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I wish to introduce you to The Correspondent.   This new publication was founded in September 2019.   It offers a unique contemporary approach to journalism.   The reader is introduced to a brave and bold approach to playing their own part in the process of news consumption.   The exchange of ideas between journalist and reader is encouraged.  An attempt to counter the present devastating trend towards “false news” is articulated in the rationale for this new publication.   The deterioration in the quality of reportage has escalated during the past three years, during Trump’s presidency.    The Correspondent hopes to create a balance to this unhappy trend with its unique approach of fostering an interaction between writer and reader.

The Relationship of this Contemporary Initiative with my Passions

One of the criteria I like to emphasise in my advocacy of Conscious Ageing is the ability to explore new and novel ideas  whilst understanding you may suffer the consequences.    I heard a lovely quote from Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”    The Correspondent is, however, taking plenty of risks.  And I trust this confidence will be rewarded by the longevity of the publication

Below is a listing of the deals of this new venture:

  1. The Correspondent is not interested in the latest hype or scare, but rather the forces which shape the world. They do not cover the weather but are interested in the underlying climate.

 

  1. It is an ad-free platform. It will only collaborate with other organizations on condition it has full editorial independence.

 

  1. The Correspondent will fight harmful simplifications and keep away from breaking news that is designed to shock

 

  1. They practice Constructive Journalism which means they write stories which can influence events in a positive way. They are interested in activism, making a positive contribution to future lifestyles.

 

  1. They are happy to collaborate with their readers. The readers are not mere consumers, but can act as knowledgeable contributors as well

 

  1. They do not pretend to be ‘neutral’ or unbiased.  The Correspondent is open about where it is coming from. Facts are important.   Interpretation is equally important.

 

  1. The Correspondent aims to serve the reader rather than the shareholders. They wish to maximise trust over financial gain.

 

  1. They understand that as journalists they may not have all the answers. They are happy to interact with their readers and recognise when their ideas do not hold up in the face of new evidence.

The headquarters are in Amsterdam

However, The Correspondent has appointed editors from all over the world.  These are some of the categories:

  • Climate Challenges,
  • Sanity,
  • Everyday Colonialism,
  • The 1000 Days (the earliest days in our life),
  • Numeracy including Artificial intelligence,
  • Othering (about diversity, exclusion, social inequality and active empathy), and
  • Better Politics (What policies work?  A practical approach)

I perceive a strong bias towards the social sciences in this choice of specialities.   I continue to be fascinated by the role that sociology, psychology and anthropology play in helping us to understand the politics of today.   For this reason I am looking forward to watching the progress of this new vehicle for the dissemination of contemporary thought.

Adapting my Plans

And now I am feeling shocked.   I read a brilliant article last night by the Climate Editor of The Correspondent, Eric Holthaus.  He described a visit he enjoyed in his American home from Greta Thunberg and her father Svelte.

At this moment the two Thunbergs are travelling in America where they have been invited to speak at various international conferences.   I read an article about them late last night (10th October 2019) in The Correspondent.  I was too tired to concentrate at that late hour, so decided I would come back to it this morning.   Guess what?   It has been taken down.

And here is the reason. ‘The Thunberg family did not see the piece pre-publication. After it was made public, they raised a number of concerns around sensitivities within the piece.”  Holthaus understands their concerns.   Based on that understanding he and the team at The Correspondent decided that the right thing to do was to remove the article from the internet.

I was so excited when I first read this revealing story about Greta and her father.   It offers a very personal perspective of this young 16 year old Climate Activist.  She is at this moment a favoured contender for the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  In his story Holthaus included the informal WhatsApp postings between himself and Greta when they were negotiating her stay at his home.   As far as I recall, his two young sons are aged about 3 and 5.   A beautiful picture of the two youngsters interacting with Greta and their soft animal toys, illustrated the story.

As I continue my tale, I am aware it may not be a fully accurate reflection of what I read as I am unable to check my facts.   I will forge ahead anyway!    I am a great fan of this young Swedish woman and am not prepared to abandon the story because my source material has disappeared into the ether.

The image remains with me of an unaffected but passionate young woman who has made sacrifices in order to promote the ideas she feels so strongly about.   Greta and her father have been away from home for a couple of months already.   They were offered a trip across the Atlantic in a yacht as air-flight is totally against Greta’s principles.   The pollution produced by aeroplanes is far too extreme.

As I do not have Greta’s memory for articulating facts, I need to speak in generalisations.  What I learned in the article was that an alternative fuel for aeroplanes is going to be very difficult to find.   Batteries are too heavy, and other potential sources of energy have other practical difficulties.   Therefore the possibility of them being used for air flight in the near future is very low.

