Saturday/Sunday 13 & 14th December 2014
EU seeks to end misleading food labels this week
EU shoppers and restaurant-goers should know more about what they are eating under EU labeling law that takes effect from Saturday to protect allergy-sufferers, promote healthier eating and give consumers an informed choice.
The law is supposed to prevent consumers from being misled and insists on minimum font sizes to ensure they can read the information they are given.
Food producers will have to label meat that appears to be a single chunk but in fact is made of several pieces glued together as “formed meat”.
Packaging cannot feature pictures of fruit if the product, such as a yoghurt, contains no fruit. Allergens, such as nuts, will also have to be listed, including in restaurants and cafes.
“The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses,” Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner in charge of health and food safety, said in a statement.
The legislation was agreed by EU member states in 2011, but the food industry was given three years to get ready for the implementation date of Dec. 13.
With the exception of food already in stock, produce on sale from Saturday will have to comply with the new requirements on clear labeling.
In addition, rules on nutrition information, for instance the salt, fat and calorific contents, are also being phased in. They are currently voluntary but become mandatory from Dec. 13, 2016.
Members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum welcomed the rules as marking the end of misleading information.
“Consumers are given the opportunity of informed choice,” said the biggest group in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party.
Representing the European Greens, Bart Staes said consumers would be able to know where meat, for instance, came from and so whether it had involved long-distance transportation of animals.
“Vegans and vegetarians and people with allergies will have an easier time finding what they want,” Staes said, although he added he was unhappy about the exemption for alcoholic drinks, which are often high in calories.
Stroke a high risk for Well-Educated people suffering from memory lapses
People who have attained a high level of education and also complain of memory lapses may suffer a higher risk of strokes as shown in a new study. Men and women as well are equally applicable to the said results. Though researchers put it in the reverse way, the previous studies have shown how strokes resulting in memory lapses.
An associate professor of neuroepidemiology named Arfan Ikran is associated at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in The Netherlands.
The researchers tracked nine thousand people in Rotterdam for a period of 20 years- all the participants of the study were over 50 years of age. These subjects were asked to answer questionnaires regarding their experiences about memory problems. They found that a considerable number of the 9000 taken in for the study were already experiencing memory problems, and of them, 1134 had suffered strokes. They also conducted an analysis of the data collected and found that individuals who were experiencing memory problems had a much higher risk of being affected by stroke.
They found that there is about 39 percent increased risk of a stroke among people who had memory complaints if their level of education is high. The linkage between subjective memory complaints as well as Alzheimer’s disease among well-educated is high is comparable from the findings of the study. The journal American Heart Association journal ‘Stroke’ published the said research.
The leading author of the study says that they have yet to research further in the issue. He also claims that the team would like to make certain assessments and analyze them to know if people who complain about repeated lapses in memory or any other memory changes should be considered as primary targets for risk assessments, and that those people would also be needed to assess their risk of stroke.
Why Our Brains are wired to ignore Climate Change?
Don’t even think about it –
George Marshall explores the scientific thinking on how we perceive this issue
Environmental activists: A new social movement looking for action on climate change is gathering momentum.
The tide is starting to rise behind a new social movement looking for action on climate change. It could be seen in the 400,000 people who marched in New York on September 21st. There were no big speeches and no top table on the day. Just thousands of banners from church groups, students and unions, and lots of green hearts drawn by people who were there to tell the world they are on a personal mission to act on this issue.
If you were to point to three people among the crowd who deserve credit for getting everyone else there, you would probably pick out Bill McKibben of 350.org, the scientist James Hanson and the author Naomi Klein. All three feature on the dust cover of George Marshall’s latest book. They each acknowledge its importance in setting out what we have been getting wrong in communicating about climate change and how we might start putting it right from here.
This book is no page-turner or populist rant. It is a marketing manual for this new social movement. It is not all geology or meteorology but instead pulls together some of the best scientific thinking on how we perceive this threat in our minds. He argues that we have failed to engage the emotional side of our minds and tries to understand the spiritual and creative stories that could break us out of our guilt ridden, fearful and frozen response.
That failure to win over people’s hearts has seen the tide of popular support for climate action recede over the last seven years. If you look at any survey of what issues people immediately care about, climate will be at the bottom; only there at all because it was put on the list of options to choose between. Not only is there a public silence on the issue, there is even a silence about that silence itself.
The financial crisis and the breakdown of international climate negotiations did not help, but our biggest mistake has been how the issue has been framed in public debate. Marshall does not blame people for that. This is what is known as a ‘wicked problem’. Incredibly complex, contradictory, and constantly changing. You can’t learn about a wicked problem without trying solutions, but every solution creates consequences and new wicked problems.
He argues that we have got it wrong by concentrating on the “tailpipe” emissions rather than looking to directly restrict the source of the problem, which is the fossil fuel extractive industries. The Power of One campaign in Ireland is cited as an example of where the first approach has failed, by putting all the onus on the individual. What we need is not the power of one but the power of all.
Social movements need real targets, and a narrative of opposition needs an opponent, so he understands how McKibben has taken the approach of using the Keystone pipeline decision and fossil-fuel divestment campaigns as a way of gaining some important immediate victories.
However he believes we need bigger co-operation narratives that can bring people together on a common cause. He advises we drop the ecostuff, especially polar bears, and instead relate solutions to climate change to the sources of our own happiness. We should emphasise that action on climate change can make us proud to be who we are.
