Monday, 30 April 2012

Slums in the UK! Sheds with beds....

Admittedly the title sounds like the frontpage of the Daily Mirror but undercover BBC reporters have found that hundreds of illegal immigrants are living in sub-standard and cramped accomodation in the streets of West and NW London.

For information and to look into this strange use of space click here for the video

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Brazil's new forest law: short term economic gains over long term environmental security?

A\member of Congress protests as the Chamber of Deputies holds a plenary vote on the forest code 25 April 2012Despite the countless geographical case studies, the radical environmental groups and lobbyists and a global increased environmental awareness, it saddens me to read that yet another emerging superpower, one of the BRICs nonetheless, has chosen to put economics over environmental protection.  After over a year of political wrangling Brazil's government have passed a law ( 247-184) which eases rules on how much land farmers must preserve as forest. Now, i know it is easy for me with my Western perspective to sit here an chastise the Brazilian government for following the lead of the hegemonic USA and post industrial attitude of China, but having been and for a short timed lived in the Amazonian rain forest i feel it will be the TNC loggers rather than the indigenous tribes who will reap the rewards.

Once again this issue touches upon the wider themes of how societies (and cultures) view and subsequently protect the environment. With the law now passed it will be interesting, yet very sad to watch how deforestataion rates possibly increase even more over the coming decade and taking a particular morbid line i wonder how many more incidents of this will occur: Loggers 'burned Amazon tribe girl alive'

Graphic showing Amazon deforestation

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Cultural capitalism

A little video from the RSA on the shift from an industrial, modernist society to one of post-industrial cultural capitalism with an increasing concern for the environment and nature.

Good one for Unit 4: Culture.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Liverpool's Giant Sea Odyssey captures it's heart

Giants in Liverpool

Sea Odyssey, the last production to use European legacy funding from Liverpool's 2008 Capital of Culture year, was inspired by a letter a 10-year-old girl posted in 1912 to her father, a bedroom steward on the Titanic.

Liverpool would be an excellent case study for those students studying Edexcel's Unit 4 Culture Option.

A new commodity: second hand clothes

Prices paid for second-hand clothes in the UK have tripled in the past five years, sparking a battle between charities, criminals, companies and local councils for the nation’s cast-offs.

It is an intersting development to new and 'emerging markets', especially when considering many developed nations export much of our recyling to LEDCs as they are more efficient at recycling.

As the FT states:

'The price rag dealers pay for used clothes has climbed from about £220 a tonne in 2007 to about £650 a tonne today, according to trade publication Demand has mushroomed since the European Union expanded eastward in the mid-2000s, creating accessible markets for winter clothing that rag dealers cannot sell in Africa. Sterling’s tumble has accelerated the trend. Charities say donations are falling in the face of new high street competition. “Clothing has always been seen as something charitable,” said Maria Chenoweth-Casey, chief executive of charity TRAID, which runs second-hand clothes shops. “Vintage clothing is dying . . . It’s sad to see it shipped out of the country without even being looked at.” Criminals are also drawn to the high prices. In 2008, when Ms Chenoweth-Casey noticed the “yield” of her charity’s textile banks dropping, she hid a tracker inside a bank and followed the signal to an industrial estate in Havering in North London. The stolen clothes were in a trailer bound for east Europe.

Millenium Development Goals for 2015: Going no where fast or on track?

The MDGs formed at the start of the Millennium when aspirations were high that the world could unite against the global problems of poverty (the bottom billion), climate change and move towards a much more pro active post-industrial sustainable attitude towards the use of our shared environment.

Yet in 2012, with the mantra of sustainability to some extent part of political rhetoric but a global recession stifling the good deeds of many a different player, are the MDGs now just too idealistic or were they always going to be given the attitudes of the emerging superpowers like China and the other BRICs?

This video provides a useful overview and the questions are for you answer and discuss.

Q: Which in your opinion is the most important and why?
Q: What do you think are some of the barriers to achieving the MDGs? Think of current examples to back up your opinion.

Q: Do you think the MDGs will be achieved by 2015 - why?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Fracking - extreme energy exploration & resoirce exploitation

Is fracking a game changer?

The Deepwater Horizon disaster proved the dangers of searching for our oil and gas in ever more challenging environments. Oil companies that had been keen to explore in deeper, colder and more isolated waters have been forced to take a step back and reconsider their options.

Their response has been to launch an extraordinary land grab, buying up the rights to explore vast tracts of the US and Europe in search of unconventional oil and gas. From Lancashire to Gdansk and New York to the Rockies enormous reserves of shale gas lurk temptingly close to the centres of population. Recent advances in extraction techniques have launched an industry in the US and persuaded the major oil companies to begin prospecting expeditions throughout Europe.

The advantages are obvious, removing our dependence on the Middle East, cutting back on the costs of transport and transmission. The disadvantages are less obvious but could be fatally insurmountable. In the US shale gas producers are blamed for poisoning water courses and even causing earthquakes.
Exploratory drilling is already happening within sight of the Blackpool Tower so the need to consider the pitfalls and potentially enormous prizes of land-based oil and gas in the UK is urgent.

Feedback comments from various newspaper sources include:


 With respect to fracking, earthquakes are the least of our worries. Fracking involves drilling 1,800 metres down, then horizontally the same distance. Water, sand and chemicals are forced down the hole, the pressure splitting the shale and releasing the gas. The gas forces 40 per cent of the liquid back up the shaft, now contaminated with volatile chemicals and harmful carcinogenic metals. The really negative effects come from contamination of water and soil, as seen in Pennsylvania in 2010: sick animals and people, contaminated crops and air pollution. The promised job creation will be outweighed by job losses in agriculture and tourism: crops will be blacklisted, property devalued and landscapes scarred. An outright ban on fracking, as in France and Germany, is the only sensible answer.

There are hundreds of documented cases in the US of shale gas fracturing leading directly to water contamination, in some cases so severe that domestic water supplies became flammable. If there's even a tiny chance of this happening in the UK, I would expect the Department for Energy and Climate Change to imprison those responsible.


It boosts overall worldwide gas supplies and can help to reduce market cost. Shale is not anticipated to supply a large proportion of Britain's gas needs, but it is contributing to a worldwide flow of gas that has halved gas prices in the US domestic market, and led to a glut in world markets. It's estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal. Exploration companies are also claiming there is a potential £70bn of reserves in rocks deep under south Wales.