Krill fishing poses serious threat to Antarctic ecosystem, report warns

Greenpeace finds industrial fishing taking place in the feeding grounds of whales and penguins, with vessels involved in oil spills and accidents

Industrial fishing for krill in the pristine waters around Antarctica is threatening the future of one of the worlds last great wildernesses, according to a new report.

The study by Greenpeace analysed the movements of krill fishing vessels in the region and found they were increasingly operating in the immediate vicinity of penguin colonies and whale feeding grounds.

It also highlights incidents of fishing boats being involved in groundings, oil spills and accidents, which it said posed a serious threat to the Antarctic ecosystem.

The report, published on Tuesday, comes amid growing concern about the impact of fishing and climate change on the Antarctic. A global campaign has been launched to create a network of ocean sanctuaries to protect the seas in the region and Greenpeace is calling for an immediate halt to fishing in areas being considered for sanctuary status.

Frida Bengtsson, from Greenpeaces Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: If the krill industry wants to show its a responsible player, then it should be voluntarily getting out of any area which is being proposed as an ocean sanctuary, and should instead be backing the protection of these huge swaths of the Antarctic.

Last month a study found a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing is hitting the krill population, with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators.

Krill
Krill fishing in the vicinity of Trinity Island. Photograph: Daniel Beltr/Greenpeace

The study warned that the penguin population could drop by almost one-third by the end of the century due to changes in krill biomass.

Krill are a key part of the delicate Antarctic food chain. They feed on marine algae and are a key source of food for whales, penguins and seals. They are also important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder water.

There is a growing global demand for krill-based health products which are claimed to help with a range of ailments from heart disease to high blood pressure, strokes and depression.

A recent analysis of the global krill industry predicted it was on course to grow 12% a year over the next three years.

Krill populations have declined by 80% since the 1970s. Global warming has been blamed partly because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton on which krill feed is retreating.

However, campaigners say recent developments in fishing technology are exacerbating the problem.

Tuesdays report analysed the krill fleets mandatory automatic identification systems [AIS] which shows the trawlers routes and when they were at fishing speed. In doing so researchers say they were able to get a record of industrial fishing in the feeding grounds of whales and penguins.

A global campaign has been launched to turn a huge tract of Antarctic seas into ocean sanctuaries, protecting wildlife and banning all fishing.

One was created in the Ross Sea in 2016, another 1.8m sq km reserve is being proposed in a vast area of the Weddell Sea, and a third sanctuary is under consideration in the area west of the Antarctic peninsula a key krill fishing area.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), whose members include 24 national governments and the EU, manage the seas around Antarctica. It will decide on the Weddell Sea sanctuary proposal at a conference in Australia in October, although a decision on the peninsula sanctuary is not expected until later.

Humpback
Humpback Whales Feeding in Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. Photograph: Christian slund/Christian slund / Greenpeace

Keith Reid, a science manager at CCAMLR said the organisation sought a balance between protection, conservation and sustainable fishing in the Southern Ocean.

He said although more fishing was taking place nearer penguin colonies it was often happening later in the season when these colonies were empty.

He added: The creation of the a system of marine protected areas is a key part of ongoing scientific and policy discussions in CCAMLR.

Cilia Holmes, sustainability director at Aker BioMarines, one of the leading krill fishing companies based in Norway, said they were looking forward to working with Greenpeace and other environmental groups to ensure the region was protected.

Our long-term operation in the region depends on a healthy and thriving Antarctic marine ecosystem, which is why we have always had an open dialogue with the environmental NGOs, and especially WWF.

We strongly intend to continue this dialogue, including [with] Greenpeace, to discuss improvements based on the latest scientific data. We are not the ones to decide on establishment of marine protected areas, but we hope to contribute positively with our knowledge and experience.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/13/krill-fishing-poses-serious-threat-to-antarctic-ecosystem-report-warns

Where is the worlds noisiest city?

The ignored pollutant can cause depression, stress, diabetes and heart attacks. What are cities doing to curb excess noise?

The constant roar of traffic, incessant construction noise, piercing sirens, honking horns, shrieking loudspeakers noise in cities is clearly a nuisance.

But its also a danger. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described noise pollution as an underestimated threat that can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, stress and depression. Some experts go further: they believe exposure to environmental noise could be slowly killing us.

Noise pollution causes hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, strokes and death, says Dr Daniel Fink, chairman of the Quiet Coalition, a community of health and legal professionals concerned with the adverse impacts of environmental noise.

Noise pollution is often cited as one of the main factors in the reduced quality of life in large, 24-hour cities like New York (where more than 200,000 noise complaints were recorded in 2016). It causes stress, which has its own adverse effects on health.

While the impact of noise on mental health has not been studied extensively, research has shown that strong noise annoyance is associated with a twofold higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in the general population.

