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Food for thought on 'Fish Debt Day'

Richard Black | 12:02 UK time, Friday, 9 July 2010

If you live in the European Union and you like fish, then there's some bad news for you: as of the time I started writing this (1000BST Friday 09 July), you're in debt to the rest of the world.

CodThat's a fairly oblique thought, without a bit of explanation.

A group of environmentally-minded economists - the New Economics Foundation (Nef) - have got together with some marine conservationists (including the Pew Environment Group) to calculate how much fish EU waters can sustainably produce each year and compare that with the amount of fish we actually eat in the EU.

The bloc collectively consumes roughly twice as much as home waters can generate, according to these calculations.

So if we ate nothing but this home-grown stock from the beginning of the year, by 8 July we would have consumed it all; thereafter, we would be in "fish debt".

And "fish debt day" is occurring earlier and earlier in the year.

Conceptually, this is a miniaturisation of the much broader notion of ecological debt, which has been much discussed over the last few years in sustainability circles and which Nef has sought to highlight through the idea of "Interdependence Day".

They've broken the fish idea down into nations as well. Unsurprisingly, Austria and Slovakia - nations without sea borders - goes into fish debt very early in the year, while a handful - Estonia, Latvia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden - remain in "profit", being self-sufficient.

Fish_debt_calendarLike all such analyses, this one's figures are open to challenge but it is a neat way of encapsulating the idea that as a high fish-consuming bloc, with many of its own fisheries depleted and aquaculture unable yet to fill the gap, Europeans who like fish are now having to find it elsewhere in the world.

You might argue that in a globalised economy, that's fine - and indeed the Austrian and Slovakian examples illustrate the point perfectly that if you have little chance to fish yourself, what are you supposed to do other than import it?

But fish aren't just another natural resource. The supply isn't by definition finite, as is oil; but it also isn't necessarily infinite, like (to all intents and purposes) sunlight.

It's renewable; but only if you manage it properly.

The reality is - and this isn't news - many fisheries aren't managed effectively, and EU nations have been as complicit as any in prioritising the continuing supply of fish into their markets without adequate attention to ecological sustainability or to the problems it causes communities in developing countries.

One comment sent in by reader Nathaniel Calhoun from Liberia in response to a recent Green Room article on fisheries caught my eye:

"Illegal trawlers can be seen 24 hours a day within 1 kilometer of Liberia's shores. They fish so close to shore that individual Liberians in dugout canoes are sometimes further out to sea.
 
"By all accounts they are decimating fishing stocks and causing locals to risk longer and further voyages in search of their livelihoods. A few coast guard vessels would go a long way towards a solution."

This illustrates perfectly a pattern seen too often - sometimes in EU waters as well - where big industrial concerns can mop up a fishery that local people have been in the habit of using sustainably.

Octopus_in_fish_marketThe EU has recently put in place measures designed to combat illegal fishing, with skippers facing enhanced sanctions and with distant-water fleets in principle having to operate to the same standards as in EU seas.

It's a start. And it follows on from attempts to make sure that agreements legally made between EU states and developing countries, particularly in Africa, take local needs into account and feed some of the profits back to communities.

How effective these rule changes will prove to be is another matter, though, with some reports suggesting there are still major issues.

Within EU waters, not everything is dire, with signs of recoveries in some stocks, and some countries (such as Denmark and the UK) finding new ways to restrict catches and reduce discards.

But according to the latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (Ices), there are clearly areas where the recovery plans are not working:

On North Sea cod, for example:

"Despite the objective to reduce fishing mortality..., estimated total catches have been much higher than intended. Fishing mortality has been reduced but has remained well above the implied targets.
 
"Under the present implementation and enforcement approach... the recovery of the stock [is] unlikely."

We're clearly enjoying our fish in Europe - the great taste, and the health benefits it brings.

But how many of us are asking where it comes from, and who else might not be eating fish because we are?

And in the meantime - how about Nef, Pew and the rest taking on the same analysis for East Asia?

Comments

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  • 1. At 1:13pm on 09 Jul 2010, Jack Hughes wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 2. At 1:15pm on 09 Jul 2010, Jack Hughes wrote:

    PS: when we get the seven metre rise in sea levels there will be a lot more ocean. More ocean = more fish.

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  • 3. At 1:45pm on 09 Jul 2010, brucepotter wrote:

    Nathaniel Calhoun's statement from Liberia that:

    "Illegal trawlers can be seen 24 hours a day within 1 kilometer of Liberia's shores. They fish so close to shore that individual Liberians in dugout canoes are sometimes further out to sea.

    "By all accounts they are decimating fishing stocks and causing locals to risk longer and further voyages in search of their livelihoods. A few coast guard vessels would go a long way towards a solution."

    This illustrates perfectly a pattern seen too often - sometimes in EU waters as well - where big industrial concerns can mop up a fishery that local people have been in the habit of using sustainably.
    --------
    The point that Richard seems to gloss over is that these boats notoriously (think Iberian homeports) are STEALING FISH from most West African countries, in order to support European "fish debt," and the European governments do NOTHING to make their fleets behave -- to the extent of condoning bribery to get licenses in the first place. (Licenses that the trawlers promptly exceed in the second place.)

    These are GLOBAL resources and that means that a few bad actors can destroy the resource for all. We are ALL STEWARDS and need to enforce proper management of the commons.

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  • 4. At 2:09pm on 09 Jul 2010, wab wrote:

    Two completely separate issues are being conflated here, perhaps purposefully. Illegal or unsustainable fishing should be stopped. But it is perfectly acceptable to import goods from other countries, whether Nef, Pew and the rest of the chattering classes like it or not. So it is not immoral to eat more fish than you yourself can produce, nor is it immoral to eat more of any other type of food than you yourself can produce. If you want to take this silly argument to its logical conclusion, then nobody should be able to eat any food other than what they themselves can produce.

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  • 5. At 3:12pm on 09 Jul 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Fish tend to cross national boundries. Europeans and Americans were chasing whales in the Pacific in the 1800's and the Japanese have been in the Atlantic for many years now and of course there are periodic stories of nations claiming other nations are fishing their waters and conflicts arise. There are constant claims in Asia between countries. As with most things it is usually about greed and the drive for profit external to existing laws. Countries with an inability to patrol their own waters are always vulnerable to economic pirates. Larceny on the seas is usally a fine and the risk/reward appears to be no deterent. The idea of additional managment of the fish populations would lead one to ask how this can be accomplished when what is illegal now is not enforced. Organizations and nations are very good at adopting plans and very bad at implementing them. Growth economies can only result in the end game being depleted resources. Agreement will never be reached as to who gets the larger shares and who does without. We know that the more powerful nations take the bigger shares and the poorer complain and the response is sympathy and what are you going to do about it. Illegal is not viewed as illegal if the criminal views the laws as unjust. On a more philosophical note, humans continue to insist that they can manage nature and so far the results are that we can not...temporary comforts for long term problems. If this were a horse race no book would give you odds less than 50 - 1.

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  • 6. At 3:14pm on 09 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    Richard Black.

    "If you live in the European Union ... you're in debt to the rest of the world."

    and it's a shame so few of us are willing to admit that's the case.

    "..big industrial concerns can mop up a fishery that local people have been in the habit of using sustainably."

    your collegue Jonathan Amos wrote about an interesting system which, if deployed globally, could put a stop to these transgressions overnight.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/jonathanamos/2010/07/norway-resorts-to-shipwatching.shtml


    Jack Hughes #1.

    "And why are Oxfam still "teaching a man to fish"?"

    too right Jack, Oxfam should teach them to go to Tesco and buy Captain Birdseye, eh?

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  • 7. At 3:18pm on 09 Jul 2010, davblo wrote:

    It's not hard...
    ..
    ..repeat after me...
    ..
    2 men e pea pull
    ..
    no tea nuff eash
    ..

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  • 8. At 3:27pm on 09 Jul 2010, mvr512 wrote:

    @2
    Except we won't get a seven metre rise in sea levels, that is a hoax perpetuated by leftist envirogroups who have been promised a cut by money-desperate governments who try to use the myth of man-made climate change to get people to accept huge new taxes.

    And that the EU has been deliberately destroying the livelyhood of African fishermen is not news, people like me who hate the EU have known this for a long time now, its the EU-lovers who are blind.

    African fishermen and farmers are being put at a disadvantage because of EU imposed tariffs (which by the way, the EU doesn't want African countries to reciprocate). In fact, I'd go so far as to argue that the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies are in some degree racist as they are designed to protect French farmers and Spanish fishermen from competition.

    We really need to get rid of those policies so we can manage our own fishing waters again. Begone, EU.

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  • 9. At 4:27pm on 09 Jul 2010, Scott0962 wrote:

    European fishermen destroyed the once prolific Grand Banks fishing grounds by overfishing and now they are doing the same to the fishing grounds of some of the poorest nations on earth while at the same time failing to manage their own home fishing grounds on a sustainable basis. It's positively criminal. Those illegal fishing vessels are no better than pirates.

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  • 10. At 4:39pm on 09 Jul 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Those with the biggest share always insist there are too many others that want shares. To many people is really, I'm not willing to share.
    China had at least a famine every year for over a thousand years. Not because there was not enough food but because transportation and roads were so bad that the food could not be distributed. Nations send food to North Korea to aid the straving and it is not distributed but rather sold by government officials. When Burma was hit by a typhoon all the food for those in need was taken by the government. Two full ships turned away because the government refused to let NGO's distribute the food and supplies. It is about distribution, it is about corruption and it is about the kind of compassion that resolves the cause and not the self gratification of giving. When populations were less and quantities great people still straved to death and for the same reasons. Just read the list of foodstuffs shipped from Ireland to England during what was called the Great Potato Famine....there was plenty of food it just was not made available to those in need..hard feelings still exist.

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  • 11. At 6:04pm on 09 Jul 2010, Charlie1902 wrote:

    People might start taking note of these sorts of news report when the price of their fish N chips goes up - until then its open season.

    Feast until the seas are empty and then wonder what you'll eat tomorrow


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  • 12. At 7:33pm on 09 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #11 Charlie Patey wrote:

    People might start taking note of these sorts of news report when the price of their fish N chips goes up - until then its open season.


    I agree, but I wonder how it can be that cod and haddock are so cheap? They seem about the same price as steak. If fishermen (fisherpersons?) can barely manage to wring the occasional "side of beef" (in monetary value) from the empty seas, how do they manage to make a living out of it?

    I trust -- I hope -- they're not subsidized by the government? I honestly have no idea whether they are, but if they are, that would be nutballsville!

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  • 13. At 11:15pm on 09 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    Just another white guilt story.

    Perhaps the BBC would like to pay for research into rubbish debt and then we can celebrate stupid story day.

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  • 14. At 01:05am on 10 Jul 2010, Yorkurbantree wrote:

    Yet further evidence of our feeble governments in action. Surely it can't be so hard to live within our means? Useless.

    Re: Brian and Jack. Displaying your contempt for anything to do with protecting the environment on an environmental news blog is perhaps not the best use of your time. I'm sure Sarah Palin has a blog where your views would be right on the money.

    Re: Wab at 4: Perhaps you should have read post 3 before delivering that inspired offering. You clearly haven't got your head around the concept of overfishing, which perhaps should have made you think twice before having a little ideological ramble about the beauty of the unfettered free market...

    Post 8 efficiently demonstrates UKIP's bizzarely contrived attitude to all things environmental. If the EU are trashing the environment through overfishing then they are to be condemned. However, if they are helping solve an environmental problem like pollution, climate change, waste etc - then the problem doesn't actually exist and the EU can be condemned!

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  • 15. At 01:08am on 10 Jul 2010, Yorkurbantree wrote:

    Re: Post 13:
    "Just another white guilt story."

    Are you suggesting only white people eat fish? If you are then I have a few friends who you need to have a serious chat with because they never got that particular memo...

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  • 16. At 05:43am on 10 Jul 2010, Daisy Chained wrote:

    I am sure Nef, Pew and the BBC have a lot to say for themselves. Is it nagging, a sign of wisdom, or is it a sign of something akin to empty vessels?

    I am sure there have been many years when local stocks have not produced expected quotas, and fish mongers have had to go elsewhere to buy. It is a process that has been in place for a very long time. Nef, Pew and the BBC may know it as the marketplace. Of course every so often the reverse processes occur to maintain a natural balance to the knowledgeable fishing communities. But, like most things, it can be skewed by officialdom, the bureaucrats and meddlers who want the best of both worlds - biggest catches spread around. Everybody loses and that is when Nef, Pew and the BBC, start chanting their 'green magic'.

