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The Party’s Over: The Failure of Politics in America


As part of my teaching of Political Parties in the US Politics I have been reading a couple of notable texts on the theory of political parties. This is the notes from the first.

  • “Political parties in America have a peculiar status and history. They are not part of our written Constitution. The Founding Fathers, in fact, were determined to do all they could to see that they did not arise. Washington devoted much of his Farewell Address to warning his countrymen against “the dangers of the party in the state.”
  • By 1970, half again as many called themselves political independents as had done a generation earlier. In the 1968 election, more than half the voters reported splitting their tickets.
  • But the heritage of the Eisenhower era has not been so easily obliterated. Once broken, the links between the public and the political parties, the government and teh parties, have not mended. The fateful separation between national policy and party responsibility that began sixteen years ago continues today.
  • Traffic jams, smog, pollution, crime, inflation and a dozen other problems measure the failure of the government to anticipate, to identify and to remedy the unwanted side effects of America’s prosperity and growth.
  • The dirty little secret of American politics in the 1970s is that every single essential service we depend on some public agency to provide is seriously under financed. In an era of general affluence, we are simply not paying enough in taxes to maintain the necessary basic community service.
  • The classic, academic distinction between parties and interest groups was given us by the late V.O. Key, Jr “Pressure groups seek to attain the adoption of those policies of particular interest to them; they do not nominate candidates and campaign for control and responsibility of the government as a whole. Their work goes on regardless of which party is in power in the state, city or nation. Theirs is a politics of principle. “We must be partisan for a principle and not for a party,” and Samuel Gompers, speaking for the American Federation of Labor. “Labor must learn to use parties to advance our principles and not allow political parties to manipulate us for their own advancement.”
  • An interest group that is old and well established has an advantage over one that has just been formed. One that has a single narrowly-defined objective, directly related to the economic well-being of its members, is likely to be better financed and more successful than a group with a long agenda and an altruistic approach to issues. The first rule of interest group government is to “look out for yourself.” This means to the extent we rely on interest groups we resign ourselves to a significant degree of stagnation and selfishness in our public policies.
  • What is true of the South is true of the nation as a whole: It is not a single bloc of voters, but many such blocs which have cut loose from all their past allegiances and are on the move. While the South has been growing more Republican, New England and some suburbs have been growing more Democratic. Blacks have shown increasing political independence; like other minority groups – the Mexican-American, the American Indians – they have demonstrated their growing political consciousness by showing their willingness to shift partisan alignments in order to achieve their own specific goals. As the members of congressional Black Caucus said in 1971, “We do not intend to have our vision obscured by partisan blinders where the interests of our constituents … are concerned.”
  • Presidential press conferences have been carried live on television for fifteen years; each of the last four Presidents has used the medium more extensively for speeches than his predecessor. Senators, governors, congressmen, mayors all do their TV “reports to the people.” Political expenditures for purchased television time increased sevenfold between 1952 and 1968-one of the major reasons for the inflation in campaign costs. Television not only bypasses the party as the middleman in political communication, it tends to de-emphasise the party as part of the political process.
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Notes from ‘Not my father’s son’

not my father

This book is an interesting and quick read, I first discovered Alan Cumming through his work as Eli Gold in the ‘Good Wife’.

There were a couple of quotes that I wanted to note down:

On the Eurovision Song Contest

“And tonight, as though the showbiz gods could tell that I needed levity and sparkle and wacky Euro froth, was the night of the Eurovision Song Contest!!

Most Americans of course have never heard of this great institution and I can only feel sorry for them. I know this because I sen almost all my down time between takes in the movie Sky Kids playing Eurovision trivia with Antonio Banderas, much to the bemusement of the crew in Austin, Texas. They looked at us as though we were members of a cult, and in a way, we are. IT is part of my pop DNA, it is a rite of passage, a touchstone, and eventually it transcends its awful shallow shininess to become a communal nostalgic shrine to which we make our annual drunken pilgrimages. It’s like Christmas or Thanksgiving but without the family feuds and with a pretty racy bpm. I grew up with it, and I will almost certainly die with it, or perhaps from it. IT fave us ABBA, people!!! Celine Dion won in 1988, representing Switzerland!!

