blogging the big picture

June 2nd, 2009

UK’s NHS formally backs complimentary medicine.

The NHS will in future offer acupuncture to patients suffering back pain as part of new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

This is the first time NICE has formally backed the use of complementary therapies.

NICE believes that using active therapies – such as acupuncture and spinal manipulation – to treat back pain is preferable to early use of X-rays and MRI scans, whose benefits it says are questionable.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, NICE clinical and public health director, said: “This new guideline means that for the first time we now have the means for a consistent national approach to managing low back pain. Importantly, patients whose pain is not improving should have access to a choice of different therapies including acupuncture, structured exercise and manual therapy.”

NHS to offer acupuncture for back pain

June 2nd, 2009

The destruction of the Amazon is real (in pictures).

We are destroying the Amazon rain forest so that we can have cheap burgers. The slide show linked here shows the rapid decimation of the ancient forest. It takes centuries to regrow. Without it our biosphere is made vulnerable to climate volatility. It sounds like a foolish, short sighted trade-off doesn’t it? (The solution? Fewer humans ie stop making babies, and eat less meat. Can you do it?)

Amazon Deforestation

July 30, 2000

Amazon Deforestation

July 28, 2008

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. In the past three decades, clearing and degradation of the state’s original 208,000 square kilometers of forest (about 51.4 million acres, an area slightly smaller than the state of Kansas) has been rapid: 4,200 square kilometers cleared by 1978; 30,000 by 1988; and 53,300 by 1998. By 2003, an estimated 67,764 square kilometers of rainforest—an area larger than the state of West Virginia—had been cleared.

Read the full Earth Observatory article here.

June 2nd, 2009

20 years on, the ozone hole lingers

The global recognition of CFCs’ destructive potential led to the 1989 Montreal Protocol banning the production of ozone-depleting chemicals. Scientists estimate that about 80% of the chlorine (and bromine, which has a similar ozone-depleting effect) in the stratosphere over Antarctica today is from human, not natural, sources.

Models suggest that the concentration of chlorine and other ozone-depleting substances in the stratosphere will not return to pre-1980 levels until the middle decades of this century. These same models predict that the Antarctic ozone layer will recover around 2040. On the other hand, because of the impact of greenhouse gas warming, the ozone layer over the tropics and mid-southern latitudes may not recover for more than a century, and perhaps not ever.

The slide show linked here shows the ozone hole’s growth and stabilisation, but not reduction. (Blue and purple means thin ozone, ie bad; red means lots of ozone ie good.)

Antarctic Ozone Hole

September 1979

The stratospheric ozone layer protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet light, which damages DNA in plants and animals (including humans) and leads to skin cancer. Prior to 1979, scientists had not observed concentrations below 220 Dobson Units. But in the early 1980s, through a combination of ground-based and satellite measurements, scientists began to realize that Earth’s natural sunscreen was thinning dramatically over the South Pole each spring. This large, thin spot in the ozone layer came to be known as the ozone hole.

This series of images shows the size and shape of the ozone hole each year from 1979 through 2008 (no data are available for 1995). The measurements were made by NASA’s Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) instruments from 1979–2003 and by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) from 2004–present. Purple and dark blue areas are part of the ozone hole.

Earth Observatory article here.

Also Satellite Measurements Help Reveal Ozone Damage to Important Crops