People fear public speaking more than people fear death. But that’s not why I’ve always been reluctant to say ‘Yes‘ when someone asks me to speak on their stage.

No, the reason I usually say ‘No‘ is because my delicate English sensibilities mean that I don’t like standing up and saying:

‘Hey, look at me, aren’t I great?!’

Because I’m not great, I’m just an ordinary person, who’s picked up a few tricks along the way.

However I do like sharing those tricks with people, sharing my knowledge and helping other people achieve what I have.

But even more, I like helping people avoid the mistakes I’ve made. We all make mistakes and as you’ve no doubt guessed from the title of this post, I made whopper!

So when my good friend Tom Dylan from the Cuppa Coffee Property networking meet at the Lowry Shopping Centre in Manchester asked me to do a talk for him, I unusually said ‘Yes’ and chose the topic of how I lost £1/2M following what 95% of people would I think agree was good financial advice.

Here’s the recording of my talk on Tom’s podcast, I soooo wish someone had told me this years ago!

Click here: Podcast – How I lost £1/2M following ‘good’ financial advice


Does Fasted Exercise Consume Muscle?

I recently had a conversation with someone I highly respect about whether it’s necessary to eat carbohydrates before exercising, or specifically hiking.

They believed that once ready glucose stores (glycogen) were consumed and you entered a state of ketosis, that the body would preferentially burn muscle instead of fat for fuel, however I don’t believe that is true.

I believe that the average 80kg, 25% body fat human, carries enough stored energy in the form of fat, to walk about 60 marathons (80kg x 25% x 2.2lbs x 3,500 calories/lb = approx 150,000 calories at 100 calories/mile = 1,500 miles or 60 marathons).

So I spent some time reading the scientific literature on the subject to try to work out which one of us was correct. (Sorry, I know, I’m sad like that, but this is a subject that really interests me.)

There are plenty of studies on this subject, here are just a selection:

“…data provided by scientific literature suggest a negligible or no effect of KD [ketogenic diets] on muscle mass with concomitant resistance training. KD may instead exert a protective effect against muscle mass loss during aging or during low calorie diets.”

“The aim of the present study was to compare the effects of 10 weeks resistance training in combination with either a regular diet (Ex) or a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (Lc+Ex) in overweight women on body weight and body composition… Resistance exercise in combination with a ketogenic diet may reduce body fat without significantly changing LBM [lean body mass, i.e. muscle]”

“We have demonstrated that using VLCKD [very low carbohydrate ketogenic diets] for a relatively short time period (i.e. 30 days) can decrease body weight and body fat without negative effects on strength performance in high level athletes.”

“Our results suggest that a KD [ketogenic diets] might be an alternative dietary approach to decrease fat mass and visceral adipose tissue without decreasing lean body mass”

I think it’s pretty clear that low carb ketogenic diets do not result in muscle loss, however we weren’t really talking about diets over the course of weeks, we were talking about exercising / hiking when glycogen stores were depleted, i.e. whilst fasted, so I looked for similar articles around Intermittent Fasting. Again there are many, here’s a sample:

“MEDLINE, CINAHL, PubMed and SportDiscus databases were searched for articles investigating IF [intermittent fasting], combined with resistance training that reported measures of body composition. Eight studies met the eligibility criteria. LBM [lean body mass] was generally maintained, while one study reported a significant increase in LBM [lean body mass].”

“Emerging findings suggest the metabolic switch from glucose to fatty acid-derived ketones represents an evolutionarily conserved trigger point that shifts metabolism from lipid/cholesterol synthesis and fat storage to mobilization of fat through fatty acid oxidation and fatty-acid derived ketones, which serve to preserve muscle mass and function.”

“…there appeared to be a protective effect of 5:2 fasting on LBM [lean body mass] as magnitude of weight loss increased…”

I think it’s also clear that intermittent fasting doesn’t result in loss of lean body mass / muscle. However again I realised we weren’t really talking about intermittent fasting diets either, but rather exercising whilst fasted, so I looked for studies on that subject:

“Exercising during a fasting state increases lipolysis in adipose tissue while also stimulating peripheral fat oxidation, resulting in increased fat utilization and weight loss.”

“These findings indicate that body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training.”

“Intra-group analysis for the effect of fasted and fed aerobic exercise revealed trivial to small effect sizes on body mass. The inter-group effect for the interventions on body mass was trivial. Intra-group effects were small for % body fat and trivial for lean mass in females, with trivial effects also found for the inter-groups analyses.”

Here results showed that there was no evidence of lean body mass reductions as a result of exercising whilst fasted.

In conclusion:

  • Ketogenic diets don’t cause loss in lean body mass,
  • neither does intermittent fasting,
  • and nor does exercising whilst fasted.

I think the science is pretty clear.

Fat is excess glucose that’s been stored for later use. Whereas protein in the from of muscles is what’s used to obtain food from our environment, i.e. it’s crucial for human survival.

From an evolutionary perspective, does it make any sense that when ready glucose (glycogen) levels are depleted, the body should cannibalise its own muscles for energy, thereby reducing our ability to acquire more food? Or does it make more sense that the body goes to the ready made glucose reserves we carry around, i.e. fat?

That’s literally why we have fat in our bodies, it’s energy stored for later use when glucose is needed. That’s what it’s for.

Personally I regularly go hiking without having breakfast, and don’t eat until the walk is over, and I have zero issues with a lack of energy whilst hiking. One of the reasons I do this is because I’m lazy: I don’t want to carry around a belly full of food, nor lunch in a backpack, that’s extra weight I don’t need to carry! I accept that this only works for a day hike mind, not camping overnight.

However I also accept that I generally eat a lower carbohydrate diet anyway, and also practice intermittent fasting, so am possibly more “fat adapted” than most.

It’s probably true that anyone on a typical western diet of cereal or toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and meat & 2 veg + desert for tea, has probably never been in ketosis (burnt fat for energy) in their lives.


Predictions: What Will The Future Look Like, say in 2070?

