Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

Its important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. Im going to tell you that libraries are important. Im going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Im going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

And I am biased, obviously and enormously: Im an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living through my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.

So Im biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.

And Im here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.

And its that change, and that act of reading that Im here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What its good for.

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldnt read. And certainly couldnt read for pleasure.

Its not one to one: you cant say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.

Fiction has two uses. Firstly, its a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if its hard, because someones in trouble and you have to know how its all going to end thats a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, youre on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

I dont think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of childrens books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. Ive seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.

Enid
No such thing as a bad writer… Enid Blytons Famous Five. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

Its tosh. Its snobbery and its foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isnt hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a childs love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian improving literature. Youll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. (Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen Kings Carrie, saying if you liked those youll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen Kings name is mentioned.)

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. Youre being someone else, and when you return to your own world, youre going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

Youre also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And its this:

The world doesnt have to be like this. Things can be different.

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

Its simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere youve never been. Once youve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

And while were on the subject, Id like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if its a bad thing. As if escapist fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldnt you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.

Tolkien's
Tolkiens illustration of Bilbos home, Bag End. Photograph: HarperCollins

Another way to destroy a childs love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. I had the kind of parents who could be persuaded to drop me off in the library on their way to work in summer holidays, and the kind of librarians who did not mind a small, unaccompanied boy heading back into the childrens library every morning and working his way through the card catalogue, looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives or witches or wonders. And when I had finished reading the childrens library I began on the adult books.

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader nothing less or more which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, weve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. Thats about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.

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Photograph: Alamy

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. Its a community space. Its a place of safety, a haven from the world. Its a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.

Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.

According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account.

Or to put it another way, our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce.

Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.

I think we have responsibilities to the future. Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us as readers, as writers, as citizens have obligations. I thought Id try and spell out some of these obligations here.

I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.

We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.

We writers and especially writers for children, but all writers have an obligation to our readers: its the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves.

We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we ve lessened our own future and diminished theirs.

We all adults and children, writers and readers have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. Im going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. Its this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.

We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world weve shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.

We have an obligation to tell our politicians what we want, to vote against politicians of whatever party who do not understand the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens, who do not want to act to preserve and protect knowledge and encourage literacy. This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of common humanity.

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. If you want your children to be intelligent, he said, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

This is an edited version of Neil Gaimans lecture for the Reading Agency, delivered on Monday October 14 at the Barbican in London. The Reading Agencys annual lecture series was initiated in 2012 as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

Couple Asks Internet To Photoshop Out Shirtless Guy From Engagement Photo, Regrets It Immediately

You would think that by now people wouldn’t ask the whole Internet for help with photoshopping. Yet they still do…

This time, a couple asked the Internet to photoshop a shirtless man out of their engagement pic. But the Internet did what they always do when they get a photoshop request… They hilariously trolled the couple and the results are absolutely hilarious! Keep on scrolling to check them out and feel free to add your own pics to the list.

If you enjoyed this article, also check out this photoshop troll who takes his photo requests too literally.

Update: we were contacted by a friend of this couple and turns out it was not an engagement photo. However, the couple is now getting married and want to invite the guy that ruined their pic to their wedding! If you know this guy please contact us!

(h/t)

World’s New Longest Insect Is The Length Of Your Arm

Chinese state media revealed today that a museum has actually reproduced the world’ s longest bug.

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Although a stick bug by name, this thing is almost a branch. The slender female steps in at a length of 64 centimeters (25 inches).

This person is the offspring of the previous record holder , a 62.4-centimeter (24.5 inches) stick insect discovered 3 years back throughout a field assessment in the southern province of Guangxi. It ended up, this person was really a formerly unidentified types, now called Phryganistria chinensis. This types comes from the Phasmatidae household, that includes an entire host of fantastic and unusual stick bugs consisting of much of the biggest and longest.

” I was gathering pests on a 1,200-meter [3,937 foot] high mountain in Guangxi’s Liuzhou City [when] a dark shadow appeared in the range, which appeared like a tree branch,” the bug’ s innovator, Zhao Li, informed Xinhua News Agency at the time. “As I went near, I was surprised to discover the substantial pest’s legs were as long as its body.”

Before this, the lengthiest bug was a 56.7 centimeter (22.3 inch) long stick bug , called, Phobaeticus chani, found in 2008 and now on display screen at London’s Natural History Museum. Simply 3 specimens of this bug have actually been discovered up until now, all from the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

This most current record-breaking bug was synthetically reproduced at the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC), the biggest insect museum in Asia, discovered near Dujiangyan city in Sichuan Province.

“ The biggest pest is now a specimen at the IMWC, ” inning accordance with Xinhua News Agency. Most likely, this indicates it’ s now dead and on screen at the museum. It’s reasonable to state this bug attained a lot throughout its life.

There are over 3,000 recognized types of stick pest however hardly any is learnt about these super-sized stick bugs. Researchers aren’ t even too sure where a number of them live. No doubt, this is mainly thanks to their remarkably great camouflage.

Funnily enough, the ” initially understood stick bug” was discovered fossilized in north-east China. Going back from over 126 million years earlier, this animal is among the earliest examples of an insect simulating a plant for the function of camouflage.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/worlds-new-longest-insect-is-the-length-of-your-arm/

Tanzania’s ghost safari: how western aid contributed to the decline of a wildlife haven

International projects helped turn a rich and fertile Tanzanian valley into vast tracts of farmland, teak forests and sugar plantations

The long road from Dar es Salaam brings you through sparsely wooded hills and fields to the narrow northern neck of the Kilombero valley. Theres a bend in the road, then the land opens out, suddenly, in front of you.

Along the west side lie the steep-faced Udzungwa mountains, one of the last pristine rainforests in Tanzania. The Kilombero river runs through the red soils of the valley, flooding in November or December and subsiding by June. Down the longer eastern flank rise the Mahenge mountains, and beyond them, invisible, unfurls the vast territory of the Selous game reserve, one of the largest remaining chunks of African wilderness.

Ryan Shallom was 16 the first time he saw the Kilombero valley, in 1990. There were 600 lions in the valley back then, recalls Shallom, whose family were professional hunters, running trips for tourists and rich Tanzanians. The light tree cover in the valleys higher ground, the rivers, the abundance of food and water, meant that this was a haven not just for elephants, lions, and buffalos, but for all wildlife: a pocket Eden.

Kilombero valley map

We used to see herds of 100 elephants or more, buffalo in all directions There was the worlds largest population of puku antelope, about 60,000. I think 75% of the worlds population of puku were in Kilombero.

