You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

I have a new piece in BBC Earth about saving coral reefs.

safe_image.php.png

I poured my heart and soul into this one. Once I started speaking to people who are intensively researching how to re-grow coral reefs, I couldn’t stop – there was so much more to the story than I imagined when I first pitched it.

The BBC asked for 500 words minimum.

I gave them 3,300.

And they published all of it.

Because it is just that important.

So, long before I dropped acid for Rolling Stone, took my clothes off for New Scientist, signed to the same agency as Stringer Bell or wrote a book about sex n’ drugs, I spent many years as a journalist specialising in environmental issues.

My degree is in zoology, and nothing inspires me more than the structure of living things. However, if you care about life on earth, you can’t just celebrate how cool it is – you have to shout from the rooftops about how imperiled it is.

From 2005 to 2010 I spent most of my time writing features for magazines and newspapers about climate change, the biodiversity crisis, developments in renewable energy, corporate lies, plastic pollution – everything that concerns how amazing life on earth is, and everything humanity is doing to destroy it as quickly as we can. I never would have stopped writing about ecological issues full time if the publishing industry hadn’t gone down the toilet. Once you’ve seen how terrible things are – and are aware of how easy the solutions would be if we would just get our fucking shit together – you can’t unsee it.

This spring BBC Earth asked me to write some features about my old friends climate change, the biodiversity crisis, and how cool life on earth is. Now, over the past 13 years, I’ve gotten very used to bad news. Very used to seeing every catastrophe that shocked me in 2005 just get worse… and worse… and worse. I’m not used to seeing anything that really gives me hope. Take the coral reef bleaching crisis: 16 per cent of the world’s tropical reefs died in 1998. In 2016 70 per cent of the world’s reefs were damaged. Now fully half the world’s reefs are gone. HALF. And we still just buy shit we don’t need and explore the deep ocean for more oil and gas.

So it’s not often I see anything that makes me feel optimistic.

Well, this spring I interviewed a chap named David Vaughan, and he didn’t just give me hope – he made me cry when he showed me brand new images of his coral reef gardens in Mexico before and after planting with his “microfragmentation” technique. I never in my life thought what he was doing was possible.In his own words:

“Normally it would take a single larvae several years to grow into a piece the size of a golf ball. But if you take a piece of coral the size of a golf ball and cut it into 20 pieces, each the size of a pencil eraser, those each grow into a golf-ball sized chunk in a few months instead of a few years. If they fuse together, you can create a coral head the size of a basketball in just two years – when normally it would take around 75 years. This is an absolute game changer.”

2fdbx0k80001000.png

Amazingly, there is no international body to oversee (let alone fund) coral reef restoration. So philanthropists have had to step in – most notably Paul Allen of Microsoft. Nice stuff. Best of all: regenerating corals with all the techniques I describe here is actually dirt cheap. We just need to get our shit together.

I’m still not convinced that humanity will get its shit together, that these amazing people will get the money they so urgently need.

But it’s bloody inspiring to see what can be done when we get our priorities straight.

Advertisements

Had a bastard good time interviewing Michael Pollan last night – thanks so much to my mates for coming out.

An audience member asked about the shift in book cover designs away from the tiresome fractals, mushrooms and paisley patterns of the past.

Please take a moment to view what I consider to be the worst psychedelic book cover of all time, The Scientist, by John Lilly. He started his career as a brilliant, promising biologist – and wound up spending all his time taking ketamine in isolation tanks talking to dolphins in his head. Enjoy.

35187058_10160593170480442_8549234494060625920_n.jpg

It’s not every day you get invited to interview one of your idols.

On June 12th I’ll be in conversation for a live audience with the legendary author Michael Pollan, whose books rocked my world as a teen.

He was one of the few writers who could describe how biological systems work with the kind of colour and life you’d see in any other genre.

Now he’s turned his attention to psychedelics for his new book, and I’m delighted to explore the subject with him.

What I wouldn’t give for my 19 year old self to see this.

I am reading a DELIGHTFUL book, A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell: How Drunks, Delinquents and Other Outcasts Made America. Pirates, prostitutes, pimps, homosexuals, shit-faced Irish dock workers. It’s a badass read, and a fantastic subversion of the great American myth: that the country has been shaped by Puritan values from the start. Nuh uh – noisy sexy drunken rebels were just as if not more important in creating the nuttiest nation on earth.

In a fantastic chapter on early Jewish immigrants, the author points out that Jews only became stereotyped as nerds in the 1930s onwards – prior to this, they were renowned for being the nation’s top athletes, musicians, and dancers.

This passage caught my eye and brought me great joy.

Jewish immigrants took over vaudeville theatre in the early twentieth century and made it into a celebration of unseemly pleasures. Most disturbing to the disciplinarians of the time was the dancing of female vaudeville performers – in particular the undulations of female dancers and the “tough dances” in which copulation was simulated.

There you have it folks: Jews invented twerking.

31755411_10160427137155442_7186300929904214016_o.jpg

All my Jewish friends: you’re welcome.

For more check out this magnificent podcast with the author.

It finally happened.