The Challenges of being a Celebrity

In his description of the stay of Greta and Svelte, Holzhausen gave me an idea of the sacrifices the couple have made by spending so much time away from home and the rest of the family.   Greta’s mother and younger sister remain behind in Sweden, and it may be a good few months before the family is once again united.   Greta and her Dad have been invited to a major conference in South America in March next year.

The one problem with attending this conference will be negotiating a return trip to Europe by sea in March 2020.   Apparently at that time of the year the currents are not favourable for sailing from West to East.    The travelling duo has still to overcome that practical issue before finalising their plans.

An idealistic new piece of journalism describes the story of an idealistic Climate Activist and her father.   And, true to the aims of The Correspondent, the delightful story has been taken down because of its sensitive content.   I hope my memory grasps the essence of the story without causing any offence.

Chantell Ilbury is considered to be one of Africa’s most creative strategic thinkers.    This modest and attractive young woman spoke at a meeting under the banner of the Cape Town University of the Third Age, at our local Baxter Theatre.

Scenario Planning

What a treat it was! Chantell is consulted by major companies all over the world, who seek her advice on the possible happenings in the realm of scenario planning. In this role, she makes predictions about the most significant changes that are likely to happen in the next five years in all fields of human endeavour. She is consulted by major businesses all over the world to advise them on the way forward.

Chantell shared with us some of the ‘flags’, she and her partner Clem Sunter study in their role as scenario planners. They make predictions about the most significant changes that are likely to happen in the next five years in all fields of human endeavour.

The Flags 

  1. The Religious Flag: The biggest danger to watch is Iran. If this country should follow through with any of its aggressive threats to attack Israel or the USA, then the price of oil will be heavily implicated.
  2. Trade War Flag: They need to watch what is going on between the USA and China, each of whom wishes to dominate in this arena.
  3. Environmental Flag: We are already seeing dramatic floods, heatwaves and droughts, yet the denialism of President Trump needs to be monitored. The role of young people is proving significant in this area.
  4. The Ageing Flag: This is described as a ‘clockwork’ feature – it moves steadily in one direction. The proportion of aged in the populations can be monitored and is becoming greater, and this creates a burden on the younger generations
  5. Anti-Establishment Flag: We are going through a stage of Populism, where the elite are being maligned. The role of President Trump in the USA  and Boris Johnson in Britain are taking the Western World into this somewhat regressive posture.
  6. The National Debt: Today this figure is increasing, and many of the world’s leading countries carry a foreign debt of over 60%

What about Africa

Chantell informed us of the aspirations of the African continent. I learned about the African Union Agenda for 2063, which envisions an integrated and prosperous merger of member states during the next couple of decades. This bold aspiration is planned to commence with an economic merger. It is hoped that the warring factions will be silenced and the 54 countries of Africa will have initiated a range of co-operative ventures across the board.

In fact the front page of today’s daily newspaper Cape Times carries news of the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) which opens for a three day conference in Cape Town today.   Over 1000 delegates, global leaders in government, business and civil society, have gathered to explore the creation of inclusive sustainable growth for the countries of Africa.

Education

Chantell Ilbury, together with Clem Sunter are in the process of visualising an educational strategy for high school students. They feel that too much attention is given to learning factual material, and not enough to encourage the thinking strategies of today’s young people.

Isiah Berlin was a prominent philosopher at Oxford University when Clem studied there in the 1960s. He wrote a book which he called The Hedgehog and the Fox. This title was based on a quotation of the Greek poet Archilocus nearly 2700 years ago who realised, “The fox knows many little things, the hedgehog one big thing”. Scenario planners fall into the category of foxes. They are able to adapt their preferences according to prevailing conditions. Surely this demands a fresh educational perspective! This is what this talented duo are fostering in this rapidly changing world.

Charles Darwin spoke about the “Survival of the Fittest” This does not refer to the strongest members of society, but to those individuals who are able to adapt to changing circumstances. The species who were able to make rapid changes in a competitive environment are those who will stay ahead of the game. Our world is changing faster and faster as each year passes. I remember being fascinated by a course I studied in the 1950s about Social Change. We were told even then that technology changes faster than our ability to absorb the changes. How much more significant is that concept today. Social media influences need to be monitored by citizens with flexible minds who can adapt to the ever-evolving technological innovations.

Karl Popper divided the world’s phenomena into ‘clocks’ which could be analysed according to the parts which move and are relatively predictable, and the ‘clouds’. The latter category tends to be random events which follow no rules. Children need to understand the relative effect of both these types of events

David Hume is remembered for his 18th century postulation, “Reason is the slave of passion”. The earlier that children understand the difference between our conscious and our unconscious motivation, the better their chances of thriving in today’s world.

