Going through my mother’s many papers recently, I discovered this document – a 1984 summary of the computer training that she had introduced to the school in the early 1980s. The remaining pages that can be seen through the thin paper continue with details of the syllabus.
I’m sharing it here, because for me it reminds me of four very important things:
There is actually a long history of computer learning (and the use of digital tech for other types of learning) in schools, going back at least forty years. We should surely have learnt how to do this well in that time, and yet so many initiatives do not learn from the lessons of the past, reinvent the wheel, and make the mistakes that we made beforehand!
My mother taught at that time in a single sex primary school, and I have no doubt (from the messages I have received from those she taught at this time) that the girls she taught gained as good a digital training as any at the time, and probably very much better than most. We need to remember therefore that initiatives to teach girls to use digital tech have also been around for a long time, and yet we still don’t seem to have learnt the lessons well aboout how to do this!
Although my mother was a maths teacher, it is great to see that she was not only teaching the girls to use computers for maths, but also for music and writing, and that she was using quizzes and games in her teaching.
A final striking feature is that even back then she noted that about half of the girls had a computer at home (although I wish I knew whether this meant that it was their own computer or that they had access to a family computer). It remains essential for girls to have easy access to digital tech outside the school environment if they are to be able to use it effectively for their learning.
I hope others find this re-discovery as exciting as I do! The mention of BBC, Spectrum, ZXB1, Vic 20 and Commodore computers brings back so many memories of the early days of using computers in schools (and indeed in universities) at the time.
The soundbites from the widely acclaimed success of COP 27, especially around the creation of a loss and damage fund (see UNCC Introduction to loss and damage), made me look once more at the realities of global CO2 emissions to see which countries are actually generating the most CO2, which are improving their performance, and which are suffering most. Sadly, this only made me appreciate yet again that the over-simplifications that occur during so many UN gatherings such as COP appear to be more about political correctness and claiming success than they do about developing real solutions to some of the most difficult challenges facing the world.
The UN Climate Press Release on 20 November summarised the outcomes relating to the fund as follows: “Governments took the ground-breaking decision to establish new funding arrangements, as well as a dedicated fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage… Parties also agreed on the institutional arrangements to operationalize the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, to catalyze technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”.
Unfortunately, it is not quite as easy as it might seem to validate the claim underlying this that it is the rich countries who do most of the pollution and should therefore compensate the poor countries where the most harmful damages from CO2 occur (see, for example, ThePrint, India; UN News, noting that “Developing countries made strong and repeated appeals for the establishment of a loss and damage fund, to compensate the countries that are the most vulnerable to climate disasters, yet who have contributed little to the climate crisis”; and BBC News, “A historic deal has been struck at the UN’s COP27 summit that will see rich nations pay poorer countries for the damage and economic losses caused by climate change”). How should it be decided, for example, which countries should be donors to this fund, and which should be beneficiaries from it? Pakistan, which led much of the discussion around the need for richer countries to fund the poorer ones, was actually the 27th largest global emitter of CO2 in 2019; China was the largest contributor, and India the 3rd largest.
The Table below, drawing on World Bank data (2022), gives the various rankings of the top 30 countries in terms of CO2 emissions per capita in 2019, and CO2 total emissions in 1990 and 2019, as well as the change in ranking of the latter two columns.
CO2 metric tons per capita 2019
CO2 total emissions kt 1990
CO2 total emissions kt 2019
Change in rank 1990-2019
United Arab Emirates
Iran, Islamic Rep.
Trinidad and Tobago
Iran, Islamic Rep.
Egypt, Arab Rep.
United Arab Emirates
Iran, Islamic Rep.
Many important observations can be made from these figures, and I highlight just a few below:
Per capita emissions
The highest per capita emitters are generally those in countries with recently developed hydrocarbon-based economies, such as Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Brunei Darussalam, and generally not in the old rich industrial economies of Europe.
Surprisingly, quite a few European countries such as the UK, Denmark and Spain (ranked 52nd-54th) actually lie well outside the top 30 highest emitters
The twelve lowest per capita emitters for which data are available (not shown here) are all African countries.
There are many fewer countries above the world average, at 4.47 metric tons per capita (which would rank 61st) and many more ranked beneath it, implying that the highest emitters are much higher than the lowest are low: Qatar at 32.47, has 28 metric tons per person more than the average; yet, 55 countries have emissions per capita of <1 metric ton.
60% of total CO2 emission are generated by people living in five countries (China, 31.18%, the United States 14.03%, India 7.15%, the Russian Federation 7.15%, and Japan 3.15%). Eleven further countries, all producing more than 350,000 kt CO2 annually account for a further 16.68% of emissions. More than three-quarters of emissions in 2019 were therefore from people in just 16 countries.
Those countries with the lowest total emissions are nearly all small island states (SIDS; not shown in the Table), but note that these were not necessarily the lowest per capita emitters.
The changes in total emissions since 1990 are also very interesting. The highest increases within the top 30 were Indonesia (+16) and Iran (+12), although much higher risers came into the top 30 from below, including Vietnam (+59), Malaysia (+23), UAE (+16) and Pakistan (+15).
These data do not make easy reading for policy makers, campaigners and the UN system as a whole, all of whom like to have simple answers and short soundbites. The world is unfortunately too complex and messy for these. As the world’s popultion passes 8 billion (2.8 times what it was when I was born), population growth is the dominant factor in determining total country-based emissions, but economic growth (following the US-led carbon-based capitalist mode of production) has also played a significant part. The big risers in total emissions are countries with large populations and/or with high economic growth rates over the last 30 years. Neither of these should be surprising. Poor countries, with low economic growth and relatively small populations are never likely to be amongst the largest consumers of energy. Overall, the biggest factor determining total CO2 emissions over the last century, and especially in the last 50 years, has been human population growth (see my recent post on “climate change”). Moreover, there has for long been an intricate and complex relationships between humans and carbon: the carbon cycle and the production of oxygen are essential for human life, and our economic systems have also been driven by carbon as a fuelfor centuries. These complexities make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to argue that we need to create two groups of countries: one being the recipients of funding (from a loss and damage financial facility), and the other being contributors to it. Instead, we need to work collaboratively together to transform the underying factors causing environmental change, of which CO2 emissions are actually only but a small part.
