Fake news and the unenlightened

I listened to a great interview the other day on radio 4 with an author who thinks we are in danger of becoming an “unenlightened” society.  As a Scot this seems really depressing because of course Scotland was the home of the Enlightenment period.

Despite having unprecedented access to vast information resources it seems that folk need to be more careful than ever believing what they read – “fake news” has made that pretty obvious.

When I make my decisions about the food I consume I check the facts and claims made. I read research papers – okay not always the whole thing but usually the abstract and I also trust some substantial organisations such as the World Health Organisation.  I think the main point is to trust your source – and I do trust mine which is why I can make informed decisions about my health – mostly!

Take a look at our resource page for ideas to start your research.

Will there be an amicable global solution for environmental challenges anytime soon?

Throughout history communities have developed economies as a means to organise, develop and barter. Today the global economy is comprised of interconnected systems which complement and challenge each other. But what about the relationship between economics and the environment?  I sought out some answers.
Traditionally the study of economics is associated with stuffy cigar smoked libraries and elderly, bearded, suit wearing men.
The young man I interviewed  was the polar opposite to this preconceived notion!
I found myself  talking with a clean shaven, twenty-two-year-old, economics post grad, working in The Hague and studying for his Masters in economic coding at Leiden University. I began by asking him to explain why some people consider economic growth and environmental progress to be at odds. He responded saying:
“the current economic model is like a wind up clock where customers say they want something and the market goes and gets it”.
I was unable to hide my disappointment, taking his response to mean he didn’t consider a marriage been the economy and the environment possible.
He continued:
“If customers say they want environmental improvements that’s what they get. If they don’t care, then they get something worse”.
He finished his response, smiling and said:
“the difficulty which I ultimately faced when studying for my undergrad is that while we all want change it’s not obvious that a different situation would be better”.
Interestingly he clearly understands there cannot be a solution to all economic ill’s and tearing up the current system and starting again isn’t a viable solution.
I followed up my initial question, staring into his starry, gleeful blue eyes…ahem, by asking if he agreed with the statement that climate policy issues cannot be considered using traditional economics and if the concepts which define traditional economics as restraining forces against environmental change.
He nodded and said “Ja” and then clarified “Yes”. He added:
“traditional economics usually doesn’t incorporate clean air or water because these aren’t goods that are bought and sold”,
Then he laughed and continued:
“they could be bought and sold but that would be terrible”.
Perhaps considering environmental issues from an economic perspective is foolhardy.   Do we really want to put an economic value on natural commodities? These are only questions which can be asked by those who already consider water, warmth, food and shelter human rights.
As citizens of the ‘north’ we rarely have to consider natural provisions as economic pawns. This young man’s opinions were eye opening, he had a clear understanding of our precarious and dangerous environmental situation and wasn’t afraid to voice his doubt over an amicable global solution arising any time soon.
I asked these questions based on the readings Grubb, M. (2014) and Nobbs, C. (2012), but also in the hopes to receive ‘alternative’ answers. I wasn’t disappointed, however I felt that despite having just graduated from a world class university he hadn’t focused much of his studies on environmental economics, in fact he closed the interview by saying sorrowfully that he…
“Did a course in environmental economics once. It was sad”.
Grubb, M. (2014). 03:: Trapped?. In Environment and Ecological Economics (pp. 39-53). United Kingdom: Routledge. (Reprinted from Planetary Economics, by Michael Grubb, 2014, UK: Taylor and Francis Group).
Nobbs, C. (2012). 02:: Economics and Climate Change. In Environment and Ecological Economics (pp. 30-38). United Kingdom: Routledge. (Reprinted from Economics, Sustainability, and Democracy: Economics in the Era of Climate Change, by Christopher Nobbs, 2012, UK: Taylor and Francis Group)

Introducing… Lithy Talks.



Today we are introducing a brand new part of this blog from my sister Lithy Dunbar Morley.

Lithy is an environmental management student currently studying a semester at La Trobe university in Melbourne.

Here is her first featured blog post on faldaeats.com, stay tuned to find out more about Lithy.

In her Shoes, a Goat’s Perspective…

Some argue that rights should be given to all living things, or at least those animals with superior intelligence and with the ability to feel pain and to suffer. When considering whether animals are entitled to rights it seemed a good idea to have a chat with a being that has suffered and has first hand experience of the situation.  

I interviewed a four year old Alpine goat who has lived amongst a variety of animals her whole life. For the purpose of this interview I derived my questions from a couple of sources,  Park, M & Singer, P – Globalization of Animal Welfare and International Court of Justice: Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan) – Summary of Judgement (2014).

The young goat mother seemed encouraged by my company  albeit she was on the other side of the fence and I took this as formal consent to being interviewed.   In addition she happily accepted the Gum Nuts I offered. Unsure how to initiate the interview and cautions that her owner was watching I decided to jump in by asking If, in her opinion animals were entitled to rights like those given to humans.

She responded indifferently by rubbing herself against the sharp metal knots which lined her enclosure and I took this to mean that she:

“felt angered by the history of her ancestors, who were oppressed for generations”

and that she hoped:

“this new group of eco thinkers would be able to voice her concerns and instigate real change”.

Wondering if she was done answering I stepped forward, only for her to angrily shake her mud soaked hooves dramatically at being interrupted mid answer and she continued:

“Unfortunately I will die without seeing my situation change and so will my children”

Or at least that’s what I think she said, the language barrier was difficult to overcome.  Her answers didn’t surprise me and I had been prepared for her stark responses.

She  had already given birth to three kids.  Unfortunately two of them having been male meant that the central nerve in their brains had been severed, as they were of no financial gain to her owner.   It is of little surprise that she had developed a negative outlook on her world.

I next asked her if she had heard about the international whaling ban.  Nodding she looked deeply in thought and I could see in her eyes that she did believe the ban was a positive step for animal protection. I sharply pushed the side of her torso, feeling her protruding ribs and causing her to yelp in pain, in order to regain her wandering attention and asked if she would support a similar ban against intensive goat farming. She seemed to reply that:

“I am a realist, and if history has taught us anything it’s that small change can lead to big things, let’s start with the basics and ensure fair treatment for all”.

Turning her head sideways she looked over at one of her room-mates, revealing a thin burn line around her collar. Curious I asked her owner about its cause and he kindly explained with a toothy grin that she had to be tied up at night or else she might get cut by the barbed fence during escape attempts.

It was interesting to get an Alpine goats point of view where suffering is an everyday occurrence and Infant mortality  a major concern as well as early death from human inflicted pain.

Animals don’t have voices, or not those we can comprehend, but that doesn’t mean we can’t interpret their behaviours or put ourselves in their metaphorical shoes.

Park, M & Singer, P 2012, ‘The Globalisation of Animal Welfare: More food does not require more suffering’, Foreign Affairs, pp. 122-133.

International Court of Justice: Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan) – Summary of Judgement (2014)