Future Predictions Futurology

With a couple of high profile deaths of celebs in their 90’s this last week, and me being in my 40’s still, I figure I’ll hopefully have 50 years left alive. What will the world be like in 50 year’s time? What will I see in the rest of my lifetime?

Here are my PREDICTIONS. Anything you disagree with? Post your version below, I do love a good prediction! 😀

All adults will have a CHIP IMPLANTED under the skin. This will enable all in-store purchases with just a wave of your hand, unlock all electronic devices and home/building door locks, and provide all identification requirements like picking up prescriptions, though the latter will be DELIVERED BY DRONE as will all post and parcels, and it thankfully be the end of computer passwords as all websites integrate with the tech requiring a simple wave of your hand over your device to login anywhere.

Everyone will have their GENOME SEQUENCED, kids will be done at birth. Individualised gene editing to fix known genetic diseases will be the norm, even to the point of editing the germ-line, i.e. having the edits pass down to your children, to eradicate genetic diseases in the same way we use vaccines now to try to eradicate viruses.

We’ve been through the stone age, bronze age, iron age, medieval age, and industrial age, arguably we’re either in the plastic or silicon age now. The 21st century will be known as the gene age. Within 50 years, designer babies will be common, at least for the rich.

As an aside, if I were advising a teenager now on job choice, I’d definitely say if they want a long term SECURE CAREER that really will directly affect people’s lives for the better, do biology and chemistry A level, and genetics at Uni.

Most computer interaction will be by VOICE rather than keyboard. You’ll be able to interact with your own virtual assistant (like Alexa) wherever you are physically, even whilst out shopping. E.g. whilst in Tesco, you’ll be able to tell Alexa to put the kettle on, turn on the heating, record EastEnders, order a repeat prescription, make a GP’s appointment, and call an Uber (see below) to pick you up.

Whilst it might be another 100 years, I’d like to think that within my lifetime we’ve cracked NUCLEAR FUSION, an inherently safe technology, which will enable fusion based Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to be deployed, one per housing estate, removing the need for massive power plants and hundreds of miles of cabling. These will come in simple cargo container format and can be swapped out or doubled up with ease and safety, removing at a stroke the need for fossil fuels.

This technology will transform Africa into the world’s garden, ringing Africa with nuclear fusion powered DESALINATION PLANTS, to irrigate the fertile land and support the people with fresh water. This will be the key to unlocking Africa’s potential as investment floods into the continent providing jobs, and the subsequent economic prosperity that drives the healthcare, education and development needed for a sustainable and happy population.

Electric cars, whilst initially having completely replaced internal combustion engines, will already be on wane, being replaced by HYDROGEN FUEL CELL CARS. Current petrol stations will still be used to fill up but now with hydrogen. They will create their own hydrogen on site, through electrolysis (or similar) powered by an onsite SMR and other renewable power generation.

However personal ownership of cars will also be on the decline, as fewer people bother to take their driving test, preferring instead to order one of the national fleet of Uber driverless AUTONOMOUS TAXIS, which are more convenient, cheaper per trip, and have a much better safety record than manual driving. As a result, buses will cease to exist outside of cities due to simple economic pressures.

We’ll have an operational MOON BASE, generating hydrogen and oxygen based rocket fuel from water deposits mined on the moon. This will be used to refuel rockets sent from the earth, to the both the new OUTPOST ON MARS, and also for ASTEROID CAPTURE operations which will be returned to a lunar orbit for mining of materials for return to Earth or onward shipment to Mars.

BTW within 100 years, we’ll be gene editing humans to better withstand the extraordinary physiological challenges of long term space travel / and permanent life on Mars. The first HUMAN MARTIAN will have been born on Mars as we start to colonise that planet and become a true multi-planet species, effectively ensuring the long term survival of humankind.

300 years from now, people will look back at the 21st century as the genesis of genetics and space exploration and say: “Wow, what must it have been like to live then, when there was such amazing development and change happening?”

In 50 years the world’s population will have just passed 10 BILLION PEOPLE! Whilst it’s expected to continue to grow, the growth is slowing and it will peak around 2120 at approximately 11.x billion, mostly driven by Africa and Asia.

This will result in a massive shift in attitude to IMMIGRATION, as indigenous Western populations collapse, particularly European countries will all be offering incentives for workers to migrate in to fill up the bottom of the demographic chart.

Look at Japan, it’s started already and within 50 years a full quarter of their population will have disappeared. Hungary too for example have a steadily DECLINING POPULATION and are offering astonishing tax breaks for mothers who have lots of kids, along with a package of other financial benefits. This is already a particular challenge for former Eastern Block countries today.

Generally religious belief will be on the wane worldwide, but at different rates. All developed western countries will be predominantly ATHEIST within 50 years (yes, even the USA!) as christianity generally collapses, due to old religious people dying off. Whilst muslim belief is also on the decline, it will be the most popular religion on the planet by far, with many African and Asian countries still religious rather than secular in nature. Thankfully however religious extremism and terrorism will be a thing of the past.

As a result, culturally the emigration to Europe will be biased by policy makers toward the southern half of African countries, as these are predominantly christian and seen as a better fit, rather than the northern countries which are predominantly muslim. ECONOMIC MIGRATION across and around the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy and Spain, and from South America into the USA via Mexico, will continue to be a challenging topic.

Finally the big one: as other countries follow the successful lead of the UK’s Brexit, within 50 years the EUROPEAN UNION WILL COLLAPSE and ex-member states will return to their native currencies! EU v2.0 will emerge from the ashes like a Phoenix based on a simple trading block of crucially strictly similar economically and culturally developed countries like the EEC of the 1970’s, this time without the unnecessary and ultimately destructive federal trappings of the “European Parliament”.


Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, has resigned

A day I never thought I’d see has come: Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, has resigned.

greg glassman and colin mcnulty crossfit

CrossFit changed my life, no question. I fondly remember meeting Greg Glassman and Nicole Carroll when they attended and taught the first ever CrossFit certification outside of North America, CrossFit Manchester in Stockport, England, the UK’s first CrossFit box*. And afterwards having a pint and a chat with Greg in The Midway pub, where I got to thank him personally.

