Adam's Brain Dump

Am excited that the Labour party finally have a plan that I both know what is, and at least on the surface, thoroughly support.

….the Labour leader says he will double the amount of onshore wind, triple solar and more than quadruple offshore wind power, “re-industrialising” the country to create a zero carbon, self-sufficient electricity system, by the end of this decade.

As well as the much needed environmental impact, the hope is that it’ll also create a whole lot of jobs, and make energy bills permanently lower, as well as make the UK less dependent on Putin et al.

It’s ambitious, perhaps overly so in some people’s opinion - but if we don’t even try then we’ll definitely not get there.

Watched Everything Everywhere All At Once 📽.

A truly wild ride, following a bored woman struggling to pay taxes getting dragged through her lives in various multiverses - including one where everyone has sausage fingers - in an effort to save multiple universes from destruction. Surely a potential cult classic.

Haven’t thoroughly dug into the Conservative’s latest mini-budget yet but I think a chart from the Resolution Foundation gives some insight as to its nature.

Given the most immediate problem to solve is along the lines of poorer people not having enough money to heat their homes or eat, this seems to be the kind of outcome only a cartoon supervillain would think was a goer.

Jim Pickard confirmed that the removal of the 45p income tax rate gives away an average of £10,000 to the top 629,000 earners. James Ball notes that if there’s that much spare money on offer it could instead have been used to give every single household with an income of less than £20k an extra £1000 each.

Luckily most of the public realise this, according to YouGov, with 63% of respondents realising the wealthy would benefit more (with most of the rest saying they aren’t sure either way).

Book notes: Turning the Tide on Plastic, by Lucy Siegle

Plastic in our environment is not litter. It is a pollutant from fast business serving society in the wrong way while outsourcing the cost to Mother Nature.

(My book notes aim to summarise the parts of the book that most attracted my attention, perhaps reworded or reorganised, and don’t necessarily reflect whether I agree or disagree with them. I’m very open to discussions as to whether I’ve missed or misunderstood anything).

Since the 1950s we’ve produced 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic. Most of it is still with us. By 2015, 9% has been recycled, 12% incinerated, 79% in landfills/environment.

We produce 320 million metric tonnes of new plastic each year, almost all from oil. 8 million tonnes of this leak into oceans and waterways. By 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish, by weight.

Some plastics are truly useful, e.g. polymers used for heart valves and bulletproof vests. We should fight against avoidable useless plastic being forced upon us.

Stopping the environmental disaster will require radical action. To be sustainable we must leave the earth in the same or better shape for the next generation.

Plastic is a fossil fuel product. 90% of the plastic we consume is virgin plastic made of oil. 8% of the barrels of oil we extract from the earth becomes plastic.

The world’s most common plastic is polyethylene, which is used to make e.g. bottles and containers.

Plastic packing is increasingly used for food because it was cost-effective and made it easier for retailers and manufacturers to extend the shelf life of food. They argued it made food cheaper for everyone.

The age of plastic

The “shifting baseline” is a green movement concept whereby each generation treats the state of the world in their youth as the baseline to compare changes to. Over time this lowers society’s expectations and ambitions around protecting the environment.

The first plastic in the world was known as “Parkesine”, after it’s inventor Alexander Parks. It’s initial market was as a substitute for various “traditional” products previously obtained killing animals in the garment industry, such as the “tortoiseshell” obtained from hawksbill sea turtles. In this way it may have had an environmentally friendly impact - saving the hawksbills from extinction.

Following its invention, it was felt humans no longer had to be dictated to by nature.

The commercialization took off from the 1950s; within a decade 20 million plastic bags were being produced in the UK. The culture of make-do-or-mend went away. Marketers loved that consumers tended to buy more when it was wrapped in a bubble or tamper free pack.

A wake up call

The Blue Planet II documentary focussed the nation’s attention on plastic pollution. The social media and press outcry following it translated in a 25 Year Environment Plan from the UK government in 2018, which included a commitment to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years. A few businesses joined the effort, but not the big retailers beholden to shareholders.

Recycling can be effective - recycling plastic reduces energy and resource use, harmful emissions and reduces landfill. But in the UK there is confusion over what actually happens to the rubbish we put in our recycling bins.

The landfill tax is current £88.95 per tonne of general waste, and we have got better at recycling - about middle of the table vs the rest of Europe.

But many of the plastics that are sent to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) have low recycling rates. One estimate is only 10-15% of mixed plastics are recycled. They also can’t keep pace with the amount of rubbish despite their expansion; we get through 5 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year in the UK vs having a capacity to recycle only 350,000 tonnes.

Waste giants need profit to satisfy their shareholders which is hard when the value of recyclate is low.

2 types of recycling:

  • Closed-loop recycling: the old material is returned to an “as new” state ready to be made into a product of the same material. The material holds its value and can be repeatedly recycled. We don’t have enough of this.
  • Open-loop recycling: the material is recycled into a different material, e.g. a plastic bottle processed to form recyclate flakes for use in fibre manufacturing.

Certain plastics aren’t rated highly on the global recycling market or are difficult to process. They’re often burned to produce electricity. Since 2008 legislation, incinerators are allowed to be described as “recovery facilities”. But once burned the plastic is lost, so it’s wasteful. Burning also releases emissions into the environment.

We export a lot of materials for recycling, 2.7 million tonnes to China/Hong Kong between 2012-2018. But in 2017 China clamped down and would only accept the cleanest materials. This led to UK local authorities reducing the types of materials they’d accept, whilst they look for other markets that don’t care about the quality of their waste imports.

Until 2016 the UK had a statutory plastic packaging recycling target of 57%. That’s since been reduced to 49%.

Understanding how plastic flows into and around the environment

The impact of the individual litter lout is often exaggerated, which lets the big culprits off.

Litter-louts do exist - men drop 3x as much litter as women, and 16-24 year olds drop twice as much as other age groups.

Education and surveillance have been proposed as the solution to littering. But studies suggest education isn’t the real issue. Rather, funding cuts to local government have reduced street cleaning and sweeping, leaving litter. Manufacturers of single-use packaging have not been tackled, despite the fact that the 500% increase in litter since the 1960s mirrors the growth of the packaging industry.

We should prioritise reducing the sources of plastic. It’s hard to deal with the 8-12 million tonnes of plastic waste once its already in the marine environment, 80% of which originates from the land, e.g. from overflowing bins.