I have often thought that if Americans were more exposed to this wonder there would not only be a huge surge in the understanding of British wit and irony, but they would perhaps be able to appreciate without shame the value of a good old-fashioned tacky pop song. I feel my American friends are so very worried about seeming gauche or vulgar when it comes to pop music. It’s only when certain styles of music are placed within the ironic context of retro that Americans can fully enjoy them. We Europeans have never had that problem. Sometimes the lowest common denominator is a positive thing, and people can bond over their love of pop trash.”

On Long Haul Flights

“I love long flights. The feeling of being completely unreachable is something I savour, and the limbolike state of being, having departed but not arrived, somehow allows me to catch up with myself, to regroup and check in. It’s a little contrary to think that I look forward to careering through the skies in a metal-fatigued box in order to gain some feeling of inner calm, but that’s the way I roll”

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What can the railways learn from schools?

(Or the importance of relentless focus on improvement)


This post is part post – part rant.

I get a train every day to work – at least two trains – sometimes three. I spend a significant portion of my waking day on trains.

As somewhat of a train geek I frequently will tweet Greater Anglia asking for the reason – and they are varied.

I have a lot of sympathy for train operating companies. However I really struggle with this.

In case you can’t see the problem. It is the fact that delays of 1-3 minutes are not attributed. They are seen as not worthy of justifying or coming up with a reason.

If you are going to raise standards you must be relentless. As a teacher and a school leader if I let the little things slide they would turn into big things.

Teaching is hard work. I aim for 100%.

  • 100% off homework set.
  • 100% of homework completed.
  • 100% of teacher’s achieving their targets.
  • If you are rude to me, even once, it is not acceptable.
  • If you are late – even by 1 minute I will expect a reason’ and you will probably serve a sanction.

If a teacher does not set a homework, I will ask them why. If a student has not done their homework, and hasn’t got a reasonable excuse, they will face a sanction – even if it is the first time.

That is my job.

The standard you set is the standard you accept.

If trains running two minutes late aren’t challenged, the reliability of  Britain’s railways are never going to improve.

Maybe executives from the Rail Industry should spend a day in a school to see however relentless focus on the small things makes the big things happen.

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Review of 2014 and Plans for 2015

A number of the teacher’s I follow on twitter have published #Nurture1415 blogs, where they review 2014 and set goals for 2015. These have been collated in a blog post by Sue Cowley here. The original idea came from @chocotzar .


As we live in a target driven world, and I am someone who responds quite well to specific targets I have attempted to set measurable targets for 2015; so hopefully in a years time I can come back and review whether they have been met. I am lucky enough to be able to be writing these on holiday, not only the school holiday’s but staying at a cottage in Sea Palling, Norfolk. This has the advantage of being somewhat distanced from everyday life.

Review of 2014

I did not set formal goals for 2014 so cannot reflect on them. However I will go through the key highs of 2014. I have not got five, but instead picked three.

Travel – I was fortunate enough to Travel extensively in 2014. I began the new year flying over the Atlantic returning from the USA. We (my wife and I) were luckily enough to travel extensively in the UK, to Bristol, the Forest of Dean, Leicester, and currently Norfolk. We also went on a Mediterranean cruise visiting parts of Italy, France and Spain. We both visited christmas markets in Cologne and I visited Iceland. That doesn’t even consider the amount of day trips and exploration of London.

Reading – I read a lot of books. This is in part because I am a quick reader, and in part because I have two hour long commutes each day which I am able to devote to reading. In 2014 I read 144 books, and notably read some of the books I have owned for a while but never got round to reading.

You can see what I have read here.

Results – The results for my faculty were good this year. That is good firstly and fore mostly for the students involved. However furthermore it keeps the wolves at bay, both internal and external, which in turn provides more freedom and professional autonomy.


Goals for 2015

Write – I spend a significant time reading; however I think it is important that I spend more time writing, whether that be attempting to get an article published, blog posts, or essays for my degree course. I would like to aim to write at least one blog post a week (50 over the course of the year), attempt to write at least one article for publication (whether it gets published or not), and carry out the writing required for my university course (see goal two below).

Learn – A few years ago I completed an MA in Geographical Education at the IoE, and almost immediately enrolled on a Msc in Educational Leadership. However I am only about half way through the programme. I need to engage with the programme and come up with an action plan to ensure that I make steps to get closer to finishing the programme by the end of 2015.

Teach – I am in my ninth year of teaching, and can therefore quite quickly plan an adequate lesson. However I want to devote more time to planning excellent lessons. This however takes time, and will me to spend less time on administrative tasks. This is is difficult to measure; however if I can produce at least one resource every two weeks that I share on this blog, that would be evidence enough.

