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Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'

3/30/2005

Tim Radford, science editor
Wednesday March 30, 2005
The Guardian

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.

The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London. It warns that:

· Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

· An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.

· Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers has doubled in the last 40 years. Humans now use between 40% and 50% of all available freshwater running off the land.

· At least a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested. In some areas, the catch is now less than a hundredth of that before industrial fishing.

· Since 1980, about 35% of mangroves have been lost, 20% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% badly degraded.

· Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new and so far unknown disease to emerge.

In 1997, a team of biologists and economists tried to put a value on the "business services" provided by nature - the free pollination of crops, the air conditioning provided by wild plants, the recycling of nutrients by the oceans. They came up with an estimate of $33 trillion, almost twice the global gross national product for that year. But after what today's report, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, calls "an unprecedented period of spending Earth's natural bounty" it was time to check the accounts.

"That is what this assessment has done, and it is a sobering statement with much more red than black on the balance sheet," the scientists warn. "In many cases, it is literally a matter of living on borrowed time. By using up supplies of fresh groundwater faster than they can be recharged, for example, we are depleting assets at the expense of our children."

Flow from rivers has been reduced dramatically. For parts of the year, the Yellow River in China, the Nile in Africa and the Colorado in North America dry up before they reach the ocean. An estimated 90% of the total weight of the ocean's large predators - tuna, swordfish and sharks - has disappeared in recent years. An estimated 12% of bird species, 25% of mammals and more than 30% of all amphibians are threatened with extinction within the next century. Some of them are threatened by invaders.

The Baltic Sea is now home to 100 creatures from other parts of the world, a third of them native to the Great Lakes of America. Conversely, a third of the 170 alien species in the Great Lakes are originally from the Baltic.

Invaders can make dramatic changes: the arrival of the American comb jellyfish in the Black Sea led to the destruction of 26 commercially important stocks of fish. Global warming and climate change, could make it increasingly difficult for surviving species to adapt.

A growing proportion of the world lives in cities, exploiting advanced technology. But nature, the scientists warn, is not something to be enjoyed at the weekend. Conservation of natural spaces is not just a luxury.

"These are dangerous illusions that ignore the vast benefits of nature to the lives of 6 billion people on the planet. We may have distanced ourselves from nature, but we rely completely on the services it delivers."

--
dp


Life is shocking

3/23/2005

I have been going through 4 weeks of the most emotionally weird period of my life so far. So much grief being layed upon so many people close and dear to my heart, in a short period of time. I wish I was stronger, a better person to be able to help everyone who needs my help. Instead I sit there and try to figure out where to put my head, as I have no idea what to say or do anymore.

What does one say to a person who has been told they are finally pregnant after years of trying, only for it to be miscarried a very short while afterwards? What does one do when a parent is rushed to hospital with heart pains, only to be told a triple-by-pass is required? What do you do with the other parent who has already suffered a heart attack is is now a bundle of nerves? What do you say to a person who's daughter has a hole-in-the-heart and requires surgery to fix it, and yet she is hardly past 1 years old? What can you do to help the child through the inevitable pain? What can you say to a person close to your thoughts who has just had a stillborn? And what can you do when through this all, your plans to get married go through upheavals of double-booking of the hall? And oh, you're desparately trying to close on a house through this, whilst people at work continue to try their politics around you? And to top it off, you don't have time to call your Mother-in-Law to wish her Happy Birthday, or your Brother-in-law, or your Sister-in-law either. Three birthdays in a space of 5 days whizz by. :(

A stronger man can help everyone who needs it. A wiser man can say the right thing to everyone who requires it. A helpful man can offer hands on assitance to eveyrone who needs it. I unfortunately am none of these, I can only wish the world around us and the great elements that make us whole will work together to ease the pain of those around me whom I love dearly. I can only wish, and do what little I can to make a difference.

I wish I was stronger, wiser and more helpful. I really do.
--
dp


Here comes the rain again...

3/22/2005

The rain this morning brought back some memories. Together with the warmth, the sound of the drops on my umbrella, I was taken back to Glastonbury 1998 - aka The Mudfest. I was reliably informed that despite 97 being a muddy year, 98 was the definitive Mudbath. It remains my only Glastonbury experience, largely due to the fact that I spent a few days absolutely caked in mud, totally wet (albeit warm), and despising the need to go to the loo. God oh mighty, those loos. Jeez.

So you can imagine my thoughts this morning. Instead of cringing however, I was smiling. The warmth, the rain, the silence of walking down my road, and the realisation that I have already been through Glasto 98 and don't have to do it again, put a smile on my face. :)

I have to admit, I went there with CaptainDamo and Serena Wombat. These two tried to alleviate my pain and gave me soggy tissues to dry my tears through the rain. Still I got to see a few silly things whilst there.