One trash enters the ocean it settles into islands. There’s a huge whirlpool of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), coverung 600,000 square miles of ocean, bigger than France or Texas. It weighs 79,000 tonnes, has 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish, almost all plastic. Some from 40 years ago has been found.

In water, macro plastics are tossed up against abrasive objects and broken down by UV rays until they become microplastics, a great risk to marine life.

Now we wear clothes made from synthetic man-made fibres, washing releases plastic microfibres into the environment - potentially 700k+ per machine wash.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) like DDT can adhere to microplastics. On land we have tried to phase POPs out, but now they can enter the food chain through via microplastics.

The average European seafood eater eats an estimated 11,000 pieces of microplastic a year. 83% of drinking water samples are contaminated. They’ve been found in salt, beer and honey.

A 4 cent charge on carrier bags that was introduced in Greece in 2018 caused usage to drop by 80% in the first month.

Our plastic footprint

Most of the 8 million pieces of waste that enter the world’s marine environment every day are made of plastic. 70% of the rubbish sinks to the seabed, 15% drifts upwards in the water, and 15% is deposited on shores.

British household consumption is the “main engine of growth for the UK economy”, representing 63% of GDP. But everything we consume depletes the earth’s resources.

Mathis Wackernagel created a model to account for “ecological footprinting”. Calculations showed that Western Europe consumers were using up resources faster than the planet could replenish them. If everyone consumed at UK rates we would need 3 planets worth of resources.

The annual Earth Overshoot Day occurs on the day that we exceed the earth’s capacity to regenerate life-sustaining resources. In 2017 it was on 2nd August. Each year it is a few days earlier.

The UK’s plastic footprint is 139-140kg per person per year - 3x the consumption rate in 1980.

We’re 5th in the EU in terms of consumption single-use plastics. We’d be top 2 if it wasn’t for the smoking ban, cigarette advertising regulations and education reducing the number of smokers - cigarette butts contain plastic.

67% of discarded plastic is packaging. ~40% of plastic in bins could be recycled, but the real rate is lower.

The toy industry is the most plastic-intensive, using 40 tonnes of plastic for every $1 million revenue.

Corporations often do not wish to share plastic consumption numbers. It’s important that they do, not to name and shame, but rather to help understand what we need to do next.

Bans on certain plastic items (e.g. plastic straws) can be helpful, but tackle only that 1 item. Something else will take its place unless we change the culture and reduce the attractiveness of disposable products.

A toolbox to reduce your plastic footprint

The Mobius Loop has been adopted as an internationally recognised symbol of recycling, often alongside the slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

But it was harder to recycle than we thought. The recycling symbol can be found on products like single-used coffee-cups where fewer than 0.1% are actually successfully recycled. A local authority accepting an item doesn’t mean it’ll actually be recycled.

The mobius strip with inverted colours (white on black) means the item was made with recycled material and can be recycled again, but this is rare

Industry introduced a more nuanced, label system. Items are either:

  • Widely recycled: collected by at least 65% of councils.
  • Check local recycling: collected by 15-65% of councils
  • Not currently recycled: collected by <15% of councils.

Flat arrows with a number 1-7 tell you what type of polymer is in the product, not whether it’s recyclable.

Globally 15% of plastic waste is recycled, but only 5% of that is turned into a recycled object or material.

We must add more “R” strategies to the toolbox:

  1. Record
  2. Reduce
  3. Replace
  4. Refuse
  5. Reuse
  6. Refill
  7. Rethink
  8. Recycle


Keep a diary of every single piece of plastic that enters your life for 4 weeks (or at least 2). Include plastic both inside and outside the home.

The author provides an example grid containg columns for source, whether it’s avoidable, whether it’s single-use, where it ends up, whether you wanted it, its features and more.

It’s likely that a couple would record between 300-1000 items, much more for larger families.


Telling someone they need to reduce plastic packaging unhelpful, in the same way that just telling someone to stop smoking or eat less to lose weight is.

The plastic diary is similar to a food diary, and those have been shown effective for weight loss.

  • Single use plastics: Separate the behaviour from the product. Instead of a single-use takeaway coffee cup, sit down and drink it in the cafe from a china cup
  • Fizzy drinks: Half of the 35 million plastic bottles bought in the UK each day aren’t recycled. Consider limiting intake for health reasons. By canned drinks if you want some.
  • Plastic straws: Straws are rarely actually necessary at all.
  • Online shopping: Sometimes you can select a no bag option. Others rely on recycling carrier bags. Ticking Amazon’s “Frustration Free” packaging option will lower the plastic they send you. More than150 people per day in Britain stab themselves trying to open packaged products. Treating packaging injuries from e.g. moulded vacuum-sealed plastic packaging film costs the NHS £11 million a year.
  • Buy less stuff.
  • Declutter: The average American home contains more than 300,000 items.
  • Takeaway and fast-food packaging. Online services sometimes let you opt-out of receiving single-use plastic items like cutlery. They may let you bring your own containers.

Food packaging

Supermarkets distribute 800k tonnes of plastic packaging a year.

  • Try local greengrocers and butchers if possible, many let you use your own containers.
  • Buy loose veg.
  • Otherwise there’s often paper bags near the mushrooms you can use instead of the plastic ones.
  • Avoid anything wrapped in thin plastic film, it’s recycling rate is 3%.
  • Choose simple foods - they tend to have less complex packaging.
  • Buy in bulk.
  • Grow your own food if you can - you only need a little space to grow e.g. salad leaves or strawberries.
  • Cut down on snacks (this may also have health benefits). Or some ethical snack brands e.g. Divine Chocolate deliberately don’t use plastic. Most others use polypropylene packaging.
  • Cook from scratch.
  • Eat less meat.
  • Buy from the fish, bakery and butchery counters, taking your own containers.
  • Consider changing which store you go to to one that’s proactive in the anti-plastic fight.


Some stores now opened in the UK where you can bulk-buy and refill.

Replace things at the right time. Everything has a break-even point where the amount of resources that went into making it are offset by how often it’s used. It doesn’t make sense to throw away plastic you have that can still be used.

Reuse, refill or recycle empty bottles and containers.

The online plastic-free community can advise further.

