Monday, 29 August 2016

Vicarious Grief and the Media










“Happiness lies for those who cry, those who hurt, those who have searched and those who have tried. For only they can appreciate the importance of people who have touched their lives.” — Victor Hugo

“Royal summoned mourners. They came from the village, from the neighbouring hills and, wailing like dogs at midnight, laid siege to the house. Old women beat their heads against the walls, moaning men prostrated themselves: it was the art of sorrow, and those who best mimicked grief were much admired. After the funeral everyone went away, satisfied that they'd done a good job.”

― Truman Capote, House of Flowers

"According to Chochinov, there are a couple of catches to vicarious grief. The less the victims resemble us, the less grief we feel. And we don't seem to feel this grief as acutely for those who suffer from chronic problems, which often have their common denominator in poverty."
Maria King Carroll

It seems that every event like the tragic murder of Labour Jo Cox, or the shootings in Orlando attract comments across the globe,

Part of that is natural enough. We are all shocked by such events, and we want to express how we feel. That’s a very human need.

But I cannot help noticing that we seem to get a lot of official statements, especially those from notable people with only a marginal connection to the tragedies. It is almost as if there is an impulse to grab some of the grief, and somehow participate in the event vicariously.  These are people who have little or no connection to the tragic events, but they will have their say. 

It is a trend which has certainly been growing over the last decades, and of course the most extraordinary outpouring of grief, and official statements from famous people on the margins of that event, was the death of Princess Diana. The grief which overtook the nation seemed at times almost hysterical, not least when the Queen was pilloried for not lowering the Royal Standard, and for maintaining a discreet and reserved silence.

It is rather like the way in which conventional upbringing of boys has the mantra that boys should not be “cry babies” and that grown men do not cry. It seems a learned part of our cultural makeup that we have to show open signs of mourning at a tragedy, and none more that celebrities.

Part of this is fermented  by the media. In his study of the subject, R. Scott Sullender notes that:

“The media’s coverage of both real and fictional death and trauma has increased the incidence of vicarious grieving and vicarious traumatisation by the viewing public. Accessing the human innate capacity to empathize, the media invites us to share in the sorrow of others and to bind together in times of collective tragedy. At the same time, the intensity and scope of the public’s exposure to unnatural death might be creating a generation that is actually less sensitive to the needs of others.”

As Chochinov showed, “People feel vicarious grief in proportion to the amount of media coverage they are exposed to.”

Annie Hauser exemplifies this manipulation by the media very well when she made the extraordinary claim that "We are seeing the mourning live on television, so it becomes not vicarious grief, but real grief."

And this leads to a kind of “social contagion” when intense reactions became somewhat infectious to those who observed them and stimulated within these observers their own intense responses to a death or deaths. There is now an unwritten etiquette which demands that every such tragic event be marked by public grieving.

But this almost mandatory  requirement to make a public pronouncement of grief can lead to absurdities. An example  can be seen in the way great events are treated in the States of Jersey. In one paragraph, the Bailiff speaks out “to express, on behalf of all Members and for this Assembly, sympathy for the families and friends of those who died in the atrocity in Orlando.”  

And in the next breath, he says: “On a rather lighter note I would simply like to mention that the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations seem to have gone extremely well and I would like to congratulate all those who have been involved in the various celebrations, both the celebrations in St. Helier at the Town Church in the Royal Square and across the Parishes over the weekend.”

There doesn’t seem any awareness that the juxtaposition of sombre grief and joyous rejoicing is somehow incongruous. It is almost as if public figures feel they have to go through the motions of expressing sympathy – not that it is not genuine, it is – but it is not thought out., nor I venture is it necessarily appropriate.

Robert Solomon, in his book “In Defence of Sentimentality”, has this to say about Diana’s death:

“I suspect that many of us found the grieving lamentations for Elvis and Princess Diana inappropriate, if not downright embarrassing, just because there was no prior relationship (despite the indignant denials of the aggrieved). The shared tragedy of a likable young man or woman cut down in the prime of life prompts grief only insofar as the relationship with the griever is something more than vicarious voyeurism.”

He suggests that “grief is about a relationship”, and that as we are onlookers, on the fringe of the tragic, our grief is in danger of becoming narