Monday, April 20, 2009

Bees and bilinguals and big massive update

Its been such a busy few months since the Chagos story that I've not had time to update these pages.

At the start of March I published, a short item tracking the further inevitable rise in fish farming: Green.view Depths of bounty More people eating more fish means more farming Mar 2nd 2009 Web only

Then came this counter-intuitive piece suggesting there may be a glut of bees in California this spring. I was surprised to learn that a large chunk of the country's agricultural bees are shipped to California each year for the almond harvest, and there being lower demand for almonds this year and also less water there were too many bees. I was amazed to discover a category of job called a "pollination broker" who negotiates between almond growers and beekeepers. The whole story also shed light on the idea that trouble with these agricultural bees is actually indicative of a broader problem with pollinators at large. That isn't to say that there is no global pollination crisis, only that the highs and lows of the agricultural bee population isn's a meaningful indicator given the lack of data on wild pollinator populations.

The bees are back in town
The economic crisis has contributed to a glut of bees in California. That raises questions about whether a supposed global pollination crisis is real
Mar 5th 2009

A few days later, and I was taking a trip to the utterly amazing Santa Cruz island off the coast of California to give a presentation to scientists from The Nature Conservancy about how to communicate with journalists. A couple of days spent on this stunning and extremely pristine bit of nature was well worth the lurching, nausea inducing, two-hour ride over. The journey isn't that long if the boat goes direct, but sorry to say that there was the opportunity to do a bit of whale watching if one wasn't retching at the back of the boat.

I was transfixed by Santa Cruz island and wrote this little item:

Green.view Point, shoot and save
Like nature, conservation can be red in tooth and claw
Mar 16th 2009

Also, these days we are now all multi-media journalists. I took my trip to the island armed with a flashmic and instructions to collect "actuality", so I also recorded material that was mixed into a couple of podcasts by our inhouse audio team. I'm told it turned out well but I'm ashamed to say that I find the whole process of listening to my own voice rather too excruciating, so I've not listened to find out ]whether it was any good. Should you be inclined to listen to this sort of thing, I'll post a link here later when the economist's creaking website can be induced to cough one up.

Meanwhile, in April brought a couple more green stories. The green.view on environmental values published last Monday was one of the most well-read pieces today, according to our web poll. Thank you to the media people at the World Bank for making their webcast available to me so that I could cover their meeting on environmental valuation.

Farming biofuels produces nitrous oxide. This is bad for climate change
Apr 8th 2009

Green.view Environmental values
How to ensure the environment is properly accounted for
Apr 13th 2009

Finally, I wrote this nice little story, just a journal story from PNAS that I thought deserved a little attention.

Twice blessed
Bilingual babies are precocious decision-makers
Apr 16th 2009

This week I'm working on a story on John Maddox, which is a tough thing to do in the wake of all the amazing obituaries, and export control (which is far less dull and nerdy than it sounds).

Other news, although I'm not sure this is still news, is that I'm going to be the next chair of the Association of British Science Writers. The handover, from the current chair Ted Nield, will be at start of the World Conference of Science Journalists at the end of June.

Other science-journalism-related news is that Oliver Morton is leaving Nature, and rejoining The Economist as our energy and environment person. Welcome back Ollie!