But from the mid 90s, the wildlife began to disappear. In 1998, elephant numbers in the valley were over 5,000, according to data collected by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute. Now elephants are rarely seen. The lions have gone too, although there are rumours that there is one male lion left. The puku are vanishing: Shallom estimates their numbers have fallen to just over a thousand. The crocodiles, hippos, and zebra, have all more or less vanished.

We call it the ghost safari now, says scientist turned safari-man Roy Hinde. Its devastating.

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Ryan Shallom remembers a time when there were 600 lions in the Kilombero valley. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/the Guardian

A history of aid in Kilombero valley

For many years Kilombero valley defied change. Tribes such as the Pogoro, the Ndamba-Mbunga, the Hehe and the Ngindo had lived there for centuries or frequently travelled through. From 1800 onwards the Europeans first Germans, then after the first world war, British started to arrive, eyeing up the fertile soil and making enormous plans. But somehow their plans kept falling through.

A few years after Julius Nyerere became president of an independent Tanganyika in 1961, a British survey hypothesised complete control of the flooding in the valley to free a vast area for irrigation. But it would never happen. Nyerere did not like western foreign investors, although help from communist China was acceptable. The majority of farmers in the valley then were small-scale tribal farmers about 64,000 or thereabouts. The foreigners, meanwhile, came and went. Over and over again foreign dreams a sugar plantation, a rice farm, a railway withered and died in the valley.

But in 1985 Nyerere stepped down. The new government set about the task of opening up to foreign investors once again. Kilomberos magic trick was about to come to an end.

In the 90s, the decade that Shallom and Hinde both arrived in the valley for the first time, the rice plantation and the sugar plantation were already in place, but they were sluggish, half-abandoned, state-propped up enterprises. Parts of the plantations were being used by farmers from the valley, while others were being reclaimed slowly by the forest. Farmers speckled the rest of the valley but mostly it was a little oasis, far away from the 20th century.

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A photo taken by Shallom in the mid-90s, when elephants regularly walked through his land. Photograph: Ryan Shallom/Sophie Tremblay/the Guardian

The encroachment started in the mid 90s when the cattle started moving in, says Shallom. Tanzania, like other African countries, was experiencing a rapid growth in livestock a profitable, moveable way to store capital at a time when demand for meat, both on the continent and in the rest of the world, was beginning to explode. Pastoralist tribes in Tanzania particularly the Sukuma began to move into the valley in ever larger numbers, bringing large herds of their distinctive long-horned cattle.

A teak plantation followed, funded by British aid money in the form of the Commonwealth Development Company (now known as CDC). Over the next few years it would take over 28,000 hectares (69,189 acres), and become the largest teak farm in Africa.

In 1998, the Tanzanian government sold the sugar plantation to Illovo, Africas biggest sugar company, now owned by the mega-corp Associated British Foods which continued an outgrower programme that was being tried out. There were already farmers moving into the area, but the outgrower system would turbo-charge the in-migration. The main plantation supported small-scale farmers by buying their crops at a set pre-agreed price: in some cases out-growers got training and support, and had a ready market for their crops. The model caught on fast and by 2002 there were about 3,300 outgrowers; by 2006 that number had swollen to nearly 6,000.

Finally buyers were found for the rice plantation; another international consortium involving Agrica, another British-based company. This too began an outgrower programme which was as popular as the one up the valley. Within a few years the plantation was dealing with 480 or more outgrowers.

The Tanzanian government was supportive of the growth and appeared to be supportive of the investors (although there would be clashes too). In 2009 the government announced their Kilimo Kwanza initiative Agriculture First which would prioritise the transformation and growth of the countrys agricultural sector. And in 2010, the then Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete went to the World Economic Forum to pitch his country for investment, positing a new model for sustainable agricultural development based on the Kilombero outgrower model; clusters of agribusiness which incorporated small-scale farmers. Sagcot the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania was born and the investors loved it. USAid promised $2m on the spot.

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An aerial view at the base of the Udzungwa mountains, where the farmland runs up against the forest. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

Aid money and international funds came rolling in. A bewildering network of initiatives and partnerships between business and the international sector (Feed the future, the New Alliance, the New Vision for Agriculture Initiative, the Grow Africa Partnership) was either setting up or already in place and focusing on Africa, and Tanzania and Kilombero were perfect candidates. British and Norwegian aid money went to the rice plantation. World Bank money went to the teak plantation. USAid came in to rehabilitate roads, build bridges and generally slosh cash around. Thanks to the west, thanks to aid, it was boomtime in the valley.

The population, meanwhile, grew rapidly. All you needed to do to set up a farm, after all, was to get permission from the local village and pay them a small fee, and then clear an area and get cracking. Nearby were readymade markets for your produce. The valley was beautiful, the land welcoming and fertile. It is hardly surprising that between 1964 and 2015 the valleys population rose from 56,000 to more than half a million.

What about the wildlife?

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Baboons still live in the valley. One farm at least employs a boy with a catapult to keep them out of the crops. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

We tried to get people interested, says Shallom. For years we shouted and screamed and did everything we could to get someone to pay attention. We suggested that the valley should be aggregated into the Selous reserve. We talked to the newspapers, to local government officials, to everyone we could get hold of. But no one was interested.

The valley was being radically transformed. The miombo forest, the open plains, were disappearing as the small farms and the big farms encroached. Every day more of the valley floor was covered with miles of sugar and rice plantation, or with the monocultural teak forests.

The difference is startling. Miombo forest is a mixture of high trees, evergreens, shrubs, flowers, creepers and undergrowth. You can actually hear the density of life here; the low throb of bees, a whine of other insects, the calls of the doves and the shrikes.

Teak is entirely different. The trees are slender, elegant, reaching up to 150ft when mature. The leaves are huge, simple, obtuse in shape with undivided blades; they are thick and slightly sandpapery to the touch. When they fall on the ground, Hinde says, they kill undergrowth. You cant grow anything beneath teak trees. The empty ground beneath the trees, which grow in neat and unnerving lines, means that in this forest it is nearly silent. We spot a solitary buffalo spider, and a few butterflies.

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An aerial view of the teak plantation in the valley. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

I talked to the teak company about building wildlife corridors, says Hinde, who monitored the impacts for the conservation NGO Frontier. Hed come to the valley as a young scientist, but had given up in frustration by the time he spoke to the Guardian, and started his own safari company, Wild Things, hoping to instead spur action by bringing people to see the incredible wildlife. They did make a number of changes to make the plantations more wildlife friendly. Measures included setting aside large areas for conservation and breaking up the teak zones in order to help out wildlife. But the corridors they built were too narrow. Villagers would put pitfall traps in them and the elephants would go in feet-first and be trapped for their meat and for their ivory.

