Category Archives for "Environment"

Environment news

3rd August 2020

Environment Greta wins one-million-euro humanitarian prize

Environment Greta wins one-million-euro humanitarian prize


environment Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environment campaigner, has been awarded a new humanitarian prize worth one million euros.

The 17-year-old founder of School Strike for Climate, won the inaugural Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity.

Judges described her as “one of the most remarkable figures of our days”.

Ms Thunberg said she will be donating the prize money to charitable projects that are combating “the climate and ecological crisis”.

As well as being awarded Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019, Ms Thunberg has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Responding to the news, she said: “I am extremely honoured to receive the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity.

“We’re in a climate emergency, and my foundation will as quickly as possible donate all the prize money of one million euros to support organisations and projects that are fighting for a sustainable world.”

The prize, awarded each year, aims to “recognise people, groups of people and/or organisations from all over the world whose contributions to mitigation and adaptation to climate change stand out for its novelty, innovation and impact”.

Chairman of the prize’s grand jury Jorge Sampaio applauded the teenagers ability to mobilise the younger generation, adding: “her tenacious struggle to alter a status quo that persists, makes her one of the most remarkable figures of our days”.

The jury also highlighted her “charismatic and inspiring personality”.

The prize is part of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which was established in 1956. It is a Portuguese philanthropic institute “dedicated to the promotion of arts, charity, science, and education”.

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Media captionGreta Thunberg talks about how she has spent lockdown in Sweden

3rd August 2020

Environment Archer excluded from second Test for breach of bio-secure protocols

Environment Archer excluded from second Test for breach of bio-secure protocols


environment Jofra Archer bowling in the nets at Old Trafford

Jofra Archer has taken 33 wickets in eight Tests for England

England fast bowler Jofra Archer was excluded from the second Test against West Indies after breaching the bio-secure protocols.

The 25-year-old went to his Brighton home between the first Test in Southampton and second in Manchester.

All of England’s matches this summer are being played behind closed doors and in a bio-secure environment.

“I am extremely sorry for what I have done. I feel like I have let both teams down,” said Archer.

With Mark Wood and James Anderson rested, Archer was set to be the only member of England’s pace attack from the first Test retained in the side for the second.

After he was excluded, England opted to include Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran in their side at Emirates Old Trafford.

England captain Joe Root said Archer’s actions were “disappointing”.

He also said any questions over why players made their own way between venues, rather than travelling together, were for those making logistical arrangements, rather than him.

‘I have let both teams down’

Archer, who made his England debut last summer, said: “I have put not only myself but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions and I want to apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.

“It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match, especially with the series poised.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan told BBC Test Match Special: “I would think the management would feel very let down. He’s a young kid who has made a silly mistake, and England will miss him.

“I look at the West Indies and what they’ve given up to be here.

“They have come to a country that has been hit by Covid more than most. They’ve had to live at Old Trafford for two and a half weeks. For one England player to break that protocol, when he’s only been away from home a couple of weeks…”

Former England captain Alastair Cook said: “It does throw it into a little bit of disarray. England wanted to have some pace and bounce in their bowling attack throughout the summer but now they’re going to be robbed of that.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said: “They put the trust in the player and 99.9% of the people involved have done the right thing.”

West Indies limited-overs all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite told TMS: “As a personal friend, I’m disappointed, not only in what Jofra’s done, but the scrutiny you get from the media.

“That said, it does not excuse what he does. Without me trying to sound disrespectful or accepting of what he did, there’s a lot worse things he could have done, outside of popping home.”

How did it happen?

Cook said all the England players would have known they were not allowed to return home between Tests.

“He knew what he was doing was wrong,” said Cook. “He will have been briefed; he’s been in the bubble for long enough.

“Someone will have questioned ‘can we go home?’ and it would have ‘no, this is what we’ve agreed to’.

“What we don’t know is did he go home to get something he genuinely needed and it’s just a mistake.”

Vaughan said: “I’m led to believe that (team manager) Phil Neale sent a WhatsApp group message to the England players just before 7:50 this morning saying ‘I need to see you all’, before the news about Jofra Archer got out at 8am.

