By chance a work colleague in my workplace in Sydney introduced me to an organization called Rostrum. They still exist today and as their ‘About’ page on their website explains:
The History of Rostrum
Rostrum Australia is an association of public speaking clubs, founded on 21 July 1930. The original Rostrum club (“The Rostrum”) was founded in Manchester, England, on 21 July 1923 and its first meeting was held under a yew tree at Greendale Farm near Manchester. The first meeting in Australia was held under an Angophora tree in 1930.
This makes Rostrum the longest-running public speaking organisation in the world.
Rostrum clubs aim to help their members improve their speaking and meeting skills. They do this primarily through regular club meetings and less frequent competitions. The main national competition for members is the Sidney Wicks Speaking Competition, held about every 6 years. State and territory competitions are held throughout the year.
It was a marvelous connection for me for later on in life I was required to give many public speeches.
Anyway, back to those days in Sydney. I still recall how one meeting was devoted to listening to and understanding one of the most eloquent and masterful speakers ever: Alistair Cooke. Listening to Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America on BBC radio was a passion for me until the day he died.
Alistair Cooke, KBE (20 November 1908 – 30 March 2004) was a British journalist, television personality and broadcaster. Outside his journalistic output, which included Letter from America and Alistair Cooke’s America, he was well known in the United States as the host of PBS Masterpiece Theatre from 1971 to 1992. After holding the job for 22 years, and having worked in television for 42 years, Cooke retired in 1992, although he continued to present Letter from America until shortly before his death. He was the father of author and folk singer John Byrne Cooke.
It was a great pleasure to discover that the BBC still holds archives of many of the broadcasts of Letter from America but, in addition, some of Alistair Cooke’s broadcasts are on YouTube.
Please settle down for 15 minutes and listen to one of best writers and speakers to have graced this world.
Broadcast on Fri 12 Dec 1980, BBC Radio
The shooting of John Lennon on the 8th December 1980 sparks a debate over the need for national gun control law in America.
This essay from George Monbiot just has to be read as widely as possible.
Dear followers of this blog know that from time to time I dip into politics. I do so because something I read strikes me with such force that I want others to read the article or essay. Not infrequently, my ‘dip’ is in the form of republishing an essay from George Monbiot who, long ago, gave me blanket permission to republish his essays. That is the case today.
I was inspired to write my book, subsequently self-published last December, because I truly believe that the values that we see in our longest animal companions are values that we, as in our societies, from top to bottom, have to embrace if we are to stand any chance of surviving as a species.
Reflect on the fact that dogs do not lie, they do not set out to deceive or influence others for their own personal gain and they are utterly creatures of integrity.
OK, I can hear some of you thinking that dogs are dogs and humans are humans and it’s just plain daft to link the two in this fashion. My only answer to that is to read the book or, at the very least, download and read the first twenty-five pages (for free). Better still purchase the book and have 50% of my net income donated to the Rogue Valley Humane Society.
On the 28th July, George Monbiot published an essay entitled So Much For Sovereignty. I read the essay and, frankly, was apalled at what George was describing: the background of the UK’s new international trade secretary, Liam Fox, recently appointed by Theresa May.
Read it for yourself and see if you react the same way that I did!
So Much For Sovereignty
28th July 2016
To this government, “taking back control” means handing Britain to a different set of foreign powers
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 27th July 2016
What does it mean to love your country? What does it mean to defend its sovereignty? For some of the leaders of the Brexit campaign, it means reducing the United Kingdom to a franchise of corporate capital, governed from head offices overseas. They will take us out of Europe to deliver us into the arms of other powers.
No one embodies this contradiction as much of the man now charged with determining the scope of our sovereignty: the new international trade secretary, Liam Fox. He explained his enthusiasm for leaving Europe thus: “We’ll be able to make our own laws unhindered by anyone else, and our democratic parliament will not be overruled by a European Court.” But of all the people Theresa May could have appointed to this post, he seems to me the most likely to ensure that our parliament and laws are overruled by foreign bodies.
Dr Fox looks to me like a corporate sleeper cell implanted in government. In 2011, he resigned his post as defence secretary in disgrace, after his extracurricular interests were exposed. He had set up an organisation called Atlantic Bridge, financed in large part by a hedge fund owner. Atlantic Bridge formed a partnership with a corporate lobbying group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is funded by tobacco, pharmaceutical and oil companies. Before it was struck off by the Charity Commission, it began assembling a transatlantic conclave of people who wished to see public services privatised and corporations released from regulation.
He allowed a lobbyist to attend his official meetings, without government clearance. He made misleading statements about these meetings, which were later disproved. It seems extraordinary to me that a man with such a past could have been brought back into government, let alone given such a crucial and sensitive role. Most newspapers have brushed his inconvenient history under the political carpet. He is, after all, their man.
This is the man who has been put in charge of making new trade agreements. What he wants to do with them is pretty clear. “We need to see a reinvigoration of our transatlantic relationship,” he argues. “We have a low regulation and low taxation environment which is only likely to improve outside the EU.” Improve, in this context, means becoming yet more hostile to human welfare, social mobility and the defence of the living world.
They threaten to reduce to the lowest common denominator the laws protecting us from predatory finance, the exploitation of workers, food adulteration, climate change and environmental destruction. They threaten to force the privatisation of public services. They would allow corporations to sue governments for compensation in offshore tribunals that – unlike the European Court Dr Fox professes to hate – are unaccountable, opaque and wildly imbalanced. The EU has no mandate to strike such agreements: a consultation on the offshore tribunals TTIP proposes attracted 150,000 responses, 97% of which were negative.
