Thursday, 28 December 2017

Bloomberg's pessimists guide

Found this interesting and worrying , but not because it is pessimistic.

The thing I note about these scenarios is they are all political/economic concerns.  Those are not the ones that worry me.  Yes they are bad, yes they hurt, but they are survivable, recoverable at a collective level at least.  It is the stuff not even on the radar of Bloomberg here that are the most troubling. You know the stuff: food security, eco systems collapse.

So there you have it  - guidance on how to profit from induced human misery while ignoring  the real crises.  They are so far down the rabbit hole they have forgotten  there is a world of light and life beyond the confines of the financial warren.  All the time they are down there burrowing away they undermine those  real world structures .  Madness...

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Remarkable but unnoticed

History will likely have a spot for the first year of Trump's presidency, the saga of Brexit and the astounding impact of crypto-currencies this year.   Two stories that have not had significant attention might yet prove to be far more important than any of that. 

First wheat. Stable crop  for much of the developed world.  All that bread, pastry, breakfast cereal  and cake depends on grain and primarily wheat.   The overwhelming majority of the crop is grown on huge farms in inner continental  climate regions  -the prairies of the USA, steppes of Russia, Ukraine and parts of Australia.  It is big business, big machinery highly mechanised and industrialised.  The pursuit of yield has driven  breeding of high yielding varieties, at least they are high yielding if conditions are right.

Breeding varieties  for a single trait means a few selected genes have been selected time and again, and a few other lost.  So when a pathogen pops up that seems to particularly attack the same genes, things start to look  ugly.  No problem - start breeding in resistant genes to the  pathogen.  And that is hat has been happening for many years with resistance to wheat rusts (a family of fungal diseases).   But then a new pathogen  strain overcomes the resistance you have bred into your high yielding wheat pops up?

It has happened. Since the 1990's UG99 has been slowly expanding its range, from East Africa  into Pakistan and Afghanistan.  It is estimated more than 85% of the world's wheat is susceptible because almost all high yield wheat varieties carry the  Sr35 gene which is where the vulnerability  lays.

Despite this vulnerability and the projected increasing  demands for wheat across the globe as population and per capita consumption rises , wheat prices are  almost at a decade low.  

A different perspective on similar data, but pricing in gold rather than dollars, and hence somewhat mitigating inflationary effects from fiat currency:

Of course there is no certainty about how wheat prices will play out in the future.  But over the next 5  to 10 years the odds look to be very much in favour of significant price rises, and that is going to be reflected in basic food costs.  And that will impact the poorest hardest.

Second on my very short list is something that happened just this month.  AlphaZero teaches itself champion playing The importance is not that it beat other game playing AI's.  It is that it taught itself  to do so very quickly .  This is arguably the first step to a generalised intelligence.  Games are no different from many other spheres of human activity.  As long as there are clear rules and an objective evaluation function  all sorts of situations ought to be  capable of being treated the same way.  It is a game changer in more ways that one.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

House built on sand?

eGov: £10million spent and key part still to do

Software projects are difficult and big government type projects harder still.  Just look at the history of UK NHS IT projects for lessons in failure.  However headlines that the one above make me really nervous.  If you know there is a high risk of failure ,or a crucial  element the sensible thing to do is  trial out the key bits and the the most difficult bits first.

If you cannot deliver the key bits best to know early so the project board can close down the project with minimal financial costs,  albeit with a few embarrased faces. You might have the option of taking a different approach or making some compromises on other parts of the project so the whole can be delivered, but again if that's understood early on  it can be accommodated.  If you spend all the time and budget on the relatively simple stuff and worrying about the colour scheme and  type face of the  UI (It happens), you spend a ton of money and then not have time or budget left to tackle the hard crucial key bit.  If that isn't delivered you have wasted everything. At best your project overruns and you will be under immense pressuse for delivery on a crucial bit - and that is where quality shouldn't be compromised, but inevitable will be.  

