Experts and their Advice

We all have to rely on expert advice to some degree. However, all advice, even from the most eminent expert, needs to be taken as advice, and not as gospel truth.

Experts tend to be narrow specialists in their knowledge and outlook. They think that their expertise is the best solution becasue they have spent so long studying their field of expertise that they have not enough time to study other fields, and so their knowledge is limitec to their speciality.

Thus, if you are ill and go to a physician the physician will tend to advise what he or she knows – usually medication. If you then go to a surgeon, the surgeon will then advise what he or she knows – an operation. A physiotherapist will advise physiotherapy for the same condition. No single specialist has a monopoly on knowledge so it can be dangerous to rely on advice tendered by a specialist rather than by a generalist.

The present corona pandemic is a case in point. the government rightly sought to be led by experts in medicine and pandemics. In particular they seemed to have attached much weight to the calculations of Professor Ferguson as justification for the present lockdown.

Now it seems to me that present Ferguson did not really believe in his calculations. If he did believe in them he would not have met a friend on two occasions in breach of the lockdown regulations because to do so, by his own arithmetic, would have caused the virus to spread. In these circumstances I do not see why the government should rely on professor Ferguson’s expert advice any more, if the learned professor does not believe in his own advice sufficiently to adhere to it.

All expert advice and recommendations should be carefully scrutinised; like the parson’s egg it will be good in parts. It seems to me that some experts lack good old fashioned common sense and common sense, not expertise, is the pre-requisite for sound judgment which in turn should be the basis of all decision making.

Nature Thrives

In sunny early May in London the streets are pretty empty and there is little traffic noise. It is as though central London has paused. Most Londoners are hiding in their homes too frightened of catching COVID-19 to leave the safety of their surroundings. It has been six weeks now and the lockdown has been applied throughout these islands, even in places which have had no signs of the dreaded disease taking hold.

As a result of the emptiness of London, nature, which abhors a vacuum, has found that in these conditions birds and animals thrive, insects thrive.

Governments, who found it easy to create a lockdown now face a much harder task of deciding when and how to end it. It is going to be very difficult to end the lockdown because governments in many countries have so effectively scared the people. It was easy to get public support for the lockdown – “you are in danger because of this problem” was the message. I expect that most people will not willingly accept the end of the lockdown until the message becomes “you are no longer in danger we have solved the problem”.

a vixen with her cubs

In the meantime our native animals, apparently unaffected by the corona-virus, enjoy safety and freedom from intrusive humanity which they have not enjoyed for centuries.

Journalism and the Corona Virus

It is really difficult to find out exactly what is going on with the corona virus pandemic. I always hope that journalists are able to tell us what is actually happening, and what has happened around the world; that, after all, is what news is about. Unfortunately, journalists concentrate on asking ministers and officials to make predictions and speculate about the future, and having found out (rightly so) that no predictions are possible in the present circumstances, the journalists make predictions and speculations themselves, often by interviewing other journalists.

This is not news; this mere lazy prophecy, a pointless and an annoying undertaking when passed off as news by those too full of self-importance to make proper enquiries.  It ill serves the populace.

One journalist, Mr Robert Peston, suggested at a recent briefing that Public Health England was dragging its feet in approving a new antibody test at one of these briefings. The question implied that PHE was dragging its feet, and denials that it was not dragging its feet simply allow the libel to be repeated. Mr Peston should know better. The antibody test has to be carefully and properly tested to make sure it is fit for its intended purpose. I would imagine that those testing the antibody test are working much harder and much longer hours and for much less pay than Mr Peston.

What should be investigated by journalists instead of wasting ministers and officials’ time asking by foolish questions at daily briefings? At the time of writing, China claims that only 3,335 people have died as a result of corona virus cases. Perhaps this figure is worth investigating, especially when the UK has recorded 7,097 deaths.

Things Will Never be the Same Again

It remains to be see whether the measures taken by nations across the world to prevent the spread of COVID 19 by the corona virus will actually work. There seems no alternative except to do nothing and the scientists tell us that doing nothing will cost many more lives than enforcing the extreme measures that are being promulgated. Mostly, the measures are not joined up because the thinking behind them is not joined up. But who really expects governments to indulge in joined up thinking in times of crisis?

