Global Crisis?

Is global warming actually a crisis that threatens humanity’s future? It’s accepted by all but the most sceptical critics, the planet is warming and at a rate greater than previously understood. However, there is a powerful body of groups and individuals who reject the warnings and they are increasing efforts to present a different picture. There is a problem in that a majority of ordinary people are confused as to which view the evidence supports. Can this be settled?

There are those who question the motivation of scientific research into global warming, holding that, in their efforts to secure funding for their research, some depart from fundamental scientific principles. One such claim was made recently on the education blog site Local Schools Network. In responding to a posting about Greta Thunberg, written by Roger Titcombe, one commentator had this to say;

“The world is warming but the climate scammers spent years saying it was cooling until they needed a new story. Typical of the ‘say anything to get the money’ (- and mostly they are refused research grants unless they say they believe the new religion) types. Until it’s inconvenient. Then say something else. This wondrous new ‘science’ – never knowingly correct about anything. Except on how much money it can make by making new ‘predictions’. And all those lovely plane trips to exotic locations to tell other people to not to fly.”

To understand how polarised the debate is, a further remark by this same commentator reveals the extent to which language is used to manipulate rather than inform.

“It’s as if the far Left are frightened of informed discussion of the science by physicists i.e. real ones, not climate change ‘scientists’. “

The damage to informed debate on any subject is vastly increased when individuals indulge in this sort of rhetoric, designed probably to provoke a reaction rather than advance a substantive argument in clarification of a position. This identifies the potential damage that social network platforms and other sources of ‘opinion’ can do to understanding issues and resolving conflict when unsubstantiated views are presented in place of evidence.

https://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2019/04/greta-thunberg-what-we-can-learn-from-her-example

As an indication of the size of the problem confronting our young people seeking to have leaders accept a global crisis is looming. The BBC reported recently how widespread concerns among young people is.

At present, it seems this is mainly driven by girls and young women. According to the latest report by the BBC’s correspondent, Joshua Nevett, there is good reason for this.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-48114220

Further, “According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), women are more vulnerable than men to the impact of extreme climate events for a variety of reasons, including biological and social factors.” Their report explains why this is the case.

https://www.who.int/globalchange/GenderClimateChangeHealthfinal.pdf

In the BBC article, as Nevett reminds us, “On 15 March, an estimated 1.6 million students from 125 countries walked out of school to demand climate change action.”

We have a choice. Either we can react negatively, as some do, by reminding us that young girls may be prone to responding emotionally to the developing situation because of their biology, or we can wake up to the fact that global climatic disasters are occurring at a rate we have not seen before in human history.

The power of those who reject the idea of a global crisis must not be underestimated. Vested interest by the fossil fuel industries is promoted and protected by many politicians in countries across the globe. In the US for example, “Republican lawmakers, some of whom do not believe in man-made climate change, have branded the NGD (New Green Deal) a “socialist manifesto”.” so Nevett informs us.

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729033/Green-New-Deal-FINAL.pdf

Looking back, at the time of the crisis about the depletion of the ozone layer, similar vested interest initially sought to limit global action to address the issue. Evidence was beginning to emerge identifying how ozone is destroyed by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). World leaders were initially reluctant to take decisive action. A decision was reached at the end of The Vienna Convention in 1985 simply to ‘urge countries to control emissions (of CFCs) ‘to the maximum extent possible’. It was a ‘sticking-plaster’ solution. In 1988, new scientific research emerged which convinced world leaders that very decisive action was in fact needed. Even the most dire computer predictions of the rate, extent and impact of the depletion had not predicted the development of a huge hole in the ozone layer. One was later discovered over Antarctica, to be followed by a similar discovery over the Arctic where its impact on millions of people would be potentially devastating. The result, apparently out of nowhere, was to agree to a rapid phase-out of all ozone-depleting chemicals. By the summer of 1989 at an ozone conference in London, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher called for a total ban and the rest is, as they say, history.

