Gabon: Saving the forest

Libreville Saving the forest: Gabon’s success in protecting its rainforest has led it to be the first nation to receive a financial
reward under a UN scheme to fight climate change. Rainforests play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide, and 18% of the Congo Basin rainforest (the world’s second biggest after the Amazon) lies in Gabon, covering 90% of its territory.

In 2015, Gabon and five of its neighbours signed up to the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), a UN scheme backed by the UK and other international donors.

And this week it received $17m from the scheme after Norwegian experts verified that by reducing deforestation and degradation, it had cut its carbon emissions. If the pattern of success continues, it will be the first tranche of payments totalling $150m.

From ‘The Week’ 26 June 2021


Petrichor is the word for the earthy scent of rain falling on stones or dry soil. The word is made up of the Greek word petra, meaning stone, and ichor, – (pronounced eye-ker) – the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

More prosaically the word ichor was at one time used to describe the watery discharge that seeps from a wound.

Annoying Email #47

I received an email from Netflix with the subject line “Don’t forget to finish {name of film}” and body text that read “Continue Watching. Pick up where you left off”

I contacted Support and asked them to please kindly tell their bosses to stop sending emails telling me what to do.

I said I don’t want emails telling me to watch a film that I decided I did not wish to continue watching. The tone is condescending and annoying.

I suggested this to help them understand:

Let’s try an analogy that your bosses might understand. Let’s imagine I bought a sandwich. I took a bite and didn’t like it. I put it in the garden for the birds to eat. Or in the compost bin. Then I get an email from the sandwich maker telling me to finish the sandwich.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgids

Adelgids are sap-feeding hemipteran insects resembling aphids. The name comes from the Greek adelos ‘unseen’.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgids are attacking Hemlock trees in the USA. They suck the sap from the trees and kill them over the course of several years.

The preventative is to add insecticide at the base of the tree, which the tree takes up through its vascular system. But when you have a lot of trees, such as in the national forests, that’s an large task. USDA has identified 250 sites with about sixty trees in each location across the northern end of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and North Carolina that they will treat with insecticide every few years. This is just a small percentage of the total hemlock population, but it is a core from which forests can regenerate.

Forest researches have tried breeding beetles that feed on the adelgids, but that is still a huge task. And then there are the possible unforeseen consequences of increasing the beetle numbers.

China Is The Biggest Polluter

Reported in the 15 May 2021 edition of THE WEEK

China is emitting more greenhouse gases than all the developed nations combined, according to a new report by the US-based Rhodium Group. It found that China emitted 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases in 2019. The US was the second-largest emitter at 11%, while India was third with 6.6%.

China’s per capita emissions are still lower than the US’s, however, and on a historical basis, the developed nations are still by far the world’s biggest emitters, because they industrialised earlier.

Moreover, many Western nations “outsource” emissions: in 2013, it was estimated that 13% of the carbon emitted by China was the result of it making goods to export. President Xi has vowed that China’s emissions will peak by 2030, and that it will reach zero net emissions by 2060. However, it remains heavily reliant on coal, with more than 1,000 coal-fired power plants currently in operation.


“China’s per capita emissions are still lower than…” Apart from anything else, it’s the problem of being a country with a big population. If China were split into ten countries, then the picture might be the same in aggregate, perhaps, not. As a big country it can undertake bigger projects than ten smaller countries could each do. On the other hand it can benefit from the economies of scale.

Politically of course it doesn’t want to lose the accelerated growth it is experiencing. It has a finite amount of time before it gets hit with the problem of its ageing population.

Tracking the spread of Coronavirus – Sewage monitoring

Report by Linda Geddes in the 20th May 2021 edition of The Guardian

Wastewater monitoring is being used to identify cases of the India variant and track its spread, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said. Although coronavirus predominantly infects cells lining the respiratory tract, it is also shed in the faeces of some infected individuals. By collecting sewage samples from wastewater treatment plants, scientists can use PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines to detect and quantify the amount of RNA (ribonucleic acid) from Sars-CoV-2 in different areas – including new variants, such as B.1.617.2.

The wastewater scheme was piloted last summer, and has been expanded to include hundreds of sites across the UK. Hancock told MPs that testing and vaccinations were being boosted in six areas because wastewater analysis had identified places where the India variant was being transmitted. Wastewater monitoring can be used to understand where specific variants are circulating, and to provide an early warning of escalating cases in specific geographical areas.