The end of winter: A search for vanishing snow and ice around the Northern Hemisphere

I’ve been sitting on the back of a dogsled for three hours now, nestled between a bag of frozen seal blubber, a rifle and three duffel bags as we cruise over the second largest ice mass in the world. Two sleds behind us carry more passengers from Pirhuk Greenland Mountain Guides’ annual dogsled expedition into the Arctic Circle. The trip began in the morning, on the outskirts of Kulusuk, a small island on Greenland’s remote southeast coast. Discussion then revolved around what had been an unusually warm winter and whether or not the sea ice would be thick enough to sled over. Most of our journey would be on fjords and bays, and if the ice didn’t freeze solid we would likely have to turn back.

Sitting on the back of the sled, it’s hard to believe that anything in the world is not frozen solid. But I know better. Greenland is the last leg of a 10,000-mile tour I’ve taken of the Northern Hemisphere’s snow line, documenting how climate change has melted snow and ice.

In most parts, winter isn’t coming. It’s going.

On the first leg of my world tour, snow scientists in Oregon told me that a million-square miles of spring snowpack in the Northern Hemisphere had disappeared — in just the last 50 years. Others, in Washington’s North Cascades, explained how the length of winter was projected to decline across the US, in some locations by more than 50% by 2050 and by 80% by 2090. Spring snowpack depths across the country are forecast to drop during the same period by 25 to 100 percent, likely closing all but a handful of ski areas in the US. The lack of winter snowpack — and its spring melt runoff — will also become a primary driver of Western forest fires.

After a life of skiing and exploring sub-zero climes, the thought of brown summits in the Cascades, Sierras, Rockies and Alps for much of the winter was shocking to me. What surprised even scientists were statistics like the fact that, for the first time in history, nearly every glacier in world was receding — and now melting twice as fast as they were in 2000. The Alps lost half their glacial ice since the 1800s, and most of what remains will likely be gone by the end of the century. A recent report about the “Doomsday” Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica suggests that the ice shelf holding it back could shatter within five years — potentially raising sea level by two feet and flooding coastal cities like New York City, Mumbai, Tokyo and Shanghai. Further proof of how greenhouse gas emissions are indelibly altering our planet: so much ice has melted from the poles in just the last few decades that the rotational axis of the earth has changed.
Greenlanders run their dogs in a fan formation instead of the neat pairs Alaskan mushers use. The fan allows Greenland dogs to spread their weight out on thin sea ice. Greenlanders run their dogs in a fan formation instead of the neat pairs Alaskan mushers use. The fan allows Greenland dogs to spread their weight out on thin sea ice.
The situation in Greenland is equally dire. Scientists here recently revealed that the 660,000-square-mile ice sheet had melted beyond the point of no return. If it melts completely, sea levels will rise more than 20 feet, inundating every coastline in the world.

The revelation did not seem to concern our Inuit sled drivers. It was still pretty cold on the world’s largest island. Two were brothers, Justus and Mugu. The third was a 28-year-old named Mikael, who had just won a regional dogsled competition the day before. Their ancestors had sledded across the ice for thousands of years: foraging in the most inhospitable climate on Earth. The brothers occasionally stopped to test the thickness of the ice with 5-foot long ice picks. The bay we were crossing right then had been open water three weeks ago. If the cold continued and the ice held, Justus said, we would make a beeline north toward a remote, rarely seen swatch of ice, rock and snow Greenlanders call tunu, or “the land out back.”

To envision just how much ice the planet has lost, consider that the tallest, coldest peaks in the world — the Himalayas — are losing 8 billion tons of ice a year. The Juneau Icefield in Alaska — where I visited the Juneau Icefield Research Program — will lose 60% of its mass in the next 80 years. (The icefield is about the size of Rhode Island.) In Greenland, the ice sheet lost the equivalent of an Olympic-size swimming pool of ice every second in the mid-1990s. In 2020, scientists found that number had increased ninefold, to 234 billion tons per year.

Downtown Kulusuk, Greenland, where winter now starts several weeks later and ends sooner. Nearby, one of the fastest- moving glaciers in the world, the Helheim Glacier, flows at more than 70 feet a day, dumping millions of tons of ice into the ocean. Downtown Kulusuk, Greenland, where winter now starts several weeks later and ends sooner. Nearby, one of the fastest- moving glaciers in the world, the Helheim Glacier, flows at more than 70 feet a day, dumping millions of tons of ice into the ocean.

The cascading effects of the Great Melt are stunning — existential even. As the fragile, reflective shell of snow on our planet melts, dark land and water beneath it absorb up to 80% more heat. As 9 million square miles of permafrost begins to thaw in the Arctic, more than a billion tons of greenhouse gases frozen in it will soon be released, potentially warming the planet many times more than humans have. Two-thirds of present sea level rise comes from melting ice, endangering more than 680 million people living in low-lying coastal zones around the globe. Lastly, 78 frozen water towers — like the Alps, Himalayas, and Rockies — provide the primary source of drinking water for 2 billion people. All of them will soon be gone, with few plans to replace the water supply.

In Greenland, winter now starts several weeks later and ends sooner. One of the fastest-moving glaciers in the world, the Helheim Glacier, now more than 70 feet a day, dumping millions of tons of ice into the ocean. (Visitors who hike in or visit by boat can watch it slide by before their eyes.) To the north, the Kangerlussuaq Glacier retreated three miles in just two years, between 2016 and 2018.

We are 200 miles south of the Kangerlussuaq Glacier when we finally pull into camp. Our guide, Rich Manterfield, lights a diesel furnace in the insulated hut and boils water for dehydrated meals. Outside, the dogs chow on seal blubber and settle down in the snow for a nap. Manterfield hands me a box full of flares as I wander outside for a hike. “If you see a polar bear,” he says. “Fire one at it.” It’s a pack of five. Three are missing.

