AIR MAIL Pilot suspects—and hopes!—that most of our readers are concerned about climate change. But how far would you go to help save the planet?
Last weekend in London, one very committed young activist went as far as gluing his hand to a microphone while giving a live radio interview. Nathan McGovern, 22, is a leading member of Just Stop Oil, a British group fighting to do exactly what the name says. Since last week, its protestors have been blockading and occupying oil terminals across England in an effort to disrupt oil and gas supplies while demanding the British government halt any new fossil fuel projects. Hundreds have been arrested.
Sunday, McGovern was on air as a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil with Tom Swarbrick, a presenter (that’s British for “host”) on the talk radio station LBC. With the two men sitting across from each other in a studio, McGovern began squirting a tube of glue into his left palm while accusing Swarbrick of not using his “massive platform” to warn listeners about climate change.
In fairness, Swarbrick sort of was using his platform that way, by having McGovern on in the first place. But the activist then clamped his gluey left hand onto his microphone. “People like you,” he told the presenter, “are giving as much a death sentence to your viewers as our government is, as the fossil fuel companies are.”
Swarbrick had to explain what was going on to the radio audience: “For those of you listening wondering what the banging on the microphone was, Mr. McGovern has apparently—is that glue? You seem to have glued yourself to the microphone … so that’s fantastic.”
“Absolutely,” McGovern responded, his tone angry but measured. “If you’re not going to use the microphone for the people of this country, for the people all around the world, to let them know what’s happening to their lives, right now, someone else will.”
Swarbrick might have expected that his guest would be up to something. Last year, McGovern was arrested for occupying a London McDonald’s while demanding that the fast food chain switch to an entirely plant-based menu. And only a few weeks ago, he and other Just Stop Oil members disrupted a Premier League match (that’s soccer, or “football,” as most of the rest of the world calls it) by running onto the pitch and attempting to tie themselves to a goal.
That last action had a silver lining for McGovern, a student at King’s College London when he’s not getting arrested. “I genuinely enjoyed the [match’s] first half, it was a really good half of football,” he explained to The Independent, adding, “I’m a massive football fan.” In his view, that was partly the point of the protest: “We’re not just this bunch of ‘we-don’t-shower’ eco-warriors who live off in the woods somewhere. We’re ordinary people, like the people who go to football.”
Meanwhile, it is unclear from reports in the British press how—or even whether—McGovern was detached from the microphone, but Swarbrick ended up finishing his broadcast from another studio. Does gluing your hand to a mic seem like a silly way to protest? That’s what AIR MAIL Pilot thought at first. But we’re writing about it and you’re reading about it, so it clearly served McGovern’s purpose. —Bruce Handy
AIR MAIL Pilot doesn’t need to tell you that cow farts are bad. The reason—namely, their not-so-pleasant smell—is pretty obvious. But there’s an even bigger reason: gaseous particles released from cows’ bottoms contain a compound called methane, which in large quantities can be very bad for climate change. In fact, because there are so many cows in the world, the methane in cow farts contributes pretty significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions.
But this may all change soon. Genus, the genetics company that bred the record-breaking Holstein bull (he apparently is a father of 100,000 calves), is teaming up with the dairy service provider National Milk Records (N.M.R.) to genetically engineer a new kind of climate-friendly cow. It’ll be called the “envirocow.” And it will fart less.
The science behind the “envirocow” is fairly simple. All farmers will have to do is perform a quick genetic test on their female cows. The samples will then be sent to Genus and N.M.R. for processing, and then to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, which will grade each cow by its likely environmental impact. Once they get the scores back, farmers will know which cow they should breed.
“Generally, cows with the best environmental footprint are very often the most productive, fertile, and healthy cows anyway,” Andy Warne, the managing director of N.M.R., told The Times of London.
The positive effects of the “envirocows” won’t be immediately visible. It’ll be the grandchildren of the first breeds that finally stop breaking wind. But scientists are confident that in the next 20 years, bovine-related greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by 20 percent as a result of this initiative.
Scientists do warn that even envirocows should expect some fart flare-ups from time to time. Nobody’s perfect. —Elena Clavarino
Most 16-year-olds spend their summers playing sports, lazing about with friends, or getting a taste for the nine-to-five. But Beth McKenzie isn’t like most 16-year-olds. Last June, Beth underwent an eight-hour surgery at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, Scotland, to remove a brain tumor the “size of an orange” and surrounded by “a lot of important blood vessels,” according to the hospital’s consulting neurosurgeon.
Last summer, suffering from pain behind her eyes and headaches so severe she would vomit, Beth booked an emergency appointment with her doctor. From there she was rushed into the I.C.U. and put under the care of a local pediatric neurosurgeon, Roddy O’Kane.
Beth’s was a diagnosis no parent or child ever wants to receive, and one that was made all the more poignant because Beth’s grandmother died from cancer. Clare, Beth’s mother, described to The Scotsman newspaper how she was “so worried” after receiving the diagnosis. “My mum had a brain tumor when I was 22,” she said. “It was a secondary cancer and she had it removed. But doctors couldn’t find the primary and she died. It all came flooding back.”
Beth showed unfathomable bravery leading up to the operation, and wrote a note to Dr. O’Kane saying, “Thank you for doing everything you can, and if I didn’t make it in the end, thank you for trying. It’s not your fault. These things just happen.”
Luckily, the surgery was successful and the tumor removed. What’s more, the post-op tests showed that the tumor was non-malignant.
When Beth and her family were given the final all-clear, the teenager told The Scotsman that she “felt how you might feel if you were drowning and someone pulled you up, that first breath you gasp in. It was relief. I was so happy.”
Beth hasn’t let the trauma hold her back. Less than a year after undergoing surgery, she is now about to take her Highers, the Scottish equivalent of Advanced Placement exams for students aiming for one of the U.K’s top universities.
Dr. O’Kane, meanwhile, still carries the note Beth wrote him in his wallet today. —Bridget Arsenault