Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

November 2006

EnvironmentThursday, November 9th, 2006, (10:14 pm)

Sushi has to be my favorite kind of food. I dared to try it only a few years ago and I’ve been hooked (no pun intended) ever since. But according to a recent scientific study our sushi loving days could well be numbered.

According to the recently published report commercial fishing will have to be halted if seafood and fish stocks continues to dwindle at the present rate. With less than 1% of the world’s ocean surface protected from overfishing the study warns that if urgent action to curb overfishing and destruction of the ocean’s habitat isn’t taken now global fish and seafood stocks will collapse by 2048.

Analysing historical and scientific data, researchers discovered that marine biodiversity – the variety of ocean fish, shellfish, birds, plants and micro-organisms – has dramatically declined in recent years. Extending this pattern to the future researchers estimate that within fifty years the damage to all seafood and fish stock could be devastating.

“Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world’s ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems. I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are, beyond anything we suspected.” Said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, Canada.

Dr. Worm, lead author of the study published in Science Journal, went on to say that pollution, habitat destruction and climate change have also had an affect but that the potential collapse can be avoided if immediate action is taken to let ecosytems recover.

I’m not the only person who has started to eat more fish in recent time though. According to statistics developed countries like the United States are now consuming higher volumes of fish because of the documented health benefits. But there is some hope for those who love sushi and other fish foods. Land-based fish farming is being suggested as a viable alternative in meeting fish demands.

“We’re in a very dangerous situation with the twin forces working against each other; rising demand linked with falling supply because of overfishing,” Warns Robert Sewell, Chairman of Cell Aquaculture Limited, a company that is develops land-based systems for growing fish in a controlled, environmentally sustainable environment.

According to Mr Sewell, “We need to do three things to ensure the long term viability of fish stocks. Firstly educate consumers about the environmental benefits of buying farmed fish; secondly encourage more investment in aquaculture; and thirdly, manage commercial fishing in order to allow stocks to recover so wildcaught fisheries can return to healthy levels.”

However, just as with the issue of global warming, some people aren’t convinced that the gloomy predictions are right. Mike Jackson, who runs a fish stall in Widnes Market here in England, said he has seen little evidence of the fish shortages scientists are warning of.

“They told us the world would end ten years ago but we’re still here,” Said Jackson. “There are more fish at the market at the moment than ever.”

It’s probably too much to expect a man who believes that ten years ago scientists were predicting the end of the world, to see how ironic his last sentence was. But while Widnes market may be full of fish, the old adage of there being ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ may very well not be the case for much longer.

Scientists warn of fish stocks collapse
Fish stocks ‘will collapse in 50 years’
Fish stock collapse explained on Australian radio (MP3)
Fishermen, facing declining stocks, turn to sharks
Groups sue to end Gulf of Mexico Bluefin fishing
Western bluefin tuna nearly extinct

ArtWednesday, November 8th, 2006, (4:06 pm)

Last week art history was made as a painting by abstract expressionist, Jackson Pollock, sold for one hundred and forty million dollars (£73.35m), making it the most expensive painting of all time.

The unusually large piece (4ft by 8ft) which is rather blandly entitled “No. 5, 1948,” is a chaotic entanglement of browns and yellows painted in the dribbled style that was to make Pollock an icon in the art world. It was sold by the Los Angeles entertainment tycoon David Geffin to Mexican financier David Martinez. Despite the fact that Sotheby’s brokered the deal, the sale was not made through auction and therefore the actual agreed price wasn’t made public, so while the $140m price tag may well be accurate it might never confirmed.

To look at the painting I can’t help but wonder why it would be valued so highly. One reason would be that Pollock was not a prolific artist and his works very rarely come up for sale. But the swirling dribbles of paint leave me wondering what on earth Pollock himself was thinking when he created these highly sought after paintings. By no means was he talentless. He developed his dribble technique over many years and his earlier paintings are far more traditional. I wonder if he ever imagined his work would one day be counted among some of the most valuable paintings in the world?

Just after he painted “No. 5, 1948” Life magazine was asking the question “Is he America’s greatest living artist?” But Pollock himself, at the time in his late thirties, was considered a troubled man. He was a violent drunk with a quick temper. His anarchic and apparently disordered style may very well have been a reflection of the man himself who once said, “Every good painter paints what he is.” Pollock died just a few years later in a car accident. He was 44 years old.

