Monday, December 4, 2017

Plant Science Should Focus on ...

My interest is to see the "transition to a world that is Climate-Friendly, Waste-Free and Wilderness-Rich". That is to say "sustainable".

Current oil crops are limited, in yield, by the concentration of economic product in reproductive tissue. With the exception of oil palm. However there are genera where oils are secreted in vegetative tissue, and that fix nitrogen also (via Azotobacter and haem-O2-transporters). For example Myrica cerifera and Myrica pensylvannica are fatty-acid secreting temperate species, that fix nitrogen that might be bred to produce substantial quantities of oil. In the same way that oil palm was selected, in the 1940's-1950's, for high oil in vegetative tissue.

Like oil yields that are limited by concentration of product in reproductive tissue (seeds), starch yields are greatest in crops where the product is in vegetative tissue. Sugar beet, for example, yields an average of 12 tonnes of pure sugar per hectare, in some years across the whole of beet cropping in England. Which might be compared to average yields of wheat, that are at best 8-10 tonnes per hectare. There is thus huge scope to develop higher yielding staple crops - where the product is concentrated in vegetative tissue (turnips, swedes, temperate yams, beets, and many more).

Potato yields, it is perhaps worth noting, have been stagnant for almost 40 years, owing to perversities in research, and to cheating consumers with rotten quality products (so that they are rewarded for buying antique varieties - which are often from the old Maris Lane labs in Cambridge).

Those same, vegetative, and high yielding staples could also be selected for nutritional quality - principally lysine and methionine levels (which are deficient in grains and potatoes). This has been done using GM by Monsanto with corn, and by Chakraborty with Amaranthus protein in potatoes, but the varieties are kept out of the market and there is virtually no awareness of the savings possible and benefits of 'nutritionally complete staples'. Which would quickly reduce the 25% figure - of the world's children (WHO) who are stunted?

This situation, where obvious and feasible technologies are disregarded, is ludicrous given the imperatives of rapid climate change - and of deprivation in many parts of the world. However many people feel that, as we have an economic model that depends on growth, overconsumption and waste (to mitigate deficit financing and an unsustainable redistribution/allocation model), this situation is desirable.

But, like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, UNEP, and a host of others, I think that this is ridiculous. We should grow up and stop using resources (that pollute the planet) just because we could not be bothered coming up with a better allocation system.

[FOOTNOTE: A more resource rich world would lead to much greater flourishing of care, justice, the arts, sports and leisure - with selection mainly determined by performance in these spheres. As seen in the flourishes and vivid displays of tropical species. This contrasts with the perverse incentives (for waste) and hugely distorted incentives (prices) that are in any case often meaningless (incommensurable in economic, social and environmental dimensions and metrics).]

Summary published in: The East Anglian Daily Times 8th August 2015 | plant-science-should-focus-on-stem-leaf-and-root-crops

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You Cannot Do Anything? ... a query to

Stiftelsen för miljöstrategisk forskning
Kund-id : LKH1365
FE 108

From M.A. Reader

Dear Kontakt - Mistra,

Please could you be so kind as to suggest why nobody, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, replied to my polite enquiries.

I emailed to an officer, followed up, and then emailed to her manager.

But I received no response whatsoever.

Are they all
- paranoid?
- just plain unhelpful?
- free riders?
- too overwhelmed with emails?

I do not think that my question was very difficult. So it seems strange to me that nobody from the SRC responded.

Best wishes

Rural Business Unit
Department of Land Economy
University of Cambridge

From: Mark A Reader
Subject: Fwd: [query] -- investment in communications

Dear xxxx

We share allied goals, and I respect the expertise of your institute, so I wrote to one of your colleagues, working on communications strategy. Asking for advice. However no response was received.

Perhaps you might like to comment, on how one person (with modest resources) can most effectively work for the public good? In communications and media.

Best wishes

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "M.A. Reader"
Subject: [query] -- investment in communications

Dear yyyy

I have a sum to invest each month in communications - for resilience, or for accident prevention.

Buying Eikon, for awareness and alerts, is one possibility. Or a subscription to the Gorkana media database is another possibility, for contacts.

And finally, I could do a paid campaign on Adwords, Twitter or LinkedIn - but I wonder how much cut-through I can achieve there.

Would you like to suggest which you think will be best?

Best wishes

Rural Business Unit
Department of Land Economy
University of Cambridge

+44 1223 337 163

Affirmation and the Post-Truth-Politics

President Trump will rule America shortly, despite lies, errors, bigotry, and sexual misconduct. He won a resounding victory - against the odds of most media and huge funding behind Clinton.