Pressure on the wildlife was also coming from the rising population. There has been a massive increase in smallholder farming (predominantly rice) and nomadic cattle herding, says KVTC head Hans Lemm. Pastoralists have entered the valley in significant numbers since the early 2000s.

The old tribes would eat fish, according to Father Klimakus Chahali, who grew up in the valley, and now runs the mission in the town of Itete. They didnt cut down trees. Rumours abounded that some of the new arrivals in the valley had a less friendly attitude to wildlife, and were killing the lions in the valley to protect their livestock. One year, says Shallom, I found 22 lion carcasses. They were poisoning them with pesticides. Bushmeat consumption and poaching rose too: We knew there were cartels operating in the valley but again no one wanted to know.

Other conservationists tried to sound the alarm along with Hinde and Shallom. Trevor Jones of the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (Step) was one of the most effective; his 2007 map of the wildlife corridors in the valley along with his warnings that they would shortly be shut made it into a number of environmental assessments, including USAIDs. It has been very sad to see all the overgrazing and conversion to farmland of wildlife habitat in the Kilombero valley over the last decade, says Jones.

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A giant footprint up in the north of the valley shows a last remaining spot where elephants still sometimes come out of the forest to nibble at the edges of the sugar plantation. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

Anna Estes, a conservationist working in the north of the country, says: The main threat to elephants overall is not big agriculture, but unofficial development from subsistence farmers. 80% of farming in Tanzania is small-scale subsistence farming. Because it is unplanned, this causes a lot of damage to elephant habitat. Aside from the immediate threat from poaching, habitat loss is the number one threat to elephants these days, and human-elephant conflict is an extension of that. The outgrower programme if inadvertently magnified that effect tenfold.

Today farms completely line the road that lies along the west of the valley. A brand new road is planned that will lead from Ifakara, in the centre, along down the east side beside the Selous. Everywhere you look, there are blackened stumps and cleared land, marking the new arrivals creating new farms. Forests that were here a year ago have disappeared. New farms have sprung up in their place.

In a cafe in one village they tell us that most people here have arrived in the last few years; the man in charge only moved here two years ago. Has he ever seen or heard of elephants in the area? He shakes his head. No.

****

So how did government and aid money end up being used to help fund the destruction of a wildlife haven?

I work more and more with the World Bank or the African Development Bank, says scientist Holly Dublin, and I see what their plans and what they are giving loans for to these governments. It is like theres a total disconnect. So what you are going to see is that of course, elephants come last. In fact, anything to do with wildlife comes last.

It wasnt that the big donors were unaware of the risks. The World Bank did 320 pages of assessment on Sagcot [pdf] with a specific case study on Kilombero. They highlighted the high risk from accelerated agribusiness investment noting possible increasing pressure on the forests and their biodiversity. There was some discontent at the World Bank around the project, says Doug Hertzler of ActionAid, who has closely followed the impacts of the Tanzanian agricultural plans. For a long time the funding was held up because of the concerns. They hesitated and dragged their feet but in the end the money went through.

Kilombero
7 North Ruipa IMG 2807 Lions, elephants and hippos have all vanished from Kilombero valley, Tanzania, after UK and US funded projects helped turn a once-thriving habitat into vast tracts of farmland, teak, and sugar plantations Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

It was a similar story with the US aid agency, USAID, who noted in their own extensive report that Kilombero Valley Floodplain is of global, national, regional and local importance in terms of its ecology and biodiversity and added that the most important direct threat to biodiversity comes in the form of the conversion, loss, degradation, and fragmentation of natural ecosystems. But they went in nonetheless, and their work can be seen all over the valley including the rehabilitation of a road that runs straight through the heart of the Ruipa wildlife corridor and which will, undoubtedly bring more traffic.

A USAID spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania said they were working to help Tanzania improve its environmental performance. Asked if economic development was incompatible with that, he said: It is a problem and were very conscious of it … When were looking at doing a project were looking for that balance between environmental issues and sustainable living. Its a juggling act and were always looking for new ideas.

UK money went in too, in the form of a grant to the rice plantation and support for SAGCOT (they had also been key funders of the teak plantation). They told the Guardian: DFIDs support to developing agriculture in Tanzania is vital for maintaining a stable supply of food, creating jobs and improving prosperity for hundreds of thousands of households. All our agriculture programmes are environmentally sustainable, and protect wildlife and biodiversity, while helping the poorest people lift themselves and their families out of poverty for good. But they also point out, very reasonably, that trade and job creation are the means through which developing countries will become self-sufficient, eliminate poverty and hunger, and end their dependency on aid to help Tanzania stand on its own two feet.

I dont know that development banks can be blamed for not taking into account wildlife, says Dublin. They take into account the health needs, the food needs, the water needs So the fact that they have done their land use planning and the government and the guys who have responsibility for wildlife have not stepped up to the plate in that, I think you have to be careful how you tell that story. When a development agency gives a loan to expand a food project, that is what they are supposed to be doing. That is their job.

The companies in the valley all worry about this too and have all employed their own techniques to try to stem the losses. The rice plantation has run education courses on modern agricultural techniques in order to help local people grow more rice in a smaller area; the teak plantation, in some places, has alternated teak and miombo to try to give the wildlife some space. The sugar plantation is trying to build up a forest area in one part of in the north of the valley where elephants are still sometimes seen, so that the elephants will continue to pass that way without stumbling into the plantations (a beehive fence to keep them in the forest has been strung along one point). But they agree that the problem is just getting worse. As KVTC head Lemm says: We have seen a significant reduction in wildlife. In particular large mammals and the various wildlife corridors that we are part of are under severe pressure.

The Tanzanian government has other priorities. Growth is, of course, prioritised over biodiversity. Julius Nyerere once said I personally am not very interested in animals. I do not want to spend holidays watching crocodiles. Nevertheless, I am entirely in favour of their survival. I talk to heads of state about this all the time, says Kaddu Sebunya, head of the African Wildlife Foundation. One president said to me. Ive never had a voter ask me for more elephants or more natural parks. They want hospitals, education, and thats what keeps him awake at night.

Smallholder
Smallholder farmers and pastoralists have moved in huge numbers to the valley, cutting down forest as they go. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

Scientists are warning that a mass species extinction is already underway. Agriculture is one of the most serious threats to the planets biodiversity, and the demand for food and agricultural land is only going to grow. In Kilombero Valley the World Bank predicts that the demand for agricultural land will almost double in the coming 20 years, with a large increase for rice and maize and a smaller increase for sugarcane. Globally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that an extra 1.2m hevtares of land will be needed for agriculture by 2050. Much of the suitable land not yet in use is concentrated in a few countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, says the FAO report. It makes no reference to biodiversity, but does mention that part of the land is forested, protected or subject to expanding urban settlements.