Fitness – In 2014 my fitness and weight have stayed the same. My goal for 2015 is to improve my fitness levels. I would like to log what I eat in an attempt to force myself to be more healthy, and also think about what I am eating. I would also like to exercise in some form that is more strenuous than walking at least twice a week.

List of 100 Things – One of the books I read this year was “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: How to Achieve More at Work and at Home” by Laura Vanderkam. This is an interesting book with a range of different ideas and tips for time-management and productivity in both home and personal life. One of the ideas she talks about is making non-working hours as productive as working hours. One strategy she suggests is to come up with a list of 100 things that you want to do on weekends and then throughout the year work through the list. I am currently writing the list, though I have not got to 100 yet, (currently at 31), and by the end of 2015 I hope to have done at least 50 items on the list [and I imagine by the end of 2015 the list will have at least 100 items on. This will be a list of fun, cheap, day trip adventures, that can be done with little or no prior planning but get me and Kim out of the house on the weekend. This is something we do well anyway; however there are always things that we say we are interested in but never actually do.


 I am looking forward to 2015, however think that this quote is worth remembering:

“If I have a hundred balls coming at me and can only grab only two, I can stress out about missing ninety-eight balls or accept the reality I can grab only two – and make sure those are the most important ones.”

– Mark Reynoso

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Notes from “Sustainable Leadership”

Notes from ‘Sustainable Leadership’ by Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink. 2006. Josey-Bass: San Francisco

sus lead

  • “Change in education is easy to propose, hard to implement, and extraordinarily difficult to sustain. Innovations easily attract early enthusiasts, but it is harder to convince more skeptical educators to commit to the hard work of implementation.” Pg. 1
  • Sustainability in the corporate world is as essential and desirable as it is in the natural environment. Businesses that operate sustainably have a more durable record of profitability and success than those that do not. Companies that are built to last:
    • Put purpose before profit.
    • Preserve long-standing purposes amid the pursuit of change.
    • Start slowly and advance persistently.
    • Do not depend on a single visionary leader.
    • Grow their own leadership instead of importing stars.
    • Learn from diverse experimentation. (page 5)
  • Initiative Overload “the tendency of organisations to launch more change initiatives than anyone could ever reasonably handle” (page 8)
  • Sustainable educational leadership and improvement preserves and develops deep learning for all that spreads and lasts, in ways that do no harm to and indeed create positive benefit for others around us, now and in the future. (Page 17)
  • There are seven principles of sustainability in educational change and leadership are depth, length, breadth, justice, diversity, resourcefulness and conservation.
  • Sustainable leadership, like sustainable improvement, begins with a strong and unswerving sense of moral purpose. The core meaning of sustain is “to hold up; bear the weight of; be able to bear (strain, suffering, and the like) without collapse.” Inner conviction, unshakable faith, and a driving, hopeful sense of purpose that stretches far beyond the self-these are inalienable elements of moral character that truly sustain people during times of overwhelming difficulty and almost unbearable suffering. (Page 24-25)
  • Deep and broad learning can be established through productive pedagogies. These are:
    • Intellectually demanding
    • Connected to students’ prior knowledge and to the world beyond them
    • Provided within a supportive environment and learning process
    • Prepared so as to engage students and their learning with cultural differences.
  • Developing and preserving a sustainable learning involves:
    • Be passionate advocates for and defenders of deep and broad learning for all students.
    • Commit to improving the old basics of literacy and math but not focusing on them to the exclusion of everything else, while also embracing the new basics of creativity.
    • Put learning before testing.
    • Making learning hte paramount priority in all leadership activity.
    • Become more knowledgeable about learning.
    • Make learning transparent among the educators in a school.
  • Succession is a key part of sustainable leadership. Leaders should where possible be raised from inside the organisation.
  • Leadership in a school is not limited to the principal or even its teachers. It stretches across individuals, communities, and networks and up and down organisational layers. No one has to distribute leadership in a school; it’s already distributed. Leadership exists everywhere, across time and space – at lunchtime, between classes after school and on weekends, and in the school’s offices, classrooms, and playing fields. Distributed leadership can be good or bad, planned or serendipitous, focused or unfocused. Distributed leadership can enhance the sustainability of deep and broad learning for all students or disintegrate into the kind of turmoil that sucks the energy and enthusiasm out of students and staff.
  • Trust in schools is essential. Yet we behaving less and less like trusting societies Improvement secured through cultures of shared understanding, joint commitment, and mutual responsibility is being replaced by compliance enforced by impersonal performance standards and abstract accountability.
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Notes from ‘Talk Like TED’ by Carmine Gallo


This is a quick read that explains some rules of public speaking and gives advice to the reader on how to make effective speeches.

