“Something seems to be going badly right…”

An optimistic editorial in the latest copy of The Spectator (13th January 2018)…

Something seems to be going badly right. […] The UK economy recovered from the 2008 crash far faster than others in Europe. [UK] unemployment sits at a 40-year low. [UK] wage inequality, we learned this week, is at a low not seen for about 30 years: since the 2010 general election, the incomes of the poorest have been rising fastest.

The global economy begins this year in its healthiest state ever, growing faster than any time since 2011. […] world trade grew at 4.8 per cent last year. […] Global capitalism has created a golden era of poverty reduction: never have so many been lifted so fast out of illness, ignorance, squalor, poverty or misery. […] The significant tax cuts just passed in the United States, our largest single trading partner, will accelerate this new chapter of global growth.

Admittedly The Spectator is not The Economist, but them neither is Economist these days. In 2009 The Atlantic could still say of it: “The Economist has become an arbiter of right-thinking opinion” and deserved so for its depth of careful analysis. I read it a lot, in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But since about spring 2015 it’s become what Delingpole would call “squishy” and prone to embarrassing gusts of smelly leftism.


A New Festival of Britain

A proposal: A New Festival of Britain.

“The original Festival of Britain in 1951 was planned as an ambitious celebration of British achievements in the fields of the arts, architecture, industry, science and technology. It was also seen as a good way of lifting the doom and gloom from the shoulders of a weary nation and showing the people of Britain that, for all the hardships they were experiencing, the future was bright and exciting with British scientists, designers and inventors leading the world.

Following the referendum in 2016 and the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, we believe at This England that it’s time to start making plans for another festival: to mark our new-found independence in two years’ time and to celebrate all that is best about our magnificent country and its people.”

Nice idea, but I’m just haunted by the naff-and-tat that was New Labour’s awful “Millennium Dome”. Better to disperse a New Festival of Britain rather than centralise, probably, to prevent it being captured and turned by the usual suspects on the left. Or turned into a creaky old nostalgia-fest.

Better to have everyone doing their own thing, regionally and locally, but you only get funding and accreditation and branding for your event / exhibition / etc if it conforms to guidelines and is optimistic and positive and future-facing.

Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture

Today I encountered a recent robust scoping study “Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture” published in summary in Nature. I had missed it during my usual summer news hiatus. So my apologies if it’s old news to some readers. The study took two years, and found four million square miles of the earth’s coasts to be very suitable for future sustainable aquaculture.

Here in red are the highest “potential productivity” coastlines, blue less so…

I should note that the authors…

“avoided areas of the ocean that are used for shipping and oil extraction, as well as marine protected areas. We also avoided depths greater than 200 meters, as a proxy for the limitations of cost and current farm technology.”

The authors also issued a different chart in press article summaries, such as the article “Global hotspots for finfish aquaculture”. This appears to shows the industry’s growth potential rather than simple farm productivity potential. Presumably the difference here is that this chart also factors in the local investment eagerness, technology readiness, population pressure, ease of doing business and access to markets? Which would explain why Argentina is blue in the Nature chart and red in this one. And why the seas off Northern Ireland turn from blue to orange. Both are relatively poor places, eager for new industries.

If one squints hard (this is the largest I could find the map), then looking at it from a UK perspective I can see a good potential for the coast of Wales around Aberystwyth (a useful boost to a primarily tourism-and-agricultural economy), and strong potential for Northern Ireland albeit at a distance perhaps some tens of miles out. Still, the UK has cracked working at that distance re: the North Sea experience, so it’s not impossible. As someone in the UK, looking forward to a prosperous globally-trading post-Brexit UK circa 2022, those orange splotches off our coast are good to see.

But it’s rather surprising that all of Scandinavia and Greenland and northern Canada have no potential, given all the hoo-ha about greenhouse warming. Yet even with their coastlines off the menu, and even if backward and somewhat corrupt nations such as Argentina (the fat red bit, off South America) can’t get their act together, the report’s authors suggest there is so much potential that such losses may not matter…

“If aquaculture were developed in only the most productive areas, the oceans could theoretically produce the same amount of seafood that is currently caught by all of the world’s wild-caught fisheries [currently 92m tons per year, a figure interestingly “unchanged for the past two decades”], using less than 0.015% of the total ocean surface – a combined area the size of Lake Michigan.”

And that’s with existing technology. But we can probably factor in new ‘blue’ industry things such as: shoals of untethered AI-powered sensors; autonomous aquatic drones; and tele-presence ‘sea-shepherd’ robots. Possibly also breakthroughs in fish-stock feed types and pollution-eating nano-meshes. In that case there may soon come a time when we basically just close the oceans to trawler fishing for 30 years or more, allowing an incredible recovery.

Vodafone reboots brand for ‘Future Optimism’

The gist of a 5th October 2017 press release from Vodaphone….

Vodafone has rebranded itself with a new logo, strapline and campaign to be pushed out to all 36 countries in which it operates. […] “we are repositioning the Vodafone brand on the theme of future optimism.” The brand’s new strapline will read: “The future is exciting. Ready?”

Vodafone commissioned an opinion study with YouGov to determine how people felt about the future. The study surveyed 13,000 people across 14 countries […] Most pessimistic was the UK, where only 32% think things will get better while 39% think things will get worse. In India, an overwhelming 78% are confident things will get better versus 14% who think things will get worse.

32% is actually better than might have been expected, for the UK. I would have expected maybe 25% on even the most vague question about the future of the UK. A YouGov 2016 survey found only 4% for a question on the world as-a-whole, for instance. It would be interesting to have a commitment from Vodaphone to run the same survey each year, in order to measure the trend.