Three bad pieces of news today that all seem interconnected

There are three pieces of disturbing news in the press this morning which, although different, all seem to be interconnected in terms of the interrelationship between mankind and the environment.

  1. California wildfires: 10 killed in ‘unprecedented’ wine country blaze

According to an article in today’s Guardian, ‘Ten people have died in northern California after what officials are describing as an “unprecedented” wild fire that has already destroyed 1,500 structures and devastated large swaths of wine country.

California’s governor, Jerry Brown, has declared a state of emergency in eight mostly northern counties – Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma and Yuba counties. The flames are barely contained and are threatening thousands of homes and vineyards in the wine country north of San Francisco.

Amy Head, the Cal Fire captain, said the fires were probably linked to a warming climate. “It has been hotter, it has been drier, our fire seasons have been longer, fires are burning more intensely, which is a direct correlation to the climate changing.”

The fire’s economic impact is not yet known – the hundreds of wineries in Napa and Sonoma valleys are their lifeblood. Wine Spectator magazine said that two wineries – Signorello Estate Winery and Paradise Ridge Winery – were destroyed and that portions of another, Stags’ Leap, were also burned.’

2. Global cost of obesity-related illness to hit $1.2tn a year from 2025

Another article in the Guardian reports:

‘Obesity and smoking are the two main drivers behind the soaring numbers of cancers, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes worldwide, grouped together officially as non-communicable diseases. They are the biggest killers of the modern world.

The United States faces by far the biggest treatment bill, with a rise from $325bn per year in 2014 to $555bn in just eight years’ time, partly because of the high cost of medical care in the US. But all countries are looking at a very steep rise in costs that will be unaffordable for most. In the UK, the bill is set to rise from $19bn to $31bn per year in 2025.  In 2014, 34% of men and women in the US were obese; by 2025 that is predicted to be 41%. In the UK, 27% were obese in 2014, a figure set to rise to 34% by 2025.

“For middle income countries we are going to see an enormous impact,” said Tim Lobstein, policy director of the World Obesity Federation. “Countries in the Middle East and Latin America where health services are stretched are going to become highly stretched.” These are the regions where obesity among children and adults has soared in recent years.

Sugary drink taxes are an important measure governments can take, said Johanna Ralston, the federation’s CEO. “Right now there is a big focus on sugar-sweetened beverages, which is fantastic. I think as with tobacco, you want to find something that is tangible that governments can do and is measurable. But it is not enough.”’

3. Ben & Jerry’s to launch glyphosate-free ice-cream after tests find traces of weedkiller

A third Guardian article states:

‘A recent survey by Health Research Institute (HRI) found traces of glyphosate –
i.e. weedkiller – in 13 out of 14 tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream tested in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

It will add to a growing unease around the herbicide, which was first marketed in the US by Monsanto in 1974, as RoundUp, but is now the world’s most popular weedkiller, made by companies worldwide. Recently Prosecco DOC announced that wines marketed under the banner would not be able to use glyphosate and the US state of California added it to its list of chemicals that cause cancer.

Laura Peterson, a spokeswoman for B&J, said that the firm was “disappointed, but not totally surprised” to hear the results of the latest analysis. “Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture and is everywhere – from mainstream food, to natural and organic food, and even rainwater – and that’s the issue,” she told the Guardian.

The herbicide is commonly used on crops such as wheat, barley, oats and peanuts, making it likely that it came from B&J’s cookie dough, peanut butter or other added ingredients.

Glyphosate has received regulatory approval from several agencies, despite the WHO’s cancer wing deeming it “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Monsanto insist their product is safe to use, and the European Chemical Agency decided “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen.”

Ben & Jerry’s has moved to cut all glyphosate-tainted ingredients from its production chain and introduce an “organic dairy” line next year as a result of this new survey finding widespread traces of the controversial substance in its European ice-creams.’

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