British Orienteering Championships 2019 preview

 

BOC Arncliffe flag

View of Arncliffe village from cairn at false summit – photo: author

“Yorkshire people are first and foremost friendly and we do things without much fanfare”, according to the Olympian Alistair Brownlee, who hails from God’s Own County.  This may be true, but a certain amount of fanfare is called for when it comes to the 2019 British Orienteering Championships weekend (4-6 May).  It promises to be a special occasion, for three main reasons:

  • For the first time, the British Championships weekend has three events: as well as the long distance event on the Sunday and the relays on the Monday, there is also the mixed sprint relay on the Saturday.
  • It features a fantastic a mixture of terrain types: urban, moorland, forest and parkland, so there’s something for everyone (sorry, we couldn’t find any forested sand dunes, and there is not a British indoor orienteering championship – yet!).
  • The event is close to the geographical centre of Britain (OK, the OS calculate that that is actually just over the Lancashire border, but Yorkshire is near enough), making it an accessible event for competitors from all over the mainland, and there are direct flights from Belfast to Leeds Bradford Airport.

Let’s take a look at the weekend in more detail.

The British Sprint Relays will be held at Bradford University on Saturday 4th May. This area has only been used for one major event before (AIRE’s Bradford Urban Race in 2017) and promises a variety of land use with the added factor that the campus is steeper than many others in the UK.

Brad map excerpt

Excerpt of Bradford City Centre, mapped by Chris Burden (2017)

Before or after the race, why not visit Bradford’s city centre, which has been revitalised in recent years, and now includes a City Park with a fantastic mirror pool and fountains?  Other attractions are the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Saltaire and Haworth, the David Hockney Gallery in nearby Lister Park’s Cartwright Hall, and the lovely Baildon and Ilkley Moors.

Bradford University – source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Library_and_Student_Central_Building,_Bradford_University_(7197638816).jpg

The British Long Distance Championships will be held at Arncliffe and Kilnsey North on Sunday 5th May, with assembly adjacent to the pretty village of Arncliffe, in Littondale, Upper Wharfedale.  The area is a combination of the northern parts of Kilnsey, as experienced in the 2016 JK (remember the hailstorms?), Arncliffe (used for the 2015 Northern Championships) and parts of the area have also been used for the 2015 SHI Relays and Airienteers’ biennial Dales Weekend events.  The terrain is almost wholly open moorland, mostly extremely runnable, with a profusion of contour detail.  It also features limestone pavement, and route choice will be complicated by the presence of stiles and uncrossable walls.  Spectators will be able to see competitors encounter the last few controls of most courses as the fellside faces the one-stop assembly area and arena (another bonus is that the starts should take less than 20 minutes to reach).

BOC Kilnsey scene

View of part of the long distance terrain near Kilnsey – photo: author

Arncliffe was originally called ‘Amerdale’ and was the inspiration for ‘Emmerdale’: The Falcon Inn was the inspiration for the ‘Woolpack’ from the series, and it has rustic charm and beer poured from jugs.  Nearby Kettlewell is an outdoor hub and is popular with hikers and campers.  The Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire have both passed through Upper Wharfedale; why not try yourself on ‘The Rash’ or the ‘Cote de Cray’?  Indeed, this year’s BOC weekend occurs at the same time at the Tour de Yorkshire, and although the route has yet to be announced, there is a good chance that it will pass through the Dales at least once!

Arncliffe map excerpt

Excerpt of Arncliffe and Kilnsey North, mapped by Tony Thornley (2018)

The British Relay Championships will be held in Middleton Park, Leeds, on Monday 6th May.  This area, which was last used for the 2015 British Night Championships, is characterised by heavily pitted forested slopes and plateaus with a dense path network, separated by patches of lightning-fast open ground and a recently abandoned golf course.  With three valleys running diagonally across the area, this event will be both a technical and physical challenge.  The area is close to the motorway network, or you may wish to extend your stay by exploring the dynamic city centre of Leeds or other West Yorkshire attractions like the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield or the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the M1.

bluebells-01

Bluebells in Middleton Woods – source: http://www.fomp.co.uk/

All in all, this makes for a very attractive proposition, and after a successful 2016 JK, Yorkshire looks forward to welcoming you again in 2019.   If you share the county’s reputation for parsimony, you may wish to know that the cheapest way of enjoying the weekend is to enter by the first deadline, which is likely to be the end of January.  For more information, please see the website at www.boc2019.org.uk.  See you there!

By David Alcock (Day 2 planner) and the BOC 2019 team, September 2018

Why does face-to-face learning work?

In preparation for the end of year assembly last year, tutor groups were asked what their highlights of the year were.  Most of these were trips, and other out-of-classroom activities.  For example, half of the Year 9 forms in the school voted the cross-curricular ‘Be BOLD’ (BGS Outdoor Learning Day) as their highlight of the year.  Was this down to the time spent with their friends in the breaks between sessions?  But the lunch break was half the length of the usual one at school, so this can’t be the case!  Could it be as simple as ‘a change is as good as a rest’?  But this is too simplistic.  There must be something else going on, and I think that it relates to the wider issue of why face-to-face learning appears to be more effective than virtual learning in many contexts.

 

A recent article in the online magazine Aeon by Nicholas Tampio, looked into the benefits of face-to-face learning from both a philosophical and neuroscientific viewpoint.  He began by citing the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, writing in 1945, who believed that human thinking emerges out of lived experience; humans are thinking animals whose thinking is always infused with our animality.  Tampio related this to education thus: “It is by walking through a meadow, hiking beside a river, and boating down a lake that we are able to appreciate the science of geography. It is by talking with other people and learning their stories that we can appreciate literature.”  From the distance of adulthood, I believe that it is hard to appreciate just how much of who we are today comes from such practical activities, both from our formal schooling and from our extra-curricular activities.

It is not just philosophical musings that provide the rationale for a healthy dose of outdoor learning: Tampio quotes social neuroscientist Marcus Holmes, who argues that physical co-presence is essential to generate trust and empathy among human beings.  According to Holmes, diplomats insist on meeting in person with their colleagues, and good negotiators have a ‘feel for the game’ that works only when they share drinks, go on walks, shake hands, or have private conversations with their peers.  The neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni has studied the ‘mirroring system’ that enables human beings to understand each other’s intentions.  Within the brain, there are mirror neurons that fire when we perform an action or when we see another person doing the action.  This supports the folk psychology that holds that when we see another person, we think for a moment before deciding how to react (a point which is as relevant to our behaviour online as it is to experiential learning).  According to ‘simulation theory’, we actually feel what the other person feels as mirror neurons fire in just the same manner as if the experience was happening to us.

 

Tampio opines that this means that students looking at a screen will not – and cannot – trust, or care about, their teachers or students to the same degree as if they were face-to-face.  Communicating in person also enables people to pick up micro-changes in facial expressions and detect other people’s sincerity.  In the context of our time-pressured lives, writing, calling or video-chatting often works fine for many forms of communication, but Tampio points out that people must meet in the flesh to achieve the highest degree of trust or social bonding.

Sociologists also point out what is, on a moment’s reflection for most of us, self-evident: people want to be in the physical presence of other people to generate emotional energy: “a feeling of confidence, elation, strength, enthusiasm, and initiative in taking action” according to sociologist Randall Collins.  Communicating via email or by smartphones makes it harder to read another’s body language or perceive what is happening in the background as the other person talks into the computer’s camera.

 

What do these findings mean for educators?  Classroom experiences matter.  Field trips matter.  Outdoor activities and expeditions matter.  Humans are social beings; technology can facilitate many aspects of teaching and learning, but at the core of education are people, and we must ensure that they meet, exchange ideas, and develop empathy.  Only then will they thrive.

 Source: Nicholas Tampio (2018): Look up from your screen https://aeon.co/essays/children-learn-best-when-engaged-in-the-living-world-not-on-screens

Originally posted on Bradford Grammar School’s T&L blog: BGSlearning@wordpress.com 07.09.18

 

Outdoor Learning – ideas generated by BGS staff

Outdoor Learning – ideas generated by BGS staff at INSET, November 2017

Do you want to give pupils a new perspective on a topic?  Do you want to stimulate their curiosity?  Are you looking for ways to give life to tired lessons?  Then why not ‘go outdoors’?  A recent focus of one of our twilight and lunchtime T&L sessions was ‘outdoor learning’, and here are a few ideas for how you could use the outdoors simply and effectively.

Hypothesis hunters! – As an example of discovery (or ‘bottom-up’) learning, you could ask pupils to formulate hypotheses or questions related to your subject from what they see on the school site, then work through the enquiry process back in the class.

