The Grumpy Old Man

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The ecology of the world really matters; we only have ONE chance




Eco 0 is Grumpy an Environmentalist, an Eco-Warrior, or just a Common or Garden Tree Hugger Wearing a Daisy in his Hat?

The Environment, what can WE do?

I was very moved by an address given by a 15-year-old schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg. As I wrote a response to the above question, I found that what she said integrated totally with my own thoughts.

My response became highly complex and although largely prompted by a comment made by one of my regular readers, I found the answer grew longer and longer eventually constituting a grump that was so large nobody would ever have ploughed through it.

The topic is so crucially important in this day and age that I have been very keen to keep it all together.

What is written is only my initial thoughts as I am sure the topic will grow and grow. It is essential for our future that this is the case. I understand that many schools are already approaching environmentalism. I even saw a "political discussion show" on the television recently where the subject and public debate was "is environmentalism becoming the new religion?" Here in Ireland there is an annual "Young Scientist" competition held in Dublin where the young scientist, sponsored by their school, showcased innovative science and technology projects to compete for the title of Young Scientist and Technologist of the year. This year there were 550 such projects and of those over 100 were associated with the environment.

so interest is growing, it is up to us all to keep up the momentum, I cannot emphasise how important it is to take action, real action and so far, it is heartening to see the number of people turning out for worldwide demonstrations. Mind you, it did not surprise me one iota the approach taken by politicians which I can only consider to be rude, arrogant, very patronising and showing a worrying lack of interest in the topic. Sooner or later however it will bite is all in a very painful place. So here are a few ideas to Start with eco0 ...to read more...... You will find links to the rest of the topics as you proceed..................




Eco 17....Mobile Phones, User-friendly or User Hazard....

....How safe actually are mobile phones?, or Mobile Phones, user friendly or user hazard?...

The brain is a wonderful piece of kit with which we are all endowed and yet how terribly we abuse it.

But what, you might ask, has this to do with mobile phones? To answer this question let's look at how both the brain and the mobile phone work.

First, a simplified view of how the brain works. Within the brain are billions of interconnected neurons and other cells. These neurons communicate with each other generating thought processes and transmitting instructions to and receiving information from, other parts of the body. These processes, and information transfers take the form of very small electrical signals (called 'action potential'). We can observe this as the effect is utilised by the electroencephalographic (EEG) picking up the electrical signals of brain activity through electrodes attached to the scalp.

We think we know an awful lot about the brain, however Grumpy feels our knowledge of the brain is at a similar level as our knowledge of the universe (or cosmos). For example, we know much about atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, bosons and many other particles we believe make up "matter". We know much about "energy" and, through Einstein (e=mc2), we know much about the interrelationship of energy and matter. Through observation, we know much about the universe and such objects as stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies and many more.

Using current theories and perceived laws of physics we have made a theoretical calculation of how much "matter" and "energy" (or stuff) comprises the universe. We have also made scientific observations, measurements and calculations to "measure" how much "stuff" is actually out there.

Accepting this as fairly advanced work it would be fair to say the first time we tried the experiment we could expect, at best, the theoretical figure to be within 50% or so of the measured figure to be somewhat generous!

What was found was that the theoretical quantity differed wildly from the observed, accounting for only some 4% of that which we measured. To put that differently, current laws of physics can only account for 4% of the stuff of the cosmos. As usual man has an answer for that saying the other 96% is made up of "dark matter" or "dark energy". The joke is that we know nothing about either of this dark stuff. We don't know what it is, what it's made of, where it came from, where it's going, how it works or even whether it will continue to be around tomorrow .....read more.....




Eco 16....Today's final score; Squirrels 1; Road Builders Nil....

...a furry tale of the little guys victory over the national corporation....

I came across an article in the Irish Independent that not only amused me but also gave me hope that the little guy can change the course of national government corporations.