Once people find that they can work from home satisfactorily then more will do so, after the panic ends. There will be less demand for offices and work places less demand for transport and more demand for fast internet that will enable us all to work from home. Some businesses will be ruined, others will prosper. Some folk will be ruined by the economic problems that lock down will bring; some ruined will die early deaths or be driven from self isolation to making their quietus.

For now, we can do more take pause and see what happens. One thing is certain, though, things will never be the same.

Well done, City of Westminster

I am so impressed with the City of Westminster’s efforts to suppress the corona virus which is apparently such a serious threat to all of us. On Friday the streets of Marylebone were empty of people and cars. Car parking spaces abounded- there were six or seven spaces for every parked car, Yet the brave traffic enforcement officers of Westminster were out in force, handing out tickets on cars that overstayed by a few minutes.

You might question whether in these troubled times parking enforcement officers are really necessary. You may ask the need for enforcing parking restrictions when there are almost no cars on the road. You might wonder if the person power of traffic wardens could be better deployed elsewhere, in assisting society in some capacity as there is no need for them at present. . You may ask if those wonderful folk who run Westminster City Council actually think at all.

Better Safe than Sorry?

We seem to be in a succession of really serious crises, but things are not what they seem. First, we in the United Kingdom experienced a crisis about Brexit. Then we experienced a crisis about floods, which led to an upsurge of interest in climate change. Now as I write the nation is in crisis about the corona virus causing COVID19.

The common features of all these crises is that we are constantly told that they are incredibly serious and we are caused to fear them. The 24 hour news cycle repeats and repeats and repeats again stories that teach us that the crisis, whichever it was, is serious enough to cause large scale death and destruction of our ways of life. This 24 news cycle spews propaganda creating intolerance and hatred.

Yet when the crisis ends we find the nation has voted for Brexit and that crisis is put on the back burner. We find that the rain stops, the floods recede and that crisis is put on the back burner. Now we are in the middle of a Corona virus crisis, a pandemic no less because as I write nearly 13,000 souls have lost their lives after catching the virus. That is 13,000 out of 7.8 billion souls. We are assured that it is necessary to change our ways of life radically to prevent.

I understand that the average age of death of corona virus in Italy (apparently the nation which has had the most corona virus deaths) is just over eighty years old. I would expect that most of the 13,000 folk who caught the virus and died were either over 80 and/or had a serious underlying medical condition which may have ended their lives whatever virus they caught.

The UK government has offered some very sensible advice – particularly about hygiene. Good hygiene is the enemy of all disease, and as a nation perhaps we have become rather lax in enforcing the best hygienic standards both at home, in our work places and in some hospitals. However the government has offered some advice that I find hard to understand about self isolation. The measures taken seem to have panicked much of the population into buying more than they need and it is likely in some cases the constant repetition about the threat of corona virus has caused some to become so anxious that they experience symptoms that they do not have.

It is always better to be safe than sorry, but we must bear in mind that the remedy must not be worst that the disease.

It is a shame that governments across the world do not take the view that with climate change it is better to be safe than sorry, but that is another story to which the 24 hour news cycle has not yet returned.

The Cost of Climate Change Protest

Last year the Metropolitan Police in London had to spend £27 million in policing protests by the extinction rebellion supporters. It is significantly more, it seems, than the police spend in London on its violent crime task force. The policing of extinction rebellion is not at all effective. Protesters are allowed to block major intersections and bridges. Recently they have dig up lawns in London and Cambridge causing criminal damage and dumped the soil elsewhere which is illegal fly tipping. These criminal activities are carried out under the watchful eye of the police who do not restrain these crimes committed by perpetrators that the police observe and could stop, if they were minded to carry out their duties.

But the £27 million was not the only cost. Tens of thousands of Londoners lost wages and leisure time due to the disruption caused. Many tens of thousands of carbon dioxide emissions and particulates were pumped into the atmosphere by cars blocked in traffic brought to a halt by extinction rebellion protests. The atmospheric pollution caused by the protesters and the environmental damage is substantial. It cannot be justified by their actions because their demands are nonsensical as we shall see.

