Dr Tijana Blanusa is a RHS Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences. Her research interests include the role of urban greening in the mitigation of heat island effect; gardens and microclimate; understanding the physiological responses of ornamental plants to water deficits; and improving the establishment of ornamental plants.
The University of Reading and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have teamed up at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show (22 – 26 May 2012), to showcase their research into the effect of plants in urban environments.
I work in a very privileged position for a scientist – based at the University and allowed the luxury to follow sometimes quirky questions, but working for a big charitable organisation and hence asking those questions grounded in reality, on behalf of the people we strive to support. For the last few years my work has focused on understanding plants in the urban environment and their contribution to provision of several ‘ecosystem services’*. The aim is to inform and encourage wide and thoughtful use of plants in the domestic and public (urban) context.
Even in the busiest and most populated of Western cities, a surprisingly high proportion of their surface is covered in vegetation (almost up to 50% in some cases). Furthermore, in the UK, almost half of those urban green areas are made up of private gardens. Hence what we grow in our gardens and public green spaces and how we manage them can really impact on our environment on many levels, both positively and negatively. In my job I question general assumptions on what urban green spaces (and domestic gardens in particular) do and don’t do, and challenge advice given to people involved in managing any sort of green space.
There is very sound scientific evidence about a number of ‘services’ that urban vegetation can provide; it is well established for example that vegetation moderates air temperatures, helps insulate buildings against the extremes of weather, supports and enriches urban biodiversity and human health. So the common public perceptions that parks, street trees and green domestic spaces help lower summer temperatures locally are supported by largely unanimous scientific evidence. The scientific questions remaining there lie, for example, in the need to tease out how vegetation works at various spatial scales (e.g. locally, next to the individual house, or on a neighbourhood or whole-city scales) and how various ‘services’ provided by the vegetation can be best combined. However, the way our urban green spaces and private gardens are managed (i.e. how much water, energy etc. is consumed in their management) greatly influences the level of their potential environmental benefits (with higher inputs often meaning that the benefits decrease).
To showcase the interest that the University of Reading and the Royal Horticultural Society have in researching plants in the urban environments, the two organisations are, for the first time jointly, organising an exhibit at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (22 – 26 May 2012). Our display ‘Keeping their cool: how the plants in urban environment help reduce temperatures, control flooding and capture pollution’ will be featured in the ‘RHS Environment’ section of the Flower Show. We will be attempting to provide some answers to the following questions: why urban gardens matter, what do plants contribute to the urban environment and how do they do it.? We will also reinforce the view that not all plants act in the same way, so that a variety in plant form, structure, habit, colour etc. is likely to provide the best overall ‘service’ to the urban environment. So if you are interested, come and see us there.
*Very broadly speaking ‘ecosystem services’ can be thought of as benefits that humans derive from resources and processes that are supplied by ecosystems. In some scientific literature, the term ‘ecosystem disservice’ is also used to balance the arguments and describe functions of ecosystems that are perceived as negative for human well-being.
Dr David Stack is a Reader in History who believes strongly in the need to promote interdisciplinary understanding and public engagement with history. His research interests include the inter-relationship of ideas (especially ‘scientific’ and medical ideas) and politics in the history of Britain and beyond, and Victorian autobiographies and their authors.
David will be presenting at the ‘Cultivating common ground: biology and the humanities’, an AHRC-funded workshop that will be held at the University of Reading, 18 July 2012. For more information follow the link: http://reading.ac.uk/cultivating-common-ground/
For many years I was reluctant to admit to strangers that I was a historian. This made getting a haircut a frequent source of torment: “Not working today?” the barber would ask. “No,” I’d reply in the forlorn hope of closing down the conversation. “What do you do then?” [Pause] “Erm …”. At this point, if feeling particularly adventurous, I’d ‘borrow’ an occupation from a friend or relation. The tangled web that ensued, however, was never, as Walter Scott warned, worth the trouble. (I still have nightmares about the time I found myself in a shop basement staring at an electricity meter and intoning, with as much authority as I could muster: “Yes, that’s working perfectly.”)
An honest answer, however, often brought its own difficulties, especially if someone asked what the book I was working on was about. For a few years the simplest answer to this question was ‘phrenology’. Most people understood the term – “Bumps on the head, isn’t it?” – but few could fathom why anyone would spend their time researching it. “So, is there any truth in it?” I was asked on more than one occasion (and not just by barbers, who might be expected to have had a better idea than most).
Implicit in the question, I’ve always felt, was a dual assumption: that the world (and the past) is neatly divided into the ‘true’ and ‘untrue’, and that the latter is useless and thus not worth bothering with. If one holds to this view, that ‘truth’ and ‘utility’ are the only guides to what is worth studying, historians really should be embarrassed about avowing their vocation, and not only to barbers but more especially to university administrators and government ministers (in the unlikely event that they deign to ask). For one of the key tasks of historians, and historians of science more than most, is precisely the study of what is ‘wrong’ and ‘useless’. Just after the Second World War the medical historian Walter Pagel (1898-1983), published a short manifesto for this activity. He called it ‘the vindication of rubbish’.