A recent study by experts at the American College of Cardiology linked noise pollution to increased cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, coronary heart disease) through the bodys stress mediated response resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn damages blood vessels.

At a conference on noise organised by the European commission in April 2017, noise was regarded as the silent killer, with potentially severe consequences for our physical and mental health. And yet its impacts remain unreported and underestimated.

Worst offenders

Dr Eoin King, assistant professor of acoustics and author of the book Environmental Noise Pollution, calls noise the ignored pollutant. Environmental noise still continues to be poorly understood by practitioners, policymakers and the general public, he says.

Most worrying, says King, is the impact on children. Studies considering the effect that noise may have on children have found that tasks such as reading, attention span, problem-solving and memory appear to be most affected by exposure to noise.

The issue is compounded by debate over how much noise it is safe to be exposed to. In its Make Listening Safe guide, WHO states that 85 decibels is considered the highest safe exposure level, up to a maximum of eight hours. However, others Fink among them argue this is still too loud.

A car measures 70 decibels, a jackhammer 100, and a plane taking off 120, according to the WHO. Though there is no set threshold to establish risk, we do know that anything above 60 decibels can increase risk for heart disease, Dr Thomas Mnzel, from the Mainz University Medical Centre, has said.

A recent report by the BBC found that parts of the London Underground were loud enough to damage peoples hearing, with noise levels greater than 105 decibels on many lines. The report stated that some were so loud they would require hearing protection if they were workplaces.

Guangzhou
Guangzhou has been ranked as having the worse levels of noise pollution in the world Photograph: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Concerned about increased risk of hearing loss in cities, last year Mimi Hearing Technologies created a World Hearing Index to draw attention to the issue. With the results of hearing tests of 200,000 of their users worldwide and data on noise pollution from WHO and Sintef, a Norwegian research organisation, the index plotted levels of noise pollution and hearing loss in 50 cities.

The study found that, on average, a person living in the loudest cities has hearing loss equivalent to that of someone 10-20 years older. Overall the results showed a 64% correlation between hearing loss and noise pollution.

Guangzhou, China, ranked as having the worse levels of noise pollution in the world, followed by Cairo, Paris, Beijing and Delhi. Of the 50 cities, Zurich was found to have the least noise pollution.

Participants in Delhi recorded the highest average hearing loss equivalent to someone 19.34 years older than them. Vienna had the lowest hearing loss but still, on average, that of someone 10.59 years older.

We were able to collect quite a unique hearing data warehouse on hearing abilities across countries and continents, says Henrik Matthies, managing director of Mimi Hearing Technologies. There is an obvious known correlation between being exposed to noise and decreased hearing ability.

However, mapping this correlation to cities helped us to get the message out, sparking a debate about noise pollution and hearing in megacities like Hong Kong and Delhi.

But what can be done about it?

Political will

The EU are probably the world leaders at setting out a process to tackle noise pollution, says King. In 2002, it issued an environmental noise directive that requires member states to map noise exposure in urban areas holding upwards of 100,000 people, to develop noise abatement action plans in these areas and to preserve quiet areas.

Action plans usually incorporate a variety of measures such as traffic management strategies, promoting light rail systems and electric buses, reduced speed limits, introducing noise barriers and improved planning processes.

But good intentions only go so far. The problem is that there is no real enforcement associated with these action plans, says King. Until there is more of a political will to drive planning decision related to noise, I dont think much will change.

With road traffic by far the largest source of noise pollution in Europe, affecting an estimated 100 million Europeans, concepts like Pariss car-free day could have an impact. For one day every month in the French capital, 30% of the city becomes off limits to vehicles. The project has seen sound levels in the city centre drop by half.

The most effective way to control noise is at the source. If we could make planes, trains and cars quieter we would solve a lot of our problems, says King. If all vehicles in a city street were electric, noise would be significantly reduced.

Increasingly citizens can also do their bit to monitor noise pollution in cities by transforming their smartphones into sound level meters.

The NoiseTube app, developed by researchers at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, enables users to record where and at what times decibel levels are highest to produce a detailed noise map of the city. Councils can use the data to target noise pollution more effectively, using sound absorbent materials such as foam and fibreglass precisely where they are needed most.

King says there are many such projects looking to harness the potential of big data in the fight against noise for example, noise complaint data, or social media chatter related to noise, to better assess public sentiments towards soundscapes. There is a lot going on which I suppose gives us some hope.

Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to join the discussion, and explore our archive here

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/mar/08/where-world-noisiest-city

Blue-sky thinking: how China’s crackdown on pollution is paying off

Clear skies above Beijing again but some fear the problem is just being pushed elsewhere

The photographs on display at Wu Dis Beijing studio imagine China and Beijing at their dystopian worst.

Naked, expectant mothers stare out from the walls, their bellies exposed but their faces hidden behind green gas masks.

Worshippers prostrate themselves around the Ming dynasty Temple of Heaven, desperately petitioning the smog-choked skies for a breath of fresh air.