    The moral of the story is not to let money destroy natural balances. But there is a sub-plot moral too - never make a noise with an empty vessel.

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  • 17. At 06:24am on 10 Jul 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    #9 Scott0962 wrote:
    "European fishermen destroyed the once prolific Grand Banks fishing grounds by overfishing and now they are doing the same to the fishing grounds of some of the poorest nations on earth while at the same time failing to manage their own home fishing grounds on a sustainable basis. It's positively criminal. Those illegal fishing vessels are no better than pirates."

    I'd say considerably worse than pirates considering the example set by Somalia - where fish stocks have recovered. I suggest a solution is as easy as the problem, their effectively pirates, so treat them like pirates and set a bounty for sending them to the bottom. :)

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  • 18. At 07:00am on 10 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    "The Sunken Billions" is an assessment published by the World Bank & FAO in October 2008.

    It concluded that economic losses in marine fisheries resulting from poor management, inefficiencies and overfishing add up to a US$ 50 billion per year. Over the last three decades, these losses total over $US 2 trillion. And while many fishing operations are profitable, the global picture is that fish catching operations are buoyed up by large subsidies, leading to further overfishing.

    http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/8088/fao-report-finds-the-sunken-billions

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  • 19. At 09:37am on 10 Jul 2010, JunkkMale wrote:

    6. At 3:14pm on 09 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:
    Jack Hughes #1.


    Nothing like a bit of selective 'RorR' (Rules or Referrals) to make following a debate a bit of a trial.

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  • 20. At 10:12am on 10 Jul 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    It all sounds very fishy to me.

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  • 21. At 10:18am on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    How long before Al Gore writes "An Inconvenient Haddock" and sets up a cap and trade scheme so we Europeans all pay a tax every time we eat a fish finger.
    Gordon Brown would have backed it.

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  • 22. At 10:44am on 10 Jul 2010, excellentcatblogger wrote:

    Is there not some dumb rule where fishing boats returning to port can only unload fish of a minimum size or they will be fined heavily? This means that some fish thrown back live to fight again, but also quite a few do not survive the experience. So the true extent of overfishing is the landed catch plus the dead fish thrown back.

    Why not have a rule where mesh size of the net is a given standard? Anyone found with any other net with non mesh size gets clobbered even if they are not using it.

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  • 23. At 10:44am on 10 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    21. At 10:18am on 10 Jul 2010, DrBrianS wrote:
    How long before Al Gore writes "An Inconvenient Haddock" and sets up a cap and trade scheme so we Europeans all pay a tax every time we eat a fish finger.
    Gordon Brown would have backed it.

    ---------------------------------------

    It would be an excellent follow up to his previous book, An Inconvenient Red Herring.

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  • 24. At 11:34am on 10 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #14 Yorkurbantree wrote:

    Yet further evidence of our feeble governments in action. Surely it can't be so hard to live within our means? Useless.

    But why are you blaming governments for the failings of individual people? If people want to reduce the amount of fish taken from the sea, they should stop eating fish. If people want to reduce carbon emissions, they should drive smaller cars, and so on.

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  • 25. At 11:55am on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    24. bowmanthebard wrote:

    "If people want to reduce the amount of fish taken from the sea, they should stop eating fish. If people want to reduce carbon emissions, they should drive smaller cars, and so on."

    May I humbly suggest that we all reduce our impact on the environment by eating smaller fish. We can also wear smaller clothes and smaller shoes. My impact is less because I'm bald and therefore have smaller haircuts.

    I balance this reduction in my environmental impact against my need to use enormous condoms.

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  • 26. At 12:14pm on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    And codpieces.

    Which is what this story is.

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  • 27. At 12:28pm on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    It's also a load of pollocks.

    Come on guys. Humour punctures pomposity. More fish jokes please.

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  • 28. At 12:54pm on 10 Jul 2010, eddhind wrote:

    It's worth pointing out in the context of this very complex argument that the general public,and indeed many of the scientists who make the stock assessments for ICES, are unaware of the reality of how fish are landed. Often the problems are not ecological but to do with poor local markets and poor policy (yes the CFP, I'm talking about you). I will just give you one example for now as it is probably possible to talk about this forever.

    In the instance of hake, a fish that is under pressure in many areas, a box of hake (roughly 5-10 individual fish) landed by a fisherman can sell for as little as a Euro when landed in many EU ports. When you look at the the fact that an average landing of this fish would be about 100 boxes for a mid-size trawler it becomes immediately obvious that that is never going to cover the costs of that fisherman (fuel, crew, license costs, port charges, etc.). The reason the cost of hake is so low in the EU is due to a flooded market, with many cheap imports been flown in from Africa, where the cost of the product really must be hardly anything to make that economic! What sometimes happens is that the fish is then dumped at sea in EU ports as it can't even be sold. If fisherman cannot make money they are forced to fish more and more to cover the costs. It's easy to say they should stop fishing, but it is there career. It is all they know. How would you like it if your job was made obsolete? And after all there will always be fishing. We should be able to support a sustainable and profitable EU fishery.

    Instead of looking at the actual catches we need to look at what drives these catches. It doesn't really matter what the consumer eats. Infact in countries such as the UK and Ireland we can afford to eat a lot more fish.
    The problem is actually the amount of perfectly god sized fish that is being dumped at sea because it cannot be landed due to poor execution of quota allocation or market reasons.

    In some fisheries in the EU (e.g. Mackerel) discards of fish can be up to 800%. So we eat 1 fish out of every 9 we catch. We should really focus on eliminating problems such as this before we worry about how much fish.

    Don't worry about HOW MUCH fish you eat. Worry about WHAT fish you eat. Mackerel are being discarded because the consumer demands a fish that is 50 grams heavier. Prawns are being discarded because the consumer won't eat a prawn with a black head as it doesn't look nice on the plate. Consumers only want the herring roe. Herring without roe in are thrown back in the sea dead in their masses. People want organic salmon that has been farmed (it's not usually wild) by feeding it 4 times the amount of fish that it becomes on your plate.

    These are the real problems.

    Eat fish, but eat it ethically.

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  • 29. At 12:59pm on 10 Jul 2010, eddhind wrote:

    @excellentcatblogger

    Good post. For your information the amount of fish that survive when thrown back would probably be less than 1% (except in the case of some species such as dogfish, which we don't eat anyway).

    As for mesh size, within EU waters there are mesh size restrictions. They could probably go up a bit, but in most cases they are not the main problem. Fishermen are doing a lot to avoid these bycatches. As any fisherman will tell you he only wants to catch what he can sell. Catching other stuff is a real hassle for him/her as they have to spend hours sorting the cash. Unfortunately in some countries there is a market for small fish, which I don't think should be caught, but to be honest we need to find a way to protect some of the biggest fish. Small fish don't spawn. Big fish do. Without big fish that will be that unfortunately.

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  • 30. At 1:19pm on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    28 Good post eddhind

    However it's sanctimonious to suggest eating fish ethically when the EU regulations on size lead to so much waste that it becomes pretty well impossible.

    Anyhow what's a god sized fish?

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  • 31. At 1:54pm on 10 Jul 2010, eddhind wrote:

    @DrBrian

    I didn't say you could eat an EU fish ethically ;)
    Of course you can really. IN the EU's defense every fish landed in the EU (if the regulations are followed) are within quota. The problem with EU policy is that many good fish are not landed as they have to be discarded by law, which means we have to out and catch new ones later in the year when we needn't. If a fisherman can catch his/her quota in 6 months and have made his/her money they can tie the boat to the wall for the rest of the year. The quota system can mean they catch double what they need to make a living and they still only make the same money, if not less due to the increased expenses of more trips. IT is in a word ridiculous!

    As for a good size fish it really depends on the species. Preferably a good fish is one that has had the chance to reproduce at least once in it's life. That would be a fair assessment. That said if we land small fish by mistake, we should not be discarding them. Everything should be landed at least to use as fishmeal or something. Any fish that goes back is dead. No fish can survive in a trawl for 1 hour, let alone 5. Discarded fish rot on the bottom out of sea, encouraging scavenging and putting ecosystems out of kilter. Many fishermen will tell you that discarding god fish is a crime. They are basically right I think.

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  • 32. At 2:18pm on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    eddhind

    I give up making of jokes about fish.

    I simply wondered whether god fish was good fish or cod fish. There is no doubt that discarding god fish ought to be a crime.

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  • 33. At 2:26pm on 10 Jul 2010, andy765gtr wrote:

    "A group of environmentally-minded economists "

    is that like a 'rational christian'?

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  • 34. At 3:02pm on 10 Jul 2010, Gordon wrote:

    Mr Black, do you really believe this drivel you write?

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  • 35. At 6:42pm on 10 Jul 2010, BarneyL wrote:

    @33

    In the sense that both are far more common than you try to imply then yes it's exactly like that.

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  • 36. At 7:54pm on 10 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #32 DrBrianS wrote:

    "I give up making of jokes about fish."

    Well kindly get back on the job -- I for one was amused.

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  • 37. At 7:58pm on 10 Jul 2010, D Dortman wrote:

    Again it all goes back to the same thing, which all commentators studiously avoid:



    POPULATION - we can't feed 6 Billion people.... how are we going to feed 9 Billion people by 2050?

    You can be as efficient as you want, the numbers just don't add up.



    The Earth needs about 3 Billion humans on it to be sustainable, anything is is just delaying the inevitable.

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  • 38. At 8:02pm on 10 Jul 2010, D Dortman wrote:

    Oh and anyone that wants to understand why fish stocks are inevitably doomed without Human population control and serious fishing regulation, then this is worth a read:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

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  • 39. At 9:59pm on 10 Jul 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    After trawling through this blog and discarding some of the catch, I thought about the names of types of fish being needlessly discarded.
    MACKEREL
    HERRING
    SMALL PRAWNS

    Anyone good at anagrams?

    eddhind
    Dog fish is eaten by quite a few people. It is quite strong tasting and a bit chewy but OK when you are hungry.
    I believe fashion-fads and financial greed have dictated which type of fish are caught and brought back to harbour. There is no such thing as the wrong sort of fish, but in these days of insanity, any food item of the wrong type, size or shape is discarded under legislation.
    It is a pity that legislation is not firmer with manufacturers who contaminate our food with harmful fats. excess salt and excess sugar.

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  • 40. At 10:18pm on 10 Jul 2010, eddhind wrote:

    @sensibleoldgrannie

    Indeed you can eat dogfish (bit sandpapery though!) But at the moment there is no market for it. If fishermen landed it they wouldn't be able to sell it. Thankfully for teh dogfish it is one of the few fish that can survive being discarded. That said too many dogfish compared to other fish and the ecosystem loses balance.

    You are right about the legislation though. The place to enforce that kind of legislation to stop discrimination of catch would be on the fish buyers if possible. i.e. They couldn't choose the size of mackerel or the colour of prawn. I can't see how you will do it though.

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  • 41. At 11:00pm on 10 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    Dogfish is sold as Rock Salmon.

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  • 42. At 11:06pm on 10 Jul 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    "We're clearly enjoying our fish in Europe - the great taste, and the health benefits it brings."

    Well, except for the mercury I suppose.

    A lot of the so called bycatch, of fish species that there is no market for - or worse, fish which there is a market for but are too small, are discarded, and just die - are a valuable source of protein that could be utilized.

    Given what they make 'hot dogs' and various sausages out of, surely there must be some palatable product that could be made from this bycatch, and effectively marketed with the right name. Indeed, in the future I have absolutely no doubt this will happen as supplies of more preferred fish decline and/or become much more expensive.

    Obviously dogfish would need a new name, except perhaps for the Korean market.

    Of course, this will be protested by the Sea Gull Society, and the reduction in gull populations due to the loss of this bycatch feast will be described as a sign of apocalytic global warming or something like that.

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  • 43. At 00:37am on 11 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    CanadianRockies #42

    Mercury is something I know a lot about. I've worked with it since the mid 1960's.
    The amount in sea fish is insignificant.
    River fish, especially in areas downstream of pulp mills, were once of considerable risk especially in Canada, Japan and Scandinavia due to residues dumped in rivers after paper making. These were cleaned up in the West in the late 70's although the former USSR remains a poisonous dump.
    There is, by the way, no evidence that mercury in dental amalgam has ever done anyone any harm except for very rare cases of heavy metal allergy (probably not to the mercury).

