26 Jul 2013
These last few months have been tough for the Tank as the zany schemes that are our very lifeblood pretty much dried up. Of course, it's mainly down to the global slowdown - "throw money at a solar-powered bikini? In this economy?! Shove it, Professor!"
But we also hold the media partly responsible. Let off the leash for "serious season" the press have had nothing but gloomy coverage of conflicts and political scandals for nigh on 10 months, not to mention wall-to-wall photos of pale men in suits proffering red briefcases and half-truths to a disbelieving populace - how the FT website makes any money from such unsensationalist coverage is beyond us.
So what a relief it is that summer has arrived and we can gauge exactly how Hot! Hot! Hot! it is from the number of scantily-clad teenagers plastered across the nation's red-tops.
And as the mercury rises the first proper news in months has already started flooding in to the Tank's inbox, which also doubles as the recycling bin by the printer. Yes, one missive couldn't fail to catch our eye with the pleasing, teasing title: "World First for British Coffin Manufacturer".
Now like most people, the Tank has a passing interest in the latest coffin technology and burial specifics, although in our case it's primarily driven by our appalling diet and disregard for road signs.
But now we can shuffle off this mortal coil safe in the knowledge there is an eco-friendly straw sarcophagus to cushion us through death's tight embrace.
The by-Board material developed by eco Rest, a curiously capital-letter-averse firm from Derbyshire, is derived from straw bonded together with a non-toxic resin and is apparently stronger than both MDF and chipboard. For those wanting to add a little je ne sais quoi to proceedings, oak and mahogany veneers from FSC certified sources are available.
The main selling point is that "rather than having to settle for wicker, wool, hyacinth leaf and cardboard" clients can have a traditionally-styled coffin with eco-credentials.
Managing director Dale Bywater said by-Board should be embraced by the funeral industry as "the product of choice for forward-thinking and environmentally-conscious coffin manufacturers".
"We are actively seeking national and international partnerships with coffin makers, funeral directors and coffin distributors to help bring these wonderful products to the attention of the general public," he intoned, presumably while trying to stop himself from humming the opening bars from Thriller.
So now we've got the coffin and the sustainable funeral suit to go with it. And not a moment too soon - given the rate burger joints are opening in London, the big day might be closer than we realise.
If the Tank remembers its Bible Studies class correctly, God flooded the Earth in response to man's irredeemable debauchery, but things got a little out of hand after He realised He hadn't got round to inventing plumbers yet.
Happily, this guy named Noah had a tip off this deluge was on its way - impressive in an age before the Met Office smartphone app - and built an ark to save not only his sizeable extended family, but also two of every animal. The Tank would happily have given the wrong embarkation time to spiders, wasps, and mosquitos, but that's probably why we've never been chosen to save the world. Not yet, anyway.
So, the animals went in two by two and the rest, as they say, is allegory.
Much more rooted in reality is the Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol, which is following in its illustrious forebear's wake by building a "Five Star hotel for elephants" powered by another Tank favourite, green energy.
At 20 acres, the £1.8m development, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, is set to be the largest elephant environment in northern Europe - at least until George Monbiot gets his way - and will use solar PV, biomass heating, and rainwater harvesting to provide almost all the power required to operate the elephant house and fields.
Moreover, most of the food for the elephants will be grown on an adjacent farm, although there's no word yet as to whether that extends to their daily West Country scrumpy ration.
Noah's Ark expects to host a couple of elephants to start off with, but over time hopes to house a herd of up to six cows, a bull and two babies.
According to the Bristol Post, the pulchritudinous pachyderms will enjoy "specially erected dead tree scratching posts, hidden puzzles (buried tubes where the most searching trunks can find hidden food), and even an elephant-sized swimming pool". And you thought your cannonballs were impressive.
"Over the years the standard of elephant enclosures at zoos has been so poor, that the government last year said unless conditions were improved zoos would simply be banned from keeping elephants," Noah's Ark owner, the aptly-named Anthony Bush, told the Bristol Post. "We are keen to improve the reputation of zoos, by doing this properly."
Of course, if they were really doing this properly, they'd flood the whole place and perch the elephants on a creaky raft for 40 days and nights, but perhaps that's taking the Bible more literally than it was intended.
24 May 2013
For those of us of a certain age, the phrase "Turtle Power" will bring back memories of green, cartoon superheroes named after Renaissance masters, sticking it to the evil Foot Clan before returning to the sewer to chow down on pizza with an outsize rat. We'll leave you to guess which part of that is eerily reminiscent of the Tank's Friday night.
But it turns out not all turtles are ninjas - or even teenage - and many struggle to master the basic karate skills needed to defend themselves in the wild. So perhaps it's no surprise the bright lights of houses overlooking the Florida beaches is putting off the rare loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles from crawling up the sand to nest.
