The Harvard psychologist. Steven Pinker, is an optimist – he holds that whereas daily TV news is generally bad, the world’s long-term trends are good. In ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’, he argues that human nature comprises inclinations towards violence but also their opposite – inclinations towards kindness. From an abundance of historical evidence, he shows that, over time, violence and poverty decline – life expectancy and literacy rise – societies gradually learn to treat everyone better. This is the unquestionable direction of my lifetime – except in one area – our behaviour towards planet earth.
Even if all countries stick to their Paris Agreement pledges (2015), global temperatures are forecast to rise about 3.5 degrees centigrade against a target maximum of 2 degrees. With the constant improvements to solar and wind and battery technologies, we will eventually get to net-zero emissions – but not in time to prevent ruinous climate change.
In primary school, I was taught how to darn socks! Everything possible was repaired. Then suddenly, mass consumerism happened – we all found ourselves in a culture of ‘use it and toss it’ – we learned the meaning of waste! If I was a young adult in 2020 – choosing what kind of life to lead – I often wonder if I would be ‘concerned’ enough about our environmental crisis to follow a determined, non-consumerist lifestyle. Or would I again, just dive into the melee – ‘deil tak the hindmost’; I can only hope that the upcoming generation are ‘better angels of our nature’ than I was.
Where I live is close to the Edinburgh Council boundary, but West Lothian trucks empty our buckets – so from six this evening, we move into tier 4 lockdown; I feel no anger or resentment – that’s just the way it is. We have individual lives with rights and freedoms; we have shared lives with restrictions and responsibilities; Covid has opened us to the reality of how dependent we are on others: health workers, teachers, bucketmen…. Social isolation in dark winter, will require that we all keep watch over our mental health; in my own case, for instance, recurrent echoes of panic are keeping me vigilant. An excellent website has been created by the mental health charity, MIND (championed by the doughty Stephen Fry).
I first heard Joe Cullinane speak about Community Wealth Building (CWB) at the Senscot Conference in November 2019 – his ‘conviction’ was impressive. This is a short piece by him in the Scottish Left Review which captures the essence of North Ayrshire Council’s CWB Strategy – its potential to become a new economic order.
Latest data shows that, in 2018, Scotland recycled 73,000 tonnes of plastic waste – but nearly all (98%) had to be shipped abroad. This is effectively exporting the jobs that would be created in a Scottish reprocessing facility. This Herald article gives angry reactions to this lost economic opportunity – including from environmentalists.
During the Tory Brexit war in the Commons last year, I came to regard Dominic Grieve as a calm voice of reason. Here Grieve comments in the Guardian, on various political events since he got thrown out of the Party: “My former Conservative colleagues, ask yourselves, what has Boris Johnson achieved – and heed the damning answer”.
Feisty article in Red Pepper by the newly launched Northern Independence Party (NIP) – making the case for Northumbrian secession – ‘a new nation beyond the Humber’: “The centrality of London, and its capacity to gobble up this country’s assets, is built into the very fabric of the so called United Kingdom”. The devolution issue is building momentum.
Reader sent this short video depicting the wealth of Jeff Bezos in grains of rice; 10 grains = $1million; wait till you see what $1 billion looks like – then $150 billion – crazy.
In her book ‘This changes everything’, Naomi Klein argues that Climate Change is not about carbon – it’s about capitalism – our failed economic system.
“Because, underneath all of this is the real truth we have been avoiding: climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”