Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Another Eyjafjallajökull?

Just a little over a year ago Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull Volcano famously erupted and although was considered relatively small in comparison to previous in the area, caused significant travel disruption to thousands of people around the world.

According to the BBC the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull last caused the worst disruption and lead to the largest Eurpoean air travel closure since World War II. About 20 countries closed their airspace and 10 million travellers were affected. The was down to large quantities of volcanic ash lying on the ground coupled with strone surface winds which ultimately lead to poor visibility. Due to the volcano's location being directly under the jet stream this meant ash was blown for huge distances at upper levels affecting international airspace.

Flights across Europe were cancelled for six days and, according to The Independent, were estimated to have cost airlines £130 million a day. However, in terms of pollution, and all you eco warriors out there will love this, it was reported that European flights alone avioded approximately 344,109 tonnes of CO2 emissions a day whilst the volcano only emitted about 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per day.

Well that was a year ago and believe it or not it's happening again just in time for the holiday season! According to The Independent the Grímsvötn Volcano, in Vatnajokull National Park, began erupting on Saturday 21sy May 2011 which caused flights at Iceland's main airport to be cancelled due to a large plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles high entering the atmosphere.

© Getty Images
A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson has confirmed that they are in a much better position than last time. He said safety will still be paramount but the level of disruption will be dramatically reduced from last year, provided there is not a huge amount of high density ash cloud. The spokesperson also said a similar level of ash to last year would not result in the same level of disruption. So fingers crossed it should cause too much disruption.

This time round the ash is a lot coarser and falling to the ground quicker therefore, in order to have the same impact as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption last year a more explosive eruption would be needed to propel the ash as far as last year. If you want to take a look at the scientific data a little bit more take a look at the British Geological Survey’s website its really interesting!
Flights over the UK were suspended briefly yesterday and thousands of passengers were affected by the ash cloud. However, most flights in the UK have now resumed because the concentrations of ash are thought to have dispersed.
Although the volcano has officially stopped erupting the ash cloud still continues to travel and as such, according to the BBC, ash may return to the UK airspace on Friday so further flights may be disrupted. A CAA spokesperson stated that we are expected to be at risk of a high concentration of ash covering most of the UK. This obviously is not good news for anyone wishing to travel in the immediate future.
I just can’t help but think is this Mother Nature’s way of telling us to stop using airplanes and reduce our carbon footprint? After the year we have had already I can only assume that Mother Nature is fighting back!
Click to pl

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Circus of Horrors

Living in confined spaces, constant travel and performances in front of loud crowds is no life for anyone, especially not for the animals that are made to perform in circuses but this is the life many of them are forced to live.

This issue has been the focus in the media recently when The Independent reports that “elephants may have shackles on their legs for most of their lives and other animals are tied or kept in small cages. Closely confined circus animals may also be unresponsive to events around them which in humans are usually an indicator of depression and other disorders associated with inability to have control of environmental impacts.” Surely everyone can see that this is a significant indicator of poor welfare. Even if you haven’t witnessed this for yourself, just from reading these reports it is glaringly obvious that this treatment, this lifestyle and this much neglect is just wrong! If I haven’t left the house for a day I start to feel trapped let alone a whole life time spent in a cage with chains around my ankles. This isn’t a lifestyle they chose. It was forced upon them by our very own species.
These poor animals are made to do ‘tricks’ under extreme conditions just to satisfy us, the public. I mean do we really want to have this on our conscience. Is a 30 minute performance really worth it when you consider the abuse these animals are subject to? After reading these reports I definitely would not attend a circus (with an animal act).
© Getty Images
All animals are subject to training by circus staff and some trainers have been known in the past to use harsh methods, physical violence in order for them to perform tricks. Such punishments lead to pain and fear. This is because animals which are not domesticated are usually much worse at adapting to conditions imposed by humans. This just highlights the fact that these animals should not be made to perform such activities.
As Tree Hugger suggests people have the assumption that circuses are all about up-close glimpses of rare creatures and the captive breeding programs that can bring endangered species back from the brink but not all animal owners are so ethical, qualified or even kind to their animals, but this is not the case as many animals all over the world are being abused in some way.
© Creative Commons
If you thought that these activities only happened in foreign countries as no one here in the UK would let this still go on today then you would be wrong. Here in the UK a 59 year old elephant named Anne was beaten by her owners and chained up for hours at a time. A video leaked earlier this year has lead to the Country’s Environment Secretary to ban all wild animals from circuses and so far has lead to Anne the elephant being removed from the circus.
There is also the story of Knut, a Polar Bear bred in captivity in Berlin’s Zoological Garden back in 2006. Rejected by his mother at birth he was raised by zookeepers. He became the centre of a mass media incident when children started protesting outside the zoo for the release of Knut. Sadly his story ended in March this year when he died at the age of four which has since been related to brain problems.
Since these stories have unfolded Government Ministers have been put under pressure in Parliament this week over their failure to bring forward plans to ban wild animals performing in circuses which has lead to people campaigning and petitioning to put a stop to this issue. If you would like to help encourage the banning of wild animals in circuses join The Independent’s campaign by signing their online petition for the Government to set out a timetable for banning wild animals.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

