It really is time to do more about food. As most governments aren’t acting, we can look to our own organisations, local councils and groups of neighbours to do more – and build from there. My new paper on the trends driving the breakdown of the global food system explains why. Endorsing the paper, the Contributing Lead Author for the UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, Scott Williams, notes:
“We are conditioned to fear disorientation and seek safety in certainty and solutions regardless of the information available to us. Breaking that protective screen, this paper adds to the weight of analysis that the collapse of food systems and societies more broadly is inevitable. But how we are in relationship with these changes is not fixed even if, as this paper argues, we are stuck. Perhaps what this paper is calling for is the spaciousness to ask new questions, to challenge habits and myths, that may then shift perceptions. Consequently, we could be in relationship differently with the inevitability of collapse, and sense the possibilities that are perceivable with renewed care, compassion and generosity to ourselves and to all life.”
I hope the paper might help inform the evolution of environmental activism. Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell, notes:
Have you ever wondered where the term ‘piggy bank’ came from? Like me, some of you probably saved your spare coins in them when children. I didn’t give it a second thought until I stumbled across an actual living piggy bank in Bali. Midway through a cycling tour, we had stopped in a traditional village, and invited into a family compound. It was the kind where multiple generations all live in small houses next to each other, with a temple at the front, and some animals at the back. That is where I saw pig sty with a half dozen pigs. “The older women here don’t like putting money in a bank, so they buy a pig and feed it as their way to save,” my guide told me. A sensible store of value, I thought, especially with interest rates so low at the time. After the trip, I looked up the origin of the term piggy bank. Some historians guessed the name came from jars being made of a clay that was sometimes called ‘pygg’ in Germany and England, and that was the theory on Wikipedia at the time (it was 2015). But I had seen in the Indonesian national museum a piggy bank that was around 400 years older than when the word pygg was being used in Europe for a type of clay. Maybe I am a bit strange, but the piggy bank origin story had me. I dug deeper to discover that the earliest known pig-shaped money containers date to the 12th century in Indonesia.[i]
Satish Kumar is an elder within the global environmental and peace movements. Founder of the Schumacher College and Resurgence Magazine, he has played a key role in shaping conversations about the roots of the environmental predicament. In a videoed conversation with Professor Jem Bendell, he discusses themes within his new book ‘Radical Love’ and makes connections to the ‘Deep Adaptation’ ethos and movement. Over 50 people joined the discussion and some ask questions towards the end.
Satish describes how humanity has fallen out of love with the world, which is the cause of so much destruction. Topics covered include how to stay open hearted when so much is being destroyed, how loving action does not need to expect to be successful, the role of idealism when realism has failed so badly for so long, the suppression of the divine feminine in culture and religion, and the importance of starting with self love.
Because artificial intelligence software does not have real world life experiences to draw from, there should be no worry about its implications for academic assessment.
I see from my LinkedIn network that many academics are discussing what the implications from artificial intelligence could be for assessing their students. ChatGPT has even passed an MBA exam! Reading about this I was entirely unconcerned. Should I be? My lack of concern stems from how I have been designing courses and setting assignments for nearly 20 years. But rather than assume that my assessments are immune from the misuse of artificial intelligence, I thought to write up my approach and see if fellow academics can see any potential problems. If not, then hopefully me sharing my approach will be of use to others.
This is the text of a newsletter sent to people who receive my irregular updates (that go out once or twice a year)
As you registered for my irregular update, a good guess is that you are interested in sustainable development – the concept for social and environmental progress that took off since the 1992 Earth Summit. So, in opening this update (my first since March last year), I’d like to clear up something: sustainable development is a lie. It has been a successful one because it helps middle class professionals earn salaries while pretending that’s for them caring about the world. Not only does all the recent data point to the failure to improve the world by spreading one economic model, but that failure was widely predicted decades ago. People like me ignored such critique because we wanted to believe something else. Why? Not because it was good for wildlife, landscapes and the poor. We wanted to believe because it was convenient with our careers to develop, consumer lifestyles to lead, houses to buy and kids to bring up. Ouch. But I’m tired of the mix of pseudo-concern and pseudo-professionalism that surrounds me in the sustainability field. Fortunately, many of us won’t pretend anymore.
Some of the research I have been doing over the past 3 years for my forthcoming book on societal disruption and collapse seems too urgent to sit on until June this year. The poor state of public discussion about the Covid pandemic is a reason why I am sharing a section from Chapter 5 of the book. I believe my approach reflects how research analysts like myself used to approach matters of public concern before discussions became polarized (and somewhat hysterical) during the pandemic. I hope more of us will take that approach in future and then be heard, rather than shadow banned and demonised by people who used to behave better.
