Environmentalism

No, not really

The cargo ship stranded off the Royal national park south of Sydney carries about 1,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and could cause an environmental disaster if it runs aground, experts say.

It’ll be an environmental pain in the arse, yes. It’s not desirable either. But disaster? Seriously folk, get a grip.

Amazing what can be solved by fracking

The Ince plant is one of only two fertiliser factories in Britain and is a key supplier of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fertiliser production, to industry. CO2 is used in everything from surgical operations and meat processing.

CF Industries last month announced plans to shut the Ince plant in August, leaving the consortium, called UK Nitrogen, just weeks to secure a deal. The group plans to approach the Prime Minister through an intermediary this week to directly lobby for support.

Given the size of the varied pipelines and interconnects then UK fracking would lower the domestic price of gas. We know this because the floods of LNG coming in have lowered the UK price of gas relative to the European – it’s not physically possible to export enough to equalise prices.

Natural gas is the major cost input into a Haber Process plant, therefore the fertiliser plant will be more profitable if we go fracking. QED.

We have the technology

Build more reservoirs:

In a 2020 report, the National Audit Office warned that “if more concerted action is not taken now, parts of the south and south east of England will run out of water within the next 20 years”, while the Committee on Climate Change identified water shortages as one of the five “priority risks” facing the UK.

“That’s the thing that’s going to tip the scales. That’s the proper big one. Because when people start turning their taps on and there’s no water coming out of it, now you’ve really let the cat out of the bag.

“There’s no more kicking the can down the road. And it’s nothing to do with the environment. 25 million people in London and the southeast are now getting perilously close to running out of drinking water.”

But of course people will whine if we do that…..

Why think about it?

Why not just do it?

Boris Johnson was already considering scrapping the mandated use of E10 over concerns that it is adding to the global food crisis by displacing land that could be used to grow crops to feed people. The UK sources around a fifth of the crops for its biofuel from Ukraine.

Land for biofuel for the UK alone could be used to feed around 3.5 million people, according to analysis from the think tank Green Alliance. Halving the amount of biofuel used by the UK, US and EU could free up sufficient grain to replace all exports from Ukraine.

What a weird idea

Study suggests existence of up to 2.1m ancient and veteran trees in England
Researchers find there could be many more ancient trees than previously recorded, amid calls for better protections

So if we’ve got a couple of million of the buggers then why do they need protecting? We are, after all, at the good end of the Kuznets Curve, where nature is expanding again…..

Note, worst case, worst……

One worst case scenario by Whitehall predicts six million homes will be left without power this winter if Russia cuts supplies of gas to Europe – a situation ministers are desperate to avoid.

Would be interesting trying to propose net zero policies if that happened, eh?

Meanwhile, if Britain suffers another year of low winds causing wind farm output to plummet, there is “an increased risk of blackouts and rationing of industrial consumption,” she adds.

Err, yeah.

As with many Observer stories

In 1822, The London Observer, reported that: “It is estimated that more than a million of bushels of human and inhuman bones were imported last year from the continent of Europe into the port of Hull.

“The neighbourhood of Leipsic, Austerlitz, Waterloo, and of all the places where, during the late bloody war, the principal battles were fought, have been swept alike of the bones of the hero and of the horse which he rode.”

The account suggested most of the bones were sent to Doncaster, “and sold to farmers to manure their lands”.

This could be true. The absence of mass graves at those locations means it might be true. But as to actual proof…..

Think is’t phosphorous the bones provide, isn’t it? Seems less ghoulish at least to dig up a bit more of Morocco, as we currently do, rather than raiding the graveyards of Europe. But then there are those who disagree, organic farming insists on the bones, not the Morocco bit.

Polar bears in decline

A previously unknown population of polar bears has been found living in south-east Greenland, and rather than hunting seals from sea ice, they make do with hopping on to chunks of freshwater ice that calve off glaciers.

The remote region had been poorly studied until now because of its unpredictable weather, jagged mountains and heavy snowfall, which makes the area inaccessible.

But a seven-year project has found a few hundred polar bears thriving

Oh, right, hundreds of ’em, just ‘angin’ around and uncounted. But you shall nibble your turnip, shivering in the dark, and be happy to save the polar bear.

Oh, gosh, fancy that

One of the least effective mineral-based brands tested by Which?, Clinique Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, which costs £26 for a 125ml bottle, barely provided a third of the claimed SPF level, according to the testing.

Tropic Skin Shade Cream, costing £28 for 200ml, co-owned by Lord Sugar and former Apprentice contestant Susan Ma, barely provided a third of its claimed SPF30 and also failed tests for UVA.

Umm, why?

