Plastic garbage will weigh more than the sum of fish in our oceans by 2050


Click to enlarge — Erik de Castro/Reuters

The study, which drew on multiple sources, proposed setting up a new system to slash the leaking of plastics into nature, especially the oceans, and to find alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production.

At least 8 million tons of plastics find their way into the ocean every year — equal to one garbage truckload every minute, said the report, which included analysis by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment…

Available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean today…

A sweeping change in the use of plastic packaging would require cooperation worldwide among consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers, businesses involved in collection, cities, policymakers and other organizations, said the report. It proposed creating an independent coordinating body for the initiative.

“Plastics are the workhorse material of the modern economy, with unbeaten properties. However, they are also the ultimate single-use material,” said Martin Stuchtey of the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. “Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry.”

Reusable plastics could become a valuable commodity in a “circular economy” that relied on recycling, Stuchtey said. “Our research confirms that applying those circular principles could spark a major wave of innovation, with benefits for the entire supply chain.”

It can be done. The hard part is the politics. Producers never want to change anything that might diminish profits. Politicians never want to change anything without permission from producers profiting from the status quo.

Somewhere in the middle of the process – political cooperation and change needs to happen. If cooperation doesn’t work. Than I suggest intimidation. Nothing wrong with throwing the creeps we’ve elected out of a job. Nothing wrong with boycotting sleazy profiteers.

Sheila the runaway sheep could set new record

Sheila the runaway sheep

A Tasmanian sheep farmer has rescued a very woolly beast, estimated to be carrying about 30kg of wool, that had been trapped by the roadside.

Derek Turvey, a Buckland farmer, received a call from a neighbour last Saturday to tell him a passerby had found the sheep stuck in a culvert.

The locals had seen the runaway sheep,carrying a substantial amount of wool on its back, over the past two months in a eucalypt plantation.

“We knew it was there somewhere but we just couldn’t find it in the plantation,” Turvey told Guardian Australia…

Turvey, who runs about 2,000 sheep on his property, thinks it might be one of his that wandered off a number of years ago. His farm borders the plantation in the bushland of south-eastern Tasmania and he says it is easy to lose track of the odd lost animal.

“There’s always a few that go missing and turn up later on, but this one was quite a bit later on,” he said.

The animal was dubbed Sheila and it will be shorn on Monday morning along with a couple of other stragglers…

“You’ve got to use a totally different technique to get the wool off them because the weight of the wool pulls the skin,” he said. “Instead of sitting it up and shearing it you have to lay it on the floor and gradually roll it over.”

He is hoping the end product might beat the Tasmanian record of 23.5kg – currently held by Shaun who was found in the midlands in 2014 – but it will not be worth much.

“It’s worth very little because the machine they use to process wool just isn’t designed for wool of that length,” he said…

Shaun hadn’t been shorn in six years and while the wool was not worth much at market, several offers in the thousands of dollars came in from overseas…

Still, might be carded and spun the old-fashioned way into some amazing yarn. And, eventually, sweaters. Lots of sweaters. 🙂

Falling sperm count sparks fertility concerns in France


We’re French. We have more nuclear weapons than anyone else in Europe.

The sperm count of French men plunged by a third between 1989 and 2005, a finding which fuels concern that environmental pollutants or lifestyle are crimping fertility…

Exceptional in scope, the study is believed to be the first country-wide, long-term probe into sperm quality, the team said.

“This constitutes a serious public health warning. The link with the environment particularly needs to be determined,” they warned in the European journal Human Reproduction.

Researchers examined data for semen samples provided by 26,609 men at 126 in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) centres in France over 17 years…

Over this period, the sperm count — fell continuously, by an average annual rate of about 1.9 percent, totalling 32.2 percent…

Speculating on the source of the declines, the scientists point to suspects which have already been fingered in lab research.

They could be chemical pollutants called endocrine disruptors that change hormone levels.

“They might also be linked to other known semen-altering factors that would have changed over the study period, like an increase in body-mass index, stress, nutrition or infections.”

At least it’s a new excuse to offer the Pope when he whines about birth control.

Boys are reaching puberty earlier – as are girls

It is a truism common to nearly all family gatherings that grandparents will frequently remark on how fast their beloved grandchildren seem to be growing up these days.

But now, instead of provoking a bout of eye-rolling at such platitudes, a new report seems to show the old folks were right: boys are indeed hitting puberty at an earlier age than they used to.

A comprehensive study by the American Academy of Pediatrics was published on Saturday. Widely seen as the best measure of the onset of puberty in American boys, it showed that they are showing signs of puberty six months to two years earlier than previously assumed.