About ten years ago I came across ‘The End of Nature’ by Bill McGibbin in a secondhand bookshop. Published in 1990, it painted a graphic account of recent findings from researchers all over the world highlighting the problem of the extent to which consistent increases in greenhouse gas emissions was leading to a warming of the atmosphere. McGibbin drew extensively on the available research. He made the clear connection between human activity and warming that would, according to the computer modelling of the time, eventually change the earth’s climate. There were many who rejected his conclusions.

Most people now accept the earth is warming. The commitment to taking steps to deal with the potential threat on the part of world governments is lagging behind the pressing need to heed the warnings. The ozone crisis has much to teach us about how we need to respond to the existential threat of climate change. As McGibbin was at pains to explain, our perception that nature operates slowly over vast periods of time is a flawed one. Equally, the idea that nature is too big for us to have an impact on its workings is wrong. We are living at a time when we know the atmosphere has changed. The available evidence indicates that the emission of greenhouse gasses like CO2 is increasing as a direct result of burning fossil fuels previously locked beneath the planet’s surface and other human actions. We have changed the atmosphere. These changes are changing global climate.

Thirty years ago Bill McGibbin made predictions about global warming. He reminded us that climate is very’ noisy’. He accepted, we may not be able to predict specific storms, droughts or floods but IF his predictions were accurate, increasingly and systematically, he believed we would see the emergence of new extremes “The effect on us, though indirect, will be pretty dramatic – changes in the atmosphere will change the weather, and that will change the air our children breathe. The temperature, the rainfall, the speed of the wind will all change.”

He ended the first chapter with this sobering thought: “Man’s efforts, even at their mightiest, used to be tiny compared to the size of the planet – the Roman Empire meant nothing to the Arctic or the Amazon. But now the way of life of one part of the world in one half century is altering every inch and every hour of the globe.”

If that was the case then, how much more does it hold true another thirty years on? We have choices. The young people emerging across the continents with their minds focused on their futures and that of their children are right to call for change. It is the belated duty of adults to stand with them and to support their vision for a more equitable and secure global future. We cannot wait for our leaders to catch up.

Education Reform 2

The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) has taken its toll on schools, teachers and most of all on children and young people. It has infected the institutions, relationships and individuals involved in working towards a common goal, the full and effective education of all students. The proposition here is that the reform agenda is not aligned with this goal, and also, that it never was. But, what is even  worse, the evidence indicates it has damaged the whole system rather than improve it. So, what amounts to evidence for making such a claim?

To begin, in England there is a growing consensus that ongoing reforms are narrowing the curriculum. This point was made recently by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman, in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/752721/HMCI_PAC_letter_311018.pdf

In this letter, however, the Chief Inspector stated incorrectly that “spending per pupil in primary and secondary schools has increased significantly in real terms since the early 1990s”. This is in direct contrast to the evidence fuelling the campaign of parents deeply concerned about education funding levels. Just like the Education Secretary and even the Prime Minister, the Chief Inspector has it wrong, as evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies 2018 report confirms – ”Total school spending per pupil has fallen by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18.”   

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/752721/HMCI_PAC_letter_311018.pdf

Many young people are left with fewer subjects they would study out of choice as the arts and humanities in particular have been cut back in schools as funding cuts have taken greater effect over time. In her letter, the Chief Inspector acknowledges the impact of reforms on curriculum provision when stating the “research has found evidence that an overly data-driven accountability system is narrowing what pupils are able to study and learn.”

The extent of the damage being done to the education system can be summed up in some very disturbing comments made by Ms Spielman in the report  – “ In primary schools, we found examples of schools effectively suspending Year 6 to focus exclusively on SATs, rather than encouraging children to grapple with new mathematical concepts or encouraging them to read widely.  Schools were forcing pupils instead to retake reading comprehension papers, with the purpose of boosting the schools’ results, not their pupils’ abilities to read.” It is time to question if these are the actions of educators who feel free to exert their professional judgements. Are they rather an indication of the desperate measures adopted by schools seeking to avoid special measures when Ofsted comes to call?