That healdine, if an accurate representation of the state of play, should be a big red flag  to those overseeing the project.  It would be if they had any experience.  My guess is they will glibly sail on under the assurance we are 90 or 95%  of the way there.  That might be true in terms of code written , or budget spent.  No one ever asks about progress but in terms of risk and quality.  Those matter.  In big IT projects those matter a lot.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Unbalanced futures

I inadvertently found myself listening to the States on Wednesday afternoon. It is a habit I thought I had overcome ! It was on the funding of the new hospital. I haven't followed the debate on the selection of the site, but I was interested to hear some of the points being made about the funding. 

 At one extreme was Deputy A Lewis who was arguing we should be borrowing more. The basis of his case was that with abnormally low interest rates it would cost less than the return on the funds we have invested. The amount of debt the States carry would be considered very low in business and more is affordable. At the other end of the spectrum was deputy Bree and Sen Ozouf arguing it is too much of a burden on future generations. The proposal was for a fixed interest 40 year bond. In all probability the value of the capital repayment will be significantly eroded by inflation, but its not guaranteed and we have had extended periods of deflation in the past. 

 Both cases are based on some degree of facts, though I'm bound to note there are companies, even quoted ones, that operate without debt. Taking on debt necessarily requires you to have a view that you will have inflation or income growth in the intervening period. Both are plausible over the next 40 years. And in many way that is the problem. 

I was waiting to hear someone raise the question over other commitments and problems we shall have to fund over the next 40 years. Problems that themselves stem from growth - the growth needed to afford repaying the loan. Not one mention of the issues of climate change, resource depletion etc etc. A whole assembly making 40 year future commitments as though somehow finances are isolated and independent of the realities of growth in the physical world over a comparable timescale is folly. 

Of course we are in a hole, there is no good solution from this position. Deputy Noel made a good observation here. The reason we had to borrow £250million (issue a bond) to sort out the housing problems was because we (The States) did not invest in the housing stock over the years. Similarly with the health buildings. I believe that is true. And there was a reason that was allowed to continue. We had for decades a mentality that the tax system was perfect, so the revenue available fairly static, regardless of the scale of the problems to be addressed. That was folly. It is one that we somewhat persist with . 

All these new capital projects have to be funded of course, but as ever when you launch a big building programme you are committed not just to the capital costs, but a significant amount of ongoing maintenance and management costs, at least you are if you are doing it properly. My problem is we seem not to have learnt, we are still not making adequate provision it seems for future commitments. And if we aren't doing that financially when the whole assembly is looking at the finances, what do you imagine is going on about ecology and sustainability where practically no member of the States takes a strong lead?

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Now that is a parliamentary speech

A valedictory speech from the New Zealand governement.  It is so sad and somewhat shameful that we have heard nothing like this in  the States Assembly for quite some time.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Reform Day

248 years on.  How's that project doing?  Any bets on it getting a noticed in the local media?

Friday, 15 September 2017

They do it differently in Iceland

Iceland do a few things differently. They read more books per person per year than anywhere else. They jail bankers when they crash the economy. They hunt whales (boo!) and they call elections over a breach of trust, see  child molesters scandal  "Icelandic PM calls snap election due to child sex abuse scandal. Bjarni Benediktsson has called for fresh elections in November after one of his coalition partners withdrew from the government due to a 'breach of trust' All so very not the Jersey way......

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Glyphosate Petition

The States of Jersey does not yet allow electronc petitions. The following link should take you to a downloadable pdf you can print on your own parchment or vellum or plain old paper. Signatures don't have to be with a proper swan feather quill, you can just use your own biro. Glyphosate petition

The printed doc should look like this picture.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Who owns the World?

Noam Chomsky is a very good mind.  Worth watching his  presentation. He starts with Adam Smith!

"It takes genius not to see it"

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

When policies collide.

