What we learned this week

  • If you fancy a creative writing challenge, have a look at the Green Alphabet Writing Prize, who got in touch this week.
  • Testing on external cladding on English high-rise blocks has been a disaster this week – 100% of them apparently failed fire tests. In Scotland, none of them have, proving that good cladding is possible if you regulate against cost-cutting.
  • Ethical Consumer’s latest report is on the energy sector in Britain, if you’re interested in who the most ethical energy supplier might be.
  • I won’t review it in full, but this week I finished Tim Marshall’s Worth Dying For: The politics and power of flags. (I read it in tandem with Sound System: the political power of music while I was on holiday, so I could compare and contrast the use of sight and sound as rallying cries in political protest.) It’s full of stories about flags and how they came to be, and the laws and traditions surrounding them, all told with humour and insight by Tim Marshall. Chapters are grouped by region, and there are some really useful sections that unpick the symbolism behind regional themes – the pan-Arabic movement for example, or the legacy of the briefly unified Latin America. Flags are a useful lens for understanding national stories, and the book adds colour to the stories that we see every day in the news.


  1. It is wrong to say cost cutting was the reason for the Grenfell disaster. It seems like the England cladding regulations weren’t designed by cost cutting but were confusing and contradictory. It’s never a case that more regulation is better, or less worse. We need the right regulation, a much harder task. We have ensure there isn’t knee jerk regulation that costs millions and doesn’t actually improve fire safety.

    There was a small green element. The type of panels fitted at Grenfell are better insulation than the more fire proof alternative. Given that more advocacy has been given to ‘Greening’ council housing than fire safety until now it is hardly surprising councils and developers prioritized that. We must always be aware that environmental issues are just one part of the wider picture.

  2. Sure, and I’m not interested in blame here. Happy to let the investigators do their work, and I wish everyone else would too. I’m keen to ensure that there isn’t a backlash against renovating high rises, because folks like the Daily Mail scapegoat insulation. That would be deeply perverse.

    What we need is the right regulation – absolutely, and I added this link because it looks like we got it muddled and Scotland gave much greater clarity.

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