Pagel’s approach was the antithesis of what we might call popular histories of science. In these accounts, often written by scientists themselves, knowledge is marching ever onwards in a straight line, with each generation (to mix our metaphors) standing on the shoulders of earlier giants, in their progress towards a more truthful understanding. Oddities, such as phrenology, take their place in such accounts, but only as party-pieces to be laughed at and thus confirm our own superior understanding. Pagel, by contrast, coined his phrase while exploring the relationship between alchemy and naturalism in the Renaissance. Rather than dismiss such ‘non-progressive’ elements in the history of science, Pagel argued that an understanding of alchemy and magic was essential to understanding Renaissance medicine and chemistry.
The justification for studying phrenology was slightly different. What interested me (and earlier historians) was the manner in which phrenology’s model of the brain – especially the notion of cognitive localization – mapped onto broader social and economic changes in Victorian society, and how this related to its success and popularity. In part, what we argued was that phrenology is a good example of how the success of a science is determined less by its inherent (or ahistorical) ‘truth’, and more by its explanatory power in a definite set of social relations. Phrenology’s theory of the brain, and thus human nature, that is, was popular because it was compatible with the new industrial capitalist economy and the values of free market economics. A study of phrenology, therefore, both aids our understanding of Victorian Britain and provides a historical perspective through which to view contemporary claims about the modularity of the mind, in neuroethics and brain imaging, which have been labelled the ‘new phrenology’.
Underlying my work, and that of other historians of science, are two assumptions that, I suspect, practising scientists will find uncomfortable. The first is that the distinction between ‘science’ and ‘pseudo-science’, associated with the philosopher Karl Popper, is unhelpful and invalid. Alchemy, phrenology, magic, and a host of other oddities all deserve to be taken seriously in the history of science. Second, that the ‘realist’ assumption that we should unquestioningly accept today’s science as ‘objective’ and ‘true’ is unsustainable in the face of historical evidence. There are so many cases of theories that were empirically successful in their own day but are now believed false – one historian (Larry Laudan) listed 30 in a range of different disciplines and eras – that there seem good grounds for assuming the historical contingency of any scientific ‘truth’. The atomic theory of matter, after all, could go the same way as phlogiston (the non-existent chemical thought to be released during combustion, prior to the discovery of oxygen) theory.
These, I concede, are difficult and contentious topics that cut to the heart of both the self-image of science and the work of humanities scholars. They are not, perhaps, suitable topics for the barber’s chair but they will, I hope, form part of our discussions at the Cultivating Common Ground workshop. And if biologists prove no more receptive to my ideas than barbers, I am well practised in steering the conversation around to where I’m planning to spend my holidays.
Professor Gavin Parker is Chair of Planning Studies in the School of Real Estate and Planning at the University of Reading. He has a strong interest in policy instruments revolving around citizenship, participation and governance – an interest that spans the urban and rural divide and a number of policy fields. He has been actively researching community and neighbourhood planning with reports and publications that have been shaping policy agendas in this regard.
This is a brief scene setting piece concerning the recent and highly publicised changes to the town planning system in England. Rarely has planning ridden so high on the national political agenda and only occasionally do higher profile national cases merit a brief mention in the media. When such planning stories come up they are often couched in terms of environmental impact concerns or with headlines of ‘Developers thwarted’ and centre on conflicts between interests. Yet the reasons for and importance of planning is never really opened up for debate. Recent changes to the planning system in England at least afford an opportunity to relook at the basis and rationale for planning in England. And accompanying the changes has been a hard fought debate over the bigger issues at stake and as such the fundamentals have been re-aired.
Planning may be seen as a key lever in shaping and enabling development and in setting the direction for sustainable growth. Planners aim to think long term and in cumulative terms over the best and most efficient use of land and actively think about the spatial distribution of activity ‘where is it best placed?’. Planning has also been recognised as a tool to help to realise the UK government’s aspirations in terms of localising decision-making.
Yet the Government’s planning recent reforms also carry an underlying critique of planning, as supposedly a brake on growth and the initial proposals for reform issued in 2010 carried with them a frustration at the way that development has been slowed in this latest period of credit squeeze, recession and austerity. As such the aims of government in the reforms have been to simplify, as well as re-orientate, the system towards growth and at the same time to try and use planning as a key tool in their localism agenda – not an easy thing. As the debate has developed over the past year or so recognition of the need for a planning system that balances economic interests and aims with the protection and enhancement of environmental and social goods has, thankfully, been largely achieved as a product of extended public debate. However the proof of how this is maintained will only come over the next few years. I now briefly turn to outline some of the most salient changes and why I say this.
The basis of the reforms
There are two main loci for change, these are the Localism Act which was passed into law in December 2011 and many of whose provisions come into effect on 6 April 2012. This legislation is far ranging and the planning elements involve important changes – it encourages a more localised approach to planning for example. The second is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in final form on 27 March 2012. This is a document that sets out the national guidance for planners, developers and others interested in shaping the built and natural environment. In broad terms this document will inform planning decision making in England and act to guide the general thrust of local plans.
