Monday, February 22, 2016


'VR is shared and objectively present like the physical world, composable like a work of art, and as unlimited and harmless as a dream. When VR becomes widely available, around the turn of the century, it will not be seen as a medium used within physical reality, but rather as an additional reality. VR opens up a new continent of ideas and possibilities. At Texpo '89 we set foot on the shore of this continent for the first time.'

 - VPL Research (1989)

This story of 'virtual reality' (VR) should perhaps start with the man who is credited with
coining the term in 1987 - Jaron Lanier. In the 80s/90s, he became the spokesman/ philosopher/ poster boy of the VR movement. 

In partnership with Tom Zimmerman – the inventor of the first data glove - he founded  VPL Research in 1984 in Palo Alto, California, which pioneered research into virtual reality and 3D graphics and sold the first virtual reality gear such as virtual reality glasses, data gloves and  a relatively inexpensive head mounted display (HMD) - the EyePhone.

These and other developments - like the Virtuality  video arcade games - led to a huge interest in the possibilities of VR but the limitations of the existing technologies soon became apparent and VR died on the vine.

VPL Research filed for bankruptcy in 1990 and in 1999, all of its patents were bought by Sun Microsystems, which was active in VR research and development but no VR products have emerged from the VPL patents.

A sense of where VR was at that time can be gained  the 'Mondo 2000 User's Guide to the New Edge' (1992), a spin-off book from the anarchic/subversive Californian Mondo 2ooo mag, which covered cyberpunk, Virtual  Reality, Wetware, Designer Aphrodisiacs, Artificial Life, Techno-Erotic Paganism and more. According to Wikipedia:
Mondo 2000 originated as High Frontiers in 1984, edited by R. U. Sirius (pseudonym for Ken Goffman). He was succeeded as Editor-in-Chief by Alison Bailey Kennedy, a.k.a. "Queen Mu" and "Alison Wonderland". Sirius was joined by hacker Jude Milhon (a.k.a. St. Jude) as editor and the magazine was renamed Reality Hackers in 1988 to better reflect its drugs and computers theme. It changed title again to Mondo 2000 in 1989. Art director and photographer Bart Nagel, a pioneer in Photoshop collage, created the publication's elegantly surrealist aesthetic. R. U. Sirius left at the beginning of 1993, at about the same time as the launch of Wired [Jan 2nd 1993]. Mondo continued until 1998, with the last issue being #17.

These two books from that period also make interesting historical reading:'Virtual Reality' by Howard Rheingold is an extremely valuable and well-written journalistic journey through the world of VR research. Of course decades before Lanier there were computer scientists working on elements of what would make up virtual reality systems. Simulation of reality has a long history. Right up front in Chapter 1: Grasping Reality Through Illusion. Rheingold speculates on the future:
'One way to see VR is as a magical window onto other worlds, from molecules to minds. Another way to see VR is to recognise that in the closing decades of the twentieth century, reality is disappearing behind a screen. Is the mass marketing of artificial reality experiences going to result in the kind of world we would want our grandchildren to live in ? What are the most powerful, most troubling, least predictable potentials of VR? If we could discern a clear view of the potentials and pitfalls of VR, how would we go about optimizing one and avoiding the other? The genie is out of the bottle, and there is no way to reverse the momentum of VR research; but these are young jinn, and still partially trainable. We can't stop VR, even if that is what we discover is the best thing to do. But we might be able to guide it, if we start thinking about it now.
'Computers as Theatre' by Brenda Laurel was discerned early on as a classic work. In 2014, a totally upgraded 2nd Edition was published which should make it essential reading. I like this brief Amazon summary
  Brenda Laurel's Computers as Theatre revolutionized the field of human-computer interaction, offering ideas that inspired generations of interface and interaction designers-and continue to inspire them. Laurel's insight was that effective interface design, like effective drama, must engage the user directly in an experience involving both thought and emotion. Her practical conclusion was that a user's enjoyment must be a paramount design consideration, and this demands a deep awareness of dramatic theory and technique, both ancient and modern.

