Tuesday, 20 June 2017

It is all about who you know

Six months without posting is uncharacterisitc of me.  It certainly isn't for lack of material to comment on: delays to the Committee of Inquiry, unexpected election results, Sen Ozouf in out hokey cokey dance, serious case reviews re child care, the vote of no confidence in the Chief Minister.  In part it is circumstances that have left me with a lot more work to do than normal.  In part it is because these things are of little real consequence in a world where systems are at or possibly beyond sustainable limits.

I did read one article that I think is worth noting, because it might explain some of the surprise and the disconnect between expectations and outcomes in political events. The article is a summary of a survey of  ‘traditional media’ in the Crown Dependencies, See  The Blurring of Lines Between Social Media and Traditional Communications

 The critical paragraph is "What stands out in particular to us as PR professionals is the overwhelming and persistent preference amongst journalists of sourcing stories from press releases and personal contacts, rather than relying on social media."

Two strands of thought really concern me here.  First is what is missing.  No mention is made of professional reports and published data.  Analysis of such sources and data is where important stories can be discovered. Hardly surprising therefore that we seldom see reporters go back to old reports and commitments of public bodies and follow up if recommendations have been enacted , deadlines met or actions delivered.   Sometimes such things are taken up by blogs and individuals , but as we see from the survey these are not regarded as sources.

The  second, and equally as serious is the self referential nature of the sources the journalists are using.  Personal contacts and press releases are not representative of society as a whole.  If journalism is a profession staffed predominanlty by graduates, then likely those within it mix with other professionals and graduates.  Their circle of contacts are likely similar to themselves.  Press releases are the tools of the educated and the comfortably well off of corporates and big organisations.  A bit of reflection shows us the input to the journalists about which items are important which are worthy of attention and in what light they are viewed is not based on any merit or seriousness of the content, but on who is connected, who has the channels open, who can whisper in whose ear.

Hardly surprising then that our local media, and I suspect it applies further afield too, have their own Westminster Village effect.  No surprise then that election results  where real ordinary people  have a voice come as a shock. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all and a happy New Year.

You might be forgiven reading much of the press for thinking the traditional seasonal sentiment for this time of year is something of a sarcastic parody of what passed in 2016.  It has even spawned headlines like Is 2016 the worst year in history ?  But that would be a mistake I think.

Yes there have been conflicts and tensions  in Syria, West Papua, and the Ukraine to name a few of the top of my head.  We have seen relations between the USA and Russia and the USA and China more  strained than for decades.   So bad in fact  the much respected journalist John Pilger described it as the third world war already under way.

On the other side of the argument we have seen a half century long armed conflict in Colombia end , and there are several studies showing the recent trend in deaths in wars is declining.

Unfortunately battle deaths are not the only casualties in war. For 2012, the first and latest year for which its estimates are available, the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) estimates that more than 172 million people were affected by conflict worldwide. Of this total 149 million or 87 percent were conflict-affected residents (CARs). Internally displaced persons (IDPs) accounted for another 18 million and refugees for five million.

That preceding paragraph comes from 2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics

From here we also learn that  hunger /undernourishment has decreased notable in both absolute and relative terms over the last 25 years. 

The same paper also comments on one other significant question:

"Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. For the world as a whole, per capita food availability has risen from about 2220 kcal/person/day in the early 1960s to 2790 kcal/person/day in 2006-08, while developing countries even recorded a leap from 1850 kcal/person/day to over 2640 kcal/person/day. This growth in food availability in conjunction with improved access to food helped reduce the percentage of chronically undernourished people in developing countries from 34 percent in the mid 1970s to just 15 percent three decades later. (FAO 2012, p. 4) The principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase (or land to grow) enough food."

That last sentence is quite a problem.  Bearing in mind that food is perishable and there is really only so many calories one can eat without  producing  ill effects,  you have to wonder at both the logic and inhumanity of this.   Where do all the surplus calories/food go?  Either to waste or to producing unhealthy body weight.

So what of the other part of that sentence - the income bit ? Certainly over the last 2 centuries it seems things have improved overall.

(from https://ourworldindata.org/world-poverty/)

So from the purely economic and anthropocentric long terms view things are getting better.  There may be hiccoughs and  delays but slow improvements are happening.   Who you might wonder is paying for this marvel of continuous improvement?

Try this from our Earth biodiversity

  Just to illustrate the degree of biodiversity loss we're facing, let’s take you through one scientific analysis...
  • The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.
  • These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year.
  • If the low estimate of the number of species out there is true - i.e. that there are around 2 million different species on our planet -  then that means between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year.
  • But if the upper estimate of species numbers is true - that there are 100 million different species co-existing with us on our planet - then between 10,000 and 100,000 species are becoming extinct each year.

In a generalised form, here is a graph of the dates of Earth overshoot day.  That's the day each year where statistically we consume and pollute more than we believe the Earth can accommodate.

(In 2016 Earth overshoot day was August 8th).

It isn't Trump or Brexit or any of those things from 2016 that really  worries me.  It is the  clear long term trend in this graph that is the real problem.  Good will to all men (& women) isn't enough , not nearly enough.  Nor is fear that leads to inward looking isolationism.  The antidote to fear is gratitude.  Consume less, share more.  Be grateful to live in times where we have ample resource like food enough to feed everyone if we desire to.  Be thankful we have medicine and technology to improve lives.   Something has to change.  The smart move it so change ourselves to avert the worst that might be imposed upon us.  The window of opportunity may be short lived , I cannot tell, but appreciate you do have the opportunity to make a difference like no other generation so far has.