Posted in Food, Natural World, Social Issues

Sugar: A Bitter Sweet Industry

Image by 955169 from Pixabay

Sugar is one of the worlds oldest documented commodities. Indigenous people of New Guinea chewed it raw in 8000 BC. Now common place in our pantries, it was once considered so valuable it was locked away in wooden cabinets called sugar safes. In 1319 AD sugar was sold in London at two shillings a pound, approximately £72 a kilogram in todays money.

Interesting Fact Demerara sugar is named after the colony of Demerara in Guyana and the surrounding sugar cane fields.

So What is Sugar?

Sugar is a carbohydrate called sucrose. It is produced naturally in all plants through photosynthesis. The image below shows how water and minerals are drawn from the soil by the plant roots. The leaves take carbon dioxide from the air. Chlorophyll found in the cells of leaves absorb sunlight. The energy from the sunlight turns carbon dioxide and water into sucrose.

Image by Markéta Machová from Pixabay

Glucose (dextrose), fructose (laevulose), and galactose are the building blocks of all carbohydrates. These three simple sugars are called monosaccharides, which bond with themselves and each other to produce more complex carbohydrates. Two monosaccharides joined together are called disaccharides. Common table sugar or sucrose is glucose bonded with fructose. Lactose found in milk is glucose bonded with galactose. Maltose is glucose boded with glucose. When more than ten monosaccharides are joined together, they are called polysaccharides. Starch is a glucose polymer.

Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for the body, providing fuel for the brain, organs and muscles, enabling them to function and engage in everyday activities.

Sugar Cane and Sugar Beet

Sugar cane and sugar beets contain the greatest amount of sucrose, around 14-16%. This makes them the most efficient plants to extract sugar.

Sugar cane is a perennial grass, grown in tropical climate. They grow between 10-20 foot high. They are ready to harvest in 10-12 months, and are cut just above the root so new sprouts will grow.

Sugar beet was first identified as a source of sugar in 1747. The vested interests in the sugar cane plantations prevented sugar beet being explored further until the beginning of the 19th century. They are a root, ready to harvest in about 5 months, weighing a substantial 3-5lbs.

The Dark History of Sugar

A Brief History of Sugar From Slavery to Sweetener by Crafty Knowledge
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The Taste of Chicken Never Tasted so Bitter

Call for Action

Animal Equality has launched a petition urging Tesco to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment and eliminate some of the worst abuses for chickens within its supply chain.

I won’t deny meat is a regular ingredient in my diet, and remind non-meat eaters that predator and prey are an acceptable mix in the natural world. However the animals we put on our dinner plate deserve respect in life. In recent years change has taken place to try and protect farmed animals in life, so I was saddened this morning to see more undercover footage of cruelty to chickens on farms operated by Moy Park who supply the supermarket chain Tesco.

Image by hagaiocohen from Pixabay

Thou hast seen
nothing yet

Posted in Social Issues

The Eureka Effect: Plastic Roads

The television was a mere hum of voices in the background, until I heard mention of plastic roads, causing me to prick my ears lean forward and put down what I was doing. At first the idea got my heckles up. Why would we add more plastic into the massive problematic mix? And what about microplastics? Is this simply burying our rubbish beneath our roads oppose to in landfill. I needed to find out more.

The word plastic originated from the Latin and Greek words plasticus and plastikos, meaning: capable of shaping or moulding. In 1869 John Wesley Hyatt discovered that the cellulose from cotton fibre could be treated with camphor, forming a pliable material. Manufacturing was taking tentative steps towards losing its reliance on nature. In 1907 the first fully synthetic plastic called Bakelite was invented by Leo Bakeland. It was durable, heat resistant and a good insulator perfect for mechanical mass production. World War II created an increasing need for plastic, which continued after VE Day. The plastic industry was established.

By the 1950s, 1.7 million tonnes of plastic was being produced, today this has risen to more than 300 million tonnes. Every molecule of plastic ever produced, is still in existence today and 40% ends up in landfill. It is estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into our oceans every year, adding to the 150 million tonnes already present. Globally an estimated 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year, a direct result of plastic. So what can be done about this staggering amount of plastic waste and its deadly problem towards marine life.