I scramble up a ridge for an hour and watch the sky fade to blue as a storm dissipates. Sea ice to the east holds its blue hue as well, as do the clouds and swirling snow. The ground is rubble, broken stone sprinkled with windblown snow. The landscape looks so much like moon-landing pictures I have seen, that with my down suit and goggles on, I fell as if I have landed on another planet. It’s an alien setting, like many I have witnessed across my tour of the cryosphere. It’s a glimpse of the planet and its story, separate from our comparatively minuscule time here.

Winter has vanished from Earth before. Natural events, like volcanic eruptions, methane releases and meteor strikes created a “hothouse Earth” climate 3 million years ago, when palm trees, giant beavers and camels lived quite happily in the Arctic. The difference between now and then is that natural climate events typically took thousands of years to play out. The speed of current climate change has been seen only a few times in the past, and there will be little time to adapt. To complicate all of this, humans have oriented themselves, placed our cities, established our diet and agricultural practices rigidly within the parameters of the current climate — which could be radically different in just a few decades.

Washington's Cascade Mountains will likely see 25% less snowpack in the next thirty years and 75% less in 80 years if emissions continue unchecked. Washington's Cascade Mountains will likely see 25% less snowpack in the next thirty years and 75% less in 80 years if emissions continue unchecked.
One example close to home: up to 75% of the water used by farms and cities in the American West comes from snowmelt. The Colorado River, which is filled primarily with snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains, is losing almost 10% of its flow with every increase of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, creating historic water shortages downstream. The Colorado supplies 40 million people with freshwater, including those in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque. (Recently, Lake Meade, the largest reservoir in the US and part of the Colorado River watershed, hit its lowest level since it was being filled in the 1930s.)

There is no shortage of snow when we wake up the next day. The sun is already a few degrees above the peaks at six in the morning — hovering and milky, lighting but not yet warming the Arctic landscape. As if on cue, one of Mugu’s dogs climbs a large boulder and, silhouetted by the post-dawn solar explosion, arches its back and lets out a chilling howl.

Michaela King, who I met at the Juneau Icefield Research Program, was the lead author of a 2020 study that showed how the Greenland Ice Sheet had passed a point of no return. Glaciers were sliding into the ocean faster than snowfall  could  replenish them — which meant another of the planet's nine tipping points had fallen. Michaela King, who I met at the Juneau Icefield Research Program, was the lead author of a 2020 study that showed how the Greenland Ice Sheet had passed a point of no return. Glaciers were sliding into the ocean faster than snowfall  could  replenish them — which meant another of the planet's nine tipping points had fallen.

After coffee and more dehydrated meals, we are off again — six flatlanders, one guide, three sled drivers, and three dozen dogs steaming north. The wind has wiped the ice clean, and we cruise at 10 miles an hour all morning. The dogs intuitively know the way, tracking the headlands, following inlets, cutting around open water and ice bulges that would flip the sled.

Three hours later, we pull into the next camp, which consists of a red shack the size of a small bathroom. There are four bunks inside, three of which, we are told, will be occupied by the drivers. They need their sleep and, amusingly, don’t like to sleep in the cold.

We dig tent platforms outside in the snow while the drivers anchor dog chains in a line behind us, ostensibly to discourage curious polar bears. After a quick dinner of dehydrated “Chili Con Carne” and “Posh Pork and Beans,” I climb into my sleeping bag and unzip the door of the tent to watch for northern lights. They appear a few minutes later as a braided rope of green light, waving in the sky from the northeastern horizon to the southwest. To Inuits, light is magic. Half a sun dog indicates that death is coming for someone. If a rainbow has steep sides, it means good fortune is on the way. If the arc is flat, a disaster will ensue. The northern lights are considered an aid to shamans, who can beckon them closer or spit at them and make them meld together.

Light is magic on Greenland. Half a sun dog indicates that a death is coming. If a rainbow has steep sides, it means good fortune is on the way. If the arc is flat, a disaster will ensue. Falling meteors are excrement from the stars. Shamans are filled with light from spirits that enter through their navel and live in the breast cavity. They are bright inside; everyone else is dark so that the spirits do not notice them. Light is magic on Greenland. Half a sun dog indicates that a death is coming. If a rainbow has steep sides, it means good fortune is on the way. If the arc is flat, a disaster will ensue. Falling meteors are excrement from the stars. Shamans are filled with light from spirits that enter through their navel and live in the breast cavity. They are bright inside; everyone else is dark so that the spirits do not notice them.

It all seems possible, watching the show. What else could explain this? Gusts of electrons and protons spinning off the sun, blowing through space like a rain squall, colliding with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. I watch the show until the freezing air — minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit at that point — burns my face. My eyelashes are frosted over and the thin, nylon sleeping bag exterior crackles as I move. Green-blue light from the sky makes the tent glow. This is the un-night of the Arctic. We are perched at the top of the world, seemingly a few yards from space — the weather, the stars, the sun, the moon. It is part of what I love about winter, the rawness of it, its irrefutability, how it takes some skill to survive. It is pure nature, with few humans to spoil it.

After a night’s sleep, we are near the turnaround point of the trip. One more camp and we will start heading back. The landscape we cover in the afternoon is different. There are no signs of life anywhere — no wind or color or sound of any kind. The ice has held, and we’ve made it to tunu — pure Arctic wilderness.

I think of all the days I have spent in the cold this year — hiking across glaciers, skiing in neck-deep powder, climbing remote mountains. I no longer see these snowscapes as individual places. Rather, they are knitted together in a white, protective blanket, insulating the stable climate human civilization had blossomed in.

