The incoming global protein shortage

A few years ago I applied for a Policy internship with, funded by NERC. I would’ve taken a break from my PhD and spent 3 months learning about the role science plays in making policy (which may seem like a joke at the moment, sadly). Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, but the processes was valuable anyway. I had to write a document describing a challenge the United Kingdom was to face in the future, and so wrote about the rising global population, its increasing demands for food and protein in particular.

Seeing this recent news story from the University of Guelph reminded me of this, and I’ve decided to share my original article as a blog post. I’m not sure there is a great deal of progress in the last 4 years apparent from comparing my article to the recent UoG one, but I do hope progress is being made.

 

Increasing global meat demand

The present global population is estimated at 6.5Bn, and projected to reach 9Bn individuals in 35 years1. Yet 1Bn of the current population are chronically undernourished1, requiring a more than concurrent increase in food production. In particular, with globally increasing per-capita meat consumption meat production is predicted to double from 1991 levels by 20502, placing acute strain on the meat production industry. Already 70% of current arable land is used to grow feed for meat production. If all nations consumed meat at rates of those in the Western world this figure would have to rise by a further 66%2,3.

Industrialised nations are already space limited, requiring food to be imported from developing nations (the UK imports 40% of its food, a figure which is rising yearly1). Additionally, in developing nations the best farming land is typically already in use, limiting prospective farming expansion. The expanding global population requires land for housing, as well as for growing crops for biofuel production. Expansion would also have environmental impacts, as livestock already play a key role in climate change (18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock, a higher share than transport), contribute to land degradation (70% of previous forested land in the Amazon is now used for livestock) and water shortage and pollution (over 8% of global human water use is for livestock)3.

Eliminating the space/demand disparity would require increasing the efficiency of existing methods. Currently, 75% of the world’s poultry, 66% of its eggs and 50% of its pork are produced by high-density industrial meat factories rather than small scale farms2. These require feed additives, limited space per animal and the movement of vast quantities of water, food and waste, with associated health and welfare issues for both the animals and the consumer. Partly thanks to technological advances such as the use of antibiotics and hormone implants, the beef industry in the US has increased its productivity by 80% in the last 50 years4. Economic forces have driven the meat production industry to be extremely proactive in perfecting existing methods, suggesting limited scope for long-term improvements in these methods. Therefore the current situation likely requires suitable changes to avoid the detrimental effects of meat production (“livestock’s long shadow”3) spreading, such as using alternative protein sources or reducing the demand for meat globally.

 

Alternative protein sources

Fish & Aquaculture

With more than 84% of wild fisheries either maximally exploited or depleted5, and grave difficulties in instituting management policies, wild fish populations are too fragile to meet global protein needs, requiring farmed fish to fill the gap. Indeed, since 2011 aquaculture has accounted for a greater proportion of the global supply of fish than wild fish6. Furthermore, fish convert food to protein very efficiently, needing 13kg of grain to produce 1kg of protein, compared to 38kg required by pigs and 61kg by cows6. Aquaculture also emits less greenhouse gas, nitrogen and phosphorous than terrestrial livestock6. Aquaculture is globally highly skewed, widespread only in Asia (91% of global aquaculture), and particularly China (62% of global aquaculture)6. Efficiency also varies greatly, suggesting great improvements could be made if a policy of learning best practice is adopted across the existing industry and by incoming stakeholders. Lessons must also be learnt from agriculture, such as avoiding environmentally vulnerable regions and monitoring the ecological impact of introduced aquaculture. Aquacultures situated in coastal regions may even require less water than other animal production systems6, suggesting that countries, such as the UK, with extensive coastline could take advantage of this method to reduce reliance on imports.