“One or two of them didn’t see it because they were fast asleep and woke up about 8:30-8:45 and were like ‘eh what’s going on here?'”

Archer must now isolate for five days, during which time he will take two coronavirus tests, both of which must return negative results before he can return to the England squad.

West Indies were informed of the sanctions and were satisfied with the restrictions imposed.


An extraordinary amount of planning went into creating the bio-secure environment and the punishment for what some might see as a minor indiscretion from Archer shows just how seriously England are taking the safety protocols.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had previously acknowledged the need for players to leave the bubble from time to time, but on this occasion they were expected to head straight from Southampton to Manchester.

The experience in Southampton demonstrated just how strict life in the bubble is – regular coronavirus tests, temperature checkpoints, mandatory face masks and hand sanitiser in every location imaginable. The movement of everyone on site – players, staff, media and hotel workers – is tracked by a fob worn around the neck.

Archer will have known what is expected. It is a great shame for him and the England team that he has erred.

3rd August 2020

Environment Plastic pollution to weigh 1.3 billion tonnes by 2040

Environment Plastic pollution to weigh 1.3 billion tonnes by 2040


environment Shrink wrapImage copyright
Getty Images

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The single biggest use of plastics is in packaging and it tends to be used just once before being thrown away

An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of plastic is destined for our environment – both on land and in the ocean – by 2040, unless worldwide action is taken.

That’s according to a global model of the scale of the plastic problem over the next 20 years.

Dr Costas Velis from the University of Leeds said the number was “staggering” but that we had “the technology and the opportunity to stem the tide”.

The report is published in the journal Science.

“This is the first comprehensive assessment of what the picture could be in 20 years’ time,” Dr Velis explained. “It’s difficult to picture an amount that large, but if you could imagine laying out all that plastic across a flat surface, it would cover the area of the UK 1.5 times.

“It’s complex [to calculate] becayse plastic is everywhere and, in every part of the world, it’s different in terms of how it’s used and dealt with.”

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Getty Images

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Beach plastic may be a very small fraction of the waste out there

To turn this complex problem into numbers, the researchers tracked the production, use and disposal of plastic around the world. The team then created a model to forecast future plastic pollution. What they called a “business as usual” scenario – based on the current trend of increasing plastic production and no significant change in the amount of reuse and recycling – produced the 1.3 billion tonne estimate.

By adjusting their model, the researchers were able to project how much different interventions would affect that number; they tweaked their model to increase recycling, reduce production and replace plastic with other available materials.

Winnie Lau from the US-based Pew Charitable Trusts, which funded the research, told BBC News that it was vital to put in place every possible solution. “If we do that,” she said, “we can reduce the amount of plastic that goes into the ocean – by 2040 – by 80%.”

Steps the researchers called for included:

  • reducing growth in plastic production and consumption
  • substituting plastic with paper and compostable materials
  • designing products and packaging for recycling
  • expanding waste collection rates in middle/low-income countries and supporting the “informal collection” sector
  • building facilities to dispose of the 23% of plastic that cannot be recycled economically, as a transitional measure
  • reduce plastic waste exports 

But even if “all feasible action” was taken, Dr Velis explained, the model showed there would be 710 million extra tonnes of plastic waste in the environment in the next two decades.

There is no “silver bullet solution”, for the plastic problem. But an often overlooked issue that this study highlighted was the fact that an estimated 2 billion people in the Global South have no access to proper waste management. “They have to just get rid of all their rubbish, so they have no choice but to burn or dump it,” said Dr Velis.

And despite playing a major role in reducing global plastic waste, the roughly 11 million waste pickers – people who collect and sell reusable materials in low-income countries – often lack basic employment rights and safe working conditions.  

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David Shukman

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Waste pickers often work in unsafe conditions

Dr Velis said: “Waste pickers are the unsung heroes of recycling – without whom the mass of plastic entering the aquatic environment would be considerably greater.” He added that policies to support them and make their work safer were a vital part of solving this problem.

Dr Ian Kane, from the University of Manchester, who was recently part of a team that calculated the amount of micro-plastic in the seabed, described the picture the researchers had painted as “horrifying”.

