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The Radiation vs Pollination Situation

Mobile phone masts may be disguised as trees, but nature isn't fooled...

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
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You drive - they watch - you pay

Given that most of the comments and emails I received re road-pricing were anonymous, it's no wonder Pay-As-You-Drive is such a hard sell. Post 9/11, we're all pretty paranoid ... or does it go deeper than that? I don't think all 1.8million anti-road-priving petitioners fully agree with the attitude of the Ass. of British Drivers (the group who started the petition). But they are against the tracking device, dubbed by the Daily Mail as: "the black box. Would readers be less concerned if it was painted white?

Ironically, I never read Brave New WorldBrave New World or 19841984, because the Orwellian Apartheid regime in old South Africa banned such publications. I am however sympathetic to the fears of BME groups because during Apartheid, black people faced serious restrictions all the time. White opponents were beaten up and ostricised. After Apartheid, I struggled to get a job because I was now an ethnic minority of the wrong colour. When I moved to the UK, I kept meeting closet-racists who assumed they met someone they could confide in.

Back in SA, my own cousin couldn't face telling me he was gay. People live in gated communities with armed-guards at the entrances of their once public roads who would stop me from cycling through. I don't live there anymore and if I don't read certain papers and watch certain channels, I can believe that I live in an advanced society, which is a part of modern Europe. Groups like Liberty provide well thought-out arguments and ensure that this society is (usually) far better than the one I grew up in.

I enjoy conspiracy theories but am always aware that most of them are thought up by people who smoke way too much dope and are trying to justify their self-inflicted paranoia. The Home Office can't even keep track of offenders so I don't see the risk involved in Oyster cards or monitoring 34,000,000 vehicles. I may eat my words, but our towns and cities are so densely populated that in most cases I don't think knowing which station you get off at or where you park your car is particularly revealing. Unless of course you plan to rob a bank or join a militant animal rights group.

I have criticised old South Africa, but at least back then I could cross a road without any difficulty, cycle home from school on my own and breathe clean air. Nowadays, in increasing numbers of towns and cities:

  • Pedestrians are herded towards traffic lights where they wait for the cars to let them cross.
  • You're basically encouraged to buy a 4x4 to deal with the all the speed bumps.
  • The UK has one of the highest rates of people with asthma in the world. (air pollution can aggravate the airways and worsen an attack.)
  • There are constant complaints by the emergency services that they couldn't get to the scene of a tragedy in time because they were stuck in traffic.
  • You can't use your mobile on the high street because of the road noise.
  • The Ass. of British Drivers still refuses to accept any responsibility for global warming.
  • This is being repeated across the world. These issues, in my view, are a real and everyday infringement on civil liberties.

I don't expect pay-as-you-drive to solve all these problems, maybe it'll only be capable of stopping them get any worse. So what are the alternatives:

  • Impose higher taxes on fuel? - we know how difficult that is.
  • Ban heavily-polluting vehicles? - the car industry is fighting the EU every step of the way.
  • Impose carbon-emissions restrictions on cars? - California has the strictest limits in the world, but the car industry found a loop-hole and made SUVs fashionable.
  • Establish carbon-emissions-trading and a system of contraction & convergence, whereby every person in the world is given an equal ration of carbon-credits which is gradually reduced over time? - I'm still working on a related project now and hope to get it on the web soon. Despite this, I think it'll be a while before I've managed to convince the entire world.
  • Build more roads? - I have a theory that one reason trains are so expensive and railway lines are closing is because of declining revenues from rail-freight. More roads = more lorries and less trains.
  • Move to a less-developed country? - old cars from the developed world often end up in other countries, making it more affordable to drive. e.g. Modern Johannesburg is close to gridlock with hardly any public transport to fall back on.
  • Wait for congestion to put people off? - the UK will get hotter in the summer and wetter in the winter but at least in your car you can stay cool and dry.

Like Big Brother, you decide!


Anti road-pricing petition - Is this real democracy?

zero emissionsMore than a million people have signed a petition against road-pricing. Do they realise that it was started by an organisation that still refuses to believe the link between man-made emissions and global warming.

Is this real democracy? Will the government again be bullied into backing down on dealing with the problem of congestion and climate change by another knee-jerk reaction? I for one hope the Government remembers their indifference to the million-people-march against the war in Iraq.