The Localism Act
There are several headline changes included in the Act. One of the key changes for planning is the removal of the regional tier of planning activity – this move has abolished Regional Spatial Strategies and the Regional Development Agencies as part of the much vaunted ‘bonfire of the quangos’ and in the name of both simplifying and reorienting the ‘top-down’ approach involved with strategic planning. There has been instead a shift downwards with more emphasis on the local authorities and on other local actors, including business. As such the replacement of regional planning is a duty to co-operate across boundaries and the unveiling of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as groupings of businesses, local authorities and third sector institutions who act to identify and orchestrate around key issues affecting local economies. The Thames Valley has one and the University is involved in it (see link below).
The second important innovation is with the instigation of a form of community level planning, which should result in the production of a new tool – Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDP). The argument used is that people want to engage with local issues and to be empowered to consider development as growth on their own terms. Overall the Act seeks to encourage more responsibility over policies and decisions taken at the local level and for more emphasis to be placed on the local authorities and constituent neighbourhoods to shape growth – the other pillar of the government’s agenda. Overall the Localism Act places a considerable emphasis on local authorities to produce a local plan, and quickly, and to support neighbourhoods embarking on NDPs. The question persists however that, in a resource-shrinking environment, can they perform as required? Government are hoping that neighbourhoods will establish neighbourhood forums and will produce their own NDPs over the next year or two. Seeing the potential for inertia they have initiated the process early by providing some funding to around 230 ‘frontrunner’ neighbourhoods (see link below).
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
Decision makers trying to decide whether to invest, develop or when to say ‘yes, no or maybe’ to development need substantive clarity; they need clear ‘decision rules’ to guide their actions. The express intent of the NPPF has been to reduce the amount of planning guidance and to make such guidance that remains clearer and more accessible for users of the planning system. Some claim that government has confused brevity for clarity and while the aim of reducing the quantity of guidance has been achieved, whether the intention to make policy clearer only time will really tell. The NPPF itself stands at just over 50 pages and the main highlights are the test of sustainable development and 12 ‘principles’ of planning that are indicated in the Framework (see link below).
Sustainable development and questions about what this means have been addressed with the 5 pillars derived from the previous government’s Sustainable Development Strategy (2005), used alongside the well worn definition of sustainable development: ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. How this plays out on a case by case basis is the real issue however and past practice and thinking had produced a series of criteria and cross-cutting policies aimed to assist planners and others to shape development proposals and support decisions expressly to achieve sustainable outcomes. One fear is that this wisdom will be substantially lost or ignored, (or quite possibly reinstated piecemeal) begging a question about why the changes were embarked upon in the first place.
Many commentators question the impact and usefulness of the document given that planning covers such a wide and complex range of circumstances and issues, such that the 50-page document can scarcely act as a manual. Instead it is very much scene setting – it is more of a manifesto for others to interpret and refine. As a result look out for more guidance to be produced more quietly over the next year or so… In the meantime there are concerns that the perceived gaps will produce more ‘planning by appeal’ with developers testing the system and of course, as with much change, the uncertainty that this produces is likely to prove lucrative for the lawyers.
Overall the changes are radical in intent but many planners are wondering just how much difference all this will make on the ground and whether in times of austerity they may actually now serve to hold growth up (and may not bring forward localist activity in a deep, meaningful or inclusive way), particularly when there is little or no resource to back this up. Indeed quite the opposite is happening – many local authorities have been cutting back on their planning budgets since 2009 (latest figures show a 24% reduction on average). The final point is that the environmental and amenity lobby groups in particular have been upset by the changes as they fear that, at least in the hiatus, developers will be able to work the nascent system. The concern is that any inadequacies of the policy framework in some local authority areas may be exploited to successfully push through dubious developments in locations previously considered unsuitable.
Many of the key ideas and principles underpinning planning are outlined in a new book: Key Concepts in Planning by Gavin Parker and Joe Doak (Sage, 2012). See also: Lynn, T. and Parker, G. (2012) Localism and Growth? Neighbourhood planning and housing. Town and Country Planning, Vol. 83(1): 15-19; CPRE, National Trust and Friends of the Earth (2012) Inexpensive growth? Report published February, 2012. The NPPF is located: http://communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/nppf; and the link to neighbourhood planning and the relevant provisions of the Localism Act are located at: www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planningsystem/neighbourhoodplanningvanguards/ The webpage of the Local Enterprise Partnership covering the Thames Valley can be viewed through: www.businessinberkshire.co.uk/tvep
Dr Emma Irvine is a post-doctoral research assistant in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.
In January this year a new measure to tackle climate change came into force. Designed by the European Union, it targets the 220 million tonnes of CO2 emitted annually on flights departing from or arriving to a European airport (figure from 2006). The new measure is to include aviation CO2 emissions in the EU’s emissions trading scheme; the aim is to achieve real reductions in the CO2 emitted by this fast-growing industry. Put simply: the cost of a flight, for both airline and passenger, now includes CO2.
Why is there a need for such a scheme in the first place? In 2006, globally, aircraft emitted around 700 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, 30% of which was from flights originating or departing Europe. Putting this into context, global aviation contributed approximately 2% of man-made CO2 emissions (in that year).
