Conspicuous skies: a lesson from Eyjafjallajökull

The reality of the closed airspace due to the volcanic plume from an eruption near the Icelandic glacier Eyjafjallajoekull (pronounced aya-feeyapla-yurkul) hit me whilst strolling back along the Southbank on a warm spring Sunday afternoon. As I walked along the river, the world seemed strangely calm. The overhead roar of jet engines from aircraft as they march with military precession along the flight path to Heathrow, were conspicuous by their absence.

But, such events also reveal that we are hugely dependent on what often seems like hidden infrastructure, woven together to create an intricate web of interdependence across the globe.

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Tony Blair and the laws of economics

I happened to hear Anthony Seldon (Blair's biographer) talking about that biography on the BBC over the weekend, and - apart from saying you learned nothing new from it - he listed three things in particular which the book should have shed some light on, but didn't.

1.  Why did Blair join the Labour Party?  

2.  Why did his decade in power achieve so little?  OK, peace in Northern Ireland and devolution to Scotland and Wales, plus the banking bubble - but what else?
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Reconnecting work with the art of living

In his Guardian column this week, Aditya Chakrabortty wrote how workers are becoming slaves to routine, with only a lucky few still possessing any real autonomy. It's time that we changed the way we work.

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Are the banks waking up to climate change?

The Camp for Climate Action outside the headquarters of Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh does not so far seem to have shifted the subsidised bank in a more greener direction.

They are still subsidising the polluting business of extracting oil from tar sands, just as they are financing the oil and gas extraction that is accelerating global warming – and just as they were before the bank nosedived. 

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75 months and counting…

Twenty five months ago, working with my colleague, a climate scientist, Dr Victoria Johnson, and others, I decided to find out how long it would take before, on the best data available, we would begin to cross red lines where climatic instability and extremes were concerned. A quarter of that time has now passed.

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Thou shalt tell a story

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Reclaiming free markets

There is no such thing as a free lunch or a free market – or so it is said.  Or a free school, come to that.

Nothing is free.  There we are, now all of us radical new economists can nod our heads sagely and congratulate ourselves on our Jesuitical understanding of the world as it is.

But, having congratulated ourselves, it may be time to think again on free trade, because all is not quite what it seems.

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Observations from Open Space

I spent the weekend at Facilitation Camp. An ‘unconference’ built on the principles of Open Space. This means the agenda is designed by participants on the day and a structure emerges built on the energy and interests of the people who are there.

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NEF at TEDGlobal

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Should policymakers care about well-being?

Although I would probably, if asked, describe my work at nef as being part of the ‘battle of ideas’, it’s not all that often that I would use the phrase to describe a day in the office. But last week I found myself truly in the thick of it, subjecting my ideas about well-being research to the scrutiny of a conversation with a dedicated opponent. More

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