    • Motivated and energised speakers are always more interesting and engaging than bored and passive ones.
  • Invite passionate people into your life, when your surrounded by people who share a collective passion around a common purpose, anything is possible.
  • Stories are an effective method of communicating; “we all love stories. We’re born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers fo time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similariteis between outselves and through others, real and imagined.” – Andrew Stanton, writer of Toy Story.
  • There are three types of stories that are effective in communicating a method:
      • Personal stories that relate to the theme of presentation.
      • Stories about other people who have learned a lesson that the audience can relate to.
      • Stories that involve the success or failure of products or brands.
  • Overused metaphors can be boring; audience tunes out phrases they’ve heard a milion times.
  • Good presentations take time; one twenty minute product launch at Apple consumes over 250 hours total time.
  • There are four elements of verbal delivery: rate, volume, pitch, and pauses.
  • When you speaking don’t put your hands in your pockets; one hand is acceptable, as long as the free hand is gesturing.
  • Bombard the brain with new experiences. Building novel concepts into your presentation does require some creativity and a new way of looking at the world. One technique to jump-start your creativity is to embrace new experiences. The brain takes short cuts. Its mission, after all, is to conserve energy. Neuroscientists have found that only through bombarding the brain with new experiences do we force our minds to look at the world through a new lens. That means you need to get out of the office once in while. Experience new events, people, and places. Most important, incorporate those new experiences into your presentations.
  • If you can’t explain your big idea in 140 characters or less, keep working on your message.
  • Use shocking statistics: “The United States is very different today than it was 40 years ago. In 1972, there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today there are 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world” – Bryan Stevenson.
  • Use quotes “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.” – Amy Cuddy
  • Eighteen minutes is the ideal length for a presentation; if you must make it longer than 18 minutes include soft breaks every 10 minutes.
  • Use visuals to enhance words not duplicate.

There is a searchable database of TED quotes here:


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Behaviour Management – A selection of Resources

One of my aims for the 2014-15 academic year is to reboot my behaviour management.

A really useful post about the conditions needed to ensure a successful lesson start. This is a really useful list of things that should be in the first part of a lesson to get it started right.

TES Guide to Setting Up Behaviour Expectations

A Blog post about the 3c’s of classroom management (consistency, consequences, clear rules)

An idea I really like linked to expectations (though in exercise books) is:


(from @DrPhoenix21)

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Reading the books I own … an update.

