Updates on Some Recent Posts

I wanted to share some further materials and tyhoughts regarding a couple of earlier posts I had written this year.


sleep tablet

The first concerns the issue of children’s sleep, particularly in relation to the reduced amounts, their relationships with media etc. The two earlier articles garnered quite a bit of feedback and discussion including some exchange of mails with readers and discussions on social media. So, the following article from The Guardian hit me very starkly. It highlights the massive increases in the numbers of children in the UK for whom medical interventions are being sought to address issues of sleep deprivation and resultant issues that are impacting the children:

The Guardian – Sharp Rise in Hospital Admissions for Children with Sleep Disorders
(Click on the link above to open the article in a new window or tab)

Whilst the article flags up issues of sleep apnea (which are frequently linked to issues of being overweight or obese) as the cause of some of this increase, a lot of the blame is also focused on media, smart phone and tablet use by children. As well as the article itself, there’s also a link on the page (just above the picture) to a case study of a seventeen year old boy, whose mother actually works in a sleep clinic.

Here are the links for the two original articles related to this issue:

Sleep and School Start times
Going to Bed

Climate Change  – Responses to Environmental Issues

Climate Solutions

Another article i wrote earlier this year looked at the issues of how we address manmade climate changes that are leading to global warming. To date, so many of the responses, especially taught in schools have been about what people should stop doing, do less of or change in their personal lives and habits in order to bring about change. In my article I acknowledged my own gradual realisation that these ‘killjoy’ approaches will never be the solutions – telling people to stop doing things, to go without things they enjoy or to refrain from aspiring to the things they see others enjoying are just not going to be realistic. Rather, we have to look at the positive steps that can be taken. These are based in science and focusing on them changes the debate. Now, our focus needs to be on ensuring that governments are creating the right environments, incentives and investment climates to support ventures in these areas. Also, there’s a need to ensure that up to date information is shared and readily available to innovators and business people so that their interest in these activities result in real change and tangible actions.

So, I was delighted to see that there have been initiatives in this direction to bring to the fore in the public domain the information about what those scientific advances are and how they can be harnessed to address the issues and reverse atmospheric warming to prevent the worst of man-made global warming. That research comes in a report from Project Drawdown.

Here are two articles that share information on the key findings from Project Drawdown:

Science Alert – 76 Solutions Available Right Now to Slow Down Climate Change
Fast Company – Project Drawdown – 76 Solutions

This was the original article I wrote, right at the tail end of last year on which I’ve received a fair bit of feedback;

Global Warming: The Way Forward

This reinforces my belief that the answers lie at least as much in the focus in science (and STEM generally) teaching, as well as building public awareness and political lobbying to ensure that these kinds of initiatives get the right support to ensure that the world’s problems get addressed effectively.


Global Warming: The Way Forward

Global warming

I believe we’ve reached a rather bizarre situation that requires some alternative thinking. Otherwise, I fear that we could all find ourselves heading to a very dark place. The scientific weight of evidence, as well as all the anecdotal evidence anyone could possibly want, is overwhelmingly certain that manmade global warming is causing an unsustainable warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

If this rapid warming is not arrested soon, it could go beyond a point of no return with inevitable consequences that could be hellish. Some parts of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South Asia could become almost uninhabitable and un-farmable, leading to vast migrations of displaced people. Yet, being honest about this scenario is so unpalatable to the political powers in some countries that they would rather collaborate with interested industrial parties in bare-faced denial of all that evidence. Recently, this resulted in almost complete stalemate at a conference to address the issues in Spain.

Ironically, a great deal of the momentum for change and urgent action to address the issues is coming from young people, lead by the likes of Greta Thunberg

I believe the problem is all too real. If you go to the people of the Western world and tell them that they have to accept massive changes to their lifestyles, consumption and ways of life the vast majority are more than happy to side with the climate change doubters, put their heads in the sand and say they see no real reason to change. They have become so habituated to their lifestyles and ways. Even within the space of 1-2 generations consumerist patterns of consumption have ramped up to warp speed.  People will believe that they need to replace electronic goods at a rapid rate, that they ‘need’ to acquire new clothes at such a rate that they can barely store them all in their homes. In fact, recent data has shown that in the USA an average of 81lbs (36.5kg) per person of clothing is being disposed of every year. Beyond this, an increasing number of middle class families find they need to rent storage locker spaces to store the excess materials they can’t store in their homes. In the meantime, governments are in cahoots with companies to fuel and continue these levels of consumption. Without it their economies would slump in to recession almost instantly, unemployment would rise and tax revenues would drop. As corporate profits declined, pensions would be under stress to meet their obligations and a dangerous downward spiral would ensue.