We spend a final night at camp, and in the morning we begin the journey home. On the ride, I think about how there is still time to conserve winter in the north, save snow on the highest peaks, and in the process, save billions of lives from being overwhelmed by sea-level rise, drought, fire and famine. For a few more years, our fate is in our hands. After that, who knows.

Sled makers import entire trees from Denmark — there are only a handful of forests on Greenland — to use for runners and a frame. The frame has to be perfectly symmetrical, or it will break up on the incredibly rough and icy ground. (Sleds are built to flex; drivers use dental floss to stitch the nylon strapping that holds them together.) In the mountains, Greenland sleds are shorter, to maneuver tight turns. In the north, they are longer to cross sea ice without breaking through.Sled makers import entire trees from Denmark — there are only a handful of forests on Greenland — to use for runners and a frame. The frame has to be perfectly symmetrical, or it will break up on the incredibly rough and icy ground. (Sleds are built to flex; drivers use dental floss to stitch the nylon strapping that holds them together.) In the mountains, Greenland sleds are shorter, to maneuver tight turns. In the north, they are longer to cross sea ice without breaking through.

The expedition plays out in high-speed reverse that day: the maze of inlets, box-store icebergs, red hut, yellow hut, then the stubbled outline of Kulusuk. We pull in at sundown, and a few of the drivers’ children run out to meet us. It takes Justus about a minute to get our stuff off his sled and take off toward home. We move a bit slower, dragging our gear up the steps to the lodge, cracking the door, and practically falling into the comfort of the gear room.

It is warm and dry in here. A diesel furnace flickers in the corner of the living room. Everything looks soft. It is so-called “civilization,” the comforts of home that humanity has engineered over the last century and a half. At what cost, I wonder. We will soon see.

Betty White shares her secret to happiness

The award-winning actress spoke to People Magazine ahead of the milestone, saying, “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age. It’s amazing,” White said.

White revealed a secret to her longevity, joking that she tries “to avoid anything green” in her diet.

“I think it’s working,” she quipped.

White has starred in series like “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” over the years and says she now lives a quieter life, playing crossword puzzles and card games, according to the magazine. She also loves to watch wildlife documentaries, “Jeopardy!” and golf.

But the key to her happiness, the actress and philanthropist said, is that she works to “always find the positive” in her life.

“I got it from my mom, and that never changed,” she said.

The big day for White is January 17.

Why feeding your pets insects could become all the buzz


Owners worried about the climate cost of traditional pet food are switching to crickets, mealworms and black soldier flies

First there was recycling, then cutting down on flights, now feeding your pets insects is the latest lifestyle choice to help tackle climate breakdown.

Environmentally minded pet owners are choosing to feed their animals meals made out of crickets, mealworms and black soldier flies in an attempt to curb the huge carbon emissions produced by raising livestock for traditional, meat-based diets.

Experts say pets can be fed insects as they are rich in protein, and that farmed species can also contain high fats, oils, mineral and vitamin levels. Preliminary research also suggests that when insects are farmed commercially, emissions, water, and land usage is lower than farming livestock.

Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, said: “When made into a nutritionally complete pet food, insect proteins can contribute to nutritious and palatable products that can also be environmentally sustainable. Insect-based products offer an alternative for owners who prefer to feed their pets a diet that is sourced from ingredients other than traditional livestock animals.”

Forecasts by Rabobank, a Dutch multinational, estimate that the insect-based pet food market could increase 50-fold by 2030, when half a million metric tons are projected to be produced.

Black soldier fly larvae. Experts say pets can be fed insects as they are rich in protein – but consult your vet before any change of diet. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Andrew Knight, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Winchester, said this would reflect growing consumer interest in alternative pet foods, which included vegan diets, for sustainability reasons.

This is partly a result of owners’ anxieties about the high carbon footprint associated with the pet food industry, which according to a UCLA study represents about 25% of the environmental damage associated with the meat industry, and is equivalent to 64m tons of carbon dioxide a year – the same climate impact as 13.6m cars driving for a year.

However, Knight added that many consumers’ “revulsion to insect-based diets” may act as a barrier to wider take up.

Insect-based pet food is also typically more expensive than traditional ranges. For example, a bag of insect-based Lovefood dry kibble costs £12 a kg, compared with £9.75 for a 2kg bag of Iams dry cat food with chicken.

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of Futerra, which is working with Mars Petcare to produce Lovebug, its first insect-based pet food range for cats, said their market research suggested that nearly half (47%) of pet owners would consider feeding their pets insects, with 87% of those surveyed noting that sustainability was an important consideration in choosing pet food.

Townsend said that as a vegetarian for climate reasons, she wanted an option “for my cat and my conscience”. She added: “Cats aren’t squeamish about eating bugs, but some people can be. Of course, millions of people across the world eat insects as normal within their diet. Perhaps in the UK it can feel a bit unusual, but I’m old enough to remember when sushi, and even pasta, was the same way.”

She said owners should be aware that pets could be sensitive to sudden changes in their diet, and recommended a week-long transition, starting with a ratio of 75% old food to 25% new food and slowly altering the balance.

Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, said owners must be careful to ensure that insect-based pet food met their pets’ nutritional needs, and further research was needed.

“At the moment, there is not enough evidence to support insect-based protein completely replacing current complete pet food diets, but it is another option which could be considered in the future. Owners should always ensure any changes to a pet’s diet are supervised by a vet with in-depth nutritional knowledge,” she said.

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, there are seven insects authorised by the EU for use as pet food ingredients. The farmed insects are fed on spent grains, palm kernel, fruits and vegetable crop by-products, and while most farms were originally located in the tropics there are now more than 100 in Europe.