This is a follow up to this post This is an update of my quest to read the books I own before buying new books. I am going to attempt to buy no further books between now and August, to try and get this list down to less than 50, it currently stands at 84!
The original list was created in August 2013. Between then and now (April 2014), I have read 28 of the books and the ones listed below are the ones that remain unread. There were also 3 books that I started and did not finish so have been removed from the list.
26 remain on the list. I have read other books in that time as well.
  • Shackleton’s Way: Leadership lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer – Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell
  • Professional Captial: Transforming Teaching in Every School – Mandy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan
  • A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism – Facing History and Ourselves
  • Political Parties in Britain – Matt Cole and Helen Deighan
  • Brilliant Subject Leader – Marc Bowen
  • World City – Doreen Massey
  • Shut Up and Take Action – Action Jackson
  • Johnson’s Life of London – Boris Johnson
  • Pulphead – John Jeremiah Sullivan
  • The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War – Peter Hennessy
  • Cities are Good For You – Leo Hollis
  • You Talking to Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama – Sam Leith (K)
  • Underground London – Stephen Smith
Autobiography / Biography
  • Small Wars Permitting – Christina Lamb
  • Longitude – David Sobel
  • The Last Wish – Andrze Sapkowski
  • Vanity Fair – Thakeray
  • Sunnyside – Glen David Gold
  • The Dog Stars – Peter Heller
  • The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
  • The Brutal Art – Jesse Kellerman
  • Carter Beats the Devil – Glen David Gold
  • The Flying Man – Roopa Farooki
  • Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • the Other Hand – Chris Cleave
  • Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein (K)
New books:
Books that were not on the original, list but are to be read. This is either because I have brought them since August 2013 or just did not add them originally. There are 58 on this new list.
  • Influence: The psychology of persuasion – Robert Cialdini
  • Detroit: An American Autopsy – Charlie LeDuff
  • A History of Future Cities – Daniel Brook
  • The Undercover Economist – Tim Harford
  • Planet of Slums – Mike Davis
  • Left Brain, Right Brain: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions – Phil Rosenburg
  • Talk for Writing in Secondary Schools – Julia Strong
  • Constructing Research Questions – Mats Alversson and Jorgen Sandberg
  • The Book of the Plenary – Phil Beadle
  • Blink: The power of thinking without thinking – Malcolm Gladwell (LR)
  • Unhomework: How to get the most out of homework, without really setting it – Mark Creasy (K)
  • The Seven T’s of Practical Differentiation – Sue Cowley
  • Education, Education, Education: Reforming England’s Schools – Andrew Adonis (LR)
  • The Making of Modern Britain – Andrew Marr (K)
  • Trivium 21c: Preparing Young People for the Future with lessons from the Past – Martin Robinson (K)
  • London: The Autobiography – Jon E. Lewis (K)
  • Austaerity Britain – David Kynaston (K)
  • Mindset: Howe you can fulfill your potential – Carol Dweck (K)
  • Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Who Moved by Cheese? – Dr. Spencer Johnson
  • Heat – George Monbiot
  • The White Man’s Burden – Easterly
  • 10 Geographic Ideas Which Changed the World
  • Coming up Trumps – Jean Trumpington (LR)
  • Dearest Jane – Jane Torday & Roger Mortimer (LR)
  • The Lost Child of Philomena Lee – Martin Sixsmith (LR)
  • The Best Job in the World – Vic Goddard (LR)
  • Teaching in the Terrordome – Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach for America – Heather Lanier
  • Strictly Ann – Ann Widdecome (LR)
  • Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northup (K)
  • Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts (K)
  • Autobiiography – Morrissey
  • When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies (K)


  • The Burning – M.R. Hall (LR)
  • Iain Banks – The Quarry (LR)
  • Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years (LR)
  • The Expats – Chris Pavone (K)
  • Sad Wind from the Sea – Jack Higgins (K)
  • Acts of Violence – Ryan David Jahn (K)
  • Meltwater – Michael Ridpath (K)
  • The Graduate Student – James Polster (K)
  • Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett (K)
  • When I lived in Modern Times – Linda Grant (K)
  • Killl&Cure – Stephen Davision
  • Devil-Devil – G.W. Kent (K)
  • Hostile Witness – Rebecca Forster (K)
  • Ash – James Herbert (K)
  • Walden on Wheels – Ken Ilgunas (K)
  • Only time Will Tell – Jeffrey Archer (K)
  • The Detectives Daughter – Lesley Thompson (K)
  • Zero Day – David Baldacci (K)
  • Perfect People – Peter James (K)
  • The Lewis Man – Peter May (K)
  • Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh
  • The Universe versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence
  • The Curious Incident of the dog in the night time – Mark Hadden
  • Yellow Birds – Kevin Powers
  • Red Plenty – Francis Spufford
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Applying to Read Geography at Oxford

On Saturday 22nd February I was luckily enough to attend a ‘Geography Subject Day’ at Jesus College, Oxford. The college had put together a fantastic programme that included a great mix of different information. The tutors explained some of their research as well as talking about the admissions process.

Below are some notes from the session; these are my notes and there may be errors and inaccuracies.

Geography Admission Statistics (for entry in 2014)

  • 322 applications in October 2013, 77 places available. Success rate is 24%.
  • Aim to interview approximately 3 candidates for every place (university policy).

Tools used to Evaluate Application

  • UCAS form (including academic reference)
  • Thinking Skills Assessment – this is used to deselect rather than to select. Used to get rid of approximately bottom 20%. It is not used in a systematic way after selection for interview. Though tutors have noticed a correlation between TSA score and interview performance.  (more details about the TSA can be found at [MUST register by October 15th; taken in school]
  • Interviews for 64% of Geography applicants – used to find out how applicants think, not what they have been taught.

Personal Statements

  • Reason why the subject choice
  • Work Experience
  • Gap year information is useful if relevant to course.
  • Students put more stress into it than is necessary.
  • Extra curriculum activities are interesting but not part of the decision making process; admission is purely on academic basis.
  • All personal statements are put through plagiarism detection software – any plagiarism and candidate is not interviewed.

