Tag Archives: London

Environmental: Water, super-sewers and the filth threatening the River Thames

The Great Stink of the 1800s alerted politicians to the filth in the Thames. The Victorian sewers fixed it, but trouble is brewing again. Is a clean river just a pipe dream?

After 150 years, London's sewage system needs a rejig to keep up with its growing population. Photograph: Mark LovattAfter 150 years, London’s sewage system needs a rejig to keep up with its growing population. Photograph: Mark Lovatt

“Water is the giver of life,” says the great-great-grandson of the engineer who revolutionised London’s sewerage system. “That’s why people always ask if there’s water on Mars to support life. But it is also bringer of death, as we saw in the 19th century.”

Quite so. Before Sir Peter Bazalgette’s great-great-grandfather Joseph built 1,300 miles of sewers and river embankments in London in the 1860s, raw sewage flowed into the tidal section of the Thames and got stalled in a hellishly insanitary circulation system. The stench of what politician Benjamin Disraeli in the mid-19th century called the “Stygian pool” was bad enough – referencing the River Styx of Greek mythology, which formed the boundary between Earth and the underworld – but, worse, Londoners bathed in and drank this water. “Before the great embankments were built, the Thames flowed more gently so the shit went up and down and people were drawing their own effluent,” says Bazalgette. If you’re eating your breakfast, apologies for that last sentence.

The filthy Thames of the Victorian era was a relatively new phenomenon. As late as 1800 it had been clean enough for salmon to be caught and for Lord Byron to swim by Westminster Bridge. By the early 1830s it was a very different river. In 1834, the English wit and cleric Sydney Smith told Lady Grey: “He who drinks a tumbler of London water has literally in his stomach more animated beings than there are Men, Women and Children on the face of the Globe.”

The results were deaths from water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Liverpudlians were less prone to suffer than Londoners – argues David Green, professor of geography at King’s College London – because of their fondness for tea imported through Liverpool’s docks; they were more likely to boil their water. After cholera arrived from India, there were epidemics in London in 1832, 1848, 1849, 1854 and 1866, in which thousands died.

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, top right, overlooks the Northern Outfall sewer being built below the Abbey Mills pumping station. Photograph: Getty ImagesSir Joseph William Bazalgette, top right, overlooks the Northern Outfall sewer being built below the Abbey Mills pumping station. Photograph: Getty Images Continue reading

#UK: #Sussex could be hotter than #Barbados this week

Brighton BeachTemperatures are predicted to soar to the hottest of the year so far.

Sussex is set for a scorcher this week as temperatures are predicted to soar to the hottest of the year so far.

Parts of the county will feel as hot as Barbados as warm air sweeps north from Spain.

Temperatures will rise from 22C (71.6F) tomorrow up to 25C (77F) on Wednesday and a possible 27C (80.6F) on Thursday, according to the Met Office.

Sussex commuters travelling to London could enjoy temperatures as high as 30C (86F).

Dan Williams from the Met Office said: “Thirty degrees is really the top end of what we are expecting as a whole.

“It is possible that places in Sussex will get up towards 27C.”

Mr Williams said Sussex is likely to see thundery showers by Friday as a result of the humidity and it would stay humid into the start of next week.

The highest recorded temperature in Sussex this year so far was 25.5C (77.9) in Wiggonholt near Pulborough on July 13.

Bognor saw a high of 24.6C (76.28) on June 24.

Gatwick is set for a high of 26C (78.8F) on Thursday, eclipsing temperatures in some parts of southern France.

And according to the website Met Check, parts of Brighton could feel hotter than the 28C (82.4F) forecast for the Caribbean island of Barbados on Thursday.

A spokesman for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We have a Heatwave Plan to ensure we are prepared for any extreme temperatures during summer.

“The plan includes an escalation policy, which has different actions depending on how hot the temperature becomes.”

It is down to local authorities to issue preventative public health advice.

Tom Scanlon, Brighton and Hove City Council’s director of public health, said: “There are visitors who are particularly at risk in hot weather: older people, children and those with particular health conditions.

“At this time of year we take particular care over vulnerable people.

“Similarly, we work with care homes where elderly residents are at risk.

“Every year we see children and babies who suffer from sunburn, so the main message is take care, and take particular care of those who need it most.”

Sunset overlooking Brighton beachGlorious sunset overlooking Brighton beach with the Palace pier in the background.

The council is advising people to keep hydrated by drinking non-alcoholic drinks and staying in the shade.

From:The Argus Header Logo

#UK: Clear differences between #organic and non-organic #food, study finds

Organic apples and pears. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the GuardianOrganic apples and pears. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Organic food has more of the antioxidant compounds linked to better health than regular food, and lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides, according to the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date.

The international team behind the work suggests that switching to organic fruit and vegetables could give the same benefits as adding one or two portions of the recommended “five a day”.