Leaving Europe should enable us to leave behind biased, destructive treaties of this kind; we will, after all, have to renegotiate most of our trade agreements. But by putting the Fox in charge of the chicken coop, Theresa May seems determined to replace them with something even worse.
The corporate army is already at the gates. The Republican senator Tom Cotton proposes that Britain should join the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Using the kind of international tribunals that TTIP threatens to impose, NAFTA has undermined labour rights and environmental protection. It has blocked attempts to produce more progressive laws and greatly restricted legislative sovereignty. Whether we formally join NAFTA, or connect to that trading area through TTIP or another such agreement, the results will gravely threaten our sovereignty – unless negotiations are run on an entirely different basis.
In response to the Philip Green scandal, Theresa May says she wants to “tackle corporate irresponsibility” and “reform capitalism so that it works for everyone not just the privileged few.” We have no idea what she means, but here’s where it should begin. Before her government starts negotiating any new trade treaties, it should open a public consultation about their purpose and scope. The UK’s trading relationships should be debated in parliament and the people of this nation should be allowed to determine how much control over national life our representatives should retain, and how much should be ceded to international agreements and international bodies.
Does this mean a referendum? If we can be trusted to decide whether or not to share our sovereignty with Europe, should we not also be trusted to decide whether or not to share it with transnational capital?
But the Conservative vision of sovereignty is highly selective. People like Dr Fox appear to hate much of what others love about this country: the NHS, our public broadcasters, our social safety net, the protection of the countryside, the notion that power resides in the people, rather than in corporations and their shadowy lobbyists. There are traitors in our midst, who would rip down our most treasured institutions on behalf of the transnational elite and its offshore holdings. This, it seems, is what they mean by taking back control.
In the weeks since British citizens voted to leave the European Union in a national referendum, the government of the United Kingdom has seen its share of political turmoil. Following the results of the vote, then-Prime Minister and “Remain” supporter David Cameron announced that he would be stepping down, and has now been replaced by his successor, Theresa May. But while Cameron has officially left the Prime Minister’s residence and offices at 10 Downing Street in London, at least one of his appointees will remain in May’s service: a brown and white tabby cat named Larry.
“It’s a civil servant’s cat and does not belong to the Camerons—he will be staying,” a government official tells the BBC.
Larry first came to 10 Downing Street in 2011, when Cameron adopted him from a rescue home in hopes that the feline would help handle a mouse infestation plaguing the Prime Minister’s residence. As the first cat to hold the title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, Larry has become a familiar face in and around the building over the years.
“Larry spends his days greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defenses and testing antique furniture for napping quality,” an official government website detailing the history of 10 Downing Street writes. “His day-to-day responsibilities also include contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house. Larry says this is still ‘in tactical planning stage.’”
However, despite being touted as a “good ratter” with “a high chase-drive and hunting instinct,” some reports suggest that Larry is not as good at his job as official statements might lead one to believe. Indeed, Larry has faced harsh scrutiny for slacking on the job, as his love of long naps often gets in the way of his hunting duties, Jack Goodman reports for Atlas Obscura. In one incident, Cameron reportedly was forced to throw a silver fork at a mouse to shoo it away during a meeting with other government officials, even after Larry was brought on board to handle the problem. However, despite his lack of progress on the mouse problem, Larry has managed to continue to retain his position.
While Larry may be the first cat to hold this particular title, he isn’t the first cat to make his home at 10 Downing Street. During the 1920s, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald brought along his cat, Rufus of England, and, in the 1930s and ’40s, the so-called “Munich Mouser” ran rampant throughout the residence, the BBC reports. In the 1970s, a cat named Wilberforce took up guard. Upon retirement, he was replaced by a stray who wandered into the offices during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership (he was called Humphrey). The last cat before Larry to hold court at 10 Downing Street was Sybil, who belonged to former Chancellor Alastair Darling. However, she reportedly did not care for city life, and later retired with Darling to his home in the Scottish countryside.
Whatever other effects the decision to leave the European Union will have on the United Kingdom’s government in the coming weeks, Larry’s position as “top cat,” at least, remains assured.
In the run-up to the EU referendum by the UK this Brit was tempted several times to offer an opinion on what I thought was the best decision. But I resisted. (I was qualified to vote as an overseas voter and had voted for Remain.)
My resistance was because it seemed inappropriate to pass any form of opinion before the die had been cast, so to speak. I hadn’t been living in the country for over eight years and, inevitably, was out of touch with feelings.
The Conversation blogsite yesterday had a series of articles on the aftermath of the Brexit decision but the one that seemed most useful to share with you all was an article by Gavin Barrett, a Professor of European Constitutional and Economic Law at University College in Dublin. For many readers, including me, both within and without the UK this seemed a valuable primer.
Britain votes to leave the EU, Cameron quits – here’s what happens next
June 23, 2016 11.41pm EDT
Gavin Barrett Associate Professor, Jean Monnet Professor of European Constitutional and Economic Law, University College Dublin
Legally speaking, though, the process of actually leaving will take some time. Britain will now enter a kind of phoney Brexit period. It is still a member of the EU. The referendum vote is not as such legally binding. It is advisory only – but if it is out it creates a political imperative for the UK government to arrange its exit of the EU.
The law governing Brexit is found in Article 50 of the EU Treaty. This is a provision adopted by EU member states in 2009 to govern Brexit-like scenarios. It puts a two-year time limit on withdrawal negotiations. When the two years is up (or on the date any agreement reached before this enters into force) the UK is officially out of the EU.
