Tag Archives: BBC

The Greed of the Few

A few months ago, I went into a Salvation Army charity shop, which was surprisingly crowded with people looking for second hand clothes.  I was able to buy a very large pile of old BBC wildlife magazines which dated back some six or seven years to around 2007. It was interesting to see that all the concerns those few short years ago such as worries about climate change, the loss of wildlife habitat and the extinction of various rare species were pretty much exactly the same as they are now.
It was extremely interesting, though, to read an article by a gentleman called Richard Mabey who at that time was the vice president of the Open Society.
Richard-Mabey- ccccccccccccccccccccMr.Mabey’s writing stood out from the rest as being so very different and so very perceptive. He wrote, for example, of the richness, the biodiversity, of the English language, which he said, prospers because of its very complexity and because so many words have so many different shades of meaning.
He then developed Charles Darwin’s phrase, the “Survival of the Fittest”. Quite rightly, he made the point that, in the past, this simplistic idea has been used to justify Communist oppression, worldwide slavery and the persecution of the Jews. Mr Mabey extended this idea though, to the present day, with the observation that the phrase is nowadays being used to excuse the ruthless greed that runs unchecked through the world economic system. One banker recently proclaimed, for example, that the forces of the free market are merely the “Survival of the Fittest”.
sharks xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThe most interesting point then made though, is that in nature, predation apart, one member of a species will hardly ever prove its fitness by directly killing another, weaker, member of that species. Mr Mabey argued, for example, that few, if any, animals indulge in bloody combat. Birds do not physically fight each other, but compete with song. Snakes may wrestle, but they do not usually use their fangs, and deer will not prolong their potentially life-threatening arguments, if their opponent exposes his unprotected flanks in a gesture of surrender.
When Darwin observed his famous finches in the Galapagos Islands, the thirteen different types of bird were not trying to eliminate each other forever, but instead were living more or less happily alongside each other.
They may have had differently sized or shaped bills, but all the birds were capable of exploiting slightly different food sources. Some birds drank nectar from cactuses. Some birds ate cactus seeds. Some birds stripped bark or chewed leaves or sought out ticks to eat. But all of these creatures were managing to survive alongside each other.
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Different species will all be forced to fight their environment, but in the main, they are able to coexist together because of only slight differences between each one of them, differences which in the course of their lives, will always prevent direct competition.

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In contrast, as Richard Mabey points out, the lack of regulation in financial markets merely allows the ambition and greed of a very small, very privileged and very hostile few to flourish without limit and without restraint. The financial world is then dominated by a very small number of what in nature would be seen as an aggressive super species. And it is ridiculous, of course, to justify this sad situation by bringing Charles Darwin into the argument.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the complete opposite of this. Evolution produces tens of thousands, if not more, separate species, all of which to a greater or lesser extent, can exist alongside each other.
And to apply Richard Mabey’s arguments to the everyday human sphere, it does not take a major genius to work out that we may eventually finish up with, for example, just three or four gigantic supermarkets who will be able to dictate completely what we should buy and what we should eat.
4 supermarkets_cccccccThere will be few specialist small businesses, selling their own spicy sausages made in the back of the shop, or cakes that the owner’s wife and family have made at home. There will be no handmade wooden toys for children, built by local craftsmen using their ideas as to what will be liked by their little customers. No health food shops selling organic food made by workers’ co-operatives. No butchers selling local meat and supporting local farmers by paying them a proper and decent price for what they have produced. No market stall which sells both British and Indian made fabrics, which young dressmakers can make into whatever they want.
Farmers will be driven to abandon all idea of leaving untended spaces where wild animals, birds, insects and butterflies can live. How can they afford to do this when a major supermarket offers them just four pence for a cauliflower, a price recently quoted to me by a Cornish farmer?cultivated fieldTake it even further and we will have a situation where bankers, whatever their performance, will be able to award themselves gigantic bonuses every single year. Vast corporations will employ armies of people, the majority of whom will be earning the minimum wage, which is itself lower, of course, than the living wage.
And all this because of greed-stricken people, programmed only to make the maximum amount of money, with precious few reasons that they can remember about why they have to do it.

 

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Neonicotinoids: a disaster about to happen

Man’s most faithful insect friend is the Bee. Not everybody may like bees. Some people might be frightened of their sting. But everybody respects their industry and their willingness to work hard for the common good. That’s why we have all been saying “As busy as a bee” for the last five hundred years. Buzz, buzz, buzz…

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Unfortunately, though, there’s a new type of insecticide around. They are called Neonicotinoids, and appear to be killing indiscriminately vast numbers of  insects which are helpful to Man.

I really do hope that this is not the reason that I seem to be seeing so few butterflies, bees, wasps or any other insects in my organic, insecticide and pesticide free garden.

Recent research in Holland has revealed, though, just how catastrophic the widespread use of Neonicotinoids may be, not only for bees and other helpful insects, but for birds and then for animals higher up the food chain. The story in full is revealed at greater length here, but I have selected the most important elements for you here:

Have the patience to read about this grim scenario…

“Neonicotinoids are causing significant damage to insects, and now a new Dutch study has revealed that these pesticides are having a significant negative impact too on birds.
Insects form a large part of the diet of many birds during the breeding season and are essential for raising offspring. We investigated the most widely used neonicotinoid, which is called “Imidacloprid”. Here in the Netherlands, local populations were significantly smaller in areas with high surface-water concentrations of Imidacloprid. At concentrations of more than 20 nanograms per litre, bird populations declined by 3.5 per cent annually. Additional research revealed that this decline appeared only after the introduction of Imidacloprid to the Netherlands, in the mid-1990s. The birds most affected included Starling, Tree Sparrow and Swallow.
The overall impact on the environment is even greater than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of insecticides like DDT in the past.”

