Category Archives: education

The World Health Organisation’s Manifesto for a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the 73rd World Health Assembly.  May 18th 2020:

“The pandemic is a reminder of the intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet. Any efforts to make our world safer are doomed to fail unless they address the critical interface between people and pathogens, and the existential threat of climate change, that is making our Earth less habitable.”

A summary

COVID-19 is the greatest global shock in decades.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and the world’s economy likely faces the worst recession since the 1930s.  The resulting loss of employment and income will cause further damage to livelihoods, health, and sustainable development. 

We cannot go back to the way we did things before.

Increasing numbers of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, SARS and Ebola, have made the jump from wildlife to humans – and all available evidence suggests that COVID-19 has followed the same route.

As infections spread, a lack of universal health coverage has left billions of people, including many in rich countries, without reliable and affordable access to medical treatment.

Massive inequalities have meant that deaths and loss of livelihoods have been strongly driven by socioeconomic status, often compounded by gender and minority status.

Attempting to save money by neglecting environmental protection, emergency preparedness, health systems, and social safety nets, has proven to be a false economy – and the bill is now being paid many times over.

The world cannot afford repeated disasters on the scale of COVID-19, whether they are triggered by the next pandemic, or from mounting environmental damage and climate change. Going back to “normal” is not good enough.

In adversity, the crisis has also brought out some of the best in our societies, from solidarity among neighbours, to the bravery of health and other key workers in facing down risks to their own health to serve their communities, to countries working together to provide emergency relief or to research treatments and vaccines.

The “lockdown” measures that have been necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 have slowed economic activity, and disrupted lives – but have also given some glimpses of a possible brighter future. In some places, pollution levels have dropped to such an extent that people have breathed clean air, or have seen blue skies and clear waters, or have been able to walk and cycle safely with their children – for the first times in their lives.

National governments are now committing trillions of dollars, in a matter of weeks, to maintain and eventually resuscitate economy activity.  These investments are essential to safeguard people’s livelihoods, and therefore their health.

But the allocation of these investments, and the policy decisions that will guide both short- and long-term recovery, have the potential to shape the way we live our lives, work and consume for years to come.

Nowhere is this more important than in their effects on environmental degradation and pollution, and particularly on the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming and the climate crisis.

Decisions made in the coming months can either “lock in” economic development patterns that will do permanent and escalating damage to the ecological systems that sustain all human health and livelihoods, or, if wisely taken, can promote a healthier, fairer, and greener world. 

To read the World Health Organisation’s prescriptions for a healthy, green recovery go to its newsroom.

There is widespread public support for policies that do not seek only to maximize GDP, but to protect and enhance wellbeing, and for governments to combat climate change and environmental destruction with the same seriousness with which they are now fighting COVID-19. It is also shown by the millions of young people who have mobilized to demand action not only on climate and biodiversity – but also for the right to breathe clean air, and for their future on a liveable planet.

 

 

 

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A different kind of life is possible: Bruce Kent

After a US commander revealed the information to the Senate, the Ministry of Defence confirmed on Sunday that it has committed the taxpayer to fund a multi billion pound replacement of Trident, with nuclear warheads based on US technology.

Colin Archer and Dave Webb point out that, given the importance of finding large sums of public money to fund the now-urgent green transition, this is the right time to highlight the huge sums devoted to the military sector and top of the list is the UK’s commitment to nuclear weapons. The proposed slogan for Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is ‘Military spending costs the Earth’. 

Amongst the articles listed on the GDAMS international campaign website was one by Bruce Kent originally published in Peace News. The article opens with his tribute to the readable, international and interesting Peace News, before signing off, at least for a time. He thanked all on the team, especially the very modest editor and continued:

Hospital is always an eye-opening experience. Any London hospital is an international community on its own: a Portuguese doctor, nurses from the Philippines and all parts of Africa – all helpful and concerned even if very over-worked. My biggest shock came in a chat with a young trainee nurse. I asked if she did an eight-hour day. She just smiled. Her working day runs for 12½ hours. She lives at least an hour away in South London. So she has about eight or nine hours at home to sleep, cook, eat and have any kind of social life. Not fair. It’s not just money that the NHS needs but good working conditions as well.