That is not, though, to say that there should not be much greater global effort to work together to resolve the environmental problems caused by our centuries old carbon-based economy (as well as those caused by so-called renewable energy). It is also completely separate from moral arguments suggesting that there should be a shift in wealth distribution from the rich to the poor. However, these should not be conflated into over-simplistic statements and assertions about responsibililty for climate change, such as those being promoted by UN agencies and mainstream media at the end of COP 27. It is also to reassert that we need to work together with renewed vigour collaboratively across sectors and disciplines to understand better the complex interactions that humans have with the environments in which we live, and then to make wise decisions how to implement them in the interests of all the world’s peoples and not just those of the rich and privileged parts of the world.
The above draft was written on 21 November 2022 (and has been revised slightly subsequently)
In response to the above, Olof Hesselmark kindly asked why I had not added further details also about the spatial distribution of CO2 emissions – something that as a geographer I care greatly about! I responded that I hadn’t wanted to complicate matters further, but also that I guess it was because I am aware in my own mind of these spatial distributions, and the country names (and sizes) are in-built into my consciousness! However, they do add an important additional element of complexity to the discussion, and I am delighted that he has agreed for me to add his slightly cropped map of CO2 emissions per sq km below:
I’m not entirely sure which projection this is, but my preference for such maps is Eckert IV, or other equal area projections such as Gall-Peters or Mollweide that place less visual emphasis on the apparent size of countries in high latitudes. This map nevertheless highlights the varying densities of emissions, with China, Europe and the USA being high, and Africa and Latin America being low. It should also be emphasised that there are enormous differences within countries, as well as between them, with urban-industrial environments generally being much higher in their CO2 emissions than sparsely settled rural ones.
A different perspective once again is thus from the Smithsonian Magazine‘s 2009s map below (carbon emissions from 1997-2010), which does indeed show how a very few areas contribute the largest amount of CO2 emissions.
“Climate change” causes nothing! Yes, read that again, “climate change” causes nothing. It is a result, not a cause. Yet, as delegates at COP27 continue to bemoan the impacts of climate change, promote ways of limiting carbon emissions, and redress the global balance of power and responsibility – as well as enjoying themselves, feeling important, serving their own interests, and basking in the glory of greenwashing (at last there is something on which I can agree with Greta Thunberg about!) – the adverse environmental impacts of digital technologies go almost un-noticed.
This series of three posts seeks to redress this balance, and argues for a fundamentally new approach to understanding and trying to improve the impacts of digital technologies on the environment. It situates the climate change rhetoric within the wider context of human impact on the environment (of which climate is but one element). The first of these posts provides a critique of much of the rhetoric concerning climate change, the second articulates the case for a new approach to understanding the relationships between digital tech and the environment, and the third provides positive suggestions for the next steps that need to be taken if we are indeed to use digital tech wisely to help manage our human relationships with the environment. Throughout it emphasises the need to understand the interests underlying the present rhetoric and practice around the interactions between digital tech, climate change and the environment.
The rhetoric of climate change: itself part of the problem
Changes in the earth’s climate are very real, and have existed since long before humans could appreciate them. The dramatic impact of humans on the world’s weather patterns and climate that have occurred over the last century, though, have only really been recognised and appreciated more widely in the last 40 years, in large part as a result of the dramatic increase in funding given to scientists working in this field. Climate activism and the UN’s interest in appearing to try to do something about it are relatively recent phenomena (the first COP meeting was held as late as 1995). It is fascinating to recall that ground-breaking works in the 1960s and early 1970s about human impact on the environment, such as Rachel Carson’s (1962) Silent Spring, and the Club of Rome’s (1972) Limits to Growth report, focused on a much more holistic view that paid surprisingly little explicit attention to climate. Five key inter-related concerns with the current dominant rhetoric about “climate change” can be teased out from these basic observations.
Over-simplified rhetoric of “Climate change” hides the significance of human impact
The term “climate change” has become so bowdlerized that is has lost any real value. At best, in common parlance it can be interpreted as being a shortened form of “human induced climate change”, but this shortening hides the fundamental importance of “people” as being the main cause of the changes in climate and weather patterns that are being experienced across the world. The expression “climate change” is actually just a collective observation of a series of aggregated changes in weather patterns across the world. It has no explanatory or causative power of its own. It is we humans who are causing fundamental changes to the environment, and these go far beyond just climate. We still know far too little about the complex interactions between different aspects of the world’s ecosystems to be able to predict how these will evolve with any real certainty. “Keep it Simple Stupid”(KISS) quite simply does not work when discussing human induced climate change.
Externalising “climate change”
The use of the term “climate change” also has much more subtle and malign implications, because it externalises our understanding of impacts and thus the actions that the global community (and every one of us living on this planet) need to take. Rather than human actions being seen as the fundamental cause that they are, externalising the idea of “climate change” as a cause means that the focus is subtly turned to finding ways to limit “climate change” rather than actually to change our underlying human behaviours. The classic instance of this is the focus on reducing carbon emissions by developing renewable energy sources – without actually changing our consumption patterns. The very considerable emphasis within the digital tech community on reducing its own carbon emissions and inventing ways through which digital tech can be used to contribute to “green energy” (typified by the ITU’s emphasis thereon) is but one example of this (see further in Part 2). Moreover, at a very basic level, the emphasis on carbon although important, has tended to reduce the attention paid to other contributors to global warming, such as Nitrous Oxide (N2O) which has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 273 times that of CO2, or Methane (CH4) which has a GWP of 27-30 times, for a 100-year timescale (USA EPA, 2022).
