Category Archives: Environment

Spring Has Really Sprung

The last day of Spring marks the end of a quarter the like of which no one living today has ever seen before.

SunBaby1aThe virus that escaped from somewhere around Wuhan in China has been devastating. Not in the way that the two world wars were – but in its impact on our economies and way of life. It has become the unseen threat that could be hiding on every person and point of contact. The silent bullet that is not felt until days after it has hit its random target.

The nature of the virus and its infection process has fed two contradicting fears – huge death tolls and – overreacting to a minor health issue. And even though the 38,000 UK deaths to date are a shocking statistic the economic impact of the government measures – such as paying the wages of millions to stay at home – will hold the nation back for decades. So arguments are rife that lock-downs are being lifted too soon or not quickly enough. And that the virus is either a major threat to the nation or nothing worse than seasonal flu. Arguments that have now taken on political dimensions. With Labour supporters generally taking the opposite view to the Conservative ones. Hardly conducive to achieving the best outcome.

But politics, rules and regulations aside Mother Nature seems to taken notice of the lack of emissions from factories, motor vehicles and aviation. With reduced exhaust gases and the absence of con trails clouding the skies Spring has been a new experience for everyone here in middle England. Record sunshine hours, number of dry days and above average temperatures have pushed the time at home to new levels of outdoor activity.

It’s just a pity that most of us have not been able to share the glorious weather with friends and relatives …

Viral Pandemic

Two months ago at our first posting the Wuhan virus was a distant threat. Now it’s spreading all around the world; with Europe being the first directly impacted once the virus had left Asia.

Heckerslyke_160Trying to keep up with the ever increasing counts of infections and deaths for make depressing reading – but for the record Italy has had at least 13,915 deaths, Spain 10,935 and the UK has now reached a total of 3,605 – officially. Sadly the figures for the USA seem set to dwarf those of Europe – and looking ahead much of Africa lacks the infrastructure to cope; especially if aid from developed countries is diverted into over-stretched health care services back home.

All the points about the financial impact have already been said – but the numbers just keep getting larger and larger. Businesses from the smallest trader to the mega corporation are facing complete collapse has virtually every sector outside of food, power and health care is shut down either by government order or by lack of customers. Everything from tourism to sport – pop concerts to voting – has been stopped. For example the mega-millions normally circulating in the world of TV broadcasting rights has evaporated. The Grand National, Wimbledon, even the Olympic Games will not happen until normality returns. If it ever does.

The year 2020 will be remembered for a long time – by the survivors …

Extinguished Rebellion

Ten more days of spiralling into the corona virus black hole and many countries have already resorted to extreme measures. In Europe national borders and interests are back in control – along with extreme financial measures that are making the 2008 financial crash look like small beer.

Man1And at the personal level the number of deaths continues to grow – despite the increasingly draconian restrictions on movement and personal contacts. With 6,077 deaths in Italy and 2,300 in Spain the figure of 335 for the UK seems low – but we face many more yet in the months ahead. And it looks like UK Grandads will be the demographic with the highest mortality.

Here the over 70’s are already in isolation until June. But when the survivors emerge the virus will not have disappeared. They will become victims then rather than now – unless a cure has been found. Since no one has a natural immunity the virus will continue to infect the population for years – possibly re-infecting those that have survived the previous waves. And we already have several strains of the corona virus indicating that it could adapt over time and evolve into something even worse.

Back at the international finance level the desperate measures are creating vast debts as governments strain to prop-up essential services – healthcare, education, police, fire, ambulance, military, public transport, fuel, water, etc – and the vast numbers of unemployed. All against a backdrop of collapsing government taxation income and falling asset values.

But it’s not entirely bad news. The huge falls in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have already resulted in clearer skys and climate benefits – sooner than even the most ardent activists could have reasonably expected.

