Teaching or discovering? | Brussels Blog

Teaching or discovering?

posted by Geoff on 9th Jul 2014
9th,Jul

This was originally posted on 7th December 2014 as “Ben said never hire the graduate”. It is being reposted for technical reasons

Recently (13th November) I listened to the BBC’s program about computer technology, Click with Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson. It was about an experiment in using tablet computers to enable illiterate children to learn.


Children in two remote villages Ethiopia were given tablet computers by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. The children could not read and did not go to school. The solar powered computers were delivered in boxes with no instructions. They were pre-loaded with a small range applications.


The children switched on the computers, powered up the applications and started teaching themselves English. They managed to change the system settings.


OLPC wanted to know if children could learn in the absence teachers and teach themselves how to read. The children learnt quickly and taught each other with no adult intervention.


Ed McMearney from OLPC described how they had “fixed” the setting system on the computers so the children would not make the applications unusable. The settings were also fixed to disable the cameras on the computers so that photographs would not fill up the computer memory. The children managed to work out how to change the system setting and were able to take photographs.

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The problems of software development

posted by Geoff on 4th Jul 2014
4th,Jul

This is a note I wrote in 2002 and 2003. It is not easily accessable elsewhere. It is still relevant although the examples are old. There are, of course, more recent examples.

It identifies procurement methodology as a key element in the failure of large software projects. As such, it has implications wider than software development.

The Problems of Software Development

Introduction

This study document investigates a particular aspect of the problems of software development which is one of the main causes of failure for many medium and large-scale software projects. It draws upon a combination of informal and respected formal sources. The conclusions reached are what I believe to be the best picture of the current situation and the best way forward for future software developments commissioned by medium sized companies.

Development Approaches and Financial Models

Within the IT community there is considerable debate upon the merits of different software development methodologies. This debate has recently become more intense because of the wellpublicised failure of a number of large public projects. Software development is now national news.

The problem of managing software development in a market economy has a scope that ranges from the generalities of economic theory to the specifics of computer systems. Few have a grasp of the full range of issues involved.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the financial environment is a fundamental part of that  process. This document starts with two idealised financial models: the “Cost Plus” model and the “Fixed Payment” model.

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Submission to the Lyons Review on Housing

posted by Geoff on 21st May 2014
21st,May

A note for the Lyons Housing Review

Geoff Beacon, May 2014

Context


In this note I propose radical solutions for housing based on two themes: the unfairness built into the housing market and the damage our lifestyles are causing to the world. Political aspects of these proposals may be difficult.

Today’s standard two bedroomed, bricks and mortar house is expensive. It is possible to build dwellings at a small fraction of the cost, but the planning system works to prevent this. The system supports the housing shortage which keeps house prices artificially high and benefits house owners at the expense of others, particularly the poor.

At the same time, the huge amount of embodied energy within a standard brick built house is largely ignored and conventional affordable housing often has associated social problems.

In this note I propose radical solutions for housing , political aspects of which may be difficult.
I hope that the members of the Lyons Review can use their experience of business and academia to listen to these proposals that, at first glance, may not be in interests of their organisations.

This note is divided into four sections.

1. Low cost housing.

2. Land use, landscape and food production.

3. The environmental impact of housing.

4. Discovering new ways of living.

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Geoff Beacon elsewhere

posted by Geoff on 18th Apr 2014
18th,Apr

I have been writing elsewhere on topics that are similar to those on Brussels Blog so if you read any of these here …

YorkMix.com

I have several pieces on YorkMix.com. Thanks to guidance of the editor, Chris Titley, I think the writing is rather clearer than usual:

The list of these is updated at YorkMix Author Archives: Geoff Beacon

Renewalcities.org

A Renewal City is an urban development that from the time of its foundation, and throughout its life, creates wealth to sponsor projects that are beneficial to life on Earth.

Mar 2008: A proposal for a renewal city on the Hoo Peninsular

The Green Ration Book

A panel approach to carbon footprints: The aim of the panel is to give guidance on our daily activities with regard to the damage we do to the global environment in relation to what our fair share should be.

May 2006: Green Ration Book: The cost of everyday living.

It’s simple (itssimple.org.uk)

A collection of websites about climate and economics

Sep 2009: Its Simple and related websites.

More jobs (morejobs.org.uk)

Nov 1995: The employment effect of subsidies – a report for the European Commission“.

Auntie Jayne solves you poem

My good friends at RenewalCities have kindly had this new web-site designed for me. It is a showcase of my work as a poetic agony aunt – I answer problems sent to me as poems.

