Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Five a Day?

A recent study from Harvard University has suggested that there might be a downside to attempts to get folk to eat more 'fruit and veg' (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/31/pesticide-residue-food-sperm-quality-harvard). The fly in the ointment is the finding that pesticide residues in these foods can reduce human sperm counts by almost 50% as well as generating higher levels on non-viable sperm. It has been known for years that some pesticides (e.g. organophosphates) have oestrogenic effects which might well account for their effects. It is uncertain whether the residues can be removed by simply washing the items before consumption.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

New Age of the Reptiles?

'News' from the RSPCA that reptiles (and amphibians) are now the fourth most popular group of companion animals or pets, after fish, cats and dogs (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/29/reptile-amphibian-pets-almost-as-popular-as-dogs). This is not really an entirely fair comparison as reptiles are very different from amphibians and they only attain the fourth rank by lumping all the species (from axolotls to tortoises and boa constrictors) together. Cats and dogs are separate species of mammals (and lots of other mammals are kept as pets e.g. mice, rabbits and horses). I think the point they were trying to make is that these cold-blooded animals also have welfare needs but they are more difficult to interpret unless you have a degree of understanding of such species. The housing and feeding requirements can certainly be considerably more complex than that pertaining to your average cat or dog (they also vary enormously between species).

Pheasant's Revolt

Somewhat contentious news in the report that the RSPB apparently approves of pheasant shoots (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/29/rspb-backs-pheasant-shoots). At first sight, this seems to clash with their normal position on birds, which is to protect them at all (most?) costs. Pheasants are, however, essentially an alien (so far as the UK is concerned) species that are bred for the shooters. The income generated by the activity actually means that the land does not get used for a) house building or b) agriculture, two activities that make life difficult for some indigenous birds. So, I suppose, their point is that it does result in more land staying 'bird friendly' (except for the pheasants).

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Too Shy, Shy?

A Cambridge questionnaire study has suggested that people with similar temperaments tend to cluster in the UK (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/25/survey-maps-regional-personality-types). The authors suggest that London is full of lazy, unconscientious extroverts, whereas Scotland is awash with 'friendly, emotionally stable folk' and the poor, old Welsh are replete with 'shy and neurotic' people. I must admit to some reservations about such studies. It is based on a large sample of circa 400,000 subjects responding to an online survey quiz. Perhaps people accessing that kind of thing on computers varies regionally? How honestly to do people answer such items? Does the full range of people living in the area get accessed in appropriate numbers in such a survey? Given the looming general election it was interesting to see that voting intentions were also apparently linked to personality traits.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

All That Glisters (Is Not Gold)

Research from Arizona State University has suggested that human sewage could be fruitfully 'mined' for gold, silver and platinum (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/23/gold-in-faeces-worth-millions-save-environment). They reckon that the precious metals (from shampoos, detergents and clothes) reach the levels indicative of 'a minimal mineral deposit" and could be safely extracted in sewage plants using chemicals termed leachates. This has two advantages namely a) the leachates are not used in the wider environment where they can be very damaging (as in traditional mining) and b) the removed metals render the remaining biomass safe for use as fertilisers or for burning to generate electricity. They reckon that a city of around a million inhabitants currently flushes away almost 9 million pounds worth of precious metals in a year. There's gold in them there hills!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Out of Africa?

Disturbing news about the intensity of poaching on Africa's unique mammals (http://www.awf.org/campaigns/poaching-infographic/). it seems that numbers of elephant, rhinoceros, gorilla etc are in marked decline. Drivers seem to include a new affluence in China (increasing the demand for items used in 'medicine') and the technologies now available to poachers. The incidence of capture and successful prosecution of 'Mr Bigs' in the poaching world is also disappointing. It could be the case, that many of these important animals will disappear from our world.