The focus on climate means that wider environmental impacts tend to be ignored
Focusing on “climate change” in general, and rising temperatures (global warming) in particular, has had a very serious negative impact on the ways in which other environmental parameters are considered and affected. In essence, “climate impact” often trumps most other environmental considerations, even when at a local scale other environmental impacts may actually be very much more serious. In reality, climate is but a part of the wider interconnected world in which we live, and for a more sustainable future it is essential to adopt a comprehensive ecosystem approach to understanding the full environmental impacts of any intervention. But one example of this is the way that batteries are now required to store “renewable” energy from solar panels or wind turbines, and the resultant serious environmental degradation caused by mining for lithium in Chile, Australia, Argentina and China (note too that total global reserves of lithium in 2018 were only 165 times the annual production volume, and demand is increasing rapidly).
Sustainable development, climate change and economic growth.
I have long argued that the term “sustainable development” is a contradiction in terms, and that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) alongside the UN’s Agenda 2030 are deeply flawed, not only in implementation but also in design (see Unwin, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021 and 2022). In essence, while development is largely defined in terms of economic growth, it is difficult to see how it can be compatible with sustainability when defined as the maintenance of valued entities. A deep flaw in much of the global “climate change” rhetoric about the use of renewable technologies to replace energy based on hydrocarbons is that it still tends to be combined with an economic growth agenda based on technical innovation. It does little, if anything at all, about changing global consumption patterns, the “perpetual growth” model, and the underlying capitalist mode of production (see Unwin, 2019). Indeed, elsewhere, I have often reflected on what a “no-growth” model of society might look like.
One of the core problems with the dominant global rhetoric around climate change (as expressed particularly in COP27, but also in much popular activist protest) is that it does not sufficiently tackle the fundamental challenge of population growth and increased consumption. The two simplified graphs below illustrate the scale of this basic problem.
The broad similarity in these two curves is striking. More than anything else, it has been the overall global growth in population over the last two centuries, enabled in large part by the enterprise associated with the individualistically based capitalist mode of production that has driven the environmental crisis of which “climate change” is but a part. The controversial film Planet of the Humans (Produced by Michael Moore) makes similar arguments, and it is unfortunate that its many critics have tended to focus more on some of its undoubtedly problematic points of detail rather than the crucial message of its overall argument (see Moore on Rising). The “capture”of the UN system by global corporations, exemplified by the large numbers of business leaders attending COP27, seems to confirm one of Moore’s core arguments that these companies are now driving much of the climate change agenda.
If the world’s peoples really want to “mitigate the effects of climate change”, there needs to be a dramatically more radical change to our social, cultural, political and economic systems than has heretofore been imagined, and this needs to begin with a shift to more communal rather than individualistic systems, a focus on reducing inequalities rather than maximising economic growth, and the crafting of a more holistic approach to environmental issues rather than one primarily focussing on carbon reduction to “solve” “climate change”.
Who benefits most: understanding the interests behind “climate change” rhetoric
Social movements, economic practices, cultural behaviours and political systems do not just happen, they are created by those who have interests in making them happen and the power to do so. This is as true of the “climate change” rhetoric and movement as it is of any other. Five particular groups of people have shaped and sought to take advantage of this. First, have been the scientists who have believed in the importance of this issue and have sought to build their careers around it. Academic careers are not neutral, and the story of how they built coalitions and peer networks, influenced research councils and political groups, and helped to forge a global “climate change” agenda that served their own interests is a fascinating one that remains to be told. Second, have been private sector businesses and corporations big and small who have sought to influence global policy and profit from a shift from hydrocarbons to renewable energy. This has been fuelled by the fetish for innovation, and the idea that technological change can inject a new impetus to economic growth. Their lobbying of governments to subsidise many of the start-up costs of renewable energy technologies, to overturn existing environmental legislation to permit the creation of new industrial landscapes in the name of solving”climate change”, and to enable consumers to afford to purchase them through further subsidising their energy costs, has been hugely successful. The global capitalist system, utterly dependent on economic growth, is ultimately leading ever more rapidly to its own environmental catastrophe. Third have been those who enjoy the thrill and camaraderie of political activism who have found in the simple “climate change” mantra something that will unite many of their common interests. Fourth, has been the UN system with all of its distinct agencies, each of which has found a cause around which to promote its identity as contributing in a worthwhile way for the benefit of humanity. Finally, have been the politicians, eaager to be seen to be doing “good”, and to contribute to a worthy international cause, in the interests of enhancing their own political careers.
The trouble is that it is not “climate change” itself that is the problem. Instead it is these interests, shaping the rhetoric of climate change, that have helped to exacerbate the very real environmental damage that is being caused to this planet. Self-interestedly promoting the rhetoric of “climate change” is of course much easier than it is to tackle the real roots of the problem, which lie in the economic, political, social and cultural processes that they too have crafted over the last half-century.
Part 2 of this trilogy of posts examines how these arguments apply in the context of the digital tech sector, and Part 3 calls for a dramatic new approach to balancing the environmental harms and benefits of the creation and use of such technologies,
It is a great honour to serve as the Academy Chair for the UK and Ireland of the World’s Best Vineyards awards organised by William Reed, which are designed to celebrate and promote the best wine tourism experiences in the world. To achieve this, there are 21 regional panels, each of which has 36 members, who annually vote for their top 7 winery/vineyard experiences. Membership of these panels changes each year, with a constant rotation of new members rotating onto them. In this role, I have very much tried to ensure that our panel represents the rich diversity of the countries of the UK and Ireland, different wine sectors (including importers, retailers, sommeliers, writers, and consultants) and varied personal characteristics including gender, ethnicity and age. This is by no means easy to achieve!
