The Mask Falling – Samantha Shannon

The Mask Falling (The Bone Season, #4)The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bone Season series is one that continues to keep growing with every instalment and this is no difference. The world opened up, giving us a glimpse of another City crippled by Scion as Paige joins a covert network of spies trying to take down the government from the inside.

Paige continues to remain true to her impulsive nature while also taking the time to process the events of the last year and rebuild relationships that have suffered as a result of the constant turmoil of her life. The pacing is a balanced mix of slow-burn character development & dynamic action scenes with shocking plot twists. The cliff hanger at the end means you can’t wait on the next instalment. 4 books deep and there are still a number of issues to unravel and I enjoyed inching closer with every chapter.

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Why are we still using GDP?

For more than 70 years our economic system has been using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the yardstick measurement of our economy.

This yardstick measures only economic activity. It was meant to help reduce poverty using “trickle down” economics. But after 70 years has it achieved this aim? No it hasn’t, that means our economic model is a busted flush, it is no longer viable. There are other measures that have been promoted, a sustainable economy or a circular one. But there is another one that is gaining some traction – Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) – this takes into consideration our natural environment, our finite resources and human well being.

GPD promotes unsustainable practices as it encourages us to use up our finite resources. It makes no account of how nature has contributed to our health and well being. GPD has promoted policies that have contributed to the climate and biodiversity emergencies. It is an accounting trick that allows is to vent greenhouse gas into our atmosphere, destroy habitats to improve farming and build on them and neglect human well being without worrying about the consequences.

Of course, our current environmental problems were not considered when GDP was initially developed in the 1930’s. GDP has always had limitations, something known about in the beginning. These have been ignored as it became the main economic indicator in use today.

How can we fix this?

We need to start looking at alternative metrics such as Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) so that we can account for nature’s contribution to economic activity and human well being.

Research into calculating GEP is in its infancy, it attempts to place a monetary value on things like clean water, soil quality, food security, healthcare and the culturally-significant landscapes that contribute to our happiness. In other words, GEP assigns a monetary value to the work of bees who act as nature’s pollinators, bogs that sequester carbon, and the stimulating effect nature has on our mental health.

While GDP looks exclusively at the value of production – or outputs – GEP instead places a value on nature’s input and incentivise policy makers to invest in nature. You can’t add GDP and GEP together as there are numerous overlaps and must be viewed separately. But it may be possible that the two measures can provide decision makers with complementary information that could help allow for a sustainable economy to be built.

GEP would allow bogs and woodlands to contribute to the economy. In such a scenario, cities could be compelled to pay rural regions to store some of the carbon they produce or to maintain culturally significant landscapes that enhance mental health and well being.

If we are to manage the complex trade-off’s needed to mitigate the climate crisis, radical new thinking is required.

By placing a value on the benefits that we derive from our natural environment, GEP would allow us to think differently about how we manage, maintain and grow those regions that have been neglected in favour of centralised growth strategies.

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The Empire Of Gold – S A Cakraborty

The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy, #3)The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The end to this trilogy was everything I could have asked for. The extensive world building is expanded even further, the characters are pushed to the absolute limit.

The conclusion was just perfect. I feel like I can’t go into it without spoilers but everything that unfurled I was pleased with.

If you enjoy epic fantasy then pick up this series!

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The Song Rising – Samantha Shannon

The Song Rising (The Bone Season, #3)The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book to move at a faster pace then the previous two in the series.

Paige’s character has progressed with each book. There is a lot of emotion in this book showing characters who can become beloved, no matter how briefly they were mentioned. For it was not just Paige who sought my affinity. Side characters, both new and old, battled for dominion over the reader’s heart. And, in true Shannon style, it was those with the cruellest pasts and the bleakest of futures that won.

Despite this emotion it also delivered on the action front. This book sees Paige and her motley crew traverse Britain in an attempt to thwart the construction of the new technology that could eliminate them. Scrapes, scuffles, and strife thwarted their quest, and each skirmish was as pulse-raising and breath-taking as the next.