There is a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention tackled in part by off-loading the recruitment of teachers to schools and others offering on the job training, leaving many new recruits with little understanding of child development and with insufficient knowledge of how to deliver the curriculum. Teaching the ‘basics’ takes precedence over breadth and balance in the curriculum for many children, especially those with developmental difficulties.

A recent report, ‘What Motivates People to Teach and Why Do They Leave, Accountability, Performability and Teacher Retention’ by Jane Perryman and Graham Calvert, describes why so many teachers are leaving the profession.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00071005.2019.1589417

In summary their report concludes;  “The top reasons (closed option answer) given for leaving by those who had left were”

  • To improve work life balance (75%)
  • Workload (71%)
  • Target driven culture (57%)
  • Teaching making me ill (51%)
  • Government initiatives (43%)
  • Lack of support from management (38%)

Very similar responses were given by those teachers who indicated, when asked, why they may at some time leave. The greatest area of conflict for many was that they lost sight of the reason they had entered teaching in the first place under the relentless pressure they felt. Others directly involved in education (support staff) also experience unhealthy levels of pressure arising out of the reforms.

Two issues of great concern for parents are testing and discipline. The precise manner in which these two apparently unconnected aspects of school life overlap with dramatic effect is very telling.

The first round of National Curriculum testing began in 1991. Since then testing has come to be accepted as part of normal life for children between the ages of four and sixteen, at the end of the three Key Stages. The pressure on schools to ‘perform’ well in nationally reported testing has resulted in the introduction of ‘zero tolerance’ discipline policies that have been widely reported to particularly adversely affect children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with additional needs. This blog by Roger Titcombe with its many links to other sources, offers a more detailed background to the ‘thinking’ behind the reforms that we are now seeing unravel in our schools.

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/is-the-mental-health-crisis-in-english-schools-being-driven-by-the-changes-in-teaching-methods-demanded-by-marketisation/

The damage done to pupils’ from such changes is reported on almost a daily basis and we are left with an important question that needs to be confronted. Are the costly structural and other reforms introduced by successive governments harming our children’s future education and development? Unless we see the present situation in our schools as more than an issue of funding, we will fail to fully grasp what needs to change and why it is so important.

Education Reform 1

The reform of the modern education system began early in the 19th Century. What eventually became known as the Education Reform Movement dates back to the latter part of the century in Europe and North America. In Massachuetts, Horace Mann, the state’s Secretary of Education, sought to improve the educational opportunities of ordinary children. His reforms included lengthening the school year and calling for taxation to pay for the training of teachers in the expanding public school system. Until the advent of mass ‘free’, compulsory education, there was no coherent concept of education reform. What is the picture in education currently?

Today a seemingly relentless global reform movement is underway. Titled the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) after Pasi Sahlberg, the renowned Swedish educator. Anyone wishing to gain an insight into why every aspect of English education today looks and behaves as it does, needs to explore the work of Sahlberg.

https://pasisahlberg.com/global-educational-reform-movement-is-here/

Since the 1980’s, western governments in particular have been intent on transforming public education on almost an industrial scale. The main objective has been to create an education market, dominated by a sharp focus on the relationship between inputs and outputs and based on delivering a centrally agreed curriculum monitored through rigorous testing and assessment. Markets thrive on competition, and an education market, according to its devotees, should behave no differently from any other. However, competition invariably throws out winners and losers as part of the normal expectation of any effective market. Therefore, the role played by choice in any marketised systems is vital. It is the mechanism that ensures quality and value for money are kept high. Driven increasingly by huge amounts of data, markets are able to adapt and grow, ensuring the margin of profit is healthy.