The team, led by Prof Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University, concludes that there are “statistically significant, meaningful” differences, with a range of antioxidants being “substantially higher” – between 19% and 69% – in organic food. It is the first study to demonstrate clear and wide-ranging differences between organic and conventional fruits, vegetables and cereals.

The researchers say the increased levels of antioxidants are equivalent to “one to two of the five portions of fruits and vegetables recommended to be consumed daily and would therefore be significant and meaningful in terms of human nutrition, if information linking these [compounds] to the health benefits associated with increased fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption is confirmed”.

The findings will bring to the boil a long-simmering row over whether those differences mean organic food is better for people, with one expert calling the work sexed up.

Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition at King’s College London, said the research did show some differences. “But the question is are they within natural variation? And are they nutritionally relevant? I am not convinced.”

Why people choose organic Continue reading

#Electric #car-sharing scheme is coming to #London – how does it work in #Paris?

When the electric car-sharing scheme Autolib’ launched in the French capital, staff were advised to expect a complete disaster. Three years and 30m miles later, the biggest concern is pigeons.

Autolib’ electric cars in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Autolib’ electric cars in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Jean-Philippe Wailliez, who runs a small wine business in Paris, finds he uses one “actually pretty regularly. Three, four times a week, maybe, instead of the metro or the commuter train. It really is a very useful service. Especially when I have to make deliveries.”

Emanuelle Buet is on her way to an urgent, unscheduled meeting on the other side of town, further from a metro station than any self-respecting Parisian would ever want to walk. “I have a car, but it’s in the multi-storey 10 minutes away,” she says. “It’ll take forever to get out, and twice as long again to find somewhere to park at the other end.”

Sarah Maurel and her colleague have just used one for the first time. “Brilliant,” she says. “We had a client briefing in Champigny-sur-Marne, and a train strike. Thirty minutes there, 40 back, way cheaper than a taxi. It took time to get used to – the brakes are a bit sensitive. But very happy.”

By any measure – including, judging from a random sample quizzed on the pavement last month, customer satisfaction – Paris’s Autolib’ electric car sharing scheme is looking like a success. Membership is up from 5,650 a month two-and-a-half years ago to 155,000 today. Between them, those members have clocked up the fairly remarkable total of 30.4 million miles. The service’s 2,500 Bluecars – hitting 3,000 by the end of this year – are now averaging a total of well over 10,000 rentals every day.

“We’re pleased,” says Véronique Haché-Aguilar, managing director of Autolib’ Métropole, which groups the 63 town councils in and around Paris that operate the scheme. “The main aim was to cut air pollution and reduce the load conventional cars place on the city, but still give people an easy option to use a car when they really need one. I think we’re making progress.”

Launched as a complement to Velib’, the municipal cycle-sharing scheme set up in Paris in 2007 by former Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe, Autolib’ was first mooted in 2009, opened for service – with 250 cars – in December 2011, and has since expanded to Lyon (as Bluely) and Bordeaux (Bluecub) in France, and Indianapolis in the United States. As Source London, a commercial proposition of which Transport for London is “supportive”, it will be arriving in the British capital next year.

Vincent Bollore with one of his electric cars. Monthly membership in London will cost around £10, with a £5 fee per half hour’s rental. Photograph: ReutersVincent Bollore with one of his electric cars. Monthly membership in London will cost around £10, with a £5 fee per half hour’s rental. Photograph: Reuters  Continue reading

Wired UK: This app lets you control #Google #Glass with your #thoughts

Stephen Hawking is apparently “interested” in its progress

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 00.02.06A London user experience company has launched the first app that allows people to control Google Glass using only their thoughts.  

MindRDR has been launched on GitHub in the hope that the open source tool will be further investigated and developed, potentially to aid those that cannot use hand or voice commands to control Google Glass — Stephen Hawking is apparently “interested” in its progress.

“The possibilities of Google Glass telekinesis are vast,” said Chloe Kirton, creative director at This Place, the company behind it. “In the future, MindRDR could give those with conditions like locked-in syndrome, severe multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia the opportunity to interact with the wider world through wearable technology like Google Glass.”

The system works by combining Neurosky’s EEG biosensor with Glass. Anyone that wants to use the app must be wearing the Neurosky headband, as well as Google Glass — so it’s a bit of a cumbersome and pricey affair, for now. Electrical signals in the brain picked up by the sensors are first sent to Glass via Bluetooth. Then the app’s algorithm seeks out any peaks or troughs in activity. For instance, when a wearer concentrates in a very focussed way on something, that might be considered a peak and signify a command for yes. On the flipside, when the mind relaxes and thinks of nothing (or at least, relatively less) that might be seen by the app’s algorithm as a trough, and translated into a negative command. So far, that has meant This Place has managed to programme in functionality for taking a photo, and then sharing it on social media.  Continue reading