Following the Family Tradition, Chris Darwin is Leading the Fight to Protect Animals from Extinction

Photo by Jane Dalton


Chris Darwin, a wildlife advocate, discusses the environmental impact of eating meat:

Great, great grandson of Charles Darwin says we must change our diet to prevent more wildlife dying off.

Chris Darwin, 56, had come to London from his home in Australia for a groundbreaking conference attempting to tackle the growing crisis of the world’s rapidly diminishing wildlife, and one of the key causes of that loss – worldwide demand for meat.

More than 50 of the best minds in the fields of ecology, agriculture, public health, biology, oceanography, eco-investment and food retailing joined forces over two days to brainstorm ideas on how to stem the rapid shrinkage of the natural world caused by damaging agricultural practices.

The Extinction and Livestock Conference, with at least 500 delegates, was the world’s first ever conference examining how modern meat production affects life on Earth, and, put simply, it was designed to find ways to revolutionise the world’s food and farming systems to prevent mass species extinctions.

“We have to stop this,” says Mr Darwin, and he recalls how his great, great grandfather regretted on his death not having done more for other animals – a sentiment that shaped his decision to turn around his “self-indulgent, selfish” life, which involved working in advertising, and do something for the planet.

Read on at Independent.

Climate Scientists Grading Climate Journalism


Climate news is always also food news:

While the internet puts information at our fingertips, it has also allowed misinformation to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of many of those whose opinions and votes will determine the future of the planet. And up to now scientists have been on the back foot in countering the spread of this misinformation and pointing the public to trustworthy sources of information on climate change.

Climate Feedback intends to change that. It brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting. Their comments, which bring context and insights from the latest research, and point out factual and logical errors where they exist, remain layered over the target article in the public domain. You can read them for yourself, right in your browser. The scientists also provide a score on a five-point scale to let you know whether the article is consistent with the science. For the first time, Climate Feedback allows you to check whether you can trust the latest breaking story on climate change.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

Can Potatoes Grow on Mars?

Photograph: CIP, via The Guardian
Photograph: CIP, via The Guardian

Growing potatoes on Mars may sound like a fantasy straight out of sci-fi drama The Martian – in which a marooned astronaut survives on the red planet by tending spuds. But it’s also the focus of an experiment by theUS space agency, Nasa, which is teaming up with the Peru-based International Potato Centre (CIP) to see if potatoes could be grown in such harsh conditions.

“The Martian is completely possible,” says astrobiologist Julio Valdivia-Silva, the principal scientist working on the experiment in Peru.

Valdivia-Silva says the technology is growing at an “exponential” rate just as efforts to learn more about Mars are gathering pace.

Valdivia-Silva and his team aim to replicate Mars-like conditions on earth using a dome to create the same atmosphere, and soil consisting of sands brought from the Pampas de la Joya desert, part of the Atacama desert in southern Peru and one of the world’s driest and most nutrient-poor ecosystems.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

Overeating? Maybe It’s Your Cluttered Kitchen!

Katherine Du/NPR, via The Salt
Katherine Du/NPR, via The Salt

Hunger is not the only reason we eat sweets.

Often we eat as a way to celebrate, or sometimes we reach for food when we’re sad or bored.

And a study published this month in the journal Environment and Behavior points to another factor that can nudge us to eat: clutter.

“The notion that places — such as cluttered offices or disorganized homes — can be modified to help us control our food intake is becoming an important solution in helping us become more slim by design,” report Brian Wansink of Cornell University and his colleagues in their write-up of the study.

Read the rest on The Salt.

High Fiber Diets Battle Breast Cancer?

Morgan McCloy/NPR, via The Salt
Morgan McCloy/NPR, via The Salt

If the advice to eat more fiber seems easy to ignore, you’re not alone. Most Americans don’t get the 25 to 38 grams a day that recommended, depending on age and gender.

But if you’re skimping on fiber, the health stakes are high, especially if you’re a teenage girl.

A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics concludes that eating lots of fiber-rich foods during high school years may significantly reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Read the rest on The Salt.

People Are STILL Denying Climate Science

Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian
Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian

Is organised climate science denial finished?