Today is Earth overshoot day.  It is the day in the year when humanity collectively has used up our annual available eco services.  That isn't just direct consumption it is also the ability of the planet to deal with our pollution.  It was at 1 in the early 1970's ie back then the planet was just able to handle our impact - there was no overshoot.  Since then the day has got  inevitably earlier.  Another way to look at it is we are collective consuming about 1.7 planet's worth of eco services every year.  Imagine spending 1.7 times your income each year.  You would be in big trouble pretty quickly unless you have a big pile of  wealth behind you.  Even then that pile would diminish rapidly.  And that is exactly what we see in the world - diminishing fish stocks, less pristine forest, fewer animals  both species in many cases numbers. 

The impact varies round the world, country by country.
Of course it is crude, but no less so than using GDP to determine whether society is progressing or not. Looking at that country list I would expect Jersey's position would be around the 3.3 planet level. It would be useful to know as an indicator of how we are doing , are we going in the right direction , can we get to a satisfactory, sustainable position before disaster strikes? 

It happens that we are in Jersey taking the first steps in developing indicator metrics  like the footprint above.  That's the ongoing Future Jersey exercise.   Imagine 2035 purported to do something similar a decade ago.  That fiasco tried to engineer support for one of a pre selection of growth policy ambitions and completely and  ignored future  impacts like climate change.  This  current project has some  hope of working.  The wide ranging  questionnaire and topics at the outset of course means we have at the raw data level a set of incoherent ambitions.  Resolving those tensions and conflicts is where the real work  happens. 

It was a great pity that the IJCI report was delayed and therefore couldn't really feed  into this Future Jersey  activity more fully.  It certainly touches on some relevant  points .  One  area the survey suggested was very good in Jersey was being or feeling safe.  Yet the evidence given to the Care Inquiry and one of its key conclusions arising is  that children in the care system in Jersey continue to be put at risk.

Comments were also made by the ICJI report on decision making, politics and structures in Jersey. Eg form the executive summary " (x) Failure to tackle a silo mentality among public-sector agencies. States departments and institutions have been characterised by territorialism and protectiveness rather than openness to pooling resources and learning. As a result, there has been a lack of a comprehensive strategy to secure the bests interests of children in the island."  Such behaviour and mentality is very unlikely to  work when tackling holistic concerns and policies. 

I think the work of Future Jersey gives a chance to begin unpicking that silo mentality and get to a position of better decision making and cooperative working across States departments.  Intriguingly this opportunity arises from what many would probably see as the biggest weakness of the whole Future Jersey  project - it doesn't change anything!  And that criticism is largely true.

What we should have when all fifty plus of the indicators in the report are developed is a set of metrics to serve as a decision support tool.  Every strategy and report could then be assessed against the metrics to see its impact and ensure aspects outside of the immediate expected consequences are considered.  In theory we then get better decisions.

Quite what mechanics will be deployed to achieve hasn't been described.  We already have a requirement in States propositions to complete a statement of manpower and financial implications. Having a statement of all fifty indicators might be to cumbersome, but it would put the factors up front in proposals.  An alternative would be to have scrutiny review against the criteria.  There are a few concerns here as scrutiny panels are segregated by area of interest and wouldn't necessarily have knowledge across all the factors.  Also scrutiny do not call in all  propositions for scrutiny, and occasionally policies don't even get to scrutiny or even the the States assembly (eg the current Rural economy strategy).  As a third option we could have someone independent - equivalent of the Comptroller and Auditor general using the metrics to review  , but that would certainly be retrospective, missing the main benefit of informing debate in the chamber.

However it comes into being we desperately need a mechanism for reviewing policies and actions in the round. These decisions are hard, sometimes very hard.  I think about the impacts of my actions a lot , but I still find it hard to get to an acceptable sustainable position in my own life.   I've sometimes been called a zealot or idealist trying to align what I believe is necessary with how I do things. But even  with my 'extreme' decisions, even  my footprint doesn't quite get to the necessary 1 planet level.