Extinction Rebellion have three demands:

  1. Tell the Truth: truth in matters of such scientific complexity as climate change is not straightforward. Who is to “tell the truth” and who is telling the truth? Governments, scientists or the extinction protesters?
  2. Act now reduce emissions to net zero by 2025 is the demand but there is no solution offered as to how this can be achieved.
  3. Beyond Politics: government to be led by citizens’ assemblies. This is the most chilling demand of all as it seeks to subvert the democratic will of the people.

Now, the right to peaceful protest is an important right. In major cities there are laws about such protests which enable them to take place with the minimum of disruption. It is the job of the police to enforce these laws, made by democratically elected politicians; the police must not stand by while they observe serious crimes being committed. It brings to doubt the competence of the Commissioner, Cressida Dick and her judgment as well as the sincerity and true motivation of the leaders of extinction rebellion protesters.

Nature Fights Back

Humanity is the most powerful force on the planet. It is so powerful that it is even capable of changing our climate, wiping out many other species of life and turning the place where we live into a place where we may not be able to live, in the relatively near future, be it decades, centuries or millennia.

But the rest of the species on the planet is not without some power of its own. If humanity runs the risk of becoming too populous for the planet, nature fights back. There is a war between humanity and nature. The Corona Virus may be an example of nature fighting back.

In any event the war between humanity and nature is ongoing. The problem is that if humanity wins the war, then it will be a Pyrrhic victory, with humanity having dominion…over a dead planet.

Too Fashionable to be Taken Seriously

I first learned about climate change when Mrs Thatcher raised the issue more years ago than I care to remember.  I had a woolly understanding of the concept but started reading voraciously about it and learning what I could.  I wished I had paid better attention to my physics lessons in school.  Then I decided to write these essays on climate change, now approaching three thousand in number, mostly on global warming, energy and their effects on the climate of our planet. Continue reading

Fantastic Tricks That Make Angels Weep

I have always thought that being a television newsreader was an easy job, overpaid and over adulated. Looking solemn when you read bad news from an auto cue and looking happy when you proclaim t happy news is not the most intellectually demanding of tasks but nevertheless those who perform these tasks are not morons (although they could be) and have their own opinions and ideas, to which they are entitled.

But opinions and views these days are dangerous if they do not conform to the views of the politically correct section of society. These days there are those who make an art form taking offence.

Mr Alistair Stewart, a newsreader, has been sacked from ITN News for apparently making a racist tweet. ITN are coy about revealing the true reasons and have resorted to secret briefings to those trying to find out why Mr Stewart was sacked. It seems that Mr Stewart made what was considered by his boss to be a racist tweet in quoting these lines from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:

but man, proud man,

Drest in a little brief authority,

Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

As make the angels weep;

I first came across “fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep” in one of Frank Richard’s numerous Billy Bunter stories in the 1950s. I love the concept of man behaving so badly that angels weep, and quoted this passage in my book, “the Energy Age” because I felt it encapsulated the way in which some people, when given power, abuse it and the way in which all people abuse power, to the sorrow of heaven.

It seems that in quoting this passage one Mr Shapland took offence. He seemed to think that Mr Stewart was calling him an angry ape. and to Mr Shapland (being black) himself this was a racist comment.

It is astonishing that any person could regard this quotation as a racist comment or accusation. It is even more astonishing that ITN could regard this tweet by Mr Stewart as worthy of dismissal from his employment. I think that the quotation, if adapted by substituting the words “but man, proud man” with the name of those who made the decision to sack Mr Stewart, would hold very true and accurately describe what has happened.

I understand that Mr Shapland has himself received abuse and even death threats., and did not want or expect Mr Stewart to be sacked, but merely wanted him to apologise. Mr Shapland does not deserve any abuse. He simply needs to educated in understanding that Shakespeare was not denigrating people of any race in particular, but commenting on the numerous flaws of humanity when humanity has power. Once that is understood, it is clear that there is nothing for which an apology is required.

I quoted that passage in “the Energy Age” because I felt it expressed the way in which humanity, which has power and dominion over all life forms on this planet is abusing its power with its relentless selfishness playing fantastic tricks on the environment and on eco-systems. It works well to describe all abuse of power.