Category Archives: Education

Working for the common good: Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Emily Langer in the Independent has written an obituary of Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’.

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor,  became a BBfarmer, using modern agricultural techniques.

Botswana cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in Wikipedia.

 

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Citizen to Activist – news from Australia

A reader sent a link to this text (summary below) and the video, prompting further searches.

Average Australian citizens from farmers to doctors, are being compelled to fight battles they never imagined they would need to, with reports out of Standing Rock about America’s North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), filling news feeds on global social media sites, and people powered planetary protection happening in just about every nook and cranny of the world. One blog is headed: Australia has its own Dakota pipleine story and it’s happening right now!

citizen2activists

Koonorigan filmmakers David Lowe and Eve Jeffery (our reader’s sister-in-law) produced, directed and edited the clip, working with local artivist filmmakers Cloudcatcher Media, who spend much of their time documenting these struggles and were themselves compelled to create a short animation as a response to those who would if they could, but didn’t know how.

Citizen to Activist, or as it is affectionately known C2A, is a not-so serious guide to becoming an activist, using the example of the Australian fight against unconventional gas and coal mining, travelling the film festival circuit for almost a year with national and international screenings. It has had great success with audiences from every quarter enjoying the film, as well as some wins at film festivals including a place at the Noosa International Film Festival and winning the jury prize for best film at Byron All Shorts.

citizen-2-activist-video

Everyone involved with the film gave tirelessly and freely of their time and energy. David and Eve felt that with no money made or exchanged in the making of the film, it was destined to be a part of the Creative Commons, so C2A has one more gift to give – the film has just been released on several platforms for free public viewing.

‘With NGOs being hamstrung by fears of losing tax deductibility, the ABC under the hammer and much of the private media increasingly owned by mining interests, it’s up to citizens to educate and uplift one another,’ says Cloudcatcher David Lowe.

‘This is why we’re giving this film away for free.’

It is hoped that citizens will watch and share the film and gain strength and hope from its message as we step one more day into the fray.

You can view the clip on YouTube, Vimeo or on Facebook

 

 

 

There are plenty of brilliant plans for getting us moving without trashing the planet

George Monbiot asks: “So why aren’t they happening?”

In the Guardian he described and denounced the current inefficient and polluting transport system.

traffic

“If you controlled the billions that are spent every year, privately and publicly, on the transport system, and your aim was to smooth the passage of those who use it, is this what you would do? Only if your imagination had been surgically excised.

“Even in a small, economically mature, densely-populated nation like this one, where change is easy, we’re still driving in the wrong direction.

“The simplest, cheapest and healthiest solution to congestion is blocked by the failure to provide safe transit. Last year the transport department crowed that it could cut £23m from its budget, as a result of an “underspend on the Cycle Cities Ambition budget”. Instead of handing this money back to the Treasury, it should have discovered why it wasn’t spent and ensured that it doesn’t happen again”.

So here’s a novel idea: how about a 21st Century transport system for the 21st Century? Here is a summary of the excellent constructive advice he gave:

  • aggregate people’s requests via a smartphone app,
  • use minibus services to collect people from their homes and deliver them close to their destinations while minimising their routes.
  • build a network of such safe, pleasant and convenient walking and cycling paths (like those in Hamburg) that no one with the ability to do otherwise set a date by which no new car is manufactured unless it’s electric,
  • set up household charging points, allowing people to plug in without having to take their car off the road,
  • introduce a scrappage payment to replace old cars with no car at all: it would take the form of public transport tokens,
  • facilitate ‘walking buses’ to school: parents take turns to lead a crocodile of children,
  • organise local drop-off points, so that parcel companies don’t clog our streets, and we never miss deliveries,
  • provide bikes to hire at train and bus stations,   synchronising bus and train timetables,
  • reopen old rail lines which were closed in the mistaken belief that train travel was on the way out and build new lines to bridge the gaps,
  • bring train services under public control and use the money now spent on road building to make tickets affordable for everyone,
  • implement the brilliant plan proposed by Dr Alan Storkey: for an intercity bus network faster and more convenient than car travel, using dedicated lanes on the motorways and interchanges at the motorway junctions and
  • build new settlements around public transport hubs – light rail, tram and electric bus systems – rather than around the car.
  • (Ed: place more bulky freight on our waterways.

What is difficult about any of this? What technological barriers stand in the way? None. Transport is among the simplest of our problems to solve.

 

 

 

Residents in one of Britain’s formerly most run-down areas now run a housing association, their library and swimming pool

The BBC noted in 2010 that during the 1970s and 1980s, the post-war Castle Vale estate, dominated by tower blocks, became known for poverty and crime. Residents in Castle Vale established a housing association with power and responsibility given to local people. The housing association has helped to lower crime levels, demolish and rebuild 2,275 houses and address health and unemployment concerns.