“The authors are clear that there are large uncertainties in the data and analysis but regardless of the exact figures, the increasing rate of plastic production to meet increasing global demand has pretty dire consequences for the environment,” he told BBC News.

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Media captionWhat happens to microplastics in the ocean?

Prof Jamie Woodward, also from the University of Manchester, pointed out the irony in this scenario being laid out during the pandemic.

“Plastic has kept many frontline workers safe through this,” he said. “But PPE waste over the next decade could be horrendous.

“There are parallels with the climate change problem in that business as usual will be disastrous. We need to radically change our behaviour.”

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3rd August 2020

Environment Fertility rate: Shrinking population in six easy lessons

Environment Fertility rate: Shrinking population in six easy lessons


environment Baby and granddadImage copyright
Getty Images

Falling fertility rates could mean most countries see their populations shrink by the end of the century.

The world will have to begin to reckon with the consequences of a smaller, older population.

Environment 1. It could be good news for poorer countries

We’re looking at very different situations in different parts of the world.

Falling fertility rates – the number of live births per woman, according to the official definition – and economic development tend to go hand in hand.

Better education and career opportunities for women, access to contraception and abortion and lower child mortality rates, mean women on average have fewer children.

So for lower-income countries, a falling birth-rate could spell better living standards.

A smaller number of children each get a bigger piece of the pie, whether that’s health or education.

But in countries where fertility rates have already been falling for years, shrinking further could cause problems.

These countries will have to work out how to care for a growing older population, with fewer younger people to work as carers and to pay into the system.

Environment 2. People might have more to look forward to in retirement

But they might have to work for a lot longer.

And they might not be as much of a strain on the healthcare system as feared.

A lot of the worries about caring for an ageing population assume everyone will be ill in old age.

But as well as life expectancy, the world has been making gains when it comes to “healthy life expectancy”.

In pretty much every country around the world, with the notable exception of Syria, new babies are expected to spend more years in good health than those born in the year 2000 – five extra healthy years on average.

In Rwanda, the average baby has gained 22 additional years of expected life in good health since the start of the millennium.

In higher-income countries like the UK, Germany and the US, healthy life expectancy has increased by between one and three years.

“The fears around an ageing population have to be put into perspective,” says Prof Sarah Harper at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing.

“The health of older adults is already much better than it was,” even a few decades ago, she points out, meaning older people can be “active, healthy” and paying in for a greater proportion of their lives.

And, as Dr Hannah Ritchie at the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data team points out: “We don’t even know what the world of work will look like in 50 years”.

Environment 3. Governments might have to open borders

Fertility rates and life expectancy are two parts of the equation when it comes to whether a population is growing or shrinking. The third is migration.

Countries that end up with much smaller populations of young people might want or need to attract young people from elsewhere.

The world could become even more culturally and ethnically mixed, says Dr Ritchie.

Environment 4. It will pay to support parents

When governments have tried to restrict or increase a country’s birth-rate in the past, it’s often been coercive.

But there are examples – notably in Scandinavian countries – where birth-rates are higher than expected because of incentives like generous maternity leave and childcare.

So in the future, wealthy countries choosing to introduce generous support systems may see an uptick in their fertility rate, according to Dr Ritchie.

As much as women in lower-income countries may have more children than they’d ideally choose, some women – and men – in countries with high costs of living might have fewer children than they’d like because they can’t afford more.

Alongside this, governments may well increase the pension age – possibly even allowing people to take a chunk of time off to raise a family, and then work that extra time later in life, Prof Harper suggests.

Environment 5. Carers will be “as important as doctors”

That’s the take of Dr Tiziana Leone at the London School of Economics.

No matter how big the gains in healthy life expectancy, the “oldest old” will probably always need care towards the end of their lives.

Dr Leone warns countries with ageing populations face a crisis in terms of their health and social care systems.

We need to start now, by training the right workforce – “we’ll need fewer paediatricians and gynaecologists”, she says.

Environment 6. It will probably be good for the environment

A shrinking population is “a good thing” for the environment, according to Prof Harper.