While on the political front the people of Scotland will be well aware that their country could not have faced the current challenge on its own. And those that want to extend the UK-EU trade negotiations are having to face-up to the fact that the world economy has already been reset. The trade agreement fine print has been reduced to irrelevance. The people that survive this will need the essentials of life to be traded as safely and efficiently as possible – with no room for artificial barriers created by bureaucrats and civil servants.

Viral Threat 2

Five weeks on from Grandad’s last posting and the Wuhan Virus now has a new name – plus has expanded world-wide. In the UK Covid-19 has now claimed 21 lives but that may well have increased even before this posting appears online.

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Elsewhere in Europe the situation has deteriorated rapidly with worst-case Italy reporting yesterday that 1,016 deaths had been identified as Covid-19 related. And many of these were senior citizens.

If the compounding growth rate of infections continues the next few weeks will see the number of deaths grow every day – claiming mainly the elderly and the already vulnerable. The short-term prospects are to prepare for bad news.

But even if the virus has no direct impact on your friends and family, the financial chaos that is being created almost certainly will.

Take cities like Oxford, Cambridge, York and even Edinburgh that depend upon tourism and overseas students for a large percentage of their turnover. Hotels, restaurants, retailers, airlines, coach and train companies are all going to experience drastic cuts to their incomes. Jobs will go and businesses will fail – even if there is billions in government support. And away from these high profile examples there will still be major disruptions and life-changing events. Take football – where many clubs below the Premier League depend upon gate receipts and local corporate sponsors. If both income streams stop then closure can be the only outcome.

The hope is that the numbers of new infections will start to decline by summer – and allow some of the restrictions to be lifted; so letting trade slowly return. However the UK, along with other major economies, was far from being financially healthy before Covid-19 appeared. This is why we have had such low interest rates – and why the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, cut interest rates to 0.25% before the Budget last week. Quite a way to leave office – tomorrow!

How will this all turn out? Who knows. But Grandad is off to read-up about Spanish Flu and check that his will is still valid …

Changeable Weather

The 20’s decade has started out with a roar – with threats of everything from global pandemic to weather chaos; from stock market crash to royal family breakdown.

But have no fear an intrepid junior reporter has emerged. One who will stop the evil US president, outwit the scheming eastern dictator and mobilise the youth of the free world to stop climate change before we and all of the Earth’s animals starve, burn or are drowned.

Now Grandad remains unconvinced that Grintin has any real solutions and can only act as a voice for others. Hopefully those that have researched the issue in depth. But this leaves the whole climate action programme vulnerable to being hijacked by vested interests. And there are plenty who see their chance to make a lot of money out of phoney climate initiatives.

Clearly there are some big issues that need to be faced head-on – with the ever expanding human population being the key driver of almost all of them. Now if Grintin can convince the world to act on that then there is a chance for future generations.

But cynics will say that there is no money to be made out of population reduction – so it won’t happen. Not by any human actions that is …

A Decade of Change?

With the scoreboard showing 1,314 days since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union the chances of another failure to deliver seem vanishingly small. And so just 3 more days remain for our country as a member. That in itself will be a first time situation for many British people. But then the 20’s seem set to be a decade of change in many ways.

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Starting at the top we have a monarch who has served for 67 years and will reach her 100 years in 2026 while her consort the Duke of Edinburgh will reach that milestone sooner – in 2021. A fact of human life is that it is finite – and so we must face the possibility that the 2020’s will be the last decade of the New Elizabethan era. So while Harry makes the headlines today it is the future of the monarchy that will come into question before too long.

Similarly the children of the 1940’s baby boom will reach their 80’s over the next ten years and fade away in greater numbers than ever before. A statistical fact used by pro-EU vote losers as a crutch to promote rejoining after another vote. Sadly for them this will never occur as both economic factors and bigger world issues will take priority over political manoeuvres in Europe.

And the biggest world issue will be climate change – along with the actions we are required to take in response. But that needs a separate posting …

Extinction Confusion

Groups of self-styled activists have picked up the issue of man-made climate change and are loudly demanding governments act to stop it; immediately.