The area underwent a 12-year regeneration in the 1990s, with 32 of the 34 tower blocks demolished, new homes built and a new retail area created. Read more here. http://old.mycommunity.org.uk/stories/castle-vale-community-housing-association-working-with-stockland-green-opportunities/

castlevale-housing

Now the Castle Vale estate in Birmingham is pioneering a new way of running services that councils can no longer afford, due to government cuts. Ray Goodwin, chief executive of the tenants and residents’ alliance, said: “People came together and said this is taking away our community and we are not prepared to accept that.” Read the BBC’s update published on Wednesday 23rd November here.

castle-vale-poolLocal residents’ groups have taken over the swimming pool and the library which were in danger of being closed. Read on here. A resident posted on Facebook: “You keep doing articles in the Tyburn Mail about the swimming pool on castle vale saying how it’s been saved by the community and for the community. I think you need to do an article about its lack of opening times. Half term and it’s only open for a few hours in the week for the public and what about the residents of Castle Vale who work and want to use it when they finish. Guess what it’s shut.” He needs to volunteer to help as 40 others are doing.

castlevale-libraryThe library employs one member of staff and about 40 volunteers look after the library and pool. Volunteer Amanda Cutler was behind a 6,500-signature to save it. She said: “One of the lifeguards came to me one day and said it was closing down. I said it’s not happening and I got a petition together myself. Luckily, we’ve done it, so we’re really pleased.“ Later, facing further cuts, in 2014 the residents pulled together to save their library from closure. A cinema and theatre for the community are also planned. Read on here.

They are now being asked to show other local communities how they can rescue council services threatened by cuts.

 

 

 

Re-branded: DECC, the Department for Extreme Climate Change

The walls of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) were whitewashed on the first day of the Paris climate conference in November of last year ‘to expose the department’s hypocrisy’ and black paint was used to rebrand it the ‘Department for Extreme Climate Change’.

decc on trial2

Today news came via an Ekklesia link, that on Tuesday, 31st of May, the five activists, members of the Climate Change Action Group, were ordered to pay £340 each at Hammersmith Magistrates Court. The defendants, who represented themselves, did not dispute their presence at the scene or the actions attributed to them, but argued that they had a ‘lawful excuse’ under section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act.

DECC was not fined.

amber ruddTheir letter, which was handed in to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd (left), made many powerful points, all of which may be read here. In a preamble, they declared: 

“Climate change is not one in a number of issues to be addressed. A stable climate is a fundamental need on which the maintenance of our civilisation and the earth’s abundant life relies. There will be no economy, health or security to speak of on the planet towards which we are currently heading”.

Edited extract from list of actions June-Sept 2015

In 2009 G20 countries, including the UK, pledged to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. But on the 19 March 2015: George Osborne announces £1 billion worth of subsidies for North Sea Oil, on top of a whole series of previous measures, including support for further exploration:

16 June: The European Union says the UK is set to miss its EU target of generating 15 per cent of its energy (not just electricity) by renewable methods, despite being set one of the lowest targets of all EU countries.

17 June: On the evening of the Big Climate Lobby on the 17th June, when thousands met with their MPs to ask them to put climate as a priority, you announced the first of your ‘cut-the-green-crap’ policies, that new onshore wind farms (the cheapest form of renewable energy) will be excluded from a subsidy scheme from 1 April 2016, a year earlier than planned.

25 June: The UK says it will sell off up to 70% of its Green Bank, set up to lend money to risky green schemes such as wind farms that couldn’t raise cash elsewhere. The sell-off means it may no longer focus on risky green schemes, and most of the profits will not go to taxpayers. By contrast, a similar US scheme is set to make $5 billion profit for taxpayers on $30 billion-worth of loans. Companies it helped include Tesla Motors, which paid back its loan early.

30 June: The Committee on Climate Change warns that the UK is not on course to meet targets after 2020. Its recommendations include taking action to encourage long-term investment in low-carbon energy, such as by extending existing short-term schemes to a 10-year timescale.

ruth jarmanRuth Jarman, one of the five members of the Christian Climate Action demonstration, who are deeply concerned about climate change and its impact on God’s creation, the lives of people now the world over, and future generations, said:

“We do not agree with today’s judgement. The point of the law is to maintain justice, stability and order. Climate change threatens all these things so fundamentally that the law should be used to defend those who are trying to stop climate change, not those who are creating it. We think DECC should have been in the dock, not us. The department speaks fine words, but with its actions scuppers any possibility of global action to tackle climate change.”

Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh reminds us that without such acts in the history of the United Kingdom, the vote would not have been conferred on non-land owning citizens, nor on women and slavery, or forced child labour in our factories would not have ended:

“The actions of these protestors were a non-violent and peaceable way to expose the hypocrisy of current UK government energy policies. The UK has the potential still to lead the world towards the new sustainable energy economy that the climate crisis calls for and this type of action is essential to the democratic process in the UK.”

