Section: World

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Poetry Corner

Hope

Nicola Tipton

Longer days. Dormant
hope bubbles in heart’s well-spring.
Fountains crystal light.

Turn out your lights for Earth Hour tonight

Julie Ward

For one hour on 27 March millions of people across the globe will turn off their lights and unplug their TVs. Whole streets and cities will go dark and people will look out of their windows and see the stars. It will be a moment of reflection at a pivotal point in history when many of us have been confined to our homes for a year as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world from its likely roots as a zoonotic disease jumping species in the wet markets of Wuhan.

Earth Hour first started in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. It was an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund designed to draw attention to the growing environmental disaster and accompanying species loss. 14 years later this symbolic action is observed in more than 180 countries. Mass action by millions of people can be a powerful catalyst for change and Earth Hour has succeeded in raising awareness of the climate emergency, forcing some governments to take notice and take action.

This year’s Earth Hour takes place in the year when the UK government will host the delayed Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) in Glasgow, which will focus attention on our record as a country, which is highly questionable with a new government supported coal-mine planned for Cumbria and lacklustre progress of the much vaunted Green Homes Grant scheme. Meanwhile the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill is making painfully slow progress since being tabled in September 2020.

Writing in the Oxford Political Review, Harvey Phythian pinpointed the policy problem in the Conservatives’ own 2019 election manifesto where the party proclaimed, “we believe that free markets, innovation and prosperity can protect the planet”. Basically, it’s a business as usual approach which is minimally responsive to the effects of climate change rather than being vigorously pro-active in taking preventative measures, hence a tree planting programme is given headline status when what we desperately need is strong and binding legislation to stop polluters in the first place. Meanwhile, the EU is making progress on a wide range of policies to proactively tackle climate change.

Boris Johnson’s own record on the issue is depressing. As a tawdry media columnist during his period in office as the Mayor of London he pooh-poohed the warnings of climate experts and accepted donations from wealthy climate-change deniers. His voting record in parliament clearly demonstrates his lack of support for strong legislative measures to protect the environment, and he has just taken delivery of a second gas-guzzling jet to whisk him off to meetings with his Russian oligarch friends in places like Tuscany whilst the rest of us will be fined £5,000 for daring to attempt a cheap cycling holiday in France this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. And let’s not forget his refusal to participate in a leaders’ debate on climate change in the 2019 election campaign prompting the programme producers to replace him and his Brexit mate Nigel Farage with melting blocks of ice.

All the more reason then to do your bit and turn off the lights between 8.30-9.30pm on Saturday 27 March and join a global action that recognises the connectedness of all life on earth. Reducing consumption is just one of a raft of actions that can contribute to achieving carbon net zero whilst reducing your domestic energy bills. The Centre for Sustainable Energy has a handy guideT to energy consumption of household items. Not filling the kettle and doing less ironing are on my list of actions.

A pandemic, a limited vaccine supply and secret vaccine contracts

Giuseppe Bignardi

On 17 March, the EU announced the intention of changing its export policy, particularly in relation to countries which are also vaccine producers. The EU argues that there needs to be reciprocity and proportionality to make sure there is an equitable distribution of vaccines. I do not know the details of the EU vaccine export plan, but I do know that Boris Johnson has failed on reciprocity and global solidarity.

“Take back the tap” on World Water Day

Julie Ward

Across the world 1 in 3 people live without safe drinking water, and it is estimated that by 2025 half of the global population will be living in areas where water is scarce. In many of the world’s poorest countries girls aren’t going to school because they have to fetch and carry water for their families. As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world the mantra of “wash your hands” was meaningless in places where clean water is still in scarce supply.

New new world

Dylan Neri

After its first venture into space, India plans to send another probe to Mars, with the intention to land; Japan has ambitious plans to send a lander to mars, and investigate the Martian moon Phobos; and Russia and Europe will unite to send the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover, after a two-year delay owing to the pandemic – any mission to Mars must coincide with the period in which the orbit of Mars brings it nearest the Earth, which is every twenty-six months.

What a week to be a woman

Sally Young

The heavy-handed response by the Met Police to the vigil, at Clapham Common, for Sarah Everard, was the leading story on Sunday. Peaceful vigils were held in Glasgow, Nottingham and elsewhere. The awful irony of this was not lost; that the murder of a woman by a serving a police officer, ends up with more women being man-handled by the Police. Sunday was also Mothering Sunday.

Nuclear power: at what cost?

Julie Ward

On 11 March 2011 a huge earthquake off the coast of Japan cased a Tsunami that caused devastation to the north east coast of the main island. The nuclear power plant at Fukushima was inundated causing a power failure and a meltdown of three reactor units, resulting in radioactive leaks into the atmosphere and the […]

Opinion

Full of sound and fury, signifying something….