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UK obesity plan will fail without action on unhealthy food – report


Exclusive: Centre for Food Policy says efforts to lose weight are being thwarted by constant exposure in retail and advertising

Mon 27 Dec 2021 07.00 EST

Ministers have been warned that their efforts to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis are likely to fail because the public are constantly “bombarded” by unhealthy food options.

Britain has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, with two in three adults overweight or obese and the NHS spending £6bn a year treating obesity-related ill-health, a figure that is forecast to rise to £10bn a year by 2050. The government has announced plans to introduce a 9pm watershed on TV and a ban on paid-for advertising online for unhealthy food and drink, plus new restrictions on the promotion of unhealthy food and drink in retail outlets and online.

However, a damning 28-page report, commissioned by the government’s own obesity research unit and seen by the Guardian, warns that these efforts will fail unless much wider action is urgently taken to transform the entire food environment.

The review, by the Centre for Food Policy at London’s City University, found that easy access to and availability of unhealthy food 24 hours a day across the UK makes losing weight “difficult” for millions of people who are trying. “People engaging in weight management reported eating more, simply because food was always easily available and this close and constant exposure triggered them to want food more often,” the review found.

“People also reported that being met everywhere with promotions made it very difficult not to think about food or make unplanned purchases of HFSS [high in fat, salt or sugar] food.”

Even Britons who are “trying really hard” to lose weight are being “thwarted in their efforts” because of the amount of unhealthy food they encounter each day. City University’s experts undertook the review for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) obesity policy research unit, which commissions independent research to inform ministers.

The review concludes that even well-designed weight management services will only have a “limited impact” on Britain’s long-term efforts to promote and maintain weight loss if ministers fail to improve the food environment at the same time.

Kimberley Neve, the lead author of the review, said: “This review highlights not only how difficult it is to lose weight in Britain, and keep it off, but also that it’s not just about willpower or self-control: even people trying really hard are thwarted in their efforts by unhealthy food options that are everywhere – they’re easy to find, cheap to buy, quick and appealing.”

The review found that the relatively lower cost of unhealthy food options made weight management “particularly difficult” for people on a low income, with unhealthy food more likely to be promoted and on offer in shops and supermarkets.

“With Christmas treats in abundance in the supermarkets, and new year resolutions around the corner, the narrative needs to shift so that instead of going on the usual January diet, people ask for a food environment that supports them to be healthy,” said Neve, a research assistant for the food systems and policy analysis workstream of the NIHR Obesity Policy Research Unit at City University’s Centre for Food Policy. “For that, you need policy to level the playing field for industry to start making changes.”

Experts not involved with the review said its findings were incredibly stark.

Jane DeVille-Almond, the chair of the British Obesity Society, said: “Pretty much every activity we encounter, outside our homes today, involves our senses being bombarded with food aromas. The sad fact is many of these foods are considered bad food choices, especially if we are trying to lose weight or eat more healthily.”

Britain must “steer changes” in the food environment if it is to become healthier, she said. “Cinemas, leisure and activity centres, hospitals, work spaces, supermarkets and food outlets all need to work on offering and promoting tasty healthier choices.”

Caroline Cerny, the alliance lead at the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), said the review showed Britain’s obesity crisis was “far less a problem of individual behaviour and lack of willpower” and “far more about the environments around us”. She added: “The UK’s health problems reflect an environment that is flooded with unhealthy food and drinks.”

A separate report by the OHA published earlier this year said Britons are exposed to an “obesogenic environment” from birth, “one in which calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food is accessible, abundant, affordable and normalised and where physical activity opportunities are not built into everyday life.”

The new review found that people often come up with diet plans, but shops, supermarkets, advertising on public transport and workplaces can make it almost impossible for them to stick to their routine.

“The ubiquity and appeal of unhealthy foods means that people actively trying to lose weight or keep it off must avoid parts of the food environment – a certain aisle in the supermarket, the work canteen or a friend’s party – to be able to adhere to healthy eating plans,” it said.

“Government attempts to address this with new restrictions on junk food marketing in 2022 are a positive first step,” said Cerny. “But we need much more, including levies on the food industry to incentivise them to produce healthier products.”

Ministers are being urged to accept seven policy recommendations. These include shifting the balance in the UK food environment so there are more discounts on healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables. Businesses should also be helped “to provide healthier options in the workplace” for employees, and fast food outlets should be incentivised to sell healthy options, the review urges.

Tam Fry, the chair of the National Obesity Forum, said similar measures were urged a decade ago, but ministers failed to act. “The government’s responsibility deal launched in 2011 was an attempt to tackle all the issues around HFSS food and was accepted by food companies as long as it was free from regulation. The government declined to legislate and the deal unravelled. The researchers’ demands must now be mandated – no ifs and no buts.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “As part of our obesity strategy to get the nation fit and healthy, we are introducing mandatory calorie labelling in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways, restricting advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar being shown on TV before 9pm and in paid-for advertising online, as well as restricting less healthy food promotions in stores and online.

“Additionally we have invested £70m into adult weight management services made available through the NHS and councils, so that people living with obesity have access to support that can help them to lose weight.

“The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will build on our national efforts to tackle obesity, improve mental health and promote physical activity.”












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No meat please, we’re British: now a third of us approve of vegan diet


A boom in plant-based diets means next year’s Veganuary will attract more uptake than ever

Sat 25 Dec 2021 08.00 EST

When the term “vegan” was first coined, even vegetarians believed it was a fringe lifestyle. But the image of vegans as eccentric ascetics is now itself a marginal view.

More than a third of people in the UK are interested in becoming vegan, according to a new poll which indicates that the number of people eating a plant-based diet has soared in the last two years. Thirty-six per cent of UK adults believe eating a vegan or plant-based diet is “an admirable thing to do”, the YouGov survey found.

