Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Dirty Diesel

Why is diesel now bad news?

The mayor of Paris wants the city to become ‘semi-pedestrianised’

The Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo wants to ban diesel cars and the pollution they bring from the streets of the French capital. But not long ago, diesel engines were thought to be environmentally friendly. What could have gone wrong?

Opinion on diesel cars has swung widely over the years.

Diesel is a more efficient fuel than petrol, but in the past diesel engines were often noisy and dirty.

Then, with growing concerns over climate change, car manufacturers were urged to produce cleaner, quieter diesel cars to capitalise on their extra fuel efficiency.

The cars were fitted with a trap to catch the particles of smoke associated with the fuel. Several governments rewarded the manufacturing improvements by incentivising the purchase and use of diesel cars.

But the policy has backfired.

Going into reverse

First, there have been problems with the particle traps – some drivers have removed them because they sometimes don’t work properly unless the car is driven hot.

Second, the diesels are still producing nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which irritates the lungs of people with breathing problems. Diesels make several times more NO2 than petrol cars.

Now, in order to meet European air pollution laws, politicians are being forced into an embarrassing U-turn, telling drivers that they’ve decided they don’t much like diesels after all.

MPs in the UK have mooted a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, while the mayor of Paris has called for a ban.

Several European nations are currently in breach of EU clean air laws.

The EU’s NO2 limit was exceeded at 301 sites in 2012, including seven in London. The concentration on Marylebone Road was more than double the limit.

Districts in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Paris, and Rome are also exceeded the ceiling.

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Not just carbon: Key pollutants for human health

  • Particulate matter (PM): Can cause or aggravate cardiovascular and lung diseases, heart attacks and arrhythmias. Can cause cancer. May lead to atherosclerosis, adverse birth outcomes and childhood respiratory disease. The outcome can be premature death.
  • Ozone (O3): Can decrease lung function and aggravate asthma and other lung diseases. Can also lead to premature death.
  • Nitrogen oxides (NO2): Exposure to NO2 is associated with increased deaths from heart and lung disease, and respiratory illness.
  • Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in particular benzo a-pyrene (BaP): Carcinogenic.
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Politicians are now scurrying to persuade the courts that they are obeying an EU demand to clean up the air as soon as possible.

Source: BBCNews Read more

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Nature Ramble

An amazing small traveler, makes a round trip migration of 16,000 miles

‘Unique’ bird migration discovered

The tag was recovered from a male red-necked phalarope in Shetland

A tracking device which weighs less than a paperclip has helped scientists uncover what they say is one of the world’s great bird migrations.

It was attached to a red-necked phalarope from Scotland that migrated thousands of miles west across the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

The journey has never before been recorded for a European breeding bird.

The red-necked phalarope is one of the UK’s rarest birds, and is only found in Shetland and the Western Isles.

The RSPB, working alongside the Swiss Ornithological Institute and Dave Okill of the Shetland Ringing Group, fitted individual geolocators to 10 red-necked phalaropes nesting on the island of Fetlar in Shetland in 2012.

Each geolocator weighed 0.6g and was fitted to the bird with harnesses made from tubing.

It was hoped the trackers would shed light on where the birds, which are smaller than starlings, spend the winter.

After successfully recapturing one of the tagged birds when it returned to Fetlar last spring, experts discovered it had made an epic 16,000-mile round trip during its annual migration.

It had flown from Shetland across the Atlantic via Iceland and Greenland, south down the eastern seaboard of the US, across the Caribbean and Mexico, ending up off the coast of Ecuador and Peru.

After wintering in the Pacific, it returned to Fetlar, following a similar route.

Gender roles

Prior to this, many experts had assumed that Scottish breeding phalaropes joined the Scandinavian population at their wintering grounds, thought to be in the Arabian Sea.

Although long, the phalarope migration is beaten by some distance by Arctic terns, which make a return trip of about 24,000 miles between the North and South poles each year.

It had previously been thought the birds wintered in the Arabian Sea

However, the phalarope is the only known westward migration into the Pacific. This westward movement in late summer and autumn is into the prevailing weather and in virtually the opposite direction to all other migrants leaving the UK.

Numbers of red-necked phalarope in Scotland fluctuate between just 15 and 50 nesting males.

Malcie Smith of the RSPB told BBC Scotland he had almost fallen out of his chair when the tracking results showed where the birds had gone.

He added: “We are freezing up here in Shetland and it’s quite nice to think of our red necked phalaropes bobbing about in the warm tropical waters of the Pacific.

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Monday Moaning

Preamble: I know this one will upset the veges and vegans, but that’s not the purpose. The reason behind this post is the incredible waste of food in a world that is crying food shortages.