Academic Reference

  • In addition to usual content should give information on support reds and personal circumstances.
  • UMS scores are useful (but not required); and they are not a fundamental component.
  • Do not write to the college separately; unless there are special circumstances.

Written Work – not required for Geography; however it is in some subjects.


  • Approximately 70% of candidates invited to attend for interview (approximately 64% for Geography).
  • Interview dates are published on-line (different for each course); food and accommodation provided by first choice college.
  • Tutors are looking for:
    • Academic ability and potential (important they have not peaked at school).
    • Subject knowledge and skills – but don’t need to know everything.
    • Commitment and motivation.
    • Willingness to engage in tutorial systems – need to be able to contribute to tutorials.
    • Ability to handle new material and to relate it to existing knowledge.
  • Specifically Geography Tutors are looking for:
    • independent thinking.
    • Ability to follow an argument.
    • Comprehension.
    • Problem-solving.
    • Spirit of enquiry.

Choosing Colleges
Students should not look at application statistics when applying for colleges; candidates are selected for interview on a university level; then some reallocation of applicants to colleges takes place.
Interviews in Geography

  • 2 interviews with a pair of interviewers, each lasting 20 minutes.
  • Interactive -as in a tutorial situation.
  • Designed to see how candidates respond to new information.
  • Candidates are given an article to read 20 minutes before each interview (this is the case in Jesus collect but not necessarily  the case for every college).
  • The interview will start with questions to settle and ease candidate in; this may be a very open question e.g. ‘tell me about the place you live?’, or refer to personal statement.
  • May use very complicated diagrams to see candidates thinking process.
  • It is perfectly acceptable for candidates to stop and change mind; or to ask for clarification.
  • It is important that candidates show their thought process by thinking out loud.

Typical Offer

  • Standard A’Level ofer is A*AA, the A* can be in any subject taken.
  • IB Standard offer is 40 points.
  • Students would be crazy to do 4 A’Levels; however if they do the university reserves the right to specify which A’Levels the grades are in (e.g. may choose to discount a subject).
  • Doing 4 subjects does not mean that students can drop a grade.

Students can find more information about applying here:

21st Century Challenges – Feeding the 9 Billion

9 billion

Last night I attended a discussion entitled ‘Feeding the 9 Billion’ at the Royal Geographical Society; this is part of their public engagement series ’21st Century Challenges’. This is the fourth talk I have been too as part of this series, all have been interesting and engaging with a carefully selected and interesting range of speakers.

The speakers were:

  • Jay Rayner (Chair) – Food critic, presenter and author. @jayrayner1 Jay Rayner’s book is entitled ‘Greedy Man in a Hungry World’
  • Tim Wheeler – Professor of Crop Science, University of Reading University Website
  • Peter Smithers – Entomologist based at the University of Plymouth University Website
  • Edd Colbert – Campaigns Coordinator, the Pig Idea @eddcolbert

Jay Rayner

  • Issue is the fact that our current world population is 7 billion increasing to 9 billion by 2050, by 2030 we will need to produce 50% more food on the same amount of land.
  • In 1975 the average Chinese adult ate 10kg of meat a year, now they consume 45kg of meat a year and that is predicted to rise to 69kg in 2030. This is significant when the figures are multiplied by China’s 1.1 billion population.
  • To put these figures in perspective at its peak the average adult in the United States consumed 83kg of meat a year, though that figure is now dropping.
  • There is the increasing commodification of food and price spikes.
  • Jay presented the argument that the Arab Spring in part happened because of food price rises and the inability of governments in the Middle East to subsidise and control food prices.
  • In Rwanda 40% of the population are either mentally or physically stunted due to malnutrition.
  • A subsistence farmer may end up selling food into a market place due to high crop prices to afford other living essentials, this may mean that his family suffer malnutrition as they end up eating low nutrient foods.

Tim Wheeler

  • 3.6 billion tonnes of food is produced per year. There is enough food produced to provide every person on the planet with 2,700 calories per day. However there are 850 million people undernourished and 1 billion people have micro-nutrient deficiencies.
  • Technology has lead to this place and taken people out of hunger. However by 2050 the world’s population will have reached 9.2 billion which will require 70% more food.
  •  In addition the future will present the challenges of the expansion of urban living and the middle class, there will also challenges from climate change and resource security.
  • There is no technology silver bullet.
  • However Tim presented 5 challenges that might play a part in increasing food production.