In the run-up to the general election, both main parties promised many millions to be spent on increased NHS funding. Why did they not say this and do it long ago?

We can apparently afford £200 billion for a new set of very non-independent nuclear missile submarines. Missiles are on rotating loan from the US, which no one seems to notice. Not a word so far, in all the electioneering that I have heard, about nuclear bombs except for a contemptuous mention that Jeremy Corbyn would not ‘press the button’ – and so kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians far away.

Our concern about military expenditure is clearly a global one. Only recently a report came through my letterbox from the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) started by the International Peace Bureau in 2011.

(Right: Bruce and other campaigners attended a GDAMS protest and letter hand-in at the MoD in April 2019)

GCOMS concentrates every April-May on actions all around the world, highlighting the connection between military expenditure and the lack of money for real human needs. Last time, there were 110 events in 27 countries – with UK events in York, Bradford and London. Have a look at the work in progress on www.demilitarize.org.

The need is obvious. The money spent on war and the preparations for war is a scandal and ought to be commonly recognised as such. The global military budget is now not far off two trillion dollars a year. We now have the climate change campaigners with us.

To read the small print click here and use the magnifying glass symbol to read the data from SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Database (March 2019)

Military production involves the release of CO2 in massive quantities. The two great current perils, war and climate change, are dangerous twins.

Many of the events are fun to organise, such as the ‘Move the money’ selfie project, or stalls offering passers-by the opportunity to indicate their alternative budget choices (buttons in jam jars or buckets work well, labelled ‘education’, ‘green energy’, etc). We need a group campaigning on military expenditure to be active in every part of this country, but that means hard and imaginative work and energy. We need an enthusiastic volunteer to coordinate and encourage more GCOMS events next spring. How about you?

From “The Chance for Peace,” a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

The best quote that I can end with comes, rather surprisingly, from a US general. Dwight Eisenhower was never a hawk. He can’t have been popular in his world for saying that the nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945 were never necessary. He had this to say in 1953 and you may well recognise the quotation: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This is not a way of life. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron….’

Bruce ends: “A different kind of life is possible. Let’s together make it happen”.

 

 

 

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Ending the damage the British boarding school does to its pupils – and to Britain

A motion approved by delegates at the 2019 Labour Party Conference in Brighton said a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would “challenge the elite privilege of private schools” and claimed that “the ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice”. The party would therefore include in its next manifesto “a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector”.

Below: the final paragraphs of an article first published here and also on this site, reproduced with two profile links added.

Psychohistorian and psychologist Nick Duffell speaks to Richard House about the distinct damage the British boarding school system does to its pupils – and Britain.

A file picture of Eton College

RH: Can you say more about how these traumas drive and distort the attitudes and decision-making of political leaders?

ND: Well, the main thing is that if you’ve been forced to completely dissociate from your natural vulnerability, you can never hope to understand the vulnerable in society.

Neuroscience now proves that if you don’t have emotional intelligence you cannot make good choices; for me, this is the science behind what economist Will Hutton says, that the Tory Party has consistently made bad decisions over decades.

And then there’s the duplicity habit, referred to earlier: if you have a strategic survival personality running your life, you lose touch with what’s true or what’s a lie; you can never be wrong — which is why, even now, Tony Blair cannot admit he was wrong over Iraq.

Boarding school survivors can’t join groups and become team players unless they’ve done the necessary inner work; so we haven’t even really joined Europe yet, despite feeling we should either lead it or quit it. In short, elite boarding is a terrible training for good leadership.

RH: It’s outrageous that, as Robert Verkaik outlines in his book Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, these schools receive massive fees, yet as charities pay no rates, corporation tax or investment-income tax. And were VAT charged on fees, it would yield £1.5 billion of tax annually. So what, in your view, is to be done? What line would you advise a left-Corbyn government to take with this toxic class-based schooling system?

ND: It’s vital that Corbyn engages some good advisers on mental health issues in the light of what we now know about psychopathology not only affecting the less privileged, but also the elite.

He should take note of George Monbiot’s recent suggestion in the Guardian of mandatory psychotherapy for would-be political leaders.

Boarding younger than 16 should be stopped, and the existing facilities become residential sixth-form colleges on the model of the Danish “efterskol” and the tax concessions to private schools should be reversed.