But while the interior of Wus atelier offers a desolate panorama of Chinas pollution crisis, outside, a different, brighter side to the country is, for once, on show.

Beijings skies, so often noxious and smoggy, are a perfect and perplexing cerulean blue.

Its 26 today, said Wu, a visual artist and documentary photographer, checking his smartphones pollution app to confirm the uncommonly low levels of PM2.5, an airborne particulate linked to lung cancer, asthma and heart disease.

In the past, we made money first and could only talk about the environment later. But its clear the government has changed its mind, he said. We can see everything is starting to move in the right direction.

During the creation of the nightmarish airpocalypses portrayed in Wus artwork, pollution levels might have been 20 or even 30 times higher. Beijing was like a giant airport smoking room that day. It was an epic haze, he recalled, pointing to an image staged in October 2013 in which a girl appears to inhale oxygen through a tube connected to two heart-shaped balloons.

Times, though, appear to be changing.

Wu
Wu says he became an artist after he saw foreign athletes wearing facemasks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Traditionally, winter is Beijings smoggiest season, as coal burning ramps up to keep millions of residents warm. But the skies over Chinas capital have been almost inconceivably clear of late, thanks partly to a government crackdown on the use of the fossil fuel.

Beijing enjoyed a record 226 days of good air quality last year and endured 23 heavily polluted days, compared with 58 in 2013, state media announced last month. The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, greeted the recovery with the incredulous headline: How did Beijing become one of Chinas top cities for air quality?

Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-controlled Global Times, tweeted alongside a photograph of Beijings azure-framed CCTV headquarters: Isnt it good to have a ruling party that can honour its promise?

Lauri Myllyvirta, a Greenpeace campaigner, said Chinas leaders could rightly claim credit for making Beijing blue again, temporarily at least, even if favourable weather conditions had played a major role in the exceptionally good spell.

Since last year, thousands of environmental inspectors have fanned out across the industrial belt around the capital as part of an aggressive clampdown on coal use. Heavily polluting vehicles, factories and construction sites have also been targeted. There is clear evidence the measures worked, said Myllyvirta, who said overall PM2.5 levels in Beijing had fallen by 40% from their peak in 2012-2013.

But he sounded a note of caution. Average PM2.5 levels in Beijing remained 65% above the national standard and more than five times World Health Organization guidelines last year. A recent bout of severe smog highlighted the fight ahead.

There are also fears that the crackdown around Beijing is forcing polluting industries to migrate south to regions such as the Yangtze river delta around Shanghai, where smog levels are rising. The war on pollution is far from over few people harbour illusions, Myllyvirta said. But there is also no reason for cynicism as theres clear evidence the measures worked.

Wu, 41, abandoned his job as an executive to become an environmentally engaged artist a decade ago, shocked into a career change by images of foreign athletes wearing facemasks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ten years on, and with the skies over his adoptive home starting to clear, he said he is glad his artwork and photographs, some of which have featured in Greenpeace anti-pollution campaigns, have played a role in increasing public awareness.

I want to produce work that can push society and the government to make positive changes …. [and] the most effective way to push the government to make changes is through public opinion, he said. It shows my work isnt a waste of time … It shows the power of art.

Wu worries, however, that change may have come too fast. He was among those left shivering when environmental inspectors began destroying coal-fired heaters late last year as part of a push to switch to natural gas or electric heating systems. Its only four degrees in here I can hardly work, he complained, touring his studio in a thick brown coat.

I agree with the government that we need lucid waters and lush mountains but the measures should be more gentle and more human. I can cope with the low temperature, but what about the elderly? What about children?

In one nearby area, primary school students reportedly suffered frostbite and were forced to study outdoors in the sunshine after their radiators stopped working.

Wu is also concerned about the environmental damage still being inflicted on less visible regions, where pollution crises have not received the same level of media attention as Beijings toxic skies. For one installation, he asked 12 volunteer disciples to recreate one of Leonardo da Vincis frescos, The Last Supper, in a derelict factory. The message is that because of pollution, mankinds last supper could come at any time because of pollution.

Overall, however, Wu believes China is on the right track. We should admit the government is trying to do the right thing and we need to recognise that it takes time to deal with environmental issues, he said.

If Chinas war on smog robbed him of his principal inspiration, he is unperturbed. Theres no lack of problems to inspire artists in China, he joked. Some western artists are jealous of that.