Scuba Rice

  • Traditional rice can’t survive underwater, therefore large amounts of rice are lost to flooding each year.
  • Scuba rice can live underwater for 17 days compared to the 7 days of normal rice.
  • Scuba rice is currently grown by 100,000 farmers across India; however there is a target to have 18 million farmers growing it.
  • For more information see this DFID case study I found while writing this blog post here.

Eradication of the Cattle Plague Rinderpest

  • Kills 95% of the cattle it comes into contact with.
  • Vaccine was invented in 1950 and a heat sensitive vaccine that could be used more widely was invented in the 1980s.
  • Declared eradicated by the World Organisation for Animal Health in 2011.
  • For more information see this Science Article here. (subscription required – if you are one of my students ask me for a copy).

Planting Masangu Tree (Faidherbia Albida)

  • This tree is unique as it holds its leaves during the dry season and drops  the leaves during the rainy season.
  • Crops can be grown under it.
  • This increased yields in Zambia from 1.3 tonnes per ha to 4.1 tonnes per ha.
  • Currently there are 160,000 farmers in Zambia growing  crops under the trees.
  • For more information read this article.

Providing Insurance to Farmers

  • Commercial insurance providing insurance to farmers in Kenya / Ethopia against the risk of loosing livestock to drought.
  • Farmers pay a premium and then if there is drought the insurance will pay out.
  • It is expensive to farmers but has paid out in 2 of the last 3 years.
  • More information here.

Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato

  • Very rich in the nutrient Vitamin A.
  • 100g of this variety provides a child with 100% of their daily requirement of Vitamin A.
  • Replaces a crop traditionally grown anyway and appealing to farmers / consumers at local markets.
  • More information can be found in this report.

Peter Smithers

  • Insect protein is a potential solution for the coming problem.
  • There are 1.25 million species of insect, 4 – 12 million species of insect to still be discovered. 1,900 species are regularly eaten around the globe.
  • Vital in food production; insects pollinate and help process waste.
  • 2 billion people currently eat insects as part of their regular diet.
  • Insects are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • In 2008 the UN-FAO began to investigate eating insects as a solution to the coming problem. They published this report in 2013.
  • Peter then gave a number of varied examples of insects being eaten currently and the fact that actually there are probably insects in many of the foods we eat already, we just don’t know it!
  • He talked about how much more efficient insects are compared to cows. To produce 1kg of beef would require 10kg of feed and 24 months to reach maturity. This is compared to 1kg of crickets which would require 1.7kg of feed and only 1 month to reach maturity. This is predominantly because insects are more efficient as they don’t produce heat.
  • There are however a number of challenges before insect farming for food production could happen on a large scale. In addition there is the problem of people being put off by what they look like.
  • However Peter mentioned a group Eat Ento; which are presenting insects more like Sushi which is making them more appealing; see their website

Edd Colbert

  • Edd is from the The Pig Idea. and he explained what they are doing and how this could be a wider part of the solution for the growing food problems.
  • The idea is to use domestically abailable food waste to feed pigs.
  • Since 2001 and changes in law very little food waste is fed to animals; instead animals are fed on grain and food waste is disposed of.
  • Edd introduced the food waste pyramid:pyra
  • One of the key advantages of feeding waste food to pigs is it keeps it in the food chain.
  • We waste millions of tonnes of food a year and import 40 million tonnes of soy to feed animals.
  • 37% of food production goes towards feeding animals, yet we only get 11% back due to the inefficiency of eating meat.
  • The Pig Idea is feeding pigs from waste food in London (tofu waste, whey, vegetables and brewers grain) and aims to feed 5,000 people with the resulting pork.
  • “You are what your meat eats”


The last 30 minute of the event where dedicated to questions. I did not record all of the questions; however I did note down some interesting points.

  • In Japan food waste goes to an industrial monitored plant and converted into a yoghurt based food. This provides consistent nutrition for the animals and allows the process to be monitored for food standards.
  • It is safe to feed pigs meat as they are naturally cannibalistic; this is not true for other animals such as cows.
  • In Las Vegas buffet waste goes to feed pigs on a pig farm.
  • We don’t know what the impact will be of large scale farming of insects on water stress. However changing the way we feed animals will use less water.

Please note these are my notes from the event and there may be errors.

The series website can be found at: ; the next discussion in the series is Big Data, Big Impact? on Thursday 21st November at 7pm.

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