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Plant a flower – Save a Life

For US National Honey Bee Day (August 17th), we decided to show some love for our hairy, six-legged friends by creating this infographic. 

plight-of-the-honey-bee2You might have heard that there’s a scary decline in the bee population – and as Einstein said:

 “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

Its true that bees are in decline, and we don’t know exactly what’s causing it, but we do know that you can help stop the rot and help support the bee population – and its easier than you might think:

Honeybees are remarkable insects. They live in colonies of up to 60,000 bees, which consist of thousands of female workers, a few hundred male drones and a queen. Along with ants and termites, honeybees are social insects, which means that they have evolved complex behaviours to enable them to live in large, self-organising family groups.

Worker honeybees have developed an unusual method of communicating with one another in the hive. When a scout worker bee finds a good foraging location, she flies back to the hive and starts dancing in a figure of eight formation. The duration and direction of her ‘waggle run’ can accurately inform the other bees of the location of the forage.

Honeybees are a major pollinator of multiple food crops, which makes them a vital component of the food production process. Around 35% of food crops require some bee pollination, with apples, broccoli and onions being 90% dependent on bees and almonds 100%. Honeybee pollination adds $15 billion per year to the American farming industry and is the sole source of income for beekeepers who provide pollination services to farms.

Abandoned hives

In 2006, commercial beekeepers began to notice a sudden decline in honeybee populations. Hives were being abandoned by their worker colonies, leaving behind only queens, the unhatched brood and stores of honey and pollen. Scientists began to term this phenomenon ‘Colony Collapse Disorder.

“monoculture in farming has meant that foraging diversity for bees in rural areas is increasingly limited.”

There is no single cause of CCD, but it is likely that a combination of many factors may be involved. Neonicotinoid insecticides are thought to interfere with honeybee navigation, which has resulted in usage restrictions of these chemicals in several countries. Parasites like the varroa mite have been responsible for the death of entire colonies in the U.S. and Canada, and monoculture in farming has meant that foraging diversity for bees in rural areas is increasingly limited.

What can you do to help?

So what can be done to help the declining honeybee population? Many charities are encouraging people to start their own honeybee hives, but the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex has found that this may not actually be beneficial to honeybee populations due to a disproportionate lack of foraging material available to the colonies. One of the best ways to help bees in your local community is to plant a variety of bee-friendly flowers in your garden, which will help to improve the diversity of their foraging material. You could also encourage your local town or city hall to use bee-friendly flowers in public spaces. A simple change from pelargoniums to everlasting wallflower, marjoram or lavender could transform a flower bed into a buzzing haven of insect activity.

A reduction in grass mowing can also be beneficial to foraging insects as it will encourage wildflowers to grow. Increases in intensive farming in recent years have caused a decline in the proportion of hay meadows, which are the perfect environment for bees, butterflies and other insects. Why not contact your local government and encourage them to mow some areas of their parks less often so that hay meadows can develop?

Another way to help the honeybee population is to support honeybee researchers. The Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex carries out research into bee foraging, nestmate recognition and controlling bee diseases. Click here to find out more.

For more information about bees and beekeeping, contact the British Beekeepers Association or the American Beekeeping Federation.


Sheffield Docfest – the best place to miss great films

Once a year, I am lucky enough to shake off the office shackles and send myself on a trip up North to Docfest, the UK’s biggest and most well established documentary festival, which this year celebrated its 20th birthday.

higgs

Its huge, taking over half of Sheffield’s public venues including the Crucible. The Crucible is the “home of snooker” although my travelling companion was gutted to discover that its day-job is actually being a theatre, not a cathedral dedicated to the cult of the green baize. My revelation that Walter Murch (Apolcalypse Now, The Godfather) would be carrying out a masterclass, there was of little consolation.

 

My reason for travelling was to make as much as I could of “Science at Sheffield” a series of documentaries, masterclasses, round-table feedback sessions, and opportunities to meet with commissioning editors.

The main Science session was called “Science TV: hitting pay dirt” and featured Kim Shillingham (head of science commissioning for the BBC) and David Glover, who used to be in charge of science at Ch4, although now works on science features and stunts, and has  a rivalry with Kim so intense we actually thought their might be a punch-up.

After a few bouts of sparring, KO of the session went to Kim, who said, (when asked whether the BBC would ever do anything like Channel 4’s infamous “plane crash”), that the BBC had considered doing something similar, but ultimately felt they wouldn’t spend that many years in the planning and millions of pounds on “what amounts to a really great clip on youtube

OUCH!

In the blue corner, David wasn’t down for long before retaliating with a low blow concerning the “stimulating” titles that the BBC have a tendency towards; with aunties “The Truth About Meteors” left smouldering in the flaming tail of Channel 4’s red-top worthy “METEOR STRIKE! FIREBALL FROM SPACE!” (which I like to say in my head in this voice.)