Also, they will frequently point to the fact that their own country isn’t among the worst offenders, so why should they be among those who lead the way. Plus, all too often, there’s a negative reaction to what I’m going to write in the next paragraph.

If you go to the people of developing countries and tell them that they are going to have to lead the way on mitigation of global warming, that their countries will have to rein back on industrialization, building of power stations to meet the needs of their rapidly increasing demand and that  the world cannot sustain 7.8 billion people all seeking to live their lives as those in the developed and prosperous countries have done, they will just scream unfairness and that they are being bullied unreasonably by those who have already benefitted most. With some justification they will argue that there are still hundreds of millions of people who need to be lifted out of poverty or situations where one bad drought or natural disaster can leave millions in dire peril. They will simply say that as others have been free to ‘pollute to progress’ in the past, so they must be given the freedom to do so now. They will also argue that while the contribution to global warming of developed countries may often be lower on a country to country basis, frequently on a per head basis it’s tiny.

Also, many of these countries sit in areas that are most vulnerable to the early onset impacts of the global warming and this is going to put even greater strain on their populations. They suffer from relatively lower levels of education, higher birth rates (a form of insurance against high child mortality). For governments to agree to rapid cuts would be to leave vast portions of their populations without dreams or hopes to have what they’ve seen so many others around them achieve. This would be a catastrophic mix of the privileged trying to hold on to what they have whilst the aspiring are left without hope.

I mentioned earlier how the young are often realising that they are the ones who will be most effected by global warming. There is considerable anger in the beliefs that their elders have mortgaged their futures for prosperity. And yet, these same young people are personally torn. They still want the mobility and convenience of ride sharing services (over public transport), frequent international travel, online shopping to buy goods manufactured all over the world (shipping is one of the world’s biggest polluters), only to then expect instant and simple return policies when they decide they don’t want some of the goods they’ve purchased. As much as 90% of all returned goods are just trashed and head to landfills – a colossal 5 billion pounds in weight each year and growing. These young people are worried, even frightened about their future, but often fail to see the incongruity of the way they individually live their own lives today.

So, we’re left with a world in which ever more agitated people point the finger at others, call them out and blame, whilst being unwilling to make the significant changes themselves. The process is already broken, evidenced by the way world stock markets don’t even bother taking any notice when major climate change conferences take place – investors know nothing of significance is going to happen that upsets the current train of progress. People weary quickly of the focus on dire warnings, the continual talk of dangers and problems. They want to believe in a future that’s inspiring and exciting, positive and forward looking – not one that’s negative, problem focused and looks backwards with all the what ifs that regret how we reached this point. This isn’t helped when mega-rich people talk of travel to other planets as a means for the rich elite to escape this one when it’s destruction (as a place for humans) is assured. Because, incidentally, global warming won’t destroy the planet – maybe just the ability for humans to live here. the fact is that if humans were wiped out scientific models have concluded the planet would really manage very well without us!

So, is there a solution, or are we (and our children) all doomed Is there a positive way forward for humanity that could really inspire people, excite them about vision for the future? I believe there is and that it lies in science. However, science is made so obscure most of the time that the vast majority of people are switched off and fail to mentally engage with the possibilities. Now, I’m not an expert on things scientific, but i try to make myself aware of some of the most important developments happening in the world. Without even that basic knowledge it’s very hard to give realistic thought to the future (which is what educators need to do, a lot). Just a few of the technological developments already happening have vast potential;

