Inspiring a love of learning, for life…

One of the more short-sighted polices i’ve stumbled across in a long time.

The environment around us (including the people who wander through it) has a deep and profound effect on us. It shapes who we become, how inspired we are, whether or not we feel safe, our views of society, our aspirations and dreams, and our ability to learn.

Here are two scenarios to ponder. The first will be very familiar to many people and which is something I remember very well from my days in school…

la times image cabe image

The second scenario follows. Something I have only ever experienced as an adult after looking through the Architects Journal…

1327082529sitting.islands 278171_AJ12_Place_1_Pinewood_Infant_School

Inspiring young people for a love of learning for life can be difficult, but it should be the main focus for the school system, not just to pass a set of exams. Inspiring a love of learning must be a very difficult task if you are placed in the context of the first scenario.

This equally applies to the teachers who are handed this awesome responsibility of caring for and teaching are children. Their experience of their environment equally boosts or detracts from their ability to teach. Yes, focus on the quality of the teaching, but there is much more to it than training or saving money by cutting back on the environments in which the children learn.

If you pour the creative talents of quality architects and designers from a diverse range of backgrounds into the learning experiences of the children, what will be the result?

Creativity, joy and a love of learning for life.

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Does the world need nuclear power to solve the climate crisis…?

This is certainly one of the most convincing anti-nuclear power arguments i’ve read. Oliver Tickell takes on the main issues with the energy industry as a whole and points out some highly significant issues with nuclear energy in particular.

San Onofre nuclear power station, California

San Onofre nuclear power station, California

Photo courtesy of http://endthelie.com/2012/03/18/nrc-dispatches-augmented-inspection-team-after-california-nuclear-facility-fails-test/#axzz2FRsW5G5h.

The first issue is the inability of nuclear as an energy source to meet existing and future demands from a growing population, with growing energy demands. This is where the theory of the massive efficiencies of nuclear comes hard up against the realities.

Secondly, the chances of serious accidents increases dramatically, in parallel with a dramatic increase of nuclear power stations – a total of 11,000 reactors would be needed. The article cites an historic incidence of serious accidents every 3,000 years of reactor operation, based on Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. The article suggests a rate of 4 serious events per year. Even taking into account a reduced factor of accidents due to far greater safety baselines for modern technology, even a figure 4 times less would still mean 1 serious nuclear accident every year – this level of impact is just not acceptable.

Oliver Tickell talks about the effect that George Monbiot had (and is having) on the debate surrounding nuclear power, but Monbiot’s arguments are based more on cold theory rather than hot realities. On the other hand, renewable energy is clean, with costs rapidly spiralling downwards. Each part of the planet can contribute their own type of energy to the whole which can ultimately divert us away from serious climate change.

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Israel one step closer to the International Criminal Court…

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A very interesting week in world politics, with two massive events taking place: the UN voted to recognise Palestine as a ‘non-member observer state’, while the the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha concluded. Both of these events deserve their … Continue reading

Correcting the world’s wrongs…

Very interesting article on a few levels from the Guardian.

This article points to a number of the central themes of the climate change and renewable technology agenda. Ideas such as industrialised countries fighting against the prevailing world trend and actually lowering carbon emissions, the take up of renewable energy technologies within a framework of investment and remuneration (FIT), and the ever-present threat of dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuel energy sources, even in the face of vast renewables potential in all areas of the world.

Last, but certainly not least, is the reference to the main reason why Germany (and Germans) have embraced the concept of sustainability to the extent they have.

But despite the problems, Germany remains committed to its green agenda, driven, some say, by the need to correct the world’s wrongs – a sentiment that goes back to the second world war and the postwar generation who challenged their parents afterwards for just standing by.

“That has led to a very strong environmental and anti-nuclear movement,” says Green party MP Hermann Ott. “It ultimately led to the foundation of the Green party and made us very strong. If something goes wrong, you have to speak up and do something otherwise your children will ask you in 20 to 30 years, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?'”

Why didn’t you do anything? A powerful question and one which millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are already asking the industrialised western countries and one which many millions more will be asking countries such as India and China in the decades to come. One of this generations (and many to come) biggest problems, set against past tragedies. An example of what not to do can be very powerful.

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Sharing the benefits of wind power…

‘Most Britons like wind power, but the minority who don’t exert a painful electoral grip on the Conservative party. The only solution is to ensure those who live with the turbines also profit from them.’

This is such a simple and obvious solution. Bring communities into the deal and spread the benefits.