Article 50 requires the UK to trigger the exit process by notifying its intention to withdraw. Not one, but rather a cascade of agreements, will follow this Brexit notification:
The Article 50 exit agreement
A separate treaty governing the UK’s future relationship with the EU – which could take many years to negotiate (and which, if it goes beyond trade, will require ratification by every single EU member state)
Trade agreements between the UK and up to 134 other WTO members
A tidying-up treaty between all the remaining EU states that removes all references to the UK from the EU treaties.
The initial main focus, however, will clearly be the Article 50 Brexit agreement.
How will it work?
The UK would be the first state to leave the EU but it is most likely that the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, will do the negotiating on behalf of the remaining 27 member states. They will no doubt cast a watchful eye on proceedings, before voting on the deal.
That vote will be by a weighted majority, with bigger states like Germany, France and Italy having a more powerful voice than smaller members (although in practice, strong efforts are made to ensure every member state can live with a deal before a matter is approved). Above and beyond this, should the Article 50 Brexit agreement venture beyond trade matters, it will then need to be ratified by every EU member state.
The European Parliament has a veto option, making it an important player too. Article 50 negotiations will thus have a lot of players with powerful voices – and many not necessarily be inclined to give the UK a very favourable deal lest “exiters” in their own countries get any ideas.
Could the UK delay giving Article 50 notification?
Legally, yes, the UK could delay giving Article 50 notification or avoid it altogether. But other EU states will probably refuse to negotiate until they get the notification.
Brexit campaigners have suggested adopting a swath of domestic laws so that the UK can short-circuit Article 50. But such measures would violate EU law and probably won’t see the light of day. Enacting them would pointlessly violate EU and international law, alienate the UK’s future negotiating partners and jeopardise the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Can the UK withdraw notification?
This might be attempted if, for instance, the UK doesn’t like the way negotiations are going. It is unclear if it is legally permissible. The EU Treaty certainly doesn’t prohibit it in so many words. Political misgivings would abound – but might possibly be met by having a second referendum to reject any Article 50 deal ultimately reached.
Ireland, after all, had referendum second thoughts on the Lisbon and Nice Treaties, Denmark had them on the Maastricht Treaty and France and Holland agreed to a Lisbon Treaty deal very similar to the 1994 Constitutional Treaty earlier rejected by both states in referendum.
What will the UK get from negotiations?
That depends on how (and who) conducts the negotiations for the UK, and what the other states are prepared to offer it. Even assuming they prove pleasantly amenable, the UK will be left with awkward choices.
Does it want continued access to the single market with its 500m consumers? If so, it is may have
to make Norway-like concessions – including continued EU migration and cash payments for the privilege. Does it want to block out EU migrants? Then it may well have to say goodbye to single European market access.
No matter what the UK chooses, it will unavoidably find itself outside the corridors of power in the EU for the first time in over forty years.
Is there any way back in?
Article 50 does envisage the possibility of UK re-entry to the EU one day – but subject to a unanimous vote of member states. This pretty much guarantees it will only ever happen by the UK accepting the euro currency, participation in the Schengen area of free movement and no rebate.
Welcome to the brave new world of Brexitland.
All I can say is that when I wrote up my post on comfort dogs I had no idea that matters Europe would be creating an enormous need for them. Better put in the words of Per and Val:
One dissatisfied member has soundly rejected club Europe’s management. It needs to radically improve before other leave. The managers must sure be in need of comfort dogs today.
Humanity has such a strange view of its earliest beginnings.
In the last few weeks there has been much publicity surrounding the science about the earliest domestication of dogs. I’m sure you have seen this but if not then read it over on the Science Mag website; an article that opens:
For years, scientists have debated where dogs came from. Did wolves first forge their special relationship with humans in Europe, or in Asia? The answer, according to a new study, is yes. This week in Science, researchers report that genetic analysis of hundreds of canines reveals that dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe or the Near East, although European ancestry has mostly vanished from today’s dogs. The findings could resolve a rift that has roiled the canine origins community—but the case isn’t closed yet.
David Grimm‘s words in that second sentence points to the fact that, irrespective of where on this Planet, wolves forged a “special relationship with humans”. In my book I offer evidence that this special relationship may have been crucial in our, as in humanity’s, ability to evolve from hunting and gathering to farming and thence the long journey to modern times.
Ergo, across the world we should recognise the wonders of that relationship and the magical qualities of the wolf.
Yesterday, I mentioned that Jean and I are supporters of Oregon Wild and that in the current newsletter author Rob Klavins had written a eulogy for an Oregon wolf and given me permission to republish it.
He was imperfect. He challenged us. He was loud. But he was tough and he was tenacious. He was resilient, and he was a good father.
OR4 and his partners OR2 and a wolf known as “Limpy” leave behind an unparalleled legacy. His offspring include OR7, the first pups in California in nearly a century, OR3, and wolves both known and unknown quietly living their lives and retaking their rightful place on the Oregon landscape.
He never set paw in Salem or DC, but for better and worse, he had more impact on policy and politics than any animal I know of other than Cecil the Lion.
He also leaves behind questions. Lots of questions. Questions about our future – the future of his offspring…and ours.
Above all, as I heard the helicopter take off near my home this morning, I wondered if our society will leave room for the wild on the landscape…and in our hearts.
Despite his collars and dayglo ear tags, OR4 was wild.
OR4 is dead, and we killed him.
But we’ll keep fighting for his legacy as imperfectly and tenaciously as he did.
The story of Oregon’s biggest and baddest wolf didn’t end in “happily ever after”. But the story for wolves and those of us who value the wild is still not fully written. It’s a new chapter. I’m no starry-eyed optimist. So I’ll stubbornly cling to hope and tenacity.
The alternative is surrender. OR4 was no quitter. And we shouldn’t be either.
The extreme importance of engaging in the fight for better societies.
