Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Absence of birdsong: Silent Spring

The American writer Rachel Carson [1907-1964] published her masterpiece Silent Spring in 1962, describing the nasty effects of pesticides on the environment. The sense of the book's title is that birds, poisoned by pesticides in spring, had ceased to sing.

Soon after starting to work for Pierre Schaeffer at the Service de la Recherche de l'ORTF in Paris, I had the privilege and thrill of attending the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm (Sweden), from June 5–16 in 1972, which was the first major international event devoted to environmental challenges. I discovered that Rachel Carson's book had become a bible in this domain.

Last night, on French TV, I watched a fascinating and highly disturbing show concerning the present-day dangers brought about by pesticides in France. I realized with horror that the situation was indeed far worse today than when Rachel Carson first evoked the "absence of birdsong", over half a century ago. The following map (created by the TV people themselves) provides us with a good idea of the intake of pesticides in the various French départements :

It's sad to realize that the worst-hit zones are the celebrated wine regions, such as the Bordeaux area in the south-west. As for my Isère department, it's marked as light orange, which is not too atrocious. Here's a table (in French) indicating the toxic shit that hits our dear Isère:

Click to enlarge

Click here to watch a lengthy replay of the French TV show.

BREAKING NEWS: Today (Thursday, 4 Feb 2016), the French minister Ségolène Royal has reacted briefly but clearly and courageously to the alarming news evening on pesticides in France.

She started by revealing that she had often been in arguments with agrochemistry multinationals. "I ran into problems when combating the aerial spreading of pesticides. It was quite difficult." After mentioning her ban upon the Monsanto product Round-Up, described as a "very violent" pesticide, she concluded: "The lobby of the production of pesticides is very powerful in France." She then invited people on the land to reduce their use of pesticides "in their own interests, when we see the number of cancers among farmers who use pesticides." Then she concluded on a positive note: "We are now aware of the existence of substitution products in the case of dangerous pesticides. France could become the first nation for the production and consumption of substitution products that do no harm to public health."

Monday, January 4, 2016

High-tech loo

For the first decade of my existence, I lived in a rural house in South Grafton (Australia) that did not have a so-called WC (water closet). This dull aspect of my early life has often appeared to me as exceptional: an extraordinary caveman anecdote that I'm including proudly in an autobiographical book on which I'm working. Like many lucky people, I tend to forget that, today, over two billion citizens of the planet Earth have no access to satisfactory toilets.

Click here to examine a project for a low-priced high-tech loo known as the Nano Membrane Toilet, invented at Cranfield University in England, to be put on trial soon, probably in Ghana.

For more information, click on the following video:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Same tree, different seasons

Back in January, when the two horses were residing at Gamone, this was a view of the linden tree with the lower paddock in the background:

And here's the same scene this afternoon:

For those who have the good fortune to live in a rural environment, the seasons are present constantly in our existence, in a visceral fashion. An individual's body and mind is metamorphosed, no doubt, in a comparable manner, without our being totally aware of the current situation at any particular moment.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Smart kids can win a cancer

Why is it that almost everything in our modern world—the best of all possible worlds, as Voltaire's optimistic Candide once assured us—seems to backfire? A delightful plastic puzzle for kids is composed of numbered squares, which the child is expected to assemble. What could be better in the way of home training for a prospective Einstein?

The only problem is that babies who play around with this particular variety of plastic shit could well pick up a cancer… which would obviously limit considerably their possibility of formulating new interpretations of the much sought-after Theory of Everything. Their cancer-ridden bodies might, of course, be useful for researchers attempting to combat this plague… but that's not exactly what we generally mean when we talk about bringing up intelligently our children to play a role in the modern world of science and technology.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deadly palm oil

In certain domains, the environmental and well-being awareness of my Australian compatriots is far in advance of the French situation. It's only recently that stickers announcing the absence of palm oil have started to appear, here in France, on certain packets of sliced bread.

In Australia, on the other hand, a dynamic consumer movement opposing the palm-oil industry has existed for quite some time.