  1. Solar technology and battery technology
    Solar has been getting cheaper at a phenomenal rate and will continue to do so. also, the power of panels of smaller size is increasing. To go alongside this, the battery technology that enables storing of the power gathered from renewable sources is advancing and reducing in cost at rates that are faster than the most positive estimates.
    All of this serves to take us faster to a time when renewable energy is so much cheaper than fossil fuel sourced energy, that the choice is simple and obvious. basic economics rather than political diktat can bring an end to the burning of fossil fuels.
  2. 3-D printing
    Like many technologies, in its infancy most people have found it hard to see how 3-D printing will scale to have a vast impact in the world and on how things are manufactured. today, when an article is made most manufacturing processes involve large pieces of raw material cut and shaped down to finished parts. In these processes anything up to 90% of the original raw material is waste.
    3-D printing produces the item exactly as required, with precision and almost zero waste.
    Next, you can 3-D custom pieces in the required numbers at the place where they’re needed, rather than making thousands of miles away and then shipping.
  3. Nuclear fission
    This is the one where my technical knowledge and understanding becomes most shaky.  Nevertheless, when someone as knowledgeable as Bill Gates suggests this is the answer and the future, it gives me considerable confidence that people are probably on to something effective.
    Nuclear as an option in the past was expensive and dangerous and these were tough to weigh up against the cleanliness of the fuel generated. However, the science has come a long way, meaning that in the future we can realistically look forward to abundant power generation that is both economical and safe.
  4. Quantum Computing
    This is more by way of an indirect rather than direct impact. Quantum computing will soon allow computation of challenges way beyond what could be done until now within a reasonable time. This will lead to more rapid scientific discovery, innovation and therefore the arrival of more advanced and effective solutions.

With such exciting possibilities flowing out of scientific innovation, it can be hard to reconcile when educators talk about how students need to be persuaded and cajoled to study scientific subjects. I believe when i was in school I would have been much more inclined to study and pursue scientific subjects if it had felt like making myself a part of solving the world’s challenges and making a better world for the future.

The current, negative approach to global warming and other environmental issues focuses too much on the problems. For those who believe in, or acknowledge the power of, the law of attraction – if all you focus on is problems, all you’ll have is problems!, One impact of this continual focus on the negatives is it provokes some to believe in ridiculous denials that stand in the way of progress and present too many people with options that just turn them in to hypocrites. Its time to put all of the world’s drive, energy, creativity and vigour behind positive, science-based solutions. The focus on the negative and problems isn’t working and so, I believe we need to break out. The focus on manpower’s ingenuity, imagination, creativity and scientific skills will unleash an even greater momentum towards solutions that can take humankind forward – lift more people out of poverty, provide power and energy to people at a fraction of the environmental impact of the current energy sources and massively reduce negative impact on global warming and negative environmental impacts.




Mock United Nations on Environment

The reality that we’re confronted with in the world is that no end of data, science and evidence are wheeled out to convince people that man-made global warming is creating a massive problem that will soon have massive and horrendous consequences for humanity.  And yet, little of substance changes. People are not voting – at least in most countries – on the basis of honest pledges and commitments by politicians on what they are going to do to ensure their country plays its part in these global issues.

So, this video is interesting as it shares an experimental simulation game that has been bringing real, valuable insights for people in to the issues, their complexity and what needs to happen in the world to get meaningful change to prevent the coming environmental disasters.

I think exercises like this need to be taken in to communities all over the world as speedily as possible in order to educate people. Telling them facts, showing them science and lecturing them with evidence isn’t achieving the outcomes we need. Simulations like this one might just be the answer.

Science and the Public

I’m not a scientist by learning, or particularly by disposition. However, I believe in evolution, that smoking cigarettes is harmful to health and that global warming is caused by man and is a real and genuine danger to human life in the future if not adequately addressed. The reason I believe those things is because I’ve had access to the work of scientists freely available in the public domain in a free society, read or watched a reasonable amount and then made up my own mind.

There’s a fascinating question that is a very live issue right now. That is the extent to which scientists should become public advocates for a particular perspective. This has become a hot topic as the new American government seeks to gag and sideline scientists who speak out about global warming and climate change.

The viewpoints of the opposing sides, and probably the most appropriate way forward are set out very articulately in this podcast:

ABC Radio – The Science Show – Can a Scientist be a Sentinel?

This is valuable material to share with science students who may never have really have reflected very deeply on the ambiguity, at times, of scientific facts, dogma and the ways in which science gets co-opted to put forward particular views and perspectives by those with an agenda.

Amazing Potential in Solar Power

I’m always interested to follow the latest things happening that have the potential to stem the devastating impact of climate change and environmental destruction – our legacy to the next generations that will follow us.

