Wake up and smell the kerosene. By Andrew Howard

Plane

A plane flying over Yosemite national park by Kristal Leonard (https://www.flickr.com/photos/isntthatbeautiful/8197899031/)

Flying, it’s sort of amazing. You literally ‘fly’ – think about that; FLY. No road, no rail, no water, not even any strings holding it up like a Thunderbirds rocket – just a tin box hurling through thin air at 500 miles per hour at several thousand feet. But we don’t even fly for that phenomenal experience, we do it out of convenience. Flying is a cheap, fast and easy way of getting from A to B
, when B is particularly far away, and land or sea travel would take too long. Most of the time it’s actually far far cheaper than land or sea travel as well. We all do it, and it enables us to meet people and see places that we would not otherwise see. For instance, I really want to go to Stockholm, and I could go this Friday and be back on Sunday night for £90 with no prior booking. The flight takes 2 hours from London. Ninety pounds, to disappear above the clouds and magically descend in Sweden for the weekend. Continue reading

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“Their famine, our food” -by André Gorz

gorzdorineAndré Gorz, French philosopher & friend of Paul Sartre, wrote this is 1983 – yet it is the most relevant thing I have read yet concerning the global food system. I was sad to find that there is no version of this text anywhere on the internet, but happy that this meant I am able to share it with the world.

Gorz was a very thoughtful man. Others may know him & his partner as the inspiration behind the Palm D’Or winning film ‘Amour’. Or for his 75 page love letter to his dying wife (“Lettre a D”). With his wife facing terminal illness, they died together by lethal injection in 2007.

If you care about world hunger, or about eating healthier in equal measure, then this very short essay is all you need to read. This is “Their famine, our food”…. Continue reading

Sunny with a chance of dust: are we indifferent observers or instrumental participants in today’s weather systems

Photo: James Boardman

I don’t know much about the pollution that has engulfed the South-East of England recently, & I’d kind of like to proceed whilst habouring that ignorance. I know that it was on page 2 of the Saturday’s Guardian, & I’m thinking that it must be fairly serious, but what I’ve picked up on is the nonchalance & indifference that most of us seem to have towards it. I imagine the editorial team at the Guardian doing a bit of head scratching over what kind of exposure it warrants, and perhaps the esteemed role as a slightly more environmental newspaper pushed the story to the dizzy heights of page 2, taking an obvious backseat to election build-up news.

Having spent much of the weekend pondering if a mysterious and invisible smog was upon us, I felt the full force of the pollution on Monday evening, leaving the sunny, tranquil and slightly elevated meadows of Sussex campus on my bike down to the cold, fog deluged Brighton seafront. It had a different feel to it than ordinary sea mist (or ‘mizzle’), which, coming from Cornwall, I’m very familiar with. It was thicker but in a peculiarly less visible way – not imminently sight impairing but more like anything 30 metres away just wasn’t there, and it wasn’t moist but definitely chilling.

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GCSA at 50: reflections of the past, present and future of scientific advice. By Andrew Howard

Solly Zuckerman, left, overlooks PM Wilson’s briefing on the effects of pesticides on peregrines.

On Tuesday, Remembrance Day, the Royal Society hosted an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Government Chief Scientific Advisor (GCSA). Discussions were held across two panels with a total of 5 men that have held the role – including the incumbent Mark Walport – concerning the history and fate of scientific advice. This took place markedly just 24 hours before the role of scientific advice in policy-making suffered a serious knock-back, as it emerged Anne Glover’s current position as the European Commission’s CSA was being scrapped. Nonetheless, at the end of 50 years of scientific advice in the UK, the future role of the GCSA looked to be promising from the anniversary’s proceedings. Continue reading

Science, Diversity & Division, By Andrew Howard

As someone from outside of the ‘scientific community’, it is easy for me to see how the science sphere can be seen as just that – an isolated community separate from the remainder of society. Indeed, in light of Merton & Mulkay’s work (1973 [1942]; 1976), it is explained how science as a discipline is potentially more cohesive than others – all work is cumulative, there are golden rules to which all researchers abide, & there is a good deal of tacit knowledge which is not easily shared or explained to the layperson. Science is truly different from other disciplines – it is arguably the only area that has the potential to get everybody reading off the same hymn sheet. When we look at other disciplines, it is not easy to find the steadfast knowledge that the natural sciences can offer (I will not detract on contentions within science for the sake of argument). I feel it is for this reason exactly that science should be more accessible & less the realm of the white, middle-class male. This stereotype surely perpetuates division & lessens the impact of social good that science has to offer, & further efforts should be made to tackle it. Continue reading