Rethink Health - April 2010

News through the GoodHealthKeeping lens

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Global Warming IS Our Fault

In the same week that we heard about a pair of huge icebergs drifting north from the Antarctic, a review panel combining the Met Office and universities in England, Australia and Canada reported the result of a systematic review of  over 100 recently published studies about global warming. They conclude that there is less than a 5% chance that the widely observed increases in temperature can have arisen from random climatic variations. 5% is the cut-off used routinely by statisticians to define significance. Anything less than that is regarded as probably true, for practical purposes.

This is within a month of the UK government's new Feed-In Tariff scheme. Anyone who generates some electricity and reduces their reliance on the National Grid, will from April receive generous payments per unit (Kilowatt-hour) produced. This is in addition to capital grants, available to subsidise the cost of installing equipment, which is still considerable but will fall once demand increases and the supply of solar electric panels (and competent installers) rises to match. Wind turbines are selling well, too, but mostly to farmers with the necessary space. Water turbines are some way behind, but quite a few enterprising companies are working on it. Around Leicester we have identified 14 such companies, developing new technologies to reduce domestic and commercial reliance on carbon.

It has become extremely urgent that we start to live more sustainably, with less reliance on power sources that derive from burning carbon. Everyone can do this. Efficient recycling of waste, more careful use of water, better home insulation and cooler heating temperatures all contribute, and cost practically nothing. Transport on foot or by bike trumps the car every time. So do buses, the tram and Inter-City railways. 

We've spent a fortune in the past two years on reducing our reliance first on gas, and then on the National Grid. It's early, but we are probably now about carbon-neutral. The feed-in tariff will pay us a lot more than the money was earning, sat in the bank. We were fortunate to be able to do this, I realise. But we all need to know it really can be done, and will get steadily easier as more of us make a move.

Mothers Do Count

I was stirred into life this morning by a radio report that children on Jamie Oliver food were achieving more at school. I'm not surprised that this should be so, only that it should be obvious enough to be measurable already.  Let's hope those mothers take note, who pass chip butties through the railings to save their dear ones from a decent alternative.

But that was not all. The Times "Body and Soul" section dropped on the mat today. It contained a feature about the Oxford Parent Infant Project, which gave the reporter back his confidence as a parent of twins and an older child (oh yes, we've been there). But he was critical of Sue Gerhardt's recent book "The Selfish Society", for going way over the top. I disagree. Gerhardt fingers mothers' rush back to wealth-creation as the root cause of inadequate early childhood care. How can that be wrong? We've known for centuries that despatch to boarding school was doing mischief to at least some offspring of the well-healed. Now day nurseries are available to anyone from age six months. Gerhardt maintains that nursery before age two is emotionally damaging. No doubt some children get by without obvious harm, but in general I'm sure she's right.

Whether (as Gerhardt contends) that harm includes craving in later life for money, shopping or drugs, may be contentious but is eminently plausible. Boarding school life does not, sadly, immunise its graduates reliably against such addictions. We have no reason to trust the nursery school system to manage any better, with their much more limited resources and larger demands.

I hope Mr FC of West Sussex will not mind my quoting in full his recent letter to The Times. I spotted it in 'The Week' dated 27th March.

"I was delighted by the news that 'the number of women staying at home to look after children has risen considerably.' But you then describe stay-at-home mothers - and other inert groups - as 'inactive people who do not want a job'. Ironic, when a couple of days at home looking after young children would reduce many full-time employees to a state of exhaustion.

"My wife took 13 years out of her teaching career to be at home for our four children, which was a vital contribution to their happiness and development. It was also beneficial to the wellbeing of society at large. Your observations represent the robotic utilitarianism that underpins so much of contemporary socio-economic comment. We should all remember the sign on Einstein's wall: 'Not everything that counts can be counted; not everything that can be counted counts.'"

Let's face it: child-rearing cannot be successfully done part-time. It should not even be attempted one-on-one. It calls for some sort of family, whether nuclear or extended, to provide a consistent moral and emotional base, and the necessary breadth, collective energy, attention, security and love. 

Think several times before paying anyone else, outside your extended family, to bring up your children for you.

Goodbye GoodHealthkeeping.co.uk

We have decided to shut down this website, after ten years. It is way out of date, and getting expensive. Look at www.savilleturner.co.uk instead, where we hope to locate the leaflet library and the new book. I'm also thinking about twitter and face-book - though with much apprehension! Any views?