Similarly the disillusioned of Britain voted, in BREXIT, against the elite EU project - even though it brought a long peace and other huge benefits - which were biggest to the very regions that voted most strongly to reject the EU.

The Brexiteers and Trump Republicans wanted another roll of the dice, with uncertain benefits, and reject the consensus. Which they feel has been an elite scam, in which they saw no benefit.

The trouble is that the consensus presents an awkward picture. Of a finite world, of limits to consumption, global pollution, as well as ageing populations. In other words the end of, seemingly, rightful and endlessly growing consumption.

Presenting the difficult answers to these, very concrete and real challenges, Hilary Clinton and the campaign to REMAIN in the EU were rejected. In favour of delusion. Promoted and diffused by politicians and business who affirm errors of fact, bigotry and an extremely short term perspective.

Without the "public goods" - of truth, transparency and respect - democracy fails. And in another vein of public goods - being intangible rules and institutions - all citizens need affirmation - of their own divine worth and inalienable rights.

For me the problem appears to be how to deal with that feeling - of great affront and injustice. That "we may be wrong, but we are entitled to our opinions." How do we spread justice and respect at the same time as acknowledging that "we cannot just go on consuming more" - and "have to compromise and respect others". Or, affirmingly communicate limits.

And, as is evident to anyone with half a brain, computing and IT does not work for the masses. So everyone can readily see that what they can access is but a tiny fraction of computer and info power, that is so exulted in the media.

I do not believe that that the answer is a matter of limited resources and consumption, but more of expectations and feelings. The Brexiteers and Trump Republicans were (in some way) "treated like ***t by the elite" - for holding the wrong opinions. And democracy offered politicians, and social media, who affirmed voters in the wrong opinions.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Great Evils in Society: 1942 and 2017

In 1942 William Beveridge MP was given the responsibility to find out what was needed for Britain to take care of the basic needs of the people and create a set of reforms that would look after the basic needs of the people giving everyone a basic standard of living.

In his report, Beveridge proposed a new system of social security, which would include everyone and provide benefits 'from the cradle to the grave' and tackle what he saw as the 5 Giant Evils of society.

The Five Giants

Beveridge believed that want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness stood in the way of social progress.

GIANT EVILBeveridge in 1942
WANTToo many people were living below the poverty line
IGNORANCEToo many children left school at 14 without any qualifications and went into low paid jobs
SQUALORMany people lived in overcrowded slums and there was a shortage of good houses
DISEASEMany people suffered from poor health because they could not afford medical treatment
IDLENESSUnemployment was very high before the war and caused poverty

To fight these giants a proper system of sickness and unemployment benefit was needed. This would include a proper national health service, family allowance and a full employment policy.

GIANT EVILin 2017 (???)
WASTEObscene levels of consumption (structured into an economy that requires waste to distribute resources equitably)
IGNORANCESocial expectations and advertising are highly unrealistic - low uptake of opportunities - evil agencies
AGEINGNeed for care and financing of the ageing population
DISEASEObesity and sedentary living - drunkeness, tobacco and opiates
IDLENESS (automation)Economy may not provide meaningful jobs for the skills and capacities of all people
POLLUTION and EXTINCTIONSGreenhouse gases, habitat loss and depletion of biodiversity - owing to reliance on inefficiencies and resource intensive infrastructure

To fight these giant evils a proper system of allocation (economy) that rewards all virtues and an ecosystem services policy is needed. This would include a proper set of behavioural signals and incentives. And, coordination of the monetarised sector with ecosystems and with the family sector.

GIANT CHALLENGESConservative Party 2017 Election Manifesto[comment]
1. The need for a strong economy.We need to make the most of our existing strengths, invest in infrastructure and people, and ensure that the whole of our economy across the whole of our country can grow. Without a strong economy, we cannot guarantee our security, our personal prosperity, our public services, or contented and sustainable communities.l.o.c. - meaningless bollocks - ?more is better?
2. Brexit and a changing world.We need to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union and forge a deep and special partnership with our friends and allies across Europe. As there is increasingly little distinction between domestic and international affairs in matters of migration, national security and the economy, Britain must stay strong and united – and take a lead in the world to defend our interests.l.o.c. - meaningless bollocks
3. Enduring social divisions.For too many people, where you end up in life is still determined by where you were born and to whom. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their talents and hard work, whoever you are and wherever you are important challenge
4. An ageing society.We need to respond to the reality of an ageing society, giving people security in old age and caring for those with long-term health conditions, whilst making sure we are fair to younger important challenge
5. Fast-changing technology.For the sake of our economy and our society, we need to harness the power of fast-changing technology, while ensuring that our security and personal privacy – and the welfare of children and younger people – are important challenge