Use the space! – With no or very simple props, you could breathe new life into certain topics – why not use ropes to show connections, toilet rolls to show timelines, and vantage points like the Learning Link to look down at pupils acting out molecular processes?  Get pupils to measure angles and areas, or to examine building techniques and designs.

Natural stimulation! – Use the environment to develop your pupils’ curiosity and why not use it for mindfulness as part of a form time activity on relaxation techniques?

Please find below a fuller list of the ideas generated by two dozen of your colleagues as to how the outdoors could be used to boost teaching and learning at BGS – scroll down, look through, try an idea or two, and let us know how it goes!

David, December 2017

Hypothesis hunter:

Sciences (Biology/chemistry/physics)

  • Pupils come up with a range of questions that they could investigate on site
  • Identify which questions could actually be investigated/look for any problems.
  • In small groups come up with a hypothesis and possible method for investigating – prediction/variables/equipment etc.

 

  • Good for introducing lower years to investigations/variables. Possible use for introducing CORMMSS (Bio).

Maths:

  • Use of Learning Link/outside space to measure angles and height of buildings.
  • Get pupils to work out how to measure the area of different spaces e.g. the playground.
  • Investigating/measuring ratios

Languages:

  • Pupils write 20 questions about a particular area on site, give these to another student who has to translate the questions and identify the area being described.
  • Possible homework – describe the route around school.
  • Come up with questions that you would need to ask to achieve something outside e.g. how to access the main entrance via the key fob.

Digital Learning/computer Science:

  • Walk the perimeter of the school/playing field and convert this into an algorithm – cross curricular with Geography.

History:

  • What used to be in this area?
  • Come up with questions that you could ask about a particular area to find out what it wold have looked like in the past.

PD/Form Time:

  • Walk around the site, what questions would you need to ask to identify any problems with access for disabled students.

DT:

  • Use to investigate/teach depth perception.
  • Texture challenge – how many different textures can you find around the grounds in a set time. Take sketches of each texture and then draw them in the class room.

Art:

  • Different viewpoints of the same object e.g. how could you draw a tree from different angles viewpoints.
  • How could you draw certain areas/objects from the perspective of different artists/styles.

Psychology:

  • Depth Perception
  • Pupils come up with different observational studies that could possible carry out around the site and what ethical concerns there would be, how could they plan the study etc.

 

Ways teachers could use basic props outdoors (or in large indoor spaces):

 

Toilet Rolls

  • Geography – earth structure (journey _from_ the centre of the earth)
  • History / English – timeline (events / plots)
  • Maths – Logarithmic scale / squares / cubes
  • Biology – evolutionary timeline

 

Ropes

  • Geography – contours
  • Maths – area, radius/pi
  • Language – skip and count
  • English – themes in poetry (?)
  • IT – nodes and links in a network

 

No props

  • Geography – long shore drift
  • Biology – Mitosis/meiosis
  • Language – tenses (?)
  • Maths/DT – architecture / angles

 

Many of these activities could be watched and/or filmed from above, and then used in the next lesson for recap and/or revision.  The learning link and the front of school wall are good vantage points for this.

 

Nature as a stimulus:

Artistic

  • Blind ‘discovery’ – put a hand in a box and identify objects using touch. Then have to effectively describe or re-create that object.
  • Questioning stance – what might live under there? How might your character use this space?
  • Curiosity in form time – mindfulness. Take a minute to listen, observe what you can see, feel etc.

 

  • Mixing the senses (synesthesia) – what might the sound of a bird look like? What colour might that smell be?
  • Shouting Shakespeare – encourage quiet classes to get involved with drama!
  • Bio-mimicry – take inspiration from nature and apply practically in a design task.
  • Outside the school – bring in stimuli from home for homework, work creatively from them.
  • Vocabulary expansion
  • MFL – use outdoor lesson as stress relief in the summer, as a conversation lesson. Use as an exercise in tenses for younger years: what are we going to do, what are we doing now, what have we done.

 

Scientific

  • Degrees of separation – as a starter, pick three objects (or take pictures of three objects) from nature, then have to link those objects to what we studied last lesson.
  • To illustrate the importance of different perspectives – do a data collection during a break time using other students. Discuss ethics of observing when your participants are not aware?
  • Create a timeline – if from where I am to that door is the Tudor period, where would you stand to mark Henry VIII’s death?
  • Treasure hunt – find the objects following clues and take a picture to prove you have been there. Could work for Maths, ICT, English, Science, History etc.
  • Alphabet walk – discovery led, lead a discussion afterwards.
  • Maths – trigonometry in nature
  • Maths walk – room numbers, Roman Numerals, shapes, area etc.
  • ICT – passing data packets around using large spaces.