The annual awards ceremony for the top 50 winery/vineyard experiences is hosted by a different country each year. The 2021 ceremony was thus hosted at Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau in Germany, and this year’s ceremony was held in late October at Zuccardi, Valle de Uco, in Mendoza Argentina. The Academy Chairs along with a select group of other leading figures in the wine tourism industry are invited to these awards, and this year a spectacular progamme of winery visits was arranged in Mendoza in partnership with The Government of Mendoza.
We had the privilege of visiting the following wineries, where we also had comprehensive tastings:
and althogh we did not visit Bodega DiamAndes, they hosted a welcome dinner and tasting.
I have long wanted to explore Mendoza, and the beauty of the mountains and vineyards, the commitment and expertise of the wine-growers, the winery architecture, and above all the generosity and expertise of all of our hosts went far beyond any of my expectations. I hope that the slide-show below (in approximate order of visits) captures something of my enthusiasm and excitement. Especial thanks are due to the team at William Reed, and to Dr. Nora Vicario, Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Province of Mendoza, for supporting this event, and for her constant energy and enthusiasm.
It would be invidious to pick out any one wine or winery as being somehow the “best” – they were all so interesting and different! The following, though, are among my lasting memories:
The land appears so flat– but terroir matters! Most of the vineyards are laid out for mile upon mile (or kilometre upon kilometre) across the alluvial plain at the foothills of the majestic Andes. However, although appearing very flat it is actually gently sloping, and there are indeed important difference in terroir. These depend particualrly on altitude, but also on soil depth and charactistics (not least depending on the balance between clay, sand, and stones).
The nets. Many vineyards are swathed in black plastic netting (clearly shown in the image at the top of this post) which is particularly intended to protect the young shoots from being harmed by hail, but it also helps shade the vines from the intense sunlight that prevails here. It nevertheless adds significantly to the costs of production.
The architecture. I don’t think I have ever visited a wine region with such a wealth of recent architectural creativity. The level of financial investment in these wineries, restaurants, and hospitality venues is conspicuously high! While some of this investment comes from external sources and the proft generated from their owners’ other enterprises, I was also told that during the COVID restrictions they continued to have significant income from wine sales at a time when their costs were actually reduced, thus enabling them to invest further in their wineries.
Innovations in the wineries – and the music. It was fascinating to see the new wine making equipment and innovations in all of the wineries we visited (very visible in the images above). Egg-shaped and rounded fermentation tanks were very evident, and the novel mate-shaped tanks designed at Anaia have pushed the boundaries of vinification yet further. Concrete was dominant everywhere, but it was also interesting to learn about ongoing various micro-vinification trials. Several wineries nevertheless continue to use oak barrels extensively. It will be several years before the influence of these different methods on the wines produced will be fully understood. It was also fascinating to see how many wineries placed an emphasis on the connections between music and wine – even with tango on top of the concrete tanks at Zuccardi!
Irrigation everywhere – almost. The plains below the Andes in this part of Argentina are dry and arid. Almost all of the visible vegetation has thus been planted through the use of extensive irrigation; drip irrigation in the vineyards is ubiquitous. However, on being asked, several of the vitculturalists with whom I spoke mentioned that they are beginning to explore dry farming nearer the Andes mountains where water is more plentiful. The challenge here, though, is the danger of the much colder weather in the higher areas nearer the Andes. I look forward, though, to the results of this experimentation, and suspect that they just might produce even higher quality wines.
The wines. I have always enjoyed Malbec (or Cot as it is known in the Loire and Cahors), and recall that years ago we published a fascinating paper in the Journal of Wine Research in 1991 by Angel Gargiuolo that explored how quality and quantity could be combined in Argentina through careful selection of vines and appropriate crossings that would achieve optimal yelds and quality in this environment. Ever since then, I have wanted to visit Mendoza to taste for myself the results of this research (as well as the early work by Nicolás Catena Zapata) that helped to lay the foundations of the modern Mendoza wine industry. The red wines that we tasted (mainly Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon – although also including less familiar Italian grape varieties and others as well) were almost all of very high quality, with the Malbecs at their best combining real elegance, rich blackberry and plum flavours, and fascinating herbal and spicy overtones. However, I also learnt much more about the different characteristics of the wines made from grapes in the region’s various subdivisions (often reflecting differences in altitiude). I particularly enjoyed, for example, the elegance of the wines from grapes grown in Gualtallary (at up to 1600 m) in the Uco valley, especially the Malbecs and Cabernet Francs (as well as blends between them) – although this might have been in part infleucend by my enjoyment of Malbec (Cot) and Cabernet Franc blends in the Loire Valley the previous week! While it is indeed possible to find very good Malbec on the shelves in UK outlets, it is clearly necessary to visit Mendoza itself to taste the very best!
The hospitality and culture. I was blown away by the generous hospitality of all our hosts. It was such a privilege to learn from so many hugely experienced and knowledgeable wine-growers, and to taste the complex nuances in their wines. Beyond that, though, the professionalism, knowledge and warmth of welcome from all those who helped show us around was truly impressive – everyone I met, from the chefs and those pouring the wines, to the hospitality staff and the winery owners, went out of their way to help us understand their many cultures of wine. It was very humbling to experience the generous warmth of their welcome.
If I had to choose my favourite experience it must have been the opportunity we had at Catena Zapata to make our own blends of wine from different districts – mine was, though, very different from their official blend: yes, you’ve guessed it, I had a much larger proportion of Gualtallary! Thanks so much to Ernesto and Alejandro for guiding us through this (and to Alejandro for his wonderful wines at El Enemigo).