May 2008 : We’ll fly you over burning forests

Centre for cities (my comments)

Jun 2014: The conflict at the heart of the garden city idyll (see comments)

Transition network (my comments)

Mar 2014: BBC: The wrong debate

Treehugger (my comments)

Jul 2014: No magic bullet — study challenges perception that CO2 reduction can be delayed by other actions

AECB (my comments)

Jan 2007: Topic: Operation vs Construction CO2

Feb 2007: Topic: Lower building densities – good for the environment?

Jan 2008: Topic: keeping draughty house warm

Food Climate Research Network (my comments)

Jun 2014: FCRN commentary on Sustainable Food Trust blog on red meat. My comment at the end. See also my NoBeef.org.uk

Arctic Sea Ice Blog (my comments)

Jul 2014: Wildfires not in the CMIP5 Models

CCCQ.ORG.UK

Jul 2008: Questions for Lord Turner of the Climate Change Committee. I set up this website to report exchanges with the Committee on Climate Change.  Slight tinges of green ink on my part but broadly: I was right they were wrong but I’m still not sure who “they” really were.

Forbes.com (My comments)

Jul 2014: What did Adam Smith believe about large international companies?

DOSBAT.com (My comments)

Jul 2014: Question about Foster and Rahmsdorf on That ‘no warming since 1998′ bollocks meme

To be continued …

Climate Change: Last Hours?

posted by Geoff on 5th Apr 2014
5th,Apr

I don’t know how seriously to take that Last Hours video but it does feature one of the most famous climate scientists, Michael Mann, of hockey stick fame. When I re-read the response I made in 2007 to the Draft Climate Change Bill, I remembered that none of the contributors to the blogs that I follow have been willing to comment on Last Hours. I know some of the scientist associated with it have had threats made so perhaps that’s wise.

My response in 2007 is more-or-less what I believe seven years later. Sadly, I think policy politicians are mostly out of the loop. I believe that climate policy in the UK is governed by civil servants – under the pressure of lobbyists. The key departments are in HM Treasury, DECC, BIZ, DEFRA, DCLG. My interpretation of their approaches to climate change:

  • HM Treasury: Its causes are not our problem.
  • DECC: Energy security is a problem.
  • BIS: Now controls the Met Office.
  • DEFRA: Hides the carbon footprint of beef and lamb.
  • DCLG: Ignores embodied carbon in construction.

They obstruct green policies except for energy security.

They still ignore the real message which hasn’t changed.

Summary of my 2007 submission:

We must:

Aim for carbon negative lifestyles

Get power systems to take carbon from the atmosphere

Stop nearly all flying

Cut most road transport

Build to embody carbon dioxide in construction.

Change our economy

Let the public know

Publicise carbon footprinting

Change food consumption

Develop neighbourhoods using new planning strategies

Come clean on construction

Change international trade, development and aid

Take military options seriously

These policies may be beyond what is politically possible but what is politically possible can change. Tomorrow is the start of The Embodied Carbon Week organised by the UK Green Building Council and supported by serious commercial interests.

Last year the Committee on Climate Change finally conceded that the UK’s carbon footprint has increased since 1990 rather than decreased.

A change in the politics of climate change will come if the super El-Nino that some are predicting emerges over the next two years. If it comes will the Government Departments stop ignoring the truth about climate change?

July 2014: The El-Nino may be petering out but even without this raising temperatures, For May the global temerature was the highest since modern records began. Higher than the last year a super El-Nino surfaced. Californians will be disappointed. Their drought will continue. (2014 El Nino?)

The 2007 submission ….


Global Warming and The Problems of Climate Change

A Response to the Draft Climate Change Bill

by Geoff Beacon

June 2007

Introduction

At its worst, climate change is recognised as a threat to human existence. Sadly its effects are probably much worse than the assessments given by the IPCC to the governments of the world. My contention is that the strategies that have been put in place by the government of the UK are simply insufficient to cope with the scale of the problem.

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Can dangerous climate change be avoided?

posted by Geoff on 19th Mar 2014
19th,Mar

I have been given permission to repost Can Global Warming be Limited to Two Degrees originally published on econnexus by its author, Jim Hunt.

February 28, 2014

Can Global Warming be Limited to Two Degrees?