Today, education is run on this same model. Parents, it is deemed, will act as the final arbiters, choosing to shun ‘bad schools’ and reward ‘good’ ones, thus driving up and maintaining high standards. Traditional roles and practices have morphed in response to this silent revolution. Without consulting the people, especially parents, successive governments have sought to exploit the ‘benefits’ of the education market in a deliberate and systematic drive to privatise the system as a way of improving it. The claim that these common sense reforms are either necessary or appropriate goes largely unchallenged, most worryingly by professional educators.

But how exactly does it operate in practice?

Does it really work for the benefit of all?

Do we get value for money?

Are students better prepared for the future?

In England, the belief of political ideologues about education since Thatcher has been that marketisation works well and for the benefit of all. It is perceived to deliver value for money and guarantees a better and consistently improving service. Having concluded thus and largely in the absence of any concerted effort to challenge this orthodoxy, more of the same is inevitable. Our society is at a crossroads where sufficient time has passed to be able to assess the impact of this market on children and schools; so what evidence is there to uncover how well it is performing?

THE EVIDENCE TO DATE

A recent journal from Educational Review published at Taylor and Francis Online offers a range of different perspectives from various authors/researchers commenting on the Global Education Reform Movement.  

Volume 71, 2019 – Issue 1: The Global Education Reform Movement: contemporary developments and future trajectories.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00131911.2019.1532718

For those seeking information about the GERM, this volume offers analysis of quality and depth to challenge the heady rhetoric of successive Ministers and the Department for Education promoting marketisation, spanning almost forty years.

Like all other infections, the GERM requires certain optimum conditions to enable it to spread. Identifying these and understanding their impact on people and processes is key to fighting the disease that is threatening to destroy public education. The stakes are truly that high.

Commentators are quick to recognise that in the global spread of marketisation, not all countries exhibit identical characteristics. In some domains not all the factors listed here will be present, depending on the existing culture and the political will to marketise. In others, like England and the USA most will be exercised to the fullest extent. This list includes characteristics that may ultimately contribute to the emergence of an education market – not in any order.

  • The emasculation of professionals.
  • Narrowing of the curriculum to emphasise core knowledge in the ‘basics’.
  • The creation of clear standards producing outputs that are easy to digitise.
  • The generation of vast amounts of summative ‘evidence’ for comparative purposes.
  • A tendency for competition to out-muscle collaborative networking.
  • The application of new technologies to ‘supplement’ teaching and monitor learning.
  • High levels of accountability, verified through rigorous external auditing.
  • The introduction of extreme behaviourism typified by ‘zero-tolerance’ policies.
  • Employment of corporate structures with strong top-down management.
  • Privatisation, with many services being contracted out.
  • Cost cutting, especially on salaries and wages of non-executive staff.

Local Schools Network is a very reliable source of current information about all things to do with change in education. Other sites offering a perspective on school reform for parents include, More Than a Score, Reclaiming Schools and Learning Matters by a retired secondary headteacher/author, Roger Titcombe.

https://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/

https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/

https://reclaimingschools.org/author/reclaimschools/

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/

In Education Reform 2, coming soon, more evidence will be presented explaining the extent and seriousness of the impact of the GERM on English Education.

Restoring Democracy in Britain

In previous posts, I have written about climate change and leadership. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, therefore, especially at this tumultuous time, that the spotlight is next turned on the political situation in our country. The consensus is that, if it’s not yet the case, our political system is close to collapse. It is difficult to imagine that public confidence in our leaders can hold, even at this low level, unless the issue of leaving the European Union is resolved soon and well. However, the fall-out from the political impasse resulting from the close result of the referendum in 2016 is likely to last long after the deal is done. It is timely to ask, what can be done to heal the rift in our society and rebuild our confidence in the democratic process?

