Posts Tagged ‘London’
Dedicated to MaryAnne G.
A week ago I started the first of what became four day’s writings about passing the 400ppm CO2 level in the planet’s atmosphere. As I said in the penultimate post, “In nearly four years of writing for Learning from Dogs, I can’t recall devoting three days of posts to a single subject.“
Later that week, I had a wonderful telephone conversation with MaryAnne back in Payson. MaryAnne and husband Ed were among a group of people who did so much to ease our transition into our new home in Arizona. As part of the process of obtaining my fiancee visa, I was to and fro between Payson and London which meant having to leave Jeannie alone for a number of weeks at a time. So for Jean having to get used to a change of country as well as home and for me wondering if I would ever get the magic piece of paper allowing me and Jean to be married and settle down, having so many loving friends around us was invaluable.
In last week’s telephone conversation MaryAnne spoke so easily about love that I promised her that I would dedicate a post on Learning from Dogs to her.
In fact, rather than one post, I’m setting myself the challenge of writing about love for the entire week, i.e. Monday to Friday. I will readily admit that over and beyond today’s post, I don’t have more than the vaguest inkling of how the week will pan out. You have been warned!
But how much better that ‘devoting three days to a single subject‘ should be about love rather than climate change.
Love across the species.
A week ago, we had friend Richard and his partner Julie from England staying with us. Richard and I go back 40 years and have been wonderful buddies all that time. Last Monday, I took Richard and Julie across to Wildlife Images just a few miles from the house here in Merlin, Oregon. As their website explains,
Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center was founded as a non-profit corporation in 1981 by renowned wildlife rehabilitator J. David Siddon. The facility was created in order to provide for the care and treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
and a little later,
The organization’s clinic, animal sanctuary, and education center are located on 24 acres of land adjacent to the wild and scenic section of Oregon’s famous Rogue River. Animals treated at Wildlife Images have included everything from baby squirrels and badgers to American bald eagles.
Wildlife Images release rate of intakes is near 50 percent each year – far above the national average of 33 percent. Animals with permanently disabling injuries that make them unable to live in the wild are integrated into one of Wildlife Images educational programs, either as educational ambassadors, or as permanent residents of the facility.
While we were looking at the animals, along the pathway came a couple of the volunteer staff walking a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).
I was utterly captivated by this beautiful animal. Her story was that she was born in captivity and owned by an individual who soon decided he didn’t want her! Not long thereafter Tundra, as she became named, was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center in Washington and thence to Wildlife Images when she was just 8 weeks old.
Tundra turned to look at me. I stood perfectly still and quiet. Tundra seemed to want to come closer. As one would with a strange dog, I got down on my knees and turned my eyes away from Tundra’s. I sensed she was coming towards me so quickly held up my camera and took the picture below.
I kept my gaze averted as I felt the warm breath of this magnificent animal inches from my face. Then the magic of love across the species! Tundra licked my face! The tears came to my eyes and were licked away. I stroked her and became lost in thought.
Was this an echo of how thousands and thousands of years ago, a wolf and an early man came together out of trust and love and started the journey of the longest animal-human relationship, by far?
As I write elsewhere on this blog,
Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago. There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.
Let me close the first day of these musings by coming forward all those thousands of years to the year 2012. To the 6th April, 2012. To the day that we brought puppy Cleo back home. That sweet little creature of less than ten weeks of age starting her own journey of love across the species.
A delightful exploration of the letter ‘r’.
This was sent in by reader Colin Reynolds. To be honest, I cannot do better than to reproduce the entire email.
I only just subscribed to the OED ‘owotd’ yesterday.
Today’s made me think of you
“There is only the difference of the dog’s letter between friend and [fiend].” The Westminster Review (London, UK); 1830.
Some days the best I can do is stick a pencil in each nostril and go ‘wibble‘.
OED Online Word of the Day
The March 2013 quarterly update is now available. New words and meanings have been added across the dictionary, including braggadocious, podium, Vulcan, and whip-smart. Find out more…
Your word for today is: dog’s letter, n.
dog’s letter, n.
A real pleasure and privilege to republish this article from Mr. Monbiot.
For some time now I have subscribed to the articles published by The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. From time to time references have been made to PRI articles here on Learning from Dogs.
Recently, I read a PRI essay that had been penned by George Monbiot. It was called The Great Unmentionable. It blew me away. So I took a deep breath and dropped George M. an email asking if I might republish it here. George was very gracious in giving me such permission.