I had managed to avoid COVID-19 until a couple of weeks ago, but what seems almost inevitable some 30 months after it arrived on our shores has now come to pass. I have tested positive for COVID – despite all the care I tried to take. Many people have been far iller than I am, but I have always said that COVID is often much worse than is often thought, and I now have the living experience to show it (despite being triple vaccinated and one of the few people who still regularly try to wear a mask in crowded public spaces and in transport, not least to protect others). In line with UK government messaging that most people will not be seriously ill if they catch COVID and WHO guidance that “Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment”, it is commonly held that COVID is no longer something that we should particularly worry about. After all, many people have no symptoms at all, and others scarcely know they have had it. Well, anyone who has experienced “mild to moderate” COVID will know just what it’s like – although few seem to have shared their COVID experiences online so that others can understand just what an unpleasant infection it can be – even for those not ill enough to be in hospital. Imagine the worst flu you have ever had, and then multiply it! Prepare to be completely exhausted for several weeks and beyond.
So, this is my COVID diary:
Day 1. Began well, I had a negative Lateral Flow Test (LFT) since it was two days before I was due to fly overseas for a work commitment. As the day drew on, I developed a headache and tinnitus. I didn’t really think anything of it because all of us get headaches, don’t we?
Day 2. Tested negatve with a LFT again, but the headache hadn’t gone away, and I started to get a runny nose and a sore throat. Some glasses of wine in the evening would hopefullly help me relax and serve as a delicious and gentle anaesthetic! After all, I had tested negative, and had probably just got a cold…
Day 3. Woke frequently during the night with a painful sore throat, burning mouth, and tingling skin on my face. At one point, I could hardly swallow, so had plenty of water to drink, along with the paracetamol that I have taken regularly since (although not sure they make much difference!). At 6 a.m. I was suspicious, and took another LFT – after all, I wanted to fly in 8 hours’ time. I guess not unsurprisingly it rapidly showed up as being positive. Everyone who has experienced this will know the strange emotional feelings associated with a positive test. By now I was feeling really rather unwell: dizzy, the beginnings of a cough, brain a bit numb, unable to focus, tired… The clock was ticking though, and I somehow had to rearrange my flights, and let my colleagues know I would not be joining them. That took much of the morning, partly in bed and partly on the ‘phone. As the day progressed, I felt worse and worse: a pulsating headache, fatigue, and increasing pains throughout my body (especially where I had suffered sporting injuries in the past). After making a sandwich for lunch, it was back to bed and some sleep (facilitated by paracetamol). By the afternoon I felt a little better, and so crashed out on the sofa watching sport on TV. This was also an opportunity to order some food for delivery online the next day! But feeling slightly better was not to last! I somehow managed to make a simple meal, but as the evening progressed there was nothing for it but back to bed. My headache was much worse, sore throat increasingly painful, nose like a tap, and a cough starting along with pains across my chest. Lots of water by my bed to rehydrate. Blood pressure was very high…
Day 4. Another restless night without much sleep. At one point my throat was so painful that I made a mug of hot lemon, ginger and turmeric tea. It seemed to help me a little to swallow, but my heart was pounding away heavily. I guess it was trying to pump blood around my body to counter the infection. I felt lousy as I eventually got up, and scraped together some cereal for breakfast. Hot tea helped again with the throat, and I even managed to make my must-have morning cappuccinno. As the day progressed, COVID seemed to be attacking different parts of my body in turn, looking for vulnerabilities. So, my throat felt better but the cough and pains across my chest were wose. I was having to get rid of increasing amount of phlegm, and my nose was still running out of control. Somehow I managed to put away the food delivery that came at lunch time, and make a simple salad. In the afternoon, I was able to do a little bit of digital catchup, but I couldn’t really focus, and became so tired. By the evening, I started to feel sick (perhaps the coronavirus leaving my throat for my stomach!), and didn’t feel like making any food for dinner, but forced myself to eat something – washed down with plenty of water (wishing it was wine). Beginning to wonder if I will ever feel well again…
Day 5. I slept so badly – burning throat and frequent cough – not helped by noise of distant traffic (my hearing seems to be ultra-sensitive). Plenty of water, but even the lemon, ginger and turmeric tea that had helped the previous night didn’t seem to help at about 3 a.m.. My body, though, ached less, and I had energy to shower and shave when I got up later for the first time for several days. I tried to attend to some e-mails and join a Zoom call from bed with colleagues overseas at the symposium that I was meant to be attending. My brain couldn’t cope, and exhausted I crashed back to sleep. Small meal of pasta for lunch, but as the afternoon progressed I felt worse and worse again: headache, sore throat, really painful cough tearing at my chest/lungs (difficult to describe the horrible burning pain), difficult to breathe, very tired. I watched a film for nearly three hours, feeling ever worse. Paracetamol seems to make no difference. The rest of the day was a bit of a blurr – didn’t feel like eating any dinner, and just had lots and lots of water to drink. Decided to try hot honey, lemon and brandy before going to bed which seemed to help ease throat and coughing.
Day 6: A wonderful thunderstorm in the night, seeing the flashes of lightening, hearing the crashes of thunder, and the torrential rain falling on the roof – made the world seem very real. Managed to get some sleep, albeit intermittently. Cooked an omelette for breakfast. Could see signs that I was gradually beginning to feel a little better – but persistent cough and tired chest, bringing up large amounts of dark-coloured plegm. At least the burning pain of coughing previously has receded. Losing track of days and time. Tried to sleep and rest in the afternoon; drank lots of water. Managed to eat a little dinner, and then watched a women’s international football match in the evening, but very tired by the end of the day. Wobbly on feet, and minor falls on stairs; pains in new areas, with many glands starting to ache for the first time. Tried honey, lemon and brandy again to help ease throat and coughing.
