What we learned this week

Women are an untapped market for electric vehicles, recent research has found. Too many adverts try to sell the cars to men, when the more natural swap is the second cars often driven by women.

It’s been a good week for the divestment movement, which I might come back to this week. And why not – a study by the Grantham Research Institute found that ditching fossil fuel investments doesn’t bring any great penalty.

“In seeking to spend life as productively as we can, we bring upon ourselves the ultimate ironic punishment: we miss it.” Oliver Burkeman in The New Philosopher, writing about productivity and play.

This week I’ve been reading the Hindustan Times, which is a fine paper. Next week I’ll be reading The Nation, which has been home to independent American journalism since it was founded by abolitionists in 1865.

From the Hindustan Times I learn that last year India began work on a high speed rail route of around 300 miles. It is expected to be in service by 2023 and cost around £11 billion. I find this interesting because Britain also began work on a high speed rail line last year. It will cover a similar distance, but ours won’t be ready until 2033 and at the last estimate the budget was £55 billion.


  1. Regarding Oliver Burkeman’s article, I am truly astonished that anyone who has spent any time at all considering the human condition (surely a fair assumption to make about someone writing in The New Philosopher) would consider this a novel or newsworthy point of view. “All work and no play…” is one of the most banal of truisms and the evidence supporting it is everywhere.
    Of course reading about what makes a successful life will only ever get you a partial answer as the low acheivers among us who understand the value of life’s evryday pleasures – the beauty of trees, the happiness of sitting quietly with someone you love, the joy of making mediocre music with friends, the pleasure to be had mowing the lawn (however crookedly) – will never write books about it and if we did we would NEVER bother with the struggle of getting them published.

    1. It is the problem with encouraging very productive people to be less so is that we all loose out. We get to benefit from their productivity, be it through the invention, marketing and supply of better lawn mowers to the development devices and apps upon which to read articles about how we should work less.

      1. And there you have the argument for why we still have these articles, even after millennia of philosophy!

        Life is for living, not for extracting value. Productivity is not an end in itself, and is impossible without downtime anyway. Even the most productive people burn out. As any creative person knows, you can wrack your brains all day on a problem and reach no solution – but wander outside, potter about and mow the lawn, and the answer will come to you.

  2. It’s always misleading to make comparisons between big infrastructure projects in developed and developing countries. Not only do you have purchasing power parity differences but the planning costs and regulations higher as is the cost of the land which is likely to be already used for something valuable, hence costs much more to buy.

    Not that HS2 is cheap even if compared to European ones. TGV Med cost 20 million Euros per km.

    1. On the contrary, it’s very instructive to compare big infrastructure projects. Where it gets misleading is in the drawing of simplistic conclusions. I’ve offered the comparison to encourage people to ask questions about why it might be so, what makes the prices so different, and whether we’re getting value for money – something you’ve ably done here in the comments section.

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