First some background to George Monbiot for those who are unfamiliar with his work and his writings. As his website explains:
I had an unhappy time at university, and I now regret having gone to Oxford, even though the zoology course I took – taught, among others, by Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and John Krebs – was excellent. The culture did not suit me, and when I tried to join in I fell flat on my face, sometimes in a drunken stupor. I enjoyed the holidays more: I worked on farms and as a waterkeeper on the River Kennet. I spent much of the last two years planning my escape. There was only one job I wanted, and it did not yet exist: to make investigative environmental programmes for the BBC.
After hammering on its doors for a year, I received a phone call from the head of the BBC’s natural history unit during my final exams. He told me: “you’re so fucking persistent you’ve got the job.” They took me on, in 1985, as a radio producer, to make wildlife programmes. Thanks to a supportive boss, I was soon able to make the programmes I had wanted to produce. We broke some major stories. Our documentary on the sinking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Cork, uncovering evidence that suggested it had been deliberately scuppered, won a Sony award.
Anyway, to the article in question that was published on the Guardian Newspaper’s website, 12th April 2013.
The Great Unmentionable
April 12, 2013
We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions
By George Monbiot
Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable.
Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be a tension between green and growth.”
At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded, “oh I agree, the environment is so important. I’m crazy about recycling.” But the real problem, she explained, was “people breeding too much”.
I agreed that population is an element of the problem, but argued that consumption is rising much faster and – unlike the growth in the number of people – is showing no signs of levelling off. She found this notion deeply offensive: I mean the notion that human population growth is slowing. When I told her that birth rates are dropping almost everywhere, and that the world is undergoing a slow demographic transition, she disagreed violently: she has seen, on her endless travels, how many children “all those people have”.
As so many in her position do, she was using population as a means of disavowing her own impacts. The issue allowed her to transfer responsibility to other people: people at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It allowed her to pretend that her shopping and flying and endless refurbishments of multiple homes are not a problem. Recycling and population: these are the amulets people clasp in order not to see the clash between protecting the environment and rising consumption.
In a similar way, we have managed, with the help of a misleading global accounting system, to overlook one of the gravest impacts of our consumption. This too has allowed us to blame foreigners – particularly poorer foreigners – for the problem.
When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.
While this is an issue which affects all post-industrial countries, it is especially pertinent in the United Kingdom, where the difference between our domestic and international impacts is greater than that of any other major emitter. The last government boasted that this country cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19% between 1990 and 2008. It positioned itself (as the current government does) as a global leader, on course to meet its own targets, and as an example for other nations to follow.
But the cut the UK has celebrated is an artefact of accountancy. When the impact of the goods we buy from other nations is counted, our total greenhouse gases did not fall by 19% between 1990 and 2008. They rose by 20%. This is despite the replacement during that period of many of our coal-fired power stations with natural gas, which produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity. When our “consumption emissions”, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.
There are two further impacts of this false accounting. The first is that because many of the goods whose manufacture we commission are now produced in other countries, those places take the blame for our rising consumption. We use China just as we use the population issue: as a means of deflecting responsibility. What’s the point of cutting our own consumption, a thousand voices ask, when China is building a new power station every 10 seconds (or whatever the current rate happens to be)?
But, just as our position is flattered by the way greenhouse gases are counted, China’s is unfairly maligned. A graph published by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee shows that consumption accounting would reduce China’s emissions by roughly 45%. Many of those power stations and polluting factories have been built to supply our markets, feeding an apparently insatiable demand in the UK, the US and other rich nations for escalating quantities of stuff.
The second thing the accounting convention has hidden from us is consumerism’s contribution to global warming. Because we consider only our territorial emissions, we tend to emphasise the impact of services – heating, lighting and transport for example – while overlooking the impact of goods. Look at the whole picture, however, and you discover (using the Guardian’s carbon calculator) that manufacturing and consumption is responsible for a remarkable 57% of the greenhouse gas production caused by the UK.
Unsurprisingly, hardly anyone wants to talk about this, as the only meaningful response is a reduction in the volume of stuff we consume. And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.
The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.
By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.
But at least in a couple of places the conjuring trick is beginning to attract some attention.
On April 16th, the Carbon Omissions site will launch a brilliant animation by Leo Murray, neatly sketching out the problem*. The hope is that by explaining the issue simply and engagingly, his animation will reach a much bigger audience than articles like the one you are reading can achieve.
(*Declaration of interest (unpaid): I did the voiceover).
On April 24th, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue.
I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?
So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end. But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.“
Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th. particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:
At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.
Maybe this is why we seem unable to have the conversation because to do so means we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. Each one of us, you and me, has to address something so deeply personal. Back to Prof. McPherson and page 177 of his book (my emphasis):
It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?