Day 7: Am definitely recognising that I am feeling a bit better, but still very weak with a persistant cough, headache and runny nose. Still have no idea how long it will continue and how it wll progress. Had difficulty sleeping during the night, because of nose becoming regularly blocked which limited my abililty to breathe. Not easy to find a good position in which to sleep – changing sides regularly, and lying on tummy rather than back seemed to help breathing. Managed to attend an online team meeting for 30 minutes from bed – but any talking just elicited more coughing, and felt exhausted afterwards. Managed to check a few e-mails – feeling very grateful that I am not being sent many. By afternoon, became very tired again, and reverted to bed. Symptoms seem to be turning into bronchitis – so much coughing and phlegm, but grateful that the early vicious chest pains are no longer present. In evening even managed to cook a stirfry – so, must be feeling more together again. Advice from family and friends is consistent: take it easy for another week, and don’t try and do anything in the way of work because it will just prolong it. Tried ibuprofen for the cough, but no idea if it really worked.
Day 8: Took ages to get to sleep last night – was coughing and having spent so long in bed over recent days wasn’t feeling very tired. Woke early and read news on my ‘phone. For the first time in a week am actually feeling as though I could do things. Boiled an egg for breakfast, and had some yoghurt and fruit as well. Felt very tired having done that – dizzy and faint, with just no energy at all. Back to bed to try to catch up with all the incoming e-mails. At least I can feel some progress towards normality, but headache has returned to accompany the omnipresent cough. Exhausted already; back to bed… Paracetamol… Announcement that the Queen had died provided a surprisingly sad focus to the day; perhaps made more so by all the uncertainties as to the future of our country and people.
Day 9: the days are all blurring into each other. Woke coughing in the middle of the night, and had taken a long time to go back to sleep. Just about managed to contribute to a work Zoom call but very tired afterwards – too much coughing. COVID seems to have morphed into bronchitis – not as painful, but the coughing just seems to go on and on. It is so tiring. Little energy for anything. I had rearranged my flight overseas in case I was well enough to go this weekend, but there is no way I could possibly travel. Fortunately, I was able to cancel it for only a small charge and have it refunded back into our research grant. The news is full of the Queen’s death. Managed some soup for lunch, and then back to bed for some restful sleep. Walked up and down the garden a few times, and picked tomatoes, but that was about all I could do. Face and mouth tingling, but mainly just coughing and tired. Looked online to try to find more information about how long this will last – and apparently the expectation is two or three weeks, with there being nothing one can do other than paracetamol and drinking lots of water. Everyone has said, and I have said to others, make sure you don’t do too much too early; I can now really understand why.
Day 10: longing for an undisturbed night – eventually managed to get some sleep between about 4 and 8 in the morning. Changed sensations again today – tingling mouth and cheeks, tinnitus back along with headache, but coughing miraculously a bit less. Watched the accession ceremony and proclamations at St James’s Palace and the Royal Exchange on TV, then lunch and back to bed. Just feeling so week and exhausted. No enthusiasm to do anything. At least I did a new online order for food tomorrow!
Day 11: I did sleep quite well, apart from being woken from a deep deaming sleep at about 4 a.m.. Am gradually regaining my strength, but doing anything that requires thought or physical exercise make me really tired, brings on coughing, and leads to a headache. Am definitely better, but no inclination to do anything – wondering if the lethargy will ever go away. Went out to buy a commenorative newspaper (given I have tested negative, and was still wearing a mask this does not seem rash). Spent much of the day watching television: combining proclamations of Charles as the new King, while his mother’s coffin was driven from Balmoral to Edinburgh. I also managed to do some slides for a presentation in Nepal on Wednesday, and even had a go at cutting the grass (probably a big mistake). By the evening, my sore throat had returned, along with the familiar tingling in my mouth and face. Watched some TV to while the time away. Almost anything I do makes me tired, and I have no enthusiasm to get up and do anything.
Day 12: Not much to report on; still gradually beginning to feel better, but whenever I try to do anything I start coughing and feel very tired. It’s a slow process. Cut my head open (not seriously, but it really hurt when I did it) as I fell into the edge of a window after breakfast; far from steady on my feet. Although all the NHS COVID guidance notes online say that you can expect to have a cough for several weeks and shouldn’t contact your GP unless seriously ill, I decided to make a telephone appointment with my GP – not least because I have mild underlying asthma, and was wondering how I should try to get rid of the cough. I was very impressed about what happened next: was offered an appointment at a GP Acute Illness Clinic at the local hospital in the late afternoon! Arriving by car just before the appointment, I phoned the number I was given and was invited straight in to be seen by a GP. He was very pleasant but clearly tired – it turned out that he had had COVID five times, but he was kind enough to say that none were as bad as I clearly still am. It’s very difficult to tell whether COVID-related bronchitis is viral or bacterial, but to be on the safe side he gave me a prescription for antibiotics (Clarithomycyn) and steroids (Prednisolone) over the next 5-7 days. Let’s see if they help, or if their side effects turn out equally badly!
Day 13: Woke several times in the night – but fortunately managed to get back to sleep quite swiftly. Began the day trying to get the medicines I had been described, but local chemists did not have them in stock so I had to go further afield. Very tired on returning home, and so crashed out yet again. For someone usually so energetic, I am finding it very strange that I can just lie down and rest – no energy for anything else. If I try to read for more than a few minutes, I just lose interest and cannot concentrate. But by the afternoon, my coughing has indeed reduced significantly, though still have pains in my lungs and a tingling sensation on my face and chest. Increasing stomach pains might be a result of the antibios… Managed to cook an evening meal and then spent the rest of the evening stuck in front of the TV. Early to bed; very tired.