I must warn you that today’s post is nothing about dogs. Unless, as with me, you see dogs as well as being the most gorgeous of creatures as being critically important metaphors for what societies need now! Or as I present elsewhere in this place:
Because of this closeness between dogs and man, we (as in man!) have the ability to observe the way they live. Now I’m sure that scientists would cringe with the idea that the way that a dog lives his life sets an example for us humans, well cringe in the scientific sense. But man seems to be at one of those defining stages in mankind’s evolution where the forces bearing down on the species homo sapiens have the potential to cause very great harm. If the example of dogs can provide a beacon of hope, an incentive to change at a deep cultural level, then the quicker we ‘get the message’, the better it will be.
value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.
So what’s this all leading up to!
Regular followers of this place (and you are always appreciated – never forget that) will know that previously I have mentioned Professor Richard Murphy. I have been following and reading his blog Tax Research UK for some time.
Many of the good Professor’s posts are specific to what is going on in the UK and, inevitably, Europe and the EU referendum.
But on the wider horizon these seem to be such terrible times. Here’s a comment I left to another of Richard’s posts that opened with the sentence, I am so bored by the EU referendum campaign.
My comment being:
It’s coming up to 5:30 am here in Southern Oregon and, as per usual, I have dipped into the latest postings from Tax Research. Part of me, a large part of me, is sickened by what seems to be going on in this world with the EU referendum and the US Presidential election being the two most glaringly terrible examples. But this old Brit (London-born in 1944) has this sense that the way that Richard and so many of his supporters can now ‘shout’ out the truth will, in the end, deliver a better future. Indeed, my own blog post today is called The Power of Open Opinions.
So keep on banging your truthful drum, Richard!
However, last Tuesday Richard published a post that seemed to speak to me, and presumably countless others, about the dilemma as to whether to be active in speaking up about what is right or wrong, or to just huddle up with one of your dogs on a nice (oversized) dog bed!
In my estimation that post from Richard should be widely circulated and it is republished in full now with Richard’s kind permission.
To engage or not; that is the question
Posted on7:57 am May 31 2016
It would seem I have touched a raw nerve for some regular commentators by suggesting that I welcome the IMF article, recently published, that appeared to recognise the failure of neoliberalism to tackle inequality and the inappropriateness of much of the austerity agenda.
It now seems that this article has attracted a vicious backlash from the FT, which clearly sees it as touching on neoliberal heresy. In that case to suggest, as some do, that this article is inconsequential is, in my opinion, wrong. If nothing else, it has revealed the true opinion of the FT, and the sharp divide between its editorial stance and the opinion of its lead economic columnist, Martin Wolf.
It is also safe to assume that if this has been the response outside the organisation then the debate within it has been at least as heated, and all this on an article which says it can find merit in some parts of the neoliberal agenda.
Why come back to the issue then? I think there are three good reasons for doing so.
First, how to respond to such an article from such an organisation opens up one of the more difficult questions in campaigning, which is whether to engage or not with those organisations that you criticise? It is not possible to be a tax justice campaigner and to not have been critical of the IMF and its approach over the last few decades. I have been of the IMF, the World Bank and, of course, of the Washington Consensus that they have promoted. But, a long time ago I decided that the only viable way in which I could help deliver tax justice was by engaging with those people and organisations whose opinions I wished to change.
Over the years I’ve been criticised for this, and been told that the policy would undermine my chances of success. So, variously, I was told that it was a mistake to serve on George Osborne’s General Anti-Abuse Rule committee. Likewise, engaging with the OECD BEPS process was described as a mistake by some because the terms of engagement were clearly biased against developing countries. Others have also suggested that it was a mistake not to object to Jeremy Corbyn using some of my policy ideas. I suspect some would also criticise the fact that I went to the World Bank last week and there were definitely those who suggested that I should not accept an appointment at City University, precisely because it has got links to the City of London. As for the Fair Tax Mark; some say that is a sell out.
In all cases I disagree. It is my job to create ideas that might effect change. My purpose for doing so is, I hope clear: my aim is to create a more genuinely prosperous, more equal, more democratic, more accountable, more sustainable, more tolerant and so more enjoyable world in which we might live. More is an important word in that sentence: it could be prefaced with ‘much’ in many cases but I do not think we will ever create utopia. I want better because I doubt that the best I believe possible is actually achievable within the necessary compromises that human society requires, not just now but ever.
That, then, brings me to my second point. I am not seeking a revolution, but an evolution. I respect those who wish to be perpetual outsiders because they believe that the only way forward is to sweep away all that is in their path to create an entirely new society, but their’s is not a path I would ever choose. There is good reason for that: I believe that the cost of such change is too high, and the uncertainty of the outcome too great for any such risk to be taken. The chance that what we have will be replaced by tyranny is also too significant to justify this approach, in my opinion.
But, perhaps, most of all, and thirdly, I believe that the power of an idea at the right time is sufficiently strong to ensure that such a revolutionary approach is wholly unnecessary. I stress, I am not claiming that my ideas are in this category; I am suggesting that ideas can be. Neoliberalism arose because it was an idea in the right place at the right time, even if I fundamentally disagree with the prescription that it offered. The post-war consensus was similarly created in this way.
I regret that as yet we have not reached a point where a similar replacement idea has been sufficiently developed to capture, unambiguously, the common political narrative. Discussion of sustainability is become mainstream, but not in reality commonplace. Disquiet with austerity is deep-rooted, but has not yet displaced the obsession with balanced budgets. Debate on inequality in its many egregious forms is taking place, but is not yet reversing trends. Some political developments now arising are deeply antagonistic to democracy. But, and I stress the point, the fact that all these things are happening is, in itself, indication that something really important is going on and that we may, in my opinion, be reaching a point where real change is possible.