We have to be pragmatic, and agree to lose something, says Kaddu. The Africa Wildlife Foundation tries to explain to governments and businesses that they need an ecosystem that functions. If you want to continue getting water for agriculture, you need to maintain a landscape that produces rain. But the truth is that we cant have it all. Africa is going to lose wildlife. We are going to have to negotiate. We are going to have to lose a few elephants. Conservationists in Tanzania are working on dozens of initiatives to improve, or at least slow the decline in the biodiversity of Kilombero valley.

Shallom is less sanguine. After years of battling with the state, he shut down his hunting lodge and left the valley. For a while he just gave it all up and let his business fall away; he admits that for the last few years he has struggled. Now he has two new concessions in the Selous; for the first time in the conversation his face lights up as he talks about building up the wildlife there again. But the happiness disappears when we go back to the subject of the valley. Ive seen Kilombero from its best to its worst, he says. To me it is a closed chapter, a very bitter pill I had to swallow. Kilombero is done now. Its over.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/13/tanzanias-ghost-safari-how-western-aid-contributed-to-the-decline-of-a-wildlife-haven

Charlottesville: far-right crowd with torches encircles counter-protest group

People collecting to oppose Unite the Right presentation state they were struck with pepper spray and lighter fluid in clash on University of Virginia school

Hundreds of reactionary demonstrators wielded torches as they progressed to the University of Virginia school in Charlottesville on Friday night and apparently assaulted a much smaller sized group of counter-protesters who had actually connected arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Starting at a community park less than a mile away, alt-right protesters who have actually collected for the weekend Unite the Right rally marched in a long column over the brief range to the school, shouting mottos like You will not change us and Blood and soil. When the marchers reached and surrounded the counter-protesters there was a brief spoken conflict, #peeee

. Counter-protesters stated they were then assaulted with swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid.

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Emily Gorcenski was amongst the protesters who stated they were struck with the mace spray. [They] totally surrounded us and wouldnt let us out.

She stated authorities did not step in till long after the rightwing marchers had actually set out at protesters. I saw numerous individuals shouting Nazi mottos and authorities not do anything.

Goresnki shared a number of live videos of the occasion.

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Charlottesville cops did not react instantly to ask for remark.

Two male protesters who stated they were likewise maced, and did not want to be called, explained reactionary protesters moving from spoken abuse, to pressing and pushing protesters, to the poisonous spray.

Someone from the alt right maced me ideal in the face unprovoked, stated one. After they maced individuals they began punching individuals and striking them with torches. A number of protesters stated a lady utilizing a wheelchair was amongst those sprayed.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt="A"guy is assisted after being struck in
the confront with pepper spray.” src =”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0cc96343301f33a32c3a98efc46d36f243793883/0_187_3000_1800/master/3000.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=fc0cf044f9432482402bc7abd10e8786″/&gt; A male is assisted after being struck in the confront with pepper spray. Picture: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Just up the street from the fracas, a neighborhood prayer conference was kept in St Pauls memorial church, dealt with by a number of preachers consisting of popular civil liberties leader Dr Cornel West. Completion of the service overlapped with the torch parade and many individuals waited on extended periods prior to leaving mentioning security issues.

In an interview, West stated: The crypto-fascists, the neofascists, the neo-Nazis now feel so empowered, not simply by Trump however by the entire shift in the country to scapegoats.

I do not like this speak about alt-right, thats an unneeded abstraction. These are neofascists in modern clothes.

On Saturday the little college city will deal with down a complete scale Unite the Right rally, which is anticipated to be the nations biggest in a years.

Far-right tracking groups approximate that in between 500 and 1,000 individuals and 30 popular speakers and groups will come down on the downtown location for the Saturday afternoon occasion, arranged by regional rightwing activist and previous Daily Caller author Jason Kessler.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/12/charlottesville-far-right-crowd-with-torches-encircles-counter-protest-group

Why we fell for clean eating

The long read: The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it

In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. Not cool was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a wellness blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram (where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day cleanse programme a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.

But the clean diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its creator sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect. Youngers raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and given her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she consumed (the only carbohydrates she permitted herself). Eventually, she sought psychological help, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to eat, starting with fish. She recognised that the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.

As Younger slowly recovered from her eating disorder, she faced a new dilemma. What would people think, she agonised, if they knew the Blonde Vegan was eating fish? She levelled with her followers in a blogpost entitled Why Im Transitioning Away from Veganism. Within hours of announcing her new diet, Younger was receiving irate messages from vegans demanding money back from the cleanse programmes and T-shirts they had bought from her site (featuring slogans such as OH KALE YES).

She lost followers by the thousands and received a daily raft of angry messages, including death threats. Some responded to her confession that she was suffering from an eating disorder by accusing her of being a fat piece of lard who didnt have the discipline to be truly clean.

For as long as people have eaten food, there have been diets and quack cures. But previously, these existed, like conspiracy theories, on the fringes of food culture. Clean eating was different, because it established itself as a challenge to mainstream ways of eating, and its wild popularity over the past five years has enabled it to move far beyond the fringes. Powered by social media, it has been more absolutist in its claims and more popular in its reach than any previous school of modern nutrition advice.

At its simplest, clean eating is about ingesting nothing but whole or unprocessed foods (whatever is meant by these deeply ambiguous terms). Some versions of clean eating have been vegan, while others espouse various meats (preferably wild) and something mysteriously called bone broth (stock, to you and me). At first, clean eating sounded modest and even homespun: rather than counting calories, you would eat as many nutritious home-cooked substances as possible.

But it quickly became clear that clean eating was more than a diet; it was a belief system, which propagated the idea that the way most people eat is not simply fattening, but impure. Seemingly out of nowhere, a whole universe of coconut oil, dubious promises and spiralised courgettes has emerged. Back in the distant mists of 2009, James Duigan, owner of The Bodyism gym in London and sometime personal trainer to the model Elle MacPherson, published his first Clean and Lean book. As an early adopter of #eatclean, Duigan notes that he battled with his publisher to include ingredients like kale and quinoa, because no one had ever heard of them. Now quinoa is in every supermarket and kale has become as normal as lettuce. I long for the days when clean eating meant not getting too much down your front, the novelist Susie Boyt joked recently.