I got a tattoo.

08

For 15 years I have observed my friends get blind munted, come up with fantastic concepts, and have weird ideas inscribed indelibly in ink on their skin.

For EVER, my friends. Forever.

I have always resisted the temptation to use my body as a Post-It-Note…

Until today my friends. Until today.

Behold: my first tattoo.

Long story short: One leg is longer than the other, so I have a variety of problems with my foot/leg/hip on the right side.

Think what you like about acupuncture. Every single specialist I’ve ever seen picks two specific points on my right leg to prick, and it always does the trick.

02.jpg

 

Again: always the exact same two points.

My conclusions:

A) There’s clearly something to acupuncture,

and

B) Why can’t I do it to myself? I mean, it’s not open heart surgery, surely I can self-administer?

Initial idea: Two circles on one leg. There’s no reason I couldn’t make it f’ing cool. And after all, mummies are often found with tattoos marking their acupuncture points. It’s an ancient practice.

Result? Six tattoos. Six, my friends. Six.

Conversation:

Me: “Mum, sorry but I’m getting a tattoo.”

Martha (audibly in panic): “Surely your skin will move?! ARE YOU SURE THIS IS A GOOD IDEA.”

Me: “Look – I’ll ask my acupuncturist if it’s a bad idea, ok?”

Acupuncturist, Garry Trainer (who is a legend) – not only did he think it was an excellent idea, he suggested that instead of two points, I should get six.

 

04

 

Et, voila.

10

On this day of unusual snowfall in London, I am amused at how much people are whining about how COLD it is and worried about how DANGEROUS it is … when it’s a few inches of snow and just -1C.

But you know who isn’t whining? The city’s children. Because they know that snow is fun.

I am reminded of a day in February 2009, when I saw a bunch of teenagers building a giant penis out of snow.

3248383017_ee37fe815c_o

From my Flickr diary:

– – – – – –

All the kids got the day off school. I went for a park to see them enjoying the rarity of English snow.

Everywhere kids were making snow sculptures. I came across these teens –
who were putting waaay more effort into this thing than anyone else in the park.

Me: “So, how long have you guys been making your penis?”

“About an hour. And it’s not a penis, miss. It’s a slide. For kids.”

“Uh huh. Guys I wasn’t born yesterday.”

“Bruv, I can’t WAIT to see the slide get excited, innit.”

“Cute. I’ll catch you guys in a bit.”

I walked around the rest of the park and came back 20 minutes later.

“Man, so this is like the most snow you’ve ever seen in your lives, eh guys?”

“Yeah. You too?”

“Naw, I’m Canadian, this is nothing.”

“Aw shit, so your country must be FULL of huge penises!”

Cue applause, laughter.

“Have fun playing with your penis guys.”

“We will!”

3249218150_7df4b1fec6_o

– – – – – – –

British adults – don’t whine. Learn from the children. Get drunk, wrap up, and go make some naughty sculptures out of the snow. This only happens once in a while. If I don’t see a giant vulva on my lawn by lunchtime tomorrow, you’re all grounded.

3249220288_3b7d3dea9e_o.jpg

3248381637_81a1a9d1dc_o

Dear Santa, I know it’s been three weeks since Christmas, but can I have a belated present?

May I please have a crystal ball to tell me if the world is going to erupt in nuclear war or unlivable changes due to (take your pick) migration crises, climate change, economic meltdown, global war. I’d like to know now if I should bother with this whole “getting on the property ladder” malarky and all that, or if I should just pack in all my big projects and just spend the next decade having fun and helping the homeless.

Just don’t want to waste my time, you know?

Also, if I knew I wasn’t going to live to be old, I would totally get subwoofers installed on my headphones, as hearing loss would no longer be a concern, and I’d gorge on all the awful things that are bad for your body but oh, so lovely.

Love
Zoe

Last year I wrote a feature for the BBC about “pirate spiders”, which don’t make their own webs but prey on other spiders and then steal their webs (“little bastards” my friend Peter remarked).

One of the scientists just emailed to say they’ve discovered a new species of “intertidal” spider from tropical Queensland, which they have named after Bob Marley because his song “High Tide or Low Tide” inspired them as the spider lives in a “high tide low tide” habitat.

oo_176081.jpg

Charming or what. They even quote Bob in their actual abstract:

“None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Bob Marley, Redemption Song (1980).

https://evolsyst.pensoft.net/article/15735/

More scientists should be able to quote legendary musicians in academic papers. Just saying.

 

I’m finding it hard to contain the joy that this bit from Bojack Horseman has brought to my life.

Transcript:

Mr. Peanutbutter’s House [80s family sitcom] featured a pair of twins, Zoe and Zelda. Zelda was the sunny, fun-loving extrovert.

“Look at my pumpkin, Mr. Peanutbutter.”

“Pretty smile, Zelly-belly.”

Whereas Zoe was the smart, cynical introvert.

“My pumpkin’s throwing up because Halloween encourages excessive consumption of refined sugar at a time when obesity rates are sky high. Plus, Halloween costumes are a gateway to casual racism.”