I believe the solution lies in the reform of the electoral system, long recognised by many to be unfit for purpose. Make no mistake, though, this is a huge task, as recognised by the fact that the Electoral Reform Society has been campaigning since 1884 maintaining then that the system “was failing to overcome the challenges presented by the approaching twentieth century.” How much more is the system failing us today? https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/who-we-are/our-history/

In order to understand how much harm is done by our failure to change the electoral process to ensure that the concept of one-person-one-vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, it is instructive to reflect on key statistics from the General Election of 2017. The reason for choosing that particular election cycle is that it threw up the parliament now charged with taking us out of the EU.

First to the background. As things stand, our electoral process is designed to produce a winning party that earns the ‘right ‘ to form the government of the day. All other parties are cast aside along with the voters who supported them, arguably with the exception of the official opposition. The effectiveness of this arrangement depends directly on the size of the majority gained by the winners in this archaic first-past-the-post system. The outcome of this combative process, creating its winners and losers is division. The task of those who seek to lead our democracy should surely be to unite for the benefit of all citizens. It is the fact that this is not the case that divides British society at this pivotal point in our history.

Voting Anomalies

In the 2017 General Election, just two examples from the results serve to illustrate the perverse consequences of the existing voting system. By comparing the outcome of the ballot for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Greens, a serious unintended but unavoidable flaw in our first-past-the-post system is laid bare.

The total votes cast for the DUP in Northern Ireland were 292,316 resulting in them gaining 10 seats in parliament. The total votes cast for the Greens was 525,665 and they gained just the one seat. In terms of individual voters and their eventual impact on the election, whereas only 29,231 votes were required to return a single MP for the DUP to parliament, it took a massive 525,665 votes to bring about the same result for the Green Party.

The Consequences for the Democratic Process

Perceptions matter hugely. If people feel their vote has no impact on the outcome of the ballot, voter apathy is likely to follow. As an example, going back to my own upbringing in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, a Labour Party stronghold, it was said that if a donkey was put up for the party, it would win. The same general impression persists in our current democracy. Is this not what we are acknowledging when we recognise that the outcome of the ballot in swing or safe seats will determine the composition of the parliament we arrive at? What is to be done about this?

If we wish to create the perception that ours is a just and equitable society, especially going forward following the disastrous handling of Brexit by our elected representatives, we have to ensure that people are motivated to actively participate in the democratic process. Votes matter BUT they must ALL count. We have to change our voting system to better reflect the society we live in rather than perpetuate a system that is no longer fit for the 21st century.

There are many effective examples of countries successfully operating some form of proportional representation (p-r). The oft cited reason for rejecting such a system in Britain is that people want to vote for the person they wish to represent them in parliament and they are led to believe that p-r will end this arrangement. There are ways of arranging p-r to ensure that the link between local people and their representative is not destroyed. But more important than that is the counterbalancing argument, hardly ever expressed, that under the present system most voters do not end up with their preferred candidate representing them in parliament anyway. Personally, I cannot think of a single election when the candidate I personally wanted to serve as my local MP was ever successful, even at times when the party I expressed a preference for was ‘the winner’!

Change is needed and it is needed NOW. If our MPs were well versed in consensus politics, we would not be facing the awful mess we are currently in. With a narrow, but decisive vote for exiting the EU, we needed a parliament capable of working across parties to limit the potential for division in the country. Collaborative politics may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but if long-term we want to heal the rifts in society, we need to ensure that the system changes.

Crisis of Leadership

Few would argue that there is a crisis of leadership across the world. Our own situation over the vote to leave the European Union is a case in point. Others would look to the USA where, arguably, according to many Americans, Mr Trump is the worst president ever. Examples of totalitarian dictatorships abound, and not always in developing nations. Corruption and nepotism dominate the agenda supported by some leaders whose people know only to well what it means to live as second class citizens while those in power take what they want, never based on need. All in all it is not difficult to paint a negative picture of leadership in action. The intention in this post is to explore just one aspect of this complex subject, expressed in the form of a simple question.