This is a small proportion; the UK’s share of aviation CO2 emissions is much less than the contribution from, for example, heating our homes (14.8%) or generating electricity (about 26%). So, why all the fuss? First, the aviation industry is growing by around 5% per year, meaning that its share of CO2 emissions could rapidly increase. Second, the climate impact of aviation, a topic of research at the University of Reading, is not just from CO2 emissions. The non-CO2 climate effects of aviation, like water vapour, ozone creation and contrails, increase aviation’s total contribution to human-induced climate change to up to 15%.
The good news is that the aviation industry isn’t sticking its head in the sand. It has set its own stringent targets that new aircraft entering service in 2020 should produce 50% less CO2 (per passenger kilometre) than aircraft in 2000. The question is, left to its own devices, will the aviation industry really be able to make a significant dent in its CO2 emissions? The EU thinks not.
Now for the technical bit: the Emission Trading System (ETS) limits (‘caps’) overall CO2 emissions in Europe from certain industries; under this cap and trade scheme, companies buy carbon credits to cover their CO2 emissions up to the cap, and may trade surplus carbon credits on the carbon market. So how does this work for airlines? The total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by aviation is now capped at 97% of the annual average emitted in 2004-2006; this includes CO2 emissions from all flights which arrived at or departed from a European airport (i.e. it counts the total CO2 from the flight, not just the portion of the flight that was in European airspace). 85% of this cap is distributed to airlines as free allowances, proportional to that airline’s share of the emissions in 2010. The remaining 15% of the cap will be auctioned.
At the end of April 2013, each airline must surrender sufficient carbon credits to cover their 2012 CO2 emissions. Therefore if an airline wishes to expand its operations in Europe, it must either buy carbon credits at auction (or trade from other airlines who have reduced their emissions and thus have surplus credits) or from another industry sector. The implementation is fairly complicated but the rationale behind the scheme is simple: the less CO2 you emit, the smaller your costs, and in a competitive market this should effectively drive CO2emission reductions.
So far so good. But that’s not the end of the story. Internationally, the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETS has been highly controversial; the EU’s decision to introduce a regional scheme is seen by many as taking unilateral action that is both unfair and counterproductive. Legal action, brought by US airlines, was defeated by the European courts in December, however the US government may still make it illegal for US airlines to comply with this new EU law (interestingly, Delta has coincidentally introduced an unspecified $3 per passenger surcharge, ‘just in case’). China doesn’t want its airlines to pay, and has both suspended a large order of (the European-based) Airbus aircraft, and refused to allow its airlines to comply. UK airlines, with the noted exception of Ryanair, have been mostly supportive; BA has previously voluntarily participated in a UK-based ETS. It is expected that airlines will pass on the costs of participating in the ETS to its passengers in the form of surcharges. So far surcharges have been at the bottom end of the range of estimates of 2 Euros to 3% of the ticket price, and in any case will be insignificant compared to UK air passenger duty (currently £60 for a flight to New York).
It is unclear how this story will end. At a debate I attended at British Airways last December, the overwhelming majority agreed that market-based measures are the best way to tackle CO2 emissions, even if few people believed that the EU would manage to implement the aviation ETS without some concessions or modifications. Some concessions seem likely as international opposition to the scheme is not only increasing but becoming more organised: a coalition of countries (including the US, China, India and Russia) recently met to decide on ‘retaliatory action’ against the EU, threatening to escalate the situation into a full-scale trade war. Meanwhile, aviation’s governing body ICAO says it is accelerating efforts to design a global ETS-style measure for aviation and will present its proposals by summer (full story at http://www.greenaironline.com/news.php?viewStory=1417).
Even the EU acknowledges that a global solution is clearly the best way forward. The EU ETS could just be the catalyst to make that happen.
Lawrence McNamara is an ESRC Global Uncertainties research fellow at the University of Reading where he runs the Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know project which includes interviews with several judges.
This piece first appeared in The Guardian.
What should judges be able say outside the courts? One of the most senior judges, Lord Neuberger, has proposed some principles for “extra-judicial” statements. The speech, published this month, is an important one as these principles are likely to shape judicial contributions to public debate for some time to come, but do they go far enough?
The starting point is familiar: it is “quite inappropriate” for politicians to criticise judges or their decisions. There must be “mutual respect” between ministers and the judiciary. If they “slang each other off in public” it undermines the constitution, democracy and the rule of law. While the frankness is welcome, the content is not overly surprising.
But then Neuberger turns to what that means for the judiciary – and here it gets interesting.
Mutual respect means ministers and judges “must respect the other’s turf and not tread on it”. It means judges should not “answer back”. It is “unseemly and more undermining” to do so. However, it does not mean that judges should not speak at all. On the contrary, Neuberger says extra-judicial comments have “more benefits than drawbacks”. While he dictates caution and warns judges not to “seek publicity for its own sake” or to seek it for causes, his seven principles empower judges to speak.
Neuberger is fundamentally right. The individual and collective experience of the judiciary, and their established constitutional role, means they should contribute to public debate about substance and processes of justice. The challenge is how they should do so without compromising the constitutional roles of any branch of the state.