  • Switch to glass milk bottles.
  • Buy a SodaStream if you drink fizzy drinks.
  • Switch to glass containers. 80% of glass is recycled. It’s non toxic, but not always good for bathroom products.
  • Use Tupperware.
  • Switch to laundry soap nuts.
  • Use non-plastic toothbrushes (e.g. bamboo).
  • Refuse microbeads! In the UK rinse-off products containing microbeads were banned in 2018, so only older products should have them. “Leave-on” products e.g. sun creams, lipsticks, moisturisers may still contain microplastics.
  • Switch to soap bars.
  • The “Go naked!” range in Lush is plastic-free.
  • Use cloth nappies. Over time they’re cheaper than disposables and “nappy libraries” may help with the cost. Even biodegradable disposables will last 100s of years in landfill.
  • Switch to cardboard toys - Nintendo’s Labo range is popular.


The 2015 5p levy on plastic bags should increase our confidence to refuse plastic in other forms.

  • Refuse receipts (they’re coated in a plastic additive), plastic bags, wrapping or single-use cutlery where possible.
  • Avoid badly designed products that end up in landfill, e.g. standup pouches with a valve and disposable toothbrushes with batteries.
  • Write letters or tweet at companies with particularly poor examples of packaging. If they have a plastic reduction policy point out the discrepancy.
  • Register with the Mail Preference Service to reduce unsolicited mail often wrapped in plastic or on plasticised paper.
  • Use the law - the Packaging Essential Requirements Regulations bans packaging beyond what’s needed for safety, hygiene and acceptance for the product by the consumer. Report infractions to the local Trading Standards Officer. A sample letter is available from Jo Swinson. Throwing plastic plastic waste from your car is a finable offence.

Some protest groups have unwrapped their shopping in-store to highlight the issue. If you do this: be sure to pay for all the goods, pick up the packaging afterwards, take reusable containers to transfer products into and be aware of e.g. littering laws.


When you buy something involving plastic, consider whether the packaging can be re-used. Clear plastic products are an obvious case that can.

  • Reuse a water-bottle several times. The toxic chemicals people worry about are not found in PET, which is 99.9% of bottled water.
  • Don’t assume that anything is dishwasher safer.
  • Plastic ready-meal tubs, trays and pots are generally not worth recycling as they’re low quality - reuse them.
  • Reuse cleaning product sprays and trigger nozzles as long as they don’t contain dangerous ingredients. Fill with your own cleaner e.g. white wine vinegar.
  • Take reusable cutlery wherever you go.
  • Plastic toys are made to last, don’t dump them. Although you may need to be careful about certain old toys created before prior to plastic safety legislation.

Some brands are getting worse - e.g. the big feminine care brands have switched from cardboard to plastic tampon applicators. Consider switching to reusable menstruation products like the Mooncup.


A report found that 29% of millennials said they don’t use refillable water bottles because they are too heavy. A generation before, mandatory deposit schemes for bottles and refillable containers were common. Soft drink manufacturers such as Coca Coal and Pepsi successfully lobbied against them.

  • Get a refillable coffee cup. The 2.5 billion disposable ones used in the UK each year are very difficult to recycle as they’re infused with plastic. Only 1 in 400 is recycled.
  • Get a refillable water bottle.
    • will show you places that are happy to refill your bottle, although in practice most restaurants and cafes will do so.
    • UK tap water has the highest treatment standards in the world, higher than bottled water, but if you still don’t like it then you can refill from a filter jug like a Brita or use a refillable bottle that comes with a filter (e.g. Bobble).
  • Get a juicer if you drink a lot of fruit juice.
  • Buying in bulk or getting refills for re-usable containers is preferable to just choosing a brand that uses biocompostable plastic. It may also save you money. This works well for household cleaning products, laundry products and store-cupboard staples like grains, flour, oils , rice, flour, pasta, soup mixes, beans, cereals, nut butters, sugars, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, snacks and treats, loose tea and coffee, herbs, spices, salts and peppercorns.
  • Find your nearest health food or natural store that provides a refill service.
  • Or use concentrated forms of household cleaning products such as soaps, laundry liquids, detergents. These come as a small sachet that you mix with water and put in a reusable cleaning bottle. sells some.
  • Some new businesses only stock unpackaged goods - e.g. independent health food and organic shops. Some online retailers are beginning to do this, e.g. Zero Waste Club.


We must rethink some of our habits. That includes when outside of our homes or around special occasions.

Look out for hidden plastics: wet wipes, coffee cups, chewing gum, most aluminium cans, teabags.

  • Put 2 small bins in your bathroom, one for recyclables (loo roll tubes, empty bottles and tubs etc.), the other for non-recyclables (wipes and cotton buds, contact lenses etc.)
  • Only flush toilet paper.
  • Don’t use wet wipes. They contain plastic polymers.
  • Use a traditional flannel.
  • Buy fully compostable teabags (most mainstream ones use a plastic sealant, polypropylene).
  • Check garment labels, and opt for natural fibres like wool, cotton, hemp and linen to avoid microplastics being released when washed.
  • Lobby the airlines to reduce plastic.
  • Use a “bucket and spade library” when on holiday.
  • Throw plastic-free parties.
  • Don’t use plastic cups, throwaway glasses, “paper” plates and cups. They’re are usually coated in plastic.
  • Only use paper straws
  • If you must use balloons, make sure to never release them into the sky, pop them when done - even if they’re “biodegradable”.
  • Replace glitter with “Eco glitter”.
  • Use sustainable gift wrap - most papers are coated in plastic.
  • Switch to Easter eggs packaged in cardboard or tins.
  • Support plastic-free festivals, sports matches, and other entertainment.


Unlike the rest of the UK, Wales is a recycling success story. It went from recycling 5% of waste 20 years ago to be on target to achieve 70% by 2025.

Targets and goals are important. Wales established statutory targets and most LAs provided kerbside recycling docks where residents sort they recycling at home into boxes based on type and then put into the relevant dock.

Using one “mixed” recycling bag instead is worse because you end up with lower quality recyclate, which is harder to sell into the global market. The UK’s recyclate is dropping in quality.

Higher quality recyclate fetches higher prices and more markets will buy it. Whilst it’s more arduous to sort it at home, this should eventually translate into lowered council tax and better public services.

