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rice.jpgA major study by Prof. Andrew Mehag of Aberdeen University has found high levels of arsenic in rice and rice products. The study was carried out for the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Arsenic is considered one of the worst cancer causing chemicals. The study found that around 10% of rice sold in the UK contains arsenic above the level China has found to be damaging to health.

The EU currently has no legal limit for arsenic in food and our own level was set in 1959, before it was known that arsenic could cause cancer. The study found that rice from France, USA, Italy and Bangladesh had the highest levels of arsenic. 30% of American rice tested had arsenic levels higher than the Chinese limit. Indian and Egyptian rice had the lowest levels. Bad news for people like me that eat brown rice every day is that brown rice had even higher levels of arsenic. Even worse news for me, some rice milk was found to contain high levels of arsenic too.

flood6.jpgYet another report has concluded that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could cause more flooding. This report by the Met Office found that CO2 caused by human activity is affecting the ability of plants to absorb water through their roots. The Met office used a computer model to see how this would affect water levels. The model used CO2 concentrations of 550 parts per million (ppm), the current levels are 381ppm. The computer simulation showed that because plants would absorb less water, areas at risk of flooding would see higher water levels, but areas prone to drought would have more water, as less would be absorbed by the plants. Richard Betts, a computer modeller from the Met Office said: “It's a double-edged sword. It means that increases in drought due to climate change could be less severe as plants lose less water…On the other hand, if the land is saturated more often you might expect that intense rainfall events are more likely to cause flooding.”

nortwest%20passage.jpgThe famous North-West Passage, that frozen stretch of water running along the North American Arctic coastline has finally started to thaw because of global warming. The once treacherous ice strewn sea passage is now almost clear of ice for the first time since records began. In the 1900’s explorers took two years to navigate the dangerous and mostly frozen waters, now it is pretty much plain sailing. This is surely another sign of global warming for any one that still doubts that global warming is real. What makes this even worse is that with the seas around the Arctic becoming easier to navigate as more and more of the ice melts, the Arctic oil and gas fields are now becoming accessible. Exploration and extraction companies are already fighting over the rights to these gas and oil reserves.

monkey.jpgAnimal Defenders International are urging us to celebrate the plight of primates on 1st September, International Primate Day, by downloading a specially-released song by Maria Daines. The aim is to get the song into the UK Top Ten to highlight the cause of primates round the world. This year is the third annual International Primate Day, this year focusing in particular on lab primates.

hedgehog.JPGThe UK Biodiversity Action Plan, the UK’s early-warning system for species at risk of extinction has been enlarged with a raft of new plants and animals, it was reported in The Guardian. The list, which is updated every ten years, has more than doubled to 1,149 at-risk species since the last review even though some species have been taken off since 1997 as their numbers have been stabilised and are no longer considered at risk.

The house sparrow, harvest mouse, cuckoo, garden tiger moth, grass snake and hedgehog have all been added with the hope that habitat loss and decline in numbers can be halted within three years.

S1_5_2_Environment.jpgIf the Liberal Democrats have their way all petrol cars will be banned by 2040. The radical proposals were announced today by party leader Sir Menzies Campbell, and environment spokesman Chris Huhne as part of a scheme to make the Britain carbon neutral by 2050. Mr Huhne wants to see hydrogen fuel cell powered cars and predicts there will be other new technologies which will replace petrol engines. He compared the changes to the move from steam to internal combustion engines at the start of the 20th century. Their ten point plan also commits to 100% non nuclear, carbon-free generation by 2050, and a green tax aimed specifically on those who pollute the most.

emissions.jpgAccording to the U.N. “energy efficiency is the most promising means to reduce greenhouse gases in the short term.” This could result in stricter standards in using fossil fuels for cars, factories, coal-fired power plants or buildings. A U.N. report about climate investments also stated that greenhouse gas emissions could be restricted more cheaply in developing nations than in wealthy states in coming years.

barrier1.jpgThe Environment minister Phil Woolas has said that a feasibility study is due to report within weeks into a £20 billion project to build a second barrier to protect London from flooding. This new barrier will enhance the protection provided by the existing Thames barrier, built in 1983. The government is scheduled to make a final decision early next year. Mr Woolas said: "This is no longer an academic debate. We have seen the floods in England and the extreme weather across the world. People accept that it is a real threat but they don't realise the imminence of it. Hopefully if there is any good that comes out of the floods it will be that recognition." Is it me or, does this appear to be an admission by the government that there is no hope of controlling the rise in global temperatures?


