The world is not about to starve…

Catching up on the newspapers after our holidays, I notice an article by Matt Ridley in The Times.* While many people seem to be worried about food shortages due to population growth, he contends that we've “never looked less likely to starve.”

'Population figures may be rising, but the rate of growth has been steadily decelerating, halving from 2% in the late 1960's to 1% today. World population “quadrupled in the 20th century; it will not even double in this”; and it is set to peak at a manageable 9.2 billion in 2075.' Furthermore food 'prices are 30% lower than in 1980… and crop yields are increasing dramatically.' The present world population is approximately 7 billion.

The article does not mention this, however it may be interesting to wonder about the demographic profile of ethnicity (see my previous article) and age. Population increase is not uniform across the globe. I just read an article saying that by 2100 a third of the population will be over 60, but we probably cannot imagine what the experience of being that age will be at that time!

Unless it is a different Matt Ridley, last year he wrote a book called The Rational Optimist. In a thoroughgoing way he argues that so far “the human species, through our unique ability to exchange ideas and thus innovate at the speed of thought, has overcome all the challenges that have ever confronted us, and will do so in future.”

*I can't give you a link to this, because they not charge for access to online content. This is part of an extract printed in The Week on 22nd January 2011.

Does the Internet help or hinder you in making wise decisions?

I've just read a fascinating article by Tim Weber, BBC News Editor, reporting from the 2011 World Economic Forum in Davos as he chats to business leaders in a sea of laptops and other mobile devices.

He reflects on how we are now “hyperconnected” with mobile devices now outnumbering both laptops and toothbrushes. Is all this information which is changing the way that we relate and shop, that is “the abundant distractions of the internet” a help or a hindrance? If the size of my inbox is anything to go by, I suspect it is a hindrance!

In this age where people's brands or reputations can be destroyed in seconds, advice to leaders is “treat your employees with respect and stick to your values” and make sure you find time to think and to reflect. This sounds like a good summary for success in the 21st Century information age.

Full article here: the photo brings the message home!

Piers Corbyn predicts mini ice age

Have you come across Piers Corbyn? He is reputed to be more accurate at long term weather forecasting than meteorologists, and accurately predicted the very cold weather in Europe at the end of 2010. For his forecasting he uses activity and cycles of the sun and moon, which he says dominate our weather patterns.

He claims that the famous “hockey stick” graph that “shows” that temperatures are increasing fast because of increases in carbon dioxide levels ignores temperatures in the middle ages that were higher than now. It also ignores the fact that despite rising carbon dioxide levels temperatures have been dropping over the last ten years.

There was a mini ice age a few hundred years ago when temperatures dropped by a few degrees Celsius and he predicts that the same will happen in 2035. There is some risk that this could trigger a full ice age, as we are overdue for one.

Interesting stuff! Why would (other) scientists falsify data? Take a look at Piers' Corbyn's Weatheraction website, his page on climate change which has some informative links, and an article summarising this from the Daily Telegraph of 19th December 2010.


Materialism, by John O’Donohue

John says: “All materialism – be it for money, power, possession, or people – has to do with an epistemology of quantity… the mistaken belief that, through an accumulation of quantity, you can settle the task of your own identity.

I'd like to write about what I like about this, but is seems that any attempt by me to to so would merely detract from the depth and insight of this statement. I've just been catching up on my reading of the Church Times (14/1/2011) which includes a never-before-published interview with John (who died three years ago) by Martin Wroe. That is where I found this quote and some other interesting ones.

I also like John's belief in blessing: the “speech-act” of one person speaking a blessing over another person. He sees this as something anyone can do, which “might be the coolest thing of all. It has a democracy and equality about it, a sense of well-wishing that is concerned more with the destiny of someone rather than their destination.”

Priest, poet, philosopher, speaker and author: his most famous book may be Anam Cara (Gaelic for soul friend) which was published in 2007. Full interview here.

Epistemology, noun, the branch of philosophy dealing with the study of knowledge.

Earlier article on this blog about John O'Donohue.

Does the Queen believe the Bible can still bring harmony to her kingdom, or is ‘sport’ the best she can offer?

Is it my imagination, or was the invisible ink glowing brightly in today's Queen's Speech? I'm not sure how good I am at 'reading between the lines' but it seemed to me that there was a kind of gulf between (1) the Queen's praise for the action of her prececessor King James in 1604 to commission a fresh translation of the Bible to bring “harmony” to his kingdom (which newly included England & Wales as well as Scotland) and (2) her examples of the way that sport is today “one of the most powerful ways” to bring harmony – because although there is opposition the opponents have to respect one another. (And it can help with the rehabilitation of our soldiers injured in places like Afghanistan too.)

I can see benefits of sport (like all good things, in moderation) but I find myself noticing that although the King James Bible was a momentous seven year scholarly project to bring harmony to the kingdom, the Queen did not mention the possiblity that a “most vivid translation of the scriptures” might bring harmony to our nation today. I find myself wondering whether this thought had not occurred to her, or whether it was 'between the lines': a hope that she had very much in her mind but did not speak for some reason.

I find myself admiring the way that King James had a vision of the Bible as a unifying text. Good leadership is about presenting people with a vision to aspire to and to work towards, and helping them to step towards it, and he sought to do that. I sometimes feel that the politicians who lead our country today see their role in a far to narrow way to do with juggling purse strings (taxes and how to spend them) and passing legislation – instead of presenting and building a unifying vision. I also wonder where in our de facto constitution – with its curious balance of power between government and monarch – the mantle of “visionary leader” rests.

Constitutionally the Queen uniquely holds together the Church (of England) and secular government because she is the head of both. Part of what is needed for effective national leadership is a common direction of religious and secular leadership (as demonstrated by King James) while government and church at the moment seem to be at each others' throats (at least in public if not in private).

The trouble with people for whom harmony is most important is that they are sometime not willing to say what needs to be said for fear of upsetting people!

The King James Bible, also known as the Authorised Version, was commissioned in 1604 and published in 1611. So it's 400th anniversary will be celebrated next year in 2011. I'm sure there are a lot of groups which will take an interest in this. One that I have noticed is Biblefresh which seeks to encourage a fresh interest in the Bible during this anniversary.

Full text of the Queen's speech care of the BBC here.