It relates to how a dozen or so red squirrels forced a change in the plans of Coillte (Ireland's equivalent to U.K.'s Forestry Commission) to build a private access road for the purposes of harvesting a stand of commercial forestry.

The saga was played out in a small village in the distant, northern western corners of Eire. Like many wooded areas, no matter what time of year, this one has a magical ambience, so much so, that it is an area to which the locals visit for walks or just peace and quiet contemplation. Part of the attraction .....read more.....


Note:this grump was originally published in May 2017, and updated in November 2018




Eco 15...Politicians total inactivity regarding eco matters.....

...A look at the total inactivity of Irish politicians on matters eco....

Grumpy has already written about politicians attending conferences, agreeing highfalutin protocols, coming back home and then doing llareggub (courtesy of Dylan Thomas) towards that which they have signed up to. (.....read more..... )

I write this comment on the basis of an article in the Irish popular press which once again queries Ireland's commitment to eco-matters. There is huge fresh evidence that Ireland will miss emission targets quite comprehensively. It also says that Ireland's natural Heritage is being whittled away by human exploitation (.....read more..... ). Not only that, but Ireland will miss the pledge to decarbonise the economy before 2050 by a substantial margin.

What is concerning about the statement is that it originated from a government report written in .....read more.....




Eco 14....Dangers From Drugs Misuse, an Environmental Crisis in the Making?....

Antibiotics and other drugs are a tremendous invention by man, but are we abusing their power, and will that abuse rebound on us?.

Some time ago I recall reading in the national dailies that chicken farmers were using antibiotics as an additive to feed purely as a preventative rather than curative measure. I've never been comfortable with the concept of battery chickens being kept in small cages. But to find that they are being fed a daily dose of antibiotics made me even more angry as these antibiotics must eventually finish up in the human food chain through the eggs or chicken meat. Thus, we are being unwittingly medicated, albeit in low dosages, by these drugs. It follows quite logically that any germs that come along in low concentrations will be overcome by this unwitting low dosage medication. However, as a great believer in the Darwinian process (see next paragraph), sooner or later a mutated version of this particular germ will develop that has an immunity to the drug. Logically .....read more.....




Eco 13....An Irish Approach to Climate Change....

A discussion of the merits of paying "carbon taxes" for ones pollution, rather than tackling the real problem - the pollution

I found an article written by a Research Fellow from the Environmental Research Institute in Cork University. This was published in the Irish Sunday Independent and although it acknowledges some very basic facts, the final conclusion drawn is absolutely appalling. Should this view and approach be widespread, it bodes ill for .....read more.....


Note:this grump was originally published in May 2017, and updated in November 2018




Eco 12....Plastics: an Environmental Crisis....

....Our Love of Plastic and Particularly Single Use Items is an Environmental Disaster in the Making....

I see in The Times newspaper that discarded fishing nets are destroying rare and endangered pink sea fans by ripping them from the seabed. These beautiful endangered corals are normally found in the UK counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

A recent programme on the television visited a beach in Mumbai. It was so covered in plastic trash that you could not see whether the beach was sand or shingle. This rubbish was being washed in twice a day on the tides. A typical cleanup produced four kilotons (1 kilo equals 1000) of plastic trash in a single year. As a further example of how widespread this tide born plastic is becoming, a beach in Arrochar, Northern Scotland is at the mercy of one of these toxic tides. A single thirty minute cleanup operation collected over 30 kg of plastic rubbish.

Recent newscasts of war-torn areas around the world frequently show children scavenging on rubbish tips. It is significant that these rubbish tips seem to comprise of discarded plastic.

Living near the sea, I frequently pass apartments built 12 or 15 years ago. These have been fitted with plastic windows which salesmen claim never need maintenance and will always look good. That's rubbish, the 12-year-old plastic windows I see are now a disgusting shade of yellow and streaked with rust from improper internal fixings. A neighbour's experience is that, over time, his plastic windows have distorted, discoloured, don't close properly and let drafts in during the winter.