Almost as exciting as Thunderbirds was a new film called Particle Fever, which charted the hunt for the elusive Higgs Bosun from the higgs2opening of the LHC at CERN in Geneva, through the trials and tribulations of a Helium leak which shut it down for 2 months just a few days after it was first switched on, to the ultimate unveiling of their quantum findings. The entire narrative was threaded along a theme of jovial rivalry and friendly contempt between the theoretical and the experimental physicists. It was a beautifully examined documentary which conveyed the human drama and emotion behind the faces of people who even dream in 0’s and 1’s.

Its been made by an American physicist turned film-maker Mark Levinson whom I had the pleasure to meet after the Science TV session (who gave me a Higgs Bosun badge for my bag!).

 

Sadly a pre-scheduled train meant I couldn’t stay behind for the Q&A after the film, because I was dying to ask why, in all of the story of the search for the Higgs particle, they didn’t include any contribution from the man himself, except to feature his attendance at the unveiling of the results at CERN last year. Nonetheless a film that truly conveys the excitement and drama and emotion that we know are part and parcel of scientific research, but which, so often are obscured from public view.

This was just one of many many amazing films that were screened during Docfest, but sadly, scheduling conflicts meant that I missed many many more of these films than I was able to attend, because I was busy in sessions with commissioning editors, or pitching documentary ideas to development executives. Luckily, Docfest enables online access to the films for delegates for 3 months following the event, so you can expect lots of reviews of great docs to look out for in the coming 12 weeks, so if you like science and you like documentaries, watch this space.

 

 

 

 


CARPE DIEM! – The Lancet

This blog is one of several published in real time during the live event “nutrition for growth; beating hunger through business and science”. The rest of the blogs can be found by clicking the links at the bottom of the page. Some of those organisations supporting this movement are include The IF campaignThe ONE campaign DFID

The Lancet has just published a vital series of papers bringing clarity, new data and fresh evidence about the vital role of good nutrition in infant and maternal health.

“Nutrition is crucial to both individual and national development. The evidence in
this Series furthers the evidence base that good nutrition is a fundamental driver
of a wide range of developmental goals. The post-2015 sustainable development
agenda must put addressing all forms of malnutrition at the top of its goals.”

Citing this paper the Executive Summary of the Lancet’s Maternal and Child Nutrition series says that now is a critical time for convergence of international policies and aid to create a roadmap for the future to eradicate poverty, and improve health.

 

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With many many countries all over the globe signing up to pledge support, aid and assistance to eradicate undernutrition, NOW is the time for you (yes YOU!) to get involved and make this movement unstoppable.

For the scientists and those in business, its a call to arms. For everyone else, support, encouragement and raising awareness (for example by attending the IF campaign rally in Hyde Park this afternoon, 8th June 2013) is every bit as important if we want this movement to be truly global and to succeed.

hyde-park-rally-oxfam

The Nutrition For Growth event today, and rally this afternoon are just two in a global series of events to publicise this new commitment to the world.

One such event, scheduled to launch the publication last Thursday of five papers feautring new data and policy recommendations on global nutrition.

The papers are a follow-up to the Lancet’s landmark 2008 Series, which helped put nutrition on the global health and development agenda and identified the 1,000 days of a mother’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday as the priority window for impact.

The new Lancet series examines the current and expected extent of maternal and child undernutrition and obesity, and the interventions that are appropriate for low- and middle-income countries.

 

Lancet author Richard Horton (@richardhorton1) tweeted his own highlights from the nutrition symposium. Food for thought. (literally)

 

1. Adolescents are one the greatest opportunities for defeating the effects of undernutrition.

2. Our focus should not be on the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, but its prevention.

3. We need to move from death to development (that was David Nabarro).

4. Focusing on evidence is good. But we also need to look at what is plausible. Or else we will miss opportunities.

5. We don’t do enough to study success stories, countries that have succeeded with nutrition programmes. Broaden what we mean by evidence.

6. Don’t talk about the public and private sector. Talk about the “real-life sector.” Expand

7. We have a window of opportunity for nutrition today. But who is “we”?

8. We are just too polite in our debates about technical solutions to undernutrition. We need to change the moral levers in our society.

9. There is only $220 million spent on nutrition from overseas development aid. This is truly pathetic. We need $9.6 billion/year.

10. Jim Kim: “Globally, 165 million children under 5 are stunted as a result of malnutrition. This is the face of poverty.”