[* If memory serves, there were 2 other affiliates before CrossFit Manchester: CrossFit Dental in Scotland, and Andrew Stemler’s CrossFit London, but I believe at the time, neither had a dedicated box to train in. CrossFit Central Scotland also had an affiliate around then, but I forget their exact timings.]

I still have the original CrossFit journals, issue 1 dated “September 1, 2003” with the headline feature: “The Garage Gym”. Issue 2’s “What is Fitness?” is still something that influences my training today. I loved what CrossFit taught me and did for me physically and health wise. It was amazing!

But over the years, CrossFit lost it’s way. The telling issue being so many of the inner circle that having been ousted and discarded over the years. Remember Mark Rippetoe, Robb Wolf, the Martins of CrossFit Kids fame, etc etc? When you keep falling out with those that are closest to you, one day you must surely look in the mirror and think: “Shit, I’m the common denominator, it must be me!”

Add to that the dangerous practices I saw being taught over and over without regard for safety (e.g. plyometric box jumps without warning of their tendency to snap Achilles tendons), the multiple injuries I and many others suffered (e.g. ripped up shoulder due to butterfly pull-ups, again taught without warning), the inexorable decline in coaching quality (e.g. refusal to allow scaling and threats to out as “cheats” anyone caught self-scaling), the lack of the much vaunted “community” which is only there if you drink the kool-aid and attend the competitions. Hence you’ll understand why, with a heavy heart, I quit CrossFit years ago.

Greg built something amazing, changed the lives of many, and changed the face of exercise & fitness for a generation. For that he can be proud and I am personally grateful. However he is also a liability to the CrossFit brand. CrossFit could have been twice as big had it had a more inclusive culture with a core focus on health and well-being, rather than the razz of athletic competition no matter the cost.

Think that’s harsh? Remember Julie Foucher in the 2015 CrossFit Games? She tore her achillies live on TV doing, guess what… plyometric box jumps! Then came back out after the break wearing a support boot and tried to continue to compete, eventually being given the “Spirit of the Games” award!! This sent the clear message from Glassman’s CrossFit that performance is more important than safety or health. 🙁

If you want to check how un-inclusive CrossFit is, search google images for “CrossFit Games 2019” and count how many screens you have to scroll down through before you see your first black face. You’ll be shocked. Now compare that to just searching Google images for “Athletics”, the difference is stark.

That’s why there was the very legitimate call for CrossFit HQ to make a positive statement on the #blackLivesMatter movement, and Greg blew it in way that only he could. “It’s Floyd-19” may go down as one of the most costly tweets of all time. Even Elon Musk’s spectacularly stupid tweet: “Tesla stock price is too high imo” had zero effect after the initial shock wore off, as Tesla’s stock rebounded and continued to hit record highs.

So despite my thanks to Greg for starting CrossFit, I’m not sad to see him go. Having said that, I am appalled that smarmy twat-in-chief Dave Castro has taken over from him! I’m very rarely rude about people, but I’ve detested Castro from the first moment I saw him speak. Though I reserved judgement as actions speak louder than words, I blame him in no small part for the poor path that CrossFit has trodden in the last decade, including many of the ridiculous decisions over the CrossFit Games programming.

I just wish that Nicole Carroll had held on for a few more days before deciding to resign. She would have made an awesome CrossFit CEO, someone who really could have taken CrossFit to the next level in terms of health, safety and inclusivity.

I truly hope that CrossFit learns and grows from this low, as it has so much potential and will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my days.


Ok time to stick my neck out and do some more Coronavirus predictions, because you know, why not and these are the things that I think about at 5am!

Previously, when we’d had only 100 deaths in this country, I predicted we’d have at least 30,000 deaths and sadly we past the 30k mark at the beginning of May. I also predicted worldwide deaths would be 1-3 million if we do well, 25M if we do badly. We won’t know until 2022 I reckon what the final count is.

In recent weeks the global news has been awash with stories of clusters of new CoViD case in countries that are releasing their lockdown, and some countries are already reapplying lockdown measures that they released in April.

This is completely expected. See this graph from the infamous March Imperial College report.

Note the dates, it extends to the end of 2021! This is backed up by what happened in the 1918 Spanish flu, where assessment of the US cities’ response showed that some of them had to put lockdown measures in place multiple times before herd immunity stopped it.

There are 4 possible ways we get out of this current crisis:

1) The virus magically disappears.
2) A vaccine.
3) Herd immunity.
4) Test, track, and trace eradicates it.

Lets look at those possibilities in turn:

=== The Virus Magically Disappears ===

This has never happened before with a highly infectious virus like SARS-CoV-2. This virus isn’t going away on its own. 50 years on and HIV is still circulating. This is not a possibility and certainly no foundation for a strategy.

=== A Vaccine ===

Everyone is pretty much pinning their hopes on this. The good news is: it’s got the complete and undivided attention of the world’s scientists, there are many vaccine candidates with multiple human trials already underway.

Now for the bad news: most optimistically, the earliest an effective vaccine can get through the barest minimum of safety trials, get a license in all 195 countries on the planet, agree prices with gov’ts (no doubt the maker will charge a fortune for it!), have at least 5 billion doses manufactured, and then get jabbed into the arm of every person on the planet… well that’s not happening this year is it? At best it’ll be mid 2021 before vaccines are available in any sizeable numbers and every country will be clamouring for stock.

That’s assuming you only need 1 shot, what if you need a booster 3 months later, that would double the workload. But it’s worse than that, a few vaccine facts:

  • The world record for a vaccine to go through trials and get a license is currently… 4 YEARS! Measles vaccine work started in 1959 and the first measles vaccine was licensed in 1963.
  • There are currently no approved and licensed vaccines for ANY of the family of coronaviruses. There are current trials for SARS (17 years ago) and MERS (8 years ago) but they are not yet field ready.
  • There are many diseases we still don’t have a vaccine for, the 2 biggies being Malaria and of course HIV, but many others like: Nipah, Lassa, Lyme, West Nile, Zika, Hepatitis C, Syncytial, even flu jabs only last a year, and none for the “common cold” which is caused by… 4 different coronavirus!