I stress, in the context the IMF article is, in my opinion important even though it is not as radical as that which many people would wish to read. But that is how change takes place: very few of us are really capable of embracing giant leaps. Most of us have to, inevitably, partake in incremental steps on the way to a bigger goal.
I accept, and embrace that fact, which I perceive to be a reality. That is not to say there is no place for the campaigner who demands, with reason, more radical change. Whilst I see many of the attractions of being a ‘no compromiser’ that is not the path I have chosen to follow, even with tax havens (as my Plan B for Jersey made clear). If the choice is between a pitchfork and a pen, then I choose the pen, believing that at the end of the day this is the way to create real change. But as a result I also choose to engage, without apology.
We must never forget that the pen is mightier than the sword! And we must never stop engaging!
These seem like times where very little makes sense.
Blogger Patrice Ayme posted an item on Wednesday under the title of Doomed Dems. It was, inevitably, a commentary on the recent news regarding Donald Trump. Here’s how Patrice’s post opens:
So Donald Trump will be the Republican committee ( 😉 ) for the presidency. And Trump will, probably, be elected US president. Why? Because people want change, and they did not get it. Instead they got more of the drift down, after the reign of the teleprompter reading president. Average family income is DOWN $4,000 since (“Bill”) Clinton’s last year as president. According to a FOX News poll, 64% of Americans blame Wall Street. Meanwhile in a vast report in the New York Times, Obama celebrates, in May 2016, the alliance he said he made with Wall Street in 2008.
Later on in that same post, Patrice goes on to write about the horrific fire in Alberta, Canada, and the damage to trees in Yosemite National Park in California. At first sight those two events would appear disconnected. But not according to Patrice:
Meanwhile a friend of mine went to Yosemite ten days ago. She told me she could not believe the devastation of the forest. Most of it is fiery red. It is devastated by the Pine Bark Beetle. To kill the Beetle, one needs twenty days well below freezing. However, this hard freeze is now a memory. So the Beetle invades, and kills forest. Treating tree by tree is hopelessly expensive, and futile. Yes, the forests will burn soon, adding to CO2 in the atmosphere. And it is all the way like that to Alaska.
Massive walls of flames prompted authorities to order the evacuation of all the city’s more than 80,000 residents last night. The blaze has been caused by un-naturally high temperatures. Such giant fires are our immediate future. Nobody said the Greenhouse crisis was going to be nice. More evacuations coming.
Anything to do with dogs? Well, yes!
For this coming Saturday I am giving a talk about my book, Learning from Dogs, to our local Rogue Valley Humanist and Freethinkers (both Jean and I are members) and it struck me that what Patrice wrote about and what we see all around us are part of the same big picture. That we need to be reminded of a few fundamentals. As I will be saying in my talk:
Dogs are creatures of integrity! Wow! Now you might see where this is leading to!
But more than that, much more than that, they offer us humans a model for a range of behavioural qualities that we ignore at our peril:
I then list the qualities that we see in our dogs, and continue:
Hold those values close to you for just a few moments. Imagine what would flow out across the world if those were the characteristics, the behavioural values, of us humans!
Finally, towards the end of that talk on Saturday I will be saying:
Nature will always have the last word regarding her natural world, to which we humans are so intricately linked. Standing alongside and respecting nature as the future comes to us will be so much wiser than pushing back against nature, and ultimately failing, trying to “convert” nature to some form of materialistic human resource. Because that route will only return those of us who survive to a life of hunting and gathering. Which, so many thousands of years previously, is where early dogs started humankind on the long journey leading to now.
Dogs have been the making of humans and a viable future for humankind on this beautiful planet depends on us never forgetting this oldest relationship of all, the one between dog and human.
Because if we, as a global society, don’t understand that when it comes to power all the plutocrats and all of their money come to naught in contrast to the power of nature then these present lands are going to become very strange indeed!
And nature is rapidly encroaching on these lands that we are now traversing.
The force of public opinion has never been more important; critically so!
As you all know this world of blogging: authors; followers; readers, is a great number of wonderful communities right across the planet. It is nothing like the traditional media, now owned and controlled by just a handful of large corporations, because the vast majority of blogging participants are free to say what they want, when they want.
Here’s an example.
Martin Lack is an Englishman who is the author of the blog Lack of Environment. As his home page quietly states:
Although scientificly trained (with degrees in Geology and Hydrogeology – see my About page), this blog arises from my having also got an MA in Environmental Politics and, as such, as the tagline indicates, is a blog on “the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems”… I hope you will take this on board; and enjoy the discussion.
“There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation” – Herman E. Daly (former World Bank economist).
The science about the chemistry of climate change especially the new danger of methane is clear. The commitment of our political leaders is less clear. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep shouting out loud.
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA
Dear Prime Minister,
Whatever happened to the greenest government ever?
Given my experience of working in environmental consultancy or regulation, I understand the importance of making pragmatic, risk-based decisions (as opposed to dogmatic, opinion-based ones). I therefore believe that government policy should be formulated this way. Unfortunately, however, this does not always seem to be the case.
As a pragmatic scientist, I am not ideologically opposed to nuclear power. However, I do question the logic of pursuing ‘Hinkley Point C’ when equivalent investment in distributed renewable technologies – from domestic solar PV to submarine tidal stream – could probably generate more electricity faster. Indeed, as Greenpeace has recently pointed out, the UK could meet nearly all its electricity generation needs from renewable energy sources by 2030.
With regard to risk, the scientific consensus is that, in order to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the World must now embark upon the fastest-possible transition to a zero carbon economy. Therefore, I also question the logic of simultaneously promoting investment in shale gas; discouraging investment in renewables; and cancelling investment in Carbon Capture and Storage research.
