Talks, Discussions and Film Evenings

Photo of De Koffee Pot, Hereford

Good evening everyone,

Another lovely morning and early afternoon then the clouds came over … Went to a BBQ in a friend’s garden – glad I took several extra layers and got drizzled on walking home … Not looking so good this coming week but the hedgerows are much greener and the verges are a profusion of wild flowers, including bluebells, cowslips with the white umbels of cow parsley rising above.


Wednesday 12 May : Free Speech.
Link to past DEs on u tube.
Summary of last Wednesday’s DE “Big Questions, Unthinkable Answers”, 8th of series.

“Free Speech – What are the Limits?”

There are many issues surrounding us during these troubled times – the challenges of Climate Change and the motives of governments and large corporations, the continuing questions raised around Brexit and its impacts, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, the questions of No Platforming in Universities…

What are YOUR views on Free Speech – is it being taken away from us? Should some views just not be tolerated? Where do the responsibilities of free speech get defined? Does someone have the right to utter hate speech? Does free speech include the right to use violence in the face of oppression? Does the winning of an election provide the right to silence opposing views?

The objective of this discussion is to look at some definitions of what Free Speech is, and then take your views on how this does or does not work. We’ll start with looking at the various ways that Free Speech is defined and then let the discussion take us where it will.

Come along and have your say – be vocal or use the chat, we want this to be an open discussion with all voices heard… “Those who don’t turn up tend not to be heard!”

DKP: Free Speech – What are the Limits?
Time: May 12, 2021 19:30 London
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Passcode: 159786

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CATCH UP on what you’ve missed on YouTube….
Did you know that we have our own dedicated YouTube channel now, with a video play-list of many of our previous discussion evenings? Catch up here!

We love to hear from people, so if you would like to ask questions, comment, pass us any feedback or suggestions for topics or speakers, please reply to this email, or email specifically:

Our discussion evenings are free and open to all. We hope you can make it!

With all good wishes,

Nat, Alan and Nigel
Coordinators of the Talks and Discussions Calendar (usually!) at The Left Bank Village.

Last Wednesday we had 6 screens for my presentation on “Water” with 45 slides.  Another vast and complex topic! I started with reference to water being essential for life, but it needs to be potable water. The first slide was about Coleridge’s’ Rhyme of the ancient mariner with the extract “Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”! Then briefly about the (very successful) search for ice on the Moon and Mars as a source of water and also oxygen and potentially hydrogen fuel. A brief review of the science of water outlining how hydrogen bonding leads to its very special properties of surface tension, and water expanding on freezing.

”There is plenty of water” I have often been told: not so when considering that fresh and unpolluted water accounts for but 0.003%; a scarce resource in some areas and will inevitably become increasingly so, potentially leading to much environmental degradation and migration – more than has happened to date ….

Two related factors underlie this existential threat – ongoing very rapid population increase and lack of maintenance and building of infrastructure to supply fresh water sustainably and remove and treat waste water.  When Sir David Attenborough was born there were 2 billion, now 7.8 billion, projected 2050 9.7 billion people on the planet; most of increase in Africa and Asia but parts of California and the Prairies will be short of water in 20 years time.

Fresh water is replenished by the hydrological cycle which has always been, at times extremely, a variable phenomena. Fundamental to the supply of fresh water in many areas are aquifers – underground bodies of water into which bore holes can be drilled to extract. Some are replenished by rains and can support a level of abstraction; in many areas too much is taken and the water levels are dropping, eventually the wells fail. Others were laid down in the Cretaceous period, referred to as fossilised aquifers, lie under impervious rock, cannot be replenished, will run dry. Several civilisations have developed based on sophisticated water management only to fail due to drought periods or over-irrigation leading to salination of soils and crop failure.

Four case studies exemplified different ways in which water is a scarce resource and must be managed sustainably and within the bounds of natural systems.
In 1950 the Aral Sea stretched 200 miles north/south, was a very rich source of fish, wildlife and tempered the climate of the region. Naturally an arid region, two massive rivers kept it full flowing north from the Himalayas. In the Soviet era most of this flow was diverted to grow cotton with an incredibly inefficient wasteful irrigation system, indeed Soviet archives of the 1970’s show that the plan was to drain the Aral Sea and grow cotton in the basin – utter political arrogance and there is no will to change in the region. The Aral Sea is reduced, for the most part, to a few salt marshes and salt desert; salt has poisoned the land and the people leading to anaemia, high infant mortality, life expectancy of 51 years. The UN – the greatest environmental disaster of the 20c.
[News today (Saturday) : to the east of this region a border dispute over access to water between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has led to at least 31 shot dead,  over 100 injured. The UN has long predicted water shortages would lead to “water wars”.]

The Mekong, one of the world’s last great rivers, 2,800 miles from the ice fields of Eastern Tibet to the delta in Vietnam. An incredibly rich ecosystem, the fisheries support 60 million people. The Chinese are building a series of 8 massive hydroelectric dams (also down-stream countries) which is highly likely to effectively destroy the whole system.

In India, states such as Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, depend very heavily on bore-holes into aquifers a significant proportion of which are fossilised. Over 50 years water levels have dropped from 30’ to 1,000’ and more. In some areas land is being abandoned, farmers going to the coast to fish, fish stocks are diminishing.  A problem with some pumped up groundwater first investigated in Bangladesh, later found in India and other places round the world, is Arsenic (As) poisoning. A long term slow poison, evidenced by cancerous skin lesions, eventually lethal.  This is an entirely natural phenomena due to drilling through As laden river silt in deltas and oxidation of exposed rock minerals leading to release of As into the water extracted. Relatively simple, cheap, equipment can remove As but such infrastructure is in short supply.

Jakarta, a rapidly growing megacity of over 10 million, largely depends on groundwater accessed by thousands of bore holes. The result is that the city is sinking below sea level, in the north up to 25 cm /year.

On the positive side, two case studies showing how effective action and investment can be. In 1995 Israel recognised the area had an existential threat in the form of continuing drought. They rapidly enacted water conservation across the country, developed remarkably efficient irrigation systems,  invented a reverse-osmosis desalination technique which has much reduced the cost of desalinated water. London is building a super-sewer , 16 miles long, 24’ diameter, about £4 billion, to avoid raw sewage being dumped in the Thames through 57 overflow pipes up to 50 times a year.

The last slide listed 7 proposals for debate which led to much discussion. In particular, concern was expressed as to how we can individually reduce our water consumption; metering is a move in the right direction as is the advent of more efficient domestic appliances such as washing machines.

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