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Tim Watkins

An echo from the Victorian past

California homelessness

Californian cities are full of shit.  I don’t mean figuratively full of shit.  I mean California really does have a public health problem with human shit fouling pavements and drains as a result of the lack of facilities for the state’s exploding homeless population.  As Nathan Robinson reported in the …

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Lest we forget

Last day of WWI

“At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent.” The phrase has been repeated at Remembrance ceremonies and media commentaries around the world so often that the full horror contained in those words is missed by almost everyone who hears them.  For what …

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The hopium of the people

Industrial fans

If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.  That, at least, is the approach I’m taking to the flurry of crowd-funder videos currently doing the rounds on social media, promoting technologies that suck carbon out of the atmosphere.  As with a raft of other faux-green technologies …

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Climate change is not a political issue

Climate politics

One of the biggest threats behind an increasingly likely human extinction is our tendency to compartmentalise (in order to ignore) information.  Each one of us does this unconsciously in a process that psychologist Norman Dixon referred to as “trading safety for peace of mind.”  According to Dixon, when faced with …

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The Budget’s fundamental flaw

Recession

Yesterday’s budget statement by Chancellor Hammond was followed by the usual tired old pantomime media appearances this morning. “I’m ending austerity,” Hammond proclaims. “Oh no you’re not,” says Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell. “Oh yes I am,” Hammond retorts. There is, however, a fundamental point of agreement shared by both politicians.  …

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The royal ribbon problem

Royal ribbon problem

The image of some dignitary cutting a ribbon stands as an icon for the fruits of public spending.  The charity sector has its equivalent in the ubiquitous images of supersized cheques being handed over.  The image is supposed to reassure us that “something is being done,” and that we should …

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Cannibalism will begin before the collapse

Metal theft

There is still considerable disagreement among those who see a relatively near-term collapse of western civilisation as to exactly how that collapse will occur.  At one end of the debate are those who imagine an almost vertical descent into a new dark age.  In this vision an economic collapse far …

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Fracked promises

Fracking

There is an irony to Cuadrilla restarting its fracking activities in the UK in the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its dire warning that we have just 12 years to transition to a zero-carbon economy if we are to stay below the 1.5oC above pre-industrial …

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Endgame

Brexit checkmate

If there is one thing that Theresa May cannot be accused of it is being decisive.  Her entire – hopefully short-lived – premiership will be defined by indecision and prevarication:  The ill-fated general election that she vowed more than twenty times would never be called; the horrific Universal Credit rollout …

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Technofantasia in action

Pothole drone

The degree to which supposedly intelligent people can persuade themselves to believe techno-bullshit never ceases to amaze.  From hyperloops and colonies on Mars to solar roadways and devices that pull moisture from arid desert air, we – collectively – have spent billions on technologies that even a reasonably well-educated school …

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