For my money, Mr. Monbiot is yet another voice of reason in the wilderness; another voice that deserves to be followed. I say this because by way of introduction to his philosophy, he opens thus:
My job is to tell people what they don’t want to hear. That is not what I set out to do. I wanted only to cover the subjects I thought were interesting and important. But wherever I turned, I met a brick wall of denial.
Denial is everywhere. I have come to believe that it’s an intrinsic component of our humanity, an essential survival strategy. Unlike other species, we know that we will die. This knowledge could destroy us, were we unable to blot it out. But, unlike other species, we also know how not to know. We employ this unique ability to suppress our knowledge not just of mortality, but of everything we find uncomfortable, until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.
“… until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.”
I sense the growing of this threat to the point where maybe within less than a year the vast majority of open-minded, thinking individuals know the truth of where we are all heading.
Early days in London
In my recent post Electrosensitivity, I wrote about “spending a number of years studying for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering at Faraday House, Southampton Row, London and becoming a UK Radio Amateur at the age of 17 (G3PUK)“.
In reverse order, I shall start with becoming a UK Radio Amateur, now rather back in the mists of time!
After my father died in 1956 my mother subsequently remarried. Her new husband was Richard Mills and he was very knowledgeable about radio matters; he was a technical author in the radio-communications industry. It was Richard, my step-dad, who showed me how to make a crystal set and I started listening to the strange world of wireless radio. It fascinated me and motivated me to save up my pennies and buy an ex-military radio receiver known as a R1155.
I had joined the Harrow Radio Society who, amazingly, are still active today, as their website demonstrates.
Under the fabulous tutelage of many of the older ‘hams’ I went on to sit my exams and on Valentine’s Day 1962 was awarded the Postmaster-General’s Amateur Radio Certificate. I applied for a call-sign and was allocated G3PUK. I was just 17 years old!
Now some memories of Faraday House. I can do no better than refer you to an article that appeared on the Electrical Review website in the UK. As the article was published over three years ago, I think republishing it on Learning from Dogs isn’t being too naughty.
Faraday House Association closes after 105 years
FRIDAY, 29 JANUARY 2010
It is with sadness we report the Faraday House Old Students Association (FHOSA) is to close after operating continuously over the last 105 years. It had been host to thousands of chartered electrical engineers. The Association membership is derived from old students of Faraday House.
In 1888 the revised Electric Lighting Act encouraged many local authorities to apply for Parliamentary Powers to establish generating stations to transmit power. Faraday House was founded to train engineers in this new practice. The college started life as the Electrical Standardising, Testing and Training Institution at Charing Cross but in June 1890 used the name Faraday House. It was located in the Charing Cross area, and fees were 100 guineas per annum. The first Faraday House Dinner was held in 1895 – it was free and some 170 attended. In 1905 the FHOSA was formed and 100 old students joined. A move was then made to Southampton Row. By now the college had 110 students.
In 1909 Dr Russell was appointed principal, and pioneered the sandwich course. This meant students had a year or so of theory and then experienced work in industry, returning again to more theory. By 1914 many old students joined up and a crash course was started to aid the war effort. By 1919 some 350 had been in the services and 34 had died. In 1920 the fees had risen to 300 guineas.
By 1928 1000 students had joined the Old Students Association and in 1929 a 40th anniversary dinner was held. In 1939 a discussion with the governors resulted in a decision to evacuate the college to Thurlestone in Devon. A new principal, Dr WRC Coode-Adams, took over from Dr Russell. Faraday House took over the Links Hotel. Staff and students who were married lived in the hotel or in houses that had been taken over by the college.
In 1942 the college returned to Southampton Row. After the war Faraday House had difficulty in recruiting, students were lured to other colleges and universities by grants. In 1957 Mr GH Randolph Martin was appointed Principal. He had been a lecturer at the college since 1948. The college closed its doors in 1967 as losses were now running at £20,000 per year.
During its lifetime Faraday House produced a succession of engineers who attained the most senior positions in industry and electrical supply in many countries, and six old students have been president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the IET).
The Old Students Association has a membership that is steadily growing older and shrinking as members die. The closure was inevitable without younger people coming forward to run it. The FHOSA will shut its doors finally after the Annual General Meeting in March 2010.
Here’s the front of the building.
How the years have flown by!
A really clever and innovative idea – the gravity light.
Saw this item on the Australian Permaculture Research website on the 18th.
Lighting in much of the ‘developing’ world is provided via expensive and polluting kerosene. Kerosene lamps are dangerous, require constant replenishment, and come with significant negative health impacts.
So, for the potential benefit of millions of people, London based designers, Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves, have spent four years working on an inexpensive, safe and health-neutral alternative — a gravity powered LED light! It’s clever, and well intentioned. Nice!