 

Making use of the school Grounds

Ideas for lessons

Languages:

  • Directions
  • Learning key words for objects: as a trail/quiz for any key words or for learning the key words for objects outside

Maths

  • Calculating heights of the buildings: trig
  • Maths trail: QR codes: Each subject could have a permanent quiz or a quiz that could be used in form time

Art:

  • Photography
  • Pagoda windows as a frame for the picture
  • Perspective drawing: see perspective in action: draw it live
  • Pagoda as a permanent outdoor exhibition site for art work: green man masks as an example

 

Computer Science:

  • Robots: turning distances
  • Visual coding: coloured cones

 

RS, English, Classics (literature)

  • Meditating
  • Putting into context Literature/ poems
  • Inspiration: design an argument by looking at the natural world

 

Science:

  • Surveys
  • Investigating something outside
  • Ecology

 

Objects of interest: long sticks, ground sheets, random box of objects

  • Grids and coordinates (large ground sheets with tape squares): languages: using directions, team building, PD, Minefield/ battle ships
  • Balancing sticks: communication and team building. In groups: hold up a long stick each person using 2 fingers: put it on the floor without any more contact with the stick
  • Code breaking
  • How well do you understand your subject: AFL: tree of knowledge type thing
  • Revision/ competitions/ comfort in speaking: pick an object and talk about it: how long for?

Originally posted on Bradford Grammar School’s T&L blog: BGSlearning@wordpress.com

START Learning Effectively

Assembly – START Learning Effectively – Bradford Grammar School, 15 September 2017

Abridged scriptDo you ever wonder what the secret ingredient of learning is?  What is it that successful pupils do that makes them perform so well?

Of course, there is no secret ingredient.  I am going to attempt to offer a clear summary of what has been shown to work, together with examples that you can try.  Some of them you might already do, some you might not.

Why now?  Exams are ages away, surely?  But it’s important to START the year by learning effectively – not to leave it until exams and coursework deadlines creep up later on.

Learning how to learn is almost as important as what you learn, but we don’t pay much attention to it.  Educational researchers have been looking into how learning works for decades.  Some of their insights are being adopted by teachers.

But some of them can be adopted by you.

I am asking you this morning to consider which ones you should concentrate more on, and then in form time, you will be given time to narrow down your aims to fit your circumstances – for example, a Year 8 learning words for a French vocab test might use different techniques to a Year 13 preparing for a Geography exam.

Let’s START. What does effective learning entail?

  1. Make things stick

Effective learning involves making things stick.  What does this mean? It means making learning memorable and interesting.

For example, you could make a mnemonic.  Everyone knows ROYGBIV and Never Eat Shredded Wheat.   Why not make your own up?  Professor Paul Dukes refers to the three aspects of a superpower as being the ability to destroy, transmit an ideology, and have economic influence.  Boring?  Not if you remember it as DIE.

If it’s a simple key word or vocab test, try visualising words as part of a story.  Walk through an imaginary high street, picking up, holding, or even eating the items you have to learn.

Draw it, model it, chant it, sing it, act it.  How do rivers erode land?  Abrasion, attrition, hydraulic action and corrosion.  If this sounds too ‘dry’ then why not act it out [rub, bash, splash and sizzle]?

And as well as talking about what the building blocks of a superpower are, why not draw them as pillars of a superpower temple?

Finally, you could make it funny or unusual – e.g. what’s the pizza recipe for fascism in 1930s Italy?  Take a base of populism, add on toppings of racism and propaganda, and cook in the heat of recession-era discontent for a decade or so…  You get the picture.

  1. Test yourself

Effective learning involves testing yourself.

One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it – so make a quiz for your friend, and they can make one for you.   Make them frequent, short-answer, and low stakes – e.g. points, pennies, sweets, etc.  They could be True/False, multiple choice, or slightly sneaky.

Use Kahoot – don’t just let the teachers do it, you can make your own game for free.

  1. Be aware

Effective learning involves being aware.

Keep your eyes and ears open.

