Local government in crisis

With each week that passes, it seems that another local authority joins the list of those whose finances have reached crisis point. First it was Northamptonshire County Council that hit the headlines, but top-tier councils in Sussex, Lancashire, Suffolk, Surrey, Torbay and Oxfordshire also seem to be feeling the heat. And Somerset County Council, down the road from me, has just voted through £28 million of cuts over the next two years, leading opposition councillors to describe the council as on the ‘brink of bankruptcy’. Continue reading

Someone to watch over me

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend and a formal family gathering had been declared. So Molly (my older Labrador) and I headed down to her house on Saturday afternoon, to join my mother and siblings for the celebrations that evening and the next day. Natalie and Ozzy (our five-month-old puppy) stayed at home, the latter not yet ready to face the full force of my family. Continue reading

Enter the Doughnut

Doughnut Economics.jpgI’m not an economist. But I do know that economics is broken. The economic models of the past have created a world in which human well-being and our planet’s natural resources are being sacrificed on the altar of economic growth.

These models have failed to predict, to prevent or to respond to the financial crises that have shaken our society. They have allowed inequality to flourish. And yet they are still taught in classrooms and lecture theatres across the world.

We need a new way of thinking about economics. And we need it now. Continue reading

A more radical National Trust? Let’s do it.

The new Director General of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, has told the BBC that the charity needs to be more radical, taking a different approach to conserving the buildings and land that it owns. So here’s an idea. Let’s turn the National Trust into one of the country’s largest providers of affordable housing for hard-working families. Continue reading

Our greater challenge… and why I’m not entirely optimistic about our chances

A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I were out campaigning for the country to be given a say on whatever Brexit deal our Government manages to negotiate with the European Union. As I was blowing up some balloons (never let it be said that I do things half-heartedly), a chap in his early sixties marched past, newspaper in hand.

“Less than a year to go until we get our country back,” he grinned.

“Er, yes. Good luck with that,” I replied.

Needless to say, I didn’t offer him a balloon. Continue reading

We must protect our universities’ freedom

It is rare that governments get to do exactly what they want. Opposition parties, the judiciary and others have traditionally also wielded significant influence, tempering the more extreme ideas of those in power and highlighting the pitfalls of proposed policies.

This era of moderation is, however, coming to a close. Those who once held our governments to account are being systematically declawed. Continue reading

In search of a new politics

If you have recently watched the news, picked up a newspaper or left the confines of your own living room, you may well have noticed that things appear to be far from right with the world. Indeed, they seem increasingly to be crumbling around us. Yet we are told that the answer is to work harder, to consume more and to stop whining. Thankfully, there are people who recognise that this is far from being the answer. And George Monbiot (one of my favourite writers, in case you haven’t already noticed) is one of them. Continue reading

Taking a moment

I read somewhere or other that our lives are a series of moments. Now, the physicist in me is quick to point out that this is a statement of the bleeding obvious. But my philosophical side would counter that, in any life, there are likely to be some moments that have greater salience than others. They just might not be the ones we’d expect.

Continue reading

Taking refuge in nature

We all need to get away from things from time to time. To recharge our batteries and to regain perspective on our often chaotic lives. And there is no better place to do this, science is now telling us, than in the outdoors. Where we can leave our troubles behind us and embrace the deeper rhythm of the natural world. Where we can take time to heal. Continue reading

Changing how we think about nature

There are books that make me laugh and books that make me think. But there are very few books that actually change me as a person. Feral by George Monbiot is one of those books. It has transformed fundamentally how I think about the world and has inspired me to be more courageous in challenging the received wisdom of our times. Continue reading