  • Ask your local authority to change to a kerbside sort collection system.
  • Make sure everything you recycle is clean, dry and not contaminated with anything you’re unsure about.
  • Rinse plastics.
  • Don’t put one plastic inside another plastic container.
  • Put the lids on bottles. They’re easy to separate at a MRF and less likely to escape into the environment if on.
  • There’s no need to peel labels off plastics unless you’re instructed to.
  • If it’s a clear plastic bottle recycle it. If you’re out then bring the bottle home to recycle rather than putting it in a public bin that doesn’t do recycling.
  • Don’t put anything with a battery or VHS tapes in recycling.
  • Don’t recycle moulded plastic that’s of an uncertain polymer, or those marked #3.
  • Use any recycling opportunities that companies and brands offer, e.g. Ocado pays 5p for each plastic bag you return. ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Waitrose have collection points for bag. Tetra Park has collection points in most towns.
  • Buy recycled products - although this is hard as < 2% of items on the market contain plastic waste.
  • Visit the TerraCycle website who can recycle a vast array of products no-one else can, although it can be expensive.

Structural changes

It’s worth supporting bigger changes that will reduce plastic usage more than your own personal usage can. We need to be imaginiative.

  • Almost no manufacturers or retailers pay the true cost of cleaning up their cheap oil-based packaging. Demand a report like the Stern Review which reviewed the cost of climate change.
  • Introduce a bottle deposit system. The collection rate of plastic bottles in Norway and Sweden is 97% It’s been announced that England will do this, but no dates have been set.
  • Once used, chewing gum is flexible plastic. “Gumdrops” are plastic bins that can take 500 pieces of used gum. Once they’re full the whole bin is collected and processed as one piece of plastic. One full bin makes 3 new bins.
  • Ellen MacArthur has produced a blueprint for transformation called the “New Plastics Economy”, which at least 40 big brands have signed up to.
  • Some cafes and restaurants have compost collection schemes.-
  • Bioplastics that biodegrade in the earth have been developed, made of cellulose instead of hydrocarbons. We should keep researching this tech, but it may not end up as effective as hoped.
    • They look like normal plastics so often end up in standard recycling.
    • There isn’t enough oxygen in a landfill site for them to biodegrade.
    • In the UK it’s very rare that the temperature is high enough in people’s compost piles to start the breakdown process.
  • Making products made of plastic waste seem desirable might transform our relationship with it. In fashion, it’s possible to use yarn made from recovered plastics. Adidas have produced a collection of trainers made from ocean plastic.

Be an activist

There is a real chance we can end the plastic age.

  • All 193 UN member states have signed a resolution to eliminate plastic in the sea.
  • Every UK public body has a plastic reduction target.

Activists were critical to creating this legislation. There are many ways to get involved.

In 2015, the Dutch government was successfully sued by citizens for knowingly contributing towards a breach of the target for global warming. For the first time, a court ordered the state to protect its citizens from climate change.

  • Look for campaigns that collect data on single-use plastic and toxins in the oceans, or those creating an online community of change-makers allied with global ambassadors. One group the author likes is A Plastic Planet
  • Don’t underestimate petitions - 10 billion fewer plastic teabags per year exist because of one person’s petition.
  • Sign the OceanWise pledge
  • Talk to everyone you meet in local shops and businesses.
  • Get involved in the Plastic Free Communities programme.

Consider matching your activism to your personality. The Happy Hero book has a profiling section to help. There are many opportunities to help, from crafting a bag from recycled fabric though to adrenaline filled expeditions.

Finished reading: Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle 📚

A very readable book that highlights the astronomical amount of dangerous plastic waste that gets into the environment. Many practical tips to help reduce your personal footprint, with a UK focus.

🌱 For the first year ever, our apple tree has produced fruit that’s both plentiful and palatable.

TIL: Bubblewrap was originally designed to be used as a textured wallpaper.

Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes invented it in 1957, but it didn’t work out so well as house decor. 4 years and 400 ideas later they convinced IBM to use it for shipping computers. The rest is history.

I’m one of the literally 99% of subscribers who never used Netflix’s mobile games library 🎮, assuming they’d be pretty uninteresting. But looks like there’s some gems in there - I’ve wanted to play Into the Breach for a while, and Before Your Eyes sounds pretty interesting too.

2 ants on a rock. Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash.A new study estimates that there are 20 quadrillion ants on our planet. That’s 20,000,000,000,000,000 for anyone unfamiliar with quadrillions. Or roughly 2.5 million ants per living human.

By weight they outweigh all wild birds and mammals, and are about 20% of human biomass.

Accepting fewer refugees and asylum seekers in recent years has cost the US economy >$9 billion

Under the Trump administration, the US instantiated policies aimed to reduce the number of refugee and asylum seekers settling in their country between 2017 and 2020.

It seems like the policies were fairly “successful”, with a decrease in annual US refugee arrivals by 86% between 2016 and 2020, alongside a drop in successful applications for asylum of around 68% between 2017 and 2019. I don’t know enough about the subject to know how much of this was down to the policies themselves, but the numbers certainly went in the direction the leadership wanted.

However, contrary to many lay-people’s intuitions, there’s a reasonable consensus amongst economists that, in their role as “economic actors”, immigrants are on average net positive for the receiving country’s economy.

All are consumers, most are (or become) workers, and many are (or become) investors. All incur fiscal costs by using public services directly or indirectly, and all generate fiscal revenue either directly or indirectly.

A recently published paper by Michael Clemens examines the specific effect of the afore-mentioned decrease in asylum and refugee admissions along these lines. It concludes that the the reduction in admissions now costs the US economy more than $9.1 billion per year, and the government itself has lost out more than $2 billion. These costs will keep accruing as time goes on because the population that would have generated this extra economic activity is simply not present.

His model suggests that

…relative to 2019 levels, a 10 percent reduction in refugee resettlement to the United States likely causes a loss to the American economy of more than $1.4 billion, and a loss to public coffers (federal, state, and local) of more than $310 million, cumulatively over the subsequent five years.

Turning to asylum seekers: A 10 percent reduction in affirmative and defensive asylum seekers likely causes a loss to the American economy of more than $8.9 billion, and a loss to public coffers of more than $1.5 billion, cumulatively over the subsequent five years.

Whilst I certainly don’t think the primary driver of asylum policy should be economic - a basic moral concern for other people should surely be paramount - the fact that imposing barriers to this form of migration imposes serious and potentially permanent economic costs on one’s own country seems like something that should be present in the consciousness of the public and the decision makers.