FEED the World

Here in the UK it is getting extremely difficult to get a plastic bag from your local shop. The look of disgust from the sales assistant and the additional cost of buying a bag (which you are usually made aware of after you have made your purchase) makes you really question whether your really need a bag and it seems to be working by the amount of reusable bags I see people carrying around. 
I think and hope that it is only a matter of time before plastic bags are wiped out completely. Especially when you consider that most plastic bags are sent to landfill and are not biodegradable. Yes they are useful for taking your sandwiches to work or picking up dog mess but are there not other alternatives? Surely an alternative should be developed? People tend not to go shopping unexpectedly, it is usually a planned event and therefore it can’t be too hard to remember to take a reusable bag with you. 
Most of them are a fashion statement anyway. Many high street shops have designed beautiful; and trendy bags over recent years to really encourage people to use an alternative to the plastic bag and obviously make some money too. 
Whilst searching on the Internet for a new reusable bag I found a really interesting project which is selling artisan bags to raise money to feed the poor. Now you only have to read my blog to know I love a god cause, and this is no different. What a brilliant concept – you get a great bag and feel good about giving to charity. It is a really easy way to get involved. 
FEED Projects was set up in 2006 with the mission of creating a good product to help FEED the world. This is achieved with the sale of FEED bags and other accessories and then offsetting a donation to feeding the poor. 
Their website states that their “personal commitment to working against hunger is matched with a commitment to the environment and to safe and healthy working conditions for all we work with”. FEED bags are made with sustainable materials, along with fair labour production. Each bag sale is helping to 'FEED the world, one bag at a time'. 
If you want to find our more information you should follow them on Twitter @FEEDProjects or watch the video below:

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Twister, quite arguably my favourite natural disaster movie, is currently on the television. It's the movie that first made me interested in Geography and it is the movie which made me realise just how powerful our planet earth really is. Its quite ironic that as I sit here watching a movie in which no one is seriously injured, hundreds of people across the ocean have recently felt the real affects of a tornado. Well not even just one...Hundreds!

Newspapers have reported April has been a devastating month for tornadoes. According to the Storm Prediction Centre there has been approximately 875 tornadoes reported throughout the United States which looks set to be the new record for April tornadoes records. The previous record was apparently set back in 1974 with a total of 267. Even I can tell that this recent activity is a huge increase to what this region usually has to deal with.

On 27th April a total of 226 of tornadoes were recorded by the Storm Prediction Centre causing significant damage in Alabama and several other states. Reporters in Birmingham, Alabama were filming one of the tornadoes and reported that "even from miles away the funnel was so wide that they could not zoom their cameras out far enough to get an entire image of the tornado".

© Storm Prediction Centre
Over 300 people were killed in this particular event where a twister is thought to have been a mile wide and recorded as a EF5 tornado with wind speeds exceeding 200mph. A local resident was reported as saying that all of the hospitals were full and people were being told not to go to them for non-life threatening injuries. As many as a million homes and businesses across Alabama are still without power and at this stage the total damage is still unknown as assessments may take weeks to complete due to the large amount of land and scale of the tornadoes.

After these tragic events President Barack Obama approved emergency assistance and search and rescue support where a state of emergency has been declared. He has also since visited communities in Alabama and said that Washington would do everything possible to help rebuild these communities.

Over the past few months alone there has been so many devastating natural disasters which really highlight how vulnerable the human species are to planet earth and although technology is increasing so we are better at predicting tornadoes, floods and hurricanes there is no way of eradicating them completely. We all need to act now to help prevent climate change.