A nationwide crusade to protest against the closure of 43 specialised UK factories which employ disabled people begins today in Aberdeen. The Remploy Crusade will travel throughout Scotland, England and Wales to gather public and political support to stop a government supported company from going ahead with cost-cutting plans which would place 2,270 disabled people into mainstream employment. The firm, Remploy, which was started in the 1940s to provide tailor-made working environments for disabled people, says that no disabled person will be made compulsorily redundant, but has also revealed that the company's factories are losing around £100m a year.

However, unions are calling for the factories to stay open and criticise six disability charities who are backing the closures. The protest crusade will run over 60 rallies nationwide over the next month culminating in Bournemouth to tie in with the Labour Party Conference. You can see the protest timetable on the GMB union website.

Related stories: Lazy Baby t-shirts support disabled workers | Kampuchica bags made by disadvantaged and disabled women

smallbogleacrosswater.jpgFans of a BBC drama series have been rallying forces to protest about proposed plans to build power lines across a stretch of Scottish countryside. The countryside in question just happens to be the same as featured in hit TV show Monarch of the Glen, and the protesters are not just locals but people from as far off as Australia and America. The forum on the programmes fan site is buzzing with chat over Scottish & Southern Energy's plans to double the size of the pylons on the land near Loch Laggan, which is the home of the fictional TV show which ended several years ago.

[via The Observer]

globeworld.jpgThe green trend is growing and according to a new Norwich Union study, 68% of Brits do it out of guilt and to “keep up with the Joneses.” A significant 56% consider unethical living to be a social taboo equivalent to drink driving and a whopping 90% admit to telling green fibs, pretending to live more ethical lifestyles and feeling obliged to live more ethically. Quite a number (20%) don’t know how to go about being greener, and 53% say they refuse to alter their lifestyles because of an amalgamation of confusion, lack of time, or objections to being told what to do.

japan%20smog.jpgJapan is encountering high levels of ‘photochemical’ smog, even appearing in rural areas. Warnings for hazardous smog have been issued in 28 regions so far this year. The government is careful about where it places the blame, but many experts are pointing the finger at China, for this and other environmental concerns, such as acid rain and toxic sandstorms.

Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with exhaust fumes from cars and factories and consists of photochemical oxidant particles, which can lead to breathing problems and headaches.

windfarm6.jpgOffshore wind farms are expected to account for around 20% of our electricity needs by 2020, which is good news for the government as it is at least one target they may be able to meet and it is good news for the planet as it means reduced carbon emissions and lower global temperature rises, which makes it good news for us too. Unfortunately these constructions are very likely to harm whales and dolphins, both during construction and in the longer term. A report by the Whale and Dolphin Society states that during construction, the noise can be heard up to 80km away and at closer ranges whales and dolphins can have their hearing damaged and can exhibit dramatic behavioural changes. Once the wind farms are in full operation, the noise from the service boats will continue to cause damage to marine life.

ice6.jpgClimate change is something that we sometimes perceive as abstract and a bit unreal at the moment, in our country at least. We have not really had to experience the devastating effects of global warming on our way of life, yet. For the Inuit people of Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia’s far east, climate change is real and it is current. Rising temperatures, melting ice and rising sea levels are affecting entire communities and their traditional way of life. This is not something that they need to worry about in the future, this is their reality now. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the former president and international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) is trying to raise awareness of the effect of global warming to her people. She talks about increasing numbers of hunters falling through the ice. She explains about her neighbour: “He fell through the ice and they found him two or three days later when his legs were frozen…

Brad Pitt visits eco-friendly New Orleans home

brad%20pitt.jpgBrad Pitt has become the latest Hollywood celeb to be seen sizing up luxury green accommodation. He visited an eco-friendly New Orleans home on Tuesday, surrounded by a large throng of photographers and other hangers-on.

Pitt had showed up to check on the first house in a new green building project he has been funding in the weather-stricken area. Accompanied by neighbourhood residents and representatives of Global Green USA, which is sponsoring the initiative, and the Home Depot Foundation, an underwriter, Pitt strolled through the two-story house, which will have solar panels that should reduce utility bills by 75 percent.

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