Insects

In 80% of nations insects are eaten as food, with over 1900 different species of insect used7. Like fish, insects convert a very high proportion of feed to protein. The 2014 international conference “Insects to feed the world”, held in the Netherlands, concluded that insects have highly relevant potential for both meeting the rising human protein need and providing high protein animal feed8. Yet they also noted enormous scope for improvements if global leadership and support is given to the “minilivestock” industry. There are also potential large environmental gains to be had to switching to using insects for protein, as they produce less greenhouse gases, consume less water and require less space8. The most critical step remains getting people to eat insects, which can be overcome by top down approaches (celebrity endorsements, advert campaigns highlighting the similarity to food such as shrimp) and bottom up approaches (consumers seeking a cheaper source of protein and/or one with a lower environmental impact).

Artificial meat

Even insects and fish must expend energy on their structural, nervous and immune systems, which are not eaten by humans. Meat can be cultured in the laboratory, by artificially stimulating muscle cells to grow. Muscle tissues may have been artificially grown from satellite cells for the past 15 years, but they have not yet entered commercial markets9. Major obstacles to the use of cultured meat as a source of protein include the efficiency of scaling up laboratory level operations to industrial sized ones, and producing a product that looks, smells, feels and crucially tastes like meat9. These obstacles have been tackled by the vegetable meat substitutes industry (e.g. Tofu, Quorn) and it may well be easier to re-create genuine meat taste and texture with proteins, sugars and fats that are bio-chemically identical, rather than their vegetable counterparts.

 

Reducing global meat demand

As mentioned above, high per capita meat consumption has enormous impacts on the environment. Furthermore, while protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, a diet high in meat has a large impact on human health. Excess meat consumption is associated with certain cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity10, suggesting attractive benefits to those who reduce the volume of meat in their diet. It is estimated than the average North American consumes 150% of the average daily protein requirement10, yet protein-energy malnutrition effects more than a third of the world’s children11. As people in developing countries increase their income, their diet tends to feature an increasing amount of animal products2. As such, it is difficult, not to mention hypocritical, to try to discourage peoples in developing countries from aspiring to Western levels of meat consumption. Rising costs and initiatives such as “Meatless monday”12 might help reduce consumption in the Western world, with possible knock-on effects for the global community. This would appear to have large health benefits for those in developed countries, as well as global environmental benefits.

However, with some experts claiming that “people aren’t going to stop eating meat”2, ultimately mechanisms must be developed to allow meat production to continue, but focusing on land management and pricing that reflect the social and environmental costs of intense production.

 

Conclusions

As the global population increases, the availability of affordable protein for global nutrition and minimising the rich-poor diet disparity will be critical. With the traditional protein production industry approaching maximum capacity, and the strain on the environment still increasing, a long-term plan incorporating alternative industries is essential. It is vital that forthcoming policy considers the incoming changes and prepares the UK as best as possible to adapt and thrive.

 

Work cited

(for some reason I didn’t have the exact reference list saved, so this is just a list of articles I probably was referring to, I am unable to join up the numbers in the text with specific articles, sorry…)

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

https://woods.stanford.edu/environmental-venture-projects/consequences-increased-global-meat-consumption-global-environment

http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000505/en/stocks.pdf

http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/projects/meatless_monday/resources/meat_consumption.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22543115

http://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/10.3920/JIFF2015.x002

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23020616

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/483S.abstract

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/research/topical/food/food-security-an-overview.aspx

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That first time

 

You’re bound to feel nervous, that first time, that very first time. Hands slowly clench and unclench, willing the nervous energy out of them; it just won’t go. You’ve agreed the date, the time, chosen what to wear. Not that all of your outfit is up to you, but you’re letting a little personality show through. Perhaps they’ll remember you for that. There’s a woman across from you with two long red plaits draped over either shoulder, looking for all the world like a Gaul or a Celt. You wonder how you look from the outside. A bit scrawny, probably.

