A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday charivari.....

(a) "Where have all the flowers gone?": even the Sainted Joan, icon of the 60s, Pinter's ex, and The Thinking Man's Crumpet, is now contemplating a future with civil nuclear power: 'From the Cuban missile crisis to Windscale, I've never been a nuclear fan. But is it time for a rethink?' (Joan Bakewell writing in The Guardian, May 13):
"I was recently in Great Yarmouth and saw out at sea the great wind farms in action. They are sprouting up all over the place and predictably prompting objections from local people who don't want them to spoil their view. Besides, the protesters tell us, renewable energy is so costly and needs such extensive investment for small returns, that we need to think again. All week in Oxford, discussions have been going on about renewables, from which the nuclear discussion is excluded. But the debate cannot be long delayed.

Changing your mind gets harder as you get older. You arrive at a worldview which seems the sum total of all life's lessons. So it is with me. It sits comfortably to be anti-nuclear power. I conjure up the evidence of my life - the nuclear race, strontium 90 in the milk, the Windscale disaster. But now I'm beginning to think it isn't enough. I'm going to have to think it all through again."

Wow! For a 60's soul, like me, this is as dramatic as a polar magnetic reversal. The world has turned upside down. Let's throw a 'Birthday Party' for Joan's 'Homecoming'. How Pinteresque!

(b) We are now GM billionaires: this week, a farmer, somewhere, planted the billionth acre of GM crops: 'One billionth biotechnology acre and counting' (PR Web, May 11):
"This is a huge milestone for the world. Just ten years ago, biotech crops became commercially available for the first time. Since then, they've been adopted with astonishing speed. In the United States, about 85 percent of all soybeans, 75 percent of all cotton and nearly half of all corn is biotech enhanced.

Just how big is a billion acres? Let's start by recalling that the traditional understanding of a single acre is the amount of land a yoke of oxen can plow in a day. In German, the word "Acker" means, literally, "a field."

Today, of course, we need more precise measurements - and so a square acre measures precisely 208.75 feet per side.

A billion acres is a lot of territory. It would take more than 27 land masses the size of Iowa to fill up that much space.

If you lined up a billion square acres, they would circle the planet at the equator more than 1587 times. They would reach to the moon and back 164 times. They would go all the way to the sun and all the way back - and still have some length left to spare.

Some years ago, it was possible to say that biotech crops were a newfangled concept. Today, with a billion acres of them now planted, they are a conventional source of food."

Successful crop trashing, lads and lassies! Our 70s-something Joan will be drinking GM cocoa next!

(c) Gee 8! Get those climates of opinion: at the next G8 meeting, Tony Blair wants a new approach to climate change. Listen to America's Chief Climate Negotiator, Harlan Watson, outline on BBC Radio 4's flagship 'Today' programme (May 13, 08.32 slot, audio on) US resistance to the Prime Minister's plans. Mr. Watson pours a large bucket of cold water on the idea that there is a hot consensus over the scientific evidence demanding urgent action. Cool listening!

Oh! What a hippy-happy day for the Greens - Joan goes nuclear, a billion acres of GM, and the US calls Europe's cant. Must be Friday the 13th!

Philip, off to Bluewater to challenge the hoods! Hm! Coffee and carrot cake.....

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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