Image may contain: text

You can get a footprint for yourself at!/

The Future Jersey report is at FUTURE JERSEY

Friday, 28 July 2017

One step backwards

On the day we start recruitment for a Childrens Commissioner we have this. Respite centre to stop allowing teens

A respite centre that provides care for young teenagers with learning disabilities is changing to be an adult only unit because there is not enough demand for the service.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Divide and conquer?

Rather an interesting comment from  Alexis Jay of the UK child sex abuse inquiry.  Powerful want us to fail     

I haven't seen anything to clarify who are the powerful who want to derail the inquiry.  There are some obvious candidates.    Well connected politicans?  Mandarins at the Civil Service? The Church? The judiciary? The Monarchy?

Of course we had some 'senior politicians'  here who wanted to see our recently reported inquiry fail even to happen.   One cannot help but wonder if the carefully incised terms of reference of our inquiry weren't done to protect the same interests and prevent the really problematic questions being asked.

All of those on the list above have either influence or responsibility for important parts of Jersey governance.   Form the Appeal Court to the Privy Council to the apppointment of Crown Officers they all have influence here.  

If any of them is a vested interest wanting to see the UK inquiry implode, and given the role each has in Jersey's governance, one has to consider why our inquiry wasn't  more closely connected to the CSA in the UK.  And isn't it revealing that they have asked for the report to be forwarded to them.  Why would they need that if there were no connexion?  It seems a good bet that there are unresolved trans-jurisdictional issues here. 

One obvious reason to have kept the inquiries separate of course is the age old tactic of divide and conquer. 


Friday, 7 July 2017

Utterly perplexed

I heard the Chief Minister's summing up speech in the States of the debate on the committee of inquiry report and I have to say I am totally perplexed.

After decades of abuse of children in care as evidenced in the report the  proposal is to have a  a new Children's Commissioner, set up yet more panels and boards of States members and produce a new strategy document.  That's it.  More talking shops, more bits of paper, one person - a  Children's Commissioner - to change everything!

According to some this is the most damning report from an inquiry they have seen.  With the exception of the Connetable of St John who argued against one item, no one contested the Chief Minister's prescription of signing up to all the recommendations.  Yet many of those same recommendations are exactly the opposite of the States policy and the programme of the Council of Ministers since ministerial government started.  Overnight they collectively volte face and start being the best to implement policies that last month they collectively opposed?

We now have ministers in the CoM who opposed the very set up of the committee of enquiry, ministers who opposed the creation of a Children's Minister in 2009. We have ministers who have derailed or opposed every significant move to reform the States who are now it seems going to support the exhortation in the report to adopt Clothier and Carswell.  Ministers who have spent a decade or more in the Assembly gleefully pushing every opportunity to adopt laws facilitating the finance industry are overnight going to now prioritise social justice measures as the report indicates. 

To quote Jim Royle ,  My Arse!

Where else in the world would you receive such a damning report and wake up the day after a debate on it to find exactly the same ministers and assistant ministers in office. No one accountable, no one taking responsibility in any way that matters.

The Chief Minister quoted Deputy Bree in saying something like nothing can be the same again.  To me it looks like if you are in the magic circle everything is still exactly the same.

Plus ça change.....

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Senator Gorst's first challenge.

The Chief Minister did a decently statesman like job in his response to the publication of the care inquiry report.  He apologised to survivors and victims  up front and accepted all the recommendations. Chief minister shocked saddened sorry

In reality he could do little else.  The findings of the inquiry were critical of pretty much every aspect they looked into.  There were no straws to clutch at.  Even the fig leaf of the Williamson report that has been used before to claim progress is being made was  holed.

But that isn't the challenge I had in mind.  His immediate problem is what to do about deputy Andrew Lewis.  He is currently chair of the  Public Accounts committee and a member of the Chairman's committee The purpose and role of the commitee can be seen at Public Accounts  It is not trivial body having reported on such things  as e-gov, the innovation fund, financial management and internal audit. 