Jordan
Jordan Younger, AKA The Balanced Blonde, formerly The Blonde Vegan. Photograph: Whitford/BFA/Rex/Shutterstock

Almost as soon as it became ubiquitous, clean eating sparked a backlash. By 2015, Nigella Lawson was speaking for many when she expressed disgust at clean eating as a judgmental form of body fascism. Food is not dirty, Lawson wrote. Clean eating has been attacked by critics such as the baker and cookbook author Ruby Tandoh (who wrote a much-shared article on the subject in Vice magazine in May 2016) for being an incitement to eating disorders.

Others have pointed out that, as a method of healthy eating, its founded on bad science. In June, the American Heart Association suggested that the coconut oil beloved as a panacea by clean eaters actually had no known offsetting favourable effects, and that consuming it could result in higher LDL cholesterol. A few weeks later, Anthony Warner a food consultant with a background in science who blogs as The Angry Chef published a book-length assault on the science of clean eating, calling it a world of quinoa bowls and nutribollocks fuelled by the modern information age.

When Dr Giles Yeo, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, presented an episode of the BBCs Horizon this year that examined the scientific evidence for different schools of clean eating, he found everything from innocuous recipes to serious malpractice.

He reported on the alkaline diet of Dr Robert O Young, who peddled the idea that disease is caused by eating acidic foods. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in her 20s, Naima Houder-Mohammed, an officer in the British army, paid Young more than $77,000 for treatment (including meals of avocado, which Young calls Gods butter) at his pH miracle ranch in the US in 2012. She died later that year. Separately, Young was jailed in June this year after being convicted of charges including practising medicine without a licence. While he may represent an extreme case, it is clear that many wellness gurus, as Yeos programme concluded, tell a troubling narrative founded on falsehoods.

As the negative press for clean eating has intensified over the past year, many of the early goddesses of #eatclean have tried to rebrand declaring they no longer use the word clean to describe the recipes that have sold them millions of books. Ella Mills AKA Deliciously Ella, the food writer and entrepreneur whose coconut-and-oat energy balls sell for 1.79 apiece in British supermarkets said on Yeos Horizon programme that she felt that the word clean as applied to eating originally meant nothing but natural, real, unprocessed food. Now, it means diet, it means fad, she complained.

But however much the concept of clean eating has been logically refuted and publicly reviled, the thing itself shows few signs of dying. Step into the cookbook section of any book shop and you will see how many recipe writers continue to promise us inner purity and outer beauty. Even if you have never knowingly tried to eat clean, its impossible to avoid the trend altogether, because it changed the foods available to all of us, and the way they are spoken of.

Avocados now outsell oranges in the UK. Susi Richards, head of product development at Sainsburys supermarkets, told me earlier this year that she had been taken aback by the pace at which demand for products fitting with the clean eating lifestyle have grown in the UK. Families who would once have eaten potato waffles are now experimenting with lower carb butternut squaffles (slices of butternut squash cut to resemble a waffle). Nutribullets a brand of compact blenders designed for making supposedly radiance-bestowing juices and smoothies are now mentioned in some circles as casually as wooden spoons.

Why has clean eating proved so difficult to kill off? Hadley Freeman, in this paper, identified clean eating as part of a post-truth culture, whose adherents are impervious, or even hostile, to facts and experts. But to understand how clean eating took hold with such tenacity, its necessary first to consider just what a terrifying thing food has become for millions of people in the modern world. The interesting question is not whether clean eating is nonsense, but why so many intelligent people decided to put their faith in it.


We are not the only generation to have looked in disgust at an unhealthy food environment and wished that we could replace it with nutrients that were perfectly safe to eat. In the 1850s, a British chemist called Arthur Hill Hassall became convinced that the whole food supply of London was riddled with toxins and fakery. Whats more, he was right. Hassall had done a series of investigations for the medical journal the Lancet, and found that much of what was for sale as food and drink was not what it seemed: coffee made from burnt sugar and chicory; pickles dyed green with poisonous copper colourings.

Years of exposing the toxic deceptions all around him seems to have driven Hassall to a state of paranoia. He started to see poison everywhere, and decided that the answer was to create a set of totally uncontaminated food products. In 1881, he set up his own firm, The Pure Food Company, which would only use ingredients of unimpeachable quality. Hassall took water that was softened and purified and combined it with the finest Smithfield beef to make the purest beef jelly and disgusting-sounding fibrinous meat lozenges the energy balls of Victorian England. The Pure Food Company of 1881 sounds just like a hundred wellness food businesses today except for the fact that it collapsed within a year due to lack of sales.

We are once again living in an environment where ordinary food, which should be something reliable and sustaining, has come to feel noxious. Unlike the Victorians, we do not fear that our coffee is fake so much as that our entire pattern of eating may be bad for us, in ways that we cant fully identify. One of the things that makes the new wave of wellness cookbooks so appealing is that they assure the reader that they offer a new way of eating that comes without any fear or guilt.

The founding principle of these modern wellness regimes is that our current way of eating is slowly poisoning us. Much of the food on offer to us today is nutritionally substandard, write the Hemsley sisters, best-selling champions of nutrient-dense food. Its hard to disagree with the proposition that modern diets are generally substandard, even if you dont share the Hemsleys solution of going grain-free. All of these diets have a kernel of truth that is spun out into some bigger fantasy, Giles Yeo says hence their huge appeal.

Melissa
Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley. Photograph: Nick Hopper

Clean eating whether it is called that or not is perhaps best seen as a dysfunctional response to a still more dysfunctional food supply: a dream of purity in a toxic world. To walk into a modern western supermarket is to be assailed by aisle upon aisle of salty, oily snacks and sugary cereals, of bread that has been neither proved nor fermented, of cheap, sweetened drinks and meat from animals kept in inhumane conditions.

In the postwar decades, most countries in the world underwent what the professor of nutrition Barry Popkin calls a nutrition transition to a westernised diet high in sugar, meat, fat, salt, refined oils and ultra-processed concoctions, and low in vegetables. Affluence and multi-national food companies replaced the hunger of earlier generations with an unwholesome banquet of sweet drinks and convenience foods that teach us from a young age to crave more of the same. Wherever this pattern of eating travelled, it brought with it dramatic rises in ill health, from allergies to cancer.

In prosperous countries, large numbers of people whether they wanted to lose weight or not became understandably scared of the modern food supply and what it was doing to our bodies: type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, not to mention a host of other complaints that are influenced by diet, ranging from Alzheimers to gout. When mainstream diets start to sicken people, it is unsurprising that many of us should seek other ways of eating to keep ourselves safe from harm. Our collective anxiety around diet was exacerbated by a general impression that mainstream scientific advice on diet inflated by newspaper headlines could not be trusted. First these so-called experts tell us to avoid fat, then sugar, and all the while people get less and less healthy. What will these experts say next, and why should we believe them?