What is required of ALL leaders in the present global community, facing an uncertain future?

Whilst the question itself might seem simple, the answer is not. It requires reference to how demands on leaders have altered over time and how changes in leadership style and behaviours have to happen in order to deliver what is now urgently needed at every level of governance.

The History of Change

There probably was a time, long ago, when most leaders chose themselves. Then, communities would have accepted this as a necessary price to pay if they felt secure as a result. Strength of arm and character were likely seen as the basic ingredients required to ensure group survival. Basically, these would have been the warrior chiefs who established their dynasties in response to this challenge, sometimes extending their reign over many generations.

Eventually, and as the accumulation of knowledge progressed, leaders needed new qualities, especially in cultures with aspirations to expand their influence into other territories. Where nations pursued colonial expansion, trade assumed an even greater importance than hitherto. With this came the need for clerical workers, the civil servants to carry out the practical administrative tasks of running a society. Policy decisions were made by leaders and those close to them at the top, and until the latter part of the middle ages that system was workable, even if it was far from egalitarian at its core.

It has been claimed that it would have been possible for a single, gifted individual to have a grasp of all that was known about the world at that time. In such an environment, it was feasible for wise leaders to have a command of what was necessary to be effective and survive, but the balance between shaping the future and having at their personal disposal the knowledge to bring that to bear was becoming more difficult to maintain. So it was that the long established tradition of employing advisers to help shape the direction of change expanded beyond all previous levels.

Ultimately, the sum of all human knowledge grew with no seeming limits. Certainly in science and engineering, for example, new disciplines were created to cope with the volume of new knowledge. So it is that we find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible for one individual to know more than a fraction of what there is to know about even one sub-discipline. Just taking the development of lasers as an example, there are separate specialisms to cope with changing demands in medical science, in weapons technology, in advanced communications technology, in metallergy and a host of other aspects. Specialism in one does not transfer easily to others.

World leaders are required to function differently in this environment. Having a finger on the pulse has become a huge challenge. Little wonder, therefore, that they now make use of huge numbers of advisers and sources, as well as consulting with many different experts in determining policy direction. But this has not taken place in a vacuum.

Against this backdrop there has been an even greater development in commercial expansion with huge independent corporations funding research into new and more profitable goods, services and technologies, mainly for profit and lobbying politicians for their backing. These developments have often run counter to the best interests of the wider society, as is the case in health care and education (more to come on these two areas). This has added a layer of interaction in leadership that has become increasingly influential in decision making. The history of political lobbying is littered with examples of just how damaging this development has been and continues to be. One recent example will illustrate this perfectly.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, long regarded as ways of extending human capabilities and benefiting future generations, comes with a health warning as this report from Future of Life Institute from 2016 informs us. Tech giants are mainly keen to encourage all developments that appear to have commercial potential. The profit motive trumps most other considerations and armies of lobbyists are employed to promote such developments aggressively, even at the expense of moral and ethical considerations. Already significant changes to employment and employability have been evidenced. Greater care in making such sweeping changes is called for and quality of leadership is central to this.

https://futureoflife.org/background/benefits-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/?cn-reloaded=1

It is against this exponential expansion of ‘big business’ and vested interest that new ways of balancing the demands of society with those of individuals and the environment are demanded. Largely, this is not happening. Largely, this is why, currently, we are living in such challenging times, lacking the quality of leadership we so desperately need if we are to stave off the threat of irreversible climate and other changes. Business as usual is not an option and the clock is ticking.

https://futureoflife.org/background/benefits-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/?cn-reloaded=1

WHAT DO WE NEED OF OUR LEADERS?

1 It is vital that leaders acknowledge the threat we face by making sure that in every policy area where the opportunity exists to take positive action to cut emissions of all greenhouse gases, this is done.

2 Equally important is that leaders admit to the possible negative impact of vested interest and that where this exists they seek wider council to ensure the balance is right between the needs of the economy and those of people and the environment.