The original edition, published in 1991, ends with a chapter entitled 'New Directions in Human-Computer Activity' and largely concentrates on virtual reality. She writes:
'The notion of virtual reality is a continuum that is older even than science fiction. Enactments around prehistoric campfires, Greek theatre, and performance rituals of aboriginal people the world over are all aimed at the same goal: heightened experience through multisensory representation. Sketchpad, Pong, and cyberspace are all stops on the same route. Murray Kruger's groundbreaking work on VIDEOPLACE and other video-based interactive environments, as well as many of the "media room" projects  developed at the MIT Media Laboratory, demonstrate other approaches to the creation of mimetic environments with sensory richness. What we have in today's virtual reality systems is the  confluence of three very powerful enactment capabilities: sensory immersion, remote presence and tele-operations. These capabilities do indeed hold enormous promise, but they will not make the central challenge go away - that is, designing and orchestrating action in virtual worlds.'

Gabo Arora and Barry Pousman's Clouds Over Sidra puts you inside a Syrian refugee camp in virtual reality. Images courtesy the artists

By Kel O'Neill — Feb 3 2015
[The Creators Project @]

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus experiencing “Clouds Over Sidra” at Davos. Photo: Socrates Kakoulides
Ben Luke in The Art Newspaper
With the ground-breaking Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset hitting the mainstream later this year, a growing number of artists and museums are incorporating this and other new technologies into their work 

In our last post David Hockney talked about trying to escape the rectangle - the box in which we view all images.
 VR is immersive and panoramic and is ringing bells in many areas of culture - obviously gaming but also art and porn (which is always an early adopter of new tech). Being able to film content using multiple cameras means that VR could place you in the front row of any major events - music, sport, theatre, opera etc. There will be a huge number of visitor attractions incorporating VR and a blizzard of apps which, with a smart phone in a holder, can deliver things like NASA's trip to Mars and you'll be there. VR has huge educational potential and is already in use by the military.  But there's also so much more.

Today was weird. Samsung’s events are not something that usually fall under the definition of normal, but today was particularly crazy. See, I sat in a gigantic dark room filled with 5,000 other people while we watched the new Galaxy S7 phone being revealed—through a VR headset. It was terrifying and cool, but mostly terrifying.

The problem is it will just increase the number of people escaping from ER (Everyday Reality) and the amount of time they spend there. Did I really say that?

By Fritz Nelson, Marcus Yam (30 APRIL 2014)
Very useful round-up of history and developments up to 2014
[Tom's Hardware Tech site]

ENGADGET has lots of up-to-date video interviews with techies working on VR projects


Friday, February 19, 2016


This is a rather blurry screengrab shot of Waldemar Januszczak, who is modestly described on his website as 'Britain's most distinguished art critic', in the first episode of his new BBC arts series 'The Renaissance Unchanged'. The episodes is called 'Gods, Myths and Oil Paints.' In this shot he is standing in front of Albrecht Dürer's house in Nuremburg

WJ's thesis, for this episode at least, begins with Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), an Italian painter, architect, writer, and historian, most famous today for his' Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects', considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing. He was the first to use the term "Renaissance" (rinascita) in connection with a new flowering of art in Italy at that time. WJ disses Vasari as a painter and questions the judgment of his distinguished forebear in the old art history business. Vasari sucked up to Michelangelo, he says, and many other distinguished artists.

WJ has built his reputation on forthright judgments and questioning the verities of established art history. In this episode, he has a hobby horse to ride, namely that many years before the Italian 'Renaissance' there was an even more important and technically advanced developments taking place in the art of northern Europe which, for some reason, has been widely dubbed as 'Primitivism' or 'Gothic Art'when, in fact, you are looking some of the most precise artists that ever lived - the likes of Jan van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden et al.

Firstly they were pioneering oil painting whereas most of the Italian painters were using egg tempera. WJ takes us to Bruges which, in medieval times, was the centre of the cloth trade - which you can see beautifully portrayed in the portraits of the age - but also was a centre for mirror making. In fact both painters and mirror makers were in the same guild. 

WJ shows us how the painters used convex mirrors in ingenious ways within their paintings. In the famous 'Arnolfini Marriage' by van Eyck (1434), you can see not only the backs of the figures but also the artist himself. What he doesn't say is that mirrors could be used as lenses
as well (see below).

The other development was glasses, which increased the ability of the artist to see fine details in faces, flowers and objects. Its breathtaking to see some of these paintings close-up. WJ points out that in the famous Ghent altarpiece, botanists have identified 42 species of plants, so accurately are they depicted.

