councillors voted in favour of an Incinerator at Polmadie, two of them didn’t even know they were voting in favour of an Incinerator so hadn’t even bothered to research what they were voting about. Make sure these people do not get voted in again.

Vulpine Vulpine, Villain or Wrongly Vilified?

Two headlines caught my attention this week, both about animals attacking children.  One article went into the details of the attack, how an infant was attacked in his home, had a finger bitten off which was then re-attached by surgeons and there are still doubts over whether he will regain use of his hand.  The other was a much shorter article about a toddler being attacked in the street and suffered severe facial injuries.

The former made national headlines with follow up articles and politicians demanding action to prevent a similar incident happening again while the latter is confined to history, no one is interested in reporting on how she is recovering. What is the difference? The former attack was by a wild fox (vulpine vulpine) and the latter by a domestic dog.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has called on action to curb the number of foxes living in the city: a cull by any other name. But why not the same outcry and demands for culling pet dogs? The answer may well be related to the fact that the estimated 8 million pet dogs make their home in almost one in four UK households. That is a lot of people to speak up for them, stopping politicians taking knee-jerk action.  The foxes only have a few of us tree huggers and Brian May (@DrBrianMay: On Bri's Soapbox) to speak up for them.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Horse Trading

We are told not to buy counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags or DVDs from down the Barras or from e-bay because they fund criminal gangs that are often involved in other unsavoury activities such as human trafficking and drug smuggling.  What we aren't told is that is we keep on the straight and narrow using legitimate brands and widely respected retailers we could still unwittingly fund the same criminal gangs.  As the story of the horse meat sold as beef scandal develops it is becoming clearer that that is what is happenning: Polish and Italian criminal gangs using intimidation to get the horse meat signed off as beef before exporting to traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands before reaching producers in France which then process it before finally sending it to the UK.  

On reflection, it is not a surprising outcome of the way the food system works: a combination of globalisation, long supply chains and a constant pressure to reduce costs.  The big four supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsburys) command over three quarters of the groceries market and can make or break their suppliers.  If they want the price to drop, suppliers have to reduce the cost or risk going out of business, which in the horse meat case led to sourcing ingredients from further afield with less cross border accountability and traceability.