The partners in scenario planning have already introduced this program called “Growing Foxes” in a private school in London.  They are now negotiating for their program to be introduced into South African Schools.

It was indeed encouraging to learn about this relevant and creative approach to emphasising contemporary, relevant criteria within the field of pedagogics. It promises to assist our youngest generation to make better decisions about their own lives. In addition, they are helped to make well reasoned decisions regarding the ecological impacts of today’s lifestyle.

In Conclusion

It was most reassuring to learn these two progressive thinkers are prioritising a sustainable educational policy for today’s youth. May there be more practical and academic participants performing this crucial role of educating the youth, and advising on future scenario planning.

Some problems mankind has had to cope with since time immemorial, including famine, plague and sickness.   Yuval Harari in Homo Deus argues coherently from this premise.   However in his recent book, The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker eloquently describes the comparatively peaceful times in which we live in the 21st century.   Per capita, there are fewer threats to personal well being than have ever existed in the past.

Indeed, I have personally been influenced positively by Pinker’s arguments, and have taken much comfort from his detailed comparative analysis of the eradication of famine as well as the reduction in conflict at the present time.    Plague has been eliminated except for minor intermittent episodes.

Today’s Challenges

However, there are two existential challenges around today which need to be on the conscience of all grandparents – the problems created by plastic pollution and the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

This morning I attended a lecture by Professor Peter Ryan who is involved with the Fitzpatrick Institue of Research at the University of Cape Town.   He offered us a vivid picture of the research that he has done whilst supervising both masters and doctoral students.

He cut an elegant figure as he took the stage for his presentation.   Whilst his feet were bare, his nicely-fitting t-shirt together with causal draw-string pants, created an apt image of minimalism for a man talking about plastic pollution!

I found his opening comments alerted my attention when he announced to the audience, “What you are about to hear may well be different to what you expected!”

Plastic Pollution

Peter shared with us the fact he had been playing with plastic for a long time.   He illustrated and endorsed this statement as he went into the history of the aggregation of plastic waste and his team’s efforts to control it.  He has been actively researching  the damage that plastic pollution has created since it’s introduction in the early 1960s

Yes, I was born into an era before plastics were developed.  We managed with paper packets in my youth.   I  recall that when plastic bags first became part of our shopping experience, we would wash them out after the first use, and reuse them multiple times.  Maybe that is something we should think about doing once again!

A time before Pollution!

I also recall the first time I ever heard the word ‘pollution.’   It must have been the late sixties when my children were in conversation with some American youngsters who had accompanied their parents on a sabbatical to this country from Philadelphia in the USA

“You know,” they said, “you should not throw things out of your car as that will cause pollution!”   At that time pollution was not part of my everyday vocabulary.  So this concept came as quite a shock to me.   Can anyone remember when we actually did throw things out of the car window when disposing of waste matter?

Plastics

Professor Ryan showed us some haunting pictures of dead sea birds photographed adjacent to a range of plastic objects.   This matter had been found in the stomachs of dead birds which had been washed ashore.  Often scores of bottle tops and assorted materials were part of the collection of man-made products retrieved from these deceased birds.

Other photos of sea creatures enmeshed in plastic string or netting forced me to contemplate the agonies experienced by sea animals due to mankind’s inability to dispose of his waste in a manner which was respectful of the natural habitat.

It would be difficult to live without plastic wrapping today.   One of its main benefits is its ability to preserve certain foods.  It is cheaper than glass to manufacture.  Without plastic, the production of fruit and vegetables would need to be increased putting further strain on the earth’s resources.

Carbon Emissions

The surprise came when after presenting such startling evidence of the damage plastic has created to our oceans and our sea animals, Professor Ryan went on to let us know that a different man-made problem was even more worrying.   He reminded the audience that we may have already passed the time of no return due to the pumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.   Many authorities believe that the melting of icebergs, the consequent rising of the oceans, the floods and droughts affecting more and more parts of the world, are all the irreversible symptoms of a dire future for the inhabitants of planet earth.

Youth Activism

Greta Thurnberg at age 16 has made a name for herself internationally for castigating political leaders for neglecting to pass legislation limiting the emission of noxious gasses.   Due to her leadership, 1.66 million people in 133 countries participated in demonstrations in major cities around the world earlier this year.   Their aim was to urge the world’s leaders to take the needs of future generations into account when making political decisions.

Senior Activism

Have you thought about what you would like to do to ensure that your descendants enjoy the earth’s natural resources as much as you do?     Will your grandchildren be able to enjoy nature walks, mountain climbs and beach strolls in an unpolluted environment?

Maybe you would like to make some suggestions about practical steps which could be undertaken by senior people.     The Comment Box below is awaiting your contribution.