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  • 44. At 01:06am on 11 Jul 2010, BBVegan wrote:

    The greatest scientist of the twentieth century demonstrated the ONLY solution to declining fishstocks. Decline eating fish. Albert Einstein did this, and said: "Nothing will increase our chances of survival as a species so much as our evolution to vegetarianism."
    It is now forty years since I was deep-line fishing off the north coast of Iceland. I was sickened by the slaughter and the waste and have not eaten a fish from that day. If we are truly ethical, we, who have a choice, will leave the fish for marginal peoples who do not.
    D Dortman refers to the feeding of 9 billion. Arthur C. Clark calculated that our planet can adequately nourish 11 billion humans on plant-based nutrition. If you don't like the idea of living without meat and fish, just try starvation, because those are now the only two options open to us.

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  • 45. At 01:13am on 11 Jul 2010, BBVegan wrote:

    Many thanks to Richard Black for opening this constructive debate, and for the substantial technical and statistical input from other bloggers

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  • 46. At 05:42am on 11 Jul 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #43. DrBrianS

    Thanks for that info. All this time I was thinking that perhaps mercury might explain all the AGW mad hatters in Denmark but I guess there must be another explanation.

    And Rock Salmon sounds much better than dogfish! Probably sound even better in French, which would make it much sought after by the sophisticated set.

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  • 47. At 07:23am on 11 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] Sensibleoldgrannie at #39

    You wrote: I believe fashion-fads and financial greed have dictated which type of fish are caught and brought back to harbour.

    This is not completely true. As more traditional fish stocks have declined, especially of those fish more easily caught in relatively shallower coastal waters, and as fishing technology & gear has improved, fishing efforts have concentrated increasingly on species found at greater depths, further out to sea. So the fashion fad was often a 'making a virtue out of necessity' and involved a lot of marketing to encourage people to eat types of fish most would never have imaging eating when other more popular fish was available or not so expensive. For those deeper water species which breed relatively slower than the shallower species (many are slower growing, later maturing), they are also more vulnerable to overfishing.

    The way which industrial fishing has noticeably depleted the topmost links in aquatic food chains was eloquently described by Pauly and his colleagues in 1998 in a paper entitled "Fishing down marine food webs" (Pauly et al (1998), Science 279: 860–863).

    Another version of this work appeared in American Scientist in 2000 as "Fishing Down Aquatic Food Webs". Unlike the Science paper, this later version is open access and can be seen at:




    later open access version of the above paper can be found at:

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  • 48. At 09:21am on 11 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #44 BBVegan wrote:

    Arthur C. Clark calculated that our planet can adequately nourish 11 billion humans on plant-based nutrition.

    I imagine it's quite a bit more than that, but do you think it would be a better world if there were 11 billion people running out of food as opposed to 9 billion running out of food?

    In the past, it was 6 billion running out of food, and before that 3 billion running out of food.

    I really don't understand why people seem to have such difficulties understanding why the population was low in the past, and why it's much higher now. But perhaps most comical of all are those who wring their hands about "our survival as a species" and seem not to care about the deaths of millions of individuals.

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  • 49. At 09:54am on 11 Jul 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    supersensibleoldgrannie to the rescue.

    DOG FISH A LA CARTE

    1) Skin dogfish first
    2) Fillet dogfish into two long strips by removing the central spine
    3) Cut the strips of dog fish into bite sized portions
    4) Season fish pieces with salt and freshly ground pepper (other seasonings of choice)
    5) Dip each portion of fish into tempera batter ( beer batter; crispy bread crumbs or whatever)
    6) Fry the coated pieces until crispy and golden
    7) Serve with freshly chopped green stuff (parsley;coriander leaves;dill )
    8) Serve with a colourful side salad and a large wedge of lemon or lime

    ed hind
    TV chefs can do more to influence the faddy public more than any legislation can. Even old grannies like me can influence people to at least try to eat differently.

    simon-swede
    If you noticed, I used the subjective, 'I believe' rather than state as a matter of fact. I was rather annoyed at the idea of perfectly good mackerel or herring being thrown back into the sea, DEAD.

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  • 50. At 10:43am on 11 Jul 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    If you want to take those population extrapolations to their ultimate limit the maximum population of the Earth is about a trillion - or more. Thats using massive ultra-industrial scale farming and extended vertical population structures everywhere and power through something like large networks of fusion reactors. Of course there will be no nature or oceans or empty areas left anywhere- just a planet wide city, a mile or more high- even the air will have to be recycled by machines. In Star Wars the capital planet Couscant is based directly on just such extrapolations.

    In more realistic scales =-
    On subsistence type farming maximum population is about 2 billion.
    Using mechanization and industrial fertilizers etc that rises to 10 or 11 billion. (the length of soil sustainability is questionable)
    Clearing all vacant and non-productive areas for farming raises that to about 15 billion.
    Draining and replacing or covering the oceans raises that to about 30 billion.

    The caveat to the above is that none of us would want to live there.- But what happens is that things change very gradually and in a hundred years draining the oceans may seem like simple logic to everyone, especially if all the marine animals are dead.

    Alternatives
    Using tech to create hyper intensive self contained production units can support say 10 million people per cubic kilometer of active volume. If human food is switched to algae only that can be increased to maybe 50 or 100 million. The point is that the limit is basically removed and with enough money and energy pretty much any population level can be supported without destroying nature. Of course money is the BIG BIG problem...

    Population control is simpler and cheaper, we all know a lot uglier. If the current population is rising by 70 million a year then a compensation factor is to kill 70 million a year, double that for a controlled reduction. (I looked into all these statistics in detail)
    Population control by family planning is far better but it is very slow and introduces an instability that could be very dangerous. (leading to a population of mostly old and very few young people) If culling methods become necessary then what many call the worst thing in the world becomes the least worst solution. There are many others but they all seem to be worse to me.
    Nuclear war is a very fast method but carries the danger of destroying to much critical infrastructure, also escalation and getting revenge could push things till half the cities in the world were destroyed or damaged.

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  • 51. At 10:55am on 11 Jul 2010, RobWansbeck wrote:

    Is it the Norwegians who have a solution? They make it illegal to return fish to the sea and track down trawlers that break this rule.
    They then fine trawlers for landing the wrong fish.

    Their reasoning is that professional fishermen should know what they are catching and should be made to pay if they get it wrong rather than dump the fish back in the sea.

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  • 52. At 11:01am on 11 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    Robert Lucien #50.

    "Nuclear war is a very fast method but carries the danger of destroying to much critical infrastructure.."

    "Efficiency and progress is ours once more
    Now that we have the Neutron bomb
    It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
    Away with excess enemy
    But no less value to property
    No sense in war but perfect sense at home.."
    (Dead Kennedys "Kill The Poor")

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  • 53. At 11:20am on 11 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Is it really all that bad to dump fish back into the sea? Don't dead fish become fish food?

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  • 54. At 12:21pm on 11 Jul 2010, davblo wrote:

    Robert Lucien #50: "...and with enough money... Of course money is the BIG BIG problem..."

    Funny; to blame it on 'money'. I always thought of money as a very 'virtual' kind of thing.

    A kind of credit note that says someone is 'owed' something (to be determined) for something they did (or sold).

    To say we don't have enough money... isn't that really just saying 'we haven't done enough to that end'?

    /davblo

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  • 55. At 12:39pm on 11 Jul 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    post 50 and 52
    I can extrapolate from this that you are not government ministers. Could you imagine the news headlines if you were? 'Government ministers under guise as bloggers discuss alternative methods of depopulating the planet.' Nope! Not a hope!
    Anyway, there are plenty of viruses that can do the job and are possibly more democratic in their kill selection because they kill rich and poor alike and cannot be contained by political or country borders.

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  • 56. At 1:05pm on 11 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    Bowman at #53

    "Is it really all that bad to dump fish back into the sea? Don't dead fish become fish food?"

    Yes, it is that bad. While its true that the cast away fish can become fish food (more likely food for gulls I suspect), this is outweighed by other negative impacts. For example, many of the fish that are dumped are juveniles. By killing fish before are at peak breeding age you are having a considerable impact on that population.

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  • 57. At 3:00pm on 11 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    44. BBVegan wrote:

    "D Dortman refers to the feeding of 9 billion. Arthur C. Clark calculated that our planet can adequately nourish 11 billion humans on plant-based nutrition."

    Love the name BB. Never liked Clark's sci-fi much.

    Any such numbers fed as vegetarians are clearly impossible without ploughing up all the rain-forests and prairies.

    This discussion is turning into "Soylent Green".
    Perhaps we can keep going by harvesting Whales.
    After all they're mammals so we won't have to lose sleep over "fish debt"'

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  • 58. At 5:14pm on 11 Jul 2010, ezeezee wrote:

    I read somewhere a while back that you could fit all the people on the earth onto the Isle of Wight... which for many would be an improvement on where they currently are i'm sure.

    Should we ever attempt to try this could I please have a space in front of the bar at The New Inn at Shalfleet.

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  • 59. At 7:23pm on 11 Jul 2010, davblo wrote:

    ezeezee #58: "I read somewhere a while back that you could fit all the people on the earth onto the Isle of Wight... "

    I take it you don't like simple maths...

    Area Isle of Wight: 380 km2 = 380,000,000 m2

    Population of Earth: 6,800,000,000 people

    Population of Earth on Isle of Wight: 6,800/380 = 18 people/m2

    Sound a bit of a tight fit to me.

    I guess you must have read that a long time ago...

    /davblo

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  • 60. At 11:04pm on 11 Jul 2010, ezeezee wrote:

    Davblo @ 98 Yes it was indeed a long time ago but also at a time when 1 sqm would fit a lot more people. However it would have been back before I was born that it held true. Sorry I should have checked. Bit sad really as i had always taken some comfort from the thought of it.

    Hope Richard posts something new soon as the photo of hooked fish is spooking me out.

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  • 61. At 11:13pm on 11 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    60. ezeezee wrote:

    "Davblo @ 98 Yes it was indeed a long time ago but also at a time when 1 sqm would fit a lot more people."

    Were they that much thinner?

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  • 62. At 11:27pm on 11 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    Ezeezee.
    You're right about the spooky fish.

    Come on Richard. Can't we have a heart-rending, earth-threatening, Al Gore enriching, trillions-spending story about some creepy-crawly going extinct?

    Or more cuddly polar bears sitting forlornly on oil slicks this time. They're also spooky but more aesthetic than fish.

    Also. The Germans have threatened to turn Paul the psychic octopus into calamari. Are we Europeans about to find ourselves being accused of octopus debt?

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  • 63. At 11:29pm on 11 Jul 2010, BBVegan wrote:

    DrBrianS,
    Thanks for the statistics, but you are arguing with Einstein. He spoke and reflected on this subject for decades before becoming a vegetarian around 1950, concluding that nothing else could do as much to increase our chances of survival. Plant-based nutrition(the fastest and surest contribution to replenishing the oceans) does NOT require the plowing-up of a single acre of forest. In fact it actually releases land, not only to feed the hungry, but to replenish our forests. How so?
    There is approx one acre of arable/agricultural land per person on our planet. The average UK or USA meat-based diet requires about TWO ACRES, one to feed the person and provide dairy products and eggs, the second to help feed the 55 BILLION farm animals (Yes, we are currently trying to feed SEVEN farm animals for every human on the planet) which meat-eating pays to be bred, fed and slaughtered EVERY YEAR. For the past forty years my very enjoyable Vegan nutrition has required around a THIRD OF AN ACRE per year(including imports). Thus, under Arthur C. Clark / Einstein calculations, millions of acres can be (and ARE being) returned to forest, wildlife habitat and garden-centered, non predatory human habitation.
    This is NOT a dream, nor is it a philosophy or a theory. It has been practiced with dramatic success by millions of people of conscience, right up to the likes of Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martina Navratilova. They demonstrated the benefits of what has now become a dire necessity.
    In critical times our survival has always depended on adapting. This time it's pretty simple.We revert to plant based nutrition,freeing ourselves, our descendants, and billions of acres, from extreme waste and violence. Or we can just keep on talking, transferring our guilt to governments and multinationals.

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  • 64. At 11:59pm on 11 Jul 2010, BBVegan wrote:

    Mr Davblo,
    Ye be dead right 'bout dividing 6.8 billion by the I.O.W. Thank 'ee kindly fer calcurating 'ow crowdified Wight's Isle would be with 18 bodies per sqirm eater.
    Now at larst I understands why all them there festivellers at Glarstonbury are always climbering onter each other's shoulters. They've dun run clean out o' meters !

