The Dusseldorf Karnival floats don’t hold back…

These are some powerful political messages – coming from the floats at the Dusseldorf Karnival 2017.  I don’t think much needs to be added to explain these… One of my favourites is the “Blonde is the new brown”. Never mind Theresa May’s ‘Brexit is Brexit’ stance being seen as the equivalent to her holding a gun to her mouth…

Original source: Der Spiegel

Where does the oil price crash leave the Paris agreement?

It feels like we’ll soon be drowning in oil. Oil isn’t just getting cheaper by the day. The price is positively crashing. And in it’s downward spiral this price crash looks like it may sap the willpower of politicians and business leaders to stick to the spirit of the recent Paris agreement.

But why and how is all this happening? To me it looks like the current turmoil is masking a new kind of economic warfare that is raging across the globe. With new and emerging powers trying to impose their will – at any price.  But the list of players is long and complex.

Keeping it simple, we could say the price crash started when the Saudis started increasing oil production, driving prices down. Why? Probably to cause massive problems for the upstart fracking and shale oil industry, as it is now costing them more to extract the oil and gas than they can sell it for. Watch them slowly go out of business. This smells very much like an outright attempt to crush the  competition by destroying their financial viability.

And then the are the Russians. I suspect that this price drop is also designed to drive them to the negotiation table about Ukraine and Syria (which is probably why our Governments have been so meek and silent about the atrocities being committed by the Saudi forces and their allies in Yemen). Except, the Russians appear to have turned the tables and started pumping yet more oil to compensate for their loss of earnings – driving prices down even further.

This is causing a bit of a blowback on the Saudis. Oil prices that are too low for too long will hurt them in the long run just as much. Who will blink first?

And then there is China. Their command economy is on course for a serious correction. Nearly 10% growth every year for decades can’t happen without some massive distortions in the economy – no matter how much you ‘command’ and throw money at the problem. (If you need an example: there are whole ghost cities that have been built in China – that nobody will live in).

A Chinese recession in itself will happen at some point, that is for sure. There will always be boom or bust. As much as politicians think they can magic them away (remember Gordon Brown’s promise?). But what will the consequences be? Well, political unrest, that is certain. From Tibet and the Islamic outlier regions to the urbanite jobless, people will have something to say about the central government.

But more significantly for all other economies around the globe, it may also cause a massive reduction in oil consumption. With oil already being in a downward spiral, a drop in oil consumption by the world’s second largest economy would surely result in a glut, compounding our economic problems even further.

The current cheap oil prices are the fall-out from an economic war that has ‘gone wrong’. Much like the generals in WWI found out, once you get stuck in trench warfare, there is no easy way out of the mess.

This doesn’t however mean that oil prices will forever remain low. Indeed, eventually the oil producers will pull back from the edge of their self-made abyss and come to an agreement, curbing production – and raising prices. In the end, prices do have to rise, as extraction cost keep mounting while oil resources get harder to extract. This may be a decade down the road, but it will happen, for sure.

Which is why, even though we’re temporarily benefitting from reduced oil prices, we shouldn’t lose focus and abandon the Paris agreement. It certainly is the best framework we currently have to work with. Hopefully our political and business leaders have enough vision to see that the pursuit of sustainability is the only real way forward and will maintain course. In fact, the low oil prices may even be helping the process along, as reduced prices help bring down production costs for the manufacture of renewable energy sources. So when the time comes and prices soar again, we’ll be prepared and have a well developed sustainable industry base.

 

War is over – if you want it

“We can get peace now, if we want it now. The left wing talk about giving power to the people. Anybody knows that the people have the power. All we have to do is awaken the power in the people. They are not aware. It’s like they’re not educated enough to realise that they have power.”

This is a revival of a campaign and poster concept of John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1969. You can follow the conversation on twitter, where a whole host of celebrities add their voice to the campaign. Visit the Facebook page or the main website.

As John describes it:

John Lennon

When we stick posters around saying, “WAR IS OVER – If You Want It”, what we’re trying to promote is an awareness in people of how much power they have, and not to rely on the government, or leaders, or teachers so much that they’re all passive or automatons. They have to have new hope.

Everybody’s looking for goals and answers; the youth especially.

What we’re trying to tell them is that “You are the goal. Nobody on earth can do it for you. Whatever it is you want, you must do it yourself.”

John Lennon, 1969

Yoko Ono

Dear Friends,

The WAR IS OVER! campaign was once a tiny seed, which spread and covered the Earth.

John and I believed it helped many people to stop their wars. Since then, every WAR IS OVER! campaign has impacted the world as powerfully as the first one.

Start yours tomorrow, and you will see that it spreads and covers the world very fast and, meanwhile, makes you a Small Pebble Person.

Small Pebble People are people who know that small pebbles, when they’re dropped in the ocean, will immediately affect the ocean of the whole wide world.

Don’t throw a big stone. It scares people and creates repercussions.

Just drop a small pebble.
We’ll keep doing it. Together.
That’s how the world gets changed…by Small Pebble People.
We change, and the world changes.

Happy Holidays.

I love you!