Martin and Jim initially looked at creating a light that would be powered by solar, as would most of us. But the idea of utilising gravity took hold of them — where the end user can do away with the need for expensive solar panels and batteries, which use a lot of resources in their manufacture — and the gravity light was born. The gravity light will work whether it’s day or night, sunny or cloudy.
At time of writing, Martin and Jim’s Indiegogo campaign to raise funds has already surpassed its basic goal of $55,000, but if you wish to donate it’ll help them further their goal of refining the design to make it even more useful, efficient and inexpensive.
Then it was only a moment to track down the project on a website called Indiegogo, from which one reads,
GravityLight is a revolutionary new approach to storing energy and creating illumination. It takes only 3 seconds to lift the weight which powers GravityLight, creating 30 minutes of light on its descent. For free.
Following the initial inspiration of using gravity, and years of perspiration, we have refined the design and it is now ready for production. We need your help to fund the tooling, manufacture and distribution of at least 1000 gravity powered lights. We will gift them to villagers in both Africa and India to use regularly. The follow-up research will tell us how well the lights met their needs, and enable us to refine the design for a more efficient MK2 version. Once we have proved the design, we will be looking to link with NGOs and partners to distribute it as widely as possible. When mass produced the target cost for this light is less than $5.
Did you know that there are currently over 1.5 billion people in the World who have no reliable access to mains electricity? These people rely, instead, on biomass fuels (mostly kerosene) for lighting once the sun goes down.
Go here and read the information in full and admire the photographs. But I will include this from the end of the item.
We are Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves, London based designers who have spent 4 years developing GravityLight as an off-line project. We work for therefore.com, which has over 20 years of experience in designing and developing hand held computing and communication products for a host of pioneers including Psion, Toshiba, NEC, TomTom, Inmarsat, ICO, Sepura, Racal Acoustics, Voller Energy, FreePlay and SolarAid.
We’re using a tried and tested manufacturer who has the right expertise to make GravityLight. We have some links to partner organisations in Africa and need to do the same for India. If you’re part of an organisation and would like to get involved then please contact us. We are particularly looking for contacts in South America.
Visit our skunk-works website here www.deciwatt.org.
Our movie soundtrack kindly created by Belinda from the bush the tree and me.
Check out John Keane’s great Solar For Africa blog.
I am sure all who read this will wish Martin and Jim the very best of luck.
The end of a treasured time in Payson, Arizona.
Today, Jean and I together with our 11 dogs and 5 cats start the 1,200 mile journey to Merlin, Oregon. While we have only lived in Payson since February, 2010, it has been a time of fantastic experiences. I had to work through the long process of getting a fiancee visa from the American Embassy in London. Until that was issued my ‘residence’ in Payson was that of a British tourist with me having to leave the USA every 90 days.
The visa was issued in October, 2010 and I flew immediately to Arizona. On the 8th November, 2010 Jean and I were issued with a Marriage License Certificate and we were married on the 20th November at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Payson.
We have made many very dear friends here in Payson but Oregon feels like the start of our home in every sense of the word, not just because it is the first home that Jean and I have bought jointly.
One of those dear friends here in Payson has been John Hurlburt, a devoutly spiritual man. A little over a week ago, he sent me a very thoughtful essay and I wanted to include it today as a guest post in recognition of the way that John and many, many others have embraced these couple of Brits over the last 32 months. Thank you all.
Everything fits together
The species of animals we know as human beings is a part of everything that exists. We are a very young consciously-aware species that does not begin to know all the answers. What little we do know has a Natural pattern. It would seem that there’s a lamplighter and a navigator in all of us. The lamplighter is our fundamental awareness of being and provides nature’s guidance along life’s pathways.
Our natural navigator is designed for evolutionary competition. There’s a biological survival kit in our DNA. Extreme demand for limited resources generates deadly combat; both within and between species. As a result of competition taken to wretched excess, our global economy is leveraged 22 times beyond any earthly foundation. The unspoken intent to destroy each other over what remains of our planet is becoming increasingly evident.
The human species is engaged in a global war over money, ideals and disappearing finite resources. Ninety-seven percent of the world scientific community has confirmed that the natural effects of heat and discharges generated by human machines and related human activities are the primary cause of recent rapid climate change.
These dedicated scientists are opposed in the media by three percent of their corporate energy-financed peers. An oppressive worldwide network of often offensive politicians is similarly supported and managed accordingly. Nature couldn’t care less about politics, emotions or idealistic arguments.
Human squabbles mean very little in the totality of universal life. The drumbeat of local natural disasters increases steadily. There are no two ways about it. No amount of human ifs or buts can or will change reality. Our human species is in deep serious trouble.