The surprise finding builds on previous discoveries that appeared to show girls have also been developing faster. A study in 2010, which was published in the US Journal of Pediatrics, created headlines when it revealed girls were hitting puberty earlier, with some developing breasts at seven. Nor was it just in the US. Other studies have revealed the same trend in girls all over the world.

Now the AAP study, officially unveiled at a national conference in the US, is showing the same trends in boys. It primarily identified the signs of puberty as the growth in size of testicles and largely shied away from speculating on what may be causing the shift, though it did refer to changes in diet, the fact that modern children are becoming less physically active and other environmental shifts.

All that has led to speculation that weight gain might be a possible factor. It certainly might explain the earlier development among girls, as body fat is linked to production of the female hormone oestrogen. But the link might be less clear with boys. Also, it is not certain if weight gain is a trigger for puberty or simply a consequence of it…

The policy implications of the shift could be helpful when it comes to dealing with boys as they grow up, especially in school and within their own families.

Dr Frank Biro, a puberty researcher at Cincinnati children’s hospital, told the New York Times: “If kids are looking older, it means that parents should be monitoring them, because that superego doesn’t kick in until late teens or early 20s. The kids need a hand. Know what they’re doing.”

Regardless, thoughts of parents paying more and closer attention to their kids raising another ton of questions. Given the economic context we labor within – it’s more likely than ever that workingclass parents are working more part-time jobs, extra jobs, to get by. So, they’re already giving short shrift to the attention they should be paying their children on Life 101 topics, e.g., education, health, exercise, play.

Well, here’s another. I expect the usual complainers will whine about teachers and schools not doing enough. What passes for conservatives, nowadays, will whine that unemployed parents have enough time, now, to spend with their children. Meaningless to anyone who’s ever spent time dedicated to job-hunting while sinking into poverty.

Death rate drops among Americans with diabetes

People with diabetes are living longer, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1997 and 2004, the percentage of people with diabetes who died from any cause dropped 23 percent, and the percentage of people who died from heart disease or stroke dropped 40 percent, the report says.

Improved treatments for heart disease, better management of diabetes and healthy lifestyle changes contributed to the decline in death rates, the researchers said. People with diabetes were less likely to smoke and more likely to be physically active than in the past…

However, obesity rates among people with diabetes continued to increase…

Although adults with diabetes are more likely to die younger than those who do not have the disease, the gap is narrowing. Currently, diabetes is estimated to contribute to an extra two deaths from heart disease per 1,000 people, and an extra six deaths from any cause per 1,000 people, the report said.

Because people with diabetes are living longer, and the rate of new cases being diagnosed is increasing, scientists expect that the total number of people with the disease will continue to rise, the CDC says.

The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled since 1980, primarily due to increases in the number of people with Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to a rise in obesity, inactivity and older age.

The CDC estimates that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, and 7 million of them do not know they have the disease.

Offhand, I can’t think of any part of being a cranky old geek that doesn’t benefit from an active lifestyle. I don’t have diabetes; but, weight and age qualifies me for pre-diabetic.

Yes, you have to be careful, maybe add a touch of caution to your daily life. I tend to carry a cane with me on my walks not so much to aid the pace; but, to have something to lean on if I stop for a 30-second breather. Or to have it handy to help myself back up if I fall on my butt.

Still, I maintain 45 minutes to an hour walking every day, pretty much every day. Every year I seem to eat a little bit less and the food I consume is heart-healthier. That always seems to help the whole critter. I weigh 50 lbs less than my weight several years ago.

If you’re up for the dry-as-dust report, here’s a link to the .pdf.

Take your dog to the park – swap poop for wi-fi


Devices accept pet poop – then activate free wifi for a set time

Getting people to clean up after their dogs in public places is never easy – just take a look at how many “land mines” are dotted around your nearest park. One internet company in Mexico however, has hit on a clever incentive to encourage people to scoop up after their pet. Dog walkers in Mexico City are now finding pet waste disposal bins showing up in some parks that activate a free wireless network for a set amount of time depending on the size of the “deposit.”

The internet company, Terra, partnered with advertising agency, DDB Mexico, to get the devices installed in ten different parks around Mexico City and named the service “Poo Wi-Fi.” These special bins are pretty straightforward: a dog owner drops a baggy of waste inside, the waste is weighed, and a timer is then activated with a number of minutes based on the weight received. More weight means more minutes. While the timer counts down, anyone in the park can enjoy free wireless connectivity. There are even hostesses nearby throughout the day with plastic bags on hand for any pet owner that needs one.

