Wednesday 27 November 2013

A government minister prepared to talk sensibly about drug policy

Truly times are a'changing. And we are getting full value for money from Norman Baker.

"The new Liberal Democrat minister responsible for drugs policy, Norman Baker, has refused to rule out a policy of legalising cannabis but said that it is not his prime objective in the job.

""I think it needs to be considered along with everything else. It is not my prime objective and I am not advocating it at the moment. We should be prepared to follow the evidence and see where it takes us," he said."

It goes on to say, "He is currently completing a year-long Home Office comparison of international drug policies and is due to visit the Czech republic and Switzerland next week as part of his research."  I was in Switzerland this weekend; missed an opportunity there, obviously....

Wednesday 20 November 2013

"After a long battle with cancer"

I have been first irritated, then increasingly dismayed, over a long period by announcements on the news about cancer deaths. When somebody dies, it is inevitably described as “after a long battle with cancer”. It is as if the word processor sees “died of cancer” or “died from cancer” and autocorrects implacably to “died-after-a-long-battle-with-cancer”. While some people do fight the disease with all the might at their disposal, it is not the only way of reacting. Some people take it philosophically, some ignore it, some have fun while they still can, some take it administratively, using the time they have left to organise their affairs. And there are many other ways of doing it. To have these many, many ways of dealing with the end of life reduced to one single trope and one single understanding cheapens the humanity of us all. I was heartened last month to see Wilko Johnson explaining why he turned down the offer of chemotherapy, and I bookmarked it to remind me to check how the news of his passing is announced when it finally happens.

And yesterday, in a lovely, and insightful, column on the BBC website, Andrew Graystone discussed his own reaction to cancer, and the trope of “battle”. I could have done without the headline to be honest “Viewpoint: Did Richard Nixon change the way people describe cancer?” but that does not detract from a sensitive discussion of the illness and human reaction to it. News editors, take note, please. It is not right that so many individual, passionate, poignant human stories should be reduced to the news editing equivalent of autopilot.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Where will our food come from in twenty years?

Ringmer LibDems held a debate, open to all, on where our food is going to come from in twenty years time. The material used to introduce the topic is available on Slideshare:

We looked at several issues:
- population: the population of both the Uk and the world, and the potential demand for food (and water)
- what kinds of food are produced and their relative use of land
- forms of production: industrial, organic, personal etc
- the ways differnt foodstuffs are created: natural means, hybrids, GM etc
- food waste: in our small scale survey of local residents
- food ethics
- and finally what would you change to ensure food security in twenty years time.