Did I miss the start of the end of the canned lion hunt?

South Africa has rather a problem. They have given over a large amount of their country to wildlife conservation, and many of the tourists who visit, come to see the wildlife.

However, South Africa also has an important hunting history. Now, if you go back 50 years the number of buffalo and similar was so high that they could sustain a certain amount of hunting (this cannot be claimed to be sustainable as it reduced populations to their current depressed state, and indeed there are species that it eradicated – for instance the Quagga a type of zebra). However, nowadays there are not these huge populations.

Most hunting reserves are relatively small, and therefore the number of animals that can be naturally hunted each year is also small. It is true that many of these places can sell hunts of antelope and similar, but the majority of big game hunters want to shoot one of the big five (lion leopard elephant buffalo rhino).

The result of this is the hideous industry of canned lion hunts.

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First documented attack on Gorillas by a group of Chimpanzees

Despite the ridiculous reputation that the Gorilla has been given, of a terrifying beast that will rip you apart, they are generally very gentle animals. Conversely, Chimpanzees have been shown as a largely gentle species, very similar to humans. This is also quite untrue.

Chimpanzees are incredibly effective hunters, and while much of their diet is vegetarian, and in captivity they are not usually given meat, in the wild they do hunt with relative frequency even if the majority of their diet is vegetable matter.

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Why are so many African countries on the government’s Covid red list

Out of the 54 countries in Africa 20 currently listed on the British government’s red list. This list is a list of countries that you cannot travel to without then spending 10 days in quarantine.

All well and good you might say, after all the government’s main concern is the health of its citizens. The problem is that this does not seem to be about the health of the UK citizens. Instead it seems more aimed at protecting against people’s misconceptions.

France is on the British amber covid list, yet this country alone has 115,000 death registered, or roughly two-thirds of the number of deaths recorded in the whole of Africa (between 150,000 and 200,000 depending which statistics are used. Indeed Germany is on the government’s green list and yet has had 90000 deaths and is currently running at 10,000 new cases a day. What is more given that these numbers are broken down by country, more than 80,000 deaths occurred in South Africa, even the rest of the African continent a share only about 100000 deaths.

The whole of Africa (a contingent of 1.3 billion people) only recorded roughly twice the number of daily cases recently to Germany – a country on the green list. 

Now, it could be argued, these countries are only on the red list because the government cannot be sure of the data coming in. 

Why is this a problem? Well, apart from the astounding level of institutional racism that this seems to show, tourism is essential for many African economies. As a result this failure to follow the science to have long lasting socio economic problems.

The problem is that China has been claiming virtually no cases for months. China is currently on the amber list, yet  there is a little faith or put in the numbers they are quoting. It’s true that with some of the African countries, there is also a little faith in the numbers.

Why is this of concern to a wildlife travel and conservation website? It is simple! The longer these countries stay on the red list because of covid, the bigger an impact this will have on wilderness reserves and national parks. If only a few people are willing to enter the country and tolerate the quarantine on return, we run the risk that these countries will turn to hunting instead of photographic safari.

Time will tell if this is a racist move, allowing the government to appear to be taking covid seriously – without too much worry of backlash from the country in question.

Obviously the sooner these rules change (for me as well as the tourism sector in Africa) the better, however this is the same for the natural world. I just hope and pray that the government has better reasons than it appears for its current covid red list, and will open up travel to these relatively safe countries soon enough to save the wild places that they protect.

Personal update on cutting carbon emissions – the failure of the green house grant

I wrote a while ago about ways that my household was trying to cut emissions. There are lots of things that we are changing to the way that we live, however there were a couple of ways that we intended to reduce emissions from our house.

The UK had a scheme called the green housing grant – with the intention of helping people green their houses. This only ran for a short period of time, and did not use anywhere near the relatively small pot of money that the government had set aside. Initially, the scheme was given £1.5 billion, to be given out in amounts of £5000, or £10,000 for specific groups.

We applied for thermal solar and additional external insulation – as we live in a concrete conclad house, which is well known for more insulation. Unfortunately, though the person who came to look at our house suggested that they could both be done for 10k – this proved to be rubbish. The best quote we got for thermal solar (this is a system that pumps liquid through tubes on your roof and then transfers the heat to your water, for both hot water and heating your home, greatly reducing the amount of gas or electricity you would have to use) was about £8500. This was felt to be unduly high by the green housing grants, so needed explanation so we had to appeal, our reasoning was accepted. The problem is, that by the end of this process, the people who had agreed to install the thermal solar are fully booked for the length of the installation period allowed by the government and there is no way to extend.