“Why don’t I keep the knife, Zo-bo?”

Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 22.31.34

Not only does Zoe’s disdain for Hallowe’en align with my disdain for Christmas, as a kid I always made a pumpkin that was either throwing up or oozing brains out the top of its head from a lobotomy. Always with a frowny face, never smiling or scary. Always with a frowny face, never smiling or scary.

One year I took it up a notch and deliberately picked one that had a rotten patch, which I used to create leprotic sores all over my pumpkin’s face.

unnamed

unnamed-2

Also, people have been known to call me Zo Bo.

This alignment of brainwaves brings me no end of satisfaction.

So, my friend Alexander Parsonage and I were watching an episode of John Oliver about Putin and Trump’s love affair, and we were astounded at the number of parallels between Russia and America:

– egomaniacal uber-macho leaders
– imperialist ambitions
– romantic attachment to nukes
– domination of country by super-rich oligarchy (despite both nations claiming to be a land based on the concept of equality)
– love of busty blondes
– have produced some of the world’s most amazing culture – think Russian ballet, American Motown, Russian classical music, novels from both nations – but have also produced some of the trashiest forms of music and television in human history; utterly sublime crap

So we thought, why not have a party to see which is the craziest country on earth??

Alexander’s description for the Facebook page for the event:

– – – – – –

So America has moved on. It was a ‘Special Relationship’ we had for a while, but they’ve decided they need space to explore new sides of themselves. Let’s be blunt, they just like it more rough than we do… but isn’t it great that they’ve got a new playmate to experiment with their new human rights BDSM fetish? Sure, we’d all much rather they’d agreed on a safe word before they started, but I for one think we should be celebrating their new found companionship with the Russian Bear.

So assuming we haven’t been incinerated in WW3 by then, let’s have a night of US-Russian inspired fusion cooking, cocktails and satire watching. As an inspiration for fusion dishes to bring:

– Putine (sauerkraut topped poutine)
– Stroganoff loaded fries
– Borscht burger
– Deep fried chicken Kiev
– Loka-her-up (potato latka pancakes with bacon and maple syrup)
– Trumpplings

Obviously Moscow Mules, White Russians, Manhattans and vodka-bourbon chasers will all be encouraged.

Plus, the photo for the event:

24231887_10155998753192082_2528833673485157901_n

Essentially we made a feast of meaty American-Russian fusion food, loaded the bar with vodka and whisky, and ate, drank, and laughed ourselves stupid watching insane shit on Youtube. A perfect way to spend a cold January night if you ask me. I mean, if we’re all going to die imminently in a hailfire of nukes, we might as well be nicely sozzled to cushion the pain, and a bit fattened up to prepare for nuclear winter. M’I rite?

Behold our nuclear bunker comfort food:

IMG_9557

Putine. Technically this is a Canadian dish, but I allowed it because Canada is the only country between the US and Russia.

IMG_9558

Borscht Burgers, with ketchup made from beets and the patties made from pork, with sour cream (natch). Inspired.

IMG_9565

KFC Fried Chicken Kiev – proper chicken kiev deep fried with a spicy coating using the actual Colonel’s secret 11 herbs and spices (which were leaked last year).

Hats off to my mate Dan Garber of Record-Play for bringing the most bizarre food of the evening: pickled herring and microwaveable French fries.

unnamed-3

IMG_9556

And for creating a truly bizarre music playlist: a Spotify collection of songs containing the word “Russia” or “USSR” or “America”. There’s some great stuff on there – Back in the USSR being an obvious one – but a lot of fucking weird metal. It was a good prelude during cooking to get us in the right mood for twisted humour.

Hats off to our mate Janet for bringing what basically amounted to an entire bar (only bourbon and vodka based drinks allowed).

And of course Alex and my flatmate Gwynne for spending what must have been two hours with the deep fryer.

And an EXTRA SPECIAL thank you to my darling friend Neon Kelly for sending us a special message, as he couldn’t be there in person with his Russian impression, which I adore.

Also, I guess we should thank Putin for orchestrating a global takeover of the world by the Russian mafia and getting the Orange One into power. You sure pulled a fast one on us this time!

I could have spent like 36 hours just watching weird crap from the world’s batshit crazy superpowers and eating myself stupid.

For your interest, here are some of the weird things we decided to watch.

We kicked off the evening with a couple of the majestic Samantha Bee’s bits on Russian interference in American politics:

Samantha Bee on Russian Thinkfluencers

Full Frontal is Scared: Masha Geesen Edition

Then we moved into the weird, the wacky and the truly terrifying.

Soviet Anthem on Eight Floppy Drives

The Donald Trump Cheerleaders

Hugh Laurie’s Song For America

CNN: A look at the snake handlers of Appalacia

Dash Cam Russia

John Oliver on Nuclear Weapons

Borat – Throw the Jew Down the Well

Worker and Parasite!

Happy Together: Red Russian Army

One Like Putin (he has his own pop song didn’t you know)

Russian pop star Vitas

 

And many more.

Honestly, we really did only scratch the surface of insane crap to watch from both superpowers. This bears repeating.

 

Advertisements