British veal poised for an ‘ethical’ comeback

TV chef Jimmy Doherty at his farm in Suffolk.  Photograph: Nick Sinclair/Alamy

TV farmer Jimmy Doherty promotes revival of rose veal to prevent ‘useless’ male dairy calves being shot at birth

As far as reputation goes, it’s up there with foie gras and shark’s fin. But a decade after furious protests on the streets of Britain brought a ban on both the controversial live export of calves and on the rearing-in-crates system – veal is back.

British rose veal has already won the ethical stamp of approval from the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) but it remains a niche market in the UK, just 0.1% of the meat we consume each year.

Now TV farmer Jimmy Doherty, as part of a new series starting on Channel 4 this week, has persuaded Tesco to start stocking the veal in the hope that it will catch on with British meat-eaters.

Doherty and other campaigners claim that persuading British consumers to start eating rose veal – so called because the meat is pink instead of the traditional milk-fed white veal – will go some way to address the “hidden scandal” of our love of milk that sees an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 male dairy calves shot within hours of birth.

Dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant to feed our milk and cheese habit but while female calves can go on to replace their mothers in the dairy system, there is no market for the male calves of dairy breeds which aren’t considered good for beef.

“Rose veal can offer an alternative,” said Doherty. “Crates and all that stuff have given veal a bad name but things are very different now. And it’s not about eating day-old baby cows – if you think that we slaughter chickens when they are 42 days old, lamb at five to six months, and pigs at five months – then at six to eight months, rose veal is the oldest of the lot. No one talks about that side of things.

“Dairy calves are being shot at 24 to 48 hours old and if we drink milk we all have to share in this instead of leaving the burden of it to the farmers. Eating rose veal is utilising those calves and solving a problem,” said Doherty, who is raising veal calves on his own farm.

“The veal being produced in Europe and imported into the UK isn’t meeting anything like our welfare standards. The calves have restricted milk diets to keep the meat white. Our rose veal is slightly pink and has a lovely, lovely flavour and it’s full of protein. I’d love to see more people eating it. It’s not the cheapest so for a lot of people it would have to be a once-a-week special. Tesco has been selling imported German veal so I’m really pleased they are looking at stocking British rose veal.

“It’s time to grow up and face our responsibilities: this is just younger beef.”

Source: The Guardian Read more

Opinion:

Rose Veal Steaks, just smaller

100,000 – 150,000 animals destroyed because they have no purpose; and that’s only in the United Kingdom. When you add the rest of the world into the equation that is a tremendous loss/waste of food.

Admittedly in the past the raising of this product was abhorrent, enough to create a political furore.

However, times have changed, and so have the methods; at least in the UK, although some European countries do not adhere to the same standards. They need to be brought into line.

Make you Fink on Friday

Butterflies!

We often see them, but do we ever think about them?

They’re crazy creatures, they don’t fly, they flutter; they flutter seemingly aimlessly and happen upon a flower more by chance than design.

Leaf Butterfly extinct in Singapore

Generally they are beautiful in their resplendent colours, like this Leaf butterfly (Kallima limborgii amplifura) from Singapore. In nature this one is extinct, but lucky to be bred still in local butterfly farms.

But…

.At a recent International conference of butterfly experts, it was confirmed that many butterfly species around the world are either endangered or extinct. – R.I.P. Maderian Large White

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No one really thinks that even butterflies can succumb to extinction. Extinction is not the exclusive domain of dinosaurs and white tigers. All species are subject to this indignity.

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Why do butterflies become extinct?

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The usual reason… man!

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Insecticides, agricultural practices, deforestation, loss of habitat, global warming. Many reasons, but generally they boil down to ‘man’.

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Then sometimes there is good news:

Rare UK butterflies ‘bounce back’

The grizzled skipper was one species that benefited from the weather conditions

Record-breaking temperatures and dry weather in spring has led to an increase in the numbers of many species of rare butterfly, a study suggests

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and charity Butterfly Conservation said the weather had provided “perfect conditions” for “spring specialists”.

Their study was based on assessments of over 1,000 UK butterfly habitat sites.

Duke of Burgundy

Species that did particularly well included the Duke of Burgundy butterfly – listed as threatened in the UK.

Long-term, this species has declined by more than 40% in the last 30 years.

It found that the species bucked that declining trend between 2010 and 2011, increasing in numbers by 65%.

Spring butterflies fared particularly well: numbers of grizzled skipper rose by 96% and the pearl-bordered fritillary population leapt by 103%.

The much colder weather in the summer was, however, very bad news for more familiar garden species, including the peacock, small tortoiseshell and common blue.

The populations of all three of these species fell significantly.

Source: BBC News Read more

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