It is now over 50 years since scientists started warning of the climatic implications of continuing to burn fossil fuels; and 50 years since fossil fuel company executives started spending huge sums of money on being “Merchants of Doubt”. As such, along with their counterparts in the tobacco industry, they have clearly not acted in the long-term interest of humanity as a whole.
However, as with the individual health benefit of ceasing to smoke tobacco, the sooner we stop burning fossil fuels the greater the collective environmental benefit will be. Therefore, I am pragmatically opposed to shale gas exploration because burning it is not consistent with the need to transition away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.
I am certain that you would like to secure an enduring political legacy; and would therefore like to ask just one question:
What could be better than being remembered as the Prime Minister that committed the UK to meeting nearly all its electricity generation needs from renewable energy sources by 2030?
Let me finish today’s post by republishing an exchange between Patrice Ayme and Martin over on a recent PA essay, that I republished in full in this place: Runaway Antarctica.
I know I am wasting my time writing letters to David Cameron; and I know my opinions are irrelevant. However, the facts of history are not; nor will they be in the future.
I know you are doing the right thing. Writing to Cameron is entirely correct. But of course, he is a guy with just a salary and a few “savings”, a few tens of millions dollars of savings, maybe, or maybe not, and knew nothing about his recently deceased father having a fund of around 50 million dollars sheltered by shell companies, out there, somewhere related to Panama, or the British Virgin Islands, or the Bahamas, or Bermuda, whatever…
OK, David’s wife, officially, has a fund of more than twenty million pounds….
For the record: I am socially-conservative (i.e. as opposed to liberal) but under no illusion as to the folly of what has been called ‘money fetishism’ (Karl Marx); and ‘growthmania’ (Herman E. Daly).
Hi Martin, thanks for the comment. I spent a whole hour reading the hard cover version of the paper the electronic version of which I criticized above. It’s quite a bit different. They use RCPs (Reasonable Carbon Projections, or the like in meaning). Yet, they don’t explain what they consist of exactly. All I know is that we are around 500 ppmv, and they work with 400 ppmv, in the 130 K-115 K years BP, when orbital conditions were cooler than now.
Plus we are going to be at 550 ppmv within ten years, at the present rate. The earliest date they have for the failure of Larsen C in their worst RCP 8.5 is 2055 CE. I would be surprised if it did not fail within ten years.
However, the paper version is more insistent on the danger of AIR warming, not just subsurface.
Also the Hansen paper has a scenario, which is suitably apocalyptic, but not apocalyptic enough in my book. Temperatures over the Arctic were strikingly high this winter, of the order of 4 to 5 degrees Centigrade higher than normal, and sometimes more. Nobody expected this sort of jumps. Except for yours truly!
Now one might argue that this has nothing whatsoever to do with Learning from Dogs but I would disagree. For as I declare in The Vision of this blog:
It seems to me that a Vision statement should encapsulate just why the owners of the enterprise are committed to that venture. The author of Learning from Dogs is committed to this project; here is the Vision.
Our children require a world that understands the importance of faith, integrity and honesty
Learning from Dogs will serve as a reminder of the values of life and the power of unconditional love – as so many, many dogs prove each and every day
Constantly trying to get to the truth …
The power of greater self-awareness and faith; faith that the only way forward for us is through the truth …
For in a very real and devastating way even a small rise in global sea level is going to cause tens of thousands of dogs, and their loving owners, to become homeless. We are long overdue a commitment from our global leaders and power-brokers to that, “.. faith, integrity and honesty.”
I have written for years that a runaway Antarctica was certain, with half the icy continent melting rather spectacularly on an horizon of two centuries at most, and probably much less than that. This rested on the fact that half of Antarctica rests on nothing but bedrock at the bottom of the sea. At the bottom of what should naturally be the sea, in the present circumstances of significant greenhouse gas concentrations.
Visualize this: until sometimes in the Nineteenth Century, GreenHouse Gas (GHG) concentration was 280 ppm (280 parts per million), including the man-made sort. Now we are close to 500 ppm, using a variety of exotic gases we produce industrially, among them, CO2. In CO2 alone we are at: Week beginning on March 20, 2016: 405.62 ppm. Weekly value from 1 year ago: 401.43 ppm. Weekly value from 10 years ago: 382.76 ppm. So the CO2 alone is augmenting at a bit more than 1% a year. Thus we will be at an equivalent of 550 ppm in ten years (including the full panoply of all the other man-made greenhouse gases, not just CO2). There is evidence that, with just 400 ppm, disaster is guaranteed.
Now visualize this:
Why so watery? Because the enormous glaciers, up to nearly 5,000 meter thick, press down on the continent with their enormous weight. Since the end of the last glaciation, 10,000 years ago, Scandinavia has been rising, and is still rising (I long used a picture with a similar information about Antarctica’s bedrock.)
Polar temperatures over the last several million years have, at times, been slightly warmer than today, yet global mean sea level has been 6–9 metres higher as recently as the Last Interglacial (130,000 to 115,000 years ago) and possibly higher during the Pliocene epoch (about three million years ago). In both cases the Antarctic ice sheet has been implicated as the primary contributor, hinting at its future vulnerability. Here we use a model coupling ice sheet and climate dynamics—including previously underappreciated processes linking atmospheric warming with hydrofracturing of buttressing ice shelves and structural collapse of marine-terminating ice cliffs—that is calibrated against Pliocene and Last Interglacial sea-level estimates and applied to future greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if emissions continue unabated. In this case atmospheric warming will soon become the dominant driver of ice loss, but prolonged ocean warming will delay its recovery for thousands of years.