Why does it take so long to get a vaccine going, and why should it for CoViD-19? If you’re going to inject every human on earth (or try to), you’ve got to be damned sure about any side effects. What if it turns out to be another Thalidomide, or worse, that it makes people sterile for example? Get it wrong and you could virtually kill off the human race. That means to be sure, you need to give it to healthy couples, who then go on to get pregnant, and then see how the that baby does. There’s a year of testing right there.

Plus there’s the issue of virus mutation. As mentioned, flu vaccine shots only last a year, because every year the flu out evolves last year’s vaccine and you get several new strains every year. Every year we could see a new CoViD: CoViD-20, CoViD-21 etc. If a vaccine only lasts a year, that’s a big problem.

Oh and don’t forget the anti-vaxxors (indeed how could you!) who believe this is all a plot by the great Satan, Bill Gates, as if somehow his $100Bn fortune wasn’t quite enough for him to buy anything in the world he could ever want, 100 times over. You can already imagine the clamour they’re going to cause if a vaccine is eventually rolled out.

In summary, a vaccine may come but it’s not even close to being guaranteed, and if it does it’s still at least a year away. More likely it’ll be 2022+ before you and I get offered a vaccine jab.

=== Herd Immunity ===

In order for a population to get herd immunity, it needs between 60-90% of the population to be immune. C19 is very infectious, so we’re possibly looking toward the 90% end of the scale.

First the good news: the vast majority of people who get C19 suffer mild (or even no) symptoms. What we don’t know is exactly what % of people who get it require hospitalisation, because we haven’t been doing 100% random testing, but I’ve seen figures around 15% (though I suspect that’s too high and the real figure will turn out to be less than 5%, it’s also very dependent on age and health).

Of those 15% who get to hospital, about 15% again will die. This gives a compound death rate of about 2%, or look at it the other way, 98% of people live. In a population of 65M people in the UK, 2% means we’re talking roughly a million people may die then! This is likely right at the upper bounds of the range, I suspect the real rate will turn out to be 0.5 – 1.0%, so 250,000+. Again we won’t know probably till 2022.

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that each death is a life of hopes and dreams lost, and a family devastated. I have 2 high risk members of my family, and I have close friends who have lost parents, it’s awful. Please don’t think for a second that a thought experiment into our future in any way means that I’m dispassionate about the impact and suffering this horrible disease is causing.

The facts are that if you’re young and healthy, the chances of you dying from CoViD-19 are very slim, not none, but very small. This gives us an in. 82% of the UK’s population is under 65, and the death rate won’t be anywhere near 2% in the under 65’s. It could be a tenth of that, and diminishing the younger you get.

The best profile for herd immunity is to shield the old, whilst the young develop a herd immunity. If we can get to 3/4 of the under 65 population developing a natural immunity, that would give us 60% nationally, which would mean we’re very nearly there in terms of an effective herd immunity percentage. The disease won’t be gone, but it should be manageable and should not spread easily.

E.g. say there’s an outbreak in a care home. The only way it spreads is if someone catches it, takes it out of the care home, and walks into another one. If all the workers of and visitors to the care home have already had it and are immune, they’re unlikely to carry it out (PPE should keep it off their clothes and hands etc). This also means that healthcare for those residents of the home can be better targeted at treating them, where there are isolated outbreaks.

Now the bad news: we don’t know how long natural immunity lasts. It might be for life, it could be a few years… could it be as bad a few months? If it is short, that’s a big problem for the herd immunity model. We’re also definitely going to see at least 100,000 deaths whilst we build up national herd immunity, and hope that it’s not as high as 250,000+. When we don’t know for sure that natural immunity will last, that’s a tough pill to swallow and will likely impact every extended family in the country.

(Those numbers are based on our current treatment of the disease, which is currently poor as the world scrabbles to understand its effects. If we can figure out a decent way to treat people who get very sick with it, then thankfully fewer people will die and those numbers will decrease. Remember that HIV was once a death sentence, but now it’s quite survivable.)

=== Test, Track, and Trace ===

Many people promote this approach and look at other countries like South Korea and China (outside of Wuhan) as examples of how it can work. The hope is that if we can identify and test people with it early, they and their family can self isolate and stop the spread. Coupled with social distancing and general measures, it can be manageable. Great in theory, not so easy in practice.

For the UK however, it’s already failed. We tried this when C19 was first an issue and there were only a few dozen known cases. It didn’t turn out too well. Let’s look at South Korea who did do it well.

They were well prepared, in schools for example they have infrared temperature monitors and their own stock of full PPE, with training in both. Every kid is temperature checked on entry to school, any with a high temperature are turned away, and the child and family have to self isolate. Kids are rechecked multiple times a day. Any that develop a temperature are isolated by the school nurse, who dons full PPE, the parents are called and the kid and family have to self isolate. They also quickly mobilised 15,000 gov’t workers to manage the whole process of tracing people connected to those infected.

South Korea also had a mandatory advanced tracking app that prioritised safety over privacy. For example there are cases where it gave out so much personal information about identified C19 cases that marital affairs were uncovered! In theory these kind of tracking apps are a good thing, but in the west we have somewhat of an aversion to being tracked by the gov’t. Already there are voices of dismay at the centralised tracking technology behind the UK’s tracking app that’s being trialled currently on the Isle of White.

These tracking apps and other non-pharmaceutical interventions can work to a degree, and have done, mostly in cultures that are more authoritarian. Like China, where facial recognition cameras scan your face every time you enter or leave a building (seriously, in some cases locked gates to/from buildings won’t open unless you scan your face), and there are “social rankings” where “bad behaviour” is punished in ways like preventing you from buying train tickets to limit your travel! Can you imagine that happening here? I can’t.