Even more worryingly, baby sea turtles are so confused by the lights they're heading inland rather than out to the sea and being picked off by predators or dying of dehydration. A polite enquiry as to whether the young turtles were simply heading for Disney World was rather brusquely dismissed.
But never fear animal lovers - help is at hand. Canadian firm Dasal Architectural Lighting has designed two new outdoor LED downlights that are not only energy efficient, but have been also certified as ‘turtle safe' by the good people at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Friendly Lighting Program - much to the delight of conservationists.
"90 per cent of sea turtle nesting occurs on continental US beaches and all of these species are either threatened or endangered," said Karen Shudes, whose actual job title is ‘sea turtle lighting specialist' at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. "We appreciate those manufacturers who work collaboratively to give property owners more options and produce the right lighting for use near critical turtle nesting sites."
However, it seems there's still a battle to be won here. According to Dasal, "Many property owners choose amber LED replacement bulbs for sensitive nesting beaches, but unfortunately place them in light fixtures not designed for turtles or LEDs."
Now the Tank is no expert electrician - we have to pretend we understand the old "how many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb' gag. But we're pretty certain a light fixture suitable for turtles has yet to be made.
17 May 2013
Clearly, one of the coolest aspects of TV's Mad Men is the way the razor-sharp suited adverting execs can saunter into their offices and pour a cocktail from their own well-stocked drinks cabinet.
So the fuss HR kicked up when The Tank tried to shake up highballs at our desk came as quite as a surprise. "But it's for team morale!" we cried, before reminding the burly security staff escorting us from the premises that they were our "beshst mate" and that, while we don't say it much, we "honestly love you man". Well, that was until they snatched the vermouth we'd stashed by the tea caddy.
Fortunately, the guys at outdoor advertising company Clear Channel International are at bit more sophisticated at mixing work and drinking: they've built a billboard that's generated 15,000 litres of water from humidity in the air since it was installed at a Peruvian village six months ago.
The $32,600 billboard at Bujama was developed with academics and other media agencies. It uses a panel that traps and extracts water vapour from the air using a condenser, storing the water in tanks before it is filtered and flows down a pipe to a tap at the bottom of the structure. It provides an average of 96 litres of drinking water each day to Bujama residents, many of whom do not have access to a clean water supply, and also helps tackle the issue of plastic waste from bottled water.
"This campaign showcases the true potential of outdoor advertising," said Aris de Juan, regional president of Clear Channel Latin America, who earlier that day had gone to work on an egg, bought a Mars bar to help him work, rest and play, and taught a gorilla to play the drums.
"Through exceptional creativity and use of technology, Clear Channel Peru and its partners have achieved an extraordinary social outcome," he added to a snap of burgundy braces.
Yet despite this success story, The Tank's suggestion to set up a similar device at a nearby distillery to capture whisky fumes was strangely rejected. Still, The Man can't stand in the way of progress –or drinking in the afternoon – forever.
07 May 2013
Now we've all come up with lame excuses not to do things: "I'm too tired to go to the gym"; "I'm letting the lawn turn into a wildflower meadow"; or: "Of course I can't shave today, the bigfoot talent show is just months away."
This lackadaisical attitude also goes some way to explaining why the Tank is coveting a shirt that doesn't need washing or ironing for 100 days – although our own PB is at least twice that.
But perhaps the weirdest excuse to postpone climate action comes in the June issue of the Political Research Quarterly journal. It seems that, in the US, belief in a Second Coming of Christ, and hence the end of the world, is a good enough reason not to tackle soaring greenhouse gas emissions, runaway climate change and Donald Trump.
A study by David C Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H Bearce of the University of Colorado found belief in the Second Coming of Jesus reduced the probability of strongly supporting government action on climate change by 12 per cent. More astonishingly, The Raw Story website reports that when the effects of party affiliation, political ideology and media distrust were removed from the analysis, the belief in the Second Coming increased this effect by almost 20 per cent.
"The fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 per cent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them," Barker and Bearce wrote in their study.
"It stands to reason that most non-believers would support preserving the Earth for future generations, but that end-times believers would rationally perceive such efforts to be ultimately futile, and hence ill-advised," they add, playing pretty fast and loose with the word "rationally".
The Tank isn't at all sure how to deal with people who actually welcome a climate apocalypse, given that sadly we all have to share said catastrophe.
We could mention Pope Francis, who has advocated protecting the environment and reducing energy use, and took his name after animal-loving St Francis of Assisi. We could even point out the heart-breaking futility of spending hours on hold to our broadband provider as proof there can be no higher being.
But then again, what with global financial unrest, a reported increase in demand for exorcists and UKIP rising in the polls, perhaps these truly are the end days.
ABOUT THE SCEPTIC TANK BLOG
The Sceptic Tank blog provides a unique take on all the latest weird, wonderful, and downright infuriating green stories from around the world
Browse posts by date