Stephen Taylor: Hairy clubbers?

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IN the light of last week’s discussion about whether we in the north have developed immunity to the cold in the city centre, there has been further discussion about our capacity to develop from generation to generation.

Last night there was a TV programme that asked the question: “Have we stopped evolving?”

Some scientists believe once we grew a bigger brain and developed as hunters and farmers then settle into communities, our physical development began to slow down too, and some say stopped.

When we settled in cooler areas we didn’t wait a few hundred years to become hairier, we killed a few animals, skinned them and wore them to keep warm.

When you visit old buildings or old ships you certainly get the impression that the average height of the population has increased since then.

A study in America has been following successive generations to see if evolutionary change is still happening.

They have found that in the past where diet has improved, then height and longevity increased.

However, the most recent studies have found a deterioration in the intake of healthy foods and that has an impact not only in weight gain, but they are also seeing a gradual reduction in height too.

The conclusion is, albeit very small changes are being observed, we as a species have retained an ability to change to environmental factors. Maybe the weekend night-clubbing generation will become hairy in a generation or two’s time.

We have just begun Fairtrade fortnight. Thankfully for the well-being or the poorest inhabitants of this planet we with disposable incomes are gradually getting the message.

The choices that are made every day by consumers does give hope for the developing countries communities where, for example, with the Fairtrade premium, classrooms have been built and farmers and producers have been able to send their children to school or pay for health care.

In these fragile economies a few pence can, for example, pay for anti-malarial treatment, which can mean the difference between life and death.

The Mayor, Councillor Tom Martin, launched our campaign in Sunderland with a Fairtrade tea party and throughout the fortnight shops and stores will be promoting their fairly-traded products.

In the City Library and Arts Centre Foyer, in Fawcett Street, there is an information stand and display – there until Saturday, March 12.

Visitors can get a range of information on Fairtrade and find out about the difference choosing these products makes.

The flagship activity this year is to enable anyone to decorate a piece of bunting, which when put together with contributions from the other Fairtrade cities in the UK, will hopefully enter the Guinness Book Of Records as the longest piece of bunting ever.

If you want to know how to obtain a piece of bunting to decorate, or get involved with other events, visit the Sunderland Partnership website

Look out for the Fairtrade logo when doing your shopping or having your coffee or tea this week.