Finished reading: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss 📚

I’d probably never have selected this one myself, it being over 600 pages long and me having only medium levels of interest for many fantasy worlds. But it came highly recommended and I’m grateful for that. I enjoyed the systems and structures of its world and the story was engrossing such that it it didn’t feel like 600 pages! One caveat though: the end of the trilogy hasn’t been written yet, so that’s always a risk!

If Disney did ruin The Little Mermaid then it was 33 years ago

Earlier this month Disney released a trailer for their upcoming film “The Little Mermaid”.

Of course it caused a certain amount of uproar on some of the less savoury parts of the internet (such as Youtube) based on the claim that Disney somehow ruined it by being “too woke”. As noted in a recent edition of The Present Age’s newsletter, given the lack of dialogue or really anything other than swimming in the sea action, this basically means that people don’t like the fact that a Black actress, Halle Bailey, was cast in the role of Ariel.

This isn’t surprising, not least because the same rants and raves happened upon the announcement of the casting 3 years ago, and the world doesn’t seem to have improved much in that respect since then. I guess the people in question just forgot they’d already made that particular angry attempt to cancel Disney.

Perhaps one of the more glaring confirmations of what is going on here was when a Twitter user shared the results of “using AI” to convert a still from the trailer from featuring the original Halle Bailey to a fake white person, commenting that it was possible to “fix” the entire movie like than in 24 hours. It is apparently, to quote the poster in question, “over for wokecels.”

Trying to abstract the topic away from what is hard to read as anything other than simple racism, I think Adam Serwer, in his Atlantic article “Fear of a Black Hobbit” is right in saying:

The demand to keep politics out of art is too often a demand for art to conform to conservative politics.

To what extent does truly apolitical art exist? I don’t mean “can you make a film that isn’t about politics?” - of course you can. But it’s hard for me to imagine many films that aren’t touched by society and politics one way or another.

If what is really meant is “I want films that resemble the ones that used to be made in my society 30 years ago” then those films will naturally have been influenced the society and politics at the time. Nothing is born into a cultural vacuum. Even if one can find a story that can’t be interpreted “politically” then there’s still the considerations of who created the art, under what circumstances, why they chose that particular story, what their intent was with it and why they, as opposed to someone else, were the one to tell it.

If one wants a specific example of this then we can look at the various ways that Jesus has been portrayed over time. All sorts of skin colours have been used. Many detailed and vigorous debates have been had as to which is the ‘correct’ one. And this is for an actual person for whom the consensus is that they likely did exist as a historical figure - so there is an actual true answer to know in theory.

On which note, the backlash to the The Little Mermaid’s casting is a particularly wild and confusing phenomenon if taken at the surface level. For one, I’m sorry if this traumatises anyone, but mermaids are mythical beings. We’re not misrepresenting some fact of nature. How we choose to portray these folkloric beings is up to us.

Secondly, the colour of Ariel’s skin is totally irrelevant to the story. It’s more about whether she has a fish tail or not.

Where skin colour is a pivotal aspect to the story of course it often makes sense to preserve that in whichever way the story requires. Likewise if you’re trying to recreate an actual historical event as accurately as possible. Switching the races of the actors in BlackkKlansman would be pretty nonsensical given its topic and basis in real life. The story of a fictional creature living in a fictional world where their salient experience is dependent on whether they have a fish tail or human legs does not have this limiting factor.

In reality, even a writer who wants to tell stories about race has many degrees of freedom. Science fiction for example contains many stories about social prejudice and discrimination paralleling racism but set in an entirely different looking and behaving world populated with distant aliens. Experimenting with other identities can work similarly - Naomi Alderman’s famous book “The Power” explores a future where women become a physical threat to men, as opposed to the current world where the opposite is usually true.

Next up, well, Black mermaids are nothing new even within the canon of Disney-specific Little Mermaid productions. Disney has had them for three decades. You’ve somewhat missed the boat on umm…“proving” they don’t exist.

Introducing Gabriella, from 1992’s Disney’s Little Mermaid TV series:

Image from the Mermaid Wiki

Image from the Mermaid Wiki

Unlike most Disney mermaids, Gabriella was actually based on a real person, albeit not one with a tail. Her design was inspired by 2 year-old Gabriella Bommino who unfortunately died of leukaemia so young, but was already a Little Mermaid superfan.

I don’t if this choice caused any consternation in 1992 to be honest. I hope not. But Twitter and YouTube weren’t a thing back then so perhaps it was more containable if it existed at all.

Moving on: is there really a danger of ruining the purity (?) of the Little Mermaid by “introducing politics”? As noted above, so many - perhaps all - stories are already touched or contextualised by politics and society. But it seems to me that the Little Mermaid is particularly easy to interpret using political and social metaphors. Many people have done so, years before last week’s trailer came out.

Whilst some may now find aspects of Disney’s original 1989 film interpretation of The Little Mermaid problematic, the Smithsonian Magazine wrote in some detail about the political subversion embedded within it at the time.

The last thing Americans would expect from Disney was a critique of patriarchy, but sure enough, Ashman’s The Little Mermaid is a gutsy film about gender and identity—a far cry from the staid Disney catalog.

Lenika Cruz writing in the Atlantic saw it as a “stepping stone” for Disney from a set of animations with few female leads (and those that did feature were often asleep for most of the film - think Snow White or Sleeping Beauty) to the more rounded, well-developed female cartoon stars of recent years.

More fundamentally, there has been many an interpretation of the original story, for example as an allegory for growing up, as a commentary on identity or a metaphor for gender relations. After all, poor repressed Ariel believes the only way she can be happy is to marry a rich man, so feels compelled to change her appearance, giving up her treasured voice in an effort to do so. I haven’t got access to the essay, but Wikipedia describes Susan White’s interpretation of the story as the “difficult liminal passage of the girl into the order of speech and social symbolism (power, politics, and agency) which is symbolically understood as masculine”.

This is even more salient when we remember that the Disney movie in many ways does not actually reflect the original story. If Disney is to be held at fault for changing the original then perhaps it’d make a little more sense to be cross at them for entirely changing the ending and, to some people, the whole point of the story 33 years ago. For the “anti-wokers”, surely casting a person that doesn’t look exactly like your mental image of Ariel is nothing compared making up a whole new soppy ending, perhaps fearing that the snowflake audience can’t cope with the original.

For people, like me as of 2 days ago, who don’t know the original story, brace yourself - it’s not pretty.