This was frankly a complete waste of time.

What is more annoying, is that we bought photovoltaic solar that was supposed to be installed at the same time to reduce cost. So what have we done?

Well, our 2.8kw of solar panels are standing in the garden, and as we have to pay for installation we thought that we should look at how much we could get the thermal solar equipment for.

My go-to on many things like this, is to look at ebay or similar second hand sites. I realize that many people would calculate that the equipment may not last long enough to make this worth the savings, but on the other hand, if we can get things used there are two advantages. Firstly, the item comes essentially carbon neutral: it does not increase the manufacturing carbon footprint to reuse it. Secondly, it should save money.

In our case, we paid roughly £600 for our solar panels. Brand new, the general rule of thumb is £2000 per kwh so , these panels are only slightly over 10% of standard price

For our thermal solar system we have paid 300, and for that we get the panel (this collects the heat) a pump, and an incredibly well insulated tank (this is necessary so that the hot water stays hot until you need the hot water). The general thought is that thermal solar systems cost between £3000 and £6000 to buy. Our green housing grant included installation, but even so, would suggest an expensive install

Installation, is something that we are still looking at, but should not cost more than a few thousand.

So what savings can we look forwards to? Well, a thermal solar system should save us roughly 2/3 of our gas bill (though some suggest it could be as high as 4/5. Our electricity supplier octopus, has a one in one out tariff, which means that our electricity use should drop in price dramatically (potentially coming close to a net zero charge. This would suggest, that our financial savings are likely to approach £1000 a year. Furthermore, while we are on a zero carbon electricity tariff, as we will be supplying about enough for ourselves, this will free up enough carbon free electricity to eliminate perhaps a tonne of carbon emissions. Our thermal solar will also eliminate roughly a tonne a year.

In short, the the financial payback period will likely only be a few years. As we are using second hand thermal and photovoltaic panels, we will be saving emissions from day one, and are likely to save a couple of tonnes a year, or perhaps as much as 40-50 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the lifespan of the panels.

There is still much to do, including greatly increasing the insulation on the house, and buying an electric car. However, cutting roughly 10% off our family emissions is a useful activity.

If all the readers of this site carried out these measure, net carbon reductions could amount to as much as 10 kilotons. There are many things that humans need to do, in order to cut our carbon emissions rapidly over the next decade or so. There are, however, few that can save so much money or be done so quickly.

Do over 50s want climate change addressed even if it costs more? Err, yes!

There have been a great deal of things that have happened over the last decade or two, which would suggest that the older generation don’t care what happens to the climate because they won’t be here to tolerate the effects.

Older generations also have a significant reputation for intransigence: adoption of new technology often spreads to the older people last. The problem with global warming is that the speed required to adjust is way too high to allow more senior members of society to wait.

This is why I found the results of a recent survey so encouraging. The survey wasn’t huge, only looking at 500 people, however it found more than two-thirds of respondents want ministers in our government to move faster even if it pushes up prices for services.

The survey found that these people were highly likely to be making adjustments to mitigate future climate change. These ranged from traveling less, to changing their diet and using less energy at home.

This is in some ways particularly encouraging, as the majority of home greening efforts take a significant length of time to pay off 

If you are already advanced in age the benefit felt is unlikely to be by you.

Now of course for most elderly parents or grandparents, they are greatly interested in passing down their housing stock to their descendants – so any greening of the house can last longer. Nevertheless, for older people reducing the future carbon emissions of their house is less about their own financial interests – indeed the government should bear this in mind.

The other issue is that the majority of these people live in particularly large and expensive houses. These are often the houses that young people aspire to live in if they ever make it. Due to their size and age, many of these properties will cost several tens of thousands of pounds to upgrade and as such the current inhabitants must be thinking about their descendants if they’re willing to upgrade their house for the future fight on climate change.

Are we expecting Bolsonaro to give up power if he loses

There are increasingly worried noises coming from former world leaders and other people about the marches taking place in Brazil.

These marches appear to be modelled after the US insurrection, and the ground work which Donald Trump laid – suggesting that it would be impossible for him to loose in a fair fight. In the USA Donald Trump did indeed try hard to stop it being a fair fight, he tried to cheat in many ways.

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25 biggest European banks are failing on their own green pledges

Over the last decade or so, the laws of countries across the developed world have not kept up with changes in our knowledge of threats to the natural world. As a result, promises to not fund projects that destroy ecosystems are what consumers have to go on in choosing which bank to let use your money.