On a happier note, India beat Pakistan in the 2nd test, to take the lead 1-0 : India: 407 & 407-9
Pakistan: 393 & 226 - India beat Pakistan by 195 runs. Awesome.

And GM Crops finally get their come uppance - I mean you really shouldn't mess with food.

Oh well, back to work...

--
dp


Pink Monday

3/21/2005

After a weekend of sunshine, Monday reverted back to normal grey darkness.

I spent Saturday walking around Central London with Icy, looking for White Gold Wedding Bands that would almost match her Engagement Ring. We decided on something that Pravin's on Regent Street offered. We also bought me a Pink Shirt and Tie from TM Lewin.

Yes, today I am wearing a Pink Shirt. As are my work colleagues. We decided it would be funny to turn up at work in Pink, in memory of our 'Head Boy' posh chaps who are on holiday or paternal leave. Those two are very posh, speak posh, act posh, and wear pink shirts and striped suits.

I'll take a photo and whack it up, its quite weird, a bunch of fellas in pink shirts. Scary.
--
dp


Where is Spring?

3/19/2005

The weather in the UK is rather obscure of late. It seems that Global Warming is a phenomenon that is very stacatto like in its manifestation here. Thankfully today we are undergoing a freak bout of sunshine. Its 11.30am, and I'm awaiting a call from the Wedding Invitation company. Despite having some bad news about the venue changing location - after we had printed off the hundreds of invites - we are going to pick them up and have a look at what they came out like. I'll then decide what I'm going to do with regards to reprints. Lesson learned - don't print an invite until you've seen the contract about the venue being confirmed!

Anyway, back to the weather. We like talking about the weather here in the UK. It seems we can moan about it together, in unison. Its sunny outside, and yet here I am typing away about the weather whislt indoors. I'm just upset that on Monday, the weather takes another turn and we are back to the grey damp skies of London. I recall days of yore when Summer was a flurry of blue skies, sunshine and happiness.

I've just had a look at the Cricket scores. Its the 2nd test between India and Pakistan. India, being absolute nincompooks, threw away a commanding position in the first to end up with a draw. They are in a similar position in the 2nd test: India (407 & 407), Pakistan (393 & currently 95/1). I do wish they win, but you see, they are India. Packed full of amazing batsmen and bowlers, and yet when the going gets tough, they crumble. Yet they seem to be the only side to have pushed Australia hard and strong in Australia of late!

Work remains the same. I really have to figure out just what I'm going to do with life. I'm in hot demand there, largely because I just get on with it and deliver, but when it comes to evaluations, I end up mid-bottom table unless there are some wise heads on the counsel, when I top the league. Still, I am more than a rating, I am a guy with a new Paper Shredder - shredding pages all over the place.

Dad is still in hospital, still waiting for the triple by-pass. I'm hoping all will go well.
--
dp


Wisdom Wish

3/16/2005

There is an old saying that actions speak louder than words.

I wish people would remember that before opening thier mouths.

Far better the poor man ploughing his tiny strip of land than the rich man talking about his plans to develop his acres.
..
dp
[mobile]


TGIGF - II

3/11/2005

Welcome to the second installment of Thank God Its Gadget Friday. I've been pondering about what to talk about. Should I comment on the latest fad of Handheld Gaming Machines, or should I talk about the merits of LCD, Plasma or Rear Projection TVs? After some investigation of the latest Tech headlines I have opted to talk about Wireless Networks.

Arrgh. Yes, Arrgh. I currently work on a huge Wireless Network programme within a large corporation in the UK. I also have a 802.11b Wireless Network setup at home. Though not an amazingly knowledgeable expert in the matter, I've realised that there are some things that everyone who has or is considering getting a Wireless Network should think about.

There is a lot of TERROR talk about Wirless Networks. This TERROR talk usually hinges on the prospect of someone hijacking your connection. But there are ups and downs to that threat of TERROR. Firstly the up - if you have unknowling left your Wireless connection open to hackers, all they can really do is use your bandwidth (as long as your PCs are Firewalled and Virus Protected that is). The benefit of this is quite obscure - in that should anyone want to prosecute you on your surfing behaviour, e.g. use of Peer-to-Peer, there is little or no proof that it was YOU that did it. The log files on your Wireless router should be set to rotate and delete on a frequent basis, and voila, there is no evidence that it was your MAC Address (the unique signature code of your machine on the network) that was participating in the activity. The downside is that otherpeople can piggy back on your connection and take up your bandwidth.

