A view from the West

Featuring food, fuel and the future in Jersey

Air pollution does more than you think
I came across two articles today worthy of note .  We certainly have an obesity problem in Jersey so this caught my eye.

It claims that " Exposure to air pollution at the place of residence increases the risk of developing insulin resistance as a pre-diabetic state of type 2 diabetes " and "Whether the disease becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution". Well we have a traffic problem in Jersey too, so that link might just be of relevance here.

They go on to note "The authors are also concerned that the concentrations of air pollutants, though below EU threshold values, are still above the proposed guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). As a consequence, they demand changes in government policy: Lowering the threshold for acceptable air pollution levels would be a prudent step”

As it happens the Jersey Government web site has a page for air quality in Jersey. It gives just two sites (how representative is that?) - Howard Davis Park and Halkett Place. For today it simply indicates no data available. And there is no link or means to access historic data ! Another fine example of digital government delivering for you .

There is an air quality plan and report from 2013 But no progress update since, and though I haven't trawled through scrutiny it looks to me like noone has yet thought to ask why.

In the mean time our sustainble transport policy goes no where and the population is probably getting more obese.

The other document is a French one which indicates the scale of the impacts of pollution Which even my dodgy French translates to air pollution costs 225 Billion dollars to world economy. The linked document also suggests eight in ten citizens of the world are affected by air pollution.

An addendum  I've just seen  this But this is Jersey, so nothing is as important as tax and which locations ministers and senior civil servants need to travel to 'research the facts'.

Soil Association and antibiotics
The Soil Assocation is running an organic promotion campaign (organic September).  This is a short (2 minutes) video piece on antibiotic resistance in farm animals and its significance. 

In the field
I've just planted out the first of next years crops - a few savoy cabbages. As always the race is to try to get harvesting and outdoor processing done while the weather is good. So far it is going well. 6 kg of plums this morning, though at the price of a wasp sting just below my knuckle. I have a large palette board in the garage (the one the solar panels came on) - now stacked with oats waiting to be threshed, onions drying off a bit more, and a couple of buckets of dried beans.

The outdoor tomatoes have almost finished. That's just as well as there is a bit of blight about. And importantly I've got a demijohn of elderbery wine on the go, and a couple of tubs of blackberry icecream made in the freezer. Apart from the parsnips and salsify not germinating at the start of the year, it has been a very good year for crops. Now however it is time to get my head around next year's planting schedule and bed rotation.

Sunny days

I have reasons to suspect the monitoring system isn't configured properly. The true figures can be calculated only when I have the meter readings. August is the first full month our solar system has been running and it looks like we have generated a touch more than we consumed. It just goes downhill from here until next Spring however.


St Ouen hustings, take 1
Bailiwick Express have posted a short video clip, and oddly written piece about last night's by election hustungs at St Ouen.  Not much about the politics, and a rather quirky sound bite melange of the candidates.  Though it is  rightly glowing about the significance and glory of the parish.  I think we can tell which is their favoured candidate.

Their write up is at

May you live in interesting times.
It is dark in the mornings when I awake these days.  It is one of those predictable elements of being a smallholder.  The weather and the pest and diseases vary year by year, but the overarching pattern of change is so slow as to be unnoticable.  It is masked by the short term  fluctuations and the immediate challenges.   As I look at the diary for this time last year I see we had lots of rain, I lost most of my tomatoes and was fearing for much else in the field.  This year the weather is good we have more tomatoes than we can bottle and the produce is coming in greater quantities than ever.

I have held for sometime that humanity has been living the last 25 years or so in a sort of golden age.  We have had medical advances, 'time' and effort saving devices, plentiful energy and material abundance beyond the dreams of previous generations.. We could feed the world if we organised better - wasted less, ate more sensibly and shared more liberally. .  It might be argued even the poor in our society have more than princes did a millenium ago.  It is difficult to see the coming changes and challenges when you are living in such a wonderful period.