One path is obviously through judgments. This does not mean judicial activism but – this is different – judicial engagement. Judges have made pointed observations about any number of matters such as laws about police interviews, procedures in terrorism trials, or dealing with children who have committed serious crimes. For the public, the problem is many judgments are accessible. There are some excellent open databases of appeal judgments but the vast majority of trial judgments and sentencing remarks are unreported and unavailable to the public. It is time this was changed, especially if one takes the view that extra-judicial statements should be minimal.
An alternative path is through speeches or written pieces. In the week the international criminal court delivered its first verdict, ‘Reflections of a Trial Judge’ by Sir Adrian Fulford, leading judge in the Lubanga case and a high court judge, is an important contribution. Judges can articulate and explain from the horse’s mouth how the judicial role works and what they see as key contemporary issues. The lord chief justice and Neuberger himself are exemplary speakers in this regard. The supreme court’s mission includes promoting “knowledge of the ways in which justice should be rightly administered.” It is right that judges engage outside their judgments.
Of course, judges across the land will not be reading Neuberger’s principles and thinking, “Excellent! At last I have some clear guidance about when I should speak and what I can say.” In spite of a judicial appearance on Masterchef, judges will inevitably be cautious of any public engagement with audiences outside the legal profession. Most judges will remain cautious and silent, and probably rightly so. At the senior end of the spectrum, though, while they will choose their battles carefully, Neuberger may have laid the ground for some interesting and well-chosen comments in the next couple of years.
Is there a point where judges would go too far? Or what might we be missing if they stop short? The justice and security green paper is a crucial contemporary case in point.
The conventional position is that judges “cannot comment on public policy” but can comment on “the practical consequences of certain policy choices”. We recently heard justice secretary Ken Clarke tell this to the joint committee on human rights in evidence to its inquiry into the green paper proposals for closed proceedings in civil cases.
For Neuberger, however, judges do not seem quite so restricted. Where policy “goes to the heart of the functioning of the judicial branch” then comment is not merely permissible, but there is arguably a judicial duty to comment. It might well be thought that closed proceedings, access to evidence and evaluation of evidence fall into that category. A judicial contribution to the justice and security debate would inform and enhance the process and policy choices that are made.
In England and Wales there could be more use of representative bodies to convey judicial views, especially on contentious issues. This would avoid it falling to individual judges to give evidence to committees, which rightly concerns Neuberger. By contrast, this week the Judicial Conference of Australia has made a submission on mandatory sentencing that was requested by a parliamentary inquiry into proposed legislative amendments. It may be an approach worth considering more widely that would enhance the judicial contributions and avoid damage to the constitutional framework.
Dr Matthew Nicholls from the Department of Classics at the University of Reading is interested in the political and social history of the Romans and the way that the built environments of Rome and cities around the empire expressed their values and priorities.
Matthew has an interest in computer modelling as a way of exploring ancient structures and bringing them to life and has developed an ambitious recreation of the city of Rome in the age of Constantine.
The first Roman emperor Augustus (ruled 31BC – AD14) began the imperial tradition of offering the people of Rome the ‘bread and circuses’ – cheap food and entertainment on a lavish scale – that came to characterise life in the city.
Augustus, as one ancient commentator tells us, “surpassed all his predecessors in the number, variety and splendour of his games”, often using new or restored buildings within the city as a setting and boasting (not without justification) that he had “found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble”, a tangible element of his vision for cultural, political and moral renewal of the Roman state.
After more than a decade in power Augustus used this renewed city as the setting for a particularly splendid set of games, which combined high literary culture and deliberately archaising religious ceremonial with popular gestures, including the provision of plays and chariot races. These games were intended to celebrate a renewed epoch of Roman prosperity and divine favour, a saeculum, and are therefore known in English (despite their religious function) as the Secular Games of 17BC.
We know about these games from a variety of sources – ancient authors mention them, the special hymn that the poet Horace wrote at the emperor’s behest survives, and several of the buildings or areas used for the events are known to archaeologists. We also have an inscription, found in fragments, that had been reset into a medieval wall, which lays out the daily programme for the games as devised by the priestly board in charge with details of the venue, date, and time for each event.
Combining the text of this inscription with what we know about Augustus’ building programme in Rome lets us see how he used his regenerated city as a backdrop for these games, reinforcing the message of renewal and prosperity with a splendid vista of new and restored buildings. In particular, the daily programme of supplementary entertainments, put on as crowd-pleasers for a week after the main religious sacrifices had been concluded, led crowds of spectators in their tens of thousands from open ground on the edge of town past a series of buildings – temples, porticoes, theatres, squares, and parkland – that had received special attention in the previous decade, showing off a thoroughly regenerated quarter of the city.
The modern Olympic Games, with their simultaneous functions as national showcases, catalysts for urban regeneration, and cultural spectaculars, offer a good comparison.