Gareth Kearns

There is an old philosophical thought experiment that you will have heard of. It goes like this – “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This old chestnut persists because it so beautifully demonstrates how language and meaning can impact upon how […]

Opinion

Can the North East do a Biden?

Julia Mazza

The Republicans weren’t just beaten by a superior presidential election campaign, but with a four-year grassroots fight to weaken their authority and prevent the Trump agenda from becoming law. With some adjustments we can copy their game plan.

Simply sheepish: year 1

Emily Hunter

Crucially we came up with the concept of ‘sheep made out of sheep’. I’d been going to craft shows for years and always picked up a random needle-felting kit but I’d never come across a kit that made a virtue out of the type of sheep being crafted from its very own wool. I knew very little about sheep despite my grandma having a farm full of them! The pandemic struck and I set to work researching sheep breeds, the qualities of their wool, and which would work together well in a collection.

Hakuna Covid! A country of concern

Kim Sanderson

Farida Saidi documents the agonising detail of this political and personal saga on her blog Prayer and Science Tanzania, from the perspective of a Tanzanian living abroad. In one post, her joy that President Magafuli acknowledged Tanzania had a Covid problem was soon dashed by his subsequent mixed messages and over-reliance on another three days of prayer. She supports both prayer and a scientific approach, explaining that clear Covid-19 symptoms are still being explained away as “pneumonia”.

Poetry Corner

Endurance

Nicola Tipton

Two hundred years ago
this February in Rome
Keats died.
Aged 25.

National service, secret service

Jim Walker

In 1954 all young men had to do two years of national service.  Unless you deferred it (to become an apprentice or go to university) you went straight from school, as I did.  It was a prospect that few relished.  But few went on to have quite the experience that I did. If you joined […]

The changing face of British holidays

Liam Campbell

As we begin to take the first tentative steps out of the pandemic people’s thoughts are beginning to turn to the ideas of their first foreign getaway in over a year. After such a long and difficult winter, it is no surprise that holiday bookings have seen a 600% surge. However, when guests return to their favourite destinations, they may find their trips feel very different to how they did two years ago.

Changing the system

Julie Ward

What we can do as citizens is to ensure there is a viable planet for our grandchildren to inherit. “Eat less meat… educate yourself… hold your parents to account… follow the money… Your money is either buying a hotter or a cooler climate,” said Eno.

UPDATED

The end of the British seasonal workers?

Liam Campbell

With the end of free movement, immediately; many people will lose their jobs. But far worse than that, is the fact young people in the future will not have the same chances opportunities I had to experience things which will open your mind to the rest of the world.

Cross border services working group reports to the House of Lords

Kate Bredin

British citizens resident in the EU were protected by the various Citizens’ Rights Agreements (CRAs). They were all assured that they could continue their lives after Brexit in broadly the same way as before. The WA/CRAs did not make good on this promise, failing to protect major rights such as the full recognition of professional qualifications.

Poetry Corner

Haphephobia

Suzanne Fairless-Aitken

Aching, longing, yearning
for a brush past, a touch
of surfaces – much more
than a waterproof
or soft container.

Vaccine hesitancy: a need for trust

Carol Westall

“Trust would be improved with local discussions within communities. One example was Bristol and a suggestion of mobile vaccination centres with the involvement of religious leaders and local organisations in discussions. Money could be ring fenced to organisations so that they can create some trust within their care organisations to answer questions directly. She thought that hearing the same message from someone in your community could change someone’s mind.”

Hares and tortoises in the Covid-19 vaccine race

Giuseppe Bignardi

Countries acting individually will not deliver the number of vaccines the world needs (Zosia Kmietowicz in the British Medical Journal on 6 February). Joint vaccine procurement schemes, as used by the EU and the African Union, are slower to set up but ensure equitable vaccine distribution at lower prices.

Making sense of what’s happening in Myanmar

Julie Ward

The support of the military appears to be the key to everything in Myanmar, for it is a military coup that has now catapulted the country back into the headlines with the announcement of a year-long state of emergency following recent elections which had returned Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s NLD (National League for Democracy) party to power after they received more than 80% of the vote. Moreover, she and other NLD members have been placed under house arrest, a move which has angered much of the population who have begun to protest by banging pots and pans and wearing black ribbons.

“Never again”

Julie Ward

The narrative that someone else is to blame for our woes sadly continues to this day with politicians increasingly pandering to nativist calls to pull up the drawbridge and look after our own. “Britain First”, “Go home” and “Make America Great Again” are redolent of the calls that preceded pogroms.

Vaccine nationalism or solidarity?

Giuseppe Bignardi

Do vaccines produced in a country ‘belong’ to that country, until all needs of that country have been satisfied? This is the policy of the US administration and appears to be at the centre of the recent dispute between Astra Zeneca (AZ) and the EU.