Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Pesticide problems

Phil over at Bonsai Basho towers has been a busy boy. He has finished the video for the azalea transformation. It can be seen here on You tube or if you pop over to www.bonsaibasho.com and register you can see them both plus an exclusive bit of text explaining what is going on.

We also did a video about the problem that has been facing a lot of people up and down the country this year, spider mites on Junipers. The video misses out a bit of the explaination of the problem so I will be adding text to it asap. but here it is. Please excuse the poor quality of explaination. It was all one cut stuff and some of it was unusable due to back ground interference.

Now the pesticide problem is one which I alluded to in my last post and it one which prompted a response regarding DDT. Now before we start I will state that I am all for the environment and living in close relation to the earth, I do not agree with widespread and unrestrained use of agro chemicals, I wish we didn't live in a world where demand for cheaper and standardised produce was driven by profit obsessed behemoths such as Tesco...that said, the myths and junk science that surround the DDT are legend showing us the fundamental difficulty with such issues. The problem lies with the burden of proof that is required by scientists, but not by environmental campaigners who are happy with anecdotal evidence and the policy makers who are at the mercy of lobbyists and voters. Sadly I fall somewhere between the two camps, I require a certain amount of proof, and in the case of the egg shell thinning of birds, for every research paper proving DDT was the cause in the dec line, there is another paper to prove that it wasn't.. A very good article can be found here which links to much of the evidence both for and against.

What is abundantly clear is that the anecdotal evidence of the post-war decline in predatory birds can be attributed to, but in a purely scientific way, it cannot be proved beyond doubt that DDT was the singular cause. The ban of its use on a widespread and unrestrained scale in the western world is a good thing, as shown by the increase in numbers of predatory birds throughout the world since the DDT ban.

This leads me to the point about Defra and the banning of pesticides seemingly at random. The lack of scientific rigour and common sense in their haphazard way of deciding what is good and what is bad is astounding.

Take the case of Bifenthrin, recently banned in the latest cull of chemicals. It was the active component of Rose Clear 3, a very useful contact pesticide. Bifenthrin is a Pyrethroid, a synthetic version of Pyrethrin, an organic chemical obtained from Chrsanthemum flowers. Both Bifenthrin and Pyrethrin are of low toxicity to mammals, but high toxicity to aquatic life. Neither are carcinogenic.

Bifenthrin was banned in the cull, but Pyrethrin is still available on the shelves of garden centres up and down the country. If Pyrethrin gets into the water system, it will just as fatal as Bifenthrin...just as fatal as bleach or Jeyes Fluid. If both build up in humans through consumption of crops which have been sprayed with it, neither will be dangerous. Apart from the slightly longer half life in soil of bifenthrin, what is the difference? Perhaps the word organic? More importantly, what is Rose Clear 4 now made from?

Careful examnation shows that the active ingredient is Acetamprid, which unlike bifenthrin, is a systemic insecticide, not a contact killer. It is a neonicotinoid, which is a synthetic replacement for Nicotine, a traditional pesticide. The problem lies with anecdotal evidence from France, Germany, Italy and Canada which prove a strong link between the use of neonicotinoids and the tremendous decline in Bee population.

Colony Collapse Disorder has been attributed to may things but there is a strong, yet unproven anecdotal link between the collapse of bee colonies and the presence of such pesticides as Acetamprid, the replacement for the relatively harmless Bifenthrin. As early ago as the 1990's French Bee Keepers made the link between the rise in the use of neonicotinoids and the decline of bees and honey production. Whilst Bifenthrin is toxic to bees if used indiscriminately and sprayed directly onto a colony, it does not have the same effect as Acetamprid.

One the one hand Defra claim to protect the countryside, one the other hand they are a Bureaucratic monster which does no good what so ever, causing more harm. On the decision to ban bifenthrin, from the Defra website...

"In March 2009, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health voted on the European Commission’s proposal for the non-inclusion of bifenthrin in Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC. The Commission proposal for bifenthrin did not achieve a Qualified Majority agreement. Under Directive 91/414/EEC a “non-opinion” in Standing Committee means the dossier is referred to the Council, which then has three months to act. If a decision is not taken within three months, the Commission will adopt its original proposal by default."

Which means that because they couldn't be bothered to reach a majority vote either way, and nobody could be bothered to do any research to figure out what was worth doing. Agro Chemical companies couldn't be bothered to shoulder the burden of proof as they have many more toxic chemicals which are yet to be banned left to sell. It is not as if Defra don't have money to burn...£350 million wasted on a computer system that doesn't work , a rebranding and new website. All this while money to allow farmers to create land for birds to nest on and thrive in is desperately needed.

Through a complete lack of common sense and blind following of EU legislation and disregard for true science and direct observation, problems like this continue to occur. When the bee population of this country continues to decline, as more and more colonies collapse, the blame must surely lie with Defra. Their random nature shows a lack of leadership and policy.

That is why I think Defra are idiots.