Moreover, the detailed timetable set out in the inscription allows us to investigate how the Games’ planners took particular advantage of the summer sun. The Games were held in early June, with events starting (as was common in the ancient world) shortly after sunrise. By the time that spectators arrived at the morning’s final venue, Augustus’ own new Theatre of Marcellus, it would have been around a quarter past eight in the morning on a modern clock. The Theatre of Marcellus is, uniquely for theatre buildings in Rome, orientated so the stage points north east; the other venues for the Games point west. With help from a UROP undergraduate research assistant, Ed Howkins, I used the digital model of ancient Rome that I have been building as a research and teaching tool to investigate the lighting conditions in the Theatre of Marcellus at the relevant date and time.
It turns out that the stage would have been perfectly illuminated for exactly the period in which the plays were held there, with the sun shining on the actors rather than into the faces of the spectators. It seems that Augustus’ theatre architects had created a venue intended especially for morning performances, and that his games planners responded to this by ensuring that each day’s entertainment culminated in the splendid new theatre at just the point when it was most perfectly illuminated – a subtle reminder that the reign of Augustus and the continued prosperity of Rome were, as the prayers for the Games implied, cosmically ordained and favoured by heaven.
Dr Richard Nunes is a lecturer in the School of Real Estate and Planning at Henley Business School. His interest lies in innovation systems, industry restructuring and its implications for local and regional economic development. His current work includes community efforts to replicate sustainability transition initiatives, and policy efforts to scale-up ‘grassroots innovations’ into more systemic approaches to sustainable development.
In ‘My Hometown’, from his 1985 Born in the USA album, Bruce Springsteen takes a nostalgic look at his hometown of Freehold Borough, New Jersey, at the economic tensions of a working class community. Nearly three decades later, in ‘Death to My Hometown’, off his Wrecking Ball album out next week, Springsteen’s ‘angry patriotism’ over the financial crisis, a corrupt Wall Street and growing income inequality is combined with a sense of defiance and hope – “Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got….Bring on your wrecking ball”.
This verse from the ‘Wrecking Ball’ track recounts the recent demolition of the Giants Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey) – an analogy to the economic and social blow of the global financial crisis. In a Paris press conference last month, at the Théâtre Marigny, Springsteen claims that “previous to Occupy Wall Street, there was no push back at all”, saying this was outrageous: “a basic theft that struck at the heart of what America was about, a complete disregard for the American sense of history and community.”
However, the decampment and exodus of Occupy LSX (London) from St Paul’s Cathedral earlier this week is not a sign of a movement gone or forgotten. As former canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral Dr. Giles Fraser, who resigned in protest at plans to forcibly evict Occupy protesters, states: “You cannot evict an idea.” There is an element of truth to this assertion. Indeed on the day of Occupy LSX’s eviction from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral by legal mandate, more than 60 Occupy groups and 30 environmental, food and corporate accountability organisations united in more than 100 events across the globe on February 27, 2012 in Occupy Our Food Supply – a global day of action to end corporate exploitation of food supply systems. Among the many Occupy groups and participating organisations were Occupy LSX and Reclaim the Fields UK.
‘Occupy’ has created a space for dialogue. It has been populated by individuals, organisations and movements including the Transition (Town) Network – a transnational grassroots social movement that seeks to deal with climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy (‘peak oil’) through individual behavioural change and collective action. The Transition Movement has its origins in a small English town (Totnes, Devon) six years prior to Occupy Wall Street (Zuccotti Park, NYC) on September 17, 2011. After his visit to the Occupy LSX camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, found that “what Occupy is doing that matters so much is that it is holding a space. It is holding a space where the discussions can take place on their own terms about what is broken and what needs fixing”. Is it is an angle from which local Transition groups can take forward their efforts to make communities more resilient?
Erik Curren, for the Post Carbon Institute, acutely questions: “How should people in the Transition Movement wear the mask of Occupy?” The debate on how to engage the Occupy movement is clear: Occupy and the Transition Movement are two faces of the same coin of socio-economic and environmental ‘spatial justice’. Peak oil and climate change are a threat to just forms of economic development, and economic reforms alone are partial at best without a transition from fossil fuels to more resilient, lower carbon systems. But Occupy reminds Transitioners that peak oil and climate change cannot be addressed adequately without democracy and fairness within economic systems.
To what extent and under which conditions can the Transition Movement contribute to the mitigation of high unemployment and hunger in cities of the global north and south alongside its efforts to address climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy? Answers to this question raise a number of concerns regarding the ‘scale-up’ of community-based social innovation and enterprise for gradual radical transformation. All things considered, the Janus faces of Occupy Transition are underpinned by the energy of mutual defiance and hope, and creativity as in Occupy Our Food Supply – embodied in community initiatives such as Transition Heathrow. From ‘Transition Town’ to ‘Hometown’ the Ballerina is to the Bull (in the iconic image of Occupy) as Bruce Springsteen is to the Wrecking Ball. “Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got….Bring on your wrecking ball”.
For introductory notes on new pilot research on Community Planning and Transition go to: http://www.reading.ac.uk/rep/transitionresearchreading
Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know (LTRK) is an ESRC and AHRC funded project led by Dr Lawrence McNamara in the School of Law. The project explores democratic traditions of open justice, media freedom and the contemporary demands of security. In January 2012, Lawrence and research assistant Sam McIntosh submitted a response to a Government consultation and to a Parliamentary Human Rights Committee inquiry into the Justice and Security Green Paper.
