Five Things #15

Alex Irvine’s Black Friday is set in a dark future America where consumerism and gun culture are unchecked, and follows a young family as they team up up to celebrate the first shopping day of the Christmas season in the most patriotic way possible.

The Guardian investigates the network of radical right wing think tanks that have hijacked Brexit and reshaped the Conservative party.

Jörg Schindler travels Northern England to explore Ground Zero of the Brexit Class War.

Mark Harrison considers the past and probable future of Aardman Animations feature length output.

In light of a recent study which suggested that establishing a trillion new trees around the world could turn back the climate clock to the 1970s, Mitch Anderson decided to take a look at some examples of resilient reforestation efforts and why they worked.

We appear to have adopted a tiger

When we went to Blankenberge a couple of weeks ago, we picked up some books at the Serpentarium. The book Macsen chose was on the subject of predators and he was quite vexed to discover just how endangered a species are tigers.

On the subject of endangered species, the WWF Christmas advert is well worth seeing.

The description on the YouTube page points you to their Adopt a Jaguar page but, after a minimal amount of poking around, I found that you can also adopt a tiger. And for Dutch speakers in Belgium, you can adopteer symbolisch een tijger .

So and we did.

Now we are just waiting for the You Are Wonderful People pack to arrive.

Five things #6

“But who’s the real freak – the activist whose determination has single-handedly started a powerful global movement for change, or the middle-aged man taunting a child with Asperger syndrome from behind the safety of their computer screens?” Jennifer O’Connell asks why Greta Thunberg is so triggering for certain men.

Jesse Singal discusses Dave Chappelle, political correctness and cancel culture and argues that we should recognise the elitism of the Super-Woke.

David Spiegelhalter discusses the importance of statistical literacy, and plugs his book a couple of times. The book is The Art of Statistics and I do plan on reading it once the paperback edition is published.

As Rambo: Last Blood arrives on the big screen, Mark Harrison looks back at Son Of Rambow and the joys of DIY filmmaking.

And finally: Happy birthday COBOL. 60 years old this month and still surprisingly popular. There’s hope for me yet.

Five things #5

“T. K. hates a lot of things, but at the moment, it’s how she becomes the #1 target during dodgeball at gym. Everything changes, however, when she discovers that she has the ace ability to direct spherical objects — and she makes her classmates pay! But her powers are made for more than petty revenge, as she soon discovers while on a family vacation.” How to Move Spheres and Influence People is a short story set in the Wild Cards universe.

In Arctic Siberia, Russian scientists are trying to stave off catastrophic climate change by resurrecting an Ice Age biome complete with lab-grown woolly mammoths. Welcome to Pleistocene Park.

“The space between fiction and reality is where economic bubbles take shape.” Brent Goldfarb and David A Kirsch explore The economics of bubbles.

Going back a few months, Salman Rushdie discusses what Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five tells us now.

And finally, Antergos Linux is dead, long live EndeavourOS. Antergos was my main operating system for several years — I keep meaning to take a look at how well EndeavourOS has picked up the baton of being a newcomer friendly introduction to the occasionally painful world of Arch-based distributions.

Five Things Four

How to walk a human being. A guide for dogs from The Oatmeal.

Staying with dogs for a moment, Wes Siler has some thoughts on how to pick the right dog for you. This is a subject that we keep returning to.

Hotter European summers and more frequent and recurrent heat waves have spawned a proliferation of wildfires around Europe. Portugal has a simple, low-cost and environmentally sustainable solution: goats. Now they just need more goatherds.

Allison Kinney remembers working at a roadside produce stand, selling “local” food to arrogantly ignorant foodies from nearby cities.

And finally, Oliver Franklin-Wallis looks into what really happens to all that plastic you carefully sort into separate bins.

2650 to go

According to The Brussels Times roughly a third of the electric scooters in Brussels have been withdrawn, leaving only about 2650 of these accidents waiting to happen.

These things are a scourge: too fast for pavements, too slow for the rad and too much clutter to fit on a bike lane. And people just abandon the damn things when they stop, turning even the shortest walk into an assault course.

As for their benefits: there aren’t any:

Using life cycle assessment, we quantify the total environmental impacts of this mobility option associated with global warming, acidification, eutrophication, and respiratory impacts. We find that environmental burdens associated with charging the e-scooter are small relative to materials and manufacturing burdens of the e-scooters and the impacts associated with transporting the scooters to overnight charging stations.

The linked study found that a one mile scooter ride emits more greenhouse gasses per person than a bus, a bicycle or a walk. Walking and cycling are, of course, both better for your health as well.

The environmental problem with electric scooters stems from the fact that they are very resource-intensive to build but have a very short lifespan once they hit the streets.

The need for someone to drive out evert night to find and recharge the things doesn’t help either.

The report suggests that scooter emissions can be reduced by using more environmentally friendly vehicles to collect and recharge them and by using more recycled materials in their production.

Of course, it is possible to reduce their emissions to zero by just banning the things outright.

Today is Earth Overshoot Day

We have now used up our allowance of natural resources for the year.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

In the 1970s we were able to make it all the way to December before we started sucking up resources from future generations. Now we can’t even make it to August and we would need the equivalent of 1.75 planets to produce enough to meet humanity’s needs at current consumption rates.

Action is needed now more than ever.

If you want to find out when your own overshoot day is, Calculate your Ecological Footprint and personal Overshoot Day. Mine is pretty terrible.

Students March for the Climate

A student march for the climate just went past about 20 minutes ago. The march was peaceful, if noisy — there was a lot of cheering going on — and, according to VRT, they are planning to repeat this every Thursday until they get an adequate response.

Two things struck me. Firstly, pretty much all of the placards were in English. I don’t know if this is a reflection of Belgian  multilingualism or if  the students are looking for international attention. But it’s interesting to note.

Secondly, the student who walked past in a pair of shorts — in January — made his point very effectively indeed.

 

Bug bread

The Guardian reports that a Finnish bakery has launched world’s first insect-based bread.

The bread, made using flour ground from dried crickets as well as wheat flour and seeds, has more protein than normal wheat bread. Each loaf contains about 70 crickets and costs €3.99 (£3.55), compared with €2-3 for a regular wheat loaf.

“It offers consumers a good protein source and also gives them an easy way to familiarise themselves with insect based food,” said Juhani Sibakov, the head of innovation at the bakery firm Fazer.

I have previously mentioned insects as a food source, and have even eaten several inset burgers. So it should come as no surprise that I think the idea of making bread out of bugs is a very good idea indeed.

I do think that innovations like this are the way to encourage Europeans to become more comfortable with the idea of insects as food. This is a good thing for a number of reasons, not least of which is that insects are a much less environmentally damaging source of protein than the large mammals we currently eat.

It seems to have gone down quite well as well:

“I don’t taste the difference … It tastes like bread,” said Sara Koivisto, a student from Helsinki, after trying the product.

Now, where’s my Marmite?