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  • 65. At 01:35am on 12 Jul 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    59. At 7:23pm on 11 Jul 2010, davblo wrote:
    "
    ezeezee #58: "I read somewhere a while back that you could fit all the people on the earth onto the Isle of Wight... "

    I take it you don't like simple maths...
    Area Isle of Wight: 380 km2 = 380,000,000 m2
    Population of Earth: 6,800,000,000 people
    Population of Earth on Isle of Wight: 6,800/380 = 18 people/m2
    Sound a bit of a tight fit to me."

    I reckon if you were packing people in meat crates you could get 18 per square meter easy, no one would have any room to move but you could do it. Actually I've done it a few times myself getting on the west bound Central line train from Tottenham Court Road at 6 pm on a busy Friday. Maybe thats why I'm back in rural Northumberland :)

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  • 66. At 03:49am on 12 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    Becoming vegetarian would only lessen the population problem for a short time. It doesn't really change the reproductive potential of humans. You also ignore the fact that humans evolved as omnivores and need some animal products in their diet for key nutrients such as vitamin B12 etc. unless you plan to replace them with synthetic versions.

    So the question arises, why become a vegetarian when it doesn't really address the population problem, it merely puts if off ever so briefly? You might become a vegetarian for religious or philosophical reasons, but not as a solution to human populations exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment they have access to. Recognizing that some humans have access to a much wider environment than others. But in the end there is only one earth. No timber harvests or fish farming on Mars!

    Given the ability or the relatively educated people who comment on this blog to make snide remarks about the collapse of fish populations, it seems unlikely that the population problem will ever be addressed by intentional human planning and action. This given that it is an even more socially and politically sensitive topic than fishery collapse.

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  • 67. At 06:09am on 12 Jul 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    Robert Lucien at post 50,
    Vertical populations have been tried before and they don't work. Many cities have decapitated vertical towers to more reasonable levels of about three levels. If the lift breaks in high rise tower blocks it rains used nappies, garbage and analogue TV's.

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  • 68. At 06:41am on 12 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    ezeezee #58: "I read somewhere a while back that you could fit all the people on the earth onto the Isle of Wight... "

    Yor note reminded me of John Brunner's Sci-Fi novel "Stand on Zanzibar" which was published in 1968.

    The underlying theme of the story is overpopulation and its projected consequences. Brunner apparently took his title from the claim made earlier that century that the world's population could fit onto the Isle of Wight if they were all standing upright.

    Brunner reckoned that the growing world population now required a larger island – the 3.5 billion people living in 1968 could stand together on the Isle of Man, while the 7 billion people who he projected would be alive in 2010 would need to stand on Zanzibar (area 1554 square km). By the end of the book, they have overflowed the island and some are up to their knees deep in the Indian Ocean.

    Believe it or not, it's a fun book!

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  • 69. At 07:33am on 12 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #66 HungeryWalleye wrote:

    You might become a vegetarian for religious or philosophical reasons, but not as a solution to human populations exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment they have access to.

    I agree with this, but be aware that the problem of "human populations exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment they have access to" is just the standard human condition, and always has been. That is what has determined the level of the human population -- and that of every other species -- since life emerged on Earth.

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  • 70. At 09:33am on 12 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    sensibleoldgrannie #55.

    sorry if you misread my post, reading Robert's #50 (nuclear warfare being too destructive) simply brought back memories of the 'delicate' cynicism (IMO) of a thirty year old punk song; thinking how prescient those lyrics now seem.

    fwiw, I do think most of Jello Biafra's lyrics and assorted policitcal comments insightful.



    BBVegan, DrBrianS #various.

    "Arthur C. Clark"

    Clarke with an 'e', please.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke



    simon-swede #68.

    never read John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" but the image of a mass of people which "..overflowed the island and some are up to their knees deep in the Indian Ocean" is very similar to Larry Niven's "Bordered in Black" short story, written in the 1970s, I think; in Niven's story the people were the 'farmed' (for alien consumption) food though.

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  • 71. At 09:56am on 12 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    jr4412 at #70

    Re: Bordered in Black

    - "Food animals ! You understand Turnbull"

    - "Yes. I hadn't thought of that. And they'd breed them for size . . . "

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  • 72. At 10:16am on 12 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    sensibleoldgrannie #67.

    "Vertical populations have been tried before and they don't work."

    not really, living in a 'highrise' isn't quite the same as vertical urbanisation.

    while there are plenty good concepts (like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_City_1000), none of these have been built, afaik.

    vertical farming too, still is 'on the horizon' only:

    http://www.alldaybuffet.org/2008/01/09/ecological-strategies-in-todays-art/

    http://www.bdonline.co.uk/comment/going-dutch-offers-food-for-thought/5000573.article

    "If the lift breaks in high rise tower blocks it rains used nappies, garbage and analogue TV's."

    that may well be cultural! I've seen nappies disposed in the way you say in this country (Leytonstone, London), it's doubtful whether people in Far-Eastern societies are as anti-social (you'd probably go to prison in Singapore).

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  • 73. At 10:18am on 12 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    simon-swede #71.

    nice. :-)

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  • 74. At 10:38am on 12 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    63. BBVegan wrote:

    "DrBrianS,
    Thanks for the statistics, but you are arguing with Einstein. He spoke and reflected on this subject for decades before becoming a vegetarian around 1950"


    BB. Please note that Einstein was pretty well burnt out by the Second World War. His ramblings as he moved into old age mirror the daft imaginings of us all as we move from crinkly to crumbly. I've sat on committees with elderly Trekkies who believed that we should move asteroids into Earth orbit for mining and were completely unfazed when it was pointed out to them that, even if it were possible, nothing was of sufficient value to warrant the cost and the danger (except the spice on the planet Arakis in 'Dune').
    I'm sure Gandhi, Tolstoy, Navratilova and millions of other veggies made a free choice and all, no doubt, lived and live into their hundreds completely sickness free and bursting with moral righteousness.
    It's an Islington affectation but not for everybody and any attempt to force the general population to adopt vegetarianism would lead to civil war and the placing of politicians heads on spikes in Westminster, an attractive idea come to think of it.
    It occurs to me that quoting Einstein, Navratilova et-al, all of them Illuminati in their own fields, as experts outside their range of expertise is akin to quoting thousands of 'experts' who know little or nothing about the alleged horrors of man-made global warming. This is argument-com-Bianca Jagger or Sting or Prince Charles.

    More fish jokes please.

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  • 75. At 2:02pm on 12 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    Re: #74

    DrB, Living on a vegan diet doesn't actually help you live any longer.

    It just seems longer.

    Much, much longer.

    However, if we want a solution to overpopulation more sensible than veganism, it's really quite simple. We need to eat people. Not Soylent Green style as was suggested earlier, but barbecue style, free range homo sapiens.

    Obviously we would never force a vegetarian or vegan to eat flesh, so we can eat them first and spare them the oncoming horror.

    Then prisoners. Consider it a form of tough love. They're only taking up space and consuming food, so break out the spicy sauce. You'll think twice before not paying your library fine in the future...

    After that we can halve the remaining human population at a stroke, and all we need do is eat one more person. To make it more pleasant, I could eat someone you despise and you could eat someone I despise.

    True, this will mean the planet will lose every politician, traffic warden and X Factor contestant in a single day, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make...

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  • 76. At 2:35pm on 12 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    Pleased to see that population is increasing being discussed, we will soon have to make some tough decisions about the size of our future population and the types of people that we want in that population i.e. should violent offenders be allowed to passing on their genetic inheritance?

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  • 77. At 4:01pm on 12 Jul 2010, Kamboshigh wrote:

    Oh I have missed some great bloggs whilst I was away whitewashing the house.

    This is a bit fishy, that Richard comes out with this load of blubber all of a sudden. Several months back we had a blogg about British Indian Ocean Territory and the setting up of a marine reserve. Oh it was going to be wonderful a beautiful heaven on earth for marine life.

    Wrong it is a great big get rich scheme for one particular fishing fleet whos partners and share holders are mentioned above along with a certain knight of the Realm.

    As they say follow the money.

    Has anybody thought about fish farming? Didn't think so

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  • 78. At 4:32pm on 12 Jul 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    There is a larger population because there is more food produced. No different than the animal world, available food dictates population. It is not a population issue as much as the energy needed to produce and transport that food and that is not the same. Vegan solutions are somewhat like religions..offering hope based on beliefs and superior lifesyle....hungry people eat what is available, only in the West do people have the luxury of such thinking. What you eat doesn't make you a better person, only what you think and how you act do. Pol Pot was a veggie guy. Insects, larva and rodents are a big part of the diet of much of the poor, they don't have a local butcher.

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  • 79. At 5:39pm on 12 Jul 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    #75. At 2:02pm on 12 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:
    "
    Re: #74
    ...
    However, if we want a solution to overpopulation more sensible than veganism, it's really quite simple. We need to eat people. Not Soylent Green style as was suggested earlier, but barbecue style, free range homo sapiens.

    Obviously we would never force a vegetarian or vegan to eat flesh, so we can eat them first and spare them the oncoming horror."


    (Silver foil hat on.) Cannibalism thats why the new world order created 'Chavs', tasty guilt free human protein enough for everybody.

    Of course the real problem with cannibalism is making sure you stay a dinner and don't end up on the menu yourself. Boy are there some difficult moral questions here though -yes there's the question of criminals etc, then what about the disabled, and what about immigrants is it last in first out? Do the poor eat the rich or the rich eat the poor? Then theres the question of children, optimum eating age is around 18 and after that we get steadily tougher and more chewy. (one of the reasons being 'boy' on one of the old sailing ships could be a particularly dangerous occupation)
    Or maybe we could start raiding the French, they look particularly tasty...

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  • 80. At 6:37pm on 12 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    Obviously we'll have to work out some sort of pecking order (I crack myself up).

    Once we've eaten the veggies, vegans, criminals, lowlifes, Mancunians and gingers; then I suggest a week long Battle Royale where absolutely anyone can be considered fair game and any hunting method is fine, provided it gives the quarry a sporting chance of survival.

    We'll have to set up some sort of independent adjudicators for that bit...

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  • 81. At 7:23pm on 12 Jul 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Brunnen_G: #80

    I was sure you would include the "Warmist" on your list.

    People should take into account that wars at one level or another have not had a rest in some time. These things have a natural correction cycle and those who believe in the ability of man to rule over nature should read the historical evidence that records population decreases due to any number of reasons or in combination. If you watched the production or non-production of last year's flu vaccine you should understand that some new strain would wipe out many before any treatment would be made available. Nature always seeks balance.

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  • 82. At 7:27pm on 12 Jul 2010, MangoChutney wrote:

    @Robert Lucien & Brunnen_g

    Beat you to this particular conversation ;)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2010/06/from_the_international_whaling.html#P97692763

    /Mango

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  • 83. At 7:48pm on 12 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    DrBrianS #43.

    "Mercury ... cleaned up in the West in the late 70's although the former USSR remains a poisonous dump."

    ..globally, mercury pollution may be on the rise..

    ..it seems like a case where atmospheric deposition might play a role..

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  • 84. At 7:53pm on 12 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    RE: #81

    Good grief, get a sense of humour.

    This is why your side is losing the PR battle. Environmentalists are, as a rule, the most poe-faced dull, humourless, pompous and self-righteous people one could ever hope to avoid.

    Way to ruin a moment of levity in an otherwise dull thread...

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  • 85. At 8:10pm on 12 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    83. jr4412 wrote:
    DrBrianS #43.

    "Mercury ... cleaned up in the West in the late 70's although the former USSR remains a poisonous dump."
    ..globally, mercury pollution may be on the rise..
    ..it seems like a case where atmospheric deposition might play a role..


    The truly astonishing thing is that the replacement of incandescent light bulbs by low-energy luminescent bulbs will release tons of mercury vapour and liquid into the environment.
    This breathtaking idiocy is brought to you courtesy of tunnel-vision Greens concerned with reducing electricity usage and thus CO2.
    God help us all and save us from these morons and the politicians that suck up to them.

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  • 86. At 8:41pm on 12 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    DrBrianS #85.

    "..the replacement of incandescent light bulbs by low-energy luminescent bulbs.."

    agree, bad move.