The product is potentially "deadly" both for human beings with cholesterol problems, and for the jungle creatures (such as orangutans) affected by deforestation followed by palm plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

To be perfectly coherent in the environmental combat against palm oil, we should even abandon a splendid old French product: traditional Marseille soap. Now I have a friend down there, in Marseille, who won't be too happy when she hears me saying that. In fact, Natacha recently gave me a stock of this fine soap that's large enough to keep me clean for years to come.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nice key ring, noble NGO

I've always liked this key ring, which was given to me by my daughter Emmanuelle soon after I moved into Gamone and invited the young donkey Moshé (born in a neighboring valley) to join me.

At that time, this key ring was associated with a French-based NGO [nongovernmental organization]: Veterinaries without borders.

Recently, a reference to agronomists has been inserted into the NGO's title. [Click the banner to visit their French-language website.] Their noble goal consists of using agronomic and veterinary know-how in the planetary combat against hunger.

The donkey is an excellent symbol for the quest for durable solutions… if only because the beast itself might be thought of as a kind of living "durable solution" that has come down to us intact from African prehistory. Admittedly, here at Gamone, my two donkeys happen to be living in an exceptional environment, where there's always something to eat… even in winter, when there's half a meter of snow on the slopes. For their ancestors in parched lands, life was surely much harsher.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Scandinavian nuts and bolts

A recent article by Florence Williams in Slate [display] reveals apparent differences between Danish and Swedish males concerning the respective volumes of their genital resources.

Should the world at large be fascinated by this Swedish victory in the Prick and Balls Olympic event? The answer is no doubt yes. If things can shrivel up to such an extent between two neighboring nations, then we should try to understand what has happened... because the same sort of thing might just be happening in our own backyard, maybe even between neighbors with differing lifestyles. There's no smoke without a fire. So, there must be some set of underlying reasons why Swedes would appear to be getting it up better than Danes. It can't be the ambient climate, because it's much of a muchness. And it would be hard to imagine that cultural and lifestyle factors might account for this difference. There's no way in the world that you'll convince me that reading the delightful tales of Hans Christian Andersen, and eating Danish pastry, might have stealthily diminished the size of my John Thomas... and that the only way of getting things back to normal would consist of a strenuous acquaintance with the plays of August Swinberg and the films of Ingmar Bergman, combined with a massive daily intake of crisp bread and fermented fish, consumed in an Ikea environment.

Seriously: What exactly is it that might have influenced the respective qualities of the procreative devices of Danes and Swedes? That's an interesting question, but we don't yet know the answer. As they say in the classics, there will surely be a next episode...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Personally, I'm most unanimous

And what—you might ask—am I unanimous about? I'm totally unanimous in my belief that the concept of unanimity is ideal, say, for a couple deciding whether or not to get married... but it's utter nonsense in most other real-world decision-making situations. What I mean to say is, even those silly old guys in red don't insist upon making a unanimous decision when they're electing a new pope. And jeez, that's an awesome decision, because the selected fellow becomes the chief representative of God himself on our planet. Sure, a priest is not supposed to go ahead with a marriage unless there's unanimous approval from the congregation. This means that an old boyfriend of the bride or a disgruntled parent or even a loudmouthed fuckwit could theoretically veto the ceremony by yelling out no. But I think that, unless he or she had highly pertinent breaking news to reveal, the naysayer would run the risk of getting thrown out through a side door of the church. [My example has a distinctly Christian flavor. That's because I have no idea how other religions handle the concept of nuptial unanimity... and, as they say in certain spiritual circles, I really don't give a shit.]

In any case, I'm unanimous in considering that it's outrageous to use the United Nations approach, based upon unanimous decisions, when it comes to making plans to save the planet Earth. Something will have to change fundamentally in the decision-making process to avoid the risk, in the future, of wasting the time and energy of heads of state and environmental experts from all the nations of the globe. While they're at it, maybe it would be a good idea to take a close look at the logic (or lack of logic) that enables a tiny country such as Tuvalu, say, to speak with the same weight as a great nation. You will have guessed that I've never been wildly enthusiastic about the concept of democracy... although it's difficult to imagine a sound system to replace it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flag counter

At the end of this blog, I recently installed a gadget that purports to determine and count the national flags of visitors to this website. Here are the current results:

[Click on the image to display a larger version.]