Follow a range of media – commit to following a news app; sign up to news updates from a reliable source; don’t just let news come to you via Facebook.  Instead, spend time reading good quality newspapers, and you could follow YouTube channels on topics that interest you

A potential medic in my form even watches surgical operations on You Tube in her spare time.

You should also make connections between your topics…and between your subjects – this will save you time (I love it when someone includes a relevant point from another subject in Geography – it might be recognising that epiphytes are plants (‘phyte’) that grow on top of (‘epi’) others; or that studying transnational corporations in Business Studies or Economics just might be relevant to globalisation).

Also, use photos as stimulus material – Looking at a picture of greenhouses in Almeria, Spain, the issues could be food miles, local food sourcing, employment, climate, energy, and so on.  If you were studying Spanish it could be the basis of a role play, if it was biology it could be considering how to grow plants indoors.

Greenhouses in Almeria, Spain

Source: Getty Images https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/an-aerial-view-taken-on-october-23-2009-in-the-coastal-area-news-photo/92319234#an-aerial-view-taken-on-october-23-2009-in-the-coastal-area-of-where-picture-id92319234

 

  1. Revisit content

Effective learning means revisiting content.

Cramming all of your revision into the last few days before an exam has been proven to be an ineffective way of learning.  Instead, stagger your revision, starting as near to the end of each lesson as you can.

Revising does not just mean re-reading.  It does not just mean highlighting.  It does not even just mean noting and summarising.  It means engaging actively with the content.

When making notes from your work or from a textbook, why not try the ‘Cornell method’, which is to write key words or questions to yourself in the margin, and summarising the notes at the end of the task at the bottom?

Or start a learning diary – I am trying this with my Year 13s – and then having an end-of-week recap of your notes, then looking through your notes at the end of every half-term, and finally in the weeks leading up to your exam.

This links in with the last part of the START strategy:

  1. Make time to learn

Effective learning means making time to learn

I have talked about staggering the times that you revisit content.  But there are other ways of managing your time too:

Firstly, have a timetable and stick to it!

Source: Ryburn Valley High School https://www.rvhs.co.uk/revision-help/

Take a break during bouts of revision too,

Mix it up with sport, other types of physical exercise or another pursuit. e.g. a musical instrument; art; …

Have an away day – revise in different locations

So we are asking you to START this year off by learning more effectively.

Read the card again.

Think of some concrete actions that fit into the START programme.  Then write 2-3 of these down.  Then act on them, and later in the term you will revisit your action plan to review your progress.

Good luck.

Contact David at dga@bradfordgrammar.com for more information and for the slides that go with this assembly.

Think Global Act Local

Assembly – Think Global Act Local – Bradford Grammar School, 27 April 2018

You can make a difference.  You can make a difference.  You can make a difference.

 

In this uncertain world, where despite economic, social, and scientific  advances, there exists a slow-burning environmental catastrophe; in this era of convenience and short-termism where long-term sustainability is threatened; in this time where being a citizen of the world apparently means you are a citizen of nowhere, you _can_ make a difference.

 

This week’s theme is perspective, and although you might be thinking that if the world is a stage, then you are only an insignificant actor, you must know that you can make a difference _now_, when you have a wide circle of friends and family to influence, you can make a difference after you _leave_ school, when you can tailor your studies to find out more about our impact on the world, and you can make a difference in the _future_, when you will have roles as responsible citizens, leaders, carers, educators, businesspeople and influencers.

 

Pupils from across the school community have stepped forward to tell you about an environmental issue that concerns them, and each one will offer a few practical steps that you, yes you, and you, can take. Please listen to Hibbah, Rebecca, Laura, Aliza, Joe and Billy and choose one or two of these steps and act on it. Because _you_ _can_ make a difference.

 

Acid Rain – Hibbah

‘Acid rain is rain which is unusually acidic. It is caused by compounds of chemicals which are released into the air by pollutants and then react with water and oxygen to form more pollutants which is called acid rain. Acid rain mainly affects environments which contain water as it makes the water acidic. This can harm fish as they cannot tolerate the acid. Plants are also damaged as the acid breaks up soil and makes plant roots weaker meaning they can die.

 

In school and at home, it is really easy to reduce acid rain simply by switching off electrical plugs, lights or other appliances when not using them as you are limiting the amount of fossil fuels burnt resulting in less pollutants meaning less acid rain.

 

Another way to limit the amount of pollution is by not using a car as much. You could travel to school via public transport, cycling, walking or by arranging a car share with your parents.