    "..brought to you courtesy of tunnel-vision Greens.."

    hmm, it takes two to tango; I see the professional class of politician (ie from college into an internship into local/national politics w/out break to gain real world experience, plus predominantly business and humanities degrees) as a much bigger problem.

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  • 87. At 11:55pm on 12 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    Brunnen_G #84.

    "..an otherwise dull thread..."

    luckily, you managed four posts in spite of that..

    (note to self: restore levity)

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  • 88. At 07:52am on 13 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 89. At 08:51am on 13 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    People have been happily eating one another for years until meddling missionaries stopped them. Bloody do-gooders.

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  • 90. At 11:19am on 13 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    Oh dear. Back to the same old humourless slagging match. Let us remind ourselves of the wisdom of George Walker Bush, the 43rd President of the USA, on this subject.

    "I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20Jcrk6jGfo

    XD

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  • 91. At 11:33am on 13 Jul 2010, rossglory wrote:

    DrBrianS

    "This breathtaking idiocy is brought to you courtesy of tunnel-vision Greens concerned with reducing electricity usage and thus CO2."

    so we've created a moronic culture where we give no consideration to the energy we use based on cheap, subsidised fossil fuels (a one off gift from nature) and an assumption that the planet is a bottomless dustbin and in trying to create a more rational world a few mistakes are made......that makes greens tunnel visioned?

    i know, let's do nothing....you're all doing very well

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  • 92. At 12:41pm on 13 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    91.rossglory wrote:
    DrBrianS
    "This breathtaking idiocy is brought to you courtesy of tunnel-vision Greens concerned with reducing electricity usage and thus CO2."
    "in trying to create a more rational world a few mistakes are made......that makes greens tunnel visioned?"


    You've misunderstood my comment. Allow me to explain further so that you can see the light.

    The Greens are not a monolithic union, more a confederacy of small organisations, many with competing aims, who co-operate on some issues and whose agendas differ on others. Pushing their individual interests often prevents individuals from seeing the bigger picture.
    In this case the tunnel vision of ameliorating the perceived evil of man-made global warming (which I happen to believe is a fantasy) has resulted in the very real poisoning of the environment by a well-known neurotoxin, mercury.
    You may scoff but look at it this way. If, instead of mercury, a radioactive material, say plutonium, was being released drop by drop into the environment, would you be so blase' and shrug and say it was OK that "a few mistakes are made"?

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  • 93. At 1:53pm on 13 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    DrBrianS #92.

    "In this case the [Green] tunnel vision of ameliorating the perceived evil of man-made global warming (which I happen to believe is a fantasy) has resulted in the very real poisoning of the environment by a well-known neurotoxin, mercury."

    those pesky greens have been at it for a long time, eh?

    "Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus and was found in Egyptian tombs that date from 1500 BCE. In China, India and Tibet, mercury use was thought to prolong life, heal fractures, and maintain generally good health. The ancient Greeks used mercury in ointments and the Romans used it in cosmetics. By 500 BCE mercury was used to make amalgams with other metals."
    http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/mercury-element-/history.html

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  • 94. At 1:54pm on 13 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    Global crowding is fast emerging as the biggest threat to humanity, soon Richard will be able to stop writing all those articles about climate change, indeed I think that it is important that climate change is not used to justify population control, or population control may be damaged by association.

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  • 95. At 1:55pm on 13 Jul 2010, mr_jacky wrote:

    The problem in west africa is deeply worrying. I recently read an excellent report on this by the environmental justice foundation (www.ejfoundation.org). Some of the poorest people on the planet are being robbed of their staple diet, purely because western nations are unable to manage their own stocks effectively.

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  • 96. At 3:36pm on 13 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    "Fish debt day" as a topic for pure debate is an interesting concept. Even away from pure theory it is a concept that needs examining along with all the others, as clearly stating a problem can sometimes help inspire appropriate solutions.

    But in today's politics, where "green" is a four letter word, such a concept only preaches to the converted, and helps environmentalists to be portrayed as living up to the stereotype of environmentalist = eco-fascist.

    Instead perhaps we need to look at low hanging fruit. Are there instances of waste that would be straightforward to fix? Techniques such as bottom trawling that might be a lot less damaging if combined with a technology that identified the location of deep sea corals? Other technologies that help avoid catching fish that would have to be thrown back dead because of quota restrictions or fussy markets? Quotas that could be re-jigged to minimise throwback? Perhaps more carefully positioned marine sanctuaries and more carefully timed seasons to ensure a healthy reservoir of fish?

    Also as an alternative to using "green" terms such as "sustainability" and "fish debt", perhaps we need reminding how the EU fleet copes with sustainability issues. EU boats with state of the art equipment take other people's fish and pay the governments of those other people a pittance for those fishing rights. Calling foul on this practice might be less problematic than pointing out the EU can't sustain its catch from EU waters.

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  • 97. At 3:39pm on 13 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @eddhind

    Like most of your posts on this thread. Nice helpful take on the situation.

    But where are you based? Here in Britain consumers don't just want the roe from herring. Herring is still a popular food, both fresh and smoked.

    Although obviously Ace Rimmer is a fictional character.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5aPY5d8Q80

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  • 98. At 3:40pm on 13 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    #95 mr_jacky wrote:
    The problem in west africa is deeply worrying. I recently read an excellent report on this by the environmental justice foundation (www.ejfoundation.org). Some of the poorest people on the planet are being robbed of their staple diet, purely because western nations are unable to manage their own stocks effectively.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Look on the plus side. If they're being "robbed" of their staple diet then they'll die, reducing the population.

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  • 99. At 3:55pm on 13 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    If you tree huggers gave a damn about Africa, you wouldn't have prolonged the famine in Zambia back in '02.

    If it hadn't been for the green's misinformed hysteria about GM crops, the Zambian government would have accepted the aid being offered to it which would have shortened the famine considerably.

    Thanks to you morons, 2 million people went hungry.

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  • 100. At 5:29pm on 13 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    99. Brunnen_G wrote:

    "If it hadn't been for the green's misinformed hysteria about GM crops, the Zambian government would have accepted the aid being offered to it which would have shortened the famine considerably."

    Crikey Brunnen I keep agreeing with you.

    Fear of GM is a classic Islington issue.

    GM is ESSENTIAL if the world's population is to be fed in 25 years.

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  • 101. At 5:44pm on 13 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @Brunnen_G #99

    Not all GM critics push the GM = literal poison line.

    My personal gripes with GM started when I discovered that I had been financially and politically supporting Monsanto and Monsanto's politics just by buying ordinary bread from the supermarket. Because GM ingredients didn't need labelling at the time.

    Then Monsanto successfully sued a farmer for breach of patent after Monsanto's patented genes found their way via pollen into his crop.

    GM genes causing a farmer to get sued for breach of patent ? After accidental pollination? That's pretty toxic.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3116713.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3736591.stm

    Or perhaps you think that the policies of a large corporation don't deserve the same scrutiny that we attempt to apply party political policies.

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  • 102. At 7:20pm on 13 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #101 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    GM genes causing a farmer to get sued for breach of patent ? After accidental pollination? That's pretty toxic.

    It's unbelievably toxic. A completely ludicrous and unjust decision by a court. (Which is not to defend Monsanto, just to condemn one Canadian court.)

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  • 103. At 7:41pm on 13 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #102

    The judge's hands were tied. Thanks to effective lobbying it was the legal responsibility of the farmer to keep GM pollen from his neighbour's farm out of his saved seed.

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  • 104. At 8:06pm on 13 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #103 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    Thanks to effective lobbying it was the legal responsibility of the farmer to keep GM pollen from his neighbour's farm out of his saved seed.

    I'm not defending Monsanto, let that go without saying, but that's crazy Canadian law-making and law-framing!


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  • 105. At 8:11pm on 13 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G wrote:

    That sounds like a poor judgement that should never have been allowed to stand.

    I'm never going to defend the shadier practices of multinational corporations. However the simple fact remains that if we want to feed the population of Earth after the year 2050 we have 3 choices. We can either use GM crops to radically increase food production, Kill half the population of the planet by having a third world war or introduce the eating people plan I outlined earlier.

    Nukes, GM crops or fire up the barbie. Make your choice...

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  • 106. At 8:45pm on 13 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    The judge's hands were not literally tied, I trust, and I wonder which law he/she interpreted with such crazy strictness as to throw justice to the winds? It's either completely crazy law, or an extraordinarily bad judgement.

    Lest we all sit about guffawing too long, I gather most of us are vulnerable to laws that say "you are responsible for whatever someone downloads at your IP address, whoever does it". So unless you secure your wireless router, you are responsible for what the pervert next door downloads. Even if you do secure it, there are your own teenage children.

    Difficult and all though securing one's own wireless router may be, keeping pollen out of one's field is just impossible.

    Crazy!

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  • 107. At 9:49pm on 13 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    Since Dr. BrianS claims to be an expert on Hg, perhaps he would like to give us the ratio of environmental Hg that comes from burning Coal versus the amount from compact florescent lights. In particular is more Hg removed by cutting coal burning via use of the florescent lights. I would also point out that there are ways to recycle florescent lights if one is so inclined. Hard to recycle Hg coming out of the stack of a coal fired power plant.

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  • 108. At 9:56pm on 13 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    105. At 8:11pm on 13 Jul 2010, Brunnen_G, does not seem to have heard of birth control. That would seem to be the least painful and least problematic solution.

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  • 109. At 10:58pm on 13 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #108 HungeryWalleye wrote:

    does not seem to have heard of birth control. That would seem to be the least painful and least problematic solution.

    Birth control (i.e. contraception) does nothing to control birth unless people actually use it, and they don't use it unless they want to use it.

    The question you should be trying to answer is: How can you get people to want to use birth control?

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  • 110. At 11:05pm on 13 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    107. HungeryWalleye wrote:

    "Since Dr. BrianS claims to be an expert on Hg, perhaps he would like to give us the ratio of environmental Hg that comes from burning Coal versus the amount from compact florescent lights."

    An interesting point and one that there are no statistics on as, as far as I know, there are no accurate figures on the number of florescent lights in the world or the average level of Hg in all the coal cut in the world.

    On the principle that you should never ask a question without already knowing the answer perhaps HungeryWalleye would enlighten us on these figures as a basis for further discussion. It's quite easy to divide a into b.

    Perhaps he would also let us know the number of coal-fired power stations or coal mines that have been closed on account of the increased use of florescent bulbs. If the answer is none (as I suspect but do not know for sure) then the Hg released from the use of florescent bulbs is in addition to and not subtracted from the total emissions.

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  • 111. At 00:05am on 14 Jul 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    104. bowmanthebard wrote:

    "I'm not defending Monsanto, let that go without saying, but that's crazy Canadian law-making and law-framing!"

    True. Ever since Canada joined NAFTA - ironically titled North American FREE Trade - things have become increasingly crazy in that regard... crazy as a poodle.


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  • 112. At 01:56am on 14 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    110. At 11:05pm on 13 Jul 2010, DrBrianS -- Actually, I don't know the numbers on Hg from Coal power plants versus compact florescent lights. I figured that DrBrianS advertised himself as an Hg expert, so I thought he might know. One could estimate by multiplying average Hg concentrations in Coal by the number of tons burned for electricity generation, and multiplying the number of compact florescent lights by average amount of Hg in a light.

    In terms of how many coal fired power plants might be sidelined or had their use reduced by use of compact florescent lights, that would be harder to estimate because many other efficiency measures have also been taken. Then of course what is saved by florescent lights may be used for powering computers and home entertainment systems.

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  • 113. At 02:16am on 14 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    109. At 10:58pm on 13 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard Well yes, getting people to choose smaller families when birth control is available is an issue. However, when you try to make it available and advertise its advantages, you have all types of ethnic, religious and nationalist groups cry genocide. You have lefties claim your blaming the poor and righties claiming those who are economically more successful should have more children.

    Then you also have various governments whose social security system is based on the assumption of a continually growing population.

    Given this, it is not likely that the human population problem will be dealt with intelligently. More likely it will be controlled the good old fashion way by starvation, disease and war.

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  • 114. At 02:30am on 14 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    110. At 11:05pm on 13 Jul 2010, DrBrianS:
    One can do a simple search of the WEB with a google search on "compact flourescent lightbulbs", and find the following U.S. gov web site:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    and find out that much more Hg is added to the environment from Coal fired power plants. Of course, I wouldn't expect Dr. BrianS to believe the government about anything....

