Saturday 25 August 2007

Deadly waste incinerators on the rise

Ninety incinerators are planned to be built in the UK to address the shortage of landfill space available, or be it our land is full up with rubbish and now we are going to burn our waste. Unfortunately the European Commission has classified these incinerators which get rid of waste and produce energy as "recycling". Of course, producing energy from our waste is not the only thing these incinerators do...they are truly toxic and pollute our air making us very sick. Those living in a 15-mile radius of an incinerator can count on having their lives shortened by up to 12 years! Dr. Dick van Steenis, a toxicologist, has studied these incinerators and the damage on human health for many years and says that the building of an incinerator such as one planned for Newhaven, for example, will cause an alarming 480% increase in cancer within 20 years due to its emissions. That is not to mention the "sky high" rates of infant mortality, asthma, autism and heart attacks for those living nearby a plant.

Shouldn't we urgently be thinking of decreasing the amount of rubbish we produce rather than becoming ill in order to be able to continue consuming and producing as much rubbish?

source = The Ecologist, September 07 issue.

Saturday 18 August 2007

Human skin to replace animal tests

Finally it seems we are using technology and our scientific prowess to try to address the issue of animal testing for cosmetics.

It seems like the first complete replacement for animal testing is here in the form of Episkin - a reconstructed human skin which has been approved for testing if cosmetics are likely to irritate the skin.

Although cosmetics and skincare giant L'Oréal has been developing reconstructed skin since the 1980s, the search for animal alternatives became urgent in recent months with the introduction of two pieces of legislation. In December 2006, the European Union introduced REACH, which calls for more than 10,000 chemicals used in cosmetics to be tested for skin irritancy by 2019. At the same time, the EU's cosmetics

Skin cells called keratinocytes left-over from breast surgery are used to grow grows the skin layers on collagen . The safety of cosmetics can be testes by simply smothering the skin in the product. They can then check the proportion of cells that have been killed off by adding a yellow chemical called MTT which turns blue in the presence of living tissue. "To be validated we had to show that we could reproduce results as effectively as animal tests," says Patricia Pineau, scientific director at L'Oréal. Independent tests showed that in some cases Episkin was able to predict more accurately how a person would react to products than animal tests, she says.

Episkin improves on animal testing in other ways too. For example, it can be adapted to resemble older skin by exposing it to high concentrations of UV light. Adding melanocytes also results in skin that can tan, and by using donor cells from women of different ethnicities, the team has created a spectrum of skin colours which they are using to measure the efficiency of sunblock for different skin tones.

"This is a great advance - not just for animals but for people, who will finally have a safety test that is relevant to them," says Kathy Archibald of the anti-vivisection group Europeans for Medical Progress, London. She says animal skin often differs dramatically from human skin in terms of sensitivity.

Source - New Scientist (28 July 07) article by Zeeya Merali

Episkin website Invitroskin

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Sad satellite scenes of destruction by man

Check out these amazing but sad satellite images posted in the Guardian's website showing man's devastating impact on our planet, from disappearing seas to deforestation. This one above is of the Amazon forest.

Posted is a selection of "spectacular satellite images, featured in Earth from Space, published by the Guardian and A&C Black, clearly shows man's devastating impact on our planet, from the disappearing Aral Sea to deforestation in Brazil, urban growth in Dallas and light pollution across the globe."

The night shots of Earth's light pollution are particularly harrowing, highlighting (literally...) the difference between the levels of artificial lighting in North America and Europe and other continents in the southern hemisphere, mainly South America and Africa. Are they lucky or not to be in the dark?


Wednesday 8 August 2007

Give Bees a Chance

Albert Einstein once said that humanity would only have approximately another four years to live once bees had disappeared. His reasoning was simple: "no more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

And >> it looks like there are signs we really are heading towards doomsday, if we are to look at the health of bee populations today.

They are disappearing at an alarming rate, particularly in the United States and Germany. While it's normal for hive populations to fall during colder winter months, the recent exodus is puzzling beekeepers and researchers around the world.

I myself, for certain have noticed that the bumblebees this year have decreased dramatically in my garden and so went off looking for bumblebee friendly flowers in my garden centre. After reading a few articles especially "Give Bees a Chance" published recently in the Ecologist, I feel they need every help we can give...

Honeybees and bumblebees are essential for pollination. If bees continue to disappear these plants will set less seed, potentially resulting in gradual but sweeping changes to the countryside.

Bees are also of great commercial importance, much greater than I ever thought, being vital to the agricultural industry. Many arable and horticultural crops depend on bees for pollination to varying degrees.

