On a day when a man in his 50s has been killed while riding a bicycle in Angus and a 10 year old boy has been airlifted to hospital after being knocked off his bike by a van driver in Aberdeenshire, I feel the need to write about why we need #PoP2014 more than ever.

First off, I should explain that #PoP2014 is short hand for the Pedal on Parliament (PoP) protest ride which will be taking place on the 26th April this year. The first PoP took place in 2012, and when we started planning it we thought that it would be a one-off event, but things didn’t work out that way. When we were planning the 1st PoP, we didn’t think that many people would actually turn up, how wrong we were. We were far from alone at being worried how vulnerable road users are treated and wanting this to change.

The PoP Manifesto takes an evidence based approach, inspired by the idea that a great city is not one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go everywhere safely (Enrique Peñalosa). Active travel is a great idea, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it is good for developing the sustainable local economies which much of Scotland needs, and it is healthy. Yet we have a Government which ignores all the evidence, which talks about making Scotland a modern Nordic nation, but then does the opposite. Far from learning from the Nordic Nations, such as Denmark’s green economy and Finland’s turn-around from being the sickest country in Europe (a title Scotland now holds) to being one of the most healthy. Successive Scottish (and British) administrations have treated roads deaths as being something beyond their control and refuse to take simple actions which could reduce the death rate. For this reason we have to stand up and make our voices heard, tell our elected representatives that it DOESN’T have to be this way. There are countries just across the North Sea which show that change is possible, and that this can lead to a better quality of life for all.

Please join us on the 26th April and show you care!

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This evening I saw the first bat of 2014, it was probably Pipistrellus pipistrellus or Pipistrellus pygmaeus (based on previous identifications). Interestingly this sighting is later the in the last two year, it was 26th March 2012 and 30th March 2009. Maybe I haven’t been looking out enough.

I take the bat sighting as sign of the coming summer, a couple of times recently I thought I heard swifts overhead, but have yet to see any so I can’t confirm their presence, just yet.

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The observant may notice that there is a wee banner saying I proudly support Earth Hour, and as I write it tells me that Earth Hour 2014 will start in 7 hours and 5 days. When Earth Hour arrives, between 20:30 – 21:30 (GMT) 29 March 2014, this blog will look something like this:

Earth Hour preview

Why, you might ask, am I doing this? Well the short answer is that I am joining millions of people across the world are switching off lights for one hour – to celebrate their commitment to the planet.

The longer answer is that it is a reminder that together we can make change happen, and it gives us a chance to think about the small things we can do everyday to help create a brighter future. And change is needed, currently we in the Anthropocene a geological epoch in which the human species is have a greater impact on the plant than any other group of organises since the rise of the cyanobacteria which formed the stromatolite about 3.5 billion years ago. They change the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, increasing the oxygen levels and so bringing about the rise of multicellular organisms. However, our current impacts is far less benign and could risk bringing about the collapse of the ecosystems which we all rely upon for life. For this reason we need to move to a more sustainable life styles, these need not be any less comfortable than the ones we currently lead, just different we just need to the drive and imagination to move on to the Sustainocene instead.

Remember Earth Hour is not about sitting, shivering in the dark (that is where we are going if we don’t make the change), it is about thinking about how to make the world a better place for all. For this reason I would urge you to sign up to Earth Hour and do the same.

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I have for some time now been plagued by e-mails claiming to come from Companies House, they generally say that there is a problem with web filing to Companies House. Now, as happens at the time when I first received one of these e-mail I was about the time one of the companies I am a director of was filing it’s annual report with Companies House. At first glance the e-mail looked plausible (there is a sample below) and it had come to an e-mail address which I use for company business, but something just did feel right about it.

First: it doesn’t mention the name of the company which is it supposedly referring to, just a submission number, real e-mails from Companies House always have the name of the company they are about in them.

Second: it had an attached zip file, which is odd because on the Companies House website where you can make your companies annual return by web filing, it says that you can download a pdf of the report. Confirmation e-mails from Companies House never have attachments.

Thirdly: while I am a director, I wasn’t the Company Secretary, and I would expect the Companies House to communicate with the Company Secretary in the first instance.

Fourthly: all the companies of which I am a member of the board, are registered in Scotland. Therefore, I would expect any correspondence in connection with these companies to use Companies House Edinburgh address.

Here is the test of the latest version e-mail, which I received this morning:

The submission number is: 2768706

For more details please check attached file.

Please quote this number in any communications with Companies House.

All Web Filed documents are available to view / download for 10 days after their original submission. However it is not possible to view copies of accounts that were downloaded as templates.

Companies House Executive Agency may use information it holds to prevent and detect fraud. We may also share such information, for the same purpose,
with other Organizations that handle public funds.

If you have any queries please contact the Companies House Contact Centre on +44 (0)303 1234 500 or email enquiries@companies-house.gov.uK

Note: This email was sent from a notification-only email address which cannot accept incoming email. Please do not reply directly to this message.

Companies House
4 Abbey Orchard Street
Westminster
London
SW1P 2HT
Tel +44 (0)303 1234 500

 

My suspicions aroused, I took a look at the full header of the email which immediately confirmed my suspicions, the return address and the message ID which not for Companies House, so it was obviously spam. I then decided to take Companies House advice on dealing with unsolicited/phishing e-mail, forwarding a copy of the offending e-mail to phishing@companieshouse.gov.uk as they suggest. This resulted in an immediate e-mail from my own system telling me that it had “received a message, apparently originating from you, which contains the “Mal/DrodZp-A” virus/malware. This message has not been delivered onwards to the recipients.” This was obviously caused by the attached zip file which had aroused my suspicions in the first place.

The lesson of this story is be wary of unexpected e-mails from Companies House, even if they look genuine, don’t open attachments or follow links in the body of the e-mail until you have checked that it is actually from the sender which claims to have come from. As a last line of defence always make sure that your anti virus software is up to date.

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has produced yet another report on climate change. The report states clearly that, based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening. When I first started at university almost 20 years ago, the nature of climate change was a live debate. However by the late 1990′s, when I graduated, the evidence had become overwhelming and the debate was settled. Since that time, more and more evidence has accumulated, but the policy makers have stopped listening, as we hurtle towards the cliff edge. NOW really is the time to put the brakes on climate change before it is too late…

For the record, I have a BSc in Ecological Science at The University of Edinburgh and an MPhil in Plant Ecology, my thesis was on the potential affects of climate change on mountain vegetation in Scotland, so I am in a position to know what I am talking about.

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