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The Thin End account of COVID Lockdown

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Insulate Britain

Insulate Britain is back on the roads after a ten-day break.  Protestors block three locations across The City of London, including Upper Thames Street, Bishopsgate, and Limehouse Causeway. They are demanding that the government gets on with the job of insulating Britain’s homes, starting with the homes of the poorest people in the country.    This is the fourteenth time Insulate Britain has caused disruption on motorways and A-roads as part of its campaign of nonviolent civil resistance over the past six weeks.  Frustrated drivers will get angry with Insulate Britain protestors, and some no doubt will violently pull them from the road and hurl abuse at them.  But what do they want, and when do they want it? Of course, it can be annoying to be delayed in one's journey, and it may also have fatal consequences in emergencies. It is difficult to balance ethically.  That is true for all such forms of protest. However, stopping traffic is not a new form of protest. Truck drivers have do

Gambling is no way to save our bacon

The problem with the UK government’s Net Zero Strategy is that it isn’t backed up by the government’s own actions.  It is a ‘wish’ without a will to act.  We really need bold action, yet we get timid attempts to solve the problem through broken markets.  So, we go on investing in fossil fuels while extolling the virtue of carbon-free energy.  We seek more trade deals that are likely to destroy rainforests and increase the carbon footprints of our daily lives.  Politicians want us to go on behaving as if nothing needs changing.   This is not to say there are no good points in the UK government strategy.  Of course, there are.  But we are so far behind the curve on what needs to be done that half measures and ‘incentives’ are no longer sufficient.   We need a bold strategy to insulate our homes, which requires funding, particularly for older houses. If we do that, then the costs will be returned in energy savings.  This should be rolled out as a significant program region by region.  Hea

Half measures on heat pumps

Through the "Heat and Buildings Strategy", the UK government has set out its plan to incentivise people to install low-carbon heating systems in what it calls a simple, fair, and cheap way as they come to replace their old boilers over the coming decade.  New grants of £5,000 will be available from April next year to encourage homeowners to install more efficient, low carbon heating systems – like heat pumps that do not emit carbon when used – through a new £450 million 3-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme. However, it has been widely criticised as inadequate and a strategy without a strategy.  Essentially, it will benefit those who can afford more readily to replace their boiler.   Undoubtedly, the grants will be welcome to those who plan to replace their boilers in the next three years, and it might encourage others to do so, but for too many households, it leaves them between a rock and a hard place.  There are no plans to phase out gas boilers in existing homes.  Yet, that is wha

Could do better on palm oil

According to recent market reports, demand for palm oil is 'skyrocketing worldwide,' with global demand estimated at 74.6 million tons in 2019 and expected to grow.  It is used in packaging and in so much of our snack foods, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, instant noodles, cereals, and doughnuts, and the list goes on. Palm oil is used in a staggering 50% of consumer products.  Yet, unethical exploitation is destroying rainforests and harming the planet.  Asia Pacific countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are the top producers contributing 80% to the global market.  WWF’s 2021 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard published last month found that some of the world’s most influential brands are still failing to tackle the deforestation and damage to critical natural habitats caused by unsustainable palm oil production.  The sixth edition of the scorecard, the most far-reaching to date, examined 227 major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and hospitality companies across the gl

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

Increasing global temperatures are affecting the populations of rabbits with an increased risk of soil parasite infections.  We are used to seeing rabbits as the epitome of rapid population growth - "they breed like rabbits' - is often used as a disparaging social comment.  Even Pope Francis has used the figurative term.  Rabbit numbers have fallen by up to 80% in the UK since 1995.  That is a big fall. However, rabbits are certainly fast in the breeding league.  Like most fast-breeding species, rabbits don't live long.  The average life span of a wild rabbit is just two to three years, with many falling victims to predators.  It is not uncommon for the average female rabbit to have several litters in a year because gestation is only about 1 month. Thus, each litter can have three or four babies to seven, eight, nine, and sometimes more.   But even the breeding of rabbits is dependent on conditions.  If conditions are right, they will breed quickly; if not, they will breed

California Protects Leatherback Sea Turtles

At least some good news this month for Leatherback Turtles.  The California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect leatherback sea turtles as endangered under the state’s Endangered Species Act. In addition, the commission acted on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommendation, which is concerned by the turtles’ dramatic decline in the state's waters. “California’s action will make an outsized difference for leatherback sea turtles, even in the face of global threats like the loss of nesting beaches,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting the state’s ocean to save leatherbacks benefits not only sea turtles, but whales and people too. The California Endangered Species Act will ensure that leatherbacks’ decline gets the attention it deserves during this global biodiversity crisis.” Scientists estimate that leatherback sea turtles have declined in abundance off California by 5.6% annually over nearly 30 years. An est

The Turtle's Tears

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in 1835 on his famous voyage of discovery, Charles Darwin noticed the differences in turtles he saw on each island. Furthermore, he realized that each tortoise type had traits adapted to the specific conditions on the island they occupied. Thus, the turtles provided a major empirical observation for his theory of evolution by natural selection.  We learn so much from the Turtles. They have been around for over 220 million years, yet now they are a threatened species, and that threat is us. Today, more than half of the 360 species of turtles and tortoises are threatened with extinction. We are killing the turtles by our egregious quest for energy and food, with habitat destruction, poaching, plastic pollution, accidental capture in fishing gear, and fundamentally climate change. Unless COP26 finds an answer and politicians are willing to act, then global warming will destroy their habitats along with so much of life on earth.  Sea turtles are the only rept