The poll, conducted on behalf of the Veganuary organisation, which encourages people to try veganism in January, asked 2,079 adults about their attitudes towards giving up animal products.

YouGov found that 8% of respondents said they were already eating a plant-based diet. Previous estimates of the proportion of vegans in the UK have put the number much lower – in 2019, the Vegan Society estimated that 600,000 adults, or just over 1% of the population, were vegan. Market research group Kantar said last year that 1.9% of households include at least one vegan.

Veganuary is being promoted with a cinema advertising campaign featuring Succession’s James Cromwell, which began today in about 500 cinemas across the country.

The Veganuary organisation’s Toni Vernelli said: “As more people become aware of the incredible impact our food choices have on our day-to-day wellbeing and the health of our planet, attitudes towards eating vegan are changing. It is incredibly exciting to see one-third of Brits now interested in trying a vegan or plant-based diet, something that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.”

Veganism was born in 1944 when some members of the British Vegetarian Society asked for space in the group’s newsletter for people who also avoided eggs and dairy products.

James Cromwell of Succession fame is the face of a cinema ad for Veganuary 2022. Photograph: Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

When the request was rejected, Donald Watson invented the term vegan and created a new quarterly publication with about 100 supporters, including George Bernard Shaw. It grew slowly. By 2014, the Vegan Society was pleased to say that as many as 150,000 people were vegans.

That was the starting point of what advocates refer to as “the second wave of veganism”. Now every supermarket devotes space to its own plant-based ranges, vegan materials are entering mainstream fashion, and dozens of celebrities espouse veganism. Cadbury has followed food brands such as Greggs in launching plant-based products – there is now a vegan Dairy Milk, with almond paste instead of milk. The Great British Bake Off has had Vegan Week rounds since 2018 and featured the first vegan contestant, 19-year-old Freya Cox.

Part of the change in attitudes is led by availability and convenience. Companies making fake meat burgers and home meal deliveries have been backed by venture capital, which means more than 50,000 products are now certified by the Vegan Society. Supermarkets offer plant-based Christmas ranges, while star chefs such as Jamie Oliver list dozens of vegan recipes on their websites.

Yet although one in eight home-prepared meals is now vegan, according to Kantar, with less than two-thirds of meals now involving meat, most people who eat plant-based meals are not solely vegan but flexitarians.

Two-thirds of meals in the UK still involve meat or fish, however, and the first Covid lockdown in 2020 led to a boom in meat consumption, with turkey sales up by 36% in 2020. That has led to higher meat prices and less availability of meat due to demand.

Another lockdown-induced change – the growing number of pet owners – has led to a boom in vegan pet food.

Judy Nadel and Damien Clarkson set up The Pack last year and launched their first products in September.

“There’s no way we could have launched this five years ago,” Nadel said. “We had the idea in 2018 but we knew we had to wait for the right time, because people have to make their own conscious decisions about their own lifestyle and diet before they start thinking about their pets.

“I think the reason why it went mainstream is that there was an inclusive, non-judgmental approach, where people were not forced to do everything at once and give up meat,” she added. “The innovations coming out in food and beauty and fashion have made it exciting to try.”

“I’ve been vegan since 2013,” Clarkson said. “I would have to defend myself at parties and social gatherings about why I was vegan, where I got my protein from – I had to justify myself. I used to be ‘that guy, Damien, he’s a vegan’. I don’t get that now because people have 20 or 30 friends who are vegan.”












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Could Britain feed itself? We ask the expert

Conversations with experts

Rosalind Sharpe, food policy academic and sustainable food advocate, on whether Britain could ever be self-sufficient

The supply chain crisis has already forced supermarkets to use cardboard cutouts to hide gaps on shelves. Now even more Britons are turning to growing their own food. Indeed, according to one small survey, three-quarters of city-based under-25s are growing herbs, fruit and vegetables in gardens, balconies and on windowsills. But could we ever be self-sufficient? And should we want to be? I asked Rosalind Sharpe, food policy academic and sustainable food advocate.

When was the last time Britain fed itself?
Probably the early 19th century. Though it raises the question: where’s the boundary? The British Isles? Europe? Scotland wouldn’t do well alone, because most of the UK’s arable land is in the south. Europe is self-sufficient, broadly speaking.

I can’t think about the EU – I’m still trying to achieve Brexit closure. Could the UK be self-sufficient?
It’s been asked by many people – Scottish ecologist Kenneth Mellanby in 1975 and, more recently, farmer and author Simon Fairlie. They answered yes, but only if we change what we eat.

What were the self-sufficient 19th-century Britons eating?
Mostly a rough form of bread. Tea, and sugar to sweeten it. A bit of bacon fat – maybe some dried fish.

Sounds … carby.
It would have been nutritionally inadequate. It’s why they had to lower the height requirement in the army to 5ft during the Boer war. Importing was the best thing for our diets. Varied, diverse, healthier. It’s why the policy goal is food security, not self-sufficiency, meaning some import. So if there’s a terrible harvest, you have supply lines. That said, we have to look at the climate impact. We grow a lot of grain for animals, but we could grow more fruit and vegetables for human consumption. It’s a scandal that our horticultural production has declined because it’s cheaper to import.

I still feel awe – in the traditional sense of amazement and terror – holding a banana, knowing how far it’s travelled. But with food poverty at high levels, it’s hard to enthuse about homegrown but pricier produce.
The answer to that is the government. So if prices went up, a responsible government might put subsidies in place, or ensure that wages were high enough. Also, we eat a highly processed diet. To make that food here, you need dozens of ingredients, plus the processing tech, plus the packaging material tech, etc. So it’s not as simple as seeing an empty shelf and thinking, “Why can’t we just make or grow that here?”