3 The qualities and attitudes needed to make this paradigm shift in leadership, mean that those individuals putting themselves forward in such a capacity are committed to listening to all sides in the debate, to weighing up all available evidence, understanding that old ways of decision making that ignore the long term impact of policy on the planet are no longer appropriate and are willing to put the future of humanity ahead of any political ideology or loyalty.

No one ever said this was an easy way forward. However, we fail to commit to such changes at the risk of denying our children and their children the future that should be theirs to enjoy .

Creating a Climate for Change

All over the world, people, the young in particular, are calling for change to the way governments interact with the threat of climate change. There is global agreement that ‘business as usual’ is not going to match the level of threat science makes clear we are facing over man-made warming of the atmosphere. For many decades we have known that the burning of fossil fuels is adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere affecting the functioning of the carbon cycle. The net result of the increase in CO2, in combination with other factors, such as deforestation and atmospheric pollution has been to see global temperatures rising as the greenhouse effect worsens.

None of this is news. Neither is the fact that not enough has been done to address the problem. But, we are living in different times. The confidence of ordinary people in their political leaders is currently very low. This view is based on their unwillingness to act, or worst still their staunch loyalty to the demands of expanding global trade and corporate self-interest. For the first time in our history there is group with so much to lose that they will not be silenced in the face of such intransigence. Our young people have listened well, they have heard the message and they have understood what it will mean if we continue to behave as we do. The need for a climate of change to tackle this existential threat head on has been accepted by our young people. Our task is to support this climate of change, not only to halt climate change but to set in motion those actions and policies that we know can reverse the damage.

Beginning on Friday 22 March 2019, I will be standing outside Council Connect Offices at The Hollies, in Midsomer Norton, near Bath between 12.00 noon and 1.00pm showing my support for all the young people around the world who are peacefully protesting in a show of unity over climate change. I will keep up this action until further notice and invite others in the area to join me.

Many people have criticised the fact that they are missing a day of schooling to do this. Their response, as is mine, is to explain that whereas they know their education is important to their individual futures, first they have to convince those who have systematically ignored the warnings of the past to take action to reverse climate change. Only then may they be assured that they and their world will survive the threat posed by this very present danger. If we feel that future belongs firstly to them and their children, we have a moral duty to stand beside them.

Others, including MP Michael Gove believe the action being taken by young people is necessary. As this report shows, his own daughter is taking part in the movement. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-suffolk-47585968/schools-climate-strike-east-of-england-pupils-protest

WHAT CAN WE DO TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE?

The problem is huge but there are small and very manageable interventions that we can make from the comfort of our own homes.

1 Our love of meat has resulted in deforestation in many parts of the developing world, notably, the Brazilian rainforests. Simply by cutting down on our consumption of meat, we can make a measurable contribution to reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. Done with the support of farmers this need not threaten their livelihoods.

2 By making sure we reduce energy consumption and waste we can help reduce our carbon footprint.

These two simple steps can be graded to suit personal circumstances, but even by making small adjustments of this kind will demonstrate that we are part of the climate of change that will help safeguard our children’s futures

World leaders have not always put the future security and wellbeing of their citizens at the heart of their policy agenda. This is a global problem, felt even at local council level. Big business has dominated thinking as politicians struggle to grow their national economies in the competition for growing markets. Too often this has even been in the face of knowing that some policies are going to exacerbate the problems we face. For example, promoting the continued use of fossil fuels when resources could be switched to renewables. The way to move beyond this is to do exactly what our young people are doing through their FridaysForFuture movement, bringing their opinions about what they expect to change directly to the seats of power, locally, nationally and internationally. Join with them now!

3 Write to your MP and your local councillor, telling them that you expect them to honour their commitment to make sure that policies that harm the environment, including the air we breathe, are rejected in favour of a cleaner, healthier future for all.