From the care inqury: "We find that Andrew Lewis lied to the States Assembly about the Metropolitan Police Service report, stating that he had sight of it when he had not. We can readily see why these acts have given rise to public suspicion that all or some of those involved were acting improperly and that they were motivated by a wish to discredit or close down investigations into child abuse.”

It simply isn't possible for him to continue as chair of the Public Accounts committee.  A vote of no confidence could be brought to remove him, but I don't think that can happen before the in committee debate on the care inquiry report.  And it  surely isn't appropriate for him to participate in that given the statement made by the inquiry.  Actually it goes further .

The phrase "these acts have given rise to public suspicion that all or some of those involved were acting improperly"  is referring to States members and very senior cvil servants .  Prima facie evidence that  his actions have brought the  Assembly and the States into disrepute.   That is a suspension issue.  

If the Chief Minister's words in response to the publication of the care inquiry report are to mean anything I can see no other option.  If he does not act on that finding  then he  undermines the report and the inquiry.  No confidence in Deputy Lewis as chair of the Public Accounts committee does not address the issues relating to the care inquiry and where he lied - to the Assembly and effectively to the public of the Island. If we had a recall mechanism I think this is exactly the sort of scenario it would be applicable. But we dont so it has to be immediate suspension.  

Monday, 3 July 2017


A quick scan of the care inquiry report released today.  Of course it will take time to analyse the detail, unpick the cautious language in places and spot the omissions.  One or two online comments describe it as the most damning report they have seen.  I wouldn't go that far, least not until I've read it thoroughly.  But for today, it does one important job. In the fight between on the one hand victims, survivors and campaigners and on the other the  powerful, the conflicted, the deceiving,  and those who tried to avoid having an inquiry at all , it is the former who are clearly vindicated.

So here are a few pertinent clips that stood out to me. 

On Willamson


On Skinner and Jouault

On  political structure. Clothier and Carswell

On past failures

A couple of bits from others.

Lewis Lied Bailhache political error   Andrew Lewis lied and the former Bailiff's Liberation Day speech was 'a grave political error'

Jersey ££££ post

As the intersted parties  are locked in to hear the Chair's statement of the report of the Independent Care Inquiry, the ever reliable JEP  manages to get its retaliation in first with a front page never mind the damaged lives, dodgy practices, likely illegal activities and  decades of abuse, just look at the money story. 

Bravo JEP,  ever the reliable tool of  the mercantile  establishment.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More pressing business

I wrote recently of the survey by a PR company of the sources local journalists use for stories.  Well a couple more items have caught me eye.

An item that appeared today on the JEP online that superficially looks as though some reporter has been out to doorstep the Environment Minister  over an ongoing local issue - development of glasshouses.  The wording seemed oddly familiar to me so I checked.  Here's the printed piece, Minister envious of Guernsey planning policy  and for comparison the Minister in the States Assembly 20th June answering a supplementary question from Deputy Russell Labey re Warwick Farm. 

The odd thing here is the inclusion of the comment about Andium Homes wanting to build there.  You might think reading the piece that the Minister is accepting Warwick Farm is one of the sites that might be built on. Not so .  In the same half hour question time in the States there was a question from Montford Tadier That response seems pretty definitive. There is no potential for housing at Warwick Farm in the short term. How can  a reporter pay enough attention to one answer to quote almost verbatim, and yet include something that is flatly rebuffed in the same question time? Laziness, ineptitude or  calculated political slanting, I don't know - make up your own mind.  

As an aside I would point out the JEP should be aware of at least one of the alternative plans for Warwick Farm, consistent with the current green zoning of the site.  I know because the background paper to one of the expressions of interest in the lease was e-mailed to them by an over zealous supporter of  the plan.

