Following the collapse of Carillion, our next book ‘A World of Three Zeroes’ by Muhammad Yunus is prescient. Nobel Prize-winning Yunus pioneered the lending of microcredit in Bangladesh through a bank with the aim of improving social capital. Since then he has successfully extended the social business model into areas as diverse as farming, health-care and green-energy.
In the book, he makes the case for governments to outsource to social businesses in preference to profit-driven business. Do you think that this could work in the UK?
Yunus also argues that entrepreneurial-driven social businesses are better able to reduce poverty, create employment and solve environmental problems than either governments or profit-driven businesses alone. An interesting proposition for capitalists and socialists alike. Do you agree?
Our next meeting will be on 22nd March 2018 at 6.30pm, at a new venue for us, ‘The Tyneside Coffee Rooms’ on the second floor of the Tyneside Cinema. Light meals and drinks are available, handy if you need to come straight from work.
The meeting is free but please let me know if you can make it so that I can plan numbers for the venue.
Feel free to pass this message on to friends who might be interested.
Our next book will be a new topic for Green Thinkers, delving into the world of social responsibility and global supply chains. Investigative journalist ‘Conor Woodman’ gets under the skin of ethical business in an attempt to find out if the claims stack up.
When: 1st June 2017 (7-9pm)
Where: Town Wall Pub (Library Room, Pink Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne)
Booking: Free event, but spaces limited – email: firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place
Our next meeting is this Thursday (2nd March) to discuss “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change” by George Marshall. In order to whet your appetite, or in case you can’t make it to the meeting, these are a few of the questions we will discuss:
- What do climate change skeptics and climate change campaigners have in common?
- Daniel Kahneman (respected psychologist and the author of our last book) said that he is “thoroughly pessimistic about climate change” – discuss
- Have you ever struck up a conversation with a stranger about climate change? What was the result?
- Do you think that labelling Carbon Dioxide as a pollutant is helpful in aiding people’s understanding of the impact of the gas?
- Have you watched Leonadaro DiCaprio’s films ‘The 11th Hour’ or ‘Before the Flood’? Do you think that apocalyptic imagery is helpful in getting the message of climate change across to the average person?
- Do you think that Marshall is right to dismiss the optimism of groups like ‘Sustainia‘ so readily?
- International agreements on climate change would be more effective if they focused on the extraction of fossil fuels rather than GHG emissions (the subject of ‘The Burning Question’ by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark) – discuss
- Were you surprised that Marshall reports that people with children are on average less concerned about climate change than people without children?
- Have you ever read a book about climate change on an aeroplane?! – Why is there such a large gap between what we know about the subject and what we do?
- Do you agree that the climate change movement could learn useful lessons on communication and conviction from religious groups?
Our next Newcastle Green Thinker’s meeting follows seamlessly on from our previous book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, looking at the psychology of climate change, and climate change denial.
Book: “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change” by George Marshall
Date and time: 2nd March 2017, 7-9pm
Location: The Town Wall pub, Pink Lane, NE1 5HZ. (In the Library Room)
To Book: Space limited so book with email@example.com to assure your place.
On the same theme, I would also encourage people to listen to a Radio 4 broadcast called ‘Nothing but the Truth’ by Jo Fidgen about ‘Post Truth’ There is a fascinating story about a republican politician (Bob Inglis) who was voted out of the party after changing his mind to believe in man-made climate change. So, Mr Inglis has a unique take on group-think as it cost him his job.
Green Thinkers Newcastle convened for the first meeting of 2016 in a new venue, and with some new members attending. The meeting was chaired by Marek who led an engaging and fascinating discussion exploring some key questions prompted by the text (Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air). The overriding view expressed was that the book opened up a wide range of topics and points for discussion in this vitally important area of future environmental planning. Whilst it was accepted that the analysis and data used in the book had perhaps dated somewhat, this did not detract from the wealth of detail it shone on the opportunities and challenges of developing sustainable energy solutions for the future.
In discussing the book it was particularly appreciated just how complex the issues surrounding sustainable energy are, and the significant point of importance of the need for carefully planned mix of solutions, with no one energy type able to provide all or enough of our needs moving forward. At the same time, it impressed upon the group the degree to which many sustainable energy solutions impact in terms of available land, and competing land uses. The specific challenges of space per head of energy consumption was well illustrated by the exercise the group completed using maps from the book exploring the sheer scale of the sustainable energy footprint on the UK land surface.
A point that raised a good degree of discussion was that whilst the book may have some flaws in areas it perhaps does not cover in detail, or excludes, or where technical progress since it’s publication has moved the debate on, on the whole the significance and importance of developing a detailed plan of action – a task it was felt government should now be addressing – was something that was of value, and touched on what can be done to encourage government to drive policy forward.
Unsurprisingly, the issue of nuclear power came up, not least because the book (perhaps controversially) includes it within the sustainable energy models it explores, and the feeling of the group generally tended towards concern over nuclear as an option we might want to pursue. This was however measured against a clear understanding that there are significant energy security risks (and possible ethical issues) with some elements of sustainable energy provisions from non-UK sources for UK consumption.
The group felt ultimately that the meeting had been a very interesting exploration of some of the key ideas, but that this is such a significant area that perhaps could be explored in more detail at future sessions. Certainly everyone felt that a huge amount of detail had been raised in a very positive and interesting meeting.
One of the most helpful books we have read at Green Thinkers bookclub, for understanding the Climate Change debate, was ‘The Burning Question’ by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark.
The Burning Question is essentially: ‘how will the world avoid extracting and burning the $20 trillion worth of fossil fuel reserves we are currently planning to burn, that will emit 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon emissions?’ – a figure that is five times greater that the potentially ‘safe’ limit of an additional 565 gigatonnes to stay below two degrees of warming.
There are some helpful clues in the book, one being the illustration of a train of three carriages: the first ‘consumption’, the second ‘combustion’ and with ‘extraction’ bringing up the rear.
Trying to slow the consumption and combustion carriages is futile unless the extraction carriage is also slowed down. The effect of was seen recently as the US switched from coal to gas, but continued to extract and export the coal, which was then sold and burnt elsewhere in the world.
Lets hope that any climate change deal today in Paris at COP21 acts on all three parts of the train.
Interested in discussing sustainability issues? Come along to a Green-Thinkers bookclub in your area, or set one up where you live.
By Marek Bidwell