Sunday, 27 June 2010

In the Nile?

A recent pact has been signed between five of the nine Nile basin countries. It seeks to redress an ancient imbalance whereby Egypt got to use 55 of the Nile's 84 billion cubic metres of extractable water. Unfortunately the pact excludes key countries including Egypt and Sudan.

While I understand that the countries which feel they are being hard done to want to increase the water available to them, I can also understand that Egypt, which cannot exist the Nile, will want to protect its interests. In fact I suspect that without resolution, this situation is far more dangerous than you might think. Egypt is the Nile, and they will probably go to war any day to protect their access. In once sense they have to. Sudan too is heavily dependent on its only major river.

What is the environmental message here? Not much, except to say that as consumption and populations increase (the Nile basin countries have some of the fastest growing populations in the world) these sort of tensions can only mount with resulting strain on nations and the environment as the pressure to extract all they can increases......

That's it.... short and pointless, but the Nile is a river which means something to me, so I thought I'd comment...

Friday, 11 June 2010

BP should not be the scapegoat for the world's oil addiction

Over the last few weeks, I have been horrified by what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion on the Deepwater rig and the massive leaking of oil is a tragedy of epic proportions. Those responsible must pay for the clean up, no question.

What disturbs me though is that one company, BP-Amoco, is being made a scapegoat for the whole industry. It seems to have been singled out by the US administration (with a good dash of petty nationalism) as a means of deflecting attention from the wider issues of oil dependency and the subsequent need to search for unconventional reserves, of which deep water oil is an example.

BP is responsible, but so might other companies be, like Transocean and Halliburton that were involved in maintaining or operating the platform. But the net goes much wider, to the franchise petrol stations and the investors around the world. In fact, the blame goes far beyond even that. It extends to each and every one of us. Anyone who has ever bought a product containing oil is culpable, and the citizens of the US more than most (thanks to their exceptional thirst for gasoline).

Yes, we must ensure that BP, Halliburton and the rest pay the price – but simply putting all the blame on one or two companies as though they were a ‘rotten apple’ in a good barrel is nothing short of a diversionary tactic. It could have been any oil company – they are all the same. The culprit is oil, and our society’s need for it. The sooner we realise that and end this dysfunctional relationship the better.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Badger culling blues

Hey all. I wanted to write a clever post about the new proposed badger cull in England (supposedly to control TB), and Caroline Spelman's (new Minister's) strange doublethink on the issue. On the one hand they want to appear to be dispassionate and science-based, even if the facts are 'unpalatable'. On the other hand they really want to kill badgers.

Anyway, I am too annoyed to write something good. So here is the gyst. There appears to be next to no evidence that culling of badgers will actually work - unless you pick a confined space and kill every last one. For ever. There is also some evidence from the Krebs report and some papers published in Nature that suggest that culling actually makes bovine TB worse, by causing badgers to disperse and migrate, spreading TB. In any case, it makes far less difference than farm hygiene and reductions in cattle transport.

I am also incensed by the government's assertions that the ban on fox hunting is 'unenforceable'. I am sure it is difficult to enforce, but they seem to have no problem hiring balaclava'd heavies to force their way onto private land, with police escorts, to conduct culling.

I was trying to think of a reason for all this, and why the Liberal Democrats are also going along. Sadly I came up with just one - pandering. The rural vote in the South West is crucial to both parties. It seems that might be explanation enough.

Some links

Independent Scientific Group on Cattle and TB concluded: ‘Badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of cattle TB in Britain.’ (see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7166/full/450001b.html)..

Krebs Report (Randomised Badger Culling Trial) shows that culling can reduce TB in a small area, but increases it in surrounding areas:
http://veterinaryrecord.bvapublications.com/cgi/content/abstract/160/21/723

Review of science in Nature paper indicates culling is not a solution… http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v439/n7078/full/nature04454.html
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v426/n6968/full/nature02192.html

Badger culling is widespread in the Republic of Ireland (where badgers are extremely rare, but TB is worse). This cull has not helped lower the incidence of TB in cattle, and according to some sources the incidence has actually increased since the cull.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6653691.stm