It has been six million years since the first humanoids emerged and two million years since the rise of human civilization. What a sorrow it is to realize what we have done to the earth in just the past two hundred and fifty years. We’ve reached the moon and are exploring Mars. It’s well past time to clean house and re-grow our local garden.
As an old navigator, there’s a sense of urgency regarding the course life on earth has taken. For those who continue to care about facts, the prognosis is not encouraging. We have the know-how for an alternative. We can avoid the perfect storm of going over the edge of an economic cliff and the crush of an environmental crisis in the midst of a war-fuelled, profit-driven, global, corporate fight to the end. The alternative is that we have the know-how to transition rapidly to a reality-based economy and a way of living that’s gentle to the earth. The solution is global, it’s industrial, it’s natural and it’s our best hope. It may well be our only hope. It’s time to light some lamps.
Conscious human awareness emerges as we relax, contemplate, meditate, and communicate openly. These are levels of awareness beyond the limits of our daily human musings. The wisdom which flows from enlightened awareness embraces humility, experience, knowledge, understanding, and faith. Life has never been easy. We’re fragile biological beings. Our mutual growth is the result of sustained efforts over millions of years.
Yet despite attaining a higher level of conscious awareness our human culture continues to operate on a material basis rather than a moral basis. We have become confused by our own importance or the apparent lack thereof. We all too often retreat into a rut, furnish it and turn on the electronics.
By definition, natural processes support species growth in harmony with all natural life. Those natural processes are indistinguishable from the planetary support systems within which all life interacts. Human interaction is local. We spend much of our lives unaware that we are unaware; initially as infants and throughout our lives in deep sleep. When caught up in the pressures of our daily lives, it’s easy to be unaware of being unaware.
It’s time to wake up. Cosmology is an eternal spring from which the waters of the earth still flow. When we turn ourselves inside-out and achieve higher awareness, we discover who, what and where we really and truly are. In a trinity of spirituality, nature and science, we’re cosmically energized beings; spiritual beings sharing a transitory human existence.
Ninety-eight percent of the human population believes in a power beyond species and self. The simplest understanding of this belief is that we humans did not originally create ourselves. All human wisdom and understanding leads to the conclusion that human beings don’t own the earth. We’re caretakers and we’re only passing through. Given that we have a systemic crisis, what do we have to work with?
We have a species that’s squabbling over diminishing resources, an environment and an infrastructure which both desperately require attention, a sustaining objective of equitable global employment, a world economy that’s about to collapse for lack of any real foundation, a burgeoning population which further strains the system and the clear need for a unifying purpose.
Put it all together and what do we have? The navigator is our guide to growth. The navigator shares our wholeness. The lamplighter is our guide to unity. Everything fits together. Each of us is a part of the unity of life. Unity has a natural purpose. It’s time to build a life boat.
John Hurlburt is a former U.S. Navy aviator and successful corporate executive who presently serves as a senior Christian educator and a founding member of an international Transition Town in Payson, Arizona.
Don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find those incredibly powerful words. Words that provide the truth. A truth the whole world needs. John set out in a personal email to me the three simple fundamentals of our lives. Just a few more words to sum up the truth.
“There’s an environmental crisis. There’s an inevitable global economic abyss touching us all on a daily basis. The need for a green economic transformation is obvious.“
Thank you, John.
The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated! Mark Twain.
Mark Twain quotation after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal.
Mistaken publications of obituaries aren’t as rare as you might expect. A recent example is of Dave Swarbrick, the British folk/rock violinist, who was killed off mistakenly by the Daily Telegraph in April 1999 when they reported that his visit to hospital in Coventry had resulted in his death. He did at least get the opportunity to read a rather favourable account of his life, not something we all get to do, and to deliver the gag “It’s not the first time I have died in Coventry”.
So why have I opened with this quote from Mark Twain? Read on and I hope all will be clear.
Integrity is always about getting to the truth!
A little under a week ago I published a couple of posts that proposed that the United States of America is an empire in decline. The first was What goes up? and the second Might just come down! As a Brit I well know that aspect of British history!
However a recent conversation with a friend of many years back in England, who has also been a shrewd and wise entrepreneur for longer than I care to remember, argued that the evidence for the ‘end of the USA’ could be challenged.
He cited five reasons why he thought the USA would remain, more or less, in its dominant position. They were:
- Spirit of innovation
- Relaxed labour laws
- The importance of Mexico
- The uncertainty of China in terms of the next ‘empire’
- The likely energy self-sufficiency for the USA in the near-term.
So let me expand on each of those points.