Additional reporting by Wang Xueying

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/22/blue-sky-thinking-how-chinas-crackdown-on-pollution-is-paying-off

Decline in krill threatens Antarctic wildlife, from whales to penguins

Climate change and industrial-scale fishing is impacting the krill population with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators, say scientists

Decline in krill threatens Antarctic wildlife, from whales to penguins

Climate change and industrial-scale fishing is impacting the krill population with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators, say scientists

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/14/decline-in-krill-threatens-antarctic-wildlife-from-whales-to-penguins

How do you build a healthy city? Copenhagen reveals its secrets

The Danish capital ranks high on the list of the worlds healthiest and happiest cities. With obesity and depression on the rise worldwide, here are its lessons for how to combat them culturally

How do you build a healthy city? Copenhagen reveals its secrets

How do you build a healthy city? Copenhagen reveals its secrets

The Danish capital ranks high on the list of the worlds healthiest and happiest cities. With obesity and depression on the rise worldwide, here are its lessons for how to combat them culturally

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/11/how-build-healthy-city-copenhagen-reveals-its-secrets-happiness

Race to evacuate sick from besieged eastern Ghouta region of Syria

Almost 30 critical cases, including children with cancer, approved for help in area near Damascus where 400,000 people remain trapped

Critically ill patients are being evacuated from the besieged Syrian rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, but the fate of hundreds of others with life-threatening conditions remains unresolved.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria said its staff, along with those of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (Sarc), had begun the evacuation of critical medical cases from eastern Ghouta to central Damascus on Wednesday.

The Syrian American Medical Society (Sams) said four patients had been taken to hospitals in Damascus, the first of 29 critical cases approved for medical evacuation, and the remainder would be evacuated over the coming days. They include 18 children and four women with heart disease, cancer, kidney failure and blood diseases.

The news was confirmed by the official Syrian government news agency, and appears to follow local negotiations as well as several humanitarian appeals from high-profile figures including King Abdullah of Jordan, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, Turkeys president, and Sergei Lavrov, Russias foreign minister.

The Sams advocacy manager, Mohamad Katoub, tweeted that five people had been approved for the first group of evacuations. It was not clear why only four of the five left.

Almost 400,000 residents of eastern Ghouta, one of the last remaining rebel strongholds in Syria, have been caught in a regime siege for the last five years, and some have been in urgent need of medical attention for months.

Although the area is designated by Russia, Iran and Turkey as a de-escalation zone, the Syrian government has until now refused to lift the siege, claiming the area is held by opposition rebels bent on attacking the capital, Damascus. A near total blockade has been in force for almost eight months, pushing up the price of food and medicines.

SAMS (@sams_usa)

Today in besieged #EastGhouta, #Syria, medical evacuations began for a group of 29 critical cases, approved for medical evacuation to Damascus. Four patients were evacuated today, w/remainder being evacuated over the coming days. Details to follow. pic.twitter.com/Y2kDqIbkD5

December 26, 2017

Eastern Ghouta has been subjected to ceaseless bombardment and was targeted in a sarin gas attack by Assads forces in 2013, which, despite international condemnation, did not lead to direct reprisals from the

The evacuations are part of a complex exchange of detainees between Assads government and the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam, an opposition faction formed by a merger of Islamist groups in 2013 that was initially funded by Saudi Arabia.

Sarc said the evacuations were the result of long negotiations. An ICRC spokeswoman declined to give more details, citing the sensitivity of the operation and the risk that the deal might yet collapse.

ICRC Syria (@ICRC_sy)

Tonight the @SYRedCrescent with @ICRC team started the evacuation of critical medical cases from #EasternGhouta to #Damascus. #Syria pic.twitter.com/Xqoy9HF7oz

December 26, 2017

Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) confirmed the rebels had agreed to free some of their prisoners in return for the evacuations. We have agreed to the release of a number of prisoners in exchange for the evacuation of the most urgent humanitarian cases, the group said a statement.

Pressing for more evacuations, Fayez Arabi, a spokesman for the opposition-held Rural Damascus Health Directorate, said: The number of people awaiting evacuation due to inadequate medicine and medical supplies has now surpassed 600.

Erdoan has offered to take all the patients most in need of treatment into hospitals in Turkey.

The UN has been waiting months for the Syrian authorities to provide facilitation letters to allow the aid operation to get under way.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, director of Doctors Under Fire, a charity working with hospitals in the district, said the evacuations were a ray of light in the six-year conflict, and hoped that the deal might lead to a wider ceasefire.

Writing in the Guardian last week, De Bretton-Gordon had appealed to Russias president, Vladimir Putin a key ally of Assads to show mercy. Medieval siege techniques have resulted in no aid for four years, the jointly authored article said. Children, in particular, are dying of starvation in sight of the Lebanese and Jordanian borders.

Syria map

According to news agencies, once the deal was negotiated, families waited in the darkness in the rebel-held town of Douma for their children to board ambulances bound for hospitals in Damascus.

Three children were among the first four patients to leave, a Sarc official told Agence France-Presse. According to agency reports, the first four were a girl with haemophilia, a baby with the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barr, a child with leukaemia, and a man in need of a kidney transplant.

A
A Syrian boy in the rebel-held town of Douma in Syrias eastern Ghouta region. Photograph: Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Lavrov said on Wednesday that a Moscow-proposed peace congress scheduled for next month was crucial for reaching a settlement in Syria and was not hampering UN-led talks.