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  • 115. At 08:02am on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Poorer people tend to want to have a lot of children because first, they expect a significant proportion of them to die before reaching adulthood, or to become damaged, non-reproductive adults (through illnesses of poverty); second, they worry about lack of provision in old age, and a large extended family is a sort of "insurance" for that; third, where there is little hope of fame and fortune, having a lot of children is a clear sign of personal thriving; and so on.

    The mere availability of contraception won't change that. An advertising campaign will probably do the very opposite of what it is intended to do, because advertising doesn't work even remotely the way sociologists and psychologists would have us believe.

    I would argue that what is needed to change the above is (1) cheap or free health care; (2) better social welfare for older people; (3) cheap or free education, and a thriving, growing economy so that poorer people have a realistic hope of other sorts of success in life than merely having a big family. The more parents invest in each child ("have you met my daughter the doctor?") the fewer children they will want to have.

    That has already happened in the West. One of the most dangerous things about artificially limiting economic growth is that it keeps people in the developing world on their treadmill (sometimes literally a treadmill) of little hope for their children and large families.

    One of the most hopeful developments of recent years are the clear signs that the "third world" is becoming the "developing world" -- that they can compete with us and eventually catch up with us. But bourgeois Westerners want to play "shepherdess" or "noble savage" and pretend life was better in the twelfth century.

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  • 116. At 08:12am on 14 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    GM crops will not remove starvation from the third world but they will allow the starving population to double or treble, then we will all be in trouble.

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  • 117. At 08:14am on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    I don't object much to the additional mercury in fluorescent bulbs, but I do object to the following:
    (1) They seem to have a far shorter life than advertised -- considerably less than half the advertised length of time in my experience. How do I get my money back?
    (2) As a person who works in graphics I need to make reliable colour judgements in artificial light. Tungsten filaments emit blackbody radiation with an almost "flat" (although skewed) spectrum graph; the fluorescent equivalent is like something Al Gore would take out in a hotel room.

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  • 118. At 08:14am on 14 Jul 2010, Chris In Hurghada wrote:

    I'm quite surprised at the number of comments from people who clearly believe that any kind of environmental bad news story is some kind of state sponsored scaremongering. This is a well constructed and balanced article and should be heeded rather than dismissed with jokes.

    The problem of global fish stock depletion is undeniable. If you have time, try reading the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) "State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture" report, last updated in 2008 which is a well researched and definitive account of the state of global fish stocks (it is available as a free download from the fao website).

    If you don't have time for a 196 page document, try the movie "End of the Line" that presents similar data in an engaging and accessible way.

    We need to learn from the disaster of Newfoundland Cod stocks and the impending demise of Blue Fin Tuna before it is too late. Some of the comments here suggest eating alternative fish - we have been doing this for years with disasterous results. Australian Orange Roughy was not disccovered until the 1990s, but thanks to immediate over-fishing it is already at 10% of its pre-exploitation level and because of its 150 year life span and low fecundity is unlikely to recover for many decades or even centuries.

    Rock Salmon (Dogfish) is touted as a 'good fish' to eat. This shark species (yes it is actually a shark, despite fishmongers giving it a more socially acceptable name) is already listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable to extinction. You wouldn't eat a cheetah (which is at the same level of vulnerability) so why eat dogfish?

    The article here is not an attack on free trade or on your civil liberties, it is simply trying to make a simple point. Globally we are consuming more seafood that the oceans can supply. If we don't stop there will be no harvestable seafood by the middle of this century. Europe produces far less seafood than it consumes and is therefore a major part of the problem.

    You have a choice. Keep your head in the sand and believe that the seafood debate is a conspiracy to ruin the lives of fisherman, or realise the environmental catastrophy that awaits the entire ocean ecosystem within the next 40 years.

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  • 119. At 08:37am on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #118 cg3991 wrote:

    Globally we are consuming more seafood that the oceans can supply. If we don't stop there will be no harvestable seafood by the middle of this century.

    But it won't happen suddenly. Fish will become harder and harder to catch, and more and more expensive, so that only the rich can afford to eat them. Something like what has already happened to oysters, which used to be a poor man's food. Oysters aren't extinct, or even un-harvestable -- they're just much rarer than they used to be around our coasts.

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  • 120. At 09:14am on 14 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    Bio-fuels have an important part to play in population control/reduction especially the use of raw cooking oil in diesel engines as practised throughout Africa and Asia (you have to have the right kind of fuel pump – plenty of info’ on the net). Many societies are unable or unwilling to exercise population restraint and are instead subject to natural restraints such as food availability.

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  • 121. At 09:34am on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #120 Smiffie wrote:

    Many societies are unable or unwilling to exercise population restraint and are instead subject to natural restraints such as food availability.

    We're all human, and we're all equally subject to "natural restraints". In the West, we are lucky enough to be able to work for other things beyond mere food. I just heard this morning that a few decades ago, 30% of the average Western income went on food, whereas today it is just 15% -- leaving more for iPads, education, leisure, etc.

    For us, each child is a huge investment, because it is so much more than a mere "mouth to feed". So we have fewer of them.

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  • 122. At 09:34am on 14 Jul 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    Re : HG in coal
    I don't know about mercury in coal but I do know that radioactive gasses released during mining and burning coal kills over 300 people a year. -

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation#Human-caused_background_radiation

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power#Comparing_radioactive_waste_to_industrial_toxic_waste
    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

    I've seen another study that estimated that total at over 900 deaths a year but can't find it at the moment. Of course its still nothing compared to the cheery particulates from coal which probably kill at least 500,000 to 1 million people a year. (in the US more than smoking or firearms!).

    http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/cleanair13.htm

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  • 123. At 10:05am on 14 Jul 2010, JunkkMale wrote:

    '118. At 08:14am on 14 Jul 2010, cg3991 wrote:
    I'm quite surprised at the number of comments from people who clearly believe that any kind of environmental bad news story is some kind of state sponsored scaremongering.


    Whilst agreeing it is indeed a shame (how fish stocks are being depleted is of great concern, though often framed in various ways according to the agenda of the source/medium to steer a preferred path) such an issue can stray from more logical lines of discussion, I have to say I am not surprised.

    Which then brings one to why such a reaction to 'state sponsored scaremongering' can be provoked. Maybe an 'inquiry' by the state, reported upon objectively upon by one of its sponsored organs, may help?

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  • 124. At 10:35am on 14 Jul 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    Population control isn’t just for the third world, the recent shootings in Northumbria and the whinging of the gunman’s family highlights the link between violence and low intelligence. I said at post # 76 “we will soon have to make some tough decisions about the size of our future population and the types of people that we want in that population.”

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  • 125. At 10:58am on 14 Jul 2010, Dr Brian wrote:

    122. Robert Lucien wrote:
    "Re : HG in coal
    I don't know about mercury in coal but I do know that radioactive gasses released during mining and burning coal kills over 300 people a year. - "

    Mornin' all.

    Robert. When I hear statistics of deaths at this tiny level spread over the entire population of the Earth I feel like asking for their names and addresses. This is not something to lose sleep over. Millions die from slipping over in the bathroom.
    In the same article it points out "The amount of radioactive contamination released by human activity is rather small and in most cases negligible in comparison to natural background radiation" and quotes an estimate of 15-20,000 deaths from lung cancer caused by Radon leakage in the US alone. This is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Of course both of these estimated statistics carry a Wikipedia warning.

    bowmanthebard

    I'm not sure how we got from the picture of that hooked cod to the shortcomings of florescent bulbs but to your two disadvantages I would add

    3. They're so dull I have to use two when one served previously, so no electricity savings (or CO2 savings) there. I checked the actual output of a couple of them with an old light meter and both were 30% down on the claimed figure.
    4. If you accidentally smash one you're supposed to evacuate the room and call the local authority who will send men in space suits to clear up and present you with a bill for doing so. No surprise they're dumped in the rubbish and end up in landfill.


    HungeryWalleye wrote.

    "I wouldn't expect Dr. BrianS to believe the government about anything...."

    Absolutely wrong. I completely believe that all governments are led and run by selfless individuals with the sole saint-like aim of telling the whole unadulterated truth all the time. Every government throughout the world only aims for the betterment of its people and none have any other agenda.
    No government leaders eat fish.

    I repeat my comment about tunnel-vision Greens.

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  • 126. At 12:16pm on 14 Jul 2010, jon112dk wrote:

    This is not just an EU issue it's global. The root cause is human population is now so high that it is no longer a valid strategy to go down to the sea and expect to just pull fish out.

    This happened a long time ago with meat. Obviously you can't expect the population of the UK to feed itself by just going out in the woods and killing a wild dear. Hundreds of years ago, population less than 1m, it was reasonable. Now - too many people. We have to farm.

    Surely it is now coming to that point with fish? Time to start farming?

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  • 127. At 1:30pm on 14 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    DrBrianS at #125

    I have read your points 3 & 4 verbatim somewhere else quite a long time ago. Of course you may be just repeating yourself verbatim, but could you perhaps be cutting and pasting someone elses's propoganda for them?

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  • 128. At 4:02pm on 14 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #104
    @CanadianRockies #111

    "crazy Canadian law-making and law-framing"

    Patent law is extremely protective of patent holder's intellectual property. The judge could have absolutely hated the law in question, and fully agreed that Schmeiser's situation was unfair on Schmeiser. But his interpretation of patent law was correct and unavoidable. Deliberately or not, knowingly or not, Schmeiser had committed piracy of Monsanto's patent by growing a crop containing Monsanto's intellectual property on his land without a licence. Although because Schmeiser did not benefit from Monsanto's intellectual property there was some wiggle room in the sentence.

    Also this is not just about Canadian patent law. Owners of intellectual property of all sorts have lobbied hard for protection of their property against pirates. However patents applied to genes are prone to imposing unfair or ridiculous restrictions on others. You may care to look at Ben Goldacre's article on the totally over the top BRCA1 patent granted to Myriad.

    (Strongly recommend you read this link.)
    (Incidentally you may like Goldacre's blog. He is extremely good at exposing nonsense in science and medicine.)
    (Note, as most of his own genes accidentally pirate Myriad's intellectual property via the 15 nucleotide clause, Goldacre may be unfairly biased against Myriad.)
    http://www.badscience.net/2010/04/i-patent-your-ass-and-your-leg-and-your-nostril/

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  • 129. At 4:02pm on 14 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #106

    "keeping pollen out of one's field is just impossible"

    As for the practical issue of a farmer avoiding someone else's patented pollen getting into his seed. Schmeiser was not and is not expected to keep pollen out of his field.

    Most farmers had already given up saving seed, some because of the hassle, and some because they wanted GM and GM came with the new licences banning saving seed. As a seed saver not paying money to Monsanto, Schmeiser was already in a significant minority.

    Schmeiser had two legal ways of coping with GM pollen from his neighbour. Firstly he could have ditched rapeseed as a crop after his neighbour had started growing the GM version. Or secondly he could have signed up to the full Monsanto GM package. Both of these were dependent on him knowing that his neighbour had been using GM and as a result a significant proportion of his seed was likely to include pirated patented genes.

    Because of the widespread piracy of their intellectual property Monsanto were able to offer Schmeiser a third option - him paying them due compensation for his use of their property. This is a deal that has been accepted with no formal quibbles by the vast majority of other seed savers caught accidentally pirating Monsanto's intellectual property in their crop. (Note, this due compensation would be expensive for a seed saver, especially as Schmeiser hadn't taken advantage of the GM genes.)

    So no, Schmeiser was not expected to keep pollen out of his field. Although the situation is still unfair on Schmeiser.

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  • 130. At 4:22pm on 14 Jul 2010, Kamboshigh wrote:

    Mercury in coal is totally varible it depends on the type of coal. Most coal is cleaned because of the sulphur and with it the Hg which is contained in the Pyrite. I belive lignite is the highest and hardest to clear of mercury with some 35% being removed on cleaning. Again depending on the coal mine the ppm can be anywhere from 150 to 5,000. Which okay is more than co2 but these idiotic light bulbs are way above that level.

    What I would like to see is there comformity with the EU ROHS directive, because the percentage of Hg is far above what is acceptable in my industry.

    Or should we guess that they are exempt due to AGW, so you can be poised in your own home.

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  • 131. At 4:39pm on 14 Jul 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Smiffie:

    The use of force and weapons by the West as instruments of education in Asia over the years would support your theory of violence and intelligence being linked.
    I hope I am the one deciding "what types of people we want." I am only half prejudice, it's the men I don't like.