You arrive first, naturally, and sit waiting while others mill around, having a drink with their friends or quietly checking out the talent across the room. You tell yourself not to keep looking at the door every damn time a shadow crosses it, but then you look again. Breathe. Focus on your breathing, Good, solid advice from good solid men. And then they do finally show themselves across the threshold. Thud-thump thump is your heart, as you finally set eyes on them. A little taller than your reckoned? A little older too? They look across, their eyes to yours and its instant recognition. How long you’ve both been waiting. You do your best to hold their gaze, send some of the intent back along the now very tangible connection between you. Then, suddenly as it formed, it breaks as they turn away. Relieved to have passed this first little test you return to your hands, clenched in front of you. Breathe. Breathe. Soon you’ll be moving in time.

Your friends and family have wished you well. Not all of them understand your reasons, but it doesn’t matter, you’re doing it regardless and they can’t help you tonight anyway. Briefly you think back to how your one friend from way back pushed you into this. “At least you’ll get out of the house, meet some new people” they said. Yes, meet some new people. And then, eventually, once they get close enough, punch them in the face.

There’s a roar from the crowd as an out-of-town boxer is backed up against the ropes, but you’re not watching. What if someone like you got beat up and knocked down, that would be a bad omen. Better to stay focused on what you can control. Your left, your right, your feet, your breathing. To try and control anything else would be as crazy as trying to hold back the torrent of golden sunlight that was pouring in from this place’s bank of west-facing windows. The last place never had such light to contend with. The old gym, so far away now that the right hook the guy in the ring just threw probably came from the same post-code. The camera guy had to find somewhere new to stand, the makeshift bar has to fit somewhere else, while the doctor’s table is still the same table, its new as well.

You get up, roll your shoulders, kick out your feet. Its time. If not now, when? You start the routine: checking the shoes, the shorts, the tape. Can it be a routine if this is the first time? Perhaps this is the start of one. Perhaps this routine will never be seen again. The corner men lace up your gloves, pat you on the shoulder and offer some last words of advice or encouragement. You can’t tell which, all you hear is your breath going in and out. You step forward, nod along to the ref’s instructions, finally eye to eye with your opponent. The thrill. If only every night could possess moments of pure anticipation as this.

Nod, punch gloves, step back, bell goes. You move in closer on adrenaline filled limbs, and then you start to dance.

High thoughts for lowriders

Is its shape a perfect painting?

Is its rumble reminiscent of an orchestra?

Does the steering wheel heft in your hand like a perfectly crafted tool?

Wait, what? Yes, I am in fact talking about a car. Or cars in general. I came across this quote in the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe:

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And it reminded me how a car can make you feel. Looking at it, listening to it, or driving it, a car can make you smile in multiple ways. Which make them quite unusual, compared to any other tool. Perhaps calling a car a tool is doing them a disservice. After all, when did a painting treat your ears as well as your eyes, or an orchestra delight you with its sweeping lines. So they are multifaceted.

What’s your poison?

But there is more. Does your car bark, rumble or purr? Is it boxy, sleek or razor-sharp? Does it announce your presence to the whole street, or slip by unnoticed, raw power concealed until you require it? You could chose the top down to embrace the outside, or stick a snorkel and chunky tires on it and clamber straight over the top of it. Frankly, whatever your jam, there is a car for it. Spend a bit of time (and yes, money), and you can have something that fits your personality like a glove.

Or these?

So a bespoke, multifaceted tool, perhaps even a piece of art? What’s not to like? But its just not the done thing to eulogise about cars in this way. In the grand scheme of arty things, stuff like sculpture, music, poetry and painting are way up there, and cars are way down low, knocking about with a freshly caught and perfectly BBQ’d mackerel, or an exquisite cover drive. Surely not worthy of more esteemed attention. Let the oiks drive their lumps of metal around, there are higher things we need to be concerning ourselves with. Sport is often dismissed in this way, as though the grunting, straining effort on display makes the whole thing unacademic somehow and so not worthy of proper consideration. The car suffers from being common, and loud, and smelly, and perhaps too easily accessible. Frankly, grubby.

I would like to propose that this need not be the case. A car allows you to express yourself visually in a way quite hard to achieve through any other medium save your clothing, but simultaneously can provide a winning soundtrack or an exhilarating experience. As Floyd Montoya found, it can be quite hard to really express how a car makes you feel, but you know it when hits you.