Original citation: Nick Duffell is a is psychotherapist, author and psychohistorian based in London. His books include Wounded Leaders, The Making of Them and (with Thurstine Basset) Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege. Richard House is a left-green Corbynista activist in Stroud.

 

 

 

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Thoughts on the state of the Labour Party: Rex Harris

 

Three years ago Rex Harris (below) reflected on the state of his beloved Labour Party and hoped to demonstrate that the present “doom and gloom” is totally unjustified. His thoughts are well worth revisiting.

Although society has made enormous strides in technology and science we are still living under a very regressive political system. Thus we still have the primitive “first pass the post” electoral system whereby, with just 38% of the vote, the Tories have been re-elected for another depressing 5 years during which time the gap between rich and poor will become even wider.

The cabinet is still predominantly ex-public school and male and in the composition of the new parliament of around 650 MPs, only a very tiny minority will have any significant scientific/engineering background and hence technical knowledge. I believe that in the last parliament there was only one science -based PhD and, in the current lot the picture is probably even worse. This critical absence of any technical expertise is extremely worrying as the quality of the future is dependent on implementing long term, technically-based measures determined by the overwhelming need to reduce carbon. The mammoths in the room are climate change and resource depletion and yet these topics received barely a mention in the debates leading up to the 2015 general election. These and related areas will determine, not only the future shape of the Labour party   but that of the whole world and I will now try and persuade you that these should be the dominant themes in current and future debates.

With the increasing manifestation of climate change in the UK as well as throughout the world, events related to the changing climate will become ever-more predominant in political life. The difficult if not impossible task is to predict the exact time it will take for the reality of climate change and resource depletion to have a significant impact on the electorate. Currently we are all living in a “fools’ paradise”.

The stark reality is that our present consumer driven economic system cannot provide the necessary long-term solutions to these problems

This is why the Labour party must not seek short-term political gain by trying to emulate our existing system which is based predominantly on the motivating force of personal greed. These changes cannot be achieved by short-term tinkering with the existing system.

The majority realise that there has to be a radical change could come in the next 5 years or it might take longer, but come it will. It might be useful to consider what could be some of the political priorities (in no particular order):

  • Introduce a system of proportional representation and real federalisation within the UK.
  • Increase substantially the proportion of Labour candidates with scientific/engineering backgrounds. Engineers and scientists “on top” not just “on-tap”.
  • Develop a series of technical workshops to inform MPs and other policy makers.
  • Set-up a parliamentary group to investigate comprehensively the impacts of climate change and resource depletion. For instance, to develop a full-scale recycling strategy.
  • Look to build a purpose-built parliament building in the Midlands and convert existing parliament buildings into tourist attractions.
  • Strengthen and expand the concept of a “Green Bank” to fund new businesses based of sustainable technologies.
  • Electrify all urban transportation and develop battery recycling technology.
  • Strengthen EC and other international ties.

These are some of the many priorities that Labour will have to address and formulate workable solutions – a far cry from many of today’s trivial and somewhat irrelevant arguments.

The Labour party will have to provide the blueprint for a sustainable future and the sooner it sets its mind to this objective the better. Along with other like-minded groups it will have to formulate detailed root and branch policies to provide a workable alternative to the present unsustainable system, based on the growing consumption of ever diminishing raw materials and evermore carbon-based energy.

 

Rex Harris: Monday, 27July, 2015

Read more about Rex Harris’s work here and his team’s hydrogen-powered canal boat project here.

 

 

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Listen to inconvenient truths: make Britain a world-leader opposing climate change

 

Janice Turner: if there’s one thing to make Middle England care about the planet, it’s being denied grandchildren

American politician, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, recently said “There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult and it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know. Is it okay to still have children?”

When Janice Turner (Times 20.04.19) reported from the campsite on Oxford Circus, a young woman told her she’d gone on “baby strike”. With oceans warming, Greenland melting, coral reefs dead, why would she bring a child into the world? Others are coming to the same conclusion. Her article is summarised here:

A change generation: the cause – ecological disaster

This is a change generation not seen since the 1960s. The chosen cause then was civil rights; now it is ecological disaster.