 

Renewable energy gains ground in Asia

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cere logo 3As downbeat news from Britain is received, India’s CERE gives a video link about Cochin’s fully solar powered airport and a Reuter’s report in Business Today, by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore, states that record job hiring in solar, wind and hydro is partly offsetting the job losses in the oil and gas sector, where more than 200,000 jobs have been cut worldwide since oil prices collapsed last year, according to recruiter Swift Worldwide Resources.

Direct and indirect employment in renewable energy jumped 18% or by about 1.2 million, last year to 7.7 million globally, with most of the new jobs being created in Asia, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

solar panels asia

Some of the biggest gains have been made in China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Bangladesh and the overall figure could top 16 million globally by 2030. China already employs 3.4 million people in renewable energy and this raised its solar installation target for 2015 by 30%. In India, IRENA expects 1 million new jobs to be created after the government pledged to triple installed wind capacity and raise solar power capacity 33 fold by 2022.

We read that huge amounts of western money are flowing into renewable energy in Asia, according to David Russell, chief executive of Equis Funds Group, which has invested $2.4 billion in Asian projects over the last two years.

The massive renewable energy programmes in countries such as China and India are causing engineering students to rethink their options and even consider mid-career switches for some who have spent more than a decade in the oil sector. “It’s a matter of time for me personally before I make the move,” said a Singapore-based project manager for offshore construction at an oil and gas firm, who is considering shifting into solar after 15 years in the oil sector.

New Delhi’s Teri University has 139 students enrolled in its renewable energy programmes this year, up from 97 in 2014 and 69 in 2013.

This has inspired Bluestream Australia to launch a platform on Linked In called Renewable Energy Interns, a group for prospective interns to find opportunities for internships, and for renewable energy companies who could benefit from having an intern in their business.

‘Solar Independence Day’ in Scotland

In July, Building Construction Design reports on celebrating ‘Solar Independence Day’ events in Scotland, ‘showcasing’ solar homes, solar schools, commercial solar rooftops and solar farms. People were invited to visit a local solar farm, big rooftop installation or showhome.

On two days locations across the UK opened their doors to the public to celebrate solar energy and showcase its potential. Scotland’s leading solar provider Forster Energy facilitated on-site solar viewings/talks at two venues – a farm in Perthshire and a National Trust for Scotland estate in Aberdeenshire.

solar ind logoChairman John Forster said that Solar Independence Day is an opportunity for individuals, businesses, charities and community groups to find out more about the potential of solar. By attending one of the  events people can see and hear at firsthand how solar enables consumers to generate their own flexible, cheap and clean energy supply.

Cronan Farm in the heart of Strathmore was the venue for the first event on Friday morning. The MJ & J McLaren broccoli and potato enterprise has installed a 720 panel solar array to provide power for the farms cold stores. The installation exemplifies the appetite for solar amongst Scottish farmers, keen to reduce their energy costs by generating their own electricity. Below, sheep continue to graze under the solar panels.

scot solar sheep

Earlier, the Scottish Farmer published an article about potato growers who were facing high electricity bills for their cold stores and are now leading the adoption of solar power in Scotland. Mark Fazzini, managing director at One Solar, reported a considerable increase in commercial solar installations on Scottish farms across 2013, particularly in Perthshire and Angus, where relatively cheap photovoltaic technology was fitting well with both potato and soft fruit production and storage systems. “PV solar works very well alongside cold stores as the PV production is at its highest in the summer months when the cooling requirement is generally at its highest,” said Mr Fazzini. “The chilled environment required for packaging and storage of soft fruits makes great use of PV production too.”

scot solar shed

Similarly, the chilling equipment used in dairying works suits PV outputs, although Mr Fazzini stressed that electricity from solar sources could also offset the cost of running heavier machines, like milking equipment, conveyor belts and and shed scrapers, and again tended to deliver its power at the times of greatest need.

The National Trust for Scotland , which owns Pitmedden Gardens, provides an idyllic setting for the second event on Saturday morning. The NTS has installed a 115 panel array on the roof of the gardeners storage shed, which is generating power for the Museum of Farming Life and other buildings. The solar array is also generating enough electricity to power six homes. The Trust is rolling out solar power across a number of their sites to help reduce their energy costs and cut their carbon emissions.

In May the BBC reported that data from WeatherEnergy showed that sunshine in Edinburgh in April generated more electricity than is used in an average home – a total of 113%. In Aberdeen the figure was 111%, 106% in Glasgow and 104% in Inverness. About 35,000 homes and 600 business premises in Scotland already have solar panels and WWF Scotland has now called on more home and business owners to make use of the technology.