The accepted order of things

We strive, but unfortunately humans are not perfect. Some are further than others, the odd person gets quite close, on a good day, but ultimately we all have our flaws and foibles. For instance, we like to think we are good, rational beings, capable of judging the evidence presented to us and making the most reasonable conclusions, but this is not always true. Even when given decent evidence, and when applying ourselves to it (rather than ignoring if it disagrees with our world view), we are susceptible to biases. Something as simple as the order evidence is presented in can influence whether we rate an idea positively or negatively. This is idea was brought to my attention in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking fast, and slow”, which is really great and I can recommend to anyone interested in how we make decisions.

In essence, the idea is that, when given the positive points about an idea first, then the negative points second, we are more likely to judge an idea favourably. Whereas if the order of presentation is reversed, but the evidence kept the same, we are more likely to judge exactly the same thing negatively. We are primed by the initial evidence, either positively or negatively, to consider the idea in that light, even if we subsequently receive evidence of equal weight to the contrary. Of course, our minds can be changed by weight of evidence in the opposite direction, but order can still play in important role.

This seems like an intuitive idea, much like confirmation bias (which, having learnt about in the same book, I am now seeing everywhere…). And I’ve been thinking about it in terms of the scientific literature we consume every day (ish). In a paper, the cool and interesting bits supporting the hypotheses are the Results; they are the evidence for whatever argument the authors are making. On the other hand, the parts that make you doubt the findings are most likely to be in the Methods; whether their experiment tests the hypothesis they think it does, whether the analysis chosen does what they say, and so on. So grant me a degree of artistic license if I class the Methods section of a paper as the minus points negating a paper’s thrust, while the Results are the positive points supporting it. How does this relate to the order effect outlined above?

Well, all journals tend to place the Introduction at the start of paper, and all of them place the Discussion and conclusions at the end. But there is a degree of division about what to do with the Methods in relation to the Results. Many journals place the Methods squarely before the Results, so that you can understand where the findings are coming from. Another set of journals have the Results directly after the Introduction, so you can find out the answer to the questions being posed immediately, and then peruse the Methods at the end to discover exactly how it was done. Finally, a 3rd set of journals tend to relegate most of the Methods to online supporting information, rendering what remains in the paper largely useless for following exactly what the authors have done or even contemplating recreating their work yourself.

Hopefully you now see the link. Journals with the Methods before the Results are placing the negative points first, priming the reader to disagree with the findings. Conversely, journals that place the Methods after the Results are priming the reader to agree with the findings, even if the weight of evidence is the same. Finally, journals that banish the Methods to the supplementary materials are removing the negative points from public view. Obviously, the latter is essentially skulduggery and should be ceased forthwith*, but is the 2nd option devious as well? Are journals that place the Methods at the end of the paper intentionally or unintentionally taking advantage of the reader’s unconscious biases?

Well its hard to ever prove something like that, and I am sure no current working editor on these journals considers this explicit journal policy. It is very insightful however to consider the journals that tend to place the Methods first, which from within my own field primarily include society journals such as Behavioral Ecology, Animal Behaviour, Proceedings B, Ecology Letters, Evolution, and pretty much all journals around that level of “prestige” and lower. Which journals place the Methods last, or banish them from the pages completely? Nature, Science, Current Biology, PNAS…. See a pattern? I will note that the BMC stable lets you choose, which disrupts my point somewhat (but possibly creates a dataset one can test this idea in…) but no theory is perfect.

So, am I suggesting that it is the “glamourous” or “prestigious” (or “tabloid”…) journals that tend to take advantage of order effects to promote their publications, while the good, honest society journals do the decent thing and put the Methods first? Or perhaps it is this tactic of putting the Methods last that helped their articles, and so the journals themselves, gain popularity? Or maybe these things are totally unrelated and I have formulated a conspiracy out of nothing. I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting thought. Learning how we think and process information is always a useful endeavour, and something scientists should be aware of, given we rely on our ability to do this every day. So be on the lookout for your own biases.