Notice that the scenario evoked in the last sentence is different from my very old scenario, which is similar to the one advanced in November 2015 by the famous Hansen and Al. (I raised the alarm before Hansen, at least seven years ago). In my scenario, and Hansen’s the ice sheets melt from below, due to warm sea water intrusion.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is larger than Mexico.
Here is a taste of the paper (I have a Nature subscription):
“Reconstructions of the global mean sea level (GMSL) during past warm climate intervals including the Pliocene (about three million years ago)1 and late Pleistocene interglacials2,3,4,5 imply that the Antarctic ice sheet has considerable sensitivity. Pliocene atmospheric CO2 concentrations were comparable to today’s (~400 parts per million by volume, p.p.m.v.)6, but some sea-level reconstructions are 10–30 m higher1,7. In addition to the loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS)2, these high sea levels require the partial retreat of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), which is further supported by sedimentary evidence from the Antarctic margin8. During the more recent Last Interglacial (LIG, 130,000 to 115,000 years ago), GMSL was 6–9.3 m higher than it is today2,3,4, at a time when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were below 280 p.p.m.v. (ref.9) and global mean temperatures were only about 0–2 °C warmer10. This requires a substantial sea-level contribution from Antarctica of 3.6–7.4 m in addition to an estimated 1.5–2 m from Greenland11,12 and around 0.4 m from ocean steric effects10.”
So notice: when CO2 ppm per volume was at 280 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, sea level was up to ten meter higher than now. And now we are at 500 ppmv…
And notice again: When CO2 ppmv was at 400, sea level was up to 30 meters (100 feet) higher than today. And now we are at 500 ppm, and, in a blink, in ten years, at 550 ppm.
Here is another example from the paper. I said all of this before, but to have scientists paid to do research in this area write it black on white in the world’s most prestigious scientific magazine, will no doubt endow me with greater, and much desired, gravitas. So let me indulge, not so much for my greater glory, but because it should help taking what I have long said more seriously.
“Much of the WAIS sits on bedrock hundreds to thousands of metres below sea level (Fig. 1a)13. Today, extensive floating ice shelves in the Ross and Weddell Seas, and smaller ice shelves and ice tongues in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas (Fig. 1b) provide buttressing that impedes the seaward flow of ice and stabilizes marine grounding zones (Fig. 2a). Despite their thickness (typically about 1 km near the grounding line to a few hundred metres at the calving front), a warming ocean has the potential to quickly erode ice shelves from below, at rates exceeding 10 m yr−1 °C−1 (ref. 14). Ice-shelf thinning and reduced backstress enhance seaward ice flow, grounding-zone thinning, and retreat (Fig. 2b). Because the flux of ice across the grounding line increases strongly as a function of its thickness15, initial retreat onto a reverse-sloping bed (where the bed deepens and the ice thickens upstream) can trigger a runaway Marine Ice Sheet Instability (MISI; Fig. 2c)15, 16, 17. Many WAIS grounding zones sit precariously on the edge of such reverse-sloped beds, but the EAIS also contains deep subglacial basins with reverse-sloping, marine-terminating outlet troughs up to 1,500 m deep (Fig. 1). The ice above floatation in these East Antarctic basins is much thicker than in West Antarctica, with the potential to raise GMSL by around 20 m if the ice in those basins is lost13. Importantly, previous ice-sheet simulations accounting for migrating grounding lines and MISI dynamics have shown the potential for repeated WAIS retreats and readvances over the past few million years18, but could only account for GMSL rises of about 1 m during the LIG and 7 m in the warm Pliocene, which are substantially smaller than geological estimates.”
I said it before. Including the details. So the evidence was clear, and out there. The optimism (it will take 5 centuries for 50 feet of sea level rise) is not supported by evidence. Actually collapsing channels coming from inverted rivers running up on the bellies of ice sheets are now obvious on satellite pictures and collapse of major ice shelves is going to be a matter of years, not centuries.
But science is made by tribes and these tribes honor the gods (of plutocracy) who finance them, and their whims. So they don’t want to make their sponsors feel bad. So they say unsupported, optimistic stuff, contradicted by a first order analysis.
Science is good, metascience, better. Metascience includes the sociological reasons which explain why some scientists will take some “facts” for obvious (although, coming from another sociology, they are not).
Deep in the Nature paper, in the quote above, or in four drawings and graphs of future sea level rise, one can find projections according to what various models “predict”… 130,000 years ago (!) The “Old Physics” model predicts one meter rise of the sea (this is the official UN maximal prediction for 2100). The new model, again starting with the present conditions, predict more than a six meter rise (!) This is a case of metascience playing with sea level.
This way, the authors of the paper will be able to say, one day: we told you so. While at the same time not irritating their sponsors now (because to understand what they are really saying takes quite a while, and has to be understood as tongue in cheek, when they pretend to apply the analysis to 130,000 years ago… What they really mean is six meters now, not just one meter… Bye bye Wall Street. Punished by its own instruments…)
The question is not whether we will be able to avoid a twenty meter sea level rise: that’s, unbelievably, a given (barring unforeseeable, yet imaginable technological advances to extract quickly a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere). The question is whether we will avoid a 60 meter rise.
In the paper, to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Applied Energy, the authors calculate the Two degree capital stock – the global stock of electricity infrastructure from which future emissions have a 50% probability of staying within 2°C of warming. The researchers estimate that the world will reach Two degree capital stock next year, in 2017.
The analogy with planting trees is very apt. For any clown can plant the tree but parenting that young tree into a mature forty-foot high beauty takes professional management.