On Tuesday several dozen Syrian opposition groups had issued a series of statements saying the talks in Sochi next month were an attempt to circumvent the UN-led peace process.

Lavrov, who was meeting the Syrian opposition leader, Ahmad Jarba, on Wednesday, told Russian news agencies that the Sochi congress would lay the groundwork for UN-led talks.

The Russian foreign minister cited broad support for the Sochi talks among Syrians and said Russias goal was to gather the largest number of opposition groups possible to help launch constitutional reform.

Reuters contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/27/medical-evacuations-begin-from-rebel-held-eastern-ghouta-in-syria

Animal agriculture is choking the Earth and making us sick. We must act now | James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron

Film-maker James Cameron and environmentalist Suzy Amis Cameron writes that to preserve Americas majestic national parks, clean air and water for future generations leaders must be pressed to address foods environmental impact

Our collective minds are stuck on this idea that talking about foods environmental impact risks taking something very intimate away from us. In fact its just the opposite. Reconsidering how we eat offers us hope, and empowers us with choice over what our future planet will look like. And we can ask our local leaders from city mayors to school district boards to hospital management to help, by widening our food options.

On Monday and Tuesday, the city of Chicago is hosting a summit for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to discuss climate solutions cities can undertake. Strategies to address and lower foods impact should be front and center.

Animal agriculture is choking the Earth, and the longer we turn a blind eye, the more we limit our ability to nourish ourselves, protect waterways and habitats, and pursue other uses of our precious natural resources. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the second highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined. It also uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is one of theleading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

On top of this, eating too much meat and dairy is making us sick, greatlyincreasing our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several major cancers (including breast, liver and prostate) and obesity. Diets optimal for human health vary, according to David Katz, of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, but all of them are made up mostly of whole, wholesome plant foods.

So what gives? Why cant we see the forest for the bacon? The truth can be hard to swallow: that we simply need less meat and dairy and more plant-based options in our food system if were to reach our climate goals.

Still
The Avatar movie set had plant-based menus. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Everett/Rex Features

This can start with individual action. Five years ago, our family felt hopeless about climate change, and helpless to make meaningful change. But when we connected the dots on animal agricultures impact on the environment, coupled with the truth about nutrition, we took heart because it gave us something we could actually do.

To create change at the scale needed, this will take more than individual choice we need to get climate leaders on board about the impact of food. Cities and counties have used their buying power to transition fleets from diesel to electric, and we need to do the same with how we purchase food. We have done this in our own community, moving the lunch program of Muse School, in Calabasas, California, and the Avatar movie set to plant-based menus. Scaling up initiatives like these can make a big difference: if the US reduced meat consumption by 50%, its the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road. We think thats damn hopeful.

Decision-makers on all levels can make it easier for us to eat better, by expanding access to food options that are good for our health, affordable, and climate-friendly. Nationwide, cities and school districts have adopted food purchasing policies that include environment, health and fair labor standards. The city of Chicago is a recent adopter of this Good Food Purchasing Program, and so the solutions-focus of the summit is the perfect place to discuss how food can move us toward climate goals. In the same breath that we discuss fossil fuels, we should be talking animal ag, or were missing a big part of the problem and a big part of the solution.

Yes, food is inherently personal. Its the cornerstone of holidays, it fuels high school athletes and long workdays, and it nourishes nursing mothers and growing children. And yes, Americans love meat and cheese. But more than that, we love our majestic national parks, family beach vacations and clean air and water for our children and grandchildren.

As individuals, we can make choices on how to better nourish our families, and as citizens, we can encourage local leaders to make choices that will allow us to enjoy our land and natural resources now and in the future.

James Cameron is a film-maker and deep-sea explorer. Suzy Amis Cameron is a founder of Muse School and Plant Power Task Force.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/04/animal-agriculture-choking-earth-making-sick-climate-food-environmental-impact-james-cameron-suzy-amis-cameron

When do the clocks go back? Key facts about the switch to GMT

Extra hour of sleep could help protect against cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and stress

Britons will be able to enjoy an extra hour under the duvet and reap health and cognitive bonuses on Sunday when the clocks go back at 2am, according to sleep experts.

As daylight saving time ends, the UK will switch from British summer time (BST) to Greenwich mean time (GMT), heralding the start of lighter mornings but darker evenings.

But according to Prof Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at Berkeley, California a small boost to our nightly slumber can also improve memory and increase learning capacity.

Walker, who recently published Why We Sleep, a book drawing on 20 years of research and findings from his laboratory, said: Just 60 to 90 minutes of additional sleep boosts the learning capacity of the brain, significantly increasing memory retention of facts and preventing forgetting.

In a study published six years ago in Current Biology, Walker and a team of researchers demonstrated that during a demanding memorising task, test subjects who were allowed extra nap time performed better than those who did not.