So, I was excited to see this short video, though couldn’t help wondering why there hasn’t been more publicity about this;

Solar Roadways – Film

Could it be that some of the cynics posting in the comments sections at the bottom of that page are right – i.e. could this have too much potential to be acceptable to the big industries that rely on fossil fuels for their livelihood? Would they have the will and the power to kill such an idea?

This is one worth tracking over coming months to see what happens. I’m sure many students would be interested to study this idea, to know more about the science behind it and to be part of the creative ideation process as its potential is explored.

350.org Local in Delhi

Here’s a mail i received bringing news of the creation of local presence in Delhi for the 350.org campaign on global warning. There’s an event on 5th June. I can’t attend, but the organisers are happy for me to share the details with all who read this blog. Their only request is that if you plan to attend, please RSVP before hand as they have a limited amount of space.

Dear friend,
On the 5th of May, people across the planet connected the dots between extreme weather and climate change. Climate Impacts Day was highly significant in showing the world what climate change really means, from the richest to the poorest and from different corners of the world, impacts are being witnessed at an alarming rate.
But our work is far from over if we are to address this challenge with the vigor it demands. For this reason, 350 has launched the 350 Local Platform earlier this year. 350 Local aims to provide our top organizers the resources they would need to build the movement beyond the days of action.
In Delhi, 350.org is collaborating with WISER to launch the 350 WISER Delhi local group. The initiative will look at the challenge of India’s development in the context of climate change. The group will be in Delhi and will focus on events, actions, projects and campaigns in the capital city that can transition India towards a clean energy future.

It is designed to connect, facilitate and empower the people within and beyond the 350 & wiser networks. Sounds like what you’re looking for? Then join us for the launch of the 350-Wiser Delhi Local Group.
When: June 5th, 6:30 – 9:30 PM
Where: Moonlighting, 19, Hemkunt Colony, GK I
Guest Speaker: Soumya Dutta from the India Peoples Science Forum
Facebook event group: http://act.350.org/go/1684?t=5&akid=1935.231339.WHk–A
Here is the flow of the event for the evening of June 5th.
6:30 – 6:50 – Introduction to 350.org and WISER
6:50 – 7:40 – Screening of films around climate change, coal and community action
7:40 – 8:00 – A short talk by Mr. Soumya Dutta
8:00 – 8:30 – Local group launch and QnA
8:30 – 9:30 – Snacks and the discussion continues
Given the limited seating capacity, we request you to RSVP to ayesha@350.org, +91-9873944487 or +91-9849016371.
Hoping to see you there on June 5th.
Thanking you.

Environment in Danger

Professor James Lovelock is one of the most important scientists in the arguments about climate, global warming and man’s relationship with the planet.

He was the first person to identify high and growing levels of CFCs in the atmosphere and proposed the Gaia hypothesis which proposes that living and non-living parts of the earth form a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism.

Somewhat controversially for the last few years he has suggested that the only solution to man’s power needs is nuclear power. Even then, some of his predictions are truly scary.

Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with BBC. If he’s right, then there’s a lot to think about:

We Can’t Save the Planet

Honest Education

Man is responsible for increased carbon emissions. Increased carbon emissions are warming the planet. The planet warming up is going to be disastrous. Man is heading towards creation of a calamity.

I believe anyone who sells such simplistic understanding of a scientifically complex world, especially as educators working with children is engaging in a deception at least as bad as the fundamentalists in America who demand the teaching of creationism and rejection of evolution.

The fact is that education should not be afraid to open even quite young children up to an understanding that humans are very complex beings living in an infinitely complex world governed by science wherein there are vast realms where we do not have all the answers.

Further, an understanding of science’s past should lead all learners to contemplate on how much they should trust today’s certainties. it is not enough to just enjoy a smug titter over the fact that people once believed the earth was flat or that illness could be eliminated through the letting of blood.

Education is not a ‘sales job’ whereby we tout today’s simplicities and quick recipes as blocks of digestable knowledge, (tested through a simple regurgitation process called exams!) Young learners should be actively encouraged to question anything and everything, building their awareness and skills for how to question and how new possibilities are postulated, researched and affirmed or rejected.

Returning to where i started with global warming here are two fascinating articles from the BBC. The first opens up for the learner many of the complexities of the issue that are so often left out, especially in material written for children. The second article is an editorial piece explaining some of the controversy resulting from the first.

BBC Article 1

BBC Article 2

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