Life and death, trumping Trump, climate change and cBeebies

This is my first Roundup, so please allow me to introduce myself: I’m Gary Marshall (@garymarshall on Twitter), I write about technology for a living, and I blog at Bigmouthstrikesagain.com.

Right, enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

You can’t accuse the Scottish blogosphere of parochialism: this week alone it’s been pondering matters of life and death, architectural vandalism, online identity, climate change, gender politics, coalition cuts and which one of the In The Night Garden characters you’d do if you really had to.

First up, Gina Maffey of Au magazine – a student-run science magazine from the University of Aberdeen’s Science Journalism Society – takes a cool look at the way the media reports science, noting that “the impact that one sensationalist headline can have on the perception of the research in question is huge.” Maffey’s examples suggest misinterpretation at best and outright falsehoods at worst, with examples including the Daily Mail’s claims that we’re heading for a mini ice age. We aren’t.

When it comes to bad science reporting the Daily Mail is a repeat offender. That means any science-related blog post by somebody who credits the Daily Mail as “probably Britain’s only real newspaper” is going to set my alarm bells ringing. Neil Craig is the Mail admirer in question, and his post claiming to demolish “catastrophic warming alarmism” left this particular blogger – no pun intended – cold.

I’m quite sure some environmental activists have exaggerated the effects and dangers of climate change to promote an agenda, just as energy companies have invested enormous sums of money to suggest that everything’s just rosy and others have exaggerated the dangers of nuclear power (as Craig correctly points out), but to these eyes the debate has long since polarised into a battle between “warmists” on one side and “deniers” on the other who clearly aren’t paying the slightest bit of attention to one another.

For his part, Craig sets out his stall early by calling climate change scientists “alarmists” and demanding that the scientific community apologises for Al Gore – and in a week when Scottish Power promised to up energy prices by 19% and I had to remortgage my house just to buy a half-tank of diesel, the debate over whether our dwindling fossil fuels are also changing the climate reminds me of the poster tagline for Aliens versus Predator: whoever wins, we lose.

Sticking with energy for a bit longer, the Mossmorran gas fractionation plant near Cowdenbeath is an unlikely muse, but its flare moved Lochgelly.org.uk user McKintosh to poetry. The Dawn Chorus o Mossmorran is a blackly funny way of describing something that, for many local residents, is no laughing matter.

Development or destruction?

The redevelopment – or as some would put it, destruction – of Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens is a hot topic in the Granite city, and Other Aberdeen’s proposed Woonerf – a development that gives people and vehicles equal priority – is the subject of a detailed and thought-provoking post that’s relevant to any city facing regeneration. I must confess I don’t know Aberdeen particularly well, but Other Aberdeen’s done such a great job of selling the Woonerf that if they build it, I’ll definitely come for a visit.

Gillian Martin has been thinking about Aberdeenshire too: as someone fundamentally opposed to Donald Trump’s proposed development of the Menie Estate near Balmedie, she went to see a documentary about Trump’s battle with the locals, You’ve Been Trumped. “My goodness, though, I didn’t know the half of it,” she writes, noting that the locals shown in the documentary are far from the “belligerent troublemakers clearly just holding out ’til Trump opened the cheque-book still wider” portrayed by the local press. The documentary found ordinary people treated appallingly and then demonised by the media that was supposed to represent them. “They had every right to be bitter,” Martin says. “Instead they are amazing.”

RXpell from Moved To Comment was also, well, moved to comment: “I’ve been opposing this development since the first time I saw what it involved … and I’d oppose this regardless of the developer involved.  I have written to my councillors and been ignored, I’ve been on the marches and been at the protests so I do think I’ve got a reasonable idea of what is going on yet as I said before what I saw in the film really shocked me.”

More earthy matters were being discussed in the capital, where Ellen Arnison takes a break from more serious topics to describe how playing “sh*g, marry, avoid” fought her fatigue during Edinburgh’s late night Moonwalk. That wasn’t the only topic of conversation – others included “men, children, governments, schools, families, gender politics, blogging and the etiquette of weeing en plein air” – but wondering “if you were In The Night Garden and you had to, who would it be?” generated a mile’s worth of argument. I’ll let Arnison tell you the answers to that one – and while you’re there, do click on the Moonwalk link to donate to a very worthy cause.