Day 14: Two weeks in to COVID and for the first time can begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the antbiotics and steroids are indeed working. Glad that I don’t seem to have any unpleasant side-effects. I slept really well, but woke soon after 5 to prepare for my online contribution to our ongoing work in Nepal – so envious of my colleagues working there, and sad at many levels for not being able to travel and be with them. It was great to see everyone in the workshop online, but the more I talked the more I coughed. I do hope that they felt my contribution was of value. I went back to bed shortly after 7, and fell blissfully fast asleep until nearly 9.30! The best sleep I have had for the last fortnight. Another online meeting between 10 and 11 finished me off – incredibly tired and lethargic. After a lazy day, I managed to stay awake to watch the most enjoyable England v Wales women’s rugby international. Overall, a day of definite improvements
Day 15: Another good night’s sleep, and feeling well enough for my elder daughter and grandson to visit. Quite a lazy day, and was taken to a nearby children’s play area in Windsor Great Park in the afternoon which was most enjoyable! This was the first time I’ve been out in the sunshine for any length of time. However, it is crazy how tired I am feeling, with lots of symptoms (headache, sore throat, coughing, painful chest and lungs) having returned. Crashed out exhausted at the end of the day.
Days 16-18: continuing slow improvement. Managed to do a bit of gardening, but still very tired. It was good, though, to be in the fresh air. No longer coughing very much, but permanent dull headache, and feeling faint and dizzy if I try to do anything. Wishing I had my usual energy. Last day of medication – very much hoping that I can eventually throw this off. Spent the morning of Day 18 watching the Queen’s funeral – uplifting, impressive and very moving… So many memories…
Day 18-34: it is depressing to experience how slow the “improvement” is. I haven’t been able to do any real exercise (bike, walking, fitness routines) for the last fortnight. Even just walking up the stairs still makes me breathless. It is very frustrating. I’ve found this RCOT report on How to manage post-viral fatigue after COVID-19 quite helpful – in particular it emphasises the importamce of trying to have fun. Memo to myself: plan to do some fun things!
I am delighted to see the research practice paper that I worked on and wrote with my dear friend and colleague Dr. Akber Gardezi has now been made available within the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D working paper series. It is one of the most important pieces of research that I have ever done, but academic journals did not see fit to publish it. Perhaps this is because it is indeed worthless, and we have done a disservice to all those who contributed to our research, but perhaps it may also be because it challenges too many of the taken for granted assumptions about style and content of publishing in ICT4D academic journals in the 2020s. Both Akber and I are immensely grateful to the many people in Pakistan with whom we spoke for this reseach, typified by the group of amazing women illustrated in the photo above from 2020.
I wanted the paper to be published in a good academic journal to help Akber’s career, but in the end after journal rejections we decided that the messages were too important simply to be binned in the rejection folder. I will let readers judge whether it is indeed worthless – but for those of you who think it is, please at least take away some of the important messages contained within it.
The full paper is available here, but the abstract reads as follows:
This paper reports on qualitative research undertaken to explore men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women and technology in Pakistan (in Azad Kashmir, Islamabad, Punjab and Sindh) in January-February 2020. It is premised on a concern that much research and practice on gender digital equality is based on ideas emanating mainly from North America and Europe, and may not be nuanced enough and sufficiently culturally appropriate to be relevant in different contexts, such as an Islamic state in South Asia. It builds on our previous research on mobile ‘phones and identity, as well as the use of mobiles for sexual harassment in Pakistan. Four main conclusions are drawn: first, wider aspects of Pakistan’s society and culture would need to be changed before substantial gender digital equality (as conceived in most “Western” literature) is achieved; second, there was considerable diversity in the views expressed by our participants about gender digital equality, and whilst we do draw some general conclusions these should not mask the importance of such diversity; third, despite the challenges, the last decade has seen substantial changes in the use of digital technologies by women, especially in urban areas and among the higher classes, with many more girls now studying STEM subjects and a small but growing number of women taking jobs in the tech sector; and finally, it highlights complex and difficult questions about universal and relativist approaches to gender digital equality.
Very many people contributed to this research, and it is their voices that we wanted to reproduce in the paper. Many of them asked to be named in anything we wrote, and so I reproduce the paper acknowledgements here in full:
We are extremely grateful to colleagues in COMSATS University Islamabad (especially Dr. Tahir Naeem), the University of Sindh (especially Dr. Mukesh K. Khatwani) and the International Islamic University Islamabad (Dr. Bushra Hassan) for facilitating and supporting this research. We are also grateful to those in Riphah International University (especially Dr. Ayesha Butt) and Rawalpindi Women University (especially Prof Ghazala Tabassum), as well as senior management of those companies (Alfoze and Cavalier) who helped with arrangements for convening the focus groups.