We in the west value our freedom to a degree that may make such measures inapplicable or ineffective. Just look at the anti-lockdown rallies in the USA for example.

Either way, track and trace won’t eradicate the disease. What’s particularly pernicious about SARS-CoV-2 is that it’s highly infectious, symptoms don’t occur for the first 5-7 days, during which we believe people may be infectious, and some people appear to not show any symptoms at all but are still infectious. This means track and trace will always be playing catch up.

Track and Trace is a mitigation strategy at best, not an eradication strategy. It’s what you use to flatten the curve. At the moment, as we’re in the tail of the first peak, the curve doesn’t need flattening any more. It will reduce the infection rate, but slow down the herd immunity processes.

=== The Human Cost of Lockdown ===

One thing that’s not been mentioned is the cost of lockdown, I’m not talking the economic cost (which is huge!) but the cost in extra deaths, not attributable to CoViD-19. If you look at the weekly Office of National Statistics figures released every Tuesday, at the time of writing they show over 12,000 extra deaths over the lockdown period which are NOT attributable to CoViD-19!

I’ve seen 2 cancer stats (there are normally approx 1,000 new cancer cases every day) one saying cancer diagnoses are down 72%, the other said that over a month where they’d expect to see 30,000 new cancer cases, there were only 5,000! That’s 25,000 undiagnosed cancers in a month. We’ve been in lockdown for 2 months… does that meant there are 50,000 more people out there with cancer but don’t know it? I also know people that do know they have cancer and were in treatment, only to have their normal cancer treatment postponed. If you had cancer, how would you feel about having your potentially lifesaving chemo course postponed?

I’ve seen people say “Safety first, lives are more important than jobs” and I can see the argument for that. However anyone who buys into Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs will tell you that safety isn’t first in people’s needs. They need food, shelter and warmth first. Safety is second. And for those things, people need money, which means jobs, which for most means not self isolating.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I know self-employed people who at the start of lockdown publicly announced they were quitting work and staying home, as that was the right thing to do… 2 weeks of £zero income later, they were back working! Safety is not people’s first consideration, sorry, don’t shoot the messenger. This is going to be most prevalent in the counties of the world that don’t have the safety net of a welfare state that can keep people fed.

=== Sooooo, where does this leave us? ===

C19 is not going to magically disappear (unless someone’s god makes that happen, having changed his mind from sending it in the first place, forgive me if I don’t hold my breath). A vaccine is a year or more away, if it comes at all, and if it’s effective for more than a year. But how long do we wait in lockdown, a year? 2? 3? 4 years?!? Track and trace can help, if we’re prepared to give in to unprecedented levels of gov’t monitoring and control, but will only mitigate and slow down the spread, not eradicate the disease.

That leaves us with herd immunity as the only semi-viable option, no matter how unpalatable it is. But it must be done in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the NHS. This means a rolling schedule of on-again / off-again lockdowns. Currently deaths are going down, so we’re relaxing the lockdown, but I reckon that in 2-4 weeks, cases and deaths will start to rise.

Then lockdown will have to be reapplied until the deaths and cases are falling again, probably another 4-8 weeks. What the threshold for that will be is an educated guess at the moment, and depends on NHS capacity. It was great to build the 3 extra Nightingale hospitals, but last time I looked, they were basically empty with only 17 patients in the one in London, and zero in the other 2, so we have capacity. Perhaps they become dedicated C19 hospitals and the rest of the NHS gets back to normal duties, sending any positive C19 patient off to the Nightingales?

Once deaths fall again, lockdown can once again be eased, focusing on allowing the young to mix first, i.e. schools, which are also necessary for parents to get back to work. We rinse and repeat until either: herd immunity starts to kick in and the periods of relaxation get longer and longer; or a vaccine comes riding over the hill like a knight in shining armour, making the company that found it very rich indeed.

I’d like to see the gov’t take a stance and be honest about it. e.g.:

“Right you ‘orrible lot, you’ve got 2 weeks of freedom, then we’re having another lockdown for a month or 2. If you’re under 40, do what you want, but stay away from old people. If you’re over 65, or you have a chronic health condition, you’d better lock that door and keep it locked, and get used to this because this is you for the next year at least. If you’re 40-65 and in good health, you’re likely to be ok, but it’s on you if you catch it and you turn out to be one of the unlucky ones.”

Either way, I reckon we’ll be in a rolling period of lockdowns / relaxation for another 18 months, till the end of 2021. I’ll set a calendar reminder for Xmas 2021 to revisit this and see how things panned out.

I’ve suggest a couple of ideas here, and I expect to have them critiqued. They are not fully fledged strategies, they are ideas / options / possibilities to think about. What do you think? Have I nailed it, or am I way off the mark? Is there something I missed?

Let me know, I’m interested to hear your thoughts, but here’s the deal: you’re free to criticise but how about suggesting what you’d do if you were King/Queen for a day too? Catch me either here, or on the corresponding post on Facebook.

Stay safe.


Should Humans Have the Right to Control Nature?

Like many people I watched Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans film, but I was also sent it by a friend along with the question:

“As the self proclaimed kings of the planet , do / should , humans have the right to create the tools to override nature?”

First off, that video is a con, I watched the whole thing and Michael Moore definitely did NOT present it! 🙂  

I completely agree that we don’t have an energy problem, we don’t have a food problem, we don’t have a resources problem… we have a population problem.

Fortunately population is going to sort itself out. I used to be worried about “infinite growth on a finite planet” but the population won’t grow infinitely, so there won’t be infinite growth. We are pretty certain that the 12 billionth living human will never be born, and we’ll peak at 11.x billion around the year 2100, after which the population will decline. (Check out the many YouTube videos by the late great Hans Rosling from Gap Minder if you don’t believe that.)

In fact, I’d say it’s very likely that in 200 years the predominant worry will be global population collapse. It’s already happening in Japan who’s population was 127 million in 2014, but is expected to be only 97 million by 2040! That’s a quarter of their population gone in just 35 years!! Incidentally, nearly 40% of that 97 million is expected to be over 65.