 

The Lancet series includes

  • New estimates of the global magnitude, distribution and consequences of malnutrition, including estimates of the deaths attributable to undernutrition
  • Analysis of the efficacy and impact of proven interventions to address nutrition
  • Estimates of the cost and impact of scaling up proven nutrition-specific interventions in the 34 Countdown countries
  • Analysis of the impact on improved nutrition to date of agriculture, social safety net, education
  • and early childhood development programs
  • A review of the political and policy progress to date since the first Series
  • An update on national policy commitments and processes in high-burden SUN countries
  • Commentary from the Series’ authors urging policymakers to use the findings as an evidence base for renewed, concerted action to tackle the unfinished nutrition agenda

A PDF of the executive summary can be viewed HERE

 

Why the time to act is now: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lT

 

Mark Walport: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lR

 

Ireland remembers: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lN

 

Malawi: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lK

 

It’s not difficult to make a difference: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lK

 

Some bloke called Dave http://wp.me/p3scvU-lr

 

Unicef’s 1000 Days http://wp.me/p3scvU-lm

 

Can science end starvation? http://wp.me/p3scvU-lg


When hunger was close to home

This blog is one of several published in real time during the live event “nutrition for growth; beating hunger through business and science”. The rest of the blogs can be found by clicking the links at the bottom of the page. Some of those organisations supporting this movement are include The IF campaignThe ONE campaign DFID

 

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, spoke movingly of a time when hunger was close to these shores. The Irish potato famine killed a million people and a further million were displaced from their homes as they tried to avoid the Great Hunger. Kenny talked of women taking their children and struggling one final journey to lie down in church graveyards to ensure they would all receive a christian burial.

potato-famine-victim

Just last week, it was announced that the pathogen responsible for this horror had been identified. A single strain of a fungus known as Phytophthora infestans it is distinct from modern strains.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2013/05/28/scientists-find-pathogen-behind-irish-potato-famine/#.UbMDlfZATLs

 

http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/2/e00731

The landscape for hunger may be different in 2013, but this kind of despair still happens. Its may not always be death by starvation that is happening in Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, but it will be death from other common childhood illnesses  that the immune system of a well-nourished child ought to be able to fight off.

All of our interventions, the vaccines, the antibiotics, the rehydration therapy, all work better when the patient is not lacking vital nutrients, so addressing the issue of feeding the close to a billion people worldwide who are undernourished will have a massive k knock-on effect on ending poverty.

FACTS:

  • Undernutrition is an underlying cause in 45% of deaths amongst children under five, while globally, nearly one in four children under age 5 (some 165 million) are stunted.

 

  • Undernutrition costs 11% of the GDP in Africa and Asia.Poverty and undernutrition go hand in hand.

 

  • Undernutrition causes STUNTING and WASTING. More on this in the next blog.

 

Why the time to act is now: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lT

 

Mark Walport: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lR

 

Ireland remembers: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lN

 

Malawi: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lK

 

It’s not difficult to make a difference: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lK

 

Some bloke called Dave http://wp.me/p3scvU-lr

 

Unicef’s 1000 Days http://wp.me/p3scvU-lm

 

Can science end starvation? http://wp.me/p3scvU-lg

 

 

 

 


Malawi – where HALF of the children are stunted

This blog is one of several published in real time during the live event “nutrition for growth; beating hunger through business and science”. The rest of the blogs can be found by clicking the links at the bottom of the page. Some of those organisations supporting this movement are include The IF campaignThe ONE campaign DFID

Joyce Banda’s own story is quite incredible. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s a link to her wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Banda

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 10.38.06

She is the 4th president of Malawi, and the first female president, but presides over a country with terrible problems of poverty and hunger. Malawi has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

From SOS http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/

  • 1 in 5 children in Malawi is malnourished. An under-five mortality rate of 110 per 1,000 is still far too high, despite improvements in recent years*. Up to a million children in Malawi are growing up without one or both parents, 650,000 of the total due to HIV/AIDS.

*by contrast, in England and Wales that figure is just 4 out of 1000, compared to almost 1 in ten babies dying in Malawi.

Joyce Banda wants to “skill up” the nation and improve their ability (especially in rural areas) to make both their ability to grow food and their ability to profit from it, and therefore grow it sustainably in a way that will keep people, fed, in work and healthy. They have already set to work in bringing the infant mortality rate down from the figures quoted above (2006), it is now closer to 80 – 1000.

 

Why the time to act is now: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lT

 

Mark Walport: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lR

 

Ireland remembers: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lN

 

Malawi: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lK

 

It’s not difficult to make a difference: http://wp.me/p3scvU-lK

 

Some bloke called Dave http://wp.me/p3scvU-lr

 

Unicef’s 1000 Days http://wp.me/p3scvU-lm

 

Can science end starvation? http://wp.me/p3scvU-lg

 

 

 


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