Today’s young are the first denied a sure route to stakeholder adulthood by student debt, gig economy contracts and unaffordable homes. Many twentysomethings, expecting their lives to be shorter and poorer than their parents’, are willing to lie on Waterloo Bridge to be decanted into a police van.

Hopeless, apocalyptic forecasts scare us: we don’t want to believe the facts

Climate warriors rev up our wrath faster than other campaigners – perhaps because hopeless, apocalyptic forecasts scare us. We don’t want to believe the facts, even if voiced by David Attenborough.

They demand we reform our behaviour in tiresome ways. “Look, I’ve bought a hybrid car, what more do you want,” . . . Yet change we can and must. Change never comes from politicians. It is generated by civil society, protests, discussions and campaigns pushing the status quo towards what was unthinkable a decade before.

More than ever our political system seems unresponsive – even broken

Extinction is unaffiliated to any party, not even the Greens, nor an established charity such as Greenpeace. It is fluid, fresh, leaderless, and growing . . . Oxford Street will be returned to a choking hell-scape but these protesters will multiply and muster in the most inconvenient places. The government will have to decide whether to use extreme force creating martyrs and a mass movement — or listen . . . Some of its aims, such as abandoning fossil fuels by 2025, may be— but why not try harder? . . . Janice ends by saying:

There is a political movement here.

Why fight it?

Why not, for once, be open to new ideas, to make Britain a world-leader in opposing climate change.

God knows we need something to be proud of right now.

 

 

 

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A strong case for a UK industrial strategy: required reading for anyone concerned about post-Brexit manufacturing in the UK

For an analysis of the current position of the UK’s car industry, the range of pressures and issues it faces and its likely shape after any form of Brexit from a range of perspectives, turn to Keeping the Wheels on the Road, the third in the Bite-Sized Brexit books, edited by Professor David Bailey, the foremost commentator on the UK auto industry, Professor Alex De Ruyter, at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, Neil Fowler and John Mair.

In a major contribution to the Brexit debate, seasoned industry experts, observers, commentators and representatives of the industry’s unions, provide arguments for cautious optimism through to rather shocked pessimism.

From Chapter 5: Just-in-time listening required

Co-authored by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School.

They have no doubt that the future of automotive does not lie with internal combustion engines – whether diesel or petrol – and stress the vital importance of effective management of the transition

Their counter-intuitive assertion that decimating the market for new diesel engines has brought with it damaging if unintended consequences to the protection of the planet – contributing to the first aggregate rise in the greenhouse gases produced by new cars in more than a decade – sent the writer to search for an explanation online:

Ministerial mixed messages over diesel has undermined the capacity of manufacturers to manage that transition.

The industrial impact of failing to manage the transition threatens to be severe too, with UK engine plants of manufacturers like BMW, Ford and JLR all currently heavily dependent on diesel production.

Messages from ministers have been mixed: recent reductions in plug-in car grants standing in stark contrast to the incentives offered to motorists to buy zero-emission vehicles in counties like Norway. But efforts are now being made by the Government to mandate the expansion of the UK’s vehicle charging infrastructure which should include      on-street charging and monitoring of the performance of public charging points. The authors emphasise:

“A successful transition requires more clarity from the Government in support of both the production and take up of the electric and other alternatively powered vehicles that will be the future of the sector.”

The fact that a number of major manufacturers have yet to confirm plans to build in the UK the next generations of models sends out serious warnings signals that would be foolish in the extreme to ignore.

Ministers could show they are listening:

  • by reducing Brexit uncertainty through ruling out no deal,
  • ending mixed messages over modern diesel
  • and showing much more dynamism in supporting the transition to a connected, autonomous and alternatively powered automotive future,

Burden & Bailey insist that the innovative capacity and diversity that has made the UK automotive sector the success story it has become over the past decade remain in place and David Bailey, in his second chapter, asks for an upgrading in how the UK develops its future manufacturing plans:

“There is a strong case for UK industrial strategy to be afforded an institutional status similar to both UK monetary and fiscal policies. At the very least, it should be the subject of regular strategic long-term reviews. By giving it that sort of priority, the new government would send out the kind of powerful message that British industry and foreign investors need to hear given recent uncertainty.”