Into this atmosphere of anxiety and confusion stepped a series of gurus offering messages of wonderful simplicity and reassurance: eat this way and I will make you fresh and healthy again. It is very hard to pinpoint the exact moment when clean eating started, because it is not so much as a single diet as a portmanteau term that has borrowed ideas from numerous pre-existing diets: a bit of Paleo here, some Atkins there, with a few remnants of 1960s macrobiotics thrown in for good measure.

But some time in the early 2000s, two distinct but interrelated versions of clean eating became popular in the US one based on the creed of real food, and the other on the idea of detox. Once the concept of cleanliness had entered the realm of eating, it was only a matter of time before the basic idea spread contagiously across Instagram, where fans of #eatclean could share their artfully photographed green juices and rainbow salad bowls.

The first and more moderate version of clean food started in 2007, when Tosca Reno, a Canadian fitness model, published a book called The Eat-Clean Diet. In it, Reno described how she lost 34kg (75lb) and transformed her health by avoiding all over-refined and processed foods, particularly white flour and sugar. A typical Reno eat-clean meal might be stir-fried chicken and vegetables over brown rice; or almond-date biscotti with a cup of tea. In many ways The Eat-Clean Diet was like any number of diet books that had come before, advising plenty of vegetables and modestly portioned, home-cooked meals. The difference, which Anthony Warner calls a piece of genius on Renos part, was that she did not call it a diet at all, but a holistic way of living.

Meanwhile, a second version of clean eating was spearheaded by a former cardiologist from Uruguay called Alejandro Junger, the author of Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Bodys Natural Ability to Heal Itself, which was published in 2009 after Jungers clean detox system had been praised by Gwyneth Paltrow on her Goop website. Jungers system was far stricter than Renos, requiring, for a few weeks, a radical elimination diet based on liquid meals and a total exclusion of caffeine, alcohol, dairy and eggs, sugar, all vegetables in the nightshade family (tomatoes, aubergines and so on), red meat (which, according to Junger, creates an acidic inner environment), among other foods. During this phase, Junger advised a largely liquid diet either composed of home-made juices and soups, or of his own special powdered shakes. After the detox period, Junger advised very cautiously reintroducing toxic triggers such as wheat (a classic trigger of allergic responses) and dairy (an acid-forming food).

Woman
Photograph: Alexandra Iakovleva/Getty

To read Jungers book is to feel that everything edible in our world is potentially toxic. Yet, as with Arthur Hassall, many of Jungers fears may be justified. Junger writes as a doctor with first-hand knowledge of diet-related epidemics of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and autoimmune disease. The book is full of case studies of individuals who follow Jungers detox and emerge lighter, leaner and happier. Who is the candidate for using this program? Junger asks, replying: Everyone who lives a modern life, eats a modern diet and inhabits the modern world.

To my surprise, I found myself compelled by the messianic tone of Jungers Clean though not quite compelled enough to pay $475 for his 21-day programme (which, in any case, doesnt ship outside of North America), or to give up my daily breakfast of inflammatory coffee, gut-irritating sourdough toast and acid-forming butter, on which I feel surprisingly well. When I told Giles Yeo how seductive I found Jungers words, almost despite myself, he said: This is their magic! They are all charismatic human beings. I do think the clean-eating gurus believe in it themselves. They drink the Koolaid.


Over the past 50 years, mainstream healthcare in the west has been inexplicably blind to the role that diet plays in preventing and alleviating ill health. When it started, #eatclean spoke to growing numbers of people who felt that their existing way of eating was causing them problems, from weight gain to headaches to stress, and that conventional medicine could not help. In the absence of nutrition guidance from doctors, it was a natural step for individuals to start experimenting with cutting out this food or that.

From 2009 to 2014, the number of Americans who actively avoided gluten, despite not suffering from coeliac disease, more than tripled. It also became fashionable to drink a whole pantheon of non-dairy milks, ranging from oat milk to almond milk. I have lactose-intolerant and vegan friends who say that #eatclean has made it far easier for them to buy ingredients that they once had to go to specialist health-food stores to find. What isnt so easy now is to find reliable information on special diets in the sea of half-truths and bunkum.

Someone who observed how quickly and radically #eatclean changed the market for health-food books is Anne Dolamore, a publisher at the independent food publishers Grub Street, based in London. Dolamore has been publishing health-related food books since 1995, a time when free-from cooking was a tiny subculture. In the days before Google, Dolamore who has long believed that food is medicine felt that books on special diets by authors with proper credentials could serve a useful purpose. In 1995, Grub Street published The Everyday Diabetic Cookbook, which has since sold over 100,000 copies in the UK. Other successful books followed, including The Everyday Wheat-Free and Gluten-Free Cookbook by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, published in 1998.

In 2012, the market for wellness cookbooks in the UK suddenly changed, starting with the surprise success of Honestly Healthy by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson, which sold around 80,000 copies. Louise Haines, a publisher at 4th Estate, recalls that the previous big trend in British food publishing had been baking, but the baking boom died overnight, virtually, and a number of sugar-free books came through.

At Grub Street, Anne Dolamore watched aghast as bestselling cookbooks piled up from a never-ending stream of blonde, willowy authorities, many of whom seemed to be devising diets based on little but their own limited experience. If Junger and Reno laid the groundwork for eat clean to become a vast global trend, it was social media and the internet that did the rest. Almost all of the authors of the British clean eating bestsellers started off as bloggers or Instagrammers, many of them beautiful women in their early 20s who were genuinely convinced that the diets they had invented had cured them of various chronic ailments.

Every wellness guru worth her Himalayan pink salt has a story of how changing what you eat can change your life. Food has the power to make or break you, wrote Amelia Freer in her 2014 bestseller Eat. Nourish. Glow. (which has sold more than 200,000 copies). Freer was leading a busy life as a personal assistant to the Prince of Wales when she realised that her tummy looked and felt as if it had a football in it from too many snatched dinners of cheese on toast or factory-made food. By giving up processed and convenience foods (margarine, yuck!) along with gluten and sugar, Freer claimed to have found the secrets to looking younger and feeling healthier.

Perhaps the best-known diet-transformation story of all is that of Ella Mills possessor of more than a million Instagram followers. In 2011, Mills was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, a condition characterised by dizziness and extreme fatigue. Mills began blogging about food after discovering that her symptoms radically improved when she swapped her sugar-laden diet for plant-based, natural foods. Mills who used to be a model made following a free-from diet seem not drab or deprived, but deeply aspirational. By the time her first book appeared in January 2015, her vast following on social media helped her to sell 32,000 copies in the first week alone.