Yet there are so many odd and novel things happening today in many areas.  Even in that most controllable of human activities  - finance  - unprecedented things are happening.  There are negative interest rates on goverment bonds in many places round the world.  In effect governments are being paid to borrow money!  And recently RBS announced it will be charging customers for holding their deposits Unprecedented since the Bank of England was founded 27th July 1694. Usury (charging interest on loans) had been banned in various forms in England from the 13th century until that point. Interestingly and perhaps related it was during that same period that England grew from an obscure backwater of Europe to a leading power.  Today's near zero rates be they negative or positive, are as close as we have been to those  usuary free times as ever in 300 plus years.

Despite headline grabbing recent events , the evidence seems to be mounting for the proposition that wars are becoming less frequent, and  the number of deaths from war and violence lessening. Of course those are only human figures. The deaths humans cause to other species is another matter.  Nevertheless a recent paper indicates the average impact of a human being on the planet is lessening.  Over the last 16 years, "We note that while the human population has increased by 23% and the world economy has grown 153%, the human footprint has increased by just 9%. Still, 75% the planet’s land surface is experiencing measurable human pressures. Moreover, pressures are perversely intense, widespread and rapidly intensifying in places with high biodiversity.  Encouragingly, we discover decreases in environmental pressures in the wealthiest countries and those with strong control of corruption."  It is progress, but it is surely as yet insufficient.  We are already overexploiting (Earth Overshoot day was August 8 this year) so a 9% increase is still going the wrong way, albeit more slowly.

Still not to worry. We have found a possible new home. There might be a plan B if we can only figure out a four light year journey. Unless of course it is already occupied and has its own dominiant species thinking Earth might be their plan B.

Eemian period sea level rise
I've been reading the latest paper from Hansen et all

They have been studying sea level rises in the Eemian - the interglacial period approximately 125,000 years ago.  The conditions then are taken as the best available analogue of where we are today, though there is some disagreement about just how good is the fit.

Here's a bit of the abstract.

"Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200 years".

Further on
Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range. We conclude that 2 C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly dangerous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric."

Is Jersey ready for potential sea level rise of several metres within 50 years?

Asbestos the research moves on
I came across this in my reading this morning.

"A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego scientist Jane Willenbring challenges the long-held belief that asbestos fibers cannot move through soil. The findings have important implications for current remediation strategies aimed at capping asbestos-laden soils to prevent human exposure of the cancer-causing material."

Now that is interesting. There are extant concerns over asbestos at the Waterfront site ( )

It isn't just the presence of asbestos there that is worrying.  We have been told last year of plans to ship it to the UK, ( )  then told we cannot within months  and storage is the best option. (     Yet the French can have nuclear waste shipped from Japan for reprocessing at Cap de La Hague !

It seems to me this new study ups the risks of wider consequences should local storage fail at some point, as human constructed systems tend to do.  Besides as the world is gradually realising the soil is of far more importance than we have given it in recent decades, not only biologically, but also as one of the few plausible sinks for carbon dioxide gases.  We need to have much higher regard for that miraculous stuff the Americans call dirt.

Prof Brian Cox, climate change and models
This is from an Australian programme.  Two points I would like to emphasise.
1/ This is debate of the type we should be able to have but do not in elections in Jersey on any and every subject.
2/ Prof Cox makes a very cogent point about modelling and projections in the latter part of the piece that is important and not answered.

It always intrigues me that skeptics /deniers argue about the values , measurements and models, but they seldom if ever touch on the equally valid evidence from biological systems and phenomena such as plant flowering dates, species migration times and the like.  Perhaps they think Nature is on in the scam, more likely they realise she isn't playing to their agenda.

If you are interested to know how useful the early models were, this article reviews some projections made in 1980/81 for 2010 and how they turned out.

Today is Earth overshoot day. I wonder if any of the senatorial by-election candidates nominated this evening are aware or even care about that?  The problem of our collective gross over consumption and excessive demands on the resources and eco services of the the planet is no trivial matter.  It is a problem that clearly isn't resolved or even improved by growth, quite the opposite.  So where is the debate on frugality, self reliance, self restraint, eco-justice and regard for future generations?

It may be quite unfashionable in Jersey, but there are others elsewhere contemplating it.  As far as I can tell our States has never even heard of the Natural Capital Declaration.  Odd really as it is a  finance sector initiative within the UNEP.

Anyway , here is a graphic that gives the scale of our world consumption  to land capacity ratio by selected country.


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