There are 40 million km of roads in the world, surfaced using hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. In April 2016 Toby MaCartney, Gordon Reid and Nick Burnett launched MacRebur. Toby MaCartney had witnessed potholes in India being filled with waste plastic and ignited, using petrol as an accelerator. This gave him a eureka moment. What if waste plastic could replace traditional asphalt. Over eighteen months of testing, 501 samples were sent to a UK accredited services laboratory to achieve the standards required to safely use plastic waste in our road surfaces.

So How Does it Work?

A 60/40 split of commercial and household waste is turned into tiny pieces using a granulator. An activator is added which enables the plastic to bind properly into the road surface. These plastic pellets replace a large proportion of the bitumen which is extracted from crude oil and added to traditional asphalt comprising of rocks, limestone and sand. The use of fossil fuels is significantly reduced and the plastic is melted at a lower temperature than traditional asphalt. The results of rigorous testing suggest no microplastics are present, because the plastic is returning to its original oil based state as a sticky substance and no tiny particles.

You can find out more about MacRebur and plastic roads here.

Posted in Social Issues

Going Green

Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay

Sorry I have been away so long folks. The pressures of modern day life have had me a little green around the gills. Global political turmoil hasn’t helped. Brexit. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, the opposition handing him the leadership on a plate. For months I refused to watch, listen, or talk politics choosing not to vote, tearing my polling card up in the trash. But I am back. And green is here to stay.

I was in primary school when whispers of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions started to float around. Stop using aerosol cans and recycle your plastic, glass and paper. Eco warriors as they were known, climbed trees in an effort to save them. It became trendy to carry plastic bags filled with bottles, clothes and paper to the recycling bins that cropped up in supermarket car parks. And there was a surge on sales of roll on and pump action deodorant, products declaring they did not test on animals. But it was a fad a self indulgence, chance to pass the book to someone else. Families continued to strive towards two or more cars on the drive, filling the tanks and heating their homes with depleting fossil fuels. Taking flights became as simple as strolling through the park. The eco warriors were ignored even laughed at, with their cornrows and recycled patchwork clothing. Life continued much as before, only with more throw away goods: paper coffee cups, plastic water bottles, wipes and disposable nappies, plastic bags and straws, disposable razors, and layer after layer of plastic wrapping for our groceries upon supermarket shelves (flown in from far away lands to feed our appetite for a taste of the exotic).

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Now I am 41. The whisper of climate change has become a desperate scream for help. Britain spends a majority of the year under water. Australia spent the summer on fire. Last week houses on the shore of Lake Erie, New York resembled a scene out of frozen, when high winds and freezing temperatures encased homes in thick ice. While southern states are braced for heavy rain and flooding. Volcanoes, earth quakes and tsunamis are becoming more frequent and catastrophic.

It is no secret the oceans are rising due to increasing temperatures and melting glaciers and ice sheets. But a new crisis is emerging. The Artic permafrost is thawing. And fast. Much faster than scientists anticipated. This premature big thaw, can best be described as opening Pandora’s freezer. Releasing vast swathes of carbon from the partially decomposed plants and grazers, buried beneath layers of silt and melting muddy permafrost. Scientists now suspect for every Degree Celsius rise in the earths core temperature, melting permafrost will release up to six years worth of coal, oil and natural gas emissions. Up to three times the amount researchers predicted only a few years previous. Thawing permafrost could become as big a source of CO2 emissions as China, currently the worlds leader in greenhouse gas emissions. Humans need to end their reliance on carbon to fuel their economies. Not in the next century, decade, or year. But now, if there is any chance of reversing the damage caused by climate change.

I have quit goodwill gestures regarding climate change, my only regret is not doing so sooner. Please join hands in support of our climate emergency.

Posted in Social Issues

Compensation Rights, Extraordinary Circumstances, and Brexit

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Storm Ciara wreaked havoc over the UK this weekend, leaving airlines in a bit of a flap with countless cancelations and delays. Safety should of course be paramount. But for customers it is at best inconvenient and at worst catastrophic. So what are aviation consumer rights amid extraordinary circumstances, and what affect will Brexit have?

When you’re hit by flight cancellations and delays we think airlines should step up and compensate you automatically.


Extraordinary circumstances are events considered out of the airlines control, responsible for the delay or cancellation of a flight.