Instead of going on extensively about how to configure security, I'm going to blabber on about new devices that you can use at home to make the most of your Wireless Network, and what I see the future of this infrastructure to be..

Voice Over IP - Skype - soon the whole VoIP market will pick up and there will be a rush to pick up the latest voip wireless phones. Vonage a decent company who handle this space, as well as cheap-call and especially actiontec-a-skype carrier are good starting material. Basicaly VoIP is where you use your internet conncetion to have clear voice conversations between locations. This is basically seen as being the future of telephony, replacing the current wired switched versions and ancient exchanges. I've used Skype before, its very clear, but has a huge overheard in terms of network traffic - so don't use it lots if you have a capped rate broadband connection. Otherwise, its a done deal.

Wireless Mobile Phones - XDA - - together with a mobile phone, a PDA you get the ability to connect and surf via 802.11b on the XdaIIs and XdaIIi. The benefits of this are that you can surf on a more mobile device than most laptops currently lend themselves to. This seems odd at first, but its really very very neat. You can access the internet on a PDA, that acts as your mobile whilst at home. This is useful for immediate access to stuff like webmail or newssites whilst sat on your sofa.

Wireless Digital Music Players - there are a lot of these on the market right now, so its hard to pick any of merit. The benefits are of course the ability to play mp3s that are stored on a remote PC elsewhere in the house. Sonace are pretty good at these devices...the iPort being one. Phillips also produce a model, but for now, its best to stick with PC based companies like Creative.

My vision of the future is very simple, and very doable. Basically I see a picture in my mind. A DVD Player, a VHS Player, a TV, a CD Player, and a HDD Recorder are all shipped and sold with 802.11g Wireless Network cards and capability built into the unit. They connect seamlessly and immediately to your in-home Sony Management Centre, which is basically a high-class Wireless Router/Switch with a lovely touch screen display. This Unit recognises the devices being shipped with a standard global security and networking setting, (that can be reverted to/reset easily) and then asks you if you want these new units to join your household network (or you type in the secret code for the device that then asks you if you want it to join). Once joined, the new device's security setting is changed, and the device is now available across the network in your home. So from now on, your DVD player can stream video to any tv on the networ, and you can listen to CDs on any tv in your house etc.

No more extra wiring required, just the powercable! Imagine it, just devices, loitered all over the place, even in cupboards, and all communicating and streaming data wirelessly!

That is it for Gadget Friday 2, its not been the best installment, but what with Dad still in hospital awaiting an op, and work piling up with politics, I've done what I can. Hope its entertaining and ultimately useful.


Oh Please Let This Be True...

3/07/2005

"The Government's difficulties in pushing control orders through Parliament are making it look increasingly unlikely that the ID Cards Bill will make it onto the statute book before the election. If it fails to do so, then any new Labour administration would be forced to start the process again from scratch after the election.

The ID Cards Bill is currently with the House of Lords, which this week is preoccupied with the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. This currently proposes to give the Home Secretary sweeping powers to monitor and restrict the movement and activities of suspected individuals. The Lords will not however approve it in this form, and while conflicting signals seemed to be coming out of the Government over the weekend as to whether or not it was prepared to make "further" concessions (as we've pointed out here before, the concessions so far don't actually concede much), the straight choice is probably between conceding enough to get the Tory Party onside or losing the Bill. The Tories may line up if the Government concedes the point that all control orders should be imposed by judges, rather than simply the 'more serious' ones, and gives in to a "sunset clause" that automatically expires the powers around September.

That seems a likely outcome, but probably only after a couple of days of squaring off, and the Sunday Times yesterday suggested Home Secretary Charles Clarke was also preparing to deploy a statutory instrument which would continue the detention of the Belmarsh inmates until "new arrangements" can be put in place. This might be used once the Government has maximised pre-election grandstanding at the expense of the opposition.

The second reading of the ID Cards Bill is currently programmed for the House of Lords in two weeks time, on Monday 21st March, by which time it will be getting dangerously close to the election period (the real one, that is, not the one we've been in since November). With the election date expected to be 5th May, Parliamentary business would end in early April, and any Bills left hanging at this point will be subject to horse-trading between the Government and the Opposition. Relatively uncontroversial Bills can be rushed through, while others can pass into law provided the Government is prepared to concede some key points."

Full Story Available Here
--
dp


Gadget Friday

3/04/2005

Taking inspiration from Aravis, I will be posting regular Gadget Friday posts for the geeky folk amongst us (guess that's just me then ;-)

We start today with what I consider the beginning of a new phase of convergence. First we had the Mobile+Camera, and now, those two monsters of teleco+electronics Sony Ericsson, have launched what I consider two of the most impacting devices for ages (well since the iPod anyway).