Clearly this issue is far from new – and there are known solutions. And even though the protesters are seemingly fully committed to the cause, the implications of their radical demands are far-reaching and quite literally life-changing.

Eliminating the use of fossil-fuels would stop all commercial flights, ships, trucks and most personal transport; except for electric trains, bicycles and the limited number of fully electric cars. This move alone would spell not just the end of overseas holidays but also stop most of our essential services. With so much shipped in, out and around every day – everything from clothes to cans of beans could not be made or delivered to the shops. Foraging in the fields for edible vegetables could replace food banks. And actually growing crops without the use of diesel-power would cut productivity levels to near zero. Fighting for food would be the new norm – the young, the old and the weak would soon perish.

But the chances that this scenario would happen are near zero – since governments have shown themselves to be too ineffective to carry through such unpopular measures.

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Another approach to reducing the damage to the environment by human activity – is to control the human population. And not just by reducing the rate of population increase but actually reducing the number of people!

Since capital punishment seems unlikely to return in the short term the excess of people may have to be tackled by voluntary euthanasia. It would of course need to be a far bigger scale than those in present day Switzerland and Belgium. However nature may well assist – on a potentially massive scale – through drug resistant bacteria, exotic fatal diseases – and of course – climate change itself.

But as long as governments are in control of the situation they are not going to legislate for reductions in population. They need expanding populations to keep paying more and more in taxes to prop-up the currency and debt mountains.

So those protesters who really believe in their slogans face either a life in a pre-industrial landscape or volunteering to die for their cause.

But even after these extreme measures the Earth’s climate will continue to change. And the idea of flying-off to another planet to start again will be shown to be just a Dr Strangelove fantasy. Truly a dystopian future …

World of Plastic

Sometimes dismissing the old while embracing the new does not make for real progress. It is change without improvement.

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There are so many examples in everyday experience that you would think that everyone was aware that pursuing the new was not necessarily a route to a better life.

Take the use of plastics. As a London commuter in the 1990s the majority around me were drinking bottled water out of single-use bottles. The branches of W H Smith in the main stations must have sold millions of bottles over the decade. Then the attitude was only the old or deluded were not smart enough to adopt this essential lifestyle improvement. Water shipped in – ideally from some exotic location – was de rigueur.

Similarly no one brought their own bags with them when shopping. Carrying your own bags was even considered as labelling you as a potential shoplifter. Everyone was given nice clean, shiny, disposable plastic ones when checking out. It avoided the hassle of carrying a reuseable one. It was the modern convenient way to go. Again it was only the old fashioned that declined to follow such new ideas.

How different in Grandad’s childhood – milk and pop in re-useable, returnable bottles; groceries in sturdy bags and household junk collected by rag-and-bone men for recycling. A process that has been replaced today by a never-ending stream of single-use plastic bags being pushed through letter boxes all around the country every day of the week. Not very eco-friendly!

Certainly plastic has become an essential material in the 21st century – but we now need to be a bit more old fashioned and wise in what we use it for …

Bee Aware

After a run of days blessed by fine, warm weather the gardens of Britain are in full-bloom. But something is wrong. Something is missing. Grandads report that bee numbers are down. And they are not just seeing a few less than 2017 but experiencing numbers that have declined from twenty or more on a single flower bed last year to having none at all on the same flowers this year.

MK7A1871wThe government announced an urgent and comprehensive review into the decline in bee numbers – but that was in June 2013. Five years later Grandad is unable to spot any meaningful improvements. In fact anecdotal evidence suggests that the rate of decline is now worse than ever.

In order to help quantify the scale of the problem Friends of the Earth have been running the Great British Bee Count but if you want to contribute there are only a few days left ..

However the alternative view is that the bees are copying the dolphins in A Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and are leaving Planet Earth before disaster strikes …