After global heat records were continually broken over the last decade, and as sea levels rose and scientists reported the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets, you might be forgiven for thinking the debate over climate change had shifted.

No more arguing over the science? It’s more about the policy now, right?

Well, wrong. At least according to a new study that has looked at 15 years worth of output from 19 conservative “thinktanks” in the United States.

“We find little support for the claim that ‘the era of science denial is over’ – instead, discussion of climate science has generally increased over the sample period,” the study concludes.

Read the rest of this depressing news on The Guardian.

The Hangover Patch?

Laura Martin, via Munchies
Laura Martin, via Munchies

“Eh…” says The London Nutritionist dietician Jo Travers (who I’m paraphrasing ever so slightly). Shortly before sticking a Be On 1 patch on the inside of my left arm for my own experimental bender, I’m getting the lowdown from her on what exactly the benefits of these sticky squares could be.

“Yes, drinking alcohol can potentially deplete B vitamins a bit, but an actual thiamin deficiency only occurs with alcoholism,” Travers explains. “This is because alcohol can damage the lining of the stomach, which can affect the absorption of nutrients but also it can damage the liver where the B vitamins are processed. But there’s no real evidence that just taking vitamin B1 would make you feel better, it’s likely to be a whole range of vitamins you’re likely to be depleted in. But if you have a healthy and varied diet anyway, you should be already covered for this. Plus, there’s no immediate effect that you would feel from having a boost of vitamin B1.”

The good news is I’m not an alcoholic (well, not now it’s January, anyway) so in theory, I shouldn’t really have a necessity for a trans-dermal application of thiamin. Nevertheless, I start my all-day session with a Bloody Mary and an arm patch.

Read about the adventure on Munchies.

The Science of Hangover Avoidance

Chris Nickels for NPR, via The Salt
Chris Nickels for NPR, via The Salt

“Some of the dizziness you can feel after champagne is due to both the brain getting [a little] less oxygen and also the [effects] of the alcohol at the same time,” explains researcher Boris Tabakoff at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

All the bubbles in sparkling wine are carbon dioxide. The C02 competes with oxygen in our bloodstream, says Tabakoff, who studies the effects of alcohol on the body.

And according to a Princeton University explainer on alcohol absorption, carbon dioxide “increases the pressure in your stomach, forcing alcohol out through the lining of your stomach into the bloodstream.” That can speed up the rate of alcohol absorption — albeit temporarily.

Read (and listen to) the rest on The Salt.

Do GMOs Actually Exist?

via Grist
via Grist

GMOs, like other cultural constructs — think of gender, or race — do have a basis in reality, of course: We can roughly define “male” or “Asian,” but when we try to regulate these divisions, all kinds of problems crop up. And definitions of “GMOs” are much messier — “nerd” might be a roughly equivalent category. You know what a nerd is, but things would break down fast if you were required to label and regulate all the nerds. The definition of a nerd depends on the context; it depends on who’s asking. Same with GMOs.

As one researcher put it, “It is theoretically and practically impossible to precisely specify a supposed common denominator for all these [GMO] products.”

Read the rest on Grist.

Australian Tobacco Experiments Point Toward Growing Food on Mars

PHOTO: QUT, via Wall Street Journal
PHOTO: QUT, via Wall Street Journal

Scientists have identified a DNA sequence in an ancient Australian tobacco plant that enables it to survive in the country’s remote Outback. The discovery could offer clues to growing plants someday in another harsh environment—on the planet Mars, they said.

Nicotiana benthamiana, known as pituri to indigenous Aboriginal tribes who use it as chewing tobacco, underwent a genetic mutation roughly 750,000 years ago to help it thrive despite the extreme conditions of the Outback, says Peter Waterhouse, a plant geneticist at Queensland University of Technology.

To focus the bulk of its energy on reproduction in an environment with very little rainfall, N. benthamiana, a relative of the common tobacco plant, lost its immune system, the natural protection that defends most living organisms against infection. Australia’s Outback region is so remote and arid that few infections exist there, Dr. Waterhouse says.

Read the rest on Wall Street Journal.