Yoko Ono Lennon
1 December 2015

 

john-lennon

 

 

Charitable publication scams

This is a small, but irritating distraction from getting on with the business making this a better world. Quite simply, I’ve been now targeted several times by charitable publication scams. By definition, the crime stoppers website describes this as:

A telesales agent will call a business selling advertising space in a fake publication for a seemingly good cause. They will give the impression that there is a legitimate partnership with either a local charity, emergency service, crime prevention or community health initiative. Sometimes  they will claim that a previous order has been placed or that someone else in your business has agreed to take out advertising space. Rogue publishers may send invoices to businesses who had said no to their telephones sales pitch or follow up the invoices with threats of legal action.

The saddest part is that there doesn’t seem an easy way of getting the message out there.

Take my latest bane, which is from a company that calls itself LMD Media. They’d sent me a ‘charitable’ publication titled: LIFELINE, an emergency services magazine, in which they placed a supposed advert of mine and are charging me £199 for the pleasure of it. Not that I’d designed or approved the advert (it looks awful). The most obvious element of the fraud is that this is a one-off digital copy of the magazine. There are no other copies actually advertising my business (even with a badly done advert) out there.

Yet the demands and hounding for payment continue. Via mail, email and text messages. Sadly, getting actually getting to talk to anybody there is impossible. The only conversation they want (obviously) is that you pay your invoice. If you want to know more details or speak to someone else – the conversation gets cut off.

So, while I carry on trying to find avenues that will actually deal with this, and similar frauds, I thought that I’d put the LMD Media name out there, into the wider world. No surprise, there is no website for them (well, there is http://www.lmdmedia.org   which is registered outside the UK), but if you do want to have a bit of fun, you can call them on 0845 519 6705 or email info@lmdmedia.org


Ways to report crimes that I have tried include:

ActionFraud

 

Election Unspun: Political parties, the press and Twitter during the 2015 UK election campaign

If you love data, are passionate about our democracy and worried about media bias, this report from the Media Standards Trust is worth a read.

Election Unspun: Political parties, the press,and Twitter during the 2015 UK election campaign is published jointly by the Media Standards Trust and the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

This data-driven analysis of mainstream media coverage and political actors and influencers on twitter during the UK 2015 election campaign is made up of 50 different charts and grids that map mainstream media coverage and debate on twitter over the course of the campaign.

Building on Election Unspun‘s weekly analyses of mainstream media coverage published each week leading up to election day, this publication adds analysis of every tweet from more than 2,000 Parliamentary candidates and over 800 political influencers.

Read the full publication: Election Unspun: Political parties, the press,and Twitter during the 2015 UK election campaign

Will synthetic rhino horns change the fate of these majestic creatures?

African rhinos could go extinct in the wild within 20 years. Demand for their horns—especially prized in Vietnam and China for their supposed medicinal powers—drove poachers to kill 1,215 rhinos in 2014, a number that’s steadily risen the last seven years. But one biotech startup is hoping to dampen the $20 billion illegal wildlife trade with lab-made rhino horns. Its first product—a beer brewed with synthetic rhino horn—is expected to hit the Chinese market later this year.

Will a synthetic horn save the species?

The good news is: Possibly… San Francisco-based Pembients ays it can now engineer a synthetic rhino horn that is genetically and spectrographically identical to the real thing. Using keratin, a type of fibrous protein, and a small amount of rhino DNA, the company can produce a dried powder that is 3D-printed into a solid material. Currently, the going rate for rhino horns is about $60,000 a kilogram. “We believe we can [produce a synthetic horn] at one-eighth of the price,” Pembient CEO Matthew Markus tells Quartz.

Though Markus acknowledges the company won’t be able to fully displace the black market for rhino horns, he believes it can reduce the demand for such wildlife products by 10% to 40%. In a survey the company did in Vietnam in 2014, he said, 45% of 480 respondents said they would be willing to use lab-made rhino horn. In comparison, only 15% said they would be willing to use water buffalo horn as a substitute. “We feel like we’re on the right path,” he says.

Of course, being willing to use doesn’t mean they’d be willing to buy the eco-friendly alternative. Though some people seek out rhino horn believing it can cure cancer, the other big driver for poaching is rising wealth in Asia. A luxury item, the horn is used in both a designer party drug and hangover cure. It’s also not uncommon for people to give rhino horn as a gift or bribe.

Read full article on Quartz

 

 

 

Let’s put nature at the heart of everyday economic life

A brilliant piece in the Guardian.

Natural capital is everything nature provides us for free. It is what our economy is built upon. We add man-made capital in the shape of houses, factories, offices and physical infrastructure, and human capital with our skills, ideas and science.

Natural capital should, therefore, be at the heart of economics and economic policy – but it isn’t. As a consequence we abuse nature, drive species to extinction, and destroy ecosystems and habitats without much thought to the consequences. The damage won’t go away; as we wipe out perhaps half the species on the planet this century and induce significant climate change, the economic growth we take for granted will be seriously impaired. Put simply, our disregard for natural capital is unsustainable – it will not be sustained.

Continue reading here.