Marshall recognises that there will be a spectrum of approaches and recommends we keep an open mind and listen to what critics have to say. He interviews leading climate deniers in the US in the course of writing the book. A visit to the Climate Gathering in the Burren College of Art in the spring of 2013 also provided him inspiration. It was organised to consider this question of what new narratives around climate change will work. Everyone there agreed that the deniers have been winning the battle by framing the issue in a way that appeals to certain cultural cues that resonate with large sections of society.
To win people back Marshall believes we could learn something from the world religions. The existing climate change narrative contains no language of forgiveness. It requires people to accept their entire guilt and responsibility with no option for a new beginning. We need to make that beginning through a process of transforming the destructive feelings of guilt, blame and anger into positive emotions such as empathy and reconstruction.
That new beginning is happening and you can see new narratives appear in campaigns across the world. In the UK climate groups have ditched the slogan Stop Climate Chaos and taken up instead a For the Love Of campaign. It is starting to work. Watch this social movement grow.
Dispute between Ryanair and local council over massive banner in airline HQ
The sign on top of the Ryanair HQ in Airside, Swords which an Bord Pleanala say should be removed.
A massive banner hanging on Ryanair’s new headquarters in Dublin “does not currently provide any useful information” and the local council wants it removed.
But the airline has dug its heels in and taken a planning dogfight to An Bord Pleanala, which next year will have the final say in the spat.
The huge sign claims that Ryanair “saved Europe €9.1bn in 2013”, but Fingal County Council insists the banner is “unacceptable”.
The council’s planning officer said the message on the sign should be communicated by other means.
“The current signage displayed does not direct or provide any useful information,” added the officer, noting that Ryanair said the banner could be used in future to advertise jobs with the airline.
“Both advertisements would be more usefully conveyed through television, radio, and the print media or through the internet,” the official added.
But the airline is not taking the decision lying down.
It has paid €4,500 to lodge an appeal with An Bord Pleanala, which will make a ruling on the case by April.
Ryanair claims in its appeal that it’s the “largest airline in the world” and points out that it’s a major employer in Fingal.
New climate change road map after marathon negotiations
Sleepless delegates end Lima talks with foundations for major agreement next year
Late-night wrangling between UN members in Lima secured agreement between developing and rich nations on a framework to cut pollution.
After a marathon round of negotiations in Lima, sleepless delegates from all over the world have produced a road map that should lead to a historic international agreement on climate change in Paris next December.
But the Lima Call for Climate Action, brokered by Peruvian environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, was strongly criticised by observers as weak, heavily compromised and inadequate to the challenge of tackling global warming.
As representatives of nearly 190 countries convened for the final plenary session in the early hours of Sunday morning, climate activists chanted outside the large tented hall, holding banners demanding justice for the poor.
“Our concerns have proven to be tragically accurate,” said Jagoda Munic, chair of Friends of the Earth International.
“This text is desperately lacking in ambition, leadership, justice and solidarity for the people worst-hit by the climate crisis.”
Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser said governments “have just kicked the can further down the road by shifting all the difficult decisions into the future . . . Time is running out and solutions must be delivered before climate chaos becomes inevitable.”
Former president Mary Robinson said Lima had managed to keep the multilateral UN process alive, but did not “give confidence that the world is ready to adopt an equitable and ambitious, legally binding climate agreement in Paris next year”.
Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, whose place was taken at the conference by Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Alex White, said the negotiations had been “difficult” and paid tribute to Peru for having secured a “broad consensus”.
But Ciara Kirrane, co-ordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, who was attending her first UN climate conference, expressed dismay that Ireland was among the few countries which had failed to pledge support for the Green Climate Fund.
Alden Meyer, policy director with the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted “deep and long-standing divisions on major issues including climate finance”, saying these had “nearly derailed the process in Lima” and could even block a deal in Paris.
However, conference president Mr Pulgar-Vidal said delegates had left Lima “with a far clearer vision of what the draft Paris agreement will look like as we head into 2015 and the next round of negotiations in Geneva” – scheduled for February.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said they reached “a new level of realism and understanding about what needs to be done now, over the next 12 months and into the years and decades to come if climate change is to be truly and decisively addressed”.
The Like-Minded Developing Countries group had feared that “ghosts of the past would be resurrected” – a reference by Malaysia to the shambles of the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen – but instead Lima had forged a new solidarity among them.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called on all parties, especially the world’s major economies, to submit “ambitious national commitments well in advance of Paris” and said he would be working Peru and France on an “action agenda” for Paris.
Lima Call for Climate Action – main points:
l Calls for an “ambitious” agreement in Paris next December, based on the “differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” of developed and developing countries.
l Intended nationally determined contributions (or INDCs) are to be submitted in the first quarter of 2015 by countries that are “ready to do so”, but with no review of their adequacy.
l Countries may set targets to cut emissions that go beyond their current pledges, and the UNFCCC secretariat will report back on their collective impact in November 2015.
l Rich countries are to continue providing financial support to more vulnerable poorer countries, starting with the $10 billion already pledged to the UNFCCC’s Green Climate Fund.
l The final text also restored the promise of a loss-and-damage mechanism for poor countries in the frontline of climate change, a scheme that had been dropped from an earlier version of the agreement.