So, let's look at some basic facts on this love of plastic......read more.....


Note:this grump was originally published in September 2017, and updated in November 2018




Eco12-1; A possible solution to the destruction of plastic waste?

About a month after writing this grump I came across a fascinating short piece that gives a glimmer of hope, if only that somebody somewhere is doing their bit to try and combat the long-term effect of the almost infinite life of this plastic trash. Read about this possible solution to the problem by clicking here .




Eco 12-2,....Ocean plastics cleanup, a viable solution?....

After I had written two particular grumps (eco-12, "plastics, an environmental disaster" and eco-12-1, "plastics a possible solution") I found myself terribly depressed as, during my investigation it became apparent that the problem was significant orders of magnitude worse than I had ever imagined. What I found even more depressing was, although some people are dickering at the edges, it was clear the solutions being discussed, although workable sometime in the future, would do little or nothing for the appalling situation that is out there in the oceans now. It was also clear that, although described as "5 garbage dumps" (one each in the North and South Pacific and Atlantic and one in the Indian oceans), the rubbish .... read more by clicking here




Eco11; Greenbelt Housing, The No-No of the Century

I see from the Daily Telegraph that the UK Communities Secretary, (Sajid Javid) is coming under pressure to abandon the protection of the greenbelt, despite having pledged not to do so in the Conservative Party 2015 election manifesto.

I would remind the Secretary, that as long ago as 1804, yielding to such pressures was even then a hot potato. William Blake, one of our great poets, wrote "and did those feet in ancient time walk upon England's mountains green and was the holy Lamb of God on England's pleasant pastures seen................ and was Jerusalem builded here among these dark satanic mills?........... I will not cease from mental fight............. till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land."

This extract from the poem became the hymn 'Jerusalem' clearly shows that unscrupulous developers and industrialists were even then despoiling England's .....read more.....




Eco10; The Continued Use of Neonicotinoids Insecticides

I have recently come across a petition to permanently ban the use of the insecticide family called neonicotinoides (abbreviated as neonics). It appears that these neonics are widely used, reputedly being registered in over 120 countries and having a business turnover of 1.5 billion for the manufacturers. So far as I can ascertain, various forms of neonics are produced predominantly by five or six manufacturers. It would appear these neonics represent 24% of the global insecticide market and are used in 80% of all seed treatments! In sunlight they have a half-life of around 34 days, but without sunlight it can be as much as 3.8 years (yes years). This latter period should clearly give concern about build-ups in such places as underground aquifers, which provide large quantities of drinking water particularly in rural areas through abstraction from boreholes and springs in many parts of the world.

This latter fact, in an era where common sense should prevail, Grumpy believes that this should have set at least some alarm bells ringing. We read that in 2008 one of the neonic family was linked to the death of millions of honeybees in Germany.

Through all this, both the manufacturers and large swathes of the agricultural industry insisted that the product was safe. .....read more.....




Eco 9; When we decided to use our local supermarket we noticed there were significant environmental considerations.

By local, I mean a supermarket in the small town which is about one and a half miles up the road. For years we had driven, weekly, some twenty miles each way to our nearest medium-sized town where we had the choice of two large supermarkets, together with a number of small department stores, and many other facilities that one would normally expect in such a town.

On a few occasions when we were desperately short of time, we had used the local supermarket. Some five years ago, .....read more.....




Eco 8; Are politicians more interested in attending conferences than in actually doing something constructive?

Gordon Bennett these politicians don't half take the biscuit, particularly on climate change. They seem to love holding meetings, conventions, conferences and all sorts of other talking shops making encouraging noises about how to tackle global warming and put right the damage done by Man to the environment. If you'll excuse the pun, all they produce seems to be a load of hot air and little else.

It is pertinent to note that countries represented at these bun fights invariably send large delegations. Grumpy finds it ironic that here they are talking about limiting climate change and yet by the very .....read more.....


Note:this grump was originally published in August 2015, and updated in November 2018




Eco 7; ....Unused second and holiday homes, of value to whom?....