That post had been inspired by a recent essay over at Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts regarding the observation by Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, that promoting start-ups without the commensurate focus on growing those start-ups into viable commercial concerns was strategically and politically incorrect. Back to that essay for a further extract:
However, American-based manufacturing is not on the agenda of Silicon Valley or the political agenda of the United States. Venture capitalists actually told me it was obsolete (before stepping in their private jets). That omission, according to Mr. Grove, is a result of another “unquestioned truism”: “that the free market is the best of all economic systems — the freer the better.” To Mr. Grove, or Mr. Trump, or yours truly, that belief is flawed.
Andy Grove: “Scaling used to work well in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs came up with an invention. Investors gave them money to build their business. If the founders and their investors were lucky, the company grew and had an initial public offering, which brought in money that financed further growth.”
The triumph of free-market principles over planned economies in the 20th century, Mr. Grove said, did not make those principles infallible or immutable. There was room for improvement, he argued, for what he called “job-centric” economics and politics. In a job-centric system, job creation would be the nation’s No. 1 objective, with the government setting priorities and arraying the forces necessary to achieve the goal, and with businesses operating not only in their immediate profit interest but also in the interests of “employees, and employees yet to be hired.”
As even the New York Times now admits, the situation has degenerated since 2010. Although the employment rate halved, in a slave state, everybody is employed. But neither the economy, nor the society, let alone progress and civilization are doing better.
“Insecure, low-paying, part-time and dead-end jobs are prevalent. On the campaign trail, large groups of Americans are motivated and manipulated on the basis of real and perceived social and economic inequities.
Conditions have worsened in other ways. In 2010, one of the arguments against Mr. Grove’s critique was that exporting jobs did not matter as long as much of the corporate profits stayed in the United States. But just as American companies have bolstered their profits by exporting jobs,many now do so byshifting profits overseas throughtax-avoidance maneuvers.
The result is a high-profit, low-prosperity nation. “All of us in business,” Mr. Grove wrote, “have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability — and stability — we may have taken for granted.” Silicon Valley and much of corporate America have yet to live up to that principle.”
If we return to that analogy of the tree, think how long and how much attention must be put into the conditions that will promote not only sustained growth of that young tree but growth to the point where it can propogate its own saplings.
As it is for young companies. The skills that company managers require to nurture that company to the point of self-sustaining maturity are many and varied. But they are underpinned by the need to be truthful and trustworthy, to be devoted to the employees of the company and to instill in all who work, and finance, that company to “love the customer”. Not just those customers that are the big spenders but also, and especially so, the many, many smaller clients that can make or break a company’s reputation.
So with that in mind let’s take a peek at USA LLC and UK Ltd.
Here are the closing paragraphs from Patrice’s essay:
Our corruption is not just an economic and social problem, a political problem, and a civilizational problem, as it was under Aristotle. It is a problem for the entire planet.
“We empowered a demagogue“, laments Mr. Kristof. His true calling, and that of the Main Stream Media, was to empower plutocrats, and their obsequious servants. How sad they are.
I like being outside the fray of party politics. I wasn’t born with a sufficient capacity for compromise to believe that any political party has all the answers to all questions. And yet, equally, I can admire those who can make the sacrifice to take part in this process. It is, for better or worse, at the heart of democratic politics.
That demands that it be done well. This requirement is predicated on three things. The first is a willingness to pretend you have the answer to all things. The second is a leadership that knows this is not true and which as a result respects its opponents. The third is an acute appreciation of the fact that compromise in pursuit of a higher goal, whilst saving face, is the ultimate political aim: nothing really happens without the accommodation of others.
He then closes his post:
Passion, dogma and steadfastness, come what may, are not what makes party politics.
Conviction based on wisdom, understanding and compassion does.
But these qualities remain in far too short supply, even if they’re not quite out of stock, yet.
And that’s the party political problem.
Many people both ‘sides of the pond’ would nod heads in agreement with that.
My final peek is into an essay that was recently published by the quarterly journal The Baffler. The essay was from David Graeber under the heading of Despair Fatigue. Opening:
Is it possible to become bored with hopelessness?
There is reason to believe something like that is beginning to happen in Great Britain. Call it despair fatigue.
For nearly half a century, British culture, particularly on the left, has made an art out of despair. This is the land where “No Future for You” became the motto of a generation, and then another generation, and then another. From the crumbling of its empire, to the crumbling of its industrial cities, to the current crumbling of its welfare state, the country seemed to be exploring every possible permutation of despair: despair as rage, despair as resignation, despair as humor, despair as pride or secret pleasure. It’s almost as if it’s finally run out.
and closing, thus:
Twenty-first century problems are likely to be entirely different: How, in a world of potentially skyrocketing productivity and decreasing demand for labor, will it be possible to maintain equitable distribution without at the same time destroying the earth? Might the United Kingdom become a pioneer for such a new economic dispensation? The new Labour leadership is making the initial moves: calling for new economic models (“socialism with an iPad”) and seeking potential allies in high-tech industry. If we really are moving toward a future of decentralized, small, high-tech, robotized production, it’s quite possible that the United Kingdom’s peculiar traditions of small-scale enterprise and amateur science—which never made it particularly amenable to the giant bureaucratized conglomerates that did so well in the United States and Germany, in either their capitalist or socialist manifestations—might prove unusually apt. It’s all a colossal gamble. But then, that’s what historical change is like.
In other words, it’s this!
One of the age-old maxims from professional company managers is:
It’s always a case of putting people before profits!
Putting people before profits should be in the front of the minds of all our leaders and masters; both sides of the ‘pond’.
Or in tree language investing in this:
to achieve this:
Come on good people, we really do need healthy, mature trees in our 21st C. societies.