The programme's last section is devoted by one of my all-time favourite painters Albrecht Dürer. See the next post for the detail on that and some Dürer treasures from The Generalist's art book library which I'd like to share with you.

This last observation about lenses, mirrors and glasses took me back to my shelves to bring out David Hockney's wonderful and important book 'Secret Knowledge', initially published in 2001. Sub-titled 'Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters' it's a radical reappraisal triggered by Hockney's fascination as to how the painters in the past had managed to depict the world so accurately and vividly using mirrors and lenses. 

He spent two year or more investigating the topic and the book clearly shows the dramatic shift that took place in quite a short historical period. At the time when the book was published it caused a lot of controversy which continues to this day. Hockney worked with a physicist Charles M. Falco. According to an excellent Wikipedia entry on their joint theory: 
'Both claimed that advances in realism and accuracy in the history of Western art since the Renaissance were primarily the result of optical instruments such as the camera obscura, camera lucida, and curved mirrors, rather than solely due to the development of artistic technique and skill. Nineteenth-century artists' use of photography had been well documented.'
In his book 'Hockney analyzed the work of the Old Masters and argued that the level of accuracy represented in their work is impossible to create by "eyeballing it". Since then, Hockney and Falco have produced a number of publications on positive evidence of the use of optical aids, and the historical plausibility of such methods. The hypothesis led to a variety of conferences and heated discussions.'
WJ never mentions Hockney but his ideas are incorporated into the programme. 

Pleased to discover that both episodes of the two-part 'Secret Knowledge' BBC tv programme are on YouTube here. Compare and contrast with WJ's effort.

As coincidence would have it, when I saw WJ's programme (on the iPlayer), I was already reading another valuable Hockney book which is also highly recommended and highly relevant.

'True to Life' is sub-titled 'Twenty-Five years of Conversations with David Hockney' and is written by Lawrence Weschler, who was a staff writer for the New Yorker for many years. The flyleaf copy explains how the book came about:

'When the artist David Hockney read Lawrence Weschler's Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin soon after its publication, in 1982, he telephoned the author to say that while he disagreed with virtually everything in it, he couldn't get it out of his mind. He invited Weschler to his Hollywood Hills studio to discuss it, initiating what has become a series of of engrossing dialogues.'

Robert Irwin has explored many realms of art but since 1968 has concentrated on installations 'in rooms, gardens, parks, museums, and various urban locales'. He is one of the Light and Space artists, 'a loosely affiliated art movement  related to op art, minimalism and geometric abstraction originating in Southern California in the 1960s ..' [see full Wikipedia entry]

Weschler's book is fascinating and essential reading. A large section of the book follows Hockney's investigations into the use of optics by painters of the past and it was Weschler who introduced Hockney to Falco as documented above. 

Reading this, (have just been to have a coffee and read in detail a whole chapter) it becomes even clearer that WJ has taken the main part of his programme from Hockney's discoveries but simplified it. It bothers me that he fails to explain how new this thinking is and where it came from. Here's how Weschler writes about how revolutionary the ideas of painters using optical devices is, a 'turning of the traditional account on its head.'

Italy...had long been deemed the font of the Renaissance, from which the rebirth of classical knowledge spread outwards in the early 1400s, in particular owing to the (re)discovery and elaboration of a mathematically rigorous and idealizing one-point perspective. Van Eyck and his cohort were often referred to as "Netherlandish primitives" because they hadn't yet attained that new knowledge.
When and where does the new 'optical look' first emerge?:
'In Bruges where, basically across the single decade on either side of 1425, a group of Flemish masters...almost from one moment to the next...evinced a seemingly instantaneous mastery (as if one morning European painting had simply gotten up and put on its glasses) - and there it was, out of nowhere, the optical look, which would now spread rapidly and....come to dominate European painting for the next four hundred years.' 

The first few chapters are equally interesting as they are about another very creative period when Hockney was doing his photocollages  - first with Polaroids, then with regular photo prints. Hockney considered it was more like drawing with a camera. These are fascinating works because Hockney is trying to escape the rectangle. He says:

"It's incredible how deeply imprinted we are with these damn rectangles. Everything in our culture seems to reinforce the instinct to see things rectangularly - books, streets, buildings, rooms, windows. Sam Francis once told me how odd the American Indian initially found the white settlers:'these people who insist on living in rectangular-shaped buildings.' The Indians, you see, lived in a circular world."