The leader of the pack when it comes to common High Street brands (we're ignoring stuff like Bang & Oluf, and Denon etc.) Sony has always been a leading player in domestic electronics (except in the mp3 world). Ericsson had always been, imho, the leading mobile phone designer for ages - despite Nokias market leading position. Ericsson were smart at creating the next-gen of feature laden and designer units. The merger of the two companies to form Sony Ericsson got off to a bit of a shaky start. However, it soon took off and the fruits of labour started to make large inroads into the consumer population. The P800, followed by the P900i dominated the boardroom (beside the Blackberry). The T610 and T630 - which moved onto the K700 - pretty much are the most reliable and robust camera phones around today. The Z600 has the lowest phone radiation of all phones (SAR of 0.12)

So now we have the convergence. The first Sony Ericsson Walkman phone, the W800i.

The Walkman phone claims a great separation of mp3 player to phone. Key features are a Memory StickDuo card for storage up to 2G, and 10 hours playback with phone on, and 30 hours playback with phone off. A built in 2mega-pixel camera helps too! A good review of the features here.


And the evolution of the K700, the brand new K750i.

The K750i has a smashing 2megapixel digicamera in a smallish unit that also has cool games and a radio! If this has a SAR radiation level of below 0.50, its definitely one for my pocket! I personally don't value a mp3 player in my mobile, though many people might.

I envisage that these two will pretty much take off, not rivaling the iPod dominance, but flooding the market of mobile phones easily. The key to this success, however, is going to be price. If i were the Sony Ericsson executives, I'd definitely be thinking of a small margin on each device, and even potentially loss-leading on one of them to grab the all important market share. Because, who in this era, hasn't had a Walkman (or similar) in the past? If Sony wants to reclaim their position, they'll have to do something clever with the price - especially since they've now done something clever with the gadgets!

This years Sony Ericsson models are on show here - one of them looks very enticing to me.


--
dp


worry

3/02/2005

sometimes life likes showing you how to prioritise.
a gentle reminder about what 2 worry about.
think about it the next time things happen.
..
dp
[mobile]


Sod Geneva, we're American! (& Great Blairites)

3/01/2005

Unfortunately I tuned into BBC2's Newsnight last night, and was kept abreast of our TERROR Laws passing through the Commons. How pleased I was to learn that the Blairites Bill of Restriction just about made it through by a majority of 14, and now faces stiff opposition in the House Of Lords. The two Lordy chaps on the programme were adamant that the TERROR Law was more about restriction of Civil Liberties than safeguarding the population from TERROR. This gives me some comfort that the Lords isn't full of Blairite cronies (though there are a couple of big hitters that share his bed in terms of the Iraq War Quagmire).

"We are facing the gravest threat that this nation has ever faced" says Baroness Scotland, a highly innefectual television representative if I saw one. She couldn't answer the valid question of 'why are you giving concessions to the Law on TERROR that you previously said was necessary as it stood?' The responses were typically political, pretentious, and just condescending. Luckily Paxman was in top form and just turned away. Awesome.

"We are facing the gravest threat that this nation has ever faced" says Baroness Scotland. So the Luftwaffe raiding down onto London wasn't so bad then. So the French Invasion was just a small bagguette fight. So the Spanish Armada was bit of an Omlette incident. So the collapse of the British Empire wasn't that drastic. Nope, we are facing the GRAVEST threat we've ever faced.

I'd give them £10 if they can articulate in concrete terms just what that threat is. And if they truely believe we need protection - then enlist their children to protect us! What kind of fools do you take us for?

Oh - the kind that jumps at TERROR when you say it..TERROR. oooh. TERROR. Ohh. Scary.

Then I got to watch Guantanamo Torture on 7 Volunteers. George Blair and Tony Bush are a bit deluded if they think that Torture of irrelevants is going to be useful. I mean if they can use Lithium on them, and get results, then wtf is GlaxoSmithKlienBeecham good for? We already have Colgate/Crest/McCleans - sod inventing a new toothpaste and sort out that Truth Serum.

Jeez - do we the public have to do everything around here?
--
dp


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Weekly musings from a confused mind. This blog, and all posts within it, are just ramblings. They are in no way affiliated with any past, current or future employers. Neither do they represent my deep felt views, or those of my friends or family. Really, its just a blog, which is a new thing, and has new dimensions. So please, dont take anything seriously. If you do, contact me via a comment, and I will get back to you to resolve the situation. Seriously, enjoy life, ignore this blog, and views within it.

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