Gender politics were on Kevin Holdsworth’s mind too after a spate of news stories suggested that Queen Victoria was right when she stated that lesbianism didn’t exist: people the internet thought were lesbians turned out to be heterosexual males playing around with gender roles. Holdsworth makes some good points about the supposed Syrian Lesbian Blogger’s motivation and notes that “the Scottish Episcopal Church published some good guidelines for children in dealing with the online world. Part of those guidelines dealt with the fact… that not everyone online is who they purport to be.” Perhaps we grown-ups should take note too. For his part, Holdsworth promises that he’s “very real. Honest.”

LittleGrumpyG had matters of life and death on his mind after watching Terry Pratchett’s documentary, Choosing To Die. Rather than confirm his beliefs, G found, they challenged them: “Before watching the documentary I was in favour of assisted suicide – in favour of people going to Switzerland to exercise their right to die and in favour of it becoming legal in the UK. I supported Margo MacDonald’s attempt to make it law in Scotland. Having watched a man go to his death in Switzerland I am now re-considering that full-throated support.”

Just in case there wasn’t enough misery in the world, the coalition’s swingeing cuts will soon begin to bite – and carers are going to be particularly affected. Kate of A Burdz Eye View marked Carers’ Week with a considered post on the coming cuts, and on the assumption that in an independent Scotland everything would be much better. “These cuts will be scything their way through the fabric of people’s lives long before the ink is dry on the independence referendum bill. And even if Scotland votes yes, there will be several more years of transition and pain before control is transferred. In any event, this statement asserts an assumed truism: that Scotland would stop these welfare cuts.  It also implies that given the chance, we would reverse them.”

Anti-sectarianism – what’s the sudden hurry?

We’re not independent yet, but we do have a majority SNP government, and it’s going to eradicate the cancer of sectarianism from Scottish life by rushing new legislation onto the statute books. Lallands Peat Worrier is not impressed. “All that effort to foil Blair, and then you find yourself enacting his legislation yourself, at breakneck speed, to achieve precisely the end you once so strenuously resisted,” he writes, arguing that “for Holyrood to sag before the Emperor’s quixotic wheezes, however well-intentioned his basic inspiration to legislate in this area, and worse, to smile admiringly at his follies, and collude with them – is unworthy, totally unworthy of the institution and the many decent folk who serve there.”

The splendidly named Wowbaggertheinfinitelyprolonged has been thinking about anti-sectarian legislation too, and his reading of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill raises an interesting question: could it be a crime to sing the National Anthem in Scotland? He paints an entirely believable scenario of Rangers fans winding up Celtic fans by singing in praise of The Queen, and notes that “we can rely on the good sense of the police, and of the prosecuting authorities not to act where it is unnecessary” – just as they did when former Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc was cautioned for crossing himself in front of Rangers fans. “Crossing yourself cannot possibly be considered a breach of the peace… it is ludicrous,” one politician said at the time. His name? Alex Salmond.

There’s no doubt that the legislation is being rushed through with unseemly haste, but Wowbagger has an explanation: “The Government has made it clear that it wants this Bill to be law in time for the next football season.” It’s hard to disagree with his conclusion: “we have a Bill which, without apparent supporting evidence, is stated by the Government to be urgent. This deliberately cuts down the time for proper scrutiny. Parliament will be unable to do its job properly regarding this Bill, and, as has been the case so often in the past, we await the unintended consequences.”

After all this food for thought, how about a feast for the eyes? Here’s Musa Aberdeen’s video recipe for Turbot cooked in garlic sauce with a little help from another local celebrity, BrewDog Punk IPA. Cheers!

2 comments

  1. “our dwindling fossil fuels” aren’t dwindling either. Reserves are actually increasing quite sharply because technological progress has made tar sands and dhale gas available. The cost increases you decry are all caused by Luddites in government.

  2. That’s not my reading of it. Thanks to oil and gas price hikes, extraction methods that were previously dismissed as uneconomic are suddenly more attractive, hence the “increasing” reserves. But even the most optimistic projections for shale gas etc don’t make a dent in the projected demand for energy, particularly in non-OECD countries, over the coming couple of decades. I agree with you that abandoning nuclear is a mistake, but I suspect that’s the only thing we’re likely to agree on.