That’s not because of consumption of resources, but because a well-educated population who have security of housing, food, power and healthcare, have fewer kids. That’s been shown in country after country.  Bangladesh went from families having 7 kids on average, to 3 kids, in just 30 years and is now down to 2 kids per family.

Getting back to this film, the solution is obvious but people don’t like it: nuclear energy. Nuclear is sustainable, doesn’t pollute the atmosphere (other than the mining required for construction and at the moment for digging up nuclear fuel), and can sustain us for 100-200 years with mined uranium.

Nuclear is getting better all the time. Current reactors are 10x as efficient as those 50 years ago, and will be a completely renewable form of energy when we inevitably stop mining uranium and start extracting it from sea water instead.

People worry about nuclear for 2 reasons: safety, and waste. First safety, even with the couple of well publicised accidents, nuclear power has directly killed only a few hundred people in its entire history. Early cancer deaths is likely to be thousands, maybe 10’s of thousands, though such reports are often disputed. Compare that to just coal power deaths which is about 100,000 EVERY YEAR! There’s no question that nuclear is far safer.

Secondly waste, in the UK we’ve been running nuclear power for around two thirds of a century, and so far the amount of nuclear waste we have to store is only as much as 4 football stadiums. Further only 0.1% of that nuclear waste is considered high level. Or put that the other way round: 99.9% of all nuclear waste is not high level. The vast majority (94%) of it is things like lab coats and gloves that people were quite happily wearing before being put in the “nuclear waste bin”!

And if nuclear fusion ever comes along (it’s been 20-30 years away since the 60’s!) that will be the abundant “energy too cheap to meter” that was the original promise of nuclear fission. It will be effectively an inexhaustible supply of completely clean and utterly safe energy, because there’s no chance of a runaway reaction.

Here’s my 100 year prediction.  In 2120 we will:

– Have no coal or natural gas power plants, all will be nuclear. Wind and solar will continue to be fringe technologies, mostly for remote communities. 

– Nuclear power stations will ring Africa, powering desalination plants that will provide an abundance of clean water, turning Africa into the world’s garden, providing the jobs to raise Africa out of its current poverty trap. 

– Population will be 11.x billion, having passed peak human, and be on the decline.

– Old world nations will be desperate for immigration to shore up their shrinking and ageing populations.* 

Battery powered vehicles will no longer exist, all will be hydrogen fuel cells, with the hydrogen being generated on site at the garages from just electrolysis of water.

In summary of the film, I’m not worried. It’ll all work out fine. We live in an amazing time of discovery and advancement. I can’t imagine wanting to be alive at any other time. History will record the 21st century as the greatest leap forward in human development. 😀

*On the subject of immigration, I believe it will dominate world politics for the next 200 years: firstly “western” countries will be afraid of it, and then they will be desperate for it. The challenge is how a country maintains its cultural identity when faced with the need for large scale immigration, because it’s indigenous population aren’t having enough kids to replace itself.

Coming back to the question of our right to override nature. If you look in nature many animals change their environment to suit their needs, whether that be birds collecting twigs to make nests or ants digging up the soil to make huge colonies, and often nature has evolved to adapt and coexist with living things in a symbiotic way, e.g. bees and pollen.

We will override nature, it’s in our nature! We have to in order to survive and flourish, which is nature’s way. It doesn’t matter what we do, the planet will survive just fine with or without us, or whether we live in mud huts or skyscrapers.

Nature is in a constant state of change, and life has radically changed this planet many times. Without life, we wouldn’t have oxygen in the atmosphere to breath. The planet’s atmosphere used to be mostly CO2, and life evolved to harness that and then change it over the last billion years to extract the CO2 and convert it to O2 through photosynthesis. But even that’s not been constant, checkout this graph:

Oxygen levels are all over the place, increasing initially up to 10x their previous levels. This is why fossils show massive insects that we don’t have now, they were around at a time when oxygen levels were much higher, which supported their large size. Note we’ve been around for roughly only the last red dash!

The original question implies nature is something static, that should be left alone, as we’re changing it. But by definition our impact IS nature, we are part of that nature and nature has never been static. It’s just a matter of timescales; we’re doing things faster than ever, because that’s our nature too.

Besides a “right” is a human construct.  There are no rights in nature.  If we collapse the human race down to a single individual, “human rights” becomes a meaningless concept.

In summary, “Do / should , humans have the right to create the tools to override nature? ” is a non-question. We will, it’s in our nature, which is part of nature. The question of our “right” to do so is as fallacious as it is irrelevant.


Should We Pay Reparations for Slavery?

Should We Pay Reparations for Slavery? post image

We live in a rich western democracy; we know that slavery is abhorrent and a crime against humanity; we also know that we as a country profited from the slave trade. Shouldn’t we pay compensation / reparations then? As decent, honest people, isn’t that the right thing to do?

This post is intended to provoke thought and discussion, nothing more. If you disagree, feel free to say so, and why.

There are at least 6 good reasons not to pay reparations for slavery:

1) We, the currently living Britains, didn’t invade or enslave anyone, why should we (through our taxes) be made to pay for someone else’s wrong doing? If your dad was a murderer, are you responsible and should you be made to pay for his crimes? If your grandfather was a rapist and one of his victims had a child, are you financially responsible for that child and their family?

2) If we’re in the business of making people pay for historical aggressions, how far back do you go?

  • The Normans invaded and enslaved Britains, can I have reparations from the French?
  • The Vikings invaded and enslaved Britains, can I have reparations from the Scandinavians?
  • The Saxons invaded and enslaved Britains, can I have reparations from the Germans?
  • The Romans invaded and enslaved Britains, can I have reparations from the Italians?
  • My family are Irish originally, can I have reparations from the English… hold on, that’s me!?!

3) When arguments are fought and won in court, a general legal principle is to put people back into the position they would have been in before they were harmed. Should we then send all people of Jamaican decent back “home” to live the life they would have lived had the British never arrived in Jamaica? I doubt many African-American descendants of the slave trade would want to be shipped back to the Congo!