But Dr Ritchie points out that economic growth is a stronger driver of climate change than population growth.

It’s extremely difficult to say what will happen to the state of the economy over the longer term.

If the world becomes richer and consumes more despite the numbers of people shrinking, environmental gains aren’t guaranteed.

Equally, while wealth and pollution have been linked over the past century, in recent years it’s the richer countries that have been able to reduce their CO2 emissions by investing in technology.

And this pattern could continue.

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3rd August 2020

Environment ‘Significant spread’ of coronavirus would shut down NBA – commissioner Silver

Environment ‘Significant spread’ of coronavirus would shut down NBA – commissioner Silver


environment NBA practice court
A practice court inside the NBA ‘bubble’ in Orlando

A “significant spread” of coronavirus would cause the NBA season to be shut down for a second time, according to commissioner Adam Silver.

Since 23 June, 25 out of 351 playersexternal-link have tested positive for Covid-19.

“If we had any sort of a significant spread at all within our campus, we would be shut down again,” Silver said.

“It would be concerning if once [the players] sit through our quarantine period, and then were to test positive, we would know that, in essence, there’s a hole in our bubble.”

The players who have already tested positive entered self-isolation and can return to training once they have been cleared by a physician.

Players and staff are expected to be tested three times a week and will stay in a quarantine environment for the duration of the competition, which could run until October.

“We can analyse the virus itself and try to track whether, if there’s more than one case, if it’s in essence the same virus, the same genetic variation of the virus that has passed from one player to another,” Silver added.

Twenty two teams – 13 from the Western Conference and nine from the Eastern Conference – will travel to Orlando for training camps.

Six teams arrived on Tuesday, with eight more due to arrive on Wednesday and the final eight on Thursday.

They will contest eight games each to determine seedings for the play-offs at the resort’s 5,000-seat indoor basketball facility, but without spectators.

To date 3.9 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus.

environment Denver Nuggets point guard Troy Daniels @troydaniels
Denver Nuggets point guard Troy Daniels has posted images on his social media of life inside the NBA ‘bubble’ in Orlando, including Disney signage on a bus and a meal delivery.

How will the format work?

The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies are in play-off positions in the Western Conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic currently occupy play-off spots in the Eastern Conference.

Those 16 teams will be joined by the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference.

The latest date possible for finishing the season – what would be game seven of the NBA finals – is 12 October.

environment Around the BBC iPlayer banner

environment Around the BBC iPlayer footer

3rd August 2020

Environment England pick Bess ahead of Leach & Moeen for West Indies Test

Environment England pick Bess ahead of Leach & Moeen for West Indies Test


environment Dom Bess

Dom Bess has taken 11 wickets in four Tests at an average of 29.72

England have named Dom Bess as their spinner in a 13-man squad for the first Test against West Indies, which begins on Wednesday.

Off-spinner Bess is chosen ahead of Jack Leach and Moeen Ali, who is not among the list of nine reserves.

Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly will be the top four in the absence of Joe Root, who misses out for the birth of his second child.

Ben Stokes will stand in as captain for Root in Southampton.

England squad: Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Reserves: James Bracey, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone.

Stokes will become England’s 81st Test skipper and the first all-rounder to take charge since Andrew Flintoff.

One of his first decisions will be the make-up of the pace bowling attack, with the coronavirus lockdown that has prevented England from playing Test cricket since January resulting in a fully fit complement of fast bowlers.

Pace bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes will vie for what are likely to be three places in the team.

Sam Curran, who may also have been in contention before falling ill during a practice match this week, is among the reserves.

He is joined on the back-up list by fellow seamers Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone and Saqib Mahmood, and left-arm spinner Leach.

Ben Foakes is the reserve wicketkeeper, while uncapped pair Dan Lawrence and James Bracey provide batting cover, meaning there is no place for Jonny Bairstow.

Bairstow, like Moeen, could not do enough in the practice match to force his way into the reckoning.

Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen had made himself available for Test cricket after taking a self-imposed break that began after being dropped during last summer’s Ashes series against Australia.

That left Leach as England’s first-choice spinner, but when he fell ill during the winter Somerset team-mate Bess impressed in the series win in South Africa.