Another eye-opening set of figures from Germany (again, leading the way)…

‘In Germany, 20% of all electricity comes from renewable energy and over 65% of the turbines and solar panels are owned by individuals, farmers and communities. Bringing power to the people, at the expense of unpopular utility companies, has delivered overwhelming public acceptance.’

But…

‘In the UK, less than 10% of renewable energy is owned locally. Over 90% is owned by the big energy firms, seen as untrusted giants dumping turbines into the countryside and taking the proceeds out.’

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Experimental Thorium reactor…

This is just too much to take – the UK is continuously giving up and falling behind every other country in terms of renewable technology. Now India is pressing ahead with an experimental Thorium reactor!

Article pdf: India plans ‘safer’ nuclear plant powered by thorium | Environment | The Guardian

This is exactly the sort of technology which governments need to get behind and develop as there is no profit for private companies to make from this very early stage of development, or maybe only after 10 years, which is a long timescale for an investment.

Tidal, wind, CCS, nuclear thorium… when is the Government going to get the idea and invest in our future manufacturing industry – renewable technology? Shocking.

And here is why it is so annoying… Green house gas levels are rocketing and the time-scales for hitting the 2 degree warming level are reducing.

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24 hours in only 2 pictures…

Two great photos from the Guardian…

Westonbirt Arboretum and New Delhi.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/gallery/2011/oct/27/1#/?picture=381046125&index=3

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A response to Monbiot’s nuclear questions…

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There has recently been some fallout (certainly no pun intended) from the Fukushima meltdown, in the form of various on-going debates and arguments between prominent journalists and researchers. This has certainly helped expand my understanding of the subject of energy … Continue reading

Amazon 2 – AKA The Hamza…

It’s not often you read something genuinely surprising but i’ve just read a Guardian Environment article about a new underground river below the Amazon, stretching nearly 4000 miles.

This would imply two major drainage systems and potential for very interesting new ecosystems.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/26/underground-river-amazon

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Ground Zero…

Well, whenever I go on the Guardian website there’s something else to bloody blog about!

I’ve been trying to slightly ignore the whole mosque near Ground Zero thing but bloody hell – talk about very thinly veiled racism. Check out the following article…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/18/ground-zero-mosque-republican-attacks

I knew there was a reason i’ve been considering ditching my American nationality for the last 8 years! I cannot believe the depths some of the representatives of the most powerful country on earth are sinking too. Comparing the proposals to building a Japanese centre at Pearl Harbour and building a Jewish temple at Mecca is frankly ridiculous.

Well done to Obama for supporting the freedom of religious expression. He was also pointing out that this is a matter for the local planning department and the bylaws of the area. The fact that he had to wade in and actually state the bleeding obvious is amazing. He actually considered there was enough racism and bigoted rubbish flying around that he had to stand up for one of the most basic human rights there is.

Americans saying that Ground Zero is ‘hallowed ground’ and is comparable to the sensitivity or importance of Mecca, is unbelievably stupid. At these times I am so embarrassed to be half American.

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Breast is best…?

Ok, probably the first, and maybe, the last post on breat-feeding I’ll write!

Just saw an interesting Guardian article on an article in a baby magazine about feeding babies.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/27/breastfeeding-is-creepy-outrage

Interesting stuff in there, but i’m more interested in the reaction which is reported in the Guardian article + the comments at the end of the article. The original article did sound a bit strange, but the author is entitled to her opinions.

‘Attempting to censor opinions other than your own is illiberal and infantile.’

‘After having pro-breastfeeding comments forced upon me like a forceful hot wet nipple into a baby’s mouth, its refreshing to hear a tongue-in-cheek alternative piece.’

‘She is a damaged woman to say such a thing, or, she is being purposely controversial to boost magazine sales. Whatever the reason her comment is stupid and she looks like a fool.’

A real issue to polarise opinions! The whole ‘breastfeeding = creepy’ issue seems to be one of the main reasons why women don’t breastfeed, or drop it quickly. It’s another example of people knowing that something is good for them (or in this case their baby) and still choosing to not do it. Other examples include eating healthy food and getting high intensity and regular exercise!

Looking at the issue from my ‘man’ viewpoint, breastfeeding is logically and scientifically the best way, by far. But what proportion of the general population would you say are logical and scientific, and actually consider much of what they do?

The article talks about only 1 in 100 mothers getting to 6 months of breastfeeding – even with all of the strong arguments for it (it’s free surely being a big consideration for a lot of people)!

At the end of the day (I hate that phrase!), this particular article comes down to freedom of speech and I would almost always support that!

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