 

 

*I am currently reading Moby Dick, and perhaps Melville’s language is leaking through

This is not a history

This is not a history, or a series of reminisces. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t possibly tell you how it started, or how it grew and came to be what you can find today. At least though, I can say what you would find today, if you went, if you go while there is still time.

There are mirrors for your form or your glare, whichever needs work. A black rubber floor that’s carried a thousand soles back and forth. Those new to the steps, those underconfident, those over confident, those who know exactly what they are doing.

Dents dot the back wall from past leviathans. The big guys make the bags shudder and leap. Two nervous young girls tap the bags. They’re new, and it’s a toss-up as to whether they will quietly apply themselves, and stick around, or if they will equally quietly never come again.

The pairs spar between the ropes, helmeted heads bowed low, jaws clenched, fists pinned to those jaws or slacking down to hips. They circle and jab, cross and hook, clinch and grunt and sweat. It’s a guy and a girl, her taller, him heavier but too slow to make it count. She keeps him away with the jab and occasionally dashes to the body. He cuffs her round the back of the head and it’s not very pretty.

Red gloves, blue gloves, white gloves and black gloves flash back and forth, rat tat tat on the pads. Rat tat tat. Rat tat tat. Exhaled breath with every strike as the feet push and the hips pivot and the shoulders rock back and forth. They skip rope, work pads, pound the bag until their dreams don’t quite seem so far away as they did at the start of the day.

It’s Saturday now and that means the bags are cleared away and the ropes are folded, and instead of the pacing feet there are chairs on the rubber. The women behind the bar laugh and joke with the punters and tease the regulars, while the fighters scowl into their hoods or pass the time with their friends, nerves tamed by the routine. Two young girls move round selling raffle tickets, their hair neatly plaited, as this is a family event too, with the door operated by someone’s dad and cake made by someone’s mum. More parents sit in the seats as their sons and daughters lace up the gloves, look themselves in the mirror and walk out to find out if they will create a great deal of pride or a small tick of embarrassment.

The fights on the night are mixed, as they tend to be. There are a couple of debuts; the curious thrill of watching two 12 years olds lay into each other, the only fact tempering the spectacle was that it was a bit one-sided. Some muscular young tyro walking through his opponent’s flailing arms, powered more by fear than rage, a cross to the nose causing the lad to sag forward like a suddenly deflated balloon. I sit on my chair and grip my pen and consider how these boys have the courage to stand up there while I sit here. I write this and try to claw back some of their heroism.

There is the youth who looks like he can make it, and the one who I don’t think ever will. One fight that had real potential ended early by a clumsy headbutt, another ended early by a capricious trainer not pleased with his fighter’s work, even as her opponent came on and on; rat tat tat, rat tat tat.

Home fighters are greeted by friendly roars from the mildly lubricated crowd. Spells of nervous silence come as we wait for them to assert themselves, groans if they don’t. We forget ourselves and watched in sickened silence as one comes under the cosh, a crunching blow waking us to try and raise them; remind them it’s not just their own pride they defend but ours as well.

Fighters mingle afterwards, winding down and stretching out. There’s the girl with the black eye, the lad with the squashed nose, and the one as beautiful as the day she was born, as she doesn’t get hit, doesn’t get beat, not really beat anyway. Everyone is pretty happy, the ones that weren’t are long gone, denying the strip lights strung from the ceiling the chance to illuminate their loss.

When it’s all said and done, and the doctor goes home under-employed, it’s a success. Just making the damn thing happen: bringing them all together from the gyms tucked into the corners of other town and cities, selling the tickets and the beer, running the raffle and eating the mother’s cake; that’s a success. It’s the last one too, before the diggers and cranes move in to flatten the place, clearing land to make more land for the dollars to pour into.