Hockney became interested in doing things that normal cameras couldn't do. He went to Utah and The Grand Canyon and made 25 collages of the thousands of pictures he took there. He explained:
"I have always loved the wide-open spaces of the American West but I was never able to capture them in photography, to convey the sense of what it's actually like to be there, facing that expanse - that incredible sense of spaciousness, which is somehow as elusive to ordinary photography as time is. I thought that, among other things, this new kind of photography might be able to capture that sense of vast extent....

Weschler writes: '...most of the collages from this trip concerned wide vistas, portrayed with astonishing clarity. Ordinarily, the photographer of such a vista has to choose one point of focus with the result that things closer or father to the sides are progressively more out of focus - this, according to Hockney, is another way in which photography falsifies the experience of looking. "Everything we look at is in focus as we look at it."

 It was through doing these collages that Hockney realised that many paintings of this period and later were constructed of a collage of elements, painted using mirrors or lenses. This is why in many pictures, as he shows, there are multiple perspectives. He picks out Caravaggio to show how he was like a film director, arranging his models and sets. Fascinating.




The last section of WJ's programme' is devoted to Albrecht Dürer one of my all-time favourite artists, whose work I've been fascinated with since teenage years.Here's a beautiful antique photo of Dürer's Nuremburg house which, as you see from the image of WJ below, is still intact and serves as a museum of his life and work. 
WJ concentrates rather disdainfully on portraying Dürer as a massive egoist, He did a whole string of self-portraits - the first when he was just 13 (below) - and included himself somewhere in many of his most famous paintings  in the picture. 

One important self-portrait which WJ does not mention is his nude study of himself (left) - the first nude self-portrait in western art I believe.

Dürer embraced the new printing technologies and become the most famous and successful print maker in Europe at that time. 
He was interested in science and mathematics and no doubt used lenses in some of his work

 In The Generalist's art book library I have some treasures I'd like to share with you. 

These are all second-hand books I've picked up over the years. The one at top left - 'Albrecht Dürer: His Prints and his Influence' is a catalogue for an exhibition of Dürer's prints at P& D Colnaghi in Bond Street, London (20th May - 18th June 1971). One of them 'The Sea Monster' (above), produced c. 1501, was selling at that time for £1500. The two German books at top right are small collections of prints relating to the Life of Christ. They are both published in Leipzig. Underneath you see the inside of one which contains a book plate: Ex Libris Alexander Korda. Could this be the Alexander Korda, the Hungarian-born film producer and director, who became a leading figure in the British film industry ? next comes a study of Dürer by John Gurney, first published by  The Medici Society in London in 1949, republished 1969. It contains some excellent colour paintings and prints on card ready for framing. On the cover is a watercolour study for his famous print 'The Knight, Death and the Devil' (dated 1498). Finally an excellent hardback copy of Waetzoldt's study of Dürer, translated from the German and published in 1950. As a special treat, the book's previous owner stuffed it throughout with beautiful Durer postcards like this:

WJ loves the watercolours as I do - the hare, the bird's wing, the grass and flowers, all exquisitely and delicately rendered. At some other point, I'll tell the interesting story of Dürer's famous Rhinoceros print.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Agriculture is responsible for an estimated 14 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. A significant portion of that is methane, caused principally by the belching (& flatulence) of the world's 1.5 billion dairy cows and bulls and also by billions of other grazing animals, both farmed and wild. Methane is also produced when the manure from these animals is stored in lagoons or holdings tanks.

Graphics credit to @OatJack.

Pie chart of U.S. methane emissions by source. 29 percent is from natural gas and petroleum systems, 26 percent is from enteric fermentation, 18 percent is from landfills, 10 percent is from coal mining, 10 percent is from manure management, and 8 percent is from other sources.

Note: All emission estimates from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013.

Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. In 2013, CH4 accounted for about 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. 

Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems and the raising of livestock. 

Natural processes in soil and chemical reactions in the atmosphere help remove CH4 from the atmosphere. 

Methane's lifetime in the atmosphere (12 years) is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.