One might ask, is there any solution to this? At a time of national austerity Grumpy asks if the building of so many housing units and selling them as little more than holiday homes makes economic sense?

This is particularly so when one hears that government tax incentives allowed the capital cost of these homes to be amortised across ten years of income tax. We have to ask who actually benefited from this?

The farmer or vendor who sold the plot of land in the first place may feel he has benefited, but when farms are relatively .....read more.....




Eco 6; Is there any real benefit from second or holiday homes and who actually benefits, if anyone?
....This grump leads on from eco5 about random one-off housing in Ireland....

As regular visitors to the website will know, Grumpy lives in a little village on the West Coast of Ireland. In the last twenty years there has been a huge explosion in the number of purpose-built estates springing up catering almost exclusively for the holidaymaker. Some of the smaller estates are owned by a single company and all are let solely to the holiday maker. A few of the other estates have been sold off to individuals, with many of the buyers treating them as a second or holiday home.

Grumpy has never, on a personal level, been a great believer in the value of owning a "holiday home". When he goes on holiday, he enjoys the variety of visiting different places every time. He can however see a few specific circumstances where it could .....read more.....




Eco 5; is random housing scattered around the countryside socially, economically or environmentally acceptable?

I make no apologies for this but it will be something of a mega grump. I shall look at the possibility of breaking it down into a number of the new grumps on specific topics.

I am very concerned about the amount of house building that has and is still going on around Ireland. A huge proportion of what is already built is grossly underused particularly here on the western seaboard. Twenty years ago when Mrs Grumpy and I first visited Ireland it was beautifully .....read more.....




Eco 4; Reduce the cost of heating your water with your immersion heater

In our cottage we have a huge cast iron bath. It's absolutely smashing to wallow in as I can stretch out full-length. But, Gordon Bennett, it doesn't half cost a lot to heat the water with which we fill it. What exacerbates the situation is that the hot water tank is really too small for the size of the house. This means, to heat sufficient water sufficiently, the immersion has to be set to its maximum temperature. The problem with this is that the thermostat never cuts out. Grumpy tried setting .....read more.....




Eco 3; What effect is leaving diesel engines running having on pollution

Well, the hotel over the road is now closed, at least during the week for the winter, and the peace and quiet that has descended on the area is tremendous. Grumpy is absolutely delighted that he no longer has to put up with the self-centred and inconsiderate antics of the tour coach drivers. They seem to have little consideration for local residents, the environment or costs to their own company.

What actually prompted me to write about this now is an incident that occurred late last week just before the hotel closed. At about eight thirty in the evening (itself rather unusual) a large tour coach pulled up outside the hotel. It sat there for a good twenty minutes with the engine humping away .....read more.....




Eco 2; Fed up with living in a cold draughty house, no need, read on!

Grumpy would observe from his own experience that we can actually improve our own individual environment. In fact by improving our own environment we can do a little to correct the ills we have imposed on the ecosystem in recent decades. If enough of us do so, we can actually have a huge effect on the overall system.After all, as one supermarket says, 'every little helps'!

When we came to Ireland fifteen or so years ago, the cottage we moved into was old with little in the way of maintenance work being done on it for a number of years. At the time, I was unemployed and therefore we had very little (for very little, actually red 'no' spare money left after basic living costs had been met. The cottage was cold, draughty and cost a small fortune to heat. The sole sources.....read more.....




Eco 1; Grumpy worries about the Environment

More trees, every little helps

The environment in which we live is very delicate and, as a species, we have spent hundreds of years destroying it. If not destroying it, then certainly we have severely damaged it. It is ironic that we now know for a fact that years ago huge areas of the world were covered in forests. Since then we have slowly and systematically destroyed these forests and thus released all the carbon they have fixed in the timber into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Science is now convinced that this carbon dioxide collects in the upper atmosphere and works like a greenhouse trapping heat and thus.....read more.....