Last week the United Kingdom’s Committee on Climate Change “launched a call for evidence in order to identify relevant published information of the risks and opportunities to the UK from climate change”. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, last night I attended a talk organised by Transition Exeter entitled “Climate Change Update – The Pathway to Two Degrees Warming” and subtitled “Can Global Warming be Limited to Two Degrees?” The evidence was presented on the night by Dr. Jeff Ridley from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre here in Exeter and consisted of an overview of the results of the UK Government funded AVOID research programme, followed by a question and answer session with the members of Transition Exeter. The brief executive summary of the answer to today’s headline question is :

No – There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell!

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Cooperation and competition as values.

posted by Geoff on 10th Feb 2014
10th,Feb

Originally on the Labour Party Group on LinkedIn

I trailed down to the University of Surrey [in December] for a seminar by Dr Tom Crompton, Change Strategist, WWF-UK. His talk was “Why Green Consumerism Sucks”. The email introducing it said

Mainstream environmentalism is dangerously obsessed with getting people to ’save the planet’ while doing other things – shopping, looking cool, or just mindlessly getting on with life. Here’s why it won’t work, and why enthusiasts for green consumerism press on regardless.

I thought it relevant to an argument I was having with Leeds City Council: I want them to publicise more details of what makes up our individual carbon footprints. The Leeds answer seemed to be don’t tell people because it will make no difference.

Framing

I had read some of Tom Crompton’s work on the web which was about framing (in the psychological sense). I failed to get a clear enough message from what I had found but the sense of it became much clearer at the seminar. The main message I took was that individuals have several value systems which govern our behaviour and sometimes these work against each other.

Competitive and cooperative values

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Global Warming 2013. A summary.

posted by Geoff on 3rd Jan 2014
3rd,Jan

I found this excellent summary of Global Warming 2013 via Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog. It was a post on Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. R. Gates has given me permission to repeat it here. I have added the headings and some formatting.

R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist | December 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm

As we ring out 2013, as an honest skeptic, I like to look back at the year and see what actual climate events of the year might cause me to modify or abandon my warmist position on AGW. Let’s take a look at a few of highlights of the 2013 Climate Year:

The lack of new records in 2013

1. The Top Story of the the 2013 Climate Year is probably the lack of any new global tropospheric records. This flattening of the rise in tropospheric records continues a10-15 year trend.

As a skeptic, I might take this to be evidence that “global warming” has stopped, but of course, being a knowledgeable skeptic and knowing that at least 50% of tropospheric heat comes from the ocean, we have to look back to the ocean to see what might be going on.

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Food and permaculture

posted by Geoff on 18th Dec 2013
18th,Dec

David Blume (http://www.permaculture.com) has kindly agreed that his article could be published here. This was originally written some 20 years ago.

I wrote this in response to post to the bioregional listserve from a woman at ATTRA who said something like “Of course you couldn’t feed the world with such a hippy-dippy, hunter-gatherer, landscape system like permaculture.” Well that got me a little steamed so this is what I wrote.

Dear Folks,

Real World Experience in Permaculture

I would like to inject some real world experience into this otherwise abstract discussion of food and permaculture.

In addition to being an ecological biologist, a permaculture production food farmer for 9 years, and an expert on biomass fuels, I have also been teaching permaculture since 1997 and have worked in many countries on food/energy production design issues. I have certified more than 400 people in permaculture design since 1997. For more info on this see my site at www.permaculture.com

So in light of my experience I have a couple of things to say. Let us dispense, for the moment only, with the talk of hunter-gatherer models since, to return to that state or to imitate it with design would meet limited acceptance. This is not the core design goal of permaculture although some of our small scale subsistence agriculture designs vaguely look like a hunter-gatherer paradise (i.e. it never existed like this in nature.) The issue of private property as we now define it also complicates that model. We are living in an agricultural age and permaculture offers huge benefits to both production and subsistence agriculture.

Two acres produced enough food for 300 people

As far as I know I was one of the only farmers fully utilizing permaculture to produce surplus food for sale in the US as a full time occupation. On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.

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IPCC carbon budget: Missing feedbacks ignored.

posted by admin on 7th Dec 2013
7th,Dec

Missing and underestimated feedbacks in the CMIP5 climate models used for the IPCC carbon budget

25th November 2013: Note for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology listing papers on missing or underestimated feedbacks in the CMIP5 climate models used to calculate the carbon budget in the recent IPCC report (AR5).

The papers on missing/underestimated feedbacks.

December 2011

High risk of permafrost thaw: Climate change: High risk of permafrost thaw

September 2012

Permafrost feedback: Significant contribution to climate warming from the permafrost carbon feedback

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