Amelia
Amelia Freer. Photograph: S Meddle/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

There was something paradoxical about the way these books were marketed. What they were selling purported to be an alternative to a sordidly commercial food industry. If its got a barcode or a promise, dont buy it, wrote Freer. Yet clean eating is itself a wildly profitable commercial enterprise, promoted using photogenic young bloggers on a multi-billion-dollar tech platform. Literary agent Zoe Ross tells me that around 2015 she began to notice that the market was scouring Instagram for copycat acts specifically very pretty, very young girls pushing curated food and lifestyle.

After years on the margins, health-based cooking was finally getting a mass audience. In 2016, 18 out the 20 top sellers in Amazon UKs food and drink book category had a focus on healthy eating and dieting. The irony, however, was that the kind of well-researched books Dolamore and others once published no longer tended to sell so well, because health publishing was now dominated by social media celebrities. Bookshops were heaving with so many of these clean books that even the authors themselves started to feel that there were too many of them. Alice Liveing, a 23-year-old personal trainer who writes as Clean Eating Alice, argued in her 2016 book Eat Well Every Day that she was championing what I feel is a much-needed breath of fresh air in what I think is an incredibly saturated market. To my untrained eye, browsing through her book, Alices fresh approach to diet looked very similar to countless others: date and almond energy balls, kale chips, beetroot and feta burgers.

Then again, shouldnt we give clean eating due credit for achieving the miracle of turning beetroot and kale into objects of desire? Data from analysts Kantar Worldpanel show that UK sales of fresh beetroot have risen dramatically from 42.8m in 2013 to 50.5m in 2015. Some would argue that, in developed nations where most people eat shockingly poor diets, low in greens and high in sugar, this new union of health and food has done a modicum of good. Giles Yeo who spent some time cooking a spicy sweet-potato dish with Ella Mills for his BBC programme agrees that many of the clean eating recipes he tried are actually a tasty and cool way to cook vegetables. But why, Yeo asks, do these authors not simply say I am publishing a very good vegetarian cookbook and stop there, instead of making larger claims about the power of vegetables to beautify or prevent disease? The poison comes from the fact that they are wrapping the whole thing up in pseudoscience, Yeo says. If you base something on falsehoods, it empowers people to take extreme actions, and this is where the harm begins.


You cant found a new faith system with the words I am publishing a very good vegetarian cookbook. For this, you need something stronger. You need the assurance of make-believe, whispered sweetly. Grind this cauliflower into tiny pieces and you can make a special kind of no-carb rice! Avoid all sugar and your skin will shimmer! Among other things, clean eating confirms how vulnerable and lost millions of us feel about diet which really means how lost we feel about our own bodies. We are so unmoored that we will put our faith in any master who promises us that we, too, can become pure and good.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that my own feelings about clean eating changed from ambivalence to outright dislike. I was on stage at the Cheltenham literary festival with dietician Renee McGregor (who works both with Olympic athletes and eating disorder sufferers) when a crowd of around 300 clean-eating fans started jeering and shouting at us. We were supposedly taking part in a clean-eating debate with nutritionist Madeleine Shaw, author of Get the Glow and Ready Steady Glow.

Before that week, I had never read any of Shaws work. As I flicked through Ready Steady Glow, I was fairly endeared by the upbeat tone (stop depriving yourself and start living) and bright photos of a beaming Shaw. I often surprise myself by finding new things to spiralise she writes, introducing a sweet potato noodle salad. Cauliflower pizza, in her view, is quite simply: the best invention ever.

But underneath the brightness there were notes of restriction that I found both worrying and confused. As ever, all my recipes are sugar-and-wheat free, Shaw announces, only to give a recipe for gluten-free brownies that contains 200g of coconut sugar, a substance that costs a lot more than your average white granulated sugar, but is metabolised by the body in the same way. I was still more alarmed by step four in Shaws nine-point food philosophy, which says that all bread and pasta should be avoided: they are beige foods, which are full of chemicals, preservatives and genetically modified wheat, and not whole foods. Shaws book makes no distinction between a loaf of, say, bleached sliced white, and a homemade wholemeal sourdough.

When we met on stage in Cheltenham, I asked Shaw why she told people to cut out all bread, and was startled when she denied she had said any such thing (rye bread was her favourite, she added). McGregor asked Shaw what she meant when she wrote that people should try to eat only clean proteins; meat that was not deep-fried was her rather baffling reply. McGregors main concern about clean eating, she added, was that as a professional treating young people with eating disorders, she had seen first-hand how the rules and restrictions of clean eating often segued into debilitating anorexia or orthorexia.

Madeleine
Madeleine Shaw promoting her book Get the Glow. Photograph: Joe Pepler/REX/Shutterstock

But I only see the positive, said Shaw, now wiping away tears. It was at this point that the audience, who were already restless whenever McGregor or I spoke, descended into outright hostility, shouting and hissing for us to get off stage. In a book shop after the event, as fans came up to Shaw to thank her for giving them the glow, I too burst into tears when one person jabbed her fingers at me and said I should be ashamed, as an older women (I am 43), to have criticised a younger one. On Twitter that night, some Shaw fans made derogatory comments about how McGregor and I looked, under the hashtag #youarewhatyoueat. The implication was that, if we were less photogenic than Shaw, we clearly had nothing of any value to say about food (never mind the fact that McGregor has degrees in biochemistry and nutrition).

Thinking about the event on the train home, I realised that the crowd were angry with us not because they disagreed with the details (its pretty clear that you cant have sugar in sugar-free recipes), but because they disliked the fact that we were arguing at all. To insist on the facts made us come across as cruelly negative. We had punctured the happy belief-bubble of glowiness that they had come to imbibe from Shaw. Its striking that in many of the wellness cookbooks, mainstream scientific evidence on diet is seen as more or less irrelevant, not least because the gurus see the complacency of science as part of what made our diets so bad in the first place.

Amelia Freer, in Eat. Nourish. Glow, admits that we cant prove that dairy is the cause of ailments ranging from IBS to joint pain, but concludes that its surely worth cutting dairy out anyway, just as a precaution. In another context, Freer writes that Im told it takes 17 years for scientific knowledge to filter down to become general knowledge, while advising that gluten should be avoided. Once we enter the territory where all authority and expertise are automatically suspect, you can start to claim almost anything and many #eatclean authorities do.

That night in Cheltenham, I saw that clean eating or whatever name it now goes under had elements of a post-truth cult. As with any cult, it could be something dark and divisive if you got on the wrong side of it. After Giles Yeos BBC programme was aired, he told me he was startled to find himself subjected to relentless online trolling. They said I was funded by big pharma, and therefore obviously wouldnt see the benefits of a healthy diet over medicine. These were outright lies. (Yeo is employed by the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Medical Research Council.)

