No, this is not about the US’s niche party for the really stupid, but its news about the tea growers of Assam, who produce 55% of all of India’s tea, and who are becoming increasingly worried about the effects of climate change on their plantations as a rise in temperatures (particularly over winter), erratic weather and a change in rainfall patterns impacts on the production and quality of Assam’s famous tea. Production in North Eastern India fell from 564,000 tons in 2007 to 487,000 tons in 2009 and is estimated to have dropped to 460,000 tons in 2010. Average temperatures have rised by 2C and rainfall dropped by one fifth in the last 80 years, warmer winter weather has meant that tea plants are no longer dormant and changes in rainfall have produced higher humidity levels where tropical plant pests can thrive and attack the crop.
A number of British celebrity chefs are highlighting the problems of over fishing and the rapidly shrinking numbers of fish like Haddock and Cod, writes top Scottish fish journalist Hector Brocklebank (of HB Fash fame). Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have all signed up for the campaign (look out for the ‘fish tie’ adverts) called Fishing for the Market which will try and encourage UK consumers to buy less popular fish like Hake, Gunard, Dab, Pollack and Corley, much of which (when caught) is just thrown back into the sea as there is no market for it in the UK. The world’s fishing vessels discard about 9 million tonnes of fish each year because of customer preferences and quota systems – and the fishing industry says that in the UK 75% of discards could be used if the public changed its eating habits. Hugh has a three part series on consecutive nights on Channel 4 in the UK beginning on Tuesday 11th January (Hugh’s Big Fish Fight) trying to make sense of the problems by exploring different areas of the British fishing industry, discovering such interesting facts that apart from the UK’s lack of appetite for certain species, up to half of all fish caught is dumped into the sea (dead) as discards under “insane EC rules”.
With food inflation a hot topic at the moment (see earlier blogs on this), the EC is also moving to fully regulate the UK’s egg production industry and ban battery farming for egg laying chickens. Up to 14 million hens are still kept in battery conditions in the UK. The Welfare of Laying Hens Directive will ensure that farmers must build ‘enriched colony systems’ for egg production and farmers say this will penalise the UK’s battery farms and push up costs and that countries like Spain, Poland and Bulgaria may fail to implement the new rules. On the topic of food inflation, the recent floods in Australia and droughts in South America look certain to push up a number of food prices in other areas.
Finally to the theatre – and rival plays on climate change are heading for the stage in London. The National Theatre’s Greenland will attempt to give an overview of climate change according to the Observer, and wil broadly support the idea of global warming caused by humanity’s actions. By contrast The Heretic at the Royal Court will feature Juliet Stevenson as a scientists at odds with her colleagues although the Theatre has said that the play itself is not about climate change but more about the role of the scientist and the subject of empiricism. Last year the National staged Earthquakes in London by Michael Bartlett which revolved around a climate change scientist and the films Age of Stupid and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth have also directly tackled the topic. Greenland opens at the National (Lyttleton Theatre) February 1st. The Heretic 0pens at the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre on February 10th.