 

Ocean acidification / coral bleaching – Rebecca

 

What is the problem?

Ocean Acidification occurs when carbon dioxide gas is absorbed by the ocean and reacts with seawater to produce acid. Carbon dioxide reacts with the seawater to create carbonic acid, which increases the acidity of the ocean.

 

What can be done?

 

The next time you buy a new gadget or appliance, make an energy-efficient choice – check the label.

Heat and cool your home efficiently! Change your thermostat to 19 degrees – put on a layer rather than turn up the dial.

Ask your parents if you can improve the insulation levels of your home.

Support renewable energy sources when the time comes to make such a decision.

 

Climate Change – Laura

What is global warming ?

Global warming is when carbon dioxide is realised into the air when fossil fuels are burnt for energy – this energy powers our homes, cars and everyday electronic objects.  The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun resulting in the earth getting warmer.  This results in many impacts like ice caps melting, coastal flooding and droughts.

 

You can prevent it

1. As Hibbah has mentioned, you could take public transport more often, or cycle or walk to school

2. Don’t waste your food. Energy is used in the raising of farm animals and preparation of food as well as transporting it

3. Speak to others about global warming

4. Reduce water waste, e. g. having a quick shower rather than a bath. This also reduces carbon dioxide

5. Use better bulbs. LED bulbs use 80 percent less energy than other bulbs.

When using less energy we can help save our world. Stopping global warming starts with us. Our world is burning and we need to stop it.

 

 

Aliza – clothing

Fashion plays an important role in many of your lives.  It defines you and affects how people view you. However, there are some aspects of fashion that we are not always aware of, such as the wastage of it.

 

In Britain we wear only 70% of the clothes that we own, which means there is a total of around 1.7 billion unused items. As well as that, a person keeps their items of clothing for only three years on average.

 

Instead of throwing away your unwanted clothing, you can donate them to charity or give them to another family member. Donated clothing is sold in charity shops and the items which are not sold are resold in the used clothing industry and sorted to be used in different ways. The clothes will then be distributed all over the world.

Plastics – Joe

Show video

 

Coffee Cup Waste – Billy

 

Disposable Coffee Cups

 

A lot of us need a coffee to get up in a morning, and a lot of us get that coffee in a disposable plastic cup. And when I say a lot, I mean around 7 million of us a day. And of those cups, that we throw away day in day out, only about a quarter of a percent of them will be recycled, which is appalling.

 

The cups themselves have a super strength plastic resin inside which makes them waterproof and ensures they doesn’t spill out everywhere, but also incredibly hard to recycle. The cups themselves hardly stand the test of time because they get thrown away the minute you’ve downed your coffee.

 

The problem is that they are convenient, that’s why the problem is so prolific. But can you really be proud of choosing convenience over making a meaningful contribution to society? Can you really be proud in fuelling a market that cuts down over 5 million trees a year because you can’t be bothered to have a cup of coffee at home or in a flask? Will you be proud leaving a planet to your children where there are more cups in the ocean than fish? I don’t think so.

 

But there are things we can do rather than just stand here and complain. Every morning at breakfast at school, X (need to ask a dinner lady how many are bought each day) of you get a hot drink from the machine in a disposable cup. That’s roughly X (need to calculate) cups being thrown away a year by this school alone. Here’s an idea to cut this, bring in your own mug or flask, keep it in your locker and use that at the machine instead. I use a mug for my tea every morning – it’s not a particularly glamorous mug but it does the job perfectly. And by doing just that every day we can make a profound impact on the environment, scything away at this convenience that kills.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

What we have seen today are a variety of problems that we as a society face. These problems can seem too large, too great for just a thousand of us sat here to do anything about. But that’s where we are wrong.

 

For every coffee cup we don’t use, for every piece of plastic we re-use, for every piece of clothing recycled, that’s one less cup in the ocean, one less piece of plastic killing wildlife, one more piece of coral saved. And it’s with a mind-set of thinking just like that, thinking of the problem on a global scale and not being over awed or diminished by the challenge we face, but by acting locally on a small scale that we can effect a real change. If you can change just one habit today, our job is done.

 

Thank you very much for listening.