To all these anonymous citizens of the planet Earth, who are surely just as concerned as I am about what might or might not emerge from Copenhagen today and tomorrow, I transmit my best wishes for the survival of our children's future world.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bravo! We have a new tax in France

They refer to it as the carbon tax... which is a ridiculous expression. After all, diamonds are pure carbon, but this new tax has nothing to do with riches of that kind.

It's a tax—to become effective in 2010—based upon the production of pollutant carbon dioxide... which is quite another kettle of smelly fish. Wrong again, as far as that last cliché is concerned. Carbon dioxide has no odor... otherwise the world would indeed be a stinking place. This ubiquitous gas is not even toxic in very small concentrations: less than 1% of the air we breathe.

Nicolas Sarkozy has just announced that a tax of 17 euros per ton of CO2 will be "paid by all consumers of fossil fuel" in France. Whether or not you like taxes (I feel that in France, like Guinness, they're good for you), one must admit that this is a big and politically courageous step in the right direction concerning the all-important combat against global warming.

I hope that my native Australia will soon jump on the environmental band wagon, instead of simply letting off CO2-filled steam on this all-important question.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Madame Energy

When I see how hard it is for people to find jobs these days, often as a consequence of globalization, I generally end up thinking that maybe I've been living in a golden employment era that has now disappeared forever. If so, does this mean that our children's children will be obliged to lead a welfare-state existence? Fortunately, several positive thoughts bring me back to a constructive vision of future society.

— The environmental challenges of saving the planet are so huge that there will surely be work enough for all bright people.

— The financial crisis should be (?) teaching a harsh lesson to greedy consumers and financial manipulators. In a nutshell, the global economic system has worn out at the seams, and needs to be replaced.

— Politically, certain evolved societies are realizing that the fundamental responsibility of a good system is to protect weak citizens from those who happen—often through luck or inheritance—to be strong. This theme is an everyday evidence in France, whereas many of my fellow citizens in Australians (where there's still a cult worship of self-made men and overnight millionaires) might find this kind of protection weird or even dodgy.

— In many places in the western world, there will no doubt be rough times ahead, with class actions bordering on bloody revolution.

— In other places, the three great scourges of our planet will cause havoc: starvation, epidemics and warfare.

Concerning the first point I mentioned, there's an international agency called IRENA [International Renewable Energy Agency], with interim headquarters in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

The agency's interim director-general is a young Frenchwoman, Hélène Pelosse, who's been a colleague of Jean-Louis Borloo, the French minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development, and Town and Country Planning.

If I were to be transported magically into a situation, today, in which I had to decide upon a professional career, I would still choose computing... but genetics would be hard on its heels as a second choice, with the vast domain of renewable energy in third place.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Major environmental decisions in Brussels

A draconian plan for climate action was presented today in Brussels by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Basically, the proposed challenge will consist of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by the year 2020. Theoretically, the annual cost of achieving this result should amount to half-a-percent of the GDP [gross domestic product], but it is likely that the true cost will be double that figure. José Manuel Barroso stated that the plans proposed by Brussels constitute "the most complete package of measures in the world". Europe—the so-called Old World—wants to be the world champion in saving the world.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Warm penguins

I find this image beautiful and moving, but terrifying. In the penguin domain, I'm an ignoramus... but I have the impression that those poor animals on their melting iceberg are just as puzzled as me concerning the future of their domain, and the planet Earth.

It would appear that Antarctica, due to global warming, is dissolving into the sea. I'm aware that these beasts know how to swim. So, if and when their flossy island disappears into the depths, they won't drown. But where will they swim to? Up until now, the penguin paradise was named Antarctica. For penguins, there's no other El Dorado. For us humans, it's more or less the same thing.