Monday, 2 March 2015

Housing and the Election?


The Conservative Party, in the run-up to the General Election, has now 'offered',if re-elected, to legislate for up to 200,000 cheap starter homes for people under 40 on brownfield sites without requiring the builders to consider providing additional local services (such as roads, schools etc) or affordable housing. This has led to a boom in the building industry's shares (http://www.cityam.com/210591/housebuilder-shares-rise-conservatives-promise-200000-cheap-starter-homes-first-time-buyers). There are a few points to note although I do favour brownfield rather than green sites. Making brownfield sites appropriate for house building can be quite demanding and an expensive process. The difficulty is that someone would have to pay for this (and perhaps the missing amenities in the chosen areas). The locations might also turn out to be pretty unattractive in the longer term.

When They Begin the Lagoon?


I must admit that, in spite of all the hype, I continue to have reservations about Swansea Bay being earmarked for the construction of the 'world's first tidal lagoon' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31682529). I appreciate that a) there is a need to generate electricity in a more environmentally responsible fashion, b) promises of jobs and investment always go down well in some quarters but I'm not convinced that the project will be without problems. The effects on sediments in the bay, the visual impact on what is a very attractive location and the consequences on the animals (fish, birds and cetaceans) that frequent the associated SSSI don't really appear to have been answered. The actual enduring cost of the generated electricity also seems a tad vague. The impetuous for the project seems, however, to unstoppable although I am pretty certain it's by no means a world first. Already, they are talking about 5 of these structures in Wales (that's an awful lot of concrete!).

Mr Anti-Green?


There is news of the arrest of a Ezequel Antonio Castanha in Brazil on charges of facilitating illegal logging of an area about the same size as Hong Kong in Brazil (http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/king-of-deforestation-cut-down-can-loggers-arrest-stem-tide-of-destruction-in-amazon/story-fnjww010-1227240651052). This man is owner of a local supermarket and a major employer in his area. In addition to the forest destruction, the claimed activities of the loggers produced local water shortages in the area. This may be a start of meaningful activity against the loggers but opposing them is said to be a dangerous move.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Seeing the Changes 936



In Bynea, little brown toadtools were abundant. In Loughor, the very first Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) was in bloom.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Seeing the Changes 935



More spring flowers in Loughor with the opening of the Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and the Crab apple (Malus sylvestris).

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Hole in One?


Strange things seem to be happening in Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games where golf will return as a sport (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/25/rio-2016-occupy-takes-swing-at-olympic-golf-course). A golf course for this event is being created in a section of the protected Marapendi Reserve which is part of Brazil's Atlantic Forest and home to a number of endangered species (butterflies and fish). Golf courses are notorious for the amount of water they consume and this one is calculated to need 5m litres per day in an area where the substance is at a premium. The site has, reportedly, been developed without conducting an environmental impact assessment (the mayor of the region declares that none was needed as the city council approved the decision). It appears that money does more than talk.

Do You Really Get Energized by Sugar Drinks?


There is a recent call by charities to ban the sale of 'energy drinks' to children under 16 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31623771). This is on the basis of their high sugar content (up to 20 teaspoons of sugar in one can) and their high caffeine dose. This has been linked to diabetes and obesity (as well as tooth decay?). There has been little mention, however, of reactive hypoglycaemia. When people take an acute 'sugar hit', the elevated blood glucose triggers a release of the hormone insulin (designed to convert glucose into stored glycogen). This, more markedly in some people than others, may produce an undershoot in the normal blood sugar values. The brain stores no glucose so would be receiving blood deficient in energy, This has been linked to profound mood changes in healthy humans (and reduced energy). Having blood sugar levels going up and down like a roller-coaster can't be a good idea! Whether a ban could be imposed and whether it could work is another question.