 

 

 

 

Reasons to be happy – the real state of the world

Assembly – Reasons to be happy – the real state of the world  – Bradford Grammar School, 13 Jan 2017

What a depressing day – It’s Friday 13th, the days are short, the weather is terrible and term has just started again!  In the wider world, Trump is about to take over at the White House and there is great uncertainty over what exactly Brexit means.  There’s a crisis in Syria and Yemen, suicide bombs and terrorist attacks, and climate change looming over us.  Indeed, virtually every headline shouts out ‘crisis’!

But stop! Shouldn’t we look at these developments in context?  What’s the real state of the world?  If you look at the facts about the world socially, economically, and in most respects, environmentally, I want to show you that there are reasons to be satisfied, and – as befits the theme of the week – even happy.  And I need the help of some of you to do so.

So, let’s look at the direction the world is going in terms of just two aspects – health and violence.

Let’s start with the basics – how long are we living for?  Life expectancy is going up and up, as Hans Rosling is keen to point out.

In 1800, the global life expectancy at birth was between 20 and 30. In 1900 this had crept up to 31, by 1950 it was 48, but what is it today?

68 years old.  And this is a global average!  Even for those who survived the dangerous first few years of life, in 1845, a five-year old in the UK could expect to live until they were just 55, but a five-year old today – someone just starting Clock House – can expect to live until they are 82.  Surely this is a reason to be cheerful?

How many babies are living into childhood?

In 1800, 43% of children died before their fifth birthday.

How has this changed over time?  Well, thanks to healthcare, scientific improvements and so on, by 1900 this had fallen to 36%.

By 1950 it was 22%.

But how about 2015?

The answer is 4%

How about access to education?

Back in 1800, only one in eight people around the world could read and write.  This meant that an almighty 88% couldn’t read or write.

By 1900 it had barely decreased – it was still high at 79%

By 1950 it had nudged downwards to 64%

So what was it in 2014?

The answer is 17% – and it’s dropping fast!

But how often do these statistics make the headlines?  Very rarely.  Why not?  Good news does not sell papers, good news does not entice you to click the hyperlink, good news does not make you watch, well, the news.

One reason why we do not hear about how global living conditions are improving in the media is that these are the slow processes that never make the headlines. The media is overly obsessed with reporting single events and with bad news and does not nearly pay enough attention to the slow developments like these that reshape our world.

Max Roser points out that a media that would report global development could have had the headline “The number of children dying globally fell by 455 since yesterday” and they wouldn’t have this headline once, but every single day over these more than 2 decades.

Good news does not sell papers, good news does not entice you to click the hyperlink, good news does not make you watch, well, the news.

How about the way that we die?  Steven Pinker is a Canadian writer who has noticed more slow-burning good news.

How many people will meet their death in a violent manner?  Let’s start with murder.  You’d have thought that this is an ever-present threat.  But we live in an increasingly peaceful world.  Even at its peak, in tribal societies, your chance of being murdered in any one year was only 0.7%.

By 1800 the world average was 0.003%, by 1950 it was 0.001%, and it has fallen slightly since then. All these figures are over-represented by a Lego man.

So there is less murder nowadays – a reason to be cheerful!  Here is a list of other things which are getting rarer and rarer in the world:

Wars? Rarer? Surely some mistake?

Year 7s and 8s – you will all recognize this man from Geography and History – Otzi the Iceman.  How did he die?

Otzi the Iceman – Source: Thilo Parg [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, and 120 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, both from Wikimedia Commons

From an arrow.  DNA analysis found traces of blood from two other people on one of the arrowheads he was carrying, blood from a third on his dagger, and blood from a fourth on his cape.  He belonged to a raiding party that clashed with a neighbouring tribe.  So how many people will meet their death from conflicts and wars nowadays compared to tribal societies?

In tribal societies the rate was, on average, 14%.  NB this includes civilian casualties.

In the early 1600s the rate was about 1%

It did peak again in the first half of the 20th Century – don’t forget, 100 Old Bradfordians died in WW1 – the worst war was WW2 – and the chance of someone dying from this was 1.5%

But how about today? There has been a tenfold increase in war deaths globally since 2005 – but what is the total chance of being killed in a war today – or of being a civilian victim?

It’s actually about 0.003%

The world has always been a violent place.  It is still a violent place – but it is much, much, less violent that it used to be.  The twentieth century was a violent century – more people died in wars in that century than in any previous century.  But most of those deaths occurred in the first half of that century – in one of the two world wars.  Since then, what Pinker refers to the ‘Long Peace’ has spread over the world.

Since 1950 – in the lifetime of everyone here, one number stands out clearly in the history of war: Zero.