Spirit of innovation
Let me quote from an article in TIME Magazine of the 5th June, 2011,
Innovation is as American as apple pie. It seems to accord with so many elements of our national character — ingenuity, freedom, flexibility, the willingness to question conventional wisdom and defy authority. But politicians are pinning their hopes on innovation for more urgent reasons. America’s future growth will have to come from new industries that create new products and processes. Older industries are under tremendous pressure. Technological change is making factories and offices far more efficient. The rise of low-wage manufacturing in China and low-wage services in India is moving jobs overseas. The only durable strength we have — the only one that can withstand these gale winds — is innovation.
Now there are plenty to argue both ways in terms of the future innovation potential for the USA, as a recent article in The Atlantic does, see American Innovation: It’s the Best of Times and the Worst of Times. But the spirit of innovation will be a powerful economic potential for the USA for many years to come.
Relaxed labour laws.
Definitely an area that I have little knowledge of except for the subjective notion that compared to many other nations, the laws in the USA are much less of a restraint on economic productivity than elsewhere.
The importance of Mexico.
Importance in the context of providing the USA with a source of cheaper manufacturing facilities. My English friend thought that this was a significant competitive advantage for the USA. Now, as it happens, we had a couple staying with us over the week-end of the 6th/7th October. The husband is a senior manager of Horst Engineering, an American firm based in Guaymas, Sonora County, Mexico. Here’s a picture from their website,
We are a contract manufacturer of precision machined components and assemblies for aerospace, medical, and other high technology industries. Our core processes include Swiss screw machining, turning, milling, thread rolling, centerless grinding, and assembly. Our extensive supply chain offers our customers a full service logistics solution for managing their precision product requirements. We are ISO9001:2008 and AS9100 registered and proud of our 66 year, three-generation legacy of quality and performance.
I was told that many American and British firms were using Mexico rather than China for a number of reasons. Not least because Chinese suppliers require full payment before shipment. Plus that taking into account that financial aspect together with shipping costs and other logistical issues, China wasn’t as ‘cheap’ over all. Here’s a recent announcement from Rolls Royce,
Rolls-Royce plans new Sonora hub
The burgeoning aerospace industry in Guaymas had its efforts validated recently when the venerable Rolls-Royce chose it as the site for its newest global purchasing office.
Surrounded by several of its aerospace manufacturing suppliers, London-based Rolls-Royce will move into a Guaymas industrial park owned by Tucson-based The Offshore Group to develop a supply hub for commercial jets and military aircraft around the globe.
“Rolls-Royce has very robust booking orders for the next 10 years,” said Joel Reuter, director of communications for Rolls-Royce in North America. “We need to double our production.”
Because a number of Rolls-Royce suppliers already operate in Guaymas, the city was a logical choice, Reuter said.
The uncertainty of China in terms of the next ‘empire’
The point made in terms of China taking over ‘empire’ status from the USA, as Simon Johnson argues over at Baseline Scenario, is countered by the fact that politically China is an unknown quantity. Until China endorses some form of democratic process, that unknowingness is not going to disappear.
The likely energy self-sufficiency for the USA in the near-term.
I can’t do better than to ask you to watch this video! Just 27-minutes long, it is a very interesting review of the energy future of the USA.
As the TED website suggests in terms of why you should listen to Amory Lovins,
Amory Lovins was worried (and writing) about energy long before global warming was making the front — or even back — page of newspapers. Since studying at Harvard and Oxford in the 1960s, he’s written dozens of books, and initiated ambitious projects — cofounding the influential, environment-focused Rocky Mountain Institute; prototyping the ultra-efficient Hypercar — to focus the world’s attention on alternative approaches to energy and transportation.
His critical thinking has driven people around the globe — from world leaders to the average Joe — to think differently about energy and its role in some of our biggest problems: climate change, oil dependency, national security, economic health, and depletion of natural resources.
More on Reinventing Fire may be found here.
So, don’t know about you, but I found those five points deeply convincing. How about you? Are the reports of the death of the USA greatly exaggerated? Do leave a comment.
I do not believe that civilizations have to die because civilization is not an organism. It is a product of wills. Arnold J Toynbee
Yesterday, I explored a number of ideas around the proposition that the USA is in decline. The case is by no means clear but there does seem to be a preponderance of support for the notion that, as with all great empires, this could be an ‘end time’ for the USA.
One needs to go no further than A. J. Toynbee himself to reflect on that idea. Who was Arnold J Toynbee? Here’s his biography as presented on the Gifford Lectures website, ( Note: A fabulous series of lectures available on YouTube!)
