The pacific island of Tuvalu is the lowest state in the world, and the first that will be submerged by rising sea levels; beaches are already disappearing, 80% of the surrounding coral is bleached, and fish-stocks are collapsing. In 1999 Tuvalu was the world’s third poorest state, but it was given the internet domain name .tv. This was immediately bought by a communications company in California for $40 million dollars, an enormous sum to the poor islanders, who then set about buying expensive cars, developing the island’s infrastructure, building nightclubs and casinos. ‘Just because we are sinking, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to raise our standards of living,’ said Sam Teo, Tuvalu’s minister for natural resources.

 

MY FAVOURITE AMOEBA…

The amoeba dictyostelium discoideum lives in liquid films on the forest floor, consuming bacteria and dividing relentlessly. When it senses a shortage of food, it releases a short burst of the chemical cyclic adenosine monophosphate. Any amoeba that receives the call amplifies it and relays it on, then begins to move toward the source of the first signal (but never any of the secondary signals.) Within minutes, the amoeba form a pattern of feathery crystal shapes as they converge on the original. After two or three hours, all amoebae in the area are gathered around a small number of original signallers where they congeal into a sausage shape about two millimetres long. This form, known as a grex or slug, begins to act like a single, multicellular organism, developing a distinct front and hind end, and slithering slowly toward any source of heat, light or humidity it senses. When it reaches a suitable location, which can take as long as two weeks, the rear end spreads out with the front end raised in the air, forming what is called the ‘Mexican hat’, and the culmination stage begins in which the front end of the Mexican hat forms a cellulose tube, which allows special ‘fruit cells’, sealed in little capsules, to be fired around the new area to begin the cycle again.

 

SKIING IN JAPAN…

…is, first of all, cheap. Not an elite sport, but something that anyone can do. Good facilities, good food, not that many people; very agreeable. Then, when you finish, climb up the little shrine-dotted mountain paths to the volcanic baths, undress completely, wash every square millimetre of your body with psychotic intensity, then ease ahhh-naked into the hot hot (but never quite too hot) water, overlooking the white, wild bamboo valleys below. Steam clouds rise up to meet drifting snowflakes, softening them, fattening them, clustering them on your glad lashes. Usually there’s a Geisha in the corner playing the shamisen, or an old man softly chanting Buddhist prayers.

Yeah, skiing in Japan is great. The best thing, I thought, is that it is mandatory to go dressed as an animal, monster or god.