This paper is above all, though, an expression of our efforts to share the views of the many people who contributed so passionately and openly to our questions. These people (listed in alphabetical order of first names) are therefore, in practice, the originators of the views that we have sought to combine and share more widely: Aakash Kumar, Abdul Bari, Abdul Maalik, Abdul Manan, Abdul Rehman, Abdul Saud, Afsheen Altaf, Ahmed Bilal, Ali, Ali Shah, Dr. Alina Zeeshan, Amir Gohar, Amna Anwar, Anam, Andleeb Ismail, Anmol, Anzalna, Arslan Ahmad, Asad Malik, Atia-Tul-Karim, Awais Ahmed, Awais Rahat, Ayesha Kayani, Dr. Azhar Mahmood, Babar Ali, Balaj Chaudary, Bilawal Ali, Bushra Kanwal, Ch. Hussain, Ch. Murtaza, Danish Shoukat, Danyal Malik, Darima Habib, Darshana, Fahad Saleem, Fahim, Faiza Kanwal, Faiza Shah, Faizan Abrar, Fatima Seerat, Ghazala Tabbassum, Heba Mariyam, Habibullah, Hafeez ur Rehman, Hafsa, Hamid Nawaz, Hamza, Hassan, Hina Akram, Humna Ikhlaq, Ihtisham Ijaz, Kainat Aslam, Kainat Malik, Khuda Bux, M. Hamza Tahir, M. Hassan, M. Riaz, M. Wajahat, M. Hassan Zehri, Maira, Manzoor Ali, Maryam Rehmat, Mehmoona Akram, Memoona, Mishkat, Mohsin Tumio, Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Sarwar, Muhammad Zeeshan, Munawar Gul, Muqadas Saleem, Muqaddas Abid, Noman Javed, Noor Nabi, Noor ul Ain Maroof, Osama Osmani,Paras, Qayoum, Rajesh, Ramsha, Rashid Ali, Rashid Shah, Raza Asif Ali, Rehan Arshad, Renuka, Rohit Kumar, Rumaisa Feroz, Saeed Ahmed, Saima Mehar, Dr. Sajjad Manzoor, Saleha Kamal, Sameen Rashid, Saqib Hussain, Sara Shahzad, Sarfraz, Sarmed Javed, Sarwan Nizamani, Shahid Sohail, Dr. Shahwawa, Sharjeel, Shehrol Asmat , Sonia Khan, Sumaira Tariq, Syed Ahmed, Talha, Tasneem, Tehmina Yousaf, Tehreem, Usama Basharat, Usama Nasir Khan, Usama Thakur, Usman Farooq, Waleed Khan, Waqas Masood, Yasir Iqbal, Yousif Khan, and Zahra Ali. We hope that we have done them justice. All of them ticked the box indicating that they wished for their names to be recorded in material that we wrote; those few who chose to tick the box saying that they did not want their names recorded are not mentioned here, but we are very grateful to them nonetheless.
Some of the brilliant people with whom we spoke are illustrated in the images below, and I hope that what Akber and I have written does indeed do justice to the time you spent sharing your thoughts with us, and that together we can indeed begin to change attitudes towards the interactions between women and digital tech.
All of the material resulting from our research is available on the TEQtogether site in the section on our research in Pakistan, including the guidance notes that have subsequently been produced in Urdu and English based on the research.
It was great to have been invited by Aminata Amadou Garba to give the final talk in the ITU Academy’s training session on Last Mile Connectivity on 30th June. She was happy for me to be a little bit provocative, and so I returned to one of my long-standing arguments – that by using terms such as “the last mile” or the “last billion” we often denigrate the poorest and the most marginalised. If we really want to ensure that they benefit from the use of digital technologies, we should instead start thinking about them as “the first mile” because they are most important!
I greatly enjoyed my first adventure to the Goodwood Festival of Speed yesterday, courtesy of a good friend on the Board of Lotus Cars. What an amazing day out! It was vastly more extensive than I had ever imagined, and apart from a rather circuitous (not well sign-posted) route to the parking, everything seemed to be highly efficiently organised. There was generally plenty of space, despite the many thousands of people there, and almost magically one didn’t even really have to queue to cross the bridges! There was so much to see, from the current F1 teams to classic cars, from the wide range of contemporary electric cars to the future of robotics (and even a glimpse of Nigel Mansell reunited with his F1 Title Williams FW14B). I hope that the pictures below capture something of what an enjoyable and fascinating day it was – culminating in an impressive display by the Red Arrows!
Thanks so much again for the Lotus hospitality (including a delicious lunch in good company). It brought back fond memories of regularly having to fix the starter motor in cold and wet weather on my original Ford Escort, and always wanting a Lotus Europa! It was a reminder too of how driving has changed over the last 50 years, with a large slice of sadness that much of the fun has now gone out of driving – at least in the UK. It’s rather good to think that I have been able really to enjoy driving in a world before a future when all cars are made to drive us around. Am I one of the last to believe that autonomous humans are preferable to autonomous cars?
emphasised the substantial amount of existing research on spectrum efficiency and energy efficiency;
highlighted the lack of existing research on “spectrum environmental efficiency” (rather than just on energy);
reflected on the observation that, although 5G is widely seen as being more energy efficient, the total increase in traffic (and sensors) means that 5G systems as a whole require more energy than was the case with previous wireless generations;
emphasised the importance of future wireless generations being designed to reduce environmental harms;
outlined aspects of the future research agenda of the working group, including:
always taking environmental considerations (not just climate and energy) into our research practice;
what are environmental implications of using different parts of the spectrum?
how do different masts/antennae impact the environment?
new ways of assessing landscape impact
environmental implications of sensor network
recommendations for good practices by telecom/wireless companies – and regulators
It was a great pleasure to have been invited to contribute as a panellist to Session 406 of the WSIS Annual Forum on 2nd June 2022 on the theme of “Academic perspectives on WSIS and the SDGs”. This was a hybrid event, and as the picture below shows it was sadly not attended by very many people actually in Geneva! (Follow this link for my short, full presentation.)
However there was active participation online, and it was good to share some reflections on the theme. As ever, I tried to be diplomatically provocative, reflecting on my participation in the original World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva (2003) and Tunisia (2005)…
My presentation in particular emphasised the important need for the UN system to stop replicating and duplicating its efforts to use ICTs for “development” (or should this read “to serve the interests of the rich and powerful” especially the “digital barons“?); it is striking and sad, for example, that the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for digital cooperation and Our Common Agenda make no mentions at all of the WSIS process.
My main argument was that with only eight years to go, it is essential that we start planning now for what will replace the SDGs, especially with respect to the uses of digital tech.
I did, though, also address to other themes: how academics can indeed benefit from the WSIS process (see below) as well as a short introduction to the work that we are now doing as part of the Digital-Environment System Coalition (DESC).