Monday, 28 February 2011

Infectious Fish

Now, we have all heard of the strange craze around spas where you pay silly amounts of money to have your feet nibbled by tiny fish to get rid of dead skin.
These fish pedicures are carried out by Garra rufa fish, toothless carp that can feed from dead skin.

However, the BBC have now reported that it may be a health issue, where not only infections can be passed on through open wounds when the same water / tank is used, using the same fish can also aid the spread of disease.

From an environmental point of view, what will this lead to? These fish being disposed of after every use? 'Fish Doctor' farms where Garra rufas are constantly bred?

More importantly, is it really moral to use fish to satisfy our beauty needs?

Maybe something good could come out of investigating this health concern, and this fad can be wiped out and seen as a strange point in history.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

World Environment Day

Just a quick note to plug WED really.
This year it is being hosted by India, and for those that don't know, it is a chance to encourage people to consider the environment more, re-evaluate the way we live .etc.
People can pledge to plant a tree, raise money for appropriate charities, walk or cycle to work and organise clean-ups.
They are also giving out info and materials for anyone who wants to promote it or get sponsors.
Here's the link:

Friday, 25 February 2011

Forest U-Turn

Last week, the forest sell-off outrage made me wonder if it was all just a moral panic or actually potentially a good idea.
Now apparantely, David Cameron never liked the idea anyway (why was it going to happen then?) and the public didn't like it because they imagined all these big companies like Tesco buying the land, cutting down all the trees and selling the timber, and finally building environmentally unfriendly business in their place. But was it really necessary to completely scrap the idea?
The original plan was to "give the private sector, community and charitable groups greater involvement  in woodlands by encouraging a 'mixed model' of ownership."
Firstly, there weren't really many businesses interested in the land. For one, the space of a forest is far greater than the biggest Tesco Extra you could find so there would be hectares of spare land. Secondly, timber is just not a profitable trade in this country anymore. That's why we improt most of it from other countries - because it's far cheaper to, and their prices surpass anything our country could feasibily. The wood produced and sold in this country is predominantly a byproduct of coppicing. Instead of scrapping the idea, why not put safeguards in place to ensure it was only sold to environmental charities and the like? It was mainly organisations such as the National Trust who were interested in the land anyway, and they would be conserving it, not destroying it. With regard to this, the public are just as bad as the government. They are happy to slate everything the government does or proposes, but not many people have any alternative ideas. And how many people actually thought it through before they signed the petition? It's just another case of - 'oh my god, the government's ruining everything, we must stop this.' We don't trust the government, but we would rather them be in charge of our forests than NGOs which have proven forestry experience? This has resulted in a workable proposal being completely disregarded - why does it always have to be YES or NO? It could have been altered to allow the forests improved management. Now I'm not a Lib Dem or Conservative supporter by a long shot, but I wish people would stop and think - instead of jumping into the deep end of attack.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Congratulations to Sea Shepherd!

I couldn’t be writing my second blog post with better news: Japan’s government has decided to suspend their annual Antarctic whale hunt, possibly for the rest of the season. This is mainly due to pressure from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who have thoroughly earned this victory. From following them avidly on Facebook and their website ( ) it is obvious how hard they have worked – from physically tracking down the whaling fleet to ‘sailing’ their campaign straight into Time Square.
According to reports, whalers have cited “harassment” as to why they have suspended the hunt, and have said it is only temporary until safety measures are put in place. But how exactly can you stop an environmental group blocking your loading ramps or simply ‘being’ in the same waters as you? Rumours are that they may try to take out an injunction against the Sea Shepherds, but a Japanese Fisheries Agency official has said they are “studying the situation, including the possibility of cutting the mission early”. If so, around 900 whales are saved for another year – fantastic.

Moving on to smaller issues, I am to give a brief talk tomorrow on the reintroduction of the Eurasion Beaver. This got me thinking – who decides which species are allowed to effectly ‘return from the dead’? The Eurasian Beaver has been extinct in our country for centuries as it was hunted for meat, pelt and a secretion called castoreum that was believed to have medicinal properties. Now, the reasons for reintroducing the beaver in Scotland are that it is a keystone species in forest and riverbank biotopes as it has unique coppicing, foraging and damming behaviour. Not that I don’t support beaver reintroduction, but surely any organisms brings benefits to an environment? Why are certain species favoured over others?
Most reintroduced species are birds and mammals, even though invertebrates are vital and connected to most species’ survival. Reasoning for introduction always seems to be random – the species could look pretty (flagship species) or mean something to people’s culture. Surely enough campaigning can get any species introduced?
“So what about the depressed river mussel?”, one of my lecturers always says.
I believe a better system needs to be brought about to decide which species are prioritised. There has been little research on the benefits of insects or amphibians as keystone species, and they are also some of the most ignored groups when it comes to conservation and reintroduction. Maybe the less informed public needs to take a step back when we make these decisions - after all, how much money has been wasted on the unsuccessful breeding of Giant Pandas?

Finally, a news story that almost beggars belief…
After a 2 year investigation, The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution have decided that:
1. One person living in a house on their own is less energy efficient than many people sharing a property.
2. The government needs to deal with energy problems
… and a lot of other wishy-washy statements with no constructive comments on how we can deal with these problems, just basically DO IT.
No wonder they're the latest victim of spending cuts.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Beginning

I guess I started a blog for two reasons:
1 - So I could share news / things I found interesting with any like-minded people.
2 - For selfish reasons. Writing has always been therapeutic for me and considering I haven't told anybody about this blog yet, I suppose it's a diary of sorts.

I've always found blogs are mainly for tortured artists and fashion types, so maybe it's a breath of fresh air for someone to post about 'the environment' (broadly speaking). I am still envious of 'real, qualified biologists' that don't have the time for things like this; I'm eager to finish my degree, get a relevant job and be one of them. Easier said than done!

To end this short first post Oscar-style, I'd simply like to say a big thank you to my husband, Ben, who probably without realising it, encouraged me to begin writing a blog. Appararently I raise some good points when I rant about the state of the planet. Well, we'll see.