Which is actually all anyone’s talking about on my neighbourhood forum. It’s quite sweet, actually. I think the people from No 5 are hoping to replace the local supermarket as the street’s spud supplier.
That is interesting to me. People think there are going to be food shortages.

Shortages, yes, but also wanting to do something for the planet, and having spare time in lockdown. My local jumble sale was mostly people touting their garden veg.
Well, that is fantastic.

Yes, I suppose it is. Though I get nervous of everyone going survivalist. What if it starts getting isolationist, almost Trumpy – an attitude of “I don’t need you or society”. Am I paranoid?
Yeah … there are probably a few steps in between growing some potatoes and having a gun on the lawn.












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Largest ever giant millipede fossil found on UK beach


Largest ever specimen, a 2.7 metre-long creature known as Arthropleura, discovered by ‘fluke’ on UK beach

PA Media

Tue 21 Dec 2021 04.02 EST

Giant millipedes as long as a car and weighing 50kg once hunted across northern England, experts have revealed, following the discovery of a 326m-year-old fossil.

The largest fossil of a giant millipede was found by a “fluke” on a Northumberland beach at Howick, after a section of cliff fell on to the shore.

In order to get so big, the creature, known as Arthropleura, must have found a nutrient-rich plant diet and may even have been a predator, feasting on other invertebrates or small amphibians.

Illustration issued by Cambridge University of what Arthropleura looked like. Photograph: JW Schneider/TU Bergakademie Freiberg/PA

The specimen is made up of multiple articulated exoskeleton segments, broadly similar in form to modern millipedes. It is only the third such fossil to be discovered and is also the oldest and largest.

Experts believe the fossil represents a section of the creature’s exoskeleton that it shed near a riverbed, which was preserved by sand.

The segment is about 75cm long, leading scientists to believe its entire body could have measured about 2.7 metres long and weighed 50kg.

The remains of the creature date from the Carboniferous period, more than 100m years before the age of dinosaurs.

At the time, Great Britain lay near the equator and enjoyed warm temperatures.

A former PhD student who was walking along the coast in January 2018 spotted it in a large block of sandstone that had fallen from the cliff.

Dr Neil Davies, from Cambridge University’s department of earth sciences and the lead author of a paper on the fossil, said: “It was a complete fluke of a discovery. The way the boulder had fallen, it had cracked open and perfectly exposed the fossil, which one of our former PhD students happened to spot when walking by.”

The fossil was removed with permission of Natural England and the landowners, the Howick Estate, and was taken to Cambridge for analysis.

It was so big it required four people to carry it.

Davies said: “While we can’t know for sure what they ate, there were plenty of nutritious nuts and seeds available in the leaf litter at the time, and they may even have been predators that fed off other invertebrates and even small vertebrates such as amphibians.”

The creatures crawled around the equatorial region for about 45m years, before going extinct, possibly due to global warming that made the climate too dry for them, or due to the rise of reptiles, who outcompeted them for food.

The fossil will go on public display at Cambridge’s Sedgwick Museum in the new year.

The results are reported in the Journal of the Geological Society.












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Alligator-Sized Millipede Fossil Found on English Beach

The fossilized carapace of Arthropleura.

A team of paleontologists has described a shockingly large millipede fossil that was found on an English beach in 2018. The millipede that left the fossil was well over 8 feet long and may have been a predator.

Sometime between April 2017 and January 2018, a large block of sandstone broke away from a cliffside in Northumbria, England, and fell about 20 feet to the beach below. A paleontologist making a serendipitous stroll along the beach found the rock and realized that it contained the fossil of a giant millipede. A team from the University of Cambridge studied the find; their results were published today in the Journal of the Geological Society.

“​​It was a complete fluke of a discovery,” said Neil Davies, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge and the study’s lead author, in a university release. “The way the boulder had fallen, it had cracked open and perfectly exposed the fossil, which one of our former PhD students happened to spot when walking by.”

The creature is part of the genus Arthropleura, and it lived about 326 million years ago, 100 million years before the first dinosaurs started appearing. The fossil is missing the head, but the animal was estimated to measure 8 feet and 7 inches long and may have weighed over 100 pounds in life.

“These would have been the biggest animals on land in the Carboniferous,” Davies told Gizmodo in an email. “It took four of us with sledgehammers and a pneumatic drill to get it out, and then it was a difficult climb up a 20-metre cliff, carrying the 40 kg fossil between us.”

The research team thinks the fossil isn’t the animal itself but a molted carapace, called the exuvium. So even the size of the animal as it is known from this fossil may not be the largest that millipede eventually grew.

Based on the location of the fossil and stone it was in, the researchers think the exoskeleton was in a river channel, where it was filled with sandy sediment, preserving it. The exoskeleton was found near tetrapod prints dating to the same time, indicating that giant invertebrates coexisted with vertebrates.

A reconstruction of the giant millipede.

The sandstone block also included some fossilized plants from the Carboniferous Period that suggested the giant millipede lived in a drier, more open environment than previously thought. The traditional view has been that arthropleurids lived in swampy environments, since so many of their fossils have been found in coal mines that were once dense, wet forests.

The animals may have gotten so large in part because of how much oxygen was in Earth’s atmosphere in the ancient past. But the Arthropleura predates the peak of that atmospheric oxygen, so there were probably other factors at play, like the animal’s diet. Davies said that the animals may have been predators that got their nutrients from other invertebrates or even amphibians, if not from the leaf litter itself.

These millipedes are now extinct, which may have to do with how the ancient climate changed. “The organisms lived near the equator, which became hot and dry during the Permian,” Davies said. “This likely changed the vegetation and food may have become more scarce. At the same time, the first reptiles were beginning to dominate land habitats, so they would have faced more competition for fewer resources.”