Most high street sunscreens work because they use ingredients that absorb UV rays, whereas mineral sunscreens physically block ultraviolet radiation using ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Some mineral sun creams use other ingredients that make them non-biodegradable and environmentally harmful but most genuine mineral-based sunscreens are considered to be safer for the environment.

We are surprised. Environmental woo leads to products that don’t work then, eh? See: “windmills”

Cheap wind power

The cost of switching off wind turbines jumped to a record last year as the UK’s cable network and storage capacity struggled to keep up with the amount of electricity generated.

Bill-payers were forced to shell out £507m last year alone to cover the costs of switching off turbines when it is too windy for the grid to handle and bringing on gas supplies instead.

Fascinating stuff

Monbiot:

The freedom of information requests revealed something else: that the levels of a pollutant called pyridine in the north-eastern crabs the government tested were up to 74 times higher than those found in crabs caught in Cornwall. Pyridine is highly toxic to aquatic life. Despite this finding, the government press release claimed it has “ruled out chemical pollution as a likely cause”. It says that “pyridine was not present in water and surface sediment samples collected off the Tees”. Until we see the evidence, we have no means of knowing when, where and how such samples were taken, or how were they assessed.

Actual govt report:

Pyridine was identified in the crab soft tissue using the investigative, semi-quantitative
screening technique. However, concentrations could not initially be put into context as this
analysis had not previously been carried out on crab tissue and background levels were
unknown.
To provide some immediate comparison, healthy crab tissues from outside the area of
impact (St. Mary’s Lighthouse, South Shields, Norfolk Wash and Cornwall) were analysed
and they were also found to contain varying amounts of pyridine. It is also thought that
pyridine could be being formed naturally post-mortem in the crab tissue. It has been
reported amongst other amines monitored as indicator of freshness in fish.
The pyridine finding illustrates how the Environment Agency further explored investigative
findings from the screening results to provide potential lines of enquiry. Upon the initial
pyridine findings in the first crabs analysed, follow up steps were immediately taken to
explore whether this was the cause:
• on the assumption that pyridine was causal, a potential source of the contaminant
was sought. This included taking a formal water discharge sample from a possible
industrial source. Using validated, fully quantifiable, tests no pyridine was present in
water samples. No source could be identified. (As the impacted area and length of
time of the incident increased, with no dilution mitigation, a contaminant source
became increasing improbable)
• literature searches for information including the ecotoxicology and background
levels of, and impact of, pyridine in crabs and lobsters, were carried out
• comparison crabs from outside the known impacted area were sourced to provide
an indication of the ‘background’ levels of pyridine in crab tissues. Comparison
crabs were obtained from St. Mary’s Lighthouse, South Shields, Norfolk Wash
(Eastern IFCA), Cornwall, and analysed using the same indicative screening
technique. Levels found ranged from low to medium
• Pyridine was analysed for in other materials in the area includinh water, sediment,
and blue mussels. Pyridine was detected at low levels by the screening method in
blue mussels but not in the sediment samples. Pyridine was generally not detected
in the water samples (historically we do see some positive detects of pyridine in
saline wasters, including in the Tees). Pyridine is readily soluble in water,
considered to be ‘mobile’ in soil and sediments, and has a low potential for
bioaccumulation in aquatic habitats
• a laboratory pyridine standard was obtained to validate that the screening technique
was identifying pyridine. It has been confirmed that the substance detected was
pyridine but the ‘concentrations’ remain indicative only
Taken together the findings from the different parts of the investigation could not support
the hypothesis that pyridine was the cause of the mortalities.

Oh.

They’re not going to give up, are they?

A ‘tyre tax’ will need to be imposed on electric cars to combat poor air quality in cities, the Government’s top clear air adviser has claimed.

The chairman of the Government’s independent science advisory group on air pollution said charges for low-emission zones are likely to be replaced with alternative levies as drivers switch to electric vehicles.

Particles from tyre wear are more dangerous to public health than diesel exhaust fumes, Professor Alastair Lewis said.

Known as “particulate matter (PM) 2.5”, the amount of air pollution is growing because motorists are driving ever larger vehicles with more substantial tyres.

It’s almost like there’s a desire to kill personal and individual mobility or summat.

All Hail Capitalism

Across the Niger Delta, the profound legacy of environmental destruction by multinational oil and gas companies reverberates, with pollution evident in the creeks, rivers and the air.

The current soot crisis in Rivers is, however, largely linked to illegal oil refining – a lucrative hidden market trade that has become an essential part of life in the city, complicating efforts to curb it.

The absence of the capitalist oil companies is very, very, much worse than their presence……

So the Amazon is all secondary growth forest then, is it?