They found the brains ability to learn was linked to sleep spindles: fast pulses of electricity generated during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which accounts for 25% of total sleep time in adult humans.

Spindle-rich sleep, which is said to occur in the second half of the night, helps with the brains ability to create new memories by clearing a path to learning.

But it is not just about improved brain power. Experiments conducted in 2013 by the Surrey Sleep Centre and the BBC showed a link between an extra hour in bed and genetic expression that helps protect against illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and stress.

Scientists at the centre in Guildford divided the participants into two groups. During the first week, one group slept for six-and-a-half hours nightly while the other had seven-and-a-half hours of sleep. The volunteers then switched their sleep patterns in the second week.

The researchers found that those who had less sleep struggled with mental agility tasks. Blood tests revealed that genes associated with processes such as inflammation, immune response and response to stress became more active for those who had less sleep.

The activity of genes associated with heart disease, diabetes and risk of cancer also increased. They found the reverse happened when the volunteers slept for an extra hour.

Meanwhile, other studies have linked extra sleep time to a lower risk of heart disease. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that adults who slept for seven hours a night had a lower chance of having calcium deposits in their arteries than adults who had only six hours of sleep.

According to scientists from the University of Chicago, who conducted the five-year research, the benefit of one hour of additional sleep was comparable to the gains from lowering systolic blood pressure by 17mmHg.

Another study, published in 2012 in the Journal of Sleep Research, found that getting an extra hour of sleep significantly improved blood pressure levels among people with hypertension or pre-hypertension.

Daylight saving time has also been linked to heart attacks. In a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2014, Amneet Sandhu of the University of Colorado reported a 24% increase in heart attack admissions at hospitals in Michigan from 2010 to 2013 on the Monday after the clocks went forward in spring, when compared with other Mondays throughout the year.

In contrast, he noted a 21% decrease in heart attacks on the Tuesday in the same hospitals after the clocks moved an hour back in autumn.

Last year a poll by the Royal Society for Public Health revealed people in the UK slept an average of 6.8 hours, under-sleeping by about an hour a night.

Modern daylight saving time (DST) is a little over 100 years old. It was first proposed by a New Zealander named George Hudson in 1895 and first introduced in the city of Orillia in Ontario in 1911-12.

The ideas big breakthrough came during the first world war when Germany introduced DST on 30 April 1916 to alleviate hardships from wartime coal shortages and air raid blackouts.

Britain, most of its allies and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year, and the US adopted it in 1918.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/28/clocks-back-gmt-sleep-cancer-diabetes-high-blood-pressure-stress

Robert Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador after outcry

World Health Organization chief says he has listened to concerns over appointment of Zimbabwean president

The World Health Organization has removed the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, as a goodwill ambassador following outrage among donors and rights groups at his appointment.

The WHOs director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who made the appointment at a high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Uruguay on Wednesday, said in a statement that he had listened to those expressing concerns.

Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of His Excellency President Robert Mugabe as WHO goodwill ambassador for NCDs in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment, Tedros said in a statement posted on his Twitter account @DrTedros.

The WHO boss had faced mounting pressure to reverse the decision, including from some of the leading voices in global public health.

Tedros Adhanom (@DrTedros)

Please see my statement rescinding the appointment of a Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africahttps://t.co/dyxFzNAFqk

October 22, 2017

Several former and current WHO staff said privately they were appalled at the poor judgement and miscalculation by Tedros, elected the first African head of WHO in May.

Mugabe was head of the African Union (AU) when the bloc endorsed Tedros – a former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia – over other African candidates for the top post, without any real regional contest or debate, they said.

Mugabe, 93, is blamed in the West for destroying Zimbabwes economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister.

Britain said Mugabes appointment as a goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases in Africa was surprising and disappointing and that it risked overshadowing the WHOs global work. The United States, which has imposed sanctions on Mugabe for alleged human rights violations, said it was disappointed.

He (Tedros) has to remember where his funding comes from, said one health official who declined to be identified.

In announcing the appointment, Tedros had praised Zimbabwe as a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all.

But multiple critics noted that Mugabe, who is 93 and in increasingly fragile health, travels abroad for medical care because Zimbabwes health care system has been so severely decimated.

The US ambassador to the United Nations during Barack Obamas administration, Samantha Power, tweeted: The only person whose health 93-yo Mugabe has looked out for in his 37 year reign is his own.

Zimbabwes main opposition MDC party had called the appointment laughable and an insult.

The US administration of President Donald Trump, which is already questioning financial support for some programmes of United Nations agencies, is WHOs largest single donor.

The controversy came as WHO struggles to recover its reputation tarnished by its slowness in tackling the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2014-2015 under Tedros predecessor Margaret Chan.

The Geneva-based agency is currently grappling with crises including a massive cholera outbreak in Yemen that has infected some 800,000 people in the past year and an outbreak of plague in Madagascar that has killed nearly 100 people in two months.

Combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease linked to smoking, obesity and other risk factors are part of its permanent global agenda.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/22/robert-mugabe-removed-as-who-goodwill-ambassador-after-outcry

The joy of eggs how ‘nature’s multivitamin’ shook off the scare stories

Decades of dud healthy-eating guidance sent the humble egg into nutritional exile. But with new advice about runny yolks suggesting that salmonella in raw eggs is a thing of the past, its time to lick the cake bowl again

Every morning for breakfast I eat a runny-yolked egg, often boiled, sometimes poached, or fried. In any given week Ill consume eggs in other meals frittata, souffle, as a binder for breadcrumbed fish, in baking, quiche, kedgeree, fresh pasta, perhaps. I reckon that I personally get through anything between 10 and 15 eggs weekly. I do it not only because I cherish their near-magical cooking properties, but also as a two-fingered salute to a dogmatic government dietetic establishment that has pumped taxpayers money into convincing us that this most perfect of natural foods is something we should restrict, even fear. Guess what? Ive maintained a healthy, normal body weight, and lived to tell the tale.

So forgive me if I dont applaud the latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) edict telling us that pregnant women, babies and elderly people can now eat eggs raw or soft-cooked without calamitous consequences, as if this was some sort of thunderbolt revelation, a recent achievement. Its more a case of: Youre 30 years too late guys, but better late than never.

For
For decades, we were told to eat no more than two eggs a week. Photograph: Alamy

Eventually, after demonising eggs for a quarter of a century or more, the authors of our governments egg script that eggs could clog your arteries and poison you are stealthily dismantling the flashing red lights they have put around this elemental food in the public mind. Now, like offenders participating in restorative justice schemes, we need the civil servants and scientific advisers who unnerved us about eggs to say mea culpa, and reflect on how their adherence to bankrupt healthy eating orthodoxy sent one of natures cleverest food packages into nutritional exile.

Its hard to think of any food that can compete with eggs in overall health terms. They provide us with high-quality protein that contains all nine essential amino acids in the precise proportions required by the body for optimum growth and maintenance. Eggs outperform all other proteins from both animal and plant sources. Protein is the macronutrient that most efficiently satisfies appetite. It also reduces the secretion of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger. A body of research suggests that eggs might help us stay slim. For instance, one trial found that women who ate eggs for breakfast felt more full and consumed fewer calories for the rest of the day and for the next 36 hours. Thats certainly my experience.

Free-range
Free-range hens foraging for food in the Lake District. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Eggs are often referred to as natures multivitamin pill, with ample justification, because they contain vitamins A, D, E, and a range of B vitamins, in significant amounts. They are also an oval treasure trove of minerals, 10 of them calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, potassium, sodium, copper, iodine, magnesium and iron; and more obscure, but nevertheless vital micronutrients, choline, lecithin, lutein and zeaxanthin. If ever there was a genuine superfood, the egg is it.

And yet many Britons fret about eating eggs because weve been drip-fed fear of this most versatile food, and like biddable citizens, many of us have swallowed it.

For decades, public health gospel was that we should eat no more than two eggs a week. The egg was an early victim of the late 20th-century fixation with cholesterol; yolks contain it. This thinking, progenitor of the supposedly healthier egg white omelette in the US, was that the cholesterol that naturally occurs in food causes heart disease and stroke. It doesnt. Actually, cholesterol is a vital component of cell membranes. Among other things, it heals and repairs the body, supports our cognitive function, and helps our bodies make vitamin D and hormones.

Belatedly, when scientific research made it too embarrassingly apparent that cholesterol in eggs had almost no effect on blood cholesterol profiles, official UK nutritional guidelines were quietly altered. Now NHS Choices says: There is no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat. But any diligent citizen who pays attention to the governments Eatwell plate its pictorial image of its recommended healthy diet, which is heavily weighted towards processed carbohydrate foods might nevertheless conclude that a bowl of cornflakes is still nutritionally preferable to an egg.

Edwina
Edwina Currie, the MP who started the salmonella in eggs scare in 1988. Photograph: Brian Bould/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

Nutrition apart, the FSAs latest pronouncement is that we can now eat raw or runny Lion-stamped eggs without courting food poisoning. The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers. The measures theyve taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens, says FSA chairman Heather Hancock. But were eggs really ever a major, or even a minor, source of food poisoning in the UK?

