Saturday, November 24, 2012

Democracy without growth?

An interesting article by Gillian Tett in today's FT posing the question, mainly in an American context, whether democracy is dependent on economic growth.

I think there are two big issues here: firstly, whether and for how long we can expect economic growth to continue in the developed world and, secondly, whether a sustainably peaceful and democratic society is possible without growth. Around those issues I have in my mind a number of hypotheses. The informal testing of these hypotheses provides some framework to my otherwise haphazard studies of the issues. Here is a bunch of hypotheses:-

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Can a dash for gas be justified?

One of the discomforting ideas I found in Dieter Helm's book, Carbon crunch (see my previous post), was his support for a new generation of gas-fired power stations as a "bridge" to clean electricity generation. My starting position is that I want us to move directly to clean energy as quickly as we possibly can, even if this means substantial economic sacrifices. Do I need to shift my position?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Carbon crunch

A couple of weeks ago I read Dieter Helm's new book Carbon crunch.

I thought this was an important book. For a start Dieter Helm appears to be one of our foremost experts on energy policy. What he says matters. I also found it addressed lots of concerns I have about what to do about climate change.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Autumn colours

The autumn colours are amazing this year. Last Sunday morning in Sussex was a dream time for photographers - brilliant, low-angle sun, clear sky, frost on the ground and mist over it. I went out before breakfast with my camera but I had a rather frustrating time. I found one view that more or less made a picture but missed the best of the colours:-
Click on it to enlarge
and another view that captured the magnificence of the autumn colours but wasn't quite a picture:-
Click on it to enlarge
I'm still living in hope for a really stunning autumn picture.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The House of Representatives - the answer is emerging

The answer to a question I posed in my post two days ago is beginning to emerge. As I suspected it looks as if the Democrats won more votes than the Republicans in the elections for the House of Representatives, even though the Republicans have a decisive majority of seats. However, I'm relying on a secondary source and not exactly an impartial one. My search for the raw data continues.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What about the House of Representatives?

I'm very relieved that Barack Obama has won and kept from the White House what has become the party of climate-change denialists.

However, my joy is tempered by the (long-expected) failure of the Democrats to win a majority in the House. Along with that go the fears that policy will continue to be constrained by gridlock and blackmail or that the need for concessions will mean that positively harmful measures will be passed as a quid pro quo for necessary measures.

Perhaps the Democrats will focus early on the next mid-term elections, with a clear and attractive programme to be implemented in the final two years of an Obama administration in co-operation with a Democratic House and Senate.  

As I write, there are still a few results to be declared. I'm itching to get my hands on the full results. In particular, I'm interested to see how the total popular vote for the House came out. Did the Democrats win the popular vote but lose the House? If so, that's further evidence that the US political system is severely dysfunctional - even more so than the British system (I have been an enthusiast for proportional representation for the past 35 years).

The full results should be interesting. Will there be evidence of selective or cross-voting - eg people voting for a Republican congressman but abstaining in the presidential election out of distaste for (the probably at heart moderate) Mitt Romney? Or the other way round - voting for Romney but not for a Tea Party Republican congressman?

Will I find the data before I have moved on to other things?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tree planting

I'm feeling a little smug today as I planted 25 chestnut trees (Castania sativa - or sweet chestnut) yesterday.

I've been coppicing around our boundary for four years and this has provided us with most of the firewood for our stove over the winter. In the long run a coppicing cycle like this should be carbon neutral but in the short run it isn't. What I have been coppicing are the fruits of forty years of neglect - a forty-year store of sequestered carbon. If I simply carry on coppicing the existing stock of trees (or rather overgrown hedge) on, say, a ten year cycle, there will still have been a one-off de-sequestration of carbon.

One way to sequester more carbon is to plant more trees. What I have planted will form a proper coppice - much easier to manage than a hedge line of brambles and blackthorn. With luck we may get some chestnuts as well.