“As Covid is here to stay, it is worthy of some closer consideration of its impacts on society.
With a relatively low infection fatality rate in the near term, the initial impacts of the disease itself do not constitute a threat of societal collapse. However, at the time of writing, pathways have been identified for how the pandemic could contribute to such a collapse. The first of these is the nature of the virus itself and how it could turn out to be causing long-term damage to health and vitality, as well as suppressing immunity in general and even being carcinogenic. The second of these pathways is the currently uncertain longer-term effects of some novel vaccines, which have already been associated with significant negative health effects. Then there are the wider effects of the policy responses including massive disruption to government finances and the authoritarian turn of mainstream media, big technology platforms, and sections of the general public, as well as the backlash against all of that – together creating a combustible mix. As this is such a polarized and polarizing topic it’s rare that the relevant information is brought together in one place, so I will briefly attempt that here so that the nature of the risk from Covid can be appreciated.
The COP27 climate conference announcement of a new fund, of unknown quantity, for the loss and damage occurring due to climate chaos, means it might appear that politicians and bureaucrats are finally getting real about how bad the situation is. So could they be catching up with the ‘Deep Adapters’? Unfortunately, no fund will ever be able to recompense the loss and damage that is being suffered – and will be suffered – from the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown. No international currency, bank, or payment system will likely survive the extent of disruption when impacts of global heating really kick in. I am just back from my first and last climate conference, and not only experienced it as an exercise in denial but one that is made impenetrable by the numbers of people and resources maintaining it in myriad ways. Even critics of COP27, and climate policies more generally, have their budgets, wages, skills, and status tied to the story of ultimate salvation from climate chaos. A consequence of this denial is not looking at the root causes of our predicament. Which might also be a reason for the denial. So let’s go there…
When Covid broke out in China, one of the policies in some cities was to round up and kill people’s cats, due to a worry that they can carry coronaviruses. Subsequent protests have meant this policy has always been dropped, but only to reappear at various times. In early 2022, officials in the city of Langfangs ordered the killing of all pets of anyone infected with Covid. Again, the policy was dropped after protests (Daily Mail, 2022). Echoing some of that attitude towards pets, yesterday (November 22nd) the Daily Express newspaper ran a story about the UK, with the headline: “Covid horror as estimated over 350,000 cats infected with virus which ‘can be fatal’”. The story itself was about evidence of past non-fatal infections of cats with Covid in Britain. It also mentioned that other forms of coronavirus can be fatal to cats. The story provoked comments such as: “cull all cats” (Daily Express, 2022). The same story soon appeared in other UK newspapers and websites.
Death rates are still above normal in many countries of the world. The medical experts don’t know why. It could be from the long-term complications from past Covid infections, or it could be from the impacts of novel vaccines, or it could be from the delayed treatments due to lockdowns. Or perhaps it is from a mixture of these causes, or even from some other factor altogether. Even writing those two sentences induced in me a feeling of trepidation. I find myself readying for the annoyance or even aggression from some people. Which is odd: people did not behave so stridently on public health issues before 2020. I think the decay in normal scientific dialogue and policy scrutiny is a significant lasting damage from the last few years. It is why I am not going to let it lie. Instead, I hope we can all learn more about why people became so badly informed and aggressive towards others who reached conclusions different to their own. Only then might we avoid making matters worse when future public health crises occur. And if the excess mortality does not return to normal, then we are already within an ongoing health crisis right now.
It is why in this essay I am returning to the scientific facts which prove the medical authoritarian orthodoxy on Covid has been scientifically wrong. Not just wrong in hindsight, but now more widely recognised as wrong by experts and scientists who ignored some of the earlier concerns. This recent science can’t be ignored unless someone is no longer interested in the science on public health.
In the run up to COP27 climate conference, The Economist magazine declared it has become impossible to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many analysts of the relevant science have said as much for a few years. We were dismissed as too negative and so our ideas on what to do were therefore marginalized. Sadly, warming beyond 1.5C means that climate change will become far more damaging to societies. Even worse, due to a range of amplifying feedbacks that are impossible to have certainty about, no one can credibly claim anymore that human actions to cut and drawdown carbon, while still important, will certainly work to stop or reverse the changes. When people take that situation to heart, it can challenge the societies and systems that brought us to this point. For many, it is a fundamentally radicalizing realization. Although The Economist cited my views in one of their articles, rather predictably it didn’t provide space for the kind of criticism of capitalism and the global order that can ensue.
You must be logged in to post a comment.