First we discover that, unlike the story’s humans, mermaids are mere creatures; they don’t have souls. Human souls go to heaven for eternity when they die. Mermaids simply turn into foam and cease to exist. As well as questing for the love of the handsome prince, what Ariel is battling for is to complete herself with a soul.

The witch still gives Ariel the magic turn-tail-into-legs potion in exchange for her voice. But in the original, drinking it is physically agonising. Walking on her resulting legs feels like walking on sharp knives from that point on.

The conditionality is also more severe. If Ariel can’t make the prince love her then the day after he marries someone else, Ariel will die. In that case she will also never have become a full human, so will die soulless, vanishing from existence entirely.

Unfortunately the prince marries someone else.

But all is not lost; Ariel’s sisters negotiate with the witch, swapping their lovely hair for a knife they give to Ariel. Ariel must use this knife to murder the prince. Only when his blood drips on her feet the witch will let her return to her original mermaid life. Grim.

Despite the personal consequences, she can’t bring herself to do this so commits suicide, throwing herself into the sea and dissolving into foam as expected. But at the last minute she’s kind of saved: rather than vanishing into nothingness forever she’s been turned into a spirit - a “daughter of the air”. There’s still a glimmer of hope for her to get into heaven, but for now she’s stuck in purgatory for 300 years, and must try and prove herself worthy by doing good deeds for mankind.

Per YouGov, the public’s perception of whether King Charles III will be a good king or not has increased since the sad death of his mother.

Whether it’s the way he’s handled recent events or down to more basic human psychology, the change is pretty dramatic.

Don’t want to accuse the NYT of spreading fake news, but this definitely didn’t happen!

Wordle gives you 6 chances to guess the word then it’s game over.

Today’s is easier.

Wordle 455 3/6


Maybe the irrationality of monarchies is why they sometimes work

I’ve been something of an anti-monarchist every since I can remember, primarily based on the general idea that holding the privilege and powers associated with the office, both explicit and implicit should not be something that someone gets based on who their parents happened to be and whether their ancestors won a battle hundreds of years ago. There are also convincing arguments that the institution is expensive, unaccountable, and so on.

To me, the UK has really just been lucky that for so long we’ve had a queen, that at least as far as I know (which is not all that far), in recent times has been a committed, principled and dutiful holder of the post, not being unduly meddlesome or inflammatory. Quite the opposite, you’ll not find too many hot takes on the Royal Family’s Twitter account. It feels sad that she has left us, irrespective of whether or not the institution itself is valid. But it’s a bit of a risky proposition to say that all future holders of the crown will be of a similar type.

The usual “pragmatic” argument I have heard about in favour of the British monarchy is, sure, they cost money, but they also generate a lot via for instance tourism. I haven’t looked into it in any detail, but given most tourists don’t get to meet the queen or king themselves, I wonder how we go about separating the specific impact of the power structure of the monarchy and the people involved from the more available parts of the associated tourism; the fancy buildings, soldiers dressed up in unusual costumes, museums full of jewelry, the history and mythology and so on, all of which could exist without a formal monarch.

A recent edition of Ian Leslie’s newsletter provided a take I’d not really considered before. It seems inspired in part from an essay by Clement Atlee - yes, that same socialist Prime Minister, beloved by some of the British left, no flag-waving conservative here! - who wrote that “I have never been a republican even in theory, and certainly not in practice.”

Leslie (and Atlee) note that, as irrational and hierarchical as the system of a constitutional monarchy may be, several countries that are widely acknowledged to have high levels of both wellbeing and relative equality have one - think of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. That’s not to say this style of monarchy causes these good outcomes, but it clearly doesn’t prevent them, and perhaps may even be positively associated with them.

Why do they appear to work well? Leslie argues that the unavoidable irrationality of bestowing power and finery upon someone predicated solely on who their parents are may be part of the attraction - “they speak to the heart as well as the head.”

Humans are not purely rational beings, and perhaps the “sentimental loyalty” humans are prone to is better to be absorbed by a monarch than left to be picked up by the leader of a faction, with Atlee citing Hitler, Mussolini and de Gaulle as contenders. To the extent that a constitutional monarchy isn’t the obvious centre of day-to-day power in practice, perhaps it’s safer and more uniting to have irrational sentimentality directed that way.

The fact that the queen didn’t have to fight for votes in an election (or, to at least some extent popularity in the media) gave her the ability to not become part of any major argument. There are plenty of people who aren’t a fan of the monarchy in principle, but nonetheless the queen did seem to be able to unite swathes of people in a way that it’s almost inconceivable a leader of a more “democratic” institution such as a political party could. This may be a particular property of some kings and queens more than others - after all support for Queen Elizabeth was substantially higher than the support for Britain remaining a monarchy at the same time - but it almost by definition cannot be a property of anyone involved in a close-run battle for electoral success.

The US of course famously has no monarch, having torn themselves away from the British one in 1776, but to many external observers seems to be riven by a particularly polarised politics. Certain presidential candidates appear to attract high amounts of almost conditionless blind-seeming loyalty from their supporters, as sentimental and irrational as anything one might feel for a monarch.

Leslie also considers that the constitutional monarchy gives us a way to express positive sentiment for our fellow country-people. Not that we don’t understand that they live an incredibly privileged and unusual live, and sometimes we may quite legitimately feel jealous or resentful of that. But at the end of the day we can acknowledge their common humanity. As a human family they proxy for all the country’s families. The widespread doting over whoever the latest royal child is - who is after all just one of the hundreds of children born each day in the UK - being a reminder that we could and should feel love all those other children too.

The Queue

I see the queue of people waiting their turn to see Queen Elizabeth’s coffin - now known across the internet as The Queue - now has its own Wikipedia page. Although perhaps not for long; the discussion as to whether it should be deleted for not being notable enough for its own page is ongoing.

By reading the debate, I learned that by deliberately limiting its length to 5 miles the queue controllers are preventing it from reaching the length of the queue for the grave of the current world record holder for the largest funeral gathering. This was the funeral of Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai in India, whose funeral was apparently attended by 15 million people, with a queue of 6 miles.

Earlier today the Queen Elizabeth queue maxed out its allocated length, with wait times expected to be at least 14 hours. The Queue was thus temporarily closed to new entrants. Cue the queue for The Queue.

For people that don’t mind spoilers, a live stream of the destination of the queue is available from the BBC. Although I find the coverage a little creepy because the camera often focuses in on individual mourners rather than the coffin.