There is already evidence that in some regions where fields are large and there are few hedgerows crop yields are depressed due to a shortage of bumblebees.

Bees stimulate the food supply as well as the economy. So what's the cause of colony collapse?

Suspicions are pointed in several different directions, including cell phone transmissions and agricultural pesticides, some of which are known to be poisonous to bees. But it seems more likely that GM crops might be the culprits destroying bees.

How could something so wondrous as pest-resistant corn kill millions upon millions of bees?

Simple – by producing so much natural pesticide that bees are either driven mad or away.

The planting of transgenic corn and soybean has increased exponentially, according to statistics from farm states. Tens of millions of acres of transgenic crops are allowing the genes that are adversely affecting bees to move off crop fields.

It seems like the final proof of the evils of GM might come in one big blow, finishing off the most important species that we depend upon for pollination of our food plants!

Maybe Einstein not only was a mathematical physicist genius but also had psychic glimpses into our future?

3 species in the UK have already gone extinct and 10-15 others are in a precarious situation.

Even if you have a couple of windowpots with herbs this will already help them along and remember to just say NO TO GMOs!...

Below is a list of July-August flowers that will greatly help bumblebees but most of the usual cooking herbs also provide good nectar;

Black horehound Borage
Lesser burdock
Purple loosestrife
Red bartsia

Red clover
Sea Holly
St. Johns Wort
Viper’s bugloss

Sources where you can read more here
& here

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Animal Copyright Foundation

Look up
Gregory Colbert's photographic journey and exhibition “Ashes and Snow” - I am sure you will be as touched by the fantastic imagery and vision of this great photographer, film maker and animal rights campaigner.

Since 1992 Colbert has collaborated with more than 40 species around the world to create a 21st-century bestiary. These images attempt to express the world not only through human eyes, but also through the eyes of other animals.

The photographic artworks of Gregory Colbert explore the poetic sensibilities of animals in their natural habitat as they interact with human beings. No longer shown as merely a member of the family of man, humans are seen as a member of the family of animals.

“I hope to see the world through the eyes of a whale, an elephant, a manatee, a meerkat, a cheetah. Being amazed by nature in all its forms is the lifeblood of Ashes and Snow. I have tried to leave the windows and doors open so that others can enter and feel that same amazement that I felt during each work’s creation."

“I believe the Australian Aboriginals were exploring the same enchantments when they painted animals; they were not interested in merely painting the contours of their bodies. They focused equally on the animal’s interior dream life. The cave paintings of the San from the Kalahari Desert in Africa and the art of other indigenous tribes around the world also demonstrate their ability to look from the inside out. When I started Ashes and Snow in 1992, I set out to explore the relationship between man and animals from the inside out.”
- Gregory Colbert, describing Ashes and Snow as a shared work

Colbert has started up a controversial initiative to start the “Animal Copyright Foundation”, which will aim to collect 1 percent of royalties from companies using images of animals in their ads and distribute these funds to conservation projects around the world. He believes this could become the largest environmental fund in the world. Colbert suggests we should renegotiate our contract with nature. It is common practice to compensate people for fair use of their images in advertising but this has not been the case for nature and animals.

Watch an amazing clip of Ashes and Snow;

or visit website

Friday 13 July 2007

Flamingoes Facing Loss of Breeding Grounds

Not only are wild bird populations having to cope with the strain of bird flu, our excessive demands are rapidly taking over their habitats.

One of nature's most spectacular sights - millions of pink flamingos migrating between the Rift Valley's alkaline lakes - is in danger of disappearing forever, according to conservationists.

Tata Chemicals, part of the giant Tata industrial group in India, plans to construct a soda-ash plant on Lake Natron in northern Tanzania, the most important breeding spot for the endangered lesser flamingo. Each summer 500,000 of the birds, three-quarters of the world's breeding population, fly to the lake to nest.

Chris Magin, the RSPB's officer for Africa, said that the development could leave the lesser flamingo - classified as a "near-threatened species" on the World Conservation Union red list - facing extinction.

(read more)

Wednesday 11 July 2007

It's Snowing in South America

Not only are the floods increasing and the droughts become harsher around the world... now it has even snowed in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires!

"Despite all my years, this is the first time I've ever seen snow in Buenos Aires," 82-year-old Juana Benitez was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Temperatures plunged to -22C (-8F) in parts of Argentina's province of Rio Negro, while snow fell on Buenos Aires for several hours on Monday.

This is the first sight of snow in the capital since 1918.

Global warming and global freezing...