Yet, out of the 25 biggest European banks none are actually living up to their promises. ShareAction, the body which carried out the research, did state that some banks such as NatWest are doing well on net zero targets, and restricting funding for fossil fuel projects.

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What should we do do with wilful misunderstanding of accurate climate predictions

I was watching a YouTube video on Tuesday which raises an important point.

Why do people on the whole continue to believe climate science is not settled, or that all of climate science predictions have been way out? This is not generally a belief that we come to on our own, it is usually fed to us by vested interests (either directly by fossil fuel companies, or indirectly by a publication which is sponsored, though this sponsoring is not always clear).

One of the most disgusting ways they do this, which is raised in the video, is by looking at a graph with a number of possible future lines. They then ignore the lines that are accurate and clearly mimic the warming that actually occurred, and simply leave the graft lines which were an extreme prediction in one or other direction.

 

What can we do about this? Our animal brains tend to pick and choose evidence that support the views we have already come to – this process often occurs without us even noticing.

It is therefore quite problematic if people are giving us a view of these climate science predictions from the past (in this case the graph created by a climate scientist called Hanson back in 1988, he plotted four possible temperature patterns, and one of them predict real-world temperature rises to a terrifyingly accurate degree.

So what people have done is to take an extremely clever piece of climate science that has accurately predicted the temperature rises over the last 40 years, and made a significant number of people believe that he had it completely wrong.

 

Now it is true that if you have an inquiring mind, one article is not likely to sway you. However, if, like many other people you believe something similar to what is being said in the article you are likely to trust it and may not search out others to check the veracity.

As the video shows, many vested interests have simple shown (as you see in the video) the observed temperatures (black line) and Scenario A (the red line). It is true that Scenario A overestimated the warming that we would experience. However, that is precisely the point – Scenario A represents what would have happened if humanity had continued as though there was no warning.

But that is not true! Many people would argue that we are not doing enough (and it is hard to argue this isn’t a legitimate concern) but we have done something.

Carbon emissions in some countries have fallen dramatically. This is nothing to the amount of cutting that is required, but we have made progress.

Hansens actual prediction of where we would stand at this point, is scenario B. This at the point of the last actual data is right on the money. Actual observational data always takes time to come in, so we are yet to see if observational data will follow the latest rise that Scenario B shows. But it is surely clear to even people who rarely use maps, that predictions of the last 30 years have been alarmingly close to what was predicted back in 1988

What can we do?

The simple fact is that the climate science on global warming is settled. When politicians try to run on a concept that goes against this they should be called out for it. It is true that democracy does not always give you the best candidate. In recent times we have lived through for years where America elected a person who believed things that were totally out of line with established science.

We need to reach a point where if someone is stating something as fact which is clearly not, not only should they fail to be elected but the falsehoods they have spread should be corrected.

Furthermore, businesses that are responsible for large quantities of pollution should not be able to get away with whitewashing their responsibility. Look at who you are giving your custom to. If they are damaging the planet, and you are paying them for services then the damage is in your name and you are responsible (morally if not at the current time financially).

As consumers we have a great deal of power. Sure we want good quality items that don’t cost too much, but we also do not want them to harm the planet. Engage with the businesses, if they are doing things that are bad for the planet. If they will not engage with you, then stop buying anything from them! If large numbers of their customers decide to go elsewhere businesses will quickly change their ways.

It was always foolish when Donald Trump stated that some action was too expensive.

Humanity will have to pay. If we do not pay to fix our mess now, then future generations will suffer the consequences.

If we do not act now, we are passing on the responsibility to our children and grandchildren – and they are likely to have to pay tens or hundreds of times what we considered too much. The cost will be paid, the bill that we are currently saying is too high, is tiny compared to the costs that we are passing on to our children. This is one of the issues with democracy – it is all very well to say that democratically elected leaders will work in the greater good, but the way elections work they only have to take into account the current voters. It is our job to make sure that short term policies do not win elections.

Chocolate coffee soya and even palm oil appears to be under threat by climate change

Crops around the world are under threat from climate change. Chocolate and coffee may merely be crops that the western wealthy countries enjoy, however palm oil in particular has been planted with the specific aim, in many cases of providing carbon neutral fuels. This is of course stupid as in many of these areas vast carbon sinks have had to be destroyed, releasing vast quantities of carbon, meaning that these palm oil plantations will have to produce oil in places for more than a century before they get back to carbon neutral.

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