Regardless of the source of their gigantism, the millipedes would’ve been a sight to behold. I, for one, am perfectly happy to admire the creativity of evolution while being grateful I don’t have to see one of these things in the flesh.

More: Newly Discovered Millipede Is First With More Than 1,000 Legs

You be the judge: should my girlfriend spend less money on her cats?

You be the judge

We air both sides of a domestic disagreement – and ask you to deliver a verdict
• Have a disagreement you’d like settled? Or want to be part of our jury? Click here

The prosecution: Rob

Lakshmi spends her entire salary on the cats, then says she can’t afford to go on holiday with me

I think of cats as pets, while my girlfriend, Lakshmi, refers to them as her “children”. We have Bella, Kiera and Fiona, who are a year old. Lakshmi and I usually live apart, but moved in together for the duration of lockdown. I had to move out of my home office, as it was turned into the cat’s bedroom. Lakshmi and I are very different in our attitudes towards the cats, but her stance affects us both.

Lakshmi will spend her entire month’s wages on the cats. She has cancelled dinner dates, using the money to pay for cat food and vet bills. She recently spent £400 on a wifi-controlled catflap. When Fiona wasn’t eating normally, Lakshmi once spent £1,700 on scans, blood observations and checkups. It turned out Fiona was constipated. We had to cancel our holiday after that, as Lakshmi didn’t have enough money left to go.

We’ve been together five years and keep our finances separate. Lakshmi will pay for a lot of the cat stuff, and I’ll take care of the human food. She spends loads on expensive cat food but gets annoyed if I don’t get the cheapest supermarket-brand food for us. I eat cheap ham, but the cats have the finest. She also gets mad if I point out that five daily dishes of dry cat food for three cats – as well as extra treats – is too much. I once said the cats were getting heavy and she didn’t talk to me for two days.

We split the cost of our holidays and going out. Normally this works, but recently Lakshmi has complained about having no money. We want to have a long holiday to celebrate our five-year anniversary and I’m worried that she’ll cancel if some unexpected cat expense comes up. She once nearly missed a dentist appointment she’d waited a year for because Keira had a runny eye.

Lakshmi should stop spending so much on the cats and prioritise her finances. It’s her choice how she spends her money, of course, but I’d like to know she can pay for her half of things if we are making plans together.

The defence: Lakshmi

I feel that I have to prioritise my cats’ health, wellbeing and diet over my own

Rob’s exaggerating about me spending all my money on the cats. But I can choose to live it up or to help my cats – and I choose the cats. You have to prioritise their health, wellbeing and food before your own. Rob complains about eating cheap food, but he’s usually happy to shop at Lidl so I don’t get why he cares. I buy the finest for the cats and the cheapest for us. There’s no way I’d give the cats low-cost supermarket food. They have lovely, glossy bodies because they eat the best.

The time Fiona wasn’t right, Rob agreed with me. The vet confirmed she wasn’t well, so I was right. Rob was just concerned about the money. I’m particular about the cats because I once missed Bella’s bad tooth. I had taken her for a checkup and the vet told me she had a rotten molar, and that she might have been in pain for eight months. I felt so guilty.

Now, whatever I have to pay at the vets, I just pay it. Yes, you have the consultation fees, plus the medicine and an extra £100 if it’s out of hours, but I don’t mind. I save up. Once, Rob didn’t realise the cat had been bitten in the tail, and it got infected. Waiting can make things worse.

Another time, Keira was blinking loads and Rob said: “Whatever it is, she’s not going to die from it.” It’s his favourite line. I wanted to take her to the vet out of hours, but Rob said to wait. The next day, it turned out Keira had a scratched cornea and needed eye drops. Again, I felt guilty as we could have gone earlier.

Rob has less of a right to say anything about my cats – they are my responsibility. We live apart, but spend alternate weekends at each other’s houses. Rob is the cat’s “uncle”. He thinks it’s ridiculous that I spent money on electronic catflaps but why not?

Rob and I are always going to disagree. I don’t earn as much as him, so I have to weigh things up. I do need to go to the dentist’s for a new crown, but Keira has watery eyes and Fiona might have dermatitis, so I’ve delayed it. I can live with a bad tooth but my girls can’t live with that.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Lakshmi stop spending so much money on her cats?

Lakshmi’s cat pampering is completely bonkers. Their rich diet may give them glossy bodies, but also dermatitis, constipation and runny eyes! Were Lakshmi to have to choose between Rob and the cats, I’d hazard the cats would win paws down.
Emma, 44

Lakshmi can spend her money however she wants. Rob, on the other hand, may want to consider whether he wishes to be with a partner who struggles to afford romantic activities because of her pet obsession.
Lewis, 38

Lakshmi and Rob don’t normally live together so it is Lakshmi’s decision as to how much she spends on her cats. However, a sense of balance, both in terms of care for herself and her relationship, seems lacking. Lakshmi could get ill from not taking care of herself and thereby let the cats down.
Cher, 51

Lakshmi’s choices are affecting their relationship. It’s not healthy to put pets above everything, you have to look after yourself first. Rob isn’t being unreasonable to ask for balance, and for his feelings to be considered fairly.
Nick, 41

Lakshmi is an adult and has every right to make decisions relating to her cats even if some of them are extreme. Rob needs to decide whether he can live as (at best) fourth choice, and as a consequence Lakshmi may have to live with being a single cat lady.
Arya, 37

You be the judge

So now you can be the judge, click on the poll below to tell us: should Lakshmi spend less money on her cats?

We’ll share the results on next week’s You be the judge.

The poll is now closed

Last week’s result

We asked if Tom should listen to his partner Jenny and spend more time with his baby.