The three-Test series with West Indies will be played behind closed doors and in a bio-secure environment in Southampton and Manchester.


Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

This is a bigger squad than England take on winter tours, but such is the uncertainty over illness despite being locked in a bio-bubble that nine players will remain locked on site as reserves.

It is interesting to see who hasn’t made it – Moeen and Bairstow – while Bess is rewarded for his performances in South Africa.

Denly and Crawley will be in a play-off to survive when captain Root returns.

3rd August 2020

Environment What sort of future does the conference industry have?

Environment What sort of future does the conference industry have?


environment Man wearing VR headset at a trade showImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Virtual reality is likely to play a bigger role in future conferences

“I’m devastated,” says Mike Walker, managing director of MGN Events.

The company went from generating millions of pounds in revenue to near zero in just weeks, because of lockdowns.

“Over 10 years of hard work building the company up from nothing, reinvesting each year for growth, taken away cruelly in the space of a couple of weeks, with no clarity on when the industry can resume,” Mr Walker says.

Thousands of others in the events industry will be facing the same uncertainty. The pandemic has completely shattered a huge sector, and many businesses are struggling to survive. According to a 2018 report, business events alone are a $1.5 trillion (£1.2tn) industry globally.

That’s without considering the huge number of consumer events, exhibitions, experiences and weddings.

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MGN Events

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Mike Walker saw the income of his events firm wiped out due to coronavirus

All of these events rely on people turning up in person, and that is not currently possible with some venues closed or at a reduced capacity, and with travel restrictions in place – not to mention various other safety precautions required at the venue itself.

“Even if you hold an event in a larger venue, if you have delegates flying in and staying in the hotel, and one person tests positive for Covid-19, then you’re going to get a call from the hotel telling you they’re going to have to give the venue a deep clean and shut it down,” says Steve Parrott, co-founder of Alternative Events.

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Media caption‘We need a date to restart so we can save our staff’

That kind of scenario is why companies are being forced to look at technology as the alternative, with virtual events becoming the norm throughout lockdown.

Most businesses have turned to technology that has become familiar for many people – video conferencing software from Zoom or MS Teams.

However, these technologies were around before the pandemic, and while they offer an alternative, they do not provide the same level of engagement as physical events.

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Web summit

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Paddy Cosgrave says networking opportunities need to be built into new conference technology

“Most of the platforms for virtual conferences are built by third-party providers that don’t organise events,” says Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of Web Summit, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world.

As video conferencing tools have been built for the mass market, rather than for specific industries, event organisers and sponsors are scrambling around for an alternative.

One option, taken up by The Moodie Davitt Report and retail marketing and design company FILTR, has been to bring together existing products into one system.

“We looked at the software that exists in the industry and we didn’t think any of them would be sufficient to attract the brands we needed to attract,” says Martin Moodie, founder of The Moodie Davitt Report, a publication that focuses on travel retailing.

Using existing software it creates a virtual version of a physical event – enabling people to walk around and view the different stands and communicate with brands by speaking to people in a chat format, all from their laptop.

The company integrates this with web-conferencing capabilities and meeting scheduling software.

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Getty Images

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CES attracted around 170,000 visitors this year

But for some of the larger conferences, even integrating these products isn’t necessarily enough. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which welcomes 170,000 delegates to Las Vegas every year, is going ahead with its 2021 event in January.

Jean Foster, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Consumer Trade Association, which runs the event, says that the organisation is creating its own digital platform for CES as it expects that turnout will be lower as a result of the virus, and it is therefore switching to a hybrid offering.

“We’re working on what that platform is going to look like… there’s nothing off-the-shelf of the scale and capabilities we need,” Ms Foster says.

Web Summit has also created a platform from scratch. Mr Cosgrave says that for most business events, networking is the key reason that people attend. It is also critical to the success of an event, as sponsors can communicate directly with their target audience.

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Getty Images

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Crowded stands are on hold

Mr Cosgrave’s team had already worked on trying to engineer serendipity into the physical Web Summit event, by seating people next to others who may have mutual interests. Now that the event, held in Lisbon in December, will be at least partly online, his team have been working on allowing that serendipity to also flow into an online environment.