The most bone-chilling was saved for the finale, however. Former villains returned and some of them were de-masked to reveal something other than what they first appeared to be. One thing remained and that was that you can never rely on Shannon to deliver the expected!

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UK Elections Bill – Pros and Cons

The recently published Elections Bill in the UK Parliament is an attempt to rig our electoral system to favour the Conservative & Unionist Party. It will makes changes to the administration and conduct of elections with the stated aim of ensuring that ‘UK elections remain secure, fair, modern, inclusive and transparent.’ How this will impact elections in Scotland is unclear. But given this dysfunctional, discredited, bunch of people led by the great discombobulator anything can happen.

Part of the proposals weaken the power and independence of the elections watchdog. It will also make it harder for individuals to vote in person and by post. It has the potential to open up our politics to a new wave of big money overseas donors.

As for the Electoral Commission the proposals are aimed at:
– ending the independence of the Electoral Commission – the Commission will have its priorities set by a Conservative-dominated committee of MPs;
– take away the Commission’s power to propose criminal prosecutions for serious wrongdoing.
These proposals are the culmination of years of attacks by the Conservative & Unionist Party on the Electoral Commission. These changes will make the Commission answerable to the very people they are supposing to be investigating.

With the election watchdog effectively muzzled, we could see far more rule-breaking by political parties and campaigns moving forward. It’s the kind of move you expect to see in a banana republic, not one of the world’s oldest democracies.

The proposals to neuter the Electoral Commission join a growing list of proposals in the forthcoming bill. The areas of most concern include:

Dropping more proportional voting systems from English elections. Mayoral, GLA and Police Commissioner elections will all be held using First Past The Post.

Expensive mandatory photo ID at polling stations – despite 3.5 million people not having photo ID and there being no evidence of electoral fraud. This is a highly controversial policy, which has rightly been met with condemnation by many organisations and parliamentarians, and would see potentially millions of voters being disenfranchised at a general election. (While this author believes ID Cards can have a role in society, they have to be voluntary and people given control on what information is recorded on them and how they use them, not something that’s up for discussion in this bill).

Ending the Fixed-term Parliaments Act – taking the power to call a General Election away from Parliament and giving it back to the Prime Minister.

The bill also proposes limits on the period for which a person can apply for a postal vote to three years – once these have elapsed, a voter will have to re-apply. (It is right that a person who has signed up to this is able to review their request as personal circumstances may have changed. People can change this at the moment anyway but implementing a review process should be welcomed.)

It also explicitly bans political campaigners from handling postal voting documents, by introducing a new criminal offence for this, and introduces new rules for the handing in of postal votes (e.g. limiting the number of postal votes an individual can hand in). (This is something to be welcomed, East Lothian Liberal Democrats will always direct people to the official website to obtain the registration forms and refuse to handle completed ones in any way.)

With regards to proxy voting, the bill limits the number of electors for whom a proxy can vote to four. The bill also simplifies and clarifies the electoral offence of undue influence, and introduces new requirements to enhance the accessibility of polling stations for voters with disabilities. (Again something East Lothian Liberal Democrats can welcome.)

The Elections Bill is a significant piece of legislation which, in some areas, will make considerable controversial changes to the conduct and administration of our elections, including forcing voters to have to prove who they are in order to vote by presenting photo ID at the polling station. Despite its stated ambitions, however, the bill does not tackle the fundamental issues with our electoral law and still leaves open the possibility for loopholes to be exploited.

Repeated calls have been made over the years, not just by the ERS and other civil society organisations and academics, but by the Law Commission and, most recently, the Committee on Standards in Public Life – to name but a few – to consolidate, simplify and modernise electoral law.

We can’t continue tinkering around the edges – there’s no point in complicating our Victorian election rules even further with new requirements when it is the foundations themselves than need rebuilding. Rather than rushing the Elections Bill through parliament, the government must take heed of the many recommendations that have been made with regards to our election law and ensure it is fit for the 21st century.

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