Monday 30 October 2017

The benefits of storms

Thirty years after the Great Storm of 1987 - Britain's worst since 1703 - it is worth considering some of the benefits of storms. It is a topic I tackle in my book Storm: Nature and Culture.

The tempest brought down about 15 million trees in Britain, and in one place that had been badly hit, Toys Hill in Kent, the National Trust did an experiment. One area was cleared and replanted, while an other was left alone so nature could take its course. This one did better, producing a far wider variety of trees and flowers.

In the US, some scientists said that while storms like Sandy and 'Snowtober' also felled trees, they too brought an explosion of biodiversity in animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi. Another benefit claimed for storms is that native species tend to survive them better than imported ones.

Lightning can liberate nitrogen atoms in the air which fall to the earth with water and act as natural fertilisers. While fires started by strikes clear undergrowth and debris from woods, turning it into nutrients, and they allow sunlight and water to penetrate through to germinating seeds on the forest floor.

For more, see Storm: Nature and Culture, published by Reaktion Books.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Swansea's longevity record

During the 1980s, Swansea boasted the oldest man and the oldest woman in Britain. Anna Williams lived to 114, and John Evans to 112, having become the oldest man ever to be fitted with a pacemaker and astounding the doctors by being fit to go home three days later.

I was lucky enough to interview John Evans, and a remarkable man he was. He had spent six decades as a coalminer, and complained that he only stopped working at 73 because they 'threw him out'.

His full story is my new book Secrets of the Centenarians (Reaktion). Below is the article the South Wales Evening Post wrote about Welsh centenarians based on the book.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Is there a limit to human life? My piece in i Newspaper

The number of centenarians has increased spectacularly over the last six decades. Back in 1954, there was only about 200 in the UK. By 2014, the figure was more than 14,000.

But even though we see an increase in the number of people reaching 100, is maximum life span going to change? After all, Jeanne Calment remains the only human being known to have lived past 120. She died back in 1997, and her record seems in no immediate danger, as the oldest human alive today is 'only' 117.

Here is my piece in i Newspaper based on my book Secrets of the Centenarians.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Radio interviews on the history of storms and 'Storm: Nature and Culture'

Interviewed on Talk Radio Europe last week by Dave Hodgson about the history and future of storms, how storms changed history, climate change, global warming and my book: Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion).

Interview is in two parts. Part 1 is here

And this is part 2

Sunday 8 October 2017

'Secrets of the Centenarians' book signing + Lake Nyos disaster

Thank you to all who came to Waterstones, Camden High St for my talk and book signing. And thanks to Maxine Mawhinney for the photo.

Signed copies of Secrets of the Centenarians: What is it like to live for a century and who will survive to find out? (Reaktion Books) are still available at the store.

Meanwhile, El Espanol has written a piece based on my account of the Lake Nyos disaster from my book Historia mundial de los desastres (Turner Libros) which appeared in the UK as A Disastrous History of the World and in the US as Disaster!

By the way, El Espanol, thanks for the thought, but I'm not an Australian politician, so far as I know.

Friday 6 October 2017

How do you live to 100? FREE talk and book signing, TONIGHT London NW1

Book signing and free talk on Secrets of the Centenarians. What is it like to live for a Century and which of us will survive to find out? (Reaktion books) Waterstones, 128 Camden High St, London NW1 0LU tonight 1800-2000. Talk at about 1830.

All welcome!