The petition argues that the distance we drive is already taxed via fuel. This may be true for now, but - as more environmentally-friendly fuels are used - won't there be a proportionate decrease in revenue from these vehicles?

There are already approximately 32million cars on British roads and this figure is rising all the time. It is doubtful that more roads would ever be able to meet the increasing demand. The more congested our roads become, the less efficient combustion engines become. Put simply, more congestion = more emissions.

Luckily, not all motoring organisations are in denial. Check out this future car rally planned for World Environment Day (050607): Revolve: Towards Zero Emissions

For the sake of media headlines, if nothing else, you can sign one/all of these counter-argument petitions here:


Proper Education!

Deanne Berry in Call On Me VideoAfter years of impotent, government-backed energy efficiency campaigns; a new charity: Global Cool has finally found a credible way to get the message across to the 'yooff' of today... via MTV.

Eric Prydz made a name for himself by re-working a classic eighties track and crucially making a steamy video full of G-string leotards (directed by Huse Monfaradi) which became the highest-downloaded music video of all time in Australia. It was filmed at Deptford's funky Laban Centre.
Eric Prydz: Proper Education video
Now that he'd got everyone's attention, Eric decided to remix Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall. Staying true to Floyd's tradition of adding a message to their medium, Prydz enlisted the help of Global Cool to subvert the meaning of the song, i.e. we can all put a brick in the wall to stop global warming.

I like the fact that Eric casts himself as one of the people wasting energy... cleverly avoiding looking preachy.

Watch the videos and read what Ministry Of Sound fans think... some more education is obviously needed.


Hate Long-Haul Flights? Dig this!

dog digging
If, unlike me, you weren't lucky enough to get a globe for Xmas... but would still like to know where you'd end up if you dug far enough, Luis Felipe can provide the answer.

Read Google Maps Blog Post

my back garden


Oh Brother!

anti-circus poster featuring Shilpa Shetty

Celebrity Big Brother::It was bound to end in tears, but I still think there's a silver lining in all this smoke.
A-list Eastern celebrity meets Z-list Western celebrities... among them the kind of super-chavs that are celebrated for being ignorant enough to say things that most people wouldn't dare.

I have long wondered about the Jade Goody phenomenon. She's made so much money from exploiting herself and her family that I've come to accept that there must be something virtuous about all this exposure. She is a role model in a way, because she has never sought to hide her ignorance and is always prepared to ask stupid questions. The kind of questions that everyone else in the room would be too embarrassed to seek answers for. There should always be people like her, people who are willing to subject themselves to laughter or derision ... because every now and then, they act as martyrs for the rest of us. Stimulating debate or getting answers to questions we need, but are too proud (or scared) to ask.

Jade and her kin have quite obviously been victims of abuse in the past and so perhaps they enjoy being on the other side. There are blatant defense mechanisms in play when they ridicule Shilpa's name. The question is, how many people watching the (possibly) racist debacle play out on BB are secretly thinking: "I wish I was ignorant enough to say that", "honest enough to call her that". The beauty of Celebrity BB is that - isolated from society, tabloids and PR machines - celebrities are forced to speak for themselves and then deal with the consequences.

Channel 4 have stated that despite the concern of UK & Indian Government officials and over-excited media reports, what's happening inside the BB house is not racist, it's a class and culture clash. This begs the question: Is it okay to take the piss out of someone because you don't understand their culture? I see it in England all the time, and it is easily justified. Ironically, people are terrified of pronouncing unfamiliar names in case they offend. Instead, they just change people's names to suit their 'lazy' tongues. Most people with unconventional names give in and adopt at best an Anglicised version or some ridiculous nickname. When I chose an old-English name for my son (Lucian), my in-laws immediately poked fun and tried to pronounce it in a Inspector Clouseau-style French accent (a la Lucien). Some people ask what the name means and how they can shorten it, but as soon as I talk of Latin derivatives or suggest Italian nicknames, their eyes glaze over and they quickly become distracted. Accents too have to be changed, I arrived in the UK with a very mild southern African accent which I have since watered down... or should that be cleansed?