The infographics (above/ credit to @OatJack) compares farmed animals in the UK and their contribution to methane emissions per animal per year in kilograms. A dairy cow emits over twice the amount of methane than a beef cow and is by far the highest contributor of all the animals studied
Data from the UK GHG Inventory report 1990-2012.

'Global emissions of methane were estimated to be between 76 – 92 Tg per year (1 Tg = 1 million metric tonnes). This is roughly equal to ~10-15 % of global methane emissions, which in turn is ~15 % of global GHG emissions. Methane is a more potent GHG than CO2, which means that gram for gram methane warms the atmosphere more than CO2. Methane also has a much shorter lifetime in the atmosphere compared to CO2 (~10 years compared to 100s of years) which will produce more rapid impacts on the global climate. This also means that any reductions in methane emissions will see a faster decrease in atmospheric concentrations than compared to CO2

Beef cattle and pasture/rangeland distribution in the continental United States. Source: USGCRP (2009)



Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels.

According to one Danish study, the average cow produces enough methane per year to do the same greenhouse damage as four tons of CO2. The average car, by contrast, produces just 2.7 tons. Multiply that by the planet’s 1.5 billion cattle and buffalo and 1.8 billion smaller ruminants and you have the methane equivalent of two billion tons of CO2 per year

Silence the Cows and Save the Planet By Jeffrey Kluger  (Time March 30, 2011)   

 Estimates vary from 100-200 liters a day (26-53 gallons) to 500 liters ( 132 gallons) a day. This amount of methane is comparable to that produced by a car in a day. Another source estimates one cow's contribution to climate change every year is the equivalent of driving more than 7500 miles in the average car.

The U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that agricultural methane output could increase by 60 percent by 2030  


Cows, goats, sheep, buffalo and camels belong to a class of animals called ruminants. Ruminants have four stomachs and digest their food in them instead of in their intestines, as humans do. Ruminants eat food, regurgitate it as cud and eat it again. 

The plant diet of cows and other ruminants is high in cellulose, which cannot be digested by the ruminant itself. However, ruminants have a symbiotic relationship with colonies of microorganisms, called methanogens, which live in their gut and break down the cellulose into carbohydrates.. These carbohydrates provide both the microbial community and the ruminant with an energy source. Methane is produced as a by-product of this process.A common misconception is that the cow’s rear end emits methane, however the vast majority is released orally. Researched carried out by Grainger et al. in 2007 found that 92-98 % was emitted orally (I won’t go into detail about how they found that out!). 


Adressing this global problem is not easy. In the short-term it means reducing the number of animals and shifting both the diet of humans and animals. In other words, encouraging people to eat less meat, or eat meat from animals that don't produce so much methane (kangaroos, for instance), or become vegetarians or vegans.

'Changing the cow's diet is the subject of much scientific research in different countries. In the UK the Department of Environment, Food and Rural affairs (DEFRA) scientists suggest adding maize silage, naked oats and grasses higher in sugar.  
Maize silage, which, as its name suggests, is produced by fermenting corn shuckings in a silo or in covered heaps, can reduce tailpipe emissions by as much as 6%. Higher-sugar grasses can mean a 20% reduction, and naked oats—or oats without husks—reduce methane by a whopping 33 percent. 
Changing the diets of farm animals around the globe will not be easy. U.K. animals already do eat some of the low-gas fare, but it makes up only about 25% of their diet. This would have to be tripled to 75% to make the advertised difference in subsequent wind. That’s an increase that, in the U.K. at least, the government seems willing to push.'
 Silence the Cows and Save the Planet By Jeffrey Kluger  (Time March 30, 2011)
At Denmark's Aarhus University  they are working on four-year project to see if adding organic Greek oregano to the cow's diet can reduce the methane They say the plant has high contents of essential oils ans is a natural remedy for reducing the gas produced due to its antimicrobial properties
Kai Grevsen, project manager said: "The goal is to show that we can reduce methane emissions from dairy cows by up to 25% by adding oregano to the feed." He added: "Should the results be positive, they can be implemented on all cattle farms, conventional and organic, so there is a really large potential."

They will analyse the milk from cows being used in the study, to see if it can be used an 'environmentally-friendly' product. Oregano reduces the fatty acid composition of the milk, and researchers will be using volunteers to test its taste too.