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  • 132. At 5:21pm on 14 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @Brunnen_G #105

    I am extremely wary of claims about GM being a panacea. GM industry lobbyists have been caught sneaking stuff into otherwise more trustworthy sources.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/06/gm-crops-biotech-lobbyists-fsa

    I remind you that both Roundup Ready GM and Bt GM have their downsides, some of which would not have been clear to farmers at the time they were originally marketed. Extra applications of Roundup have caused weeds to evolve resistance. Some insect pests have already evolved resistance to Bt cotton. And this is never mind any loss of productivity in the crop associated with the extra trait. (Obviously not all crops lose productivity.)

    http://uanews.org/node/18178
    http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/magazine/winter09/cotton.html
    http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v28/n6/full/nbt0610-537.html

    In the long term I expect some benefits from GM that can't be achieved any other way. But not as big or as many as the GM PR people say. And to get the best out of GM we need farmers to be able to opt out of GM easily (this ensures we only get GM where the benefits are real and we can ditch GM if benefits are lost) and for an end to unpleasantness in GM licence agreements.

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  • 133. At 5:24pm on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #128 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    Incidentally you may like Goldacre's blog. He is extremely good at exposing nonsense in science and medicine.

    I doubt it, because I actually regard him as a very poor judge of science. You say that he is good at exposing nonsense in medicine, but as you may know already I regard almost all recent medical science as pseudoscience, for very much the same reasons as I regard climate science as pseudoscience. As far as I am concerned, all he has to do is point anywhere and shoot!

    I agree with him about the Canadian Monsanto case, but that's an issue of justice, not science. Current laws governing intellectual property are a disgrace, mostly because the very idea of intellectual property hasn't been properly explored or tested yet. There are some blatant cases of theft that go unpunished, and other cases that do not look like theft at all to me which are punished. Academics (both students and teachers) routinely get away with outrageous plagiarism -- not often word-for-word, but very often dishonestly presenting of other people's ideas as their own -- and then get rewarded for "publishing a lot". Meanwhile, the "little people" are made examples of for copying files that cannot reasonably be regarded as having an owner at all!

    I sincerely hope that much of this will change with the advent of e-books (and similar technology). I intend to play my part to change whatever I can.

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  • 134. At 5:36pm on 14 Jul 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    Kamboshigh at #150

    How did you calculate a ppm value for Hg in a light-bulb? (And given the very different models around, which type did you assume was representative?)

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  • 135. At 7:27pm on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    JaneBasingstoke #132 wrote:

    In the long term I expect some benefits from GM that can't be achieved any other way. But not as big or as many as the GM PR people say.

    I agree.

    an end to unpleasantness in GM licence agreements.

    I would make much more sweeping changes to the whole idea of the legal "ownership" of ideas (i.e. the idea of intellectual "property"). If someone steals a physical object from someone, he harms the owner, roughly to the extent of the owner's loss. But when someone steals an idea, the damage done to the author of an idea is quite different from the damage done to a literal owner (apart from potential diminishment to reputation). Often the author gains though wider dissemination of his/her ideas. (Example: in the publishing industry, Adobe has completely overtaken Quark, mostly by allowing a generation of students to "steal" their software more easily, and thereby become more familiar with it. I'll bet a lot of board meetings of big software corporations quietly deal with "welcome piracy" -- although of course there is always unwelcome piracy.)

    In its place I would propose something about the "origination" of ideas -- something that can be enforced by law, but still very different from ownership. And outside the law in academia, we can all enjoy some hard-hitting ridicule of those who "fail to acknowledge proper origination" -- or something like that.

    I mention it because we have disagreed in the past about the "bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language". I suggest that the word 'property' bewitches the legislature and the judiciary. We are surely talking about something important here, but it isn't quite the same as "my bike what got stolen from right outside my flat" --- after which I had to walk.

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  • 136. At 8:04pm on 14 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #133

    Just to be clear. Goldacre did comment on Monsanto in that article I linked to, and does refer to Monsanto elsewhere on his blog. But Monsanto's patents are not the main subject of the article I linked to. The obscene BRCA1 gene patent is owned by Myriad.

    http://www.myriad.com/products/bracanalysis.php

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  • 137. At 8:14pm on 14 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard
    @CanadianRockies
    @Brunnen_G

    More vileness associated with GM food crops. And I'm sorry Brunnen_G, but until this particular vileness is fixed GM food crops have no chance of achieving their potential.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

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  • 138. At 9:48pm on 14 Jul 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #137. JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    "More vileness associated with GM food crops. And I'm sorry Brunnen_G, but until this particular vileness is fixed GM food crops have no chance of achieving their potential."

    In my opinion the most vile problem with Monsanto - and presumably the other GM food multinationals - is that they not only sell the seeds but also the necessary pesticides that are matched to them. So they effectively turn the farmers into serfs dependent on them. And presumably there is cross-ownership with the fertilizer companies as well.

    The most vile problem with GM foods in general is the same problem that cropped up earlier in the topic of geo-engineering (to save us from alleged AGW). That is, scientific hubris. This also relates to the topic of biodiversity also discussed earlier. These fools seem determined to create huge GM monocultures which some virus or rust or other pathogen is bound to eventually adapt to, and result in global food crop failures on a genuinely unprecedented scale. All the worries about the actual health effects of GM foods on individuals seem almost irrelevant to this issue, in my opinion.

    My earlier point related to the Monsanto lawsuit (#111) was mostly about the impact of multinational corporations homogenizing laws across the globe. That's what ALL globilization is about... making the world a better place for multinational corporations (and the elites who control them) and making the 'little people' everywhere serfs. This whole push to see all environmental issues as 'global crises' which need global solutions - AGW being the poster child for this - is just part of this process of creating this global neo-feudalism. Richard seems a tireless worker for this cause.

    That said, there actually are some issues requiring regional multinational cooperation, and this fisheries issue is one of them.

    I'm expecting to see a call for GM fish any day now...

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  • 139. At 10:05pm on 14 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #135

    I think both extremes are wrong.

    Some information has to be public domain for the good of society. Other information needs to be free for some individuals but not necessarily others, so they can add value to it. Still other information needs to be chargeable but more straightforward to access than now.

    If you get rid of intellectual property based concepts the artist, the scientist and anyone else producing information based work has to have a day job to pay for the roof over their head. And many of those with the best skills will never have the time to use them.

    Meanwhile your given example of Adobe only works because some people were paying for Adobe.

    At the other extreme, comparatively recent initiatives linked to Mandy's Knowledge Economy, whereby every bit of government sponsored data has to be squeezed for money, contributed to Climategate by helping prevent scrutiny of CRU's science.

    And I am worried that whatever happens with Murdoch's new paywall it can be spun to get the BBC's news website off the web.

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  • 140. At 11:21pm on 14 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #139 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    If you get rid of intellectual property based concepts the artist, the scientist and anyone else producing information based work has to have a day job to pay for the roof over their head.

    Of course -- I'm not proposing a free-for-all, just a conceptual change in which what we currently call "property" gets treated in more as "authorship".

    It seems to me that laws must respect such ridiculous truths as that people of my age heard our parents' mono vinyl "Sgt Pepper" all through the summer of '67. When we left for college we bought a new stereo vinyl "Sgt Pepper" of our own. Starting grad school, we bought a tape cassette of "Sgt Pepper" for our Sony Walkman. Then a CD version of "Sgt Pepper" so our children could enjoy the sounds of our own drunken nostalgia. We are all waiting like nitwits to "buy" it all over again when it becomes available from iTunes (or wherever).

    And so on. Does anyone "own" these sounds? It's a mistaken question. I feel sure I "own" them in a simple sense several times, having paid out hard cash on several occasions for the same thing. The authorship of these sounds has to be treated differently from ownership.

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  • 141. At 02:09am on 15 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    125. At 10:58am on 14 Jul 2010, DrBrianS wrote:
    "Absolutely wrong. I completely believe that all governments are led and run by selfless individuals with the sole saint-like aim of telling the whole unadulterated truth all the time. Every government throughout the world only aims for the betterment of its people and none have any other agenda..."


    From what you have previously written I would have assumed you considered all governments, politicians, government employees and scientists self serving devil spawn only interested in stealing your hard earned money and ruining your life style. Just shows how wrong one can be.

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  • 142. At 02:41am on 15 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    130. At 4:22pm on 14 Jul 2010, Kamboshigh

    If you care to look at the following US EPA web site:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    you will see that you are wrong. For example it contains the following:

    "Do CFLs contain mercury?
    CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 4 milligrams. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury – an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs. Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (not broken) or in use.
    Most makers of light bulbs have reduced mercury in their fluorescent lighting products. Thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the average mercury content in CFLs has dropped at least 20 percent in the past year. Some manufacturers have even made further reductions, dropping mercury content to 1.4 – 2.5 milligrams per light bulb.
    What are mercury emissions caused by humans?
    EPA estimates the U.S. is responsible for the release of 104 metric tons of mercury emissions each year. Most of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power. Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish. (Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the main way for humans to be exposed.)
    Most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that the rest of the mercury within a CFL – about 14 percent – is released into air or water when it is sent to a landfill, assuming the light bulb is broken. Therefore, if all 290 million CFLs sold in 2007 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case) – they would add 0.16 metric tons, or 0.16 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans.
    How do CFLs result in less mercury in the environment compared to traditional light bulbs?
    Electricity use is the main source of mercury emissions in the U.S. CFLs use less electricity than incandescent lights, meaning CFLs reduce the amount of mercury into the environment. As shown in the table below, a 13-watt, 8,000-rated-hour-life CFL (60-watt equivalent; a common light bulb type) will save 376 kWh over its lifetime, thus avoiding 4.5 mg of mercury. If the bulb goes to a landfill, overall emissions savings would drop a little, to 4.0 mg. EPA recommends that CFLs are recycled where possible, to maximize mercury savings."

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  • 143. At 03:12am on 15 Jul 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    A previous blogger asked why the U.S. wasn't reprocessing nuclear fuel... The answer is Kerr-McGee and Karen Silkwood. As I lived down stream from 3 Mile Island, I can tell you the accident really did happen and the reactor in question has not been used since the accident.

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  • 144. At 03:20am on 15 Jul 2010, Robert Lucien wrote:

    #129 etc JaneBasingstoke et al

    " ....
    Because of the widespread piracy of their intellectual property Monsanto were able to offer Schmeiser a third option - him paying them due compensation for his use of their property. This is a deal that has been accepted with no formal quibbles by the vast majority of other seed savers caught accidentally pirating Monsanto's intellectual property in their crop. (Note, this due compensation would be expensive for a seed saver, especially as Schmeiser hadn't taken advantage of the GM genes.)

    So no, Schmeiser was not expected to keep pollen out of his field. Although the situation is still unfair on Schmeiser.
    "

    The thing Schmeiser should have done was counter sue them for polluting his grain without his permission. The way the corporate scumbags have turned GM into a weapon against farming and nature makes even me want to turn into a Luddite with a burning torch. (and yes I know we all have the 'same' legal system that only protects the most wealthy)
    The answer is very simple it should be illegal to patent natural genes, plus if your technology pollutes another's environment you should be the one to pay! Polluter pays!

    AI has exactly the same problem its all based on human and animal mentality, so if I was able to patent my AI algorithms in theory I should be able to collect royalties from everyone who has a mind as well. Looking at it as an inventor patenting is almost completely useless for protecting intellectual property anyway because of the global market. Instead its become a smörgåsbord for lawyers and special interests and the various types of corporate thief. Including people who see pieces of living things as their own property. For my solution for people like patent lawyers see post 75,76,79,etc pass the machete :)


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  • 145. At 05:17am on 15 Jul 2010, Chris In Hurghada wrote:

    #119 bowmanthebard wrote:

    "But it won't happen suddenly. Fish will become harder and harder to catch, and more and more expensive, so that only the rich can afford to eat them. Something like what has already happened to oysters, which used to be a poor man's food. Oysters aren't extinct, or even un-harvestable -- they're just much rarer than they used to be around our coasts."

    Unfortunately this simply isn't correct. You are right that populations generally sustain marine harvesting until they become "economically extinct" - ie it costs more to catch, process and sell than it can be sold for. However this isn't the whole story.

    Look at Blue Fin Tuna - still in demand despite its incredibly high price. The price looks set to continue to rise until there is a fleet of boats searching for the very last individual (which will be worth multi-millions of dollars). Another top predator eliminated.