Let me highlight another States issue.  It is of course all public information. It is on record in Hansard there's nothing here not readily available to any reporter.  You might recall the debate on the new hospital funding was delayed 4 times.  18th April the delay was called for by the Treasury Minister to give members time to analyse the little over 100 pages of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel report .  A move was made by others to delay the debate by even more than the two weeks agreed.

Odd then that the same States members who couldn't analyse a 111 page report in April in a day opr two are now confident enough to read digest and  debate in detail a probably (hopefully) much larger report of the Committee of Inquiry in to abuse in less than 3 days.  It just does not stack up.  

What does stack up to my mind is the stage management of the publication of the report. Only accredited press (no interested parties?) will be at the launch on the 3rd.  As I read the information there will be no opportunity of question and the lock in session will only be revealing the executive summary at that stage.  In effect the immediate press coverage will be what the chair and panel are telling the press is the important stuff, the 'party line'. and of course that will dominate the public information available just ahead of the States debate.  

 The ancient Chinese general Sun Tsu wrote
All warfare is based on deception.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.


Every battle is won before it is ever fought.

There is nothing quite as important in practicing deception than to have a compliant unquestioning fourth estate.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Shades of things about to come Updated.

In the run up to the important date of July 3rd, I was interested to hear a piece on radio 4's PM today concerning the odious Peter Ball. He is the bishop who was convicted in 2015 for misconduct in a public office and for abusing 18 teenagers and vulnerable young men.  It was a follow up to the report yesterday.  The key points of Dame Moira Gibb's report are : 
     "Ball's priority was to protect and promote himself and he maligned the abused."

     "The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others"

     "Ball's conduct has caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men... Peter Ball betrayed his Church and abused individual followers of that Church." 

The radio piece interviewed Rev Graham Sawyer who was one of Ball's victims in the 1990's.  I've done my best here to transcribe what he said.  It will be on Iplayer for a while at

Many victims of abuse like myself are still being ignored, isolated and vilified today.  I find it (the report) underwhelming. There wasn't much in it that was new to me. A few extra details perhaps but a lot of it has been known to many people who have been seeking to change the culture in the Church in the way that it deals with these matters.  And particularly with the way that it deal with the victims of abuse.  I was appalled Dame Moira Gibb in her forward says we have no doubt the Church has a genuine commitment to meeting its responsibilities towards victims of abuse.

It is simply totally untrue.  The way the highest levels of the Church - bishops archbishops and the National Safeguarding Office  - the way they treat people like me and the other people I speak with can only be described as enduringly cruel and enduringly sadistic.

For balance I assume they also had Bishop Sarah Mullally on.  She was not involved with production of the report. Again I'll try to transcribe her words.

I was disturbed by the contents of the report. Also saddened by the way in which survivors of abuse had been treated.  There was no excuse for that. Frustrated because as a Church (we are) seeking to  improve but (it) demonstrates not doing it fast enough.

The presenter then put a point that one fellow had written 17 times before receiving a reply from the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Bishop answered We are are trying to get a better response and training The Church of England is quite a complex organisation. Whilst that is not an excuse in Devon we have 6,000 volunteers to train.  The report was commissioned by the Church  of England so we are saying we want to learn. We recognise we have failed and we are seeking to try and mover forward.  It has to be an indication the the Church is willing to learn and to change, but not fast enough. 

To my mind the comments of the Bishop are pretty weak as more contrite version of  'lessons have be learned'.  It is also a bit rich trying to play up some merit for commissioning the report when that only happened after Peter Ball had been convicted.  What else could the Church have done?

Why is this of relevance to July 3rd and the publication of our CoI report.  Well it demonstrates clearly that establishment institutions are not above reproach and that collusion in high office is certainly possible. I rather suspect the comments  by Rev Sawyer will be applicable here - no new information and nothing much to commend to victims and survivors.


I've just come across this which is a very interesting piece that rather confims the point about treatment of victims, refers to Peter Ball, and involves Dame Butler Sloss who had been  picked to chair the CSA inquiry.  Butler Sloss tape

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.


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.