I hope those that started it get to close it, that last time. I hope that they take down the bags, fold up the ropes, pack up the pads and set up the ring up in the new gym, and then come back to the old place. I hope they stand and take in the space one last time, remember how it started, how it grew, and how it came to be the thing they created. I hope they pace the well-worn space one last time, leaving footprints in the gathering dust, a warm body disrupting the still air one last time. As the last of the help leaves, and as they weight the key they’ve used a thousand times to open the door at the start of the day and close it at night, I hope they breathe in that rarefied air one final time, and exhale the way they taught. Rat tat tat.

Then, as they turn to leave, and the tears they held back all this time finally drip down their cheeks and dot the floor, I hope that as the door closes all the atmosphere rushes out of the place, and it is preserved perfectly in that final state. Like the astronaut’s footprints preserved in the lunar dust. I hope no one else gets to see it again, after those that built it, and that it is preserved at the end as it will be forever in their memory, when the wrecking ball comes and the walls shiver and collapse and they wish that gym goodbye.

Rugby: A Feel Good Story

There’s been a lot of feel good stories around rugby recently that have been giving me the warm and fuzzies. So I thought I would collate some here and share them with you, so you can feel warm and fuzzy as well.

First up, my team Wasps signed Nathan Charles, who is probably the only sufferer of cystic fibrosis to play a contact sport professionally, let alone internationally. Thats right, cystic fibrosis.

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Dubbed “the most remarkable rugby player on the planet” by the Telegraph, Nathan, who “seems to defy science and logic” according former Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, takes between 20 and 30 pills a day to combat a condition that typically results in a greatly shortened lifespan in normal people. Of course this guy isn’t normal, he’s a frigging superhero. So of course his chosen sport is rugby.

Next up, Ian McKinley was a talented young rugby player, tipped to be competing with Johnny Sexton to ease Ronan O’Gara out of his position as Ireland’s lead 10. Instead, an accidental boot blinded him in one eye. This derailed his rugby career, but only temporarily.

He got into coaching, moved out to Italy, and then, thanks to some special goggles, started playing again. Then he got signed by Italy’s top professional club, Benneton Treviso. And then this weekend he made his debut for Italy, qualifying on residency ground. The Irish weren’t willing to engage in trials using the goggles, but the Italians stuck by him and now he wears their shirt with pride. Banged over a penalty too to keep them ahead of Fiji

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doddie-weir-tartan-suit
Given his charity work I will forgive Doddie the tartan suits. Just…

Also this weekend, a bit of a tear-jerker, as former Scotland lock Doddie Weir, battling motor-neuron disease MND, delivered the match ball ahead of Scotland vs New Zealand. Clearly he, and I’m sure the rest of the stadium, struggled to keep the emotion down.

Earlier this year, rugby lost of of its greats in Joost van der Westhuizen, also to MND. Joost, a world cup winner in 1995, was an incredible competitor on the field, and battled MND relentlessly off it. To see his interviews, so full of fight and hope, is an inspiration, while to watch him walk onto the field in 2014 before South Africa vs New Zealand, is to witness courage:

To hop over over to the “other” code briefly, the rugby league world cup has been taking place. And one of the hosts? Papa New Guinea. Apparently rugby league is a phenomenon there, with the whole country fanatical about it.

Sadly England didn’t read the script, and defeated them in the quarter final. But in that semi final England will face Tonga. Tonga scraped past Lebanon (yeah I know right, they play rugby? Cool) and in the group-stages were involved in this epic Haka vs Sipi Tau show-down:

Also in the quarter finals are Fiji, who defeated the afore mentioned Kiwis in a a bit of a wonderful upset to the form book. Loverly.

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Back to Union, and in more “player battles life-threatening condition” news, Christian Lealiifano is now back playing rugby after dealing with leukemia. Following a come-back with the Brumbies, he’s now plying his trade in sunny Ulster. Of his battle with cancer, Lealiifano says: ““It has changed my outlook on life. I would go through this 10 times again for the person I am today, the journey I have been through and the person that I have become.” Nice recent interview here.

