Wednesday, March 08, 2017


How shall I remember Mother?

She epitomized Home.

Mother’s life wasn’t all about food, but when I began to think and talk about what her life meant to those around her, it was often her cooking that triggered memories of her warmth, and her gift for providing a welcome to nephews and nieces and anyone that came for a meal or to stay.

Hilary, Frances, Clive and I will always remember her roast dinners, a benchmark for future generations, and to others the mention of salmon mousse or perhaps the legendary chocolate biscuit cake or apple amber would bring back vividly the good times in Saxonhurst, or Broadway Lea or later Windgarth. Those recipes have travelled down the generations, although there was a time when I was convinced she always kept back some hidden ingredient, as hers was always that little bit better.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Brexit and EU collapse

The whole hypocrisy of this referendum is that the Tories have never committed to having any serious influence, yet complain it's going in the wrong direction.

In 2009 Cameron started by joining what became the ECR (eurosceptic) group in order to  appease the sceptics in his party and in one step alienated those we want to work with for a better EU.

The result is that not only was any attempt to negotiate the terms of our membership doomed, but also the Brexit case is based on an unrealistic view of our potential position in the EU once we have a PM with the courage to take a lead in Europe.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trident: an empty and expensive threat.

Abandoning Trident would be an effective way to move forward in support of non proliferation.

When we look back from a United Kingdom free of nuclear weapons in the future,  we will recognise that Trident in the second decade of the 21st century was no more of a deterrent against nuclear attack than hanging was against murder in the 20th.
Both are inhumane measures that the indecent fear of the loss of votes prevented us from abandoning, long after other countries with more civilised values had moved forward.

I would make several points:
 1. Trident's sole purpose is political not military.
 2. Trident has defied logic as a deterrent ever since the Iraq war and the internet gave conscience a voice.
 3. Trident is a waste of money.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tory party: Warriors for the dispossessed.

It's the underlying (hidden for the most part) agenda that matters, for no matter what policies are put in place or how they are defended with empty phrases, the end result depends on the philosophy of those framing them.

The Tory philosophy is exclusivity (as opposed to one that is inclusive and considers the whole community).

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tuition fees

The current system by which we fund university education is one of the more sickening examples of economic sleight of hand.
A large portion of university  degrees are being funded through taxation yet we obscure this fact and at the same time burden students with the illusion of debt.

Natalie Bennett was right when she said that providing further education to young people is a public good,  but we deny this:
while at the same time  most people  (presumably) agree that it is good for the country that more people should go to university, we put unnecessary barriers in the way in the form of an (in most cases) imaginary "loan".

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Private schools and community

Private schools (and indeed parental choice in general) may seem like a good idea in principle, but the unintended consequences in the long term are the polarisation of society and an increase in inequality.

So what is needed is a way to reintegrate private with state, and therefore the pressure on private schools to work more closely with their local community is a move in the right direction.

[A more interesting question would be what would need to happen before schools, that are currently funded exclusively by parents, became funded by the state]

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Frances Stenner RIP

Raised in a traditional middle class family in the 40s and 50s and with private schooling behind her, the enduring influence on Fran’s life was Corsham, where she studied sculpture, and where her passions for Art and the Natural World were ignited and burned with her all her life. .

Fran's priorities were her friends and family (in particular her daughter Katie and husband Roger to whom she was devoted), her art, her faith and ecology. She addressed all these with sensitivity and dedication.

She inherited her father’s creativity and drive and her mother's generosity of spirit but her main quality was her perseverance. As friends have described, “she put everything into everything” she set her mind to, but also with “the gentleness of a butterfly” and “She had a lovely vivacity about her”.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A betrayal of principles

Thatcher was true to herself except in two respects. In her early years, even though she understood the significance of climate change - as evidenced by her speeches at the Royal Society, UN and others and later, helping set up the Hadley Centre - she reversed her attitude once she was no longer PM when others might have been encouraged to follow her lead.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The five key actions of the sustainability-promoting firm

(From the archive - not sure of source but worth putting out there for discussion?)
If society is to achieve sustainability (ecological, social and economic) then there will need to be a proliferation of sustainability promoting firms. To date, most firms, when they become active on the environment, aim to reduce their own negative impacts. But even if every firm adopted this approach, society would not be able to achieve sustainability - because the firms' actions would be focused solely on existing production processes and existing products thereby loving in an inadequate (even though improved) status quo.
Sustainability-promoting firms, on the other aim to help society to become sustainable. This change of focus moves sustainability-promoting firms into a new management paradigm.
At a minimum, sustainability-promoting firms will need to taker the following give key actions. They will need to:

Friday, October 26, 2012

CRB checks: a distraction?

There is an argument for reducing the legal requirement for CRB checks.  It seems to me that the CRB requirement is a political response, not based on logic. It's almost as if the only reason for carrying out a check (apart from staying within the law) is to fend off accusations of negligence when either someone discovers that a person in contact with children (or vulnerable adults) has had a conviction, or an abuse has occurred, and the conviction comes out in later investigation.
Both of these are irrelevant as far as child protection is concerned: the first is for the organisation's self protection, the second is too late. What is important is to make sure that wherever possible interactions with children take place in an environment where abuse is impossible or unlikely, and any incidents have some chance of being witnessed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mitch Benn's "Undeserving Poor"

Once upon a time
Back when I was twenty-two
Still figuring out what to do
I was signing on back then
Declared each penny that I earned
And at least I knew the rent was paid
My parents lived three hundred miles away
So I could hardly live with them
And I gave it all back
Every year I pay in tax
Many times all that the social gave to me
And I cough up every cent
Because I know it pays the rent
Of some dreaming kid who's who I used to be
And wasn't there supposed to be
A thing called social mobility
"Get on yer bike and look for work", wasn't that the way?
Well not now, not any more
Not for the undeserving poor
Wherever you come from that's where you'll stay
(from "The Now Show" 29 Jun 2012)

Friday, April 17, 2009

What does make the difference?*

You may have seen the video on YouTube of a speech given by a 12 year old girl at the Rio Conference in 1982. Severn Suzuki is now 28, and this is what she said recently:

“I had a little bit of an epiphany when I watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and it wasn’t necessarily because of the content - I thought the movie was great.