How many nuclear weapons have been used in conflict?  Zero.

How many western European countries have fought each other?  Zero.

How many major developed countries have fought each other?  Zero.

How many developed countries have expanded their territories by conquering another country?  Zero.

How many states have disappeared through conquest?  Zero.

You might say – well how about other forms of conflict in recent decades?  There may not have been a world war, but how about civil wars?  Genocides? Terrorism? Surely they are in the news so they must be on the rise!

No.  Deaths from civil wars, genocides and terrorism have all fallen over the past twenty years.  In 1950 the average armed conflict killed 33,000; in 2015 it killed about 4,000.  Terrorist attacks hit a natural barrier beyond which they sow the seeds of self-destruction as potential converts are more exposed to being hurt.

It’s not just violence that is decreasing – tolerance is increasing.  In every issue touched by the human rights revolution of recent decades – interracial marriage, the empowerment of women, the tolerance of homosexuality, the punishment of children, and the treatment of animals – the attitudes of conservatives have followed the trajectory of liberals, with the result that today’s conservatives are more liberal than the liberals of just a few decades ago.

But why are these trends happening?

Why are we getting healthier?

  • Government investment in healthcare, sanitation, clean water, schools and science
  • Trade and aid, both of which spread wealth around
  • Private enterprise pushing the boundaries of medical endeavour
  • Individual actions and breakthroughs – we are indeed standing on the shoulders of giants

Why are we getting less violent?

  • Countries are becoming less warlike.  The move to democracies has helped in this: since 1900, democracies have been less than twice as likely as non-democracies to engage in militarized disputes.
  • Strong governments and law enforcement mean that mankind’s baser instincts are held at bay.
  • Belonging to groups of countries like the United Nations and, yes, the EU, means that we are bound by more ties which we don’t want to destroy by fighting.
  • Being wealthier means that there is more at stake – more to lose – if we were to go to war.  Trading with other countries means that we have more to lose – no two countries with a McDonald’s have ever gone to war with each other.
  • Social norms in developed countries have evolved to incorporate the conviction that was is inherently immoral because of its costs to human well-being and that it can only be justified when it is likely to prevent even greater costs to human well-being.

There is now more empathy for human life than ever before – thanks to reading and writing, we know more about other people.  So thank you, TV, radio, publishing, travel and thank you, the Internet. Education saves lives.  We have enlarged our ‘empathy circle’.  It is so much harder to kill or hurt someone when you know them, or even know about them.

Similarly, being exposed to more ideas saves lives.  Education saves lives.  The more you learn, the fewer mistruths and inaccuracies you will hold about ‘other’ people.  So read, read, read.  And think, think, think.

We believe that the world is going to hell in a handcart because the media tells us that it is.  David Hume says we are laboring under a “false sense of insecurity”.  But keep your wits about you.  Look wider, look further back, read, listen and ponder the facts.  Let’s try to avoid the state of worry and terror that many people live in today.

Caveat

Avoid the complacency trap – ‘now I know that life in most of the world is getting better, I can sit back and let progress happen’.  Well, progress is built on many small acts, and sitting back would be to avoid your responsibility as a member of society.

Be aware – declines in violence are caused by political, economic and ideological conditions that take hold in particular cultures at particular times.  If the conditions change, these trends could reverse.

I hope I haven’t belittled the victims of violence and ill health who can be found across the globe and particularly in developing countries – there is still work to be done!

There are still threats to humanity – especially with regards to the environment – and especially climate change – that we should be turning our attention to.

Conclusion

I could go on about how the world is progressing in other areas like reductions in poverty… but you get the picture.  So what can you take away from today?

Understand what has led to the declines and it will guide you towards what might work in the future.

Be open to facts, not rhetoric.

Read widely and not just fiction – don’t just trust the first thing you find online – be aware of ‘fake news’ – and be willing to pay for good journalism and writing, whether that is via a magazine or newspaper subscription or via licence fees and taxes

Try to see the big picture – try to set the most recent disaster on the news in context.

Finally, I would say not so much ‘don’t worry, be happy’ as ‘worry less, be slightly happier about the state of the world’.

Thank you.

Source for Pinker: Pinker, S (2011): The Better Angels of Our Nature

Source for Max Roser statistic: Max Roser (2016) – ‘Child Mortality’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality/ [Online Resource]

Credit also due to http://www.gapminder.org