The coalition is ending the social contract

 

By Matt Hawkins

What did Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine, and Tony Benn all have in common? Queue the worst punchline ever: they all believed that government was bound by a ‘social contract’ to act for and in the interests of its citizens (you were warned).

Whilst pre-contract society was lawless and, according to Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, the social contract – signed between the public and the government – was meant to guarantee protection by the state and a decent standard of living for all.

Today Britain can feel more like the lawless society described by these political thinkers than the mature state that was supposed to have evolved in its wake. Life might not yet be ‘short’, but for many it can certainly feel solitary, poor, nasty and brutish.

If the government’s heartless approach to reforming the Disability Living Allowance and toughening welfare conditionality is anything to go by, it seems that you have to be perpetually superhuman – never unwell and never out of work – in order to be entitled to even a basic level of income.

Never-mind the fact that individuals can hardly be blamed when every new job attracts enough applicants to fill a small Hampshire village or working all the hours that Iain Duncan Smith demands still doesn’t bring home enough money to pay the bills.

Indeed, it is those born with the twin attributes of money and political influence who thrive in this Brave New World – just as it was those born with the benefits of brute strength who prospered in Hobbes’ ‘Old World’.

The reason we no longer have a right to a job or decent welfare support when we’re out of work is, quite simply, because making such guarantees would clash with the corporate giants that have come to hold huge political influence.

As Naomi Klein documented in her book No Logo, while a burgeoning number of employees was once seen as the hallmark of a successful business, cutting jobs and slashing wages are the new gold standard that help companies to drive up ‘efficiency’. Jobs that once provided stable incomes in the UK are being packaged off to economic enterprise zones in Asia where it is easier to pay cripplingly low wages and undercut workers’ basic rights.

Whilst UKIP likes to blame migrant workers for UK job losses – goading the un(der)employed by shouting ‘fight, fight, fight’ as if they’re in a school playground – they should really be pointing the finger at the corporate monoliths that have outsourced all their jobs (and then outsourced them some more). Continue reading

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LONDON’S ‘HOTHOUSES’ NEED ENERGY EFFICIENCY MEASURES,

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London’s buildings are often expensive to heat or cool and poorly insulated according to Green Party MEP, Jean Lambert.

In a message for Earth Day, which was marked by events across the globe yesterday, she said energy efficiency and conservation measures were key to cutting London’s greenhouse gas emissions – and lowering energy bills.

Earth Day, marked by the UN each year on April 22, this year took as its focus ‘green cities’.

The UN estimates more than half of the world’s population lives in cities – and has called for a ‘transition’ towards renewable energy generation and investment in energy efficiency in urban areas.

Ms Lambert said: “Almost a decade ago I wrote a report looking in detail at how energy-inefficient London’s homes were – and the contribution that made to high energy bills and climate change.

“Without a concerted focus on sustainability in housing by the Mayor of London, little has changed.

“London still has some of the most inefficient housing in the UK – and we’ll have to invest in insulation and energy conservation if we are going to become the sustainable, healthy city Londoners need.

“Instead, we have a Mayor and a Government who are more concerned with weakening the laws protecting Londoners from the exhaust fumes and polluted air that’s killing 4,000 Londoners early every year and allowing fracking in South and South-East London.

“But London, like all the world’s great cities, will have to evolve as energy becomes more expensive and climate change worsens.

“As well as lowering our household energy bills, public investment in energy conservation could create thousands of much-needed jobs in London’s construction sector.”

Read Jean Lambert’s report ‘Hothouses: Climate Change and London’s Housing’, examining the state of energy efficiency in London’s housing stock. It’s available for download here:

 

 

Scientific research says its now healthier up North!

Vulnerability to the mortality effects of warm temperature in the districts of England and Wales

Original article published in Nature Climate Change here

James E. Bennett,Marta Blangiardo, Daniela Fecht, Paul Elliott & Majid Ezzati

Warm temperatures adversely affect disease occurrence and death, in extreme conditions as well as when the temperature changes are more modest. Therefore climate change, which is expected to affect both average temperatures and temperature variability, is likely to impact health even in temperate climates.

Climate change risk assessment is enriched if there is information on vulnerability and resilience to effects of temperature. Some studies have analysed socio-demographic characteristics that make individuals vulnerable to adverse effects of temperature.

Less is known about community-level vulnerability. We used geo-coded mortality and environmental data and Bayesian spatial methods to conduct a national small-area analysis of the mortality effects of warm temperature for all 376 districts in England and Wales.

In the most vulnerable districts, those in London and south/southeast England, odds of dying from cardiorespiratory causes increased by more than 10% for 1 °C warmer temperature, compared with virtually no effect in the most resilient districts, which were in the far north.

A 2 °C warmer summer may result in 1,552 (95% credible interval 1,307–1,762) additional deaths, about one-half of which would occur in 95 districts. The findings enable risk and adaptation analyses to incorporate local vulnerability to warm temperature and to quantify inequality in its effects.

 

  1. Percentage increase in the odds of cardiorespiratory death (women) for 1 [deg]C increase in mean daily summer temperature above district-specific thresholds and the posterior probabilities that the estimated effect size is different from the national average.
    Figure 1
  2. Percentage increase in the odds of cardiorespiratory death (men) for 1 [deg]C increase in mean daily summer temperature above district-specific thresholds and the posterior probabilities that the estimated effect size is different from the national average.
    Figure 2
  3. Figure 3

    The number of additional cardiorespiratory deaths in the districts of England and Wales that would be expected during five summer months if temperatures were warmer by 2 [deg]C.