Global meat production is projected to increase to 465 million tonnes by the year 2050. That is more than double the amount produced in 2001 at 229 million tonnes.

Oregano could prevent cows from burping methane and ultimately destroying the planet
By Matt Atherton/International Business Times (February 9, 2016)


Mobilizing Bright Science for Project “Clean Cow”

More sustainable farming through lower emissions and increased milk production

Every day a dairy cow will emit some 500 liters of methane – a potent greenhouse gas. These emissions not only pollute the environment, they also consume 10% of the energy a cow could otherwise use for milk production. So we focused a broad combination of competences and bright minds on producing a feed additive to address this issue: Trials indicate that this additive effectively reduces the cow’s daily methane production by over 30%.

According to Science Magazine, a food supplement added to the diets of cows could reduce their gases by roughly 30%. It is called the 3NOP (3-nitrooxypropanol) compound, developed by DSM Nutritional Products from The Netherlands, one of the world’s leading suppliers of feed additives. The 3NOP supplement blocks an enzyme necessary to cause the last step of methane production by the microbes in the rumen (first stomach of the cow). Regulators are now reviewing the product.

Methane Reduction Supplements Could Help Save Earth

'With the development of large-scale agriculture in the mid-20th century, farming became a big business for some companies. Farms became consolidated into large enterprises with many thousands of animals across large acreages.
'Initially, grazing areas were filled with a variety of grasses and flowers that grew naturally, offering a diverse diet for cows and other ruminants. However, in order to improve the efficiency of feeding livestock, many of these pastures became reseeded with perennial ryegrass. With the aid of artificial fertilizers, perennial ryegrass grows quickly and in huge quantities. The downside is that it lacks the nutritious content of other grasses and prevents more nutritious plants from growing. One commentator called it the "fast food" of grasses 
'This simple diet allows many cows to be fed, but it inhibits digestion. The difficult-to-digest grass ferments in the cows' stomachs, where it interacts with microbes and produces gas A perennial ryegrass diet also results in a significant number of weak and infertile cows, which have to be killed at a young age.  
'Because of concerns about ruminant diets, many researchers are investigating ways to alter what livestock eat and to mix the best of old cow pastures -- diverse, naturally growing, nutrient rich grasses and plants -- with the best of the new -- fast-growing and resistant to invasive species.  
'A three-year study by Welsh scientists,examined whether adding garlic to cow feed can reduce their methane production. Results indicated that garlic cuts cow flatulence in half by attacking methane-producing microbes living in cows' stomachs.  
'At the University of Hohenheim in Germany, scientists created a pill to trap gas in a cow's rumen and convert the methane into glucose. However, the pill requires a strict diet and structured feeding times, something that may not lend itself well to grazing.'



In New Zealand, where cattle and sheep farming are major industries, 34 percent of greenhouse gases come from livestock. In 2003, the government proposed a flatulence tax, which was not adopted because of public protest.

A vaccine to lower greenhouse gas emissions in cattle has reached testing stage in New Zealand. Strategy and investment leader for sustainability at Dairy NZ, Rick Pridmore, said the development of a vaccine could mean a reduction in methane emissions from cows by between 25 and 30 per cent. "We're getting very close to coming up with a possible vaccine and we are doing animal testing right now," Mr Pridmore said.

According to Mr Pridmore, the vaccine works by targeting methanogens, the gut bacteria which produce methane. "Basically you try to find a protein or a peptide that is on these methanogens," he said. "You then create an auto-immune response to that, so the body attacks itself. "A recent study, that New Zealanders helped to lead, shows that the predominant bacteria we are trying to knock down are also very common throughout the world."So that means a successful vaccine will probably work [in herds] worldwide."


With millions of ruminants in Britain, including 10 million cows, a strong push is underway to curb methane emissions there. Cows contribute 3 percent of Britain's overall greenhouse gas emissions and 25 to 30 percent of its methane. 

Image result for COW METHANE

In 2010, the U.N. proposed a global levy on livestock’s methane emissions, a measure that was promptly — and unavoidably — dubbed a fart tax in the press. 



ANIMAL AGRICULTURE - the most destructive industry facing the planet today. This is the message of  'Cowspiracy', a hard-hitting indie documentary released in 2014 exclusively on Netflix and now on the web at various sites. YouTube has a (poor audio) video interview with the filmmakers. 