The British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee was born in London on 14 April 1889 and died on 22 October 1975 in York, North Yorkshire, England. He was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. He was the nephew of economic historian Arnold Toynbee, with whom he is sometimes confused. His first marriage to Rosalind Murray, with whom he had three sons, ended in divorce in 1946. Professor Toynbee then married Veronica M. Boulter, his research assistant.
From 1919 to 1924 Arnold J. Toynbee was professor of modern Greek and Byzantine history at King’s College, London. From 1925 until 1955 Professor Toynbee served as research professor and Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. During both world wars he worked for the British Foreign Office. He was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
While Professor Toynbee’s Gifford Lectures were published as An Historian’s Approach to Religion (1956) he is best known for his 12-volume A Study of History (1934-1961). This massive work examined the growth, development and decay of civilizations. He presented history as the rise and fall of civilizations rather than nation-states or ethnic groups. According to his analysis of civilizations the well-being of a civilization depends on its ability to deal successfully with challenges.
Professor Toynbee oversaw the publication of The Survey of International Affairs published by Oxford University Press under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs from 1925 to 1977.
A Study of History is the longest book in the English language, described in Wikipedia as, “the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record. Toynbee applies his model to each of these civilizations, detailing the stages through which they all pass: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and disintegration.“
Back to the theme of the essay. One might propose, therefore, that a decline in the USA could be the ‘leading edge’ of a decline not only of the empire of the USA but of the whole of our present civilisation; the ‘universal rhythm of rise, flowering and decline‘.
Back on the 3rd October, Simon Johnson, one half of the famous duo with James Kwak, over on Baseline Scenario published an essay under the title of Fiscal Confrontation And The Declining Influence Of The United States. Let me dip into that. Simon starts off by saying,
It is axiomatic among most of our Washington elite that the United States cannot lose its preeminent global role, at least not in the foreseeable future. This assumption is implicit in all our economic policy discussions, including how politicians on both sides regard the leading international role of the United States dollar. In this view, the United States is likely to remain the world’s financial safe haven for international investors, irrespective of what we say and do.
Expressing concerns about the trajectory of our federal government debt has of course become fashionable during this election cycle; this is a signature item for both the Tea Party movement in general and vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan in particular.
Then later, in a reference to my own British history, writes,
Threatening to shut down the government or refusing to budge on taxes is seen by many Republicans as a legitimate maneuver in their campaign to shrink the state, rather than as something that could undermine the United States’ economic recovery and destabilize the world. This approach is more than unfortunate, because the perception of our indefinite preeminence – irrespective of how we act – is completely at odds with the historical record. In his widely acclaimed book, “Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance,” Arvind Subramanian places the rise of the dollar in its historical context and documents how economic policy mistakes, World War II and the collapse of empire undermined the British pound and created space for the United States dollar to take over as the world’s leading currency.
Then Simon endorses the key point made by Arvind Subramanian, namely,
But Dr. Subramanian also asserts that two other factors were important: the sheer size of the American economy, which overtook Britain’s, probably at some point in the late 19th century, and the United States current account surplus. In particular, American exports were far larger than imports during World War I and by the end of World War II the United States had amassed almost half the gold in the world (gold at that time was used to settle payments between countries.)
In effect, the United States dollar pushed aside the British pound in part because the United States became the world’s largest creditor.
Simon’s essay closes thus, (and you do need to read the full essay, by the way, many important ideas are expressed)
The dollar became strong because American politicians were responsible, careful and willing to compromise. Fiscal extremism, confrontation and a refusal to consider tax increases over any time horizon will undermine the international role of the dollar, destabilize the world and make it much harder for all of us to achieve any kind of widely shared prosperity.
Finally, in a call with my son, Alex, just 30 minutes ago (I’m writing this on the morning of the 4th October), he mentioned an item he had read in today’s Guardian newspaper No recovery until 2018, IMF warns.
The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist has warned that the global economy will take a decade to recover from the financial crisis as the latest snapshot of the UK economy suggested that growth in the third quarter will be at best anaemic.
Olivier Blanchard said he feared the eurozone crisis, debt problems in Japan and the US, and a slowdown in China meant that the world economy would not be in good shape until at least 2018. “It’s not yet a lost decade,” he said. “But it will surely take at least a decade from the beginning of the crisis for the world economy to get back to decent shape.
2018! That leaves plenty of time for any number of global ‘surprises’ geopolitical and environmental alike! But my final message is one of caution. I am as vulnerable as the next person in seeing ‘doom and gloom’ ahead. However, drop in to Learning from Dogs next Tuesday and watch something that may surprise you.
So on that note, the closing quote is going be one that I have loved for a long time:
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. “ Niels Bohr
The amazing development of electronics over 50 years.