Is it okay to take the piss if someone is educationally or culturally poorer than you? I admit, I couldn't stop myself taking the piss out of Jade (queen of chavs) in the early days. Then I think the Heat mags of this world tried to do a Pygmalion thing but Jade still ain't come good! Frankie Boyle compared the attempt to make Jade a celebrity with trying to train a monkey to be a butler: "Oh no, I told my butler-monkey to iron my shirt, but instead he's throwing shit against the wall!"
I wonder how Jade will be treated once she's let out. Will all the crazed teenagers be booing her or cheering her on? What about the tabloids, will they decide to demonise and dump their pet-project? In her defence, I guess Jade has had to put up with massive public abuse and ridicule and came out of it a more succesful (I think) person with better hair. Alas, she obviously hasn't learnt to rise above it though, her continued fame (or infamy) may well rest on you and me folks, we decide. Personally, I think giving public exposure to the Jade Goodys of this world could do with a bit of a rest now.

I just feel sorry for all those people in India where celebrity is still a sacred thing who I'm guessing thought that they'd finally 'made it'... Bollywood was now on a par with the creme of the British superstar elite. Little did they realise that much has changed and warped and mutated and just what was Ms Shetty's agent thinking?

Tens of thousands of complaints.
"Could you imagine Kylie Minogue or Liz Hurley receiving the same treatment in the Indian version of Big Brother?"
-Lee Jasper, C4 news, 17/1/07

Interesting parallel, but not quite the same thing, is it Lee. India never lorded over the UK. Whites haven't been the on the wrong end of a stick for centuries. It's unlikely that we'd be burning effigies in the streets, but then again, I bet certain shorn-haired individuals would almost definitely be burning something!

Big Brother protesters burning effigiesWhat this exposes is how out of touch certain UK minorities are with mainstream British phenomena. On the one hand, there's the Goody Crew - blissfully unaware of how politically correct most of their countrymen must be in public. On the other hand are the close-knit ethnic communities, with their own culture fully imported, frozen in whatever year they left their own country behind. There have been at least 10 Big Brother programs (altogether) on Channel 4 before this one and countless other Big Brothers all over the world... incl Big Brother Africa! Certain minorities living in the UK are here in body alone, but are so isolated in their culture - tolerated to the point of being invisible to indigenous Brits - that they are completely oblivious to what goes on in such shows. More worrying is the realisation that many members of such communities are so ill-integrated that they think the kind of people who 'star' in Big Brother programs are representative of Britain. Sure, these kind of people exist, but wanna-be celebs are a mere sub-culture themselves, not the mainstream majority.

I haven't seen any of this series of BB. There's no need. I can imagine exactly what's going on, and I know that I am also unable to tolerate witnessing the behaviour of Jade Goody and her friends. It's too close to the bone as it reminds me of all those unashamed racists I grew up with in Rhodesia and the Old South Africa. I also can't bear to watch because I knew that this series would be watched by some very innocent Indian grannies and starry-eyed, born-again Westerners. Most of whom are, as we speak, manning call-centres in Delhi and trying to hold their smiles and not grit their teeth too much as they listen to Brits whinge about their phone bill or insurance policy or whatever.

I get fed up when phoning my local service provider and being re-routed to Delhi, but that's because of the lunacy of the situation. Some poor bloke who doesn't own a personal computer and for whom English is a (very different) second-language is in the awkward position whereby he must read out a checklist in order to troubleshoot my problem. If I have attempted point 1 through 35 prior to picking up the phone, I don't take kindly to the Indian technician's inability to just skip a few pages and meet me at point 36. In these kinds of situations, it's no surprise that normally polite Brits suddenly reveal their inner-racist.

Is what is happening in Big Brother holding up a mirror on our society?

"If this is a mirror, it is a cracked, warped fairgound mirror designed to make people behave as ugly as possible!" - Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty.

"It reflects a reality. In seeing it displayed it can be tackled."
- Jon Snow, C4 News, 17/1/07

When pushed, Mr Jasper seemed obliged to agree.

Big Brother has dumbed-down to the point that we are now scared of who is watching and have no faith in their ability to rationalise what is happening to normal people in an abnormal situation. Calling these people celebrities just adds to the confusion. I'm pretty convinced that in modern-day Britain/America, celebrity has come to mean: "person with issues that is seeking help publicly". The title of 'celebrity' comes with the baggage of having to represent something. Jade and her crew represent a lifestyle free of the constraints of politcal correctness. I guess Shilpa Shetty represents upper class Indians... and when it comes to class-discrimination, they too have a lot to answer for!
Danielle Lloyd, Miss England 2004

The parents of Miss Great Britain 2006 back-pedal for England...

More on the PETA poster...

More on the bullying...