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The BBC News Environment Correspondent, Matt McGrath, has several times reported similar worries about the declining numbers of valuable insects. In one report, it was argued  that the process of evolution might lead us into some very bad places indeed…

“Neonicotinoids are causing great damage to a wide range of beneficial species and are a key factor in the decline of bees…..the evidence of damage is now conclusive, and the threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.

When seeds are routinely coated in these chemicals, the resulting plants will then grow up with an inbuilt ability to destroy many species of insect.”

Manufacturers deny totally, of course, that these pesticides are harming bees or any other species (surprise, surprise). Scientists, though, are extremely worried about their use. Professor Goulson, one of a team of 29 researchers, has developed this nightmare scenario one stage further…

“”The more neonicotinoids are used, the likelier it is that pest insects themselves will then become resistant to them. Using them like this is absolute madness.”

The situation is worryingly reminiscent of the crisis described by Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring”.

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The Los Angeles Times recalls…

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“Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” kick-started the modern environmental movement, it suggested that better protection for pollinators and plant life was required for healthy people and healthy agriculture. Without her intelligence and eloquence, we would already be living in a world of unspeakable impoverishment, one with silent springs and fruitless falls.”

 

 

Opposition to Neonicotinoids is already enormous.

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In addition to protests, there is a large number of petitions you can sign. 363,258 supporters signed this one, which has now closed. There’s another petition for Ontario that has 54,984 supporters . Some other petitions are just starting up, with only 180 signers so far… This is not, though, a cranky minority issue. Another site has a staggering 331,872 signatures…. The comments on this particular petition are even stronger….

“The chemical companies are all and far too powerful – they have friends in high places, they lobby very strongly and are nothing more than drug-dealers. Just research the companies that ex-MPs work for after their stint in public service – that’s who runs the country…..”
Laurie Allan

“Of course the farmers are denying that they are the problem yet again, just like they claim poverty, always seem to running around in big fancy cars, polluting the atmosphere just like they pollute the earth, and the price of food spirals all the time”
William Thom

We need to do something about this, or the world will be a much, much poorer place without bees. And a  considerably hungrier one. Up to one third of our food is produced by bee pollination.

And then we will all start to be on the side of Alan Partridge.

 

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“The Lancaster: Britain’s Flying Past”

Last night, I watched the superb BBC documentary “The Lancaster: Britain’s Flying Past”

The ranks of those who flew Lancasters with Bomber Command in the Second World War have, with the inevitable passage of time, thinned out somewhat, but the BBC has managed to put together the requisite crew of seven combat veterans. There were, therefore, a pilot, a flight engineer, a navigator, a bomb aimer, a wireless operator, a mid-upper gunner and a rear gunner…”tail-end Charlie”.
john sergesant
Every single man in Bomber Command was a proud volunteer. During the course of the war, they were to suffer 55,573 casualties from a total of 125,000 aircrew (a 44.4% death rate). The average bomber usually lasted for fewer than ten sorties. Life expectancy for crew members could be as low as two weeks, the same as a soldier in the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. Of every hundred airmen who joined Bomber Command, forty five were to be killed outright, six would be badly wounded, eight were captured by the enemy, and only forty survived physically unscathed. From the men who were serving in Bomber Command on September 3rd 1939, only 10% made it through to the end of the war some six years later.
There was no knighthood for Bomber Command’s leader  though, and no campaign medal for his “old lags”. In 1945, Roosevelt and Churchill had been asked by Stalin to destroy Dresden for him, and the two Western leaders were only too eager to demonstrate their ability to slaughter the enemy, be it German, or perhaps, even, one day, Russian. But when Bomber Command, as the best area bombers in the world, carried out this ghastly task, as they had been ordered to do , they then found themselves ostracised by those very same politicians, who now wanted to be popular as humanitarians, and to win elections after the end of the war.
It was eventually public subscription that finally paid for Bomber Command’s well-deserved memorial, fifty years or so too late, perhaps…
memorial
The “Lanc” was the greatest bomber ever made. It could fly at 300 m.p.h. and carry an enormous weight of bombs, with the more usual 4,000 pound “cookies” often bolted together to form either 8,000 or 12,000 pound “blockbuster”bombs. A Lancaster might carry hundreds of incendiaries, and some specially adapted aircraft could carry the 22,000 pound, ten ton “Grand Slam” bomb designed by Barnes Wallis.

P1300996 bomb

What an enormous bomb bay….
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The aircraft’s immense power came from four magicians, well, four Merlin engines to be more precise…
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The Lancaster is a very large bomber; museums often struggle to fit them in, as here at Duxford

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Best of all is the Lancaster in the RAF Museum at Hendon in north London (very easy to reach off the motorway)

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Don’t miss the vain boast of Hermann Göring, painted on the nose of the bomber(with his name misspelt!).

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The Reichsmarschall was also foolish enough to say that if any enemy plane did fly over the Reich, then , as the man in charge of the Luftwaffe, people could call him “Herr Müller”, a common Jewish name. Well, guess who had the last laugh?
Göring‘s medals too, are in the museum…
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A couple of years ago, I really enjoyed visiting East Kirkby in Lincolnshire to see their Lancaster.  The aircraft does not fly but is taxied around the airfield every day.
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What a beautiful machine, painted here as “Just Jane”, a fictional character in the wartime newspaper, the Daily Mirror.

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The force of the engines being warmed up is amazing…

Then it sets off around the very large field…

Before returning, eventually, back to its rightful place…

It’s just such a pity that there are so few Avro Lancasters left for us all to enjoy!

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