    Look at Newfoundland Cod - stocks of which were thought to be limitless. In the 1600s captains were quoted as saying the cod schools were "so thick by the shore that we hardly have been able to row a boat through them." Commercial fisherman found that they could catch more and more each year and catches increased massively. Then in 1993 the fisherman went out and there was nothing left to catch. The biomass of Northern Cod (formerly the largest cod fishery in the world) had reduced by 99%. 17 years later these populations still haven't recovered and the Newfoundland fishing industry has collapsed. The cod are unlikely to ever return as their former prey - capelin - have increased in numbers and eat the juvenile cod. Now crab and shrimp (very R-selected species) dominate the ecosystem.

    These are only two examples of many species where stocks have collapsed due to over-fishing. Globally this will continue to happen, one stock collapses (changing the eco-system forever) and we start to fish an alternative (which also collapses - more ecosystem change). In the end we will have an ocean filled with simple R-selected species and nothing else.

    I stand by my original statement:

    "Globally we are consuming more seafood that the oceans can supply. If we don't stop there will be no harvestable seafood by the middle of this century."

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  • 146. At 08:01am on 15 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #145 cg3991 wrote:

    Look at Newfoundland Cod - stocks of which were thought to be limitless. In the 1600s captains were quoted as saying the cod schools were "so thick by the shore that we hardly have been able to row a boat through them."

    Are you interpreting that literally?

    17 years later these populations still haven't recovered and the Newfoundland fishing industry has collapsed.

    If the fishing industry has collapsed, then the populations are very likely to be recoverING. Do you mean to deny that?

    The cod are unlikely to ever return as their former prey - capelin - have increased in numbers and eat the juvenile cod.

    What are the capelin eating?

    Now crab and shrimp (very R-selected species) dominate the ecosystem.

    I reject that r/k species stuff. In my opinion it's a good example of a religious-type idea sneaking into biology, namely the idea that an ecological system is in a delicate (i.e. unstable) state of equilibrium, which once disrupted never recovers.

    There is no such "equilibrium state" or "way things were meant to be". At best, we can talk of stable and unstable "strategies" on the part of living things, safe in the knowledge that none of them can be "unstable" in the long run. But ecological systems are completely different. If there were a lot of cod before, they had to be able to compete successfully against other species in their ecosystem, minus fishermen of course. The big change that occurred that reduced their numbers was fishing. If that factor is taken away, their numbers will probably recover, and probably are already recovering.

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  • 147. At 12:34pm on 15 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @Robert Lucien #144

    "counter sue them for polluting his grain without his permission"

    He tried to. Or he was going to. But it couldn't start until Monsanto's patent claims had been tackled.

    Note, the law strongly favoured Monsanto because of the artificial and therefore patentable nature of their product.

    However since he dropped rapeseed entirely he has had minor successes in billing them for the cost of weeding "their" plants. But only after going to court again over their ridiculous conditions for that.

    (note, in some of the text Schmeiser mentions GM seed falling from passing trucks, elsewhere he mentions GM pollen (present in his neighbour's field), the spread of GM seems to suggest both were involved)
    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/whoOwnsLifeNotMonsanto.php

    Oh, and here's Monsanto's standard release form that they asked Schmeiser to sign before they could remove their intellectual property from his land

    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/Release.htm


    "polluting"

    Incidentally I hope you note the irony that the main issue with GM contaminating crops is that the contamination allows Monsanto to sue farmers and insist farmers buy into Monsanto's GM deal for future planting of that crop species.


    "grain"

    Rapeseed, also known as oilseed rape, also known as canola (technically "canola" only applies to some rapeseed), is not a grain. It is a close relative of cabbages, turnips and mustards. Every spring in southern England it turns many farmers' fields yellow with scented flowers, in a manner similar to the closely related mustards.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassica_napus


    "makes even me want to turn into a Luddite"

    Not necessary. Not while scientists and technophiles in general have issues with elements within the GM industry abusing their power.

    (in case you didn't see these in my earlier posts)
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/06/gm-crops-biotech-lobbyists-fsa
    (Note, as most of his own genes accidentally pirate Myriad's intellectual property via the 15 nucleotide clause, Goldacre may be unfairly biased against Myriad.)
    http://www.badscience.net/2010/04/i-patent-your-ass-and-your-leg-and-your-nostril/

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  • 148. At 12:39pm on 15 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #146
    (@cg3991)

    Newfoundland cod is still caught in bycatch. So it can't recover.

    http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?163322/Europe-a-key-culprit-as-Grand-Banks--cod-bycatch-stalls-recovery

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  • 149. At 1:26pm on 15 Jul 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    bowmanthebard #146.
    (cg3991)

    "But ecological systems are completely different. If there were a lot of cod before, they had to be able to compete successfully against other species in their ecosystem, minus fishermen of course. The big change that occurred that reduced their numbers was fishing."

    just did some googling/reading on the subject and find it interesting that overfishing (due to improved equipment) is blamed but pollution of the waters doesn't get one single mention.

    "If that factor is taken away, their numbers will probably recover, and probably are already recovering."

    but what if contaminants (oil from bilges, manmade hormons from sewerage, etc) have altered the environment already and the cod cannot evolve fast enough to keep up?

    algae 'steaks' for all, yum...

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  • 150. At 2:23pm on 15 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #148 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    "Newfoundland cod is still caught in bycatch. So it can't recover."

    I'm more interested in the question of whether the cod population would recover if humans stopped fishing. I say it would, because the attrition rate as a result of non-human predation stays about the same.

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  • 151. At 3:29pm on 15 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #147 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    the artificial and therefore patentable nature of their product

    I think this discussion shows that the whole concept of "intellectual property" is flawed. One can only be the literal owner of a durable physical object. One cannot be the literal owner of "any object which happens to fit pattern X", or even a literal owner of the pattern itself.

    With art, ideas, information, etc., it would be much more sensible for the law to consider authorship instead of ownership. An author is not the literal owner of things that fit a pattern, but the cause of the pattern itself. The greater the "causal distance" of anything that fits a pattern from the source of the pattern, the less can that source be considered "the" author, and the less culpable anyone can be for not acknowledging authorship.

    I can conceive of ways in which a court might loosely "measure the causal distance" between the author of a pattern and anything that fits the pattern. It would be a matter of degree rather than a matter of something owned suddenly "entering the public domain" (i.e. becoming not-owned) after an arbitrary period.

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  • 152. At 5:27pm on 15 Jul 2010, JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    @bowmanthebard #152

    "intellectual property"

    Now I remind you of the problem of abstract concepts.

    I think you are placing too much weight on whether or not to use "intellectual property", a sort of blanket either or, with a very watered down version called "authorship" as an alternative.

    I think it is more appropriate to ask how and when the concept of "intellectual property" might be used. In this case I think we have to introduce two other abstract concepts, fairness and workability, on the grounds that this is how most people judge the implementation of "intellectual property".

    Some mechanisms involving the concept of "intellectual property" are fair and work for people. Others, including Monsanto's GM patents and their nasty licences, are unfair and do not work for people.

    Then there are situations that have the potential to be fair, but aren't comfortably workable, like all the internet paywalls where the "wall" element of "paywall" causes hassle for those who would be happy to pay a fair price.

    It's a complex debate, one that needs fleshing out with examples to get round the limitations of the abstract.

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  • 153. At 7:03pm on 15 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #152 JaneBasingstoke wrote:

    I think you are placing too much weight on whether or not to use "intellectual property", a sort of blanket either or, with a very watered down version called "authorship" as an alternative.

    The concept of authorship is quite different from the concept of ownership, of course, and it isn't all-or-nothing, so there are fuzzy-edged "grey areas" involved. But the legal system has to deal with that sort of thing all the time, and can deal with that sort of thing quite well, if that's the sort of thing it is. For example, there are various degrees of murder, then manslaughter, etc., and I would argue that there should be various degrees of "failure to respect authorship".

    Rather as first-degree murder can be met with very harsh punishments, there's no reason "first-degree failure to respect authorship" can't be treated with an appropriately iron fist. And rather as involuntary manslaughter can be met with much less harsh punishments, or none at all, it seems just to me that owning some grain that happens to have someone else's pattern in it by accident should be no legal offence at all.

    One of the things I really like about the concept of authorship is that it's all about causation. You mentioned that Ben Goldacre is (humorously, I trust) annoyed that his genes are patented by someone (let's call him X) other than himself. As a special kind of causation, authorship is strictly one-way in time, unlike ownership. Since X simply can't have caused Ben Goldacre's genes to have the pattern they do, X simply cannot claim authorship over them. Case dismissed!

    It's a complex debate, one that needs fleshing out with examples to get round the limitations of the abstract.

    I agree. One of the problems we have to deal with here is that the human animal too often takes an abstract idea and turns it into the wrong kind of "concrete". For example, everyone talks about morality in terms of "rights" nowadays -- i.e. things we supposedly "own".

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  • 154. At 07:56am on 16 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    bowmanthebard #153 wrote: the human animal too often takes an abstract idea and turns it into the wrong kind of "concrete". For example, everyone talks about morality in terms of "rights" nowadays -- i.e. things we supposedly "own".

    Another example of "the wrong kind of concrete" is the near-universal assumption that the mind is a sort of non-material "ghost" in the body. (Modern version: "information" is a non-material "ghost" in computers.)

    That assumption is really the source of all my troubles with climate science. If you think the mind is a sort of "ghost", cut off from the material world, you will think that knowledge is very problematic. It can't be "linkage to the material world" so instead must be "internal to the mind" -- with the certainty of being "based on experience". Hence the rubbish idea that "science is based on raw data".

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  • 155. At 10:06am on 16 Jul 2010, davblo wrote:

    bowmanthebard #153&154: "...wrong kind of 'concrete'. For example, everyone talks about morality in terms of "rights" nowadays -- i.e. things we supposedly "own"."

    I made the effort quite a while ago to put forward my view that "rights" was not a thing we had or owned. Instead I would say we have "needs", and they are "satisfied" (or not,) to some extent.

    Would "needs" be the right, or wrong kind of "concrete" for you?

    /davblo

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  • 156. At 10:32am on 16 Jul 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #155 davblo wrote:

    I made the effort quite a while ago to put forward my view that "rights" was not a thing we had or owned. Instead I would say we have "needs", and they are "satisfied" (or not,) to some extent.

    Hear hear -- well said.

    Would "needs" be the right, or wrong kind of "concrete" for you?

    That kind of concrete sounds good to me!

    BTW, I read a while ago that cooking was very important for human evolution. But it required some concept of ownership. Apparently, if one chimpanzee puts a bit of food down for a second, another chimpanzee comes along and grabs it. For cooking, we have to co-operate at least to the extent of respecting the other guy's banana while he gets a fire going. So the concept of ownership is distinctly human, and central to our lives. But I think it's a mistake to understand everything in terms of ownership. Needs, morality, laws, plagiarism -- these are things that are better understood in other terms.

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  • 157. At 09:09am on 20 Jul 2010, eddhind wrote:

    @Jane re post 97

    Sorry. Been very busy working, hope this isn't too late. It's only a quick one anyway.

    You are indeed right, we eat a lot of herring in the UK still (not as much as the Dutch and Germans though). I'm from the UK but based in Ireland currently.

    What you portray is a classic case of the idiosyncrasies of the fish market. Herring is a quota species, so there are limits on how much you can catch. Some of the herring you eat in the UK will be landed just as you would hope, onto a boat and then straight into a factory. But, the market price for herring is only a modest one. A fishermen with no debt could happily land that herring for you and make a profit. Some are not in that position though. If they landed herring with no roe they would simply discard it (dead), rather than fill their quota allocation with the vastly inferior in price herring with no roe.

    Sometimes what is scarier is the number of fish thrown back just to get that one fish on our plates.

    Personally I would get rid or at least make more flexible the Total Allowable Catch quotas. If a fish is caught it really should be landed. There is no point throwing it back dead, really no point at all (the exception being lobster, etc. that can usually live). Many would suggest a limitation instead on days at sea or something. There are many potential solutions, but what we have (in Europe anyway) is not working.

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  • 158. At 5:41pm on 24 Mar 2011, miltonlives wrote:

    Yo BBC, this isn't a complaint, just letting you know the front page has an article for 'Taking Stock' about the Fukishima power plant but links to this article. Thought you'd like to know. Cheers!

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