What we learned this week

  • And CO2 emissions have just passed the 400 ppm mark, so that’s just as well. The safe limit is 350 ppm, so perhaps crossing a number with zeroes in it might bring the point home a little.
  • Peter Singer on conspicuous consumption and Ukrainian politicians’ love of expensive watches: “Essentially, such a person is saying; ‘I am either extraordinarily ignorant, or just plain selfish’.”


  1. Let your children play with sand, water, clay, pieces of wood, used plastic coffee cups and spoons, old cardboard boxes, paint, glue, sea shells, feathers, other selected stuff washed up on beaches, flour, nuts, beans, balls, etc. Anything but computers. Unless you want them to turn out very boring.

    1. That’s pretty much my philosophy when they’re little, and my son has more fun with a saucepan and some dry pasta than anything else. But I realise that he is growing up in a digital world, and I didn’t. As soon as he goes to school or forms friendships with his peers, he’ll be aware of digital technology and we’ll need to negotiate how to make that a positive thing.

      1. You could get them building electrical gadgets, electronic devices, taking broken ones apart and eventually learning how to repair them, learning how to install and upgrade software etc. They will be very popular with their peers.

    2. On toddlers and tablet computers: I think the balanced approach is always the best – I am a follower of the middle way. My eldest daughter (soon to be 9) wanted an iPad for her first communion last week, and we had long discussions about it. Finally I offered her the option: iPad, a professional climbing course or a nice new Bicycle. Being only 40% nerd and 60% outdoorsy, she couldn’t resist the mountain bike option. Our kids do have computer lessons at elementary school – and even the youngest one even in Kindergarten – and they do have access to a desktop at home, where (under supervision) they learn how to look up things in Wikipedia, use graphics software, write emails and occasionally watch a youtube clip. But I see no reason why they should have nonstop access to a tremendously expensive piece of computer equipment that they mainly use for playing games. And then each of them will want one, and the money is better invested into savings accounts where it will wait to be used for school trips or other more essential expenses. Tablet PCs are tremendously valuable for, say, geographic field work, engineers, architects, town planners, amateur astronomers. There are many valuable educational tools, too, no doubt, but the majority of applications are games, and especially the iPad is designed mainly as a shopping front end for games, ebooks and pop music – and a short lived one, since the lifetime of the hardware is determined by the lifetime of the built in battery. Four years, and the thing is planned junk. I had my first apple powerbook laptop for ten years – and the sold it. I have an old IBM Thinkpad that has been functioning beautifully for the last ten years and still keeps running. Why invest a lot of money into a thing that basically is an expensive toy? I agree that kids should learn their ways around computers and digital equipment, but these things should not define them. I see the empty eyes when they watch cartoons or play computer games, and I see the shining sparks in those same eyes when they are out, in rain coats and rubber boots, playing by the pond, observing tadpoles, collecting flint stones in the fields, playing planetary explorer in the forest. We will need people in the future who do not get lost in virtual worlds, who did not forget that there is a real world out there or which they are a part…

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