A List of Extraordinary Circumstances

  • political or civil unrest
  • extreme weather
  • bird strikes
  • security threats
  • natural disasters
  • disease outbreaks
  • drone disruption
  • air traffic control restrictions
  • foreign and commonwealth office bans

If this is the case airlines do not have to pay compensation, but passengers are entitled to assistance for delays of 2 hours or more. This includes: phone calls, emails, faxes, food, refreshments and hotel accommodation.

It is worth challenging extraordinary circumstances, as airlines sometimes attempt to push the definition boundaries (if other flights took off during storm Ciara why didn’t yours). The airline will have to provide evidence that extraordinary circumstances applied, and delays/cancelations were unavoidable. Airline staff strikes/shortages, technical problems, and knock-on delays are not extraordinary circumstances and passengers should be compensated.

To make a claim for compensation write a letter to the airline, including flight number, a copy of your ticket, and why you should be compensated. Claims can be made up to six years later. If you are still not happy you can appeal the decision, using an alternative dispute resolution scheme or ombudsman service. Independent third parties either mediate communication between the complainant and company until a satisfactory outcome is achieved, or considers the facts and makes a legally binding decision (known as arbitration).

How Does Brexit Affect Consumer Rights?

Although many consumer rights are based on EU directives, most have been incorporated into UK law and will stay the same after the UK leaves the EU on the 31 January 2020. The European Union Withdrawal Act will come into force when the UK leaves. EU law will continue to apply at least until the end of the transition period, and existing EU laws will stay the same, unless the UK government decides to change them through parliament.

Copy of Denied Boarding EU Regulation (Regulation 261/2004 EC)

Posted in News & Views, Social Issues

Help the Homeless: Billy Chips

An estimated 320,000 people are homeless in the UK, according to the latest research by Shelter. This equates to one in every 201 Brits and was an increase of four per cent on the previous year’s number.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

As shops on the high street diminsh leaving nothing but boarded shop windows, the sad truth is all that thrives is rising numbers of homeless, sleeping rough in the empty doorways. Passerbys veering round avoiding eye contact. Of course, some of those simply don’t want to help “they are at fault to end up on the streets”. For many it is not cold heartedness that forces them to look away, but disquiet trepidation: cash donations will only fuel addictions of alcohol and drugs.

Homeless figures are likely to be an underestimate of the problem as they do not capture people who experience hidden homelessness, such as sofa surfers, and others living insecurely.

One young man Billy Abernethy-Hope a 20 year old ambulance driver from Bristol, had since childhood been troubled by the issue of homelessness, and the apprehension of the general public to help. He recognised the challenges, and forged a vision of a token that could be purchased by the public and passed on to the homeless in exchange for a hot drink or food. Sadly soon after his idea, in March 2018 while backpacking in Thailand, Billy was killed in a motorcycle accident.

This could have been the tragic end of the tale. But no! Billys family were determined to see his idea become reality. In his home city of Bristol, the public can now purchase Billy Chips for £2 from participating retailers. These can then be passed on to homeless individuals and redeemed for hot or cold drinks (some businesses offer more). The blue tokens resemble a poker chip, containing on one side an image of Billys smiling face and on the other the quote:

You’re fabulous, and don’t you ever forget it.

Billy Abernethy-Hope

These were the words Billy wote on a homemade mothers day card shortly before his death.

This young mans untimely tragic death has left a powerful legacy. Billy Chips have the potential to go nationwide and even international, offering an outlet for a random act of kindness providing hope to millions.

Find out more at

Posted in Health & Wellbeing, Social Issues

Stop Social Stigma

Treat Neurological and Mental Illness Equal to Physical Illness

We are all a little broken. But last time I checked broken crayons still colour the same.

Trent Shelton

Deep in the green belt of Buckinghamshire is the Epilepsy Society headquarters. Densely lined with trees, its secluded location is a stark reminder of the historical social stigma surrounding the neurological condition. The word epilepsy derives from the Greek word epilepsia, meaning falling sickness. In many cultures sufferers were victims of prejudice, considered possessed and even contagious. Like mental health patients they were often hidden away from public view, in hospitals and asylums. The uncorroborated, yet plausible origin of the term going round the bend, may literally refer to the journey up the long winding drive to incarceration.

Continue reading “Stop Social Stigma”