But right at the end, when you’re all  fired up and you’re going to stand up and join the army to  fight climate change, these little suggestions come onto the screen when the credits are rolling and they’re so small.

So why are we doing all this? ("Towards a Circular Economy")*

People have been going on about ‘taking care of
 the planet’ since long before we’d heard of ‘global warming’: before climate change became something we paid attention to.

It has to do with circles and straight lines. In the Lion King they talk about the ‘circle of life’. For hundreds of thousands of years we lived our lives a little more ‘in tune’ with nature. When we built a fire there was enough woodland to ensure that there were always more trees by the time we needed more wood. There were plenty of trees and plants to be able to absorb the gases we produced when
we burnt them. When we caught fish to eat, we left enough ‘tiddlers’ to make sure there were plenty to eat next time. And when we threw stuff away, the eco-system, all the bugs and bacteria, and the plants, knew how to break it down so it became part of the earth again...

And then we got smart.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Climate change is on everyone’s lips these days, but what practical steps do we all need to take in our own homes and what needs to happen with housing nationally, to actually deliver significant reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over the next few decades, in order to avert major problems all over the globe?

The ‘40% House’ project, led by the Environmental Change Institute, took a look at these issues over a two and a half year project and has come up with a strategy that would cut CO2 emissions by 60%, reduce our reliance on imported energy and at the same time ensure that, if anything, our quality of life at home will be improved.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Plan for the 21st Century — Turning the Planet Around

Transcript of Presentation to ECO 95, given at Filton College, October 1995
“The  headlines in Mondays paper read “Schumacher drives away doubts”…  But which Schumacher were they talking about? Whether you immediately think of the Schumacher lectures at the Colston Hall last Saturday,  or the winner of the Pacific Grand Prix on Sunday depends on your particular perspective,  but it is the contrast between these two worlds that marks the theme of ECO 95.
We must find a way for the world that hails speed on the track as progress,  to meet and work together with the world that gives the Schumacher Society award for 1995 to Transport 2000.  It was Schumacher in his book Small is Beautiful who wrote about the problems of the world being primarily that of 2 million villages,  which makes it a problem of 2 billion villagers.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Philippines broke my heart

I lived in Manila in the early '80's (in the time of Marcos) and got to know the Philippines and love it.

But the rot was there then, and even though you hoped it'd sort itself out when the People's Revolution came, it still hasn't happened.

The worst of human nature is doing to that beautiful collection of islands, to those people with beautiful hearts, what it is doing to the planet. I see the PI as a microcosm of the ills that we face globally, and it makes me feel powerless, and yet at the same time so angry that it drives me to keep trying to do something.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nuclear - it's just not good housekeeping

Let's think long term on this: many tonnes* of high and medium level waste are produced globally every year but:
  • the planet doesn't know how to break down (biodegrade) this material,
  • we don't know at what level of radiation the biosphere (life on the planet) will be irreversibly affected,
and yet we are allowing the level to increase at a greater rate, every time we build more plants.

Until we find a way to break down radioactive waste into a form that the earth itself can process, nuclear power is just not sustainable.

(*can anyone tell me how many tonnes of radioactive waste the average nuclear power station produces every year).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Speed - excess to impress

In the seventies we cut the speed limit to 50 (or was it 55) mph because of the Energy Crisis, presumably because it saved fuel. Now we have a global crisis with a full set of international treaties to cut carbon emissions, and we are contemplating raising the limit on motorways?

Green Electricity but no Green Gas?

Lets see now, we are in the thrall of Putin because we will have to rely on gas reserves in Ukraine, the Waste industry is falling over itself to keep biodegradable waste ( a source of renewable natural gas) out of landfill, the major part of domestic energy use is natural gas, and yet there is no Government Policy on replacing Natural Gas in the grid with renewable natural gas. Go figure.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The project

Our view of society has a number of perspectives.

From one perspective, we see fractured communities, with broadening gaps between rich and poor, fear replacing mutual respect between generations, and poor communication leading to misunderstanding and conflict. Marginalised groups and communities - young people, and those who are ‘different’ (through race income or lifestyle) – are bearing the fallout from a dysfunctional society.

From another perspective we see a gap between those providing basic information on climate change at a global, national and regional level and those looking for it locally. Individual and local actions on this and other environmental issues are hindered by myths, confusing mixed messages from vested interests, and a fear of hidden agendas by authority trying to help.

Welcome to the blogosphere

Diary entry 14 Jul 06: Having procrastinated for the best part of seven months, and witnessed two workshops on blogging in the last ten days, its time to just do it. I'll never get it the way I want it (perfectionism has its price) but this is the start! I'm going to make the framework and fill in the gaps as I go, hoping someone out there will help to fill them in or even make it better...