Also bear in mind that slavery was prevalent in Africa before the Europeans arrived. Most African slaves transported to the New World for example, were enslaved by other Africans, then transported to the ports by Africans and sold by Africans to the Europeans. Check out the history of the Kingdom of Kongo for example:

4) We should focus on solving current slavery issues first, before we worry about slavery from hundreds of years ago. Slavery has never been more prevalent than it is right now, with an estimated 20-40 million slaves currently alive in the world, up to 3x more than all the historic slaves trafficked during the 400 years of the 15th to 19th centuries.

If you’ve been to a hand car wash or had your nails done in a shopping centre, the chances are YOU have directly paid cash for work from a modern day slave! Just because they weren’t in chains picking cotton, doesn’t make them any less a slave.

5) Who would you pay reparations to? How would you calculate it? You couldn’t just pay reparations to 1 country, you’d be setting a precedent and every affected country would want it too. Would you pay it to the govt’s of the countries involved? But many of those countries, particularly in Africa, don’t exist any more. Would you pay it to the descendants of those trafficked by slavery? Do you deduct a proportion if their slave ancestor married a western native, so they are only half descended from a slave, as opposed to a “pure-blood” slave descendant if their ancestors only married other slave descendants?

But doesn’t that mean you’d be paying potentially wealthy western citizens who don’t need the money and are hardly disadvantaged as a result of the slave trade? Don’t the people in the countries they came from need it more? What about the slaves that died, they have no descendants to pay? How do you even prove that a currently living person is descended from a particular slave from 400 years ago?

Because huge sums of money are involved, the whole process would inevitably be tied up in court for decades, as different interested parties sought to increase their slice of the pie by challenging the calculations. Which would no doubt make the lawyers happy if no one else!

6) As a country, we’re broke. Yes we have a lot of money sloshing round the system, but the country is massively in debt and still spending more than we earn each year; isn’t that the definition of insolvency? Our national debt is currently £1.78 trillion, but that doesn’t include the unfunded public sector pension liability of £1.85 trillion, or the PFI debt of £267Bn, making a total of £3,897 Billion, or £3,897,000,000,000 if you like. That’s a colossal £124,000 for every one of the 31.4M tax payers in the country.

There’s absolutely zero hope of us paying off that debt; it took us 100 years to pay the £1.9Bn debt we incurred to pay for World War 1, having paid 3x more in interest (£5.5bn) than we borrowed. By that measure, we’ll have to find not only the £4Tn national debt, but another £12Tn for the interest payments on top! Note that £1.9Bn in 1914 is approx £2Tn in today’s money. So it took 100 years to pay off a debt that was half the size of UK’s current one! And of course it’s going up each year, not down.

If you are a UK taxpayer, YOU PAY approx £1,600 every year towards the £48bn interest the gov’t pays on the UK’s current debt. The current UK gov’t deficit (how much we spend more than we earn) is £32Bn, which means if we had no national debt interest payments, we would be £16Bn in surplus. That’s £16Bn that could be spent each year on social care, hospitals, teachers etc.

THIS is the real source of austerity. We are suffering now for the debt our parents and grandparents ran up! We simply can’t afford to pay £Bn’s in reparations, we would literally need to borrow that money knowing that we will not pay that back in our lifetime. Ethically and morally we can’t saddle our children and grandchildren with having to pay for yet more of our spending, or for a debt neither they nor we incurred.

We are (not so) slowly but inexorably heading the way of Greece. If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s and think you’re going to get a state pension when you retire… think again. Why do you think the gov’t is pushing the pension age up? It knows the current system is just unaffordable.

Anyway, I digress. Solve those 6 problems, then we’ll talk about paying reparations.


Yet Another “Cholesterol Not Bad” Study

If you lift your head up from the simple “gov’t guidelines” trotted out everywhere, often by well meaning GP wellness nurses, and take the time to do some of your own research, you will come to the same conclusion: dietary cholesterol does not cause heart disease. That’s the conclusion of a new study I recently became aware of:

A few quotes from that article and the studies it links to:

“There’s a growing consensus among nutrition scientists that cholesterol in food has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream,”

Harvard Medical School

“Dairy consumption was associated with lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events in a diverse multinational cohort.” – a study reported in The Lancet that followed the eating habits of more than 130,000 people for more than 9 years. It found that folks who consume higher levels of whole fat dairy products actually lowered their overall mortality and cardiovascular disease risks compared to those who consumed lower amounts or none.

The Lancet

“For half a century, a high level of total cholesterol (TC) or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) has been considered to be the major cause of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD), and statin treatment has been widely promoted for cardiovascular prevention. However, there is an increasing understanding that the mechanisms are more complicated and that statin treatment, in particular when used as primary prevention, is of doubtful benefit.”

That last quote is from the source research for the linked article:

I’ve known this for some time from my own research over the last 10 years, and evidence of my own health, e.g. see here for the results of my own sample of 1 eating a high cholesterol diet for a decade now:

If you want to read 1 very accessible book on this subject, I recommend this excellent book by a British Doctor: The Great Cholesterol Con – Dr Malcolm Kendrick


Should You Feed Bread To Ducks and Swans?

Feeding Bread to Ducks

The country seems to have lost it’s shit over this photo of a poster that appeared on social media this week. Let’s look at the facts:

1) The “Ban the Bread” campaign was originally launched by WildThings, a company that, guess what, sells bird food.

2) Before the Ban the Bread campaign, I don’t recall ever hearing about an overweight duck or swan that had died of malnutrition after eating an excess of bread.

3) Bread of any kind is not a natural diet for ducks or swans.

4) Swans in particular (don’t know about ducks) are now dying of starvation, and some swans today are underweight.

5) The Queen’s own Swan Marker David Barker has weighed in, supporting the occasional feeding of bread to swans.

We have a culture of taking the kids to feed bread to the ducks and swans in this country, and that has likely created a situation where their population is greater than the natural food found in the waterways will support.