Edwina Currie started the whole salmonella enteritidis and eggs saga in 1988 with one sentence: Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella, triggering either Britains first major food scare, or its first mass-media moral panic over food, depending on how you see it. At that time, egg producers loudly contested her assertion and the putative linkage of eggs with food poisoning, and to this day, many microbiologists agree with them. Dr Richard North, a leading independent food safety consultant who has conducted lab tests on salmonella in eggs, and evaluated 60 salmonella outbreaks in the UK, is a case in point. Only one, or at most two of the outbreaks I studied credibly had egg as a source. He attributes the rise in salmonella food poisoning cases in the late 1980s to two alternative causes. First, a surge of salmonella infection, not in egg-laying hens, but in factory farmed broilers (chickens reared in intensive systems for their meat). Salmonella is one of the recognised diseases of intensification that dog this type of production. Second, North points to the 1980s fashion among food manufacturers, at the supermarkets behest, for a blander, lower-vinegar mayonnaise: Mrs Beetons classic mayonnaise recipe was actively bactericidal.

Lion-stamped
Lion-stamped free range hens eggs. Photograph: Alamy

Contrary to the FSAs line that vaccines dealt with a genuine problem, North maintains that the whole salmonella and eggs debacle was a classic food scare based on myths and dodgy science. And its one of those never-to-be-resolved debates anyway, now that the FSA has given eggs its blessing. Feel free to lick the cake bowl once again. Even Currie now says: If you buy eggs in the UK you can be pretty sure theyre safe.

I buy free-range organic eggs every week from a local producer. I know him by name and can look into his eyes. His eggs dont have the Lion stamp or need it. He has confidence in the cleanliness and safety of his production methods and after years of eating them, so do I. His small flock of grass-fed, free-ranging hens are not kept in close confinement and so are much less susceptible to disease of all sorts. Supermarkets love a nationwide protocol, such as the Lion stamp, to reassure customers of safety, but this doesnt mean that any eggs that dont bear this stamp are risky.

Whichever retrospective interpretation of the salmonella and egg saga you believe, theres no doubt that eggs are more good news these days than bad. Back in Curries time, 92% of hens were kept in cruel battery cages. Nowadays, thanks to concerted campaigning from animal welfare groups, such as Compassion in World Farming, the equivalent figure has almost halved and cages have been marginally improved or enriched with welfare in mind. All the key supermarket chains are pledged to phase out shell eggs from caged hens by 2025. In practical terms, Compassion in World Farming recommends Soil Association-certified organic eggs for the highest welfare they must be free-range and no controversial beak trimming is permitted and failing that, free-range eggs from more traditional breeds of hen, because they are put under less pressure to produce. Caged eggs are still routinely used in food manufacturing and catering, but a growing number of companies, including Unilever, Sodexo and Nestl, have also committed to sourcing only cage-free eggs in their global supply chains, again by 2025.

Supermarket
Supermarket chains are pledged to phase out shell eggs from caged hens by 2025. Photograph: Alamy

Its worth noting that the fipronil egg scandal, which broke in August, where imported egg products were contaminated with an insecticide often used as flea killer affected only pre-prepared eggs used in food manufacturing and catering. Cake mixes used by industrial bakeries were withdrawn, along with liquid pasteurised eggs bought by chefs, and pre-cooked, factory-made supermarket convenience foods: certain salads from Asda and Sainsburys, some Morrisons egg sandwiches, and Waitrose deli filler were affected. The moral of the story here is: if there are dodgy eggs to be offloaded, theyre not likely to still be intact in their shells, but pre-processed in some way.

Eggs are definitely poised for a comeback, although it has to be said that throughout all the years that eggs were dispatched to the nutritional wilderness, many people, sceptical about public health advice, never stopped eating them. In the UK we eat on average between three and four eggs a week. In the 1960s, our national average egg consumption was five. But over the past 12 months, retail egg sales have risen by 4%. In the current grim landscape, where more and more citizens need to use food banks just to put a meal on the table, eggs, which are so affordable and offer such unbeatable nutrition and sustenance, never more deserved a place on our plates. Just think of the character of Katie in the film I, Daniel Blake. She surely needed an egg, not a can of sweet baked beans, yet many food banks have no fresh food to offer, often for safety reasons. Similarly, government-stoked worry about safety has deprived whole demographics the elderly, children, people in care homes and hospitals of the pleasure and incomparable nutrition of properly cooked, that is not overcooked, eggs.

Katie,
Katie, the character in I, Daniel Blake, would have benefited from an egg from the food bank. Photograph: Allstar/Eone Films

Last week in Galway, at the international Food on the Edge chef symposium, South African chef Margot Janse spoke about how her Isabelo charity in Franschhoek now feeds 1,400 disadvantaged pre-school and primary school children every day, often the only healthy meal they receive. She started by giving out home-baked muffins, with mixed results. Some children didnt find them sweet enough. But it was boiled eggs that the kids really loved and that grew full attendance at school. There are lots of hearts of gold that care [about fighting poverty] but an egg also has a heart of gold and is a lot more practical, she concluded.

Whatever your current status starving, peckish, dieting, feasting, economising, working, travelling, convalescing, or just going about your daily business its hard to beat an egg.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/17/joy-eggs-scare-stories-new-guidance-runny-yokes-salmonella