When seven former Guantanamo Bay detainees took legal action against the British Security Services, alleging complicity in their detention and mistreatment abroad, their claim for damages would inevitably involve a very public examination of UK security policy and practices. Relevant material would be disclosed to the claimants and considered in open court.
The Government asked the court to use special procedures which would allow sensitive evidence to be considered in the absence of the claimants and the public. Disclosure, it was said, would damage national security. Conceding the case would avoid disclosure but would unjustifiably tarnish the security services. When the Court of Appeal held the law did not allow for secret evidence in civil proceedings, the Government settled the actions with payments to the claimants. However, wanting to ensure that it would in future be able use special procedures, the Government took two major steps.
First, it appealed the legal issue to the Supreme Court. In Al Rawi v The Security Service the Court held that the common law did not permit the use of special procedures in ordinary civil claims. Legislation would be required to open up that option.
As such, the second and now more significant path has been to set about legislating. To that end, in late 2011 the Government published a Green Paper on Justice and Security as part of a public consultation on how best to protect sensitive evidence.
The Green Paper proposes the introduction of Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) in all civil proceedings and inquests where sensitive information might arise. CMPs are already well established in some areas. They have been used for a decade in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) which hears matters such as appeals against deportations ordered on security grounds.
Under CMPs, judges and government representatives are security cleared. When sensitive evidence arises, the court goes into ‘closed session’ with the public, press and non-government parties (and their lawyers) excluded from the court. Security-cleared ‘Special Advocates’ are appointed to represent the non-government party’s interests during closed hearings. However, once the Special Advocates have seen the sensitive evidence, they cannot consult with or obtain instructions from those whose interests they represent.
The advantage of CMP is that, in theory, all relevant evidence can be considered by the judge. But there are also significant disadvantages to CMPs. A frequent criticism is that non-government parties are severely disadvantaged because they are unable to see, and therefore properly challenge, closed evidence which goes against their case. That is, while CMPs may mean that more evidence is considered, that evidence is less rigorously tested. Among the fiercest critics of CMPs are the Special Advocates who work within them. However, CMPs also have further very negative implications for the general public’s interest in judicial proceedings being conducted in open court and in accordance with the principles of open justice.
The LTRK response to the Green Paper takes issue with the Green Paper’s failure to adequately explore two key questions. First, the Green Paper seems to simply accept that CMPs are an essentially satisfactory way of ensuring justice between the parties, despite this being at odds with criticisms from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights and Special Advocates. Secondly, the Green Paper fails to seriously consider the implications that CMPs will have for open justice and ignores the real damage that their introduction could do to what Lord Brown in the Supreme Court has described as “the integrity of the judicial process and the reputation of English justice”.
Recognising that the Government appears determined to make CMP available in civil proceedings, the LTRK response goes on to suggest certain safeguards that may limit its impact on open justice. These focus on procedural checks to ensure that such proceedings are only used in truly exceptional circumstances and counter any trend towards their normalisation. Our response suggests that the criteria for engaging CMP should explicitly include the need to consider the benefits of justice being carried out openly and the harm done to the public interest of closed proceedings. It also suggests, for example, that media interests should be represented when courts consider the use of CMP.
The LTRK project will continue to examine the move towards legislation and the implications of proposals as they develop. Our website has regular updates.
Dr Ioannis Glinavos is a lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Reading. His interest lies in examining the market-state relationship and offering a critical view on the orthodoxies that surround us.
We are all aware of the troubles of the Eurozone, but as with all systemic economic events we are not always able to critically evaluate the proposed solutions. Eurozone’s problems stem from the fact that an economic project (European Monetary Union or EMU) was used as a carrier for a political project (European federalisation). At the time of the creation of the monetary union it was obvious that countries with significantly different economic capacities and at different stages of the economic cycle were bunched together.
The Maastricht rules were meant to deal with this problem by encouraging convergence within strict criteria. This did not happen, and in addition there is a lot of evidence suggesting it was not even tried in earnest. Europe ended up therefore with a fair-weather monetary arrangement, lacking fiscal co-ordination. The consequence was every incentive to use the newly low interest rates to borrow for both states (Italy, Greece) and private actors (Spain, Ireland) and no incentive to be fiscally responsible. What happened next we all know, the problem is what to do about it now.
The situation points to Germany proposing the solution. The German government has two choices. One is to bite the bullet and accept that the Eurozone cannot survive without transfers of wealth from the rich to the poor. This can only be achieved effectively by allowing the European Central Bank (ECB) to act as a lender of last resort (akin to the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve). Another solution is to reduce Eurozone membership to countries on convergent fiscal and macroeconomic paths. This second option means that Greece, and perhaps not only Greece, will exit the Eurozone. The current situation of ineffective transfers from the ECB to national central banks via purchases of bonds in the secondary market is unsustainable and does not address the underlying problems.