Ban the Bread Campaign by WildThings

Now that people are reticent, it seems clear to me that the Ban the Bread campaign, whilst very well intentioned (and I’m sure not at all motivated by a hope for increased sales!) has caused real harm to the swans, and likely ducks too.

Yes in an ideal world, everyone would switch to more appropriate bird food, but realistically that’s not going to happen, and clearly isn’t happening. I myself had an unwanted 1/2 loaf of bread this very week… it went in the bin rather than go to the local swans. I think on only 3 occasions in my daughter’s 18 year upbringing did we ever go to “feed the ducks” with some left over bread, it was hardly a regular thing.

Swan that starved to death

So either we continue to not feed bread, and suffer a population readjustment (read: mass deaths from starvation) until the population of ducks and swans reduces to a level nature can support, or we ditch the Ban the Bread idea, and go back to occasional bread feeding (proper feed preferred of course) and the joy that brings.


Which is better nuclear or solar power

There have been gazillions of column inches written on this debate.  It’s heavily political and very emotive.

So why not listen to a self confessed hippy, christian, pacifist, anti-nuclear activist as he details what he now thinks about nuclear power, in a typically excellent Ted Talk.

Unless you’ve had a particular interest in the data before, his conclusions will surprise you and may just change the way you think:


So what do you reckon? What about that video surprised you? I bet like most you thought loads of people died from the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents?

To discover there were zero radiation deaths, but 1,500 from the evacuation… that beggars belief!  In fact, do you know which energy source is the most deadly?  Go on, have a guess.  Is it: coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, solar or wind (we know by now it’s not nuclear).
Which one has killed more people than any other?

It’s hydro!  Surprised? Here’s why: dams have this nasty habit of occasionally breaking and sending a massive flood downstream that wipes out villages.

To date there have been 193,566 know fatalities due to dam accidents.  But where’s the public outcry?  Where’s the hydro-activist movement demanding dams are decommissioned and and end to hydro-electric power? There isn’t one.

Compare that to the number of verified number of nuclear deaths worldwide, which is just 204, this means hydro is approximately 1,000x more deadly than nuclear!

When you put away your preconceptions and scratch the surface to actually look at the data, the case for nuclear power is overwhelming. What’s more, despite it being the clear winner, I’ve been saying for years that nuclear power is being held back from it’s real, and promised, potential. When nuclear power was first introduced into the UK, the marketing strapline was:

Power too cheap to meter.

Well that clearly never happened, and here’s why: All nuclear waste is very carefully controlled, managed, processed, stored, monitored etc etc.  That sounds like a good idea through right?  Here’s the rub:

Low Level Waste (LLW) comprises some 90% of the volume but only 1% of the radioactivity of all radioactive waste.” (source: the World Nuclear Association).

And the management of that waste costs a LOT of money. Now when we’re talking about low level nuclear waste we’re talking about:

  • protective shoe covers and clothing,
  • wiping rags,
  • mops,
  • filters,
  • equipments and tools,
  • luminous dials,
  • medical tubes,
  • swabs,
  • injection needles,
  • syringes etc

As you can see, nothing that anyone would reasonable consider radioactive.  In fact, it’s been said to me (I know several nuclear engineers) that if you took an old fashioned dial watch with luminous paint on the numbers and tossed it into a cubic meter of dirt, that would be classified as low level nuclear waster to be controlled, managed, processed, stored, monitored= £££££.

What if we allowed nuclear power to be as safe as coal power for example? I’ve never heard anyone object to how safe coal power is. Would you be ok if nuclear was as safe as coal?

Did you know that coal power kills about 12,000 people per year?  How do you feel knowing that the electricity that boiled your kettle, that is lighting your room, or that is powering your device right now, came (probably) from coal power that someone died to bring you?  I’m sure you’d feel bad for a moment… then move on, because you don’t know anyone who died from coal power. But then, you probably don’t know anyone that died from nuclear either, right?

So what if we allowed nuclear to be as safe as coal, which most people seem to be pretty happy with? What if we slashed the safety cost of nuclear by 90%? It’s really hard to put a figure on this, as health and safety is baked into every step of the nuclear process. But speak to those who work in the industry and they’ll tell you a vast proportion of everything they do is around safety.

I think it’s very reasonable to assume we could probably cut the cost of nuclear power by at least two thirds, probably more. It’s very likely nuclear power would be cheap enough that we could afford to build a ring of nuclear power plants around Africa, each next to its own desalination plant (for making fresh water from sea water).

Not only could we end water shortages in Africa within a generation, but we could irrigate Africa and turn Africa into the garden of the world. What benefits would this bring us:

  • Improved child survival rates
    • Which leads to reduced birth rates
  • Smaller families reduces population growth to sustainable levels
  • Jobs for Africans, lifting millions more out of poverty
  • No more droughts killing thousands
  • Plentiful local African food
  • Food exports improves the balance of payments (money flowing into) for African countries, improving their economies
  • Natural carbon capture as more plants suck CO2 out of the air, like the rain forests do, reduces global warming

I could go on, but you get the gist. The fact is, nuclear power health and safety policy in the west is responsible for keeping Africa on its knees.

We could end the suffering of a billion people at the stroke of a pen, if only we can get over our completely irrational fear of nuclear accidents, which have been shown over and over again, to hardly kill anyone. But it won’t happen as long as there’s a vocal ideological anti-nuclear lobby (greenpeace eta), and political parties are afraid of losing votes in the next election if they’re too bold.

In summary, African poverty and suffering is a political policy decision that could be halted with today’s technology through the sensible use of nuclear power.

How many African children are going to die, today, because of our collective fear that a nuclear meltdown might… well, might what?  Chernobyl was the worst possible disaster a nuclear accident could possibly be, and it killed a couple of hundred people, the same number as die on our roads in a month!

Vastly more people died in the stampede to get away from Fukushima, than in the accident itself.  The fact is, nuclear is incredibly safe, even when it’s a disaster!  But children are dying today, right now, in the time it’s taken you to read this post.

Think about it, we can save them, if we have the political will to do so.