There was a spat with Greenpeace USA who declined to take part and felt that they were misrepresented by implication in the film. See: 'Cows, conspiracies and Greenpeace' blogpost  by Robin Oakley (19th October 2015).

'There’s a population crisis all right. But probably not the one you think'  by Guardian environmental journalist George Monbiot (19th November 2015)  asks the question: 
'So why is hardly anyone talking about the cow, pig, sheep and chicken in the room? Why are there no government campaigns to reduce the consumption of animal products, just as they sometimes discourage our excessive use of electricity?'
Here are some extracts and condensed facts
Human numbers are rising at roughly 1.2% a year, while livestock numbers are rising at around 2.4% a year. 
By 2050 the world’s living systems will have to support about 120m tonnes of extra humans, and 400m tonnes of extra farm animals.
 Raising these animals already uses three-quarters of the world’s agricultural land. A third of our cereal crops are used to feed livestock: this may rise to roughly half by 2050. More people will starve as a result, because the poor rely mainly on grain for their subsistence, and diverting it to livestock raises the price. 
A recent paper in the journal 'Science of the Total Environment' suggests that our consumption of meat is likely to be “the leading cause of modern species extinctions”. 
Not only is livestock farming the major reason for habitat destruction and the killing of predators, but its waste products are overwhelming the world’s capacity to absorb them. 
Freshwater life is being wiped out across the world by farm manure. Dead zones now extend from many coasts, as farm sewage erases ocean life across thousands of square kilometres. 
     Factory farms in the US generate 13 times as much sewage as the human population does. The dairy farms in Tulare County, California, produce five times as much as New York City. In England the system designed to protect us from the tide of slurry has comprehensively broken down. 

Livestock farming creates around 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: slightly more than the output of the world’s cars, lorries, buses, trains, ships and planes. 
British people eat, on average, slightly more than their bodyweight in meat every year, while Americans consume another 50%: 
If you eat soya, your emissions per unit of protein are 20 times lower than eating pork or chicken, and 150 times lower than eating beef.


'It's important to remember that what we put on our plates has political consequences'
Barbara Unmuessig, President of the Heinrich Boell Foundation

This is a yearly publication by the Heinrich Boell Foundation - a German environmental NGO - and Friends of the Earth. The first English version for the international market was published in 2014. 
The aim is to inform consumers about the dangers of increasingly industrialised meat production, says Barbara Unmuessig, the foundation's president, herself a self-confessed enjoyer of the occasional organic steak.

"In the rich North we already have high meat consumption. Now the poor South is catching up," she said. "Catering for this growing demand means industrialised farming methods: animals are pumped full of growth hormones. This has terrible consequences on how animals are treated and on the health of consumers." 
In the United States more than 75kg (165lbs) of meat is consumed per person each year. In Germany that figure is around 60kg. Huge amounts compared to per capita meat consumption rates of 38kg in China, and less than 20kg in Africa. 
But whereas in the developed world meat consumption has stabilised - or in some countries such as Germany, is even falling - in other parts of the world, particularly in India and China, consumers are taking enthusiastically to a meat-heavy Western diet.

As a result increasing amounts of agricultural land are being given over to grow animal feed, such as soya. Globally 70% of arable land is now being used to grow food for animals, rather than food for people, says the Heinrich Boell Foundation.
This is undermining the fight against starvation and poverty, says Barbara Unmuessig, as individual farmers are pushed off their land by huge competitive corporations. And industrialised methods have led to an overuse of damaging chemicals, she believes.
BBC News, Berlin (9 January 2014)

Lucy Siegel in 'The eco guide to eating meat' [The Guardian/14 Feb 2016]
By 2050, experts predict, the demand for meat will have doubled, and meat-related emissions will boom at 12bn tonnes of carbon to feed a population of 9 billion. Our consumption has to tail off if we are to achieve Paris emissions goals.
In 2013 researchers found the carbon footprint of a vegetarian to be half that of a meat eater. Comfortingly, they also found that a flexitarian approach is a close second. By replacing three-quarters of our ruminant budget with other forms of protein, we could reduce livestock emissions to 3.1bn tonnes by 2050. Chicken could play a part, but some non-meat proteins should be included, too.