Finally, everyone’s favourite Courtney, Mr Lawes, showed he is still up for crushing play makers as Kurtley Beale felt his wrath during England’s eventual pummelling of the Aussies. All the right kind of good feelings.

I’ll leave you with this:

In our country, true teams rarely exist . . . social barriers and personal ambitions have reduced athletes to dissolute cliques or individuals thrown together for mutual profit . . . Yet these rugby players. with their muddied, cracked bodies, are struggling to hold onto a sense of humanity that we in America have lost and are unlikely to regain. The game may only be to move a ball forward on a dirt field, but the task can be accomplished with an unshackled joy and its memories will be a permanent delight. The women and men who play on that rugby field are more alive than too many of us will ever be. The foolish emptiness we think we perceive in their existence is only our own.” – Victor Cahn

and this:

 

Warm and fuzzies out.

 

 

Squirrel camp and the Sun

You may be wondering why squirrel camp is primarily powered by solar. Perhaps you didn’t know that; well, now you do, and you can begin wondering. Or maybe you are reading this without even knowing what squirrel camp is. In that case, all you need to know is that it is a happy place filled with hard working people and their dirty socks. Or maybe even you don’t know where you are or how you are reading this, in which case, find the nearest adult human, and ask them to sing you a lullaby. And now we can begin this story.

Squirrel camp is powered by solar, with a slightly manic array of rectangular panels basking in the near-arctic sun. But of course, it could be powered by a great diesel generator, clonking majestically through the day. Or maybe a bulbous tank of propane, filled with gas eeked from the ground and ferried here to light the merry fires. Or why not chunky, dusky coal? Provides quite the heat. Oh yes, solar might be plentiful, and produces no smog at point of collection, and gleam most handsomely, but is that really any good reason to excuse the convenience of gas and oil? Well us squirrelers have our reasons.
It began in the sky. The sun was lonely. Sure, it has the stars, but they are far away and aren’t very good at texting back. And as for the moon, well when it comes around its hardly much of a conversation partner, always moaning about how it was treated like a common doormat by some guy named Neil. Tiresome. So the sun cast its eyes to earth for company. It scanned the plains, but found the people too simple and dull. It scanned the seas, but found the people too salty and superstitious. It scanned the jungles, but could not see anyone for the steam and leaves. And then it turned its gaze on the mountains. In a mountainous land, following a twisting highway towards a lake, the sun spied a solitary figure. Maybe it was the wild, unwashed hair. Perhaps it was the artful arrangement of patches and knitwork that held their clothes together. Or it might have been their purposeful stride (it was near lunch time). Whatever the reason, the sun’s search paused. 

Interest piqued, heartbeat (yes suns have hearts, as well as eyes) quickened, the sun followed our raggedy individual, who turned out to be an inhabitant of squirrel camp. After a few days of watching, the sun plucked up the courage to say hello. The squirrels was startled at first, as you would be if the sun shyly sidled up to you and said hello. But in any case, despite all the odds, they hit it off. Turns out they had several likes in common, like sunrises, snowy mountainsides, and the films of Nicholas Cage.
After a short courtship, the two were quite fast in like. Love was perhaps around the corner, but like was enough for now. Keen to show the squirreler more of the world, the sun asked them to come to stay with it in the sky. Needless to say, the squirreler was over the moon with this proposition, and hurried to pack their things. However, there was one small problem, the squirreler had a boss, and they did not care to lose one of their workforce without something in return. Speak nothing of the once in an eternity opportunity this represented, a budget is a budget, and it can only stretch so far. After some fairly intense negotiations, an agreement was struck. The squirreler was free to travel with the sun, and in return the sun would power squirrel camp with its bright warm rays. And so that was how squirrel camp came to be powered by solar. 
To this day, the relationship holds, and squirrel camp receives its power from the sun. Of course, there are occasional arguments, where the sun goes off in a huff. Without its rays the clouds descend and squirrel camp is plunged into a grey dimness. But much to the relief of camp, the sun and the squirreler usually make up quickly, and the sun returns to make the solar panels hum once more.