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London's Santander bikes get high-tech laser lights amid arms race to be seen

Great as it is to see Blaze’s Laserlights trialled for some of the hire bikes, proper infrastructure would be even better

Among the attractions of London’s city-wide bike hire scheme, like those elsewhere, is its fundamental sameness: use one of the machines and, once you’ve checked for a wobbly saddle or rubbing wheel, you know it will look and ride more or less exactly like its 11,000-plus fellows.

Until now. The bike scheme, now sponsored by Santander and so newly red rather than blue, has just announced it is fitting 250 of its bikes with a posh gizmo called the Blaze Laserlight.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Hitler’s world may not be so far away | Timothy Snyder

Misunderstanding the Holocaust has made us too certain we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1940s. Faced with a new catastrophe – such as devastating climate change – could we become mass killers again?

It was 20 years after I chose to become a historian that I first saw a photograph of the woman who made my career possible. In the small photograph that my doctoral supervisor, her son, showed me in his Warsaw apartment, Wanda J radiates self-possession, a quality that stood her in good stead during the Nazi occupation. She was a Jewish mother who protected herself and her two sons from the German campaign of mass murder that killed almost all of her fellow Warsaw Jews. When her family was summoned to the ghetto, she refused to go. She moved her children from place to place, relying upon the help of friends, acquaintances and strangers. When first the ghetto and then the rest of the city of Warsaw were burned to the ground, what counted, she thought, was the “faultless moral instinct” of the people who chose to help Jews.

Most of us would like to think that we possess a “moral instinct”. Perhaps we imagine that we would be rescuers in some future catastrophe. Yet if states were destroyed, local institutions corrupted and economic incentives directed towards murder, few of us would behave well. There is little reason to think that we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s, or for that matter less vulnerable to the kind of ideas that Hitler so successfully promulgated and realised. A historian must be grateful to Wanda J for her courage and for the trace of herself that she left behind. But a historian must also consider why rescuers were so few. It is all too easy to fantasise that we, too, would have aided Wanda J. Separated from National Socialism by time and luck, we can dismiss Nazi ideas without contemplating how they functioned. It is our very forgetfulness of the circumstances of the Holocaust that convinces us that we are different from Nazis and shrouds the ways that we are the same. We share Hitler’s planet and some of his preoccupations; we have perhaps changed less than we think.

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Source: Guardian Environment

UK drops out of top 10 renewable energy ranking for first time

EY report says Conservative government has sentenced renewable energy sector to death by a thousand cuts and left investors puzzled at policy changes

The UK has dropped out of the top ten of a respected international league table on renewable energy for the first time since it began 12 years ago.

In its quarterly report published on Wednesday, EY said the new Conservative government had sentenced the renewable energy industry to “death by a thousand cuts” and investor confidence in the sector had collapsed because of policy changes over the summer.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Revealed: how Indigenous Australian storytelling accurately records sea level rises 7000 years ago

Distinctive ‘cross-checking’ tradition helps explain extraordinary accuracy in 21 stories about dramatic sea level rises between 7000 and 18,000 years ago

Indigenous stories of dramatic sea level rises across Australia date back more than 7000 years in a continuous oral tradition without parallel anywhere in the world, according to new research.

Related: Scientists predict huge sea level rise even if we limit climate change

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Source: Guardian Environment

Summer bids farewell as autumn plants seize their moment

Crackington Haven, Cornwall: Ferns thrive in the undergrowth and blackthorns are loaded with sloes

Downhill from the chapel and beyond garden hedges of orange montbretia, red valerian and fuchsia, the stark headland of Pencannow Point dominates the view seawards. Dark folded rocks tower above the haven with its cafe and hotel and the narrow bridge, rebuilt in 2004 after damage from the torrential rain that rushed down converging streams.

Coastal vessels used to be run up on to the beach to offload limestone and coal, burnt in a kiln to produce agricultural lime. Sand, seaweed and stone were also gathered from here and carted inland, but plans for a railway to link this rudimentary harbour with Launceston were never implemented. Now, tourists park in the ticketed car park or pause here for refreshment along the coastal path.

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Source: Guardian Environment

David Attenborough backs huge Apollo-style clean energy research plan

Naturalist says 10-year public research and development programme, that would emulate race to put men on the moon, could halt climate change

An Apollo-style research programme to make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels has won the backing of Sir David Attenborough, who says this alone would be enough to halt climate change.

The renowned naturalist joins a group of eminent scientists, business executives and politicians backing a 10-year public research and development plan to cut the costs of clean energy and deliver affordable technologies to store and transport solar and wind power.

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Source: Guardian Environment

48 hours in Mackay, north Queensland – where to go, what to do

Use the city as a base to explore the beautiful Cape Hillsborough and Eungella national parks. You may even see some platypus in the wild

With the mining boom waning, the Australian city that once boasted the highest per-capita Harley-Davidson motorbikes, breast implants and tattoo sales is now facing the doldrums. The Harleys are for sale on eBay. Not much can be done about the implants or the tattoos. And Mackay – one of the hubs of the resources boom – is at a crossroads.

Related: 48 hours in far north Queensland: what to do and where to go

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Source: Guardian Environment

A spider-proof shed – is it even possible?

Are spiders scared of conkers, peppermint or the colour blue? As a £2,000 anti-spider shed goes on sale, we investigate creepy-crawly deterrents – and whether we really need them

With autumn’s mists and mellow fruitfulness come a prevalence of spiders, mainly of the male variety, searching for a female to mate with. While the eight-legged creatures are an awe-inspiring part of nature to many, they are a detestable pest to some – which is where a new shed comes in.

The world’s first “spider-proof” shed is designed by a company called Tiger Sheds. With airtight windows and draft-sealed doors, it offers owners a “10-year anti-spider-infestation guarantee” for £2,000. The shed comes in light blue, a colour “scientifically proven” to repel the creatures. As an optional extra, insecticides, peppermint and citrus can be impregnated into the wood, while a “No spiders allowed” sign is supplied as standard, just in case any spiders can read.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Northern California wildfire grows to more than 100 square miles overnight

Officials say the toll of property loss has climbed to at least 585 homes and other structures destroyed and that the blaze is only 15% contained

The deadly and destructive wildfire that sped through three Northern California counties has grown to 104 square miles Tuesday, and fire officials say the toll of property loss has climbed to at least 585 homes and other structures destroyed.

At least four firefighters have been injured. One woman died in her home, and several other people remain unaccounted for on Tuesday morning.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Stopping fracking won't stop climate change

I am neither pro nor anti-fracking, but green campaigners must go beyond local level issues and tackle the fossil fuel status quo if we are to combat climate change

I am resigning as a shadow minister in the Lords in a few weeks. Not because Jeremy Corbyn is Labour’s new leader but because I decided, after the general election, that I could have a bigger impact reducing the growing risk of climate change in a different, more internationally-focused role.

Judging from my Twitter feed and inbox this will delight many who have made it their mission to oppose fracking in the UK.

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Source: Guardian Environment