I hope that they have been made aware that their expression of sorrow is being transmitted to the world at large. For me, that would surely take something away from what I’d expect to be a solemn, personal and perhaps emotional moment.

In a particularly dour sounding move, AirBnB has introduced “anti-party tools”.

This seems to be a statistical model that uses factors like the nature of the place being booked, your past reviews, recency of signup, distance and duration of the trip and weekday to predict whether you’re likely to be making a booking with the intent of having a party. If the computer says yes then the booking is denied.

Finished reading: How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France 📚

A book about a global pandemic that appears to have been dramatically mismanaged at first with some appearances by Dr Fauci seems all too contemporary. But this one is actually about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, primarily in the US.

There was of course a staggering death count - an estimated 40 million lives lost so far - with all the associated heart-breaking pain and misery, physical and mental, for those who caught the disease and those who loved them.

But of course what was particularly insidious in this case was that the large majority of those afflicted with the deadly infection at the start of the pandemic were gay men. And this was a population that the extraordinarily prejudiced mainstream opinion at the time was all too happy to disparage, disregard, ignore or blame. The world just seem didn’t care.

A large part of the book surrounds how in the end activist groups, often largely composed of people very ill with AIDS themselves, simply had to keep fighting for years - sometimes to the extent of basically infiltrating government or medical research organisations - until the government, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, media and indeed the rest of society couldn’t ignore the devastation any more.

The polio virus re-emerges in the US

In case you haven’t had enough of awful viruses yet in 2022, it seems that polio is back in the US, at least in New York.

Polio has no known cure. Whilst most infected people don’t develop noticable symptoms, it can cause outcomes as harmful as paralysis in some patients, a fraction of which may die due to paralysis of their breathing muscles. It was once known as infantile paralysis, due to children’s heightened vulnerability to the disease.

Only one human case had been detected as of four days ago, but it’s been seen in the city’s wastewater and become enough of an issue that the mayor declared a state of emergency. The CDC has confirmed that the US should now be considered a country with circulating poliovirus again, after 43 years of polio-free status.

One driving factor is likely the fact that polio vaccination rates are really not very high in some places any more, as shown in this map from the City of New York’s website. Nearly half of Williamsburg’s young children haven’t been fully vaccinated.

Over here in the UK we’re hardly immune - polio has been detected in our sewage too, although we don’t seem to have found any reported transmission within the community. It’s also been spotted in many countries within Africa this year.

A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that between 19-29% of the decline in US murder rates in the 1990s may have been due to the impact of mobile phones on the illegal drug trade.

The theory is that accessible mobile phones allowed the black market trade to be conducted and coordinated privately by phone. Customers could be met at discreet locations rather than trade needing to be plied directly on the street in fixed locations. This reduced street-level turf battles between gangs who funded their activities via drug sales in ways that frequently involved violence, as well as potentially “democratising” the market to allow other types of sellers in.

Survey shows that young British people increasingly support authoritarian rule

Traditionally, we might have expected the UK’s young people to be more liberal or left-wing than their older counterparts on most topics - see for example which party various age groups voted for in the 2019 general election according to Yougov’s poll. But from a recent report it seems like younger folk are not huge fans of a rather fundamental aspect of liberal democracies - the democracy part.

A poll conducted by J.L. Partners on May 2022 for a report published by Onward, a conservative thinktank, on a sample of UK respondents weighted to be nationally representative on several demographic factors found that young people are not great fans of democracy.

Starting off with a chart shown on page 20 of the report:

We see the younger age brackets having fairly low net support when asked whether a democracy was a a “very good”, “fairly good”, “fairly bad”, or “very bad” way of running the country. Around a quarter of 18-34 year olds felt that democracy is a bad way of governing the country (the equivalent figure for over-55s is 8%).

A similar net proportion of the young thought some kind of technocracy was a good way to run a country as felt the same about democracies.

Admittedly life in the UK doesn’t exactly feel well-governed to many of us at present, to put it politely - so perhaps that’s fairly understandable. A different survey, carried out by IPPR found that only 19% of UK’s 18-24 year olds felt democracy has served them well, vs 55% who say badly. What surprised me a bit more was the support for some of the rather more authoritarian options.

There was a net 23% support for “a strongman who can ignore parliament” as a good way to run the country in 18-34 year olds, vs a negative -42% in > 55 year olds. 60% of the youngest group, 18-24 year olds thought it was a good idea.

Even the rather radical “put the army in charge” only just got a negative support rating in younger cohorts - net disapproval of 8% in 18-34 year olds vs -74% in >55 year olds. 44% of the 18-24 year olds were favourable towards this type of rule.

So is this a young person thing? Maybe despite being liberal in many other domains young folk always think strongman or army rule is a decent option? As well as not really making intuitive sense, it also isn’t the case.

To be honest, I find the even the agreement level in the “good years” surprisingly high - and just look at the 2019 results! - but clearly something changed such that the younger folks still think relying on a single strong leader is a good way forward.

Likewise a pro army rule position has just gotten more and more popular over time, especially in younger cohorts.

Based on this admittedly fairly small time series, it doesn’t look to be a general age effect.

Some of the factors the report suggests are linked to this support for authoritarian rule include:

  • Socio-economic circumstances, with the least secure 20% of voters being more than twice as likely as the most secure to say that democracy is a bad way to govern the country.
  • Social connection, with people with more friends, or more diverse friend circles, being less likely to support authoritarian rule.
  • Political leanings, with socially conservative young people being much more likely than liberal folk to support the strong man or army rule.

A lot of that makes intuitive sense at least on the dislike of democracy side of things. If you live in a democracy and you have a particularly difficult life, why would you feel like it’s a good way to run things?

Thinking one form of rule is a good way to govern a country of course doesn’t rule out also thinking others are. For example, young people who report generally trusting other people are both more likely to support democracy than those who don’t, (81% vs 69%) but also more like to support strongman leaders (72% vs 51%). In fact a higher proportion of young people who say democracy is a good way to run the country also support the authoritarian methods of rule than those who don’t. Perhaps some people just think that there isn’t a good way to run a country?

The report authors believe that the drivers of general detachment that are leading to this and many other negative effects on young people can be summarised as being the narrowness of their social networks, overprotective parenting, the treadmill of modern work and the online culture.

Although in the interests of accuracy it seems like the official policy was only to lower the volume of the beeps.