Friday 16 July 2010

Waltzing Monkey

Now that the world cup is finished, the accounts are finished and I have got no more excuses, its back to some good old hard work. I have some Sisyphean cleaning tasks to do which will have me longing for receipts and spreadsheets.

I did promise that there would be some new content via Bonsai Basho...and here it is...in all its embarrassing entirety. I am not camera shy, I am naturally like that.

There will be a full text to go with the second part, Phil at Bonsaibasho.com is finding it difficult to edit my monotone drone. It will get done soon though. This is the tree in question....

During the discussions we had making this, I told Phil that I do not like the use of the word "Master" to describe what I am and it reminded me of a documentary I heard a while ago about the continuing tradition of Wandergeselle, or Journeymen, in Germany and neighbouring countries. It was the second time I had thought of this recently as I am very much a Journeyman and have gone through a similar process.

According to the oracle of Wikipedia...."The word 'journeyman' comes from the French word journee, meaning the period of one day; this refers to their right to charge a fee for each day's work. They would normally be employed by a master craftsman but would live apart and might have a family of their own. A journeyman could not employ others. In contrast, an apprentice would be bound to a master, usually for a fixed term of seven years, and lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all of their compensation in terms of food and lodging."

Since the early days of the industrial revolution apprenticeships have declined in the UK as machines have replaced the need for skilled labour, a trend which continues today. The number of self-service check out tills in supermarkets and B&Q is abhorrent and should be boycotted at every opportunity. The rise of the capitalist industries also destroyed the power of the guild who controlled the progressions of an apprentice through being a Journeyman and who finally decided if the craftsman could become a Master. While the guilds did impose restrictions on trade and who could practice the trade and where, they did ensure a standard of quality which made European craftsmanship of the 18th/19th century a thing of beauty.

There is no guild of Bonsai artists so who determines the Mastery of it as an art or craft? The use of the term Master in the bonsai community is free, unrestrained and in many cases self awarded. We have a culture of frowning upon the sale and subsequent display of a masterpiece tree created by the great artists, so is commercial success a good yard stick for mastery? This is certainly true in the art world where the works created are a commercial product, yet in the artistic Bonsai community this is not strictly true.

Apprenticeships declined in the UK to the point where it was less than 1% of total employment in 1990. I have always felt that we have a snobbish attitude to craftsmen or tradesmen in the UK. The idea that intelligence is vastly superior to skill and ability is endemic in society. During my schooling the entire education system was geared towards academic excellence rather than the ability to create anything and we are now seeing the effect of this in society with our almost non-existent manufacturing industry and our dependence on the service sector...which would make you think that service would improve, but that simple piece of logic seems to have bypassed the current generation of bar staff in most London pubs. I always felt pressured to go to University and was never given any other option, when I discussed my desire to be a gardener at the age of 17, my careers adviser laughed at me and told me it would be a waste of talent. I do not regret it and it was a worthwhile learning experience, however I would not do it now, with the debt burden, possible new graduate tax and 70 applicants for every graduate job. With news today that University applications are at a record level and over 100,000 people will be rejected, what for them? Will the traditional apprenticeship make a return or will the country create more non jobs. I'm sure Defra need a few more idiots on their staff to ban every chemical that is of any use to us.

Anyway....that went off a bit political and I didn't mean for it to. I have recently come to appreciate my status as a Journeyman Bonsai-ist and will continue my years of being a jolly swagman.

Friday 9 July 2010

The Divine Comedy

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

One of the things the Chief never taught me as part of my apprenticeship was the importance of keeping good records...mainly because he never did. There was one time the tax man came knocking and we shut up shop for two days whilst they went over the books for the last six years...it was not a pleasant time.

Now I am settled and not a non-dom, I am at the mercy of Her Majesty and her Revenue collecting suits. The last week has been sat trying to get to grips with Excel, Receipts from a year ago and looking over my bank accounts for the last year. Where did all that money go?

It is an interesting but very very painful process. I have never felt so grown up. It is like voting for the first time. I have to go to the accountant this afternoon so hopefully what I have done has not been in vain.

A Japanese friend of mine said to me the other day having read my blog...."Philosophers do not make good businessmen". I understand this very much now. I must be serious from now on.

On a lighter note...I will be up Bonsai Basho towers on Sunday so expect some new stuff next week. We are getting the video camera out...so expect some hardcore bonsai.

After that I think its only fair that next week we have a day off....

Sunday 4 July 2010

Back from the Internet wilderness

Apologies for the lack of updates, I don't do it nearly enough I know...like many things in life I guess.

I have lots of excuses, mainly the World Cup and Virgin Media related. At least England have crashed out in shame, Japan have gone out in glory and America went down fighting. Virgin Media crash down any which way but online and have no way of telling me why or when they will do what I am paying them for. Still, touch wood, there have been no problems for the last three or four days.

I have written this little piece about the second national show in the states. Enjoy.

I will be doing some stuff this next week for Bonsai Basho hopefully. Keep it peeled. Planning on doing something tool related...seemed to be obsessed a bit at the moment