2% of you said no – Tom is innocent
98% of you said yes – Tom is guilty

Have a disagreement you’d like settled? Or want to be part of our jury? Click here












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Sergio Agüero proud of stellar career and content now is his time to live | Jamie Jackson


Striker’s blockbuster title-winning goal for Manchester City stands out but 18 years among the elite tells the fuller story

For Sergio Leonel Agüero del Castillo an enforced retirement because of a heart condition provoked tears on Wednesday, but friends of the 33-year-old say he has also come to feel serene that a stellar 18-year career is over.

The former Barcelona forward is understood over recent days to have been zen-like in his take on his playing days ending, telling associates that “things happen in life and it is time to live”. Away from the strictures of the athlete’s diet Agüero can embrace his love of asado, the Argentine barbecue that grills choice cuts of steak, chorizo, chicken and other meat, and attend more concerts of his friend Maluma, a Colombian musician.

In despair, initially, when he realised the chest pain and difficult breathing experienced in October’s draw with Alavés pointed to a serious issue that could not be ignored, Agüero’s mood then turned to a joy caused by all he has achieved. Even amid the raw emotion of his farewell Camp Nou press conference he referenced the happiness he feels, and it is easy to understand why.

Agüero’s has been one of this generation’s great careers. For a start, consider again the sheer number of seasons the boy from Buenos Aires has been a footballer: 18. This is a phenomenal stretch at any level. For Agüero, though, all have been in the rarefied air of the elite.

Just over a month after his 15th birthday he became Argentina’s youngest top-flight debutant when pulling on the shirt of his beloved Independiente, one of the Primera División’s “big five”. Agüero’s international bow came at 18 in September 2006, against Brazil, the year he moved to Atlético Madrid. He spent five seasons there, winning the 2010 Europa League and Uefa Super Cup before a transfer to Manchester City the next summer that transformed his career and led to him giving the Premier League its blockbuster moment.

Sergio Agüero is presented as an Atlético Madrid player in June 2006, aged 18. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/Associated Press

This occurred in May 2012, on the final day of the season, when City hosted QPR having to match Manchester United’s result at Sunderland to become champions for the first time since 1968. By the 93rd minute disaster seemed the only outcome. United had beaten Sunderland 1-0 and a tentative City were drawing with 10-man QPR. Being at the Etihad Stadium to witness what Agüero did next was among this writer’s most chaotic, surreal, life-affirming, sheer what-the-hell moments in two decades of covering sport around the world.

The venue had been emptying but after Edin Dzeko’s 92nd-minute equaliser City fans had a renewed faith which was to be repaid in the kind of moment only sport’s theatre can occasionally provide. Mario Balotelli slid the ball to Agüero, whose tally in a debut Premier League season was 22 goals. The 23-year-old was about to score the goal of his career.

Martin Tyler, on commentary for Sky Sports, had branded the City-United shootout as “truth more gripping than fiction”. It turned out that was underselling it.

But, rewind. Before Balotelli receives the ball guess who starts the move he is to finish? Yes, “Kun” Agüero (the moniker from a childhood mispronunciation of his favourite cartoon) has dropped deep to collect possession and find the Italian who waits as the Argentinian curves right, into the area, before completing the one-two. Now, Agüero, ice-cold, leaves Taye Taiwo a spectator with a mesmeric body swerve and smashes a seismic winner past Paddy Kenny in the QPR goal to mainline ecstasy through City supporters, cause torment for all of a United persuasion and create the Premier League’s defining before and after act.

Manchester City’s fires his title-winning goal past QPR’s Paddy Kenny. Photograph: Dan Rowley/Shutterstock

There will be an appearance from Liam Gallagher in the media room later when the former Oasis frontman and City fanatic, drunk on the win and something more liquid-based, enters to share his bonhomie. Before this, though, back on the pitch, Agüero is wheeling away in celebration, City shirt off, spinning deliriously, having seized an undeniable slice of immortality as the creator of a moment that will be replayed endlessly.

As impressive was what followed. There is no complacency. The first league title Agüero claimed on that sun-honeyed Manchester day was the launchpad for stratospheric achievement. There are four more English championships. There is an FA Cup. Six League Cups. There is, too, the despair of May’s Champions League final defeat by Chelsea, after the heartache of losing the 2014 World Cup showpiece to Germany. Agüero, whose son Benjamin’s grandfather is the late Diego Maradona, is City’s record scorer with 260 goals in 390 appearances, 184 of these in the league, the last two in a fairytale domestic farewell. On as a substitute against Everton, Agüero again sent the adoring congregation ballistic by scoring twice.

Sergio Agüero battles with Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger during Argentina’s defeat in the 2014 World Cup final. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Yet during the midpoint of all of this, when Pep Guardiola became City manager in 2016, Agüero had to convince that he could fit the Catalan’s high-press style. Agüero, who endured an uneven relationship with Guardiola, met the challenge, with the latter deserving credit for evolving the centre-forward’s game in the five years before Agüero left for Barcelona.

A free transfer, he scored once in five appearances, in the 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid on 24 October, before the heart condition that has brought an abrupt close to his playing career.

Agüero always played with a cheeky grin and an endearing nonchalance. This best friend of Lionel Messi ended his time at City with that Champions League defeat by Chelsea but he departed the international arena at the pinnacle as part of Argentina’s triumphant Copa América squad in July. Despite not featuring in that final, the triumph is among his most cherished achievements.

Sergio Agüero scores his final goal – for Barcelona at home to Real Madrid in October. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

His final goal, against Real, bookended the first, versus Estudiantes de La Plata. “I was 16,” he told the Guardian in 2013. “I received the ball on the edge of the area, controlled with the left and moved to the right side and hit it hard and it went on the left side of the goalkeeper.”

Grace and menace from start to finish. Agüero departs as what he has always been: a winner.












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