While the $140m price tag for “No. 5, 1948” is a record, it might not be for long. Auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s are looking forward to potentially record breaking prices being paid for works being auctioned this month. Paintings by Picasso, Gauguin, and a self portrait by Andy Warhol are all scheduled for auction.

Meanwhile spare a thought for Vegas Casino tycoon Steve Wynn who last month accidentally put his elbow through a painting by Picasso that he had just agreed to sell for $139m. Wynn was showing a small group of guests the painting when the accident happened. Speaking to his guests later that same evening Wynn apparently said “Nobody got sick or died. It’s a picture. It took Picasso five hours to paint it.” An ironic observation given the fact that the agreed sale price of the painting could probably build and stocked a hospital in a part of the world where art is the last thing on anyones mind.

Check back on Saturday when I’ll be giving you all the chance to ‘paint’ your own Pollock style painting right there where you sit!

Jackson Pollock NGA feature
The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Christie’s : Impressionist & Modern Art auction (Nov 9th)
Sotheby’s : Contemporary Art auction (Nov 15th)
Vegas Tycoon Pokes Hole In A Picasso
The $40 million dollar elbow

PoliticalTuesday, November 7th, 2006, (9:26 pm)

As I watch the evening news people are going to the polls in the United States to vote in these ‘most watched’ mid term elections that could render President Yahoo the lamest of lame ducks Presidents.

Of course it looks close, so I wonder if this election result in the so called ‘land of the free’ will end up being decided in court? With news electronic voting machines and reports already springing up of vote rigging and voter intimidation I suppose we should expect so.

Despite this being essentially a local election in the U.S, coverage here and across the world has been plentiful. President Bush is hugely unpopular outside the United States and with this midterm being so closely watched by the world it’s fair to say that many are watching in the hope that the President will be dealt a harsh political blow today. Having said that the general feeling among those I have spoken seems to be that there would be little surprise if the the republicans pull of a sweeping victory today. This, after all, is a country that put Bush in office for a second term, so with that in mind, anything seems possible.

Computer Glitches Frustrating Voters
Glitches, Malfunctions, Accusations Mar Midterms
Poll Workers Struggle With E-Ballots
Velcro president faces final test

Music and PoliticalFriday, November 3rd, 2006, (4:30 pm)

U2 and Greenday have been stirring things up with this video. No matter what you think, it’s actually technically very clever. But I wonder how the American public will receive it?

At the time of posting this here (thanks to Shae by the way for switching me on to this) there were nearly 6000 comments on just one YouTubers site regarding the video. Maybe I’m being unfair on your average YouTuber here, but there seems to be a lot of angry people, including servicemen, who are screaming about how fake this video is and how there were no military jets or apache helicopters in New Orleans after Katrina. Clearly the point of the video was lost on them!

It might be no coincidence that the video appears just as the mid-term elections are happening and when the current administration is banging on about how important their war on terror is.

Think back on what I saw in Katrina struck areas on Louisiana and Missisippi, I for one think it’s a disgrace that a country can spend nearly two hundred million dollars a day fighting an unwanted war in a far off country, while whole towns and communities still lie in ruin struggling to return to normality. I wonder how Katrina hit regions might look today if the American government was willing to spend $7,400,000 per hour (that $122,820 per minute) on homeland relief rather than on the rebranded and seemingly unending ‘Long war’ in Iraq?

I know some might critisize me for that opinion, but I think if every American had been able to spend a week in Waveland Missisippi they wouldn’t have felt that different to me, regardless of their political opinion.

TV coverage didn’t even scratch the surface of the reality of the scale of devastation from Katrina. Of the coverage there was, most seemed to focus primarily on New Orleans leading people now to accosiate Katrina almost exclusively with that city rather than the many other towns and cities it demolished along the vast Golf Coast.

While the U2/Greenday video might paint and overly simplistic view of what might have been, I think the images serve as a timely reminder that homeland relief is as important, if not more so, than homeland security.

The Saints Are Coming : By U2 & Greenday

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