(A republication of a post first shown on the 13th August, 2009)
The calendar reliably informs me that this is my 65th year. My brain, of course, lags somewhat in accepting this!
My step-father during my early teenage years worked for Elliott Brothers (the link goes to an interesting history of the firm that started in 1804) in Borehamwood, just north of London. He encouraged me to fiddle with ‘steam’ radios and
try and understand how these basic circuits worked. It was then a small step to deciding to become a radio amateur, popularly known as a radio ham! In those days it was a case of some pretty intensive studying to pass a Theory exam as well as being able to pass an exam in sending and receiving Morse code.
So joining the local radio society seemed like a sensible idea. That was (and still is!) called the Radio Society of Harrow. That it is still in existence after all these years is truly delightful. Those Friday night sessions at the Society and extra-curricular classes on Sunday morning at Ron Ray’s (G2TA) house, an hour’s bicycle ride away from home, ensured that shortly after my 16th birthday I was granted a Licence, G3PUK. It was a very proud moment.
Anyway, once granted a licence it was time to build my own radio transmitter. Most of the details have been lost in the mists of time but what is recalled was that the final amplifier was a pair of 803s driving an 813 (These are radio valve numbers). It sounds like something from the ark! But again ploughing the inexhaustible files of the Web, it’s possible to see what these radio valves looked like. Thanks to the National Valve Museum.
Here are pictures, courtesy of the National Valve Museum of those two radio valves:
803 – The substantial wide glass tube envelope is 58 mm in diameter (2 1/4 in) and, excluding the special five pin base pins, is 216 mm tall (8 1/2 in).
813 The classic envelope is substantial at 60 mm diameter (2 1/3 in) and 170 mm (6 2/3 in) long excluding the special base pins. The anode is 53 mm long and 48 mm wide. The metal is 1 mm thick.
It’s difficult, today, to imagine devices which are essentially diodes (well, technically the 803 was a pentode and the 813 a tetrode) being between 6 and 8 inches tall!
My own self-build transmitter had not really been successful emitting more heat than light, so to speak. Literally, in the sense that these large radio valves kept me warm in my converted garden shed at the bottom of the garden. They also completely wiped out TV reception for those households with a 1/4 mile range that had invested in early television sets! It was time to move on to the R1155.
Around this era, less than 20 years after the end of the War in Europe in 1945, war-surplus equipment was widely available including ‘compact’ transmitter-receiver units.
One popular one was the RAF R1155 which had been fitted to RAF Lancaster bombers and RAF marine craft. It was also fitted to the Sunderland flying boat. This information plus the photos below is from this fascinating web site for those wishing to be ‘geeky’ about this.
Just compare the view on the right to the inside of your domestic radio or your cell phone.
A lot happens in 50 years!
My personal journey now leaps to 1978 and I have just left IBM UK having had 8 fabulous years with them as an Office Products salesman. My fledging company, Dataview Ltd, has just become the 8th Commodore Computer (CBM) dealer in the UK, based in a small office in Colchester, Essex, about 50 miles north-east of London.
The CBM PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) released in 1977 initially with a calculator type keyboard was useless for any business application but soon came out with a typewriter sized keyboard, making it a more viable business
machine. Today, as this is typed on an ‘old’ laptop with 2GB RAM, it seems unbelievable that these CBMs were sold with between 4k and 96k of RAM (memory) and no hard disk, although one could purchase an add-on that comprised dual 5 1/2 inch floppy disk drives.
YouTube obligingly finds a short video on the Commodore PET for those really wishing to enjoy the nostalgia!
So to turn to the 21st century and to run out of understanding. We appear to live in a world of multi-later printed circuit boards of unimaginable (to me) component density, assuming that the word ‘component’ is even relevant today.
What an amazing period it has been!
Now let me see was it Pin 920 to Pin 140, or Pin14 to Pin 860 connected to Pin 56 ………?
A small tribute from two of Her Majesty’s subjects!
Jean and I managed to watch the hour-long tribute by Prince Charles to his mother’s wonderful Diamond Jubilee week-end.
Here’s a small extract of that programme that appeared on ITN News.
Then thanks to Martin Lack’s latest Post, I discovered that You Tube have the full programme as well. Here it is – do watch it if you can, it is a lovely, personal and intimate reflection by Prince Charles.
At the end of the programme, both Jean and I felt very nostalgic about the long reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. However much we appreciate the life that we have here in Payson, Arizona, these two old Londoners still feel proud to be British.
There’s a great website here full of all the details of this very special time for Britain.
Finally, the extreme dry conditions of our forest mean that lighting a Jubilee Beacon here at home is out of the question. The following is our alternative:
It’s what Jean and I do most Sunday evenings anyway!