 

 

 

 

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A Marshall Plan for stability and sufficiency: proposed by Essex Quaker Ted Dunn and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Mass migration deprives developing countries of the young, enterprising, dynamic citizens they desperately need at home

Free movement of peoples, as practised in Britain, is the opposite of internationalism, since it implies that we will continue to employ workers from other countries in agriculture and service industries and steal doctors, nurses, IT experts etc from poorer countries, rather than train enough of our own.

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”.

Hines and Porritt call for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education” as government figures show that we currently have 1.38 million unemployed people seeking work.

Today, some of the mental and physical health risks to migrants are set out, for the first time, in a World Health Organization study

Migration is stressful: factors include loss of language, of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks

John Watson reports in Medscape that research suggests refugees or skilled office workers freely passing through borders opened to them by global trade, are connected by a higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and somatic disorders (mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms).

Professor Dinesh Bhugrah is an authority on the stresses of migration. Individuals who migrate experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being. Years of research have revealed that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Stresses include the loss of the familiar, including language (especially colloquial and dialect), attitudes, values, loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks.

Programmes which would build peace, stability and sufficiency in troubled areas

Essex Quaker Ted Dunn, during the war, was a Friends Ambulance hospital administrator in Ethiopia. He spent the rest of his life as an organic market gardener and in meeting or contacting decision-makers in many countries to advocate regional peace and development programmes, sometimes compared with the Marshall Plan.

His work, though highly commended, met with indifference from the British Government and a general public preoccupied at that time with its own personal well-being and interests. A few of the recommendations may be seen below.

UK politicians and media have shown a similar lack of interest in Germany’s invitation to other developed countries to support the G-20 Compact with Africa – a Marshall-style plan to bolster the economies of poor countries and give people hope for the future.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller aims to develop joint solutions with African countries, with a focus on programmes for youth, education and training, strengthening economies and the rule of law.

The latest news (October ’18) is that Germany and Ghana have entered into a 100 million euros bilateral Investment and Reform Partnership agreement on investment promotion, increased use of renewable energy, promotion of rural youth employment, digital education for girls and women and fair taxation   and vocational training. More information may be seen here.

Like Dunn and Chancellor Merkel, Porritt and Hines advocate a redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place.   

In agreement:

António GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which has developed the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world, urges all to work to “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it”.

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters said: “The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good”.

Professor John Roberts said in one of his newsletters, “Increasingly my thoughts return to the overwhelming need for all of us to think (and then act) as world citizens, conscious of a primary loyalty not to our local nationalism but to the human race (however confused and divided) as a whole”.

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SOME COMMENDATIONS OF REGIONAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

A serious and thoughtful attempt to deal with what is perhaps the most urgent problem facing mankind – Lord Peter Archer, QC

The proposal is an idea which deserves the most serious consideration. H. Dale Anderson, Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica

I very much support this initiative – Stuart Holland MP, when Shadow Minister for Development

World Peace through regional peace and development programmes should, for example, wipe out the apartheid system in South Africa – Ahaja Shehu Awak; Nigerian High Commissioner

You certainly have my support – George Foulkes, Shadow Minister for the UN

I am a keen proponent of Regional Development. The creation of an International Criminal Tribunal  (is) . . . the lynchpin of the future development of international law. Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International

I firmly believe the proposal represents a very wise and potentially creative way in which the world could deal with its most pressing needs  –  John Sarum, Bishop of Salisbury

I think regionalization of the world’s problems is the only feasible way. Johan Galtung, Peace Researcher, founder of the International Peace research Institute, Oslo

We here will do what we can to further encourage your ideas in Commonwealth capitals whenever opportunities arise – Christopher Laidlaw, then Assistant Director of the Commonwealth  Office 

It is clear that in the fifth decade of the United Nations era there is need for new thinking about the way forward in developing world order. Ted Dunn has added to his efforts in furthering public education on world peace a new work that suggests a practical formula for establishing peace through a step by step approach. He focuses on the regional dimension in a novel way – a proposal for official development programmes which are based on and integrate social, economic and political justice. The formula requires a meaningful relationship between rich and poor countries – one which would be advantageous for their common development and thus necessarily contribute to world peace. It is an imaginative and practically-oriented work, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the historical record. It is to be heartily recommended – Shridath Ramphal, when Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat.

 

 

 

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