Researchers have revealed the massive scale of “lost cities” in the Amazon rainforest and uncovered new details about the lives of the people who lived there.

The existence of centuries-old settlements constructed by the Casarabe tribe who lived in what is now Bolivia was already well known.

But the extent of the sites had not previously been realised, and details of how the tribe lived was shrouded in mystery.

The veil has been lifted thanks to an aerial survey using technology known as Lidar, which uses a pulse from a laser to collect measurements as well as creating maps and 3-D models.

That is interesting, no? For it means that “preserving” it isn’t a necessity. We can use it then, as we decide not to, it will grow back again.

There’s a certain cost here

New Zealand grandmother creates her own electric car for $24,000

No, not really.

Penwarden bought a 1993 car body from a wrecker’s,

$24k for a 30 year old car is quite a lot really. And there is that other cost:

Without free labour, he says converting a car is not a financially viable option

Ah. Time does have a value, d’ye see?

Not the most perceptive of analyses

But hold on. Renault, with some back-seat driving from President Macron, is making a big bet on an alternative technology. The company has just announced ambitious plans for a hydrogen powered vehicle, not long after France unveiled a massive programme of investment in the fuel. And yet, that is already looking like a terrible mistake.

Hydrogen is an unproven technology. The infrastructure for fuelling vehicles is woefully inadequate and unlikely to get any better. And unless hydrogen hits a critical mass there will be very little incentive for anyone else to come into the market. Renault was carving out a potentially successful niche in electric vehicles, especially with the big-selling and relatively cheap Zoe. It looks like blowing it on a high risk wager that is doomed to fail.

The same is true of all new technologies. And H2 with fuel cells looks like it will become the propulsion of choice for lorries. So much of that infrastructure will have to exist.

But then this is why we use markets anyway. Everyone gets to try and then we find out, right? Rather than planning by either government or newspaper columnists.

Absolutely astonishing

He doesn’t point out that these figures relate to chemical agriculture using artificial fertilisers and pesticides – practices that he later says he doesn’t support. I also made estimates for organic vegan agriculture with green manure being ploughed directly into the soil, and for organic husbandry in which green manure is fed to dairy cows whose manure is composted, while pigs and chickens are substantially fed on food waste. Both systems require about 6.5m hectares of arable land to provide a healthy diet for everyone in the country. The vegan system is slightly more efficient in its land use, while the livestock system provides a more varied diet.

Given the rising cost of artificial fertilisers, the need to stop using the fossil fuels from which they are made, and declining insect populations, the organic option is looking increasingly attractive.

He’s talking about trying to use less land for agriculture. And then recommends organic. Yields per acre in organic are lower. Therefore an organic system must use more land.

He covers this up by talking about “organic vegan” or “organic smallholding”. But that’s not the right way to study the effects of something. To check a variable you hold all other ones constant, then see what happens with your one variable.

Chemical veganism uses less land than organic vegtanism. Chemical smallholding less than organic smallholding. Organic just uses more land.

Err, yes George

Those who use animal manure argue that the way they farm is how nature works: animals excrete on the ground, plants suck it up, and the cycle sustains itself. But there are few natural systems that look anything like agricultural ones. The vast herds of wild herbivores Europeans encountered when they first arrived in Africa and the Americas are likely to have been an artefact of the suppression of predators by the people who already lived there. Palaeontological evidence suggests that, before humans began competing with them and killing them, large carnivores existed in far greater concentrations than they do in any ecosystem today. Rarely, if ever, would dung have been deposited at agricultural rates.

I’m not saying that the use of artificial fertilisers is OK – I’m saying that both sources, in environmental terms, are highly problematic. Our aim should be to minimise the use of all forms of fertilisation, while maintaining high yields. That’s the fundamental challenge some growers are seeking to address. It’s not easy, and a great deal of further work is required before we get there.

Arguing against both artificial and natural fertilisers?

I wonder

In a new study, researchers analysed chemicals in rivers and wastewater in Bath, Bristol, Chippenham, Keynsham and Trowbridge, and found a huge number of substances related to prescription medication, daily activities like showering and dishwashing and drug abuse.

The biggest offenders were found to be painkillers, antibiotics, medications used for heart conditions, mental-health conditions, epilepsy, and lifestyle drugs. The statin atorvastatin was among the most commonly found, as well as the antidepressant fluoxetine.

Past investigations have found the presence of the pill – oestrogen etc. To the point that there was a campaign to make the water companies rebuild the works to clean it out. Not going to happen of course.

What makes me wonder here is if that was present enough to spark that idea a decade back then where’s it all gone now? Or did they just not test for it?