However, Germany making its choice is not the end of the matter. A smaller Eurozone can be achieved with less legal and political problems within Germany, but with potentially destabilising consequences for the markets and the entire European banking system. A Eurozone with the full faith of the ECB behind the debts of all its member states however is a totally different proposition. Accepting ECB support will come with the price of fiscal supervision by Brussels and by extension Germany. The introduction of legally binding fiscal restraints supervised by Eurozone authorities (or EU authorities as the UK allows it) perhaps in the form of constitutionally embedded ‘debt-breaks’ means surrender of economic policy to something equivalent to a federal government. This is a crucial political issue for every citizen in a euro-member state.
When the choice is between poverty or domination, voters may opt for domination. It is possible to envisage the Greeks electing to have foreign functionaries peering behind the backs of local decision makers and approving each decision, considering the utter failure of the national political class. Is it as easy to imagine the Italians and the Spanish doing the same? Even if people accept the argument that economic meltdown is at the door, and that help comes with the price of outsourcing policy to external actors, one cannot accurately predict what citizens will choose if asked.
Should the choice be taken away from them? Is the survival of the market more important than the survival of democratic political process? We live in an era where economic orthodoxy time and time again trumps democratic choice. This is rationalised in a number of ways and so far the public (even in this country when faced with austerity) has acquiesced. The point however is that there is a level beyond which economic policy determined outside the political process is perceived to be illegitimate. When a significant portion of the population feels ignored, then there is real danger of civil unrest. What do we choose therefore? To do what appears economically prudent (if the Germans propose it) or to do what is politically legitimate? Does the political class in Europe dare ask the people?
Authors Professor Paul Croll and Dr Carol Fuller are at the University’s Institute of Education, which has recently moved onto its new campus in London Road, Reading. Professor Croll’s interests are, among others, the sociology of education, inclusion and special educational needs. Dr Fuller’s research focuses on educational engagement, gender and ethnicity in education, attainment and aspirations.
The aspirations young people have for their futures are an important influence on the directions their lives actually take. In order to succeed in terms of education and employment, young people need to have aims which will guide them into appropriate choices about educational participation, obtaining qualifications and taking educational and career routes which are right for them.
Ideally we would like young people to have aspirations which make the fullest use of their capabilities and which are matched to the opportunities available to them. It is widely accepted that a lack of suitable aspirations is an important factor in the under-representation of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education and in desirable and well-rewarded occupations.
Over the past five or so years we have carried out a number of research studies, both together and individually, into aspects of school-age young people’s educational and occupational aspirations. We conducted a national survey of pupils as they were starting secondary school and have recently talked to some of these young people again as they were coming up to their GCSEs. For her PhD, Carol Fuller studied the differing levels of aspirations of young women in a secondary school serving an area of social deprivation. And we have also conducted secondary analyses of large data sets such as the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England.
We found that, even at the age of 11 and 12, most children could express educational and occupational aspirations. Typically these aspirations were ambitious in that well over half were sure that they wanted to go to university and the majority of those expressing occupational ambitions wanted professional and managerial jobs.
There were differences between pupils from different socio-economic backgrounds but, nevertheless, many children from relatively disadvantaged homes were hoping to go into higher education and the desire for a ‘good’ job was almost universal. Where children differed considerably was in the extent of alignment between different aspects of their hopes and plans for the future. Some children were clear about a trajectory that involved, for example, staying on post-16, taking a degree course in an appropriate subject and moving into a professional career. But others had little sense of the routes they would need to take to fulfil their ambitions; planning, for example, to leave school at 16 but also wanting a professional occupation or seeing higher education as an alternative to the sixth form.
The degree of alignment was closely related to the extent to which they reported discussing these issues with their parents. It was also very clear that, although most young people said that their parents had not influenced their choices, ambitious and well-aligned plans were almost always matched to the ambitions their parents had for them.
An important theme to emerge from Carol’s work was that of trust. The young women who were aiming for university (and who, in nearly all cases, achieved this ambition) differed from other students in that they explicitly believed that effort and commitment would pay off for them. They thought that if they achieved at school then opportunities would be open to them and that the school and teachers would support them.
Linked to the idea of trust is that of personal efficacy. Young people need to believe that the educational system is fair but also that they have the personal capability to achieve in it. Some of our large scale statistical analyses have shown that this sense of efficacy and the capacity for personal attainment differs across children from different backgrounds. At similar levels of ability young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely than others to believe that they can be successful educationally and in the world of work.
Our research suggests possible ways in which schools can intervene to both raise and equalise aspirations and achievement. Guidance on available educational routes and their consequences for future careers needs to start at the very beginning of the secondary school so that all children can align different aspects of their ambitions. And schools need to be very alert to the possibility that children from disadvantaged backgrounds may under-estimate their capabilities and the possibilities open to them. Additionally of course, all of us in education need to ensure that the trust in the fairness of the educational system, which is so important for young people, is well placed.
Some of the research discussed here is reported in:
Croll, P., Attwood, G. and Fuller, C. (2010) Children’s Lives, Children’s Futures. London: Continuum.
Fuller, C. (2009 Sociology, Gender and Educational Aspirations. London: Continuum.