Its increasingly clear that clean eating, for all its good intentions, can cause real harm, both to truth and to human beings. Over the past 18 months, McGregor says, every single client with an eating disorder who walks into my clinic doors is either following or wants to follow a clean way of eating.

In her new book, Orthorexia, McGregor observes that while eating disorders long predate the #eatclean trend, food rules (such as eating no dairy or avoiding all grains) easily become a guise for restricting food intake. Moreover, they are not even good rules, based as they are on unsubstantiated, unscientific claims. Take almond milk, which is widely touted as a superior alternative to cows milk. McGregor sees it as little better than expensive water, containing just 0.1g protein per 100ml, compared with 3.2g per 100ml in cows milk. But she often finds it very difficult to convince her clients that restricting themselves to these clean foods is in the long run worse for their health than what she calls unrestrained eating balanced and varied meals, but no panic about the odd ice cream or chocolate bar.

Clearly, not everyone who bought a clean-eating book has developed an eating disorder. But a movement whose premise is that normal food is unhealthy has now muddied the waters of healthy eating for everyone else, by planting the idea that a good diet is one founded on absolutes.


The true calamity of clean eating is not that it is entirely false. It is that it contains a kernel of truth, as Giles Yeo puts it. When you strip down all the pseudo babble, they are absolutely right to say that we should eat more vegetables, less refined sugar and less meat, Yeo said, sipping a black coffee in his office at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, where he spends his days researching the causes of obesity. Yeo agrees with the clean eaters that our environment of cheap, plentiful, sugary, fatty food is a recipe for widespread obesity and ill health. The problem is its near impossible to pick out the sensible bits of clean eating and ignore the rest. #Eatclean made healthy eating seem like something expensive, exclusive and difficult to achieve, as Anthony Warner writes. Whether the term clean is used or not, there is a new puritanism about food that has taken root very widely.

A few weeks ago, I overheard a fit, middle-aged man at the gym berating a friend for not eating a better diet a conversation that would once have been unimaginable among men. The first man was telling the second that the skinny burgers he preferred were nothing but shitty mince and marketing and arguing that he could get almost everything he needed from a diet of vegetables, cooked with no oil. Fat is fat, at the end of the day, he concluded, before bemoaning the idiots who tried to eat something wholesome like a salad, then ruined it by adding salt. If you have one bad diet day a week, you undo all your good work.

The real question is how to fight this kind of diet absolutism without bouncing back to a mindless celebration of the modern food environment that is demonstrably making so many people sick. In 2016, more than 600 children in the UK were registered as living with type 2 diabetes; before 2002, there were no reported cases of children suffering from the condition, whose causes are diet-related.

Our food system is in desperate need of reform. Theres a danger that, in fighting the nonsense of clean eating, we end up looking like apologists for a commercial food supply that is failing in its basic task of nourishing us. Former orthorexia sufferer Edward L Yuen has argued in his 2014 book, Beating Orthorexia that the old advice of everything in moderation no longer works in a food environment where eating in the middle ground may still leave you with chronic diseases. When portions are supersized and Snickers bars are sold by the metre (something I saw in my local Tesco recently), eating normally is not necessarily a balanced option. The answer isnt yet another perfect diet, but a shift in our idea of what constitutes normal food.

Sales of courgettes in the UK soared 20% from 2014 to 2015, fuelled by the rise of the spiraliser. But overall consumption of vegetables, both in the UK and worldwide, is still vanishingly small (with 74% of the adult UK population not managing to eat five a day). That is much lower than it was in the 1950s, when freshly cooked daily meals were still something that most people took for granted.

Among the affluent classes who already ate a healthier-than-average diet, the Instagram goddesses created a new model of dietary perfection to aim for. For the rest of the population, however, it simply placed the ideal of healthy food ever further out of reach. Behind the shiny covers of the clean-eating books, there is a harsh form of economic exclusion that says that someone who cant afford wheatgrass or spirulina can never be truly well.

As the conversation I overheard in the gym illustrates, this way of thinking is especially dangerous because it obscures the message that, in fact, small changes in diet can have a large beneficial impact. If you think you cant be healthy unless you eat nothing but vegetables, you might miss the fact that (as a recent overview of the evidence by epidemiologists showed) there are substantial benefits from raising your fruit-and-veg intake from zero portions a day to just two.

Among its many other offences, clean eating was a series of claims about food that were all or nothing which only serves to underline the fact that most people, as usual, are stuck with nothing.

Main photograph: Alamy

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/11/why-we-fell-for-clean-eating

Wax it means wax it: Madame Tussauds sets to work on Theresa May

London destination states it remains in very first phases of four-month procedure of developing figure of UK prime minister

Her automated mottos and stilted election project might have made her the label Maybot, however a much more lifeless version of the prime minister will be revealed.

Madame Tussauds has actually revealed the commission of a wax figure of Theresa May that is to be positioned outside the Downing Street set at the London tourist attraction, signing up with political heavyweights such as Donald Trump and Angela Merkel.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt="Real"of phony? the completing touches are made to a waxwork of donald trump at madame tussauds in london."src=
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/99e62baac7dee6671b5ca92928cd2311a8100f2d/0_134_3500_2101/master/3500.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e0d7ef34d17862a8537fe855f1f3267e”/&gt; Real of phony? The complements are made to a waxwork of Donald Trump at Madame Tussauds in London. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters

Released images reveal the very first phases of the procedure of producing the May figure, where the head is made in clay prior to the wax mould is formed.

Since the questionable election outcome, the extremely gifted group at Madame Tussauds London have actually been working relentlessly to develop a spectacular similarity of the brand-new PM, the tourist attraction stated. These main clay head shots produced by primary carver Stephen Mansfield demonstrate how they have actually completely recorded the similarity of the most effective female in British politics.

The completed figure will be revealed later on this year.

The procedure of producing a wax figure usually takes around 3 to 4 months, with a group of carvers investing about 170 hours moulding, prior to hair insertors and colourists include the ending up touches.

The selected clothing and shoe choice stays a firmly secured trick, however the option will be a specific reproduction of among Mays extensive and heading getting collection, the destination stated.

Edward Fuller, basic supervisor of Madame Tussauds London, included: Following the current basic election, we anticipate hearing the agreement of thegreat British public as we expose the very first phases of Theresa Mays wax figure in development.

While the prime ministers Brexit method might be uncertain, we can be sure that her finished figure will bear a striking similarity to the female herself when it releases later on this year.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/aug/10/wax-madame-tussauds-work-theresa-may-figure-prime-minister