Saving money on your electricity bill - which devices consume the most?

No UK resident can have missed the news that the cost of electricity to the consumer in the UK is going up and up, to truly unprecedented levels. The way it works over here is that the government issues a cap, which limits the maximum amount the energy supply companies can charge consumers. Perhaps I’ll look in more detail as to how this is calculated in future but to be extremely simplistic about it at present, the majority of the increase is down to the wholesale cost of energy to the supplier, which is presently very high. In fact a bunch of them went bankrupt last year.

A year ago the cap worked out at £1,277 for the average UK consumer. Earlier this year it had already painfully zoomed up to £1,971. In October, had it been worked out in the standard way, it would be not-far-off-doubled to £3,549.

The Government has tried to mitigate some of the obvious impending disaster by putting a “price guarantee” on it such that the average consumer will be paying £2,500. So a lot less than £3,549 thankfully, but still substantially more than it ever has been.

One thing to understand about the energy cap is that it is not…a cap. Or at least not an overall one. You will always pay more if you use more electricity. The quoted cap is on the cost it would be for an average consumer. This translates down to a cap on the standing cost and unit price. If you have a big or energy inefficient house you may well pay substantially more than £2,500. So even if you manage to save up enough money to pay the £2,500, you still shouldn’t go wild from a financial, let alone an environmental, point of view.

At the time of writing there are apparently no tariffs that are appreciably below the maximum permitted cost to switch to, per Martin Lewis. So most of the levers we can pull at an individual level are about cutting down on the usage of electricity. Not necessarily a bad thing for other reasons too, including environmental, if it can be done without impacting people’s wellbeing. But that’s a big and often unrealistic if.

Some people, myself included, are billed at a different cost in the day vs in the night, aka economy 7, in which case perhaps retiming your electricity consumption will help. Although it seems weirdly difficult to learn what counts as day or night unless your electric meter is labelled or you have a smart meter - it’s not the same for everyone. In the end I just asked my electricity supplier. And will attempt to do my washing after 10pm from here on in!

What devices should we focus on to reduce our electricity consumption and hence costs?

The general rule seems to be that most modern electronics don’t cost a whole lot - modern bulbs, LCD televisions, charging your phone etc. It’s not zero, so there’s a perhaps a little potential saving you can do there. But unfortunately the big deals tend to be appliances that relate to heating or eating, both of which are fairly essential.

Bloomberg had a nice chart which combined the energy consumption of the average device of a given type with the average usage time to show the cost. Now the actual costs shown on it will be a bit higher than reality I believe because the £2500 price guarantee hadn’t been announced when they published this - but still the “big circles are the expensive ones” idea holds.

The washing machine cost I understand to be highly dependent on the temperature of the wash. If you can wash at a lower temperature you’ll save electricity. I’ve started trying 30 degrees for everything.

All heating-related ones are clearly the big drain. With regards to saving on central heating itself, I’ve seen tips around the internet that concentrate on heating the people rather than the entire house if times are real tough. For instance you can see in the above that using electric blankets is way, way cheaper than central heating. I’ve also seen suggestions for hot water bottles.

To get a more precise personal estimate, there are also energy cost calculators, like sust-it where you can type in the energy consumption of your appliance and the time you want to use it for to get a cost estimate. It also has guides for specific types of appliances e.g. vacuum cleaners or microwaves. It also allows you to compare models of appliances based on energy efficiency if you’re in the market for something new.

How should I dry my clothes?

I used the general calculator to help me think about clothes drying on occasions we have too much laundry to hang around the house and the weather won’t allow the washing line to do the trick. I used Martin Lewis' estimate of 34p per kWh, found here.

Our washing machine also has drying functionality. Whilst I can find that the appliance is overall energy rating B, I can’t quickly figure out how to know what that means specifically for the dryer component in watts. I’d say it usually takes 1-2 hours to complete. The Bloomberg chart above suggested £1.95 per load. Trying to work backwards from Which’s figures for the cheapest washer dryer I get to about £1.21 (and I’m sure ours isn’t the cheapest.) This page suggests the average dryer is about 3000 kwH which for 1.5 hours would be £1.53. This site has says a tumble dryer cycle is 4.5 kWH, which would equate to the same.

We also have a dehumidifier that works reasonably well, but may need leaving on the entire day, let’s say 8 hours. It has two settings, I usually use the clothes drying option which I assume is the high one, 725W. That’s mean it’d cost £1.97. Using the lower one would knock it down to £1.14.

There are also heated drying racks out there. In the Sun’s rundown of “the best” ones, the one they prefer overall is 230W. It seems that there’s great variance in how long clothes take to dry on them, but let’s say it’d take between 5 and 10 hours. That’d imply a cost of 39p - 78p.

So from that I guess there’s not much benefit in using the dehumidifier for long periods over the tumble drying facility of the washing machine. The heated rack sounds a more economical option, except that I’d have to buy it in the first place.

The Black Mirror option

Seeing as in 2022 we continue to inhabit the Black Mirror Timeline there is of course one other option. Exploitation via light entertainment! Here’s a much shared clip of a phone-in TV contest gameshow where the top prize on offer was “we’ll pay your electricity bills for 4 months”, the concept of which was fairly condemned by many folk out there as entirely dystopian. There is a touch of one of the early Black Mirror episodes, Fifteen Million Merits, about it to be fair.

Started watching Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power 📺, the LOTR prequel Amazon created.

Probably the most expensive TV show ever, with season one costing an estimated $462 million, a number I cannot begin to get my head around the idea of spending on a TV show. For reference the most expensive season of Game of Thrones apparently cost $90m. To be fair, nobody really liked it, so maybe spending more is somehow required 🤷‍♂️.

In one of the stranger rituals following the Queen’s death, the Royal Beekeeper has been sent around the Palace’s 7 hives to inform 20,000 bees of their owner’s sad demise.

“You knock on each hive and say, ‘The mistress is dead, but don’t you go. Your master will be a good master to you.”

The Royal Beekeeper in action, as shown in The Mirror.

This comes from a ancient belief that if you don’t let the bees know that they’ve got a new owner then they’re going to stop producing honey.

Fairly understandably, this particular responsibility was apparently new news to the beekeper in question. Mr. Chapple, despite his long-standing tenure.

The official palace beekeeper has worked with the bees for 15 years but did not realise informing the bees was part of the job.