The company takes information, with consent, from social media and delegates’ phone books to create an algorithm that matches people with others that they would likely find interesting or want to talk to.

“Delegates will see the people that are recommended to them, while other people are seeing them in a very personalised way,” he says.

“On the platform, they can do one-to-one video calls with one another, they could do group calls with each other, or you could start a group video chat and invite people, or join Q&As with speakers, for example.”

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Box Bear

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With Box Bear technology users get their own avatar

Some technology companies see a gap in the market to help enable attendees to have more control during an event.

Box Bear Digital supplies virtual reality (VR) headsets to clients who can then distribute them among delegates. The headsets have to be returned after the conference is finished.

During the VR conference, attendees are represented by their own real-life avatars. Users can take notes on slides, get certain quotes transcribed and sent to email, zoom in, change their viewpoint, and interact with virtual elements.

“The key difference is being fully immersed and engaged, there’s no escape as soon as you put the headset on,” says Graham Addison, global marketing director of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has tested out the technology.

The added value provided to the organisers, according to Box Bear Digital, is that they have a better idea of what the audience is doing, as the technology can track whether the person is shaking their head, or raising their hand to ask a question.

Generally, event organisers don’t stand to make the same amount of revenue in a virtual alternative. However, there are numerous benefits to holding virtual events.

More Technology of Business

Virtual events are far cheaper to run, and at a time when companies are more conscious about the environment, they offer a sustainable alternative to flying people in from across the world. In addition, they give the organisers the ability to get viewers from across the world, on different timezones, to tune in, and potentially attract better speakers for the event too, as they don’t need to travel.

There is also more scope to measure outcomes.

“We can constantly tell those people putting on the event how many people were engaged, how many visitors they had, how many people downloaded their content – you can’t measure this in the same way for a physical event,” says Mr Walker.

Despite this, many event organisers can only see the use of these virtual events as a stop gap, or as part of an overall hybrid event in the future. Perhaps this is why the likes of Microsoft and Zoom haven’t moved quickly to provide new features for their platforms.

“Four months into lockdown, why is there nothing new on the market? Perhaps digital [events] aren’t worth investing in because although they will be a part of the mix, they won’t be the main part of the event, because people think we’ll be returning to normal soon,” says Mr Parrott.

3rd August 2020

Environment Phyllis Omido: The woman who won $12m fighting lead battery poisoners

Environment Phyllis Omido: The woman who won $12m fighting lead battery poisoners


environment Miss Phylis Omido, a Kenyan environmental activist in Mombasa in 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

After a decade of campaigning, Kenyan environmental activist Phyllis Omido won a court ruling that awarded $12m (£9.2m) to a community poisoned by lead pollution from a nearby factory, as the BBC’s Basillioh Mutahi reports.

When, in 2009, Ms Omido explained to her employer that their business of battery recycling could “end up killing” the people living near the plant, she was asked never to talk about it again.

This was the first of many times she was told to be quiet, but she did not do as she was told.

At 31, the business management graduate had just joined Kenya Metal Refineries, a firm in the coastal city of Mombasa which was recycling car batteries to extract the lead.

Environment Toxic fumes

She had been asked to commission an environmental impact assessment, but when she presented the expert’s report the company directors did not act on its findings.

The battery melting process emitted both toxic fumes and a discharge that seeped into the neighbouring densely populated Owino Uhuru community. It affected both the air and the water, causing illnesses the residents could not understand.

It also had an impact on the employees.

But at that point in 2009, Ms Omido did not know the extent of the problems – or the level of damage to the environment.

Image copyright
Goldman Environmental Prize

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Ms Omido wants the soil around the plant to be cleaned up so that children can play safely

From childhood, she had always loved nature and had wanted to study something to do with the environment at university.

But her guardians in Mombasa – where she had moved after the death of her mother 15 years earlier in western Kenya – urged her to take a course that would enable her to get an office job.

Environment A mystery illness

The problem was that the office job she had taken was with a company that did not seem to care for what she loved.