Besides promoting its own brand, Terra hopes this could encourage dog owners to be more mindful of their pet’s messes. The bins don’t have any way of sensing what’s actually put in them, so really any garbage could be dropped inside for Wi-Fi minutes, but the company just sees that as a way to tidy up the parks even more. Exchanging Wi-Fi for feces might be a bizarre concept, but if it motivates people to keep their public spaces cleaner, it could prove to be a good method in the long run.

You could extend this to public crappers!

Wandering albatross grows larger and flies faster because of climate change — for now


Click on photo to enlargePhoto by LarryJW

Wandering albatrosses have altered their foraging due to changes in wind fields in the southern hemisphere during the last decades. Since winds have increased in intensity and moved to the south, the flight speed of albatrosses increased and they spend less time foraging. As a consequence, breeding success has improved and birds have gained 1 kilogram. These are the results of the study of an international research team published in the latest issue of the Science journal. However, these positive consequences of climate change may last short if future wind fields follow predictions of climate change scenarios…

For this study, biologists had combined data on the duration of foraging trips and breeding success over the last 40 years, as well as foraging and body mass over the last 20 years of wandering albatross breeding in Crozet Islands. This archipelago lies approximately in the heart of the southern Indian Ocean (halfway between Madagascar and Antarctica). It belongs to the French Southern Territories and it is located in the windiest part of the Southern Ocean…

Thanks to miniaturised tracking devices, researchers were able to track the foraging movement of albatrosses at a distance of 3500 kilometers from the colony. They found that albatross have altered their search patterns following changes in wind conditions over the past two decades. Females used increasingly more poleward and windy areas for foraging. As a consequence their travel speed increased while the total distance covered during foraging flights did not change. “This means that they spend less time at sea while incubating the egg and thus the breeding success increases” explains Dr. Henri Weimerskirch…Researchers were surprised that both females and males have increased their body mass in one kilogram, which corresponds approximately to one tenth of their total body weight. This could be not only a result of shorter incubation periods on the nest, but also an adaptation to windier conditions…

The wandering albatross has fascinated people for centuries. With a wingspan of over three meters and a half, it is the largest seabird in the world…This elegant sailor, which spends most of its life flying, breeds on remote subantarctic islands over the Southern Ocean. They travel thousand of kilometers searching for fish and cephalopods like squids, often following ships and feeding on offal. The plumage of wandering albatrosses is variable, whitening with age. The maximum known age is 55 years old…

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

Better wages if you’re overweight – if you’re a man

We have posted before on how obese women have a far harder time climbing the career ladder than their slimmer female counterparts, while men actually improve their chances of reaching the corner office when they gain weight.

Now, a new study goes a step further by showing that employers seem to treat women exactly the way the fashion industry does – by rewarding very thin women with higher pay, while penalizing average-weight women with smaller paychecks. Very thin men, on the other hand, tend to get paid less than male workers of average weight. Men earn more as they pack on the pounds – all the way to the point where they become obese, when the pay trend reverses.

The study is the first look at the effects of being very thin on men vs. women…led by Timothy A. Judge of the University of Florida found very thin women, weighing 25 pounds less than the group norm, earned an average $15,572 a year more than women of normal weight. Women continued to experience a pay penalty as their weight increased above average levels, although a smaller one — presumably because they had already violated social norms for the ideal female appearance. A woman who gained 25 pounds above the average weight earned an average $13,847 less than an average-weight female.

Men were also penalized for violating stereotypes about ideal male appearance, but in a different way. Thin guys earned $8,437 less than average-weight men. But they were consistently rewarded for getting heavier, a trend that tapered off only when their weight hit the obese level. In one study, the highest pay point, on average, was reached for guys who weighed a strapping 207 pounds…

Do you see body-image stereotypes at work in your workplace?

BTW, Professor Judge has a good thing going. He did a related study in 2003 which indicated that taller people made more money.

EU aims for new world record in stupid regulations


“I’ll take this one, those two, that one under the brown one…
Please weigh them and wrap them up for me!”

Shoppers will be banned from buying bread rolls or eggs priced by the dozen under new food labelling regulations proposed by the European parliament.

Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.

WTF?

It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.

The legislation could even see special unit-based promotional packs offering ‘eight chocolate bars for the price of six’ banned, according to a report in trade magazine, The Grocer…

Politicians with the mindset of bureaucrats combine the worst of two worlds. Egregious – they consider nothing more important than their moment’s whim. Rigid – nothing affects their understanding of questions other than the narrowest of definitions.

Get ready to ask your grocer for 752 grams of egg. 1167 milliliters of ale.

Anything truly stupid that can be constructed to make shopping more difficult, abstract, and abstruse for consumers – but simplifies record keeping for the tax man – is guaranteed to satisfy the dullards with limited intelligence and an abundance of political power.