Despite concerns, Ms Omido continued working for the company and in 2010 her two-year-old son fell ill. He underwent treatments and tests, but he did not get better and the problem could not be identified.

Things got so bad that he was admitted to hospital and it was then that a friend suggested that the child should be tested for lead poisoning.

It turned out he had dangerously high levels of lead in his blood.

environment A test tube with a lead test

Getty Images

Lead poisoning

  • The metal is toxicand can contaminate the soil causing health problems

  • Blood and kidneysas well as other organs call all be affected

  • Childrenare particularly vulnerable to the impact on the brain

  • Battery recycling,e-waste and paint are among the biggest sources of poisoning

Source: WHO, Pure Earth

The discovery that her son had lead poisoning – perhaps ingested from breastmilk – shocked her.

Ms Omido was angry. She quit her job, while pushing for the company to pay for her son’s treatment.

She also had tests done on three other children from the community. Her fears were confirmed.

Environment ‘You’re making it up’

Armed with the test results, Ms Omido started writing to government agencies seeking action to stop the pollution.

They ignored her, she says.

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) “in fact wrote back to me and said what I was saying was fictitious and they were ready to defend it in a court of law”, she told the BBC.

Nema had been partly responsible for licensing the factory in the first place.

She wanted to prove that it was no fiction so with funding from an environmental organisation, she organised for more lead poisoning tests to be done.

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Ms Omido led several public protests against the poisoning in the community

Ms Omido then felt she had the evidence, but her determination to make her case led to frequent run-ins with the authorities.

“I just took it a day at a time. We were just depending on goodwill. When I was arrested for instance, I didn’t even have money for bail. And I had 17 people to bail out.”

She was detained for one night in 2012 and charged with inciting violence after organising a march in Mombasa.

Two legal charities, Front Line Defenders and the East African Law Society, helped with the money and defence. The campaigners were acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Environment Beaten up

Ms Omido considers the years before 2014 as “a very difficult time” when she almost gave up the fight.

She was often scared because of being harassed by the authorities. An attack by unidentified armed men just outside her home terrified her so much that she went into hiding for months.

“I only survived because my neighbour arrived at that time. His car lights shone on the place where I had been hit and had fallen on the ground, and my son was screaming,” she says.

environment Phyllis Omido


There were so many people who believed in me and paid a very high price for that”

At one point, members of Ms Omido’s family were also unhappy. They argued that she was not being fair to her son, who saw her being mistreated by the authorities.

But the campaigner says she felt indebted to the community because “there were so many people who believed in me and paid a very high price for that”.

She remembers one “heart-breaking” incident in 2011 when the police arrived and fired tear gas after a community meeting.

“They then ransacked people’s houses on the pretext of looking for illegal substances,” she says.

“These are poor people who earn so little. I wish they would have arrested me instead.”

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Despite the setbacks, Ms Omido fought for more than 10 years to get the case to court and get a decision to go the community’s way.

The $12m award is supposed to be paid jointly by the government agencies that were found to have been negligent as well as the directors of the company, which shut down in 2014.

The judge also ordered the government to clean Owino Uhuru within four months, saying failure to act would result in a fine.

Ms Omido says that “money cannot even compensate” for what the 3,000-strong community has been through. Nevertheless, the funds can be used for treatment and medication.

But this may not be the end of the journey as she does not believe the money will be immediately forthcoming as the government has a poor record of paying compensation ordered by the courts.

It has until the middle of September to pay up. If it fails, then Ms Omido will not keep quiet.

31st July 2020

Environment Educational underachievement in NI ‘entrenched’ – Peter Weir

Environment Educational underachievement in NI ‘entrenched’ – Peter Weir


environment Children walking to schoolImage copyright

Underachievement in education has remained “entrenched” in Northern Ireland, despite significant funding and policies to tackle it.

That is according to Education Minister Peter Weir.

The minister has announced an expert panel to come up with recommendations to tackle educational underachievement.

Mr Weir also said that any extra money for schools to reopen at the end of August would have to come from the executive.

On Monday, the Republic of Ireland announced an extra €375m (£342m) of funding to help schools fully reopen.

Speaking in the assembly, Mr Weir said that underachievement was a particular problem among Protestant boys from disadvantaged backgrounds, although it also affected many Catholic children.

Fewer than half of children entitled to free school meals left school with at least five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and Maths, in 2017/18.

By contrast, almost 80% of pupils not entitled to free school meals left school with at least those qualifications.

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Peter Weir said the panel could significantly improve the outcomes for thousands of children and young people

In the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement there was a requirement that: “The executive will establish an expert group to examine and propose an action plan to address links between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background, including the long-standing issues facing working-class, Protestant boys”.

That expert group has now been established by the Department of Education (DE).

It has six members and will be chaired by Dr Noel Purdy from the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) at Stranmillis University College.

A report from CREU in January said there was “no single remedy” to tackling underachievement, but there was a “significant relationship between underachievement and social disadvantage”.

However, it also said that academic selection had significant social, educational and economic consequences for pupils.

Other studies into the relationship between deprivation and educational achievement have also been critical of academic selection.

However, a number of other factors have also been identified which can lead to young people not fulfilling their potential at school.

These include inadequate support from parents, low expectations from some teachers and schools and insufficient support for students with special educational needs (SEN).

The expert panel is expected to come up with practical recommendations to tackle underachievement and produce a final report and action plan by the end of May 2021.

Environment ‘No easy answers’

Mr Weir said it would also produce a budget for the action plan.

“This panel has the potential to significantly improve the outcomes for thousands of children and young people in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“As President Ronald Reagan once said: ‘There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right’.”

The other expert panel members are the principal of Belfast Boys’ Model School, Mary Montgomery, former principal Kathleen O’Hare, the principal of Longtower Primary in Londonderry, Joyce Logue, the chief executive of Greater Shankill Partnership Jackie Redpath, and Prof Feyisa Demie from Durham University.

Environment Academic selection

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd asked Mr Weir whether the panel would be allowed to examine the implications of academic selection on educational underachievement.

But Mr Weir responded that the “obsession” with transfer tests as being critical to underachievement “massively misses the point”.

“It creates both a distraction and also actually I think focuses in, largely speaking, on the wrong issue.”

The minister said that academic selection could be looked at as part of a forthcoming wider review of the education system also promised in the New Decade, New Approach deal.

Mr Weir was also asked by SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan if schools would receive extra funding to enable them to reopen to all pupils at the end of August.

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Schools have been preparing for the return of children

On Monday, the Irish government said it would fund an additional 1,000 post-primary teachers, some new school premises to allow for social distancing and 120 extra counselling posts to help students adjust to a different educational environment.

But Mr Weir said that any extra money for similar measures for schools in Northern Ireland would have to be allocated by the executive.

“If additional money is to be put in, it needs to be supplied centrally by the executive,” he said.

“If it’s anywhere within the ballpark of what has happened in other jurisdictions, that will need to be something that is done.

“I’m committed to arguing that case, albeit that there will be very many competing demands I suspect of whatever budgets are available to the executive.”

31st July 2020

Environment Jackson Wray: Saracens forward signs three-year deal with relegated club

Environment Jackson Wray: Saracens forward signs three-year deal with relegated club


environment Jackson Wray
Jackson Wray has spent his whole career at Saracens

Saracens forward Jackson Wray has signed a new three-year deal with the relegated Premiership club.

The 29-year-old, who confirmed in March he would stay with Sarries despite them dropping into the Championship next term, has made more than 200 appearances for the club since 2009.

Wray is the latest of Sarries’ Premiership and European Cup winning players, including England pair Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, to recommit.

“I love this club,” Wray said.

“It’s a proper family and a special place to be. I enjoy coming into the environment every day and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

A points deduction initially handed out in November for persistent salary cap breaches condemned the Premiership and European champions to life in England’s second-tier competition next season.

Despite the ignominy of their demotion, a number of Saracens biggest names have chosen to stay in north London.

Wray, who came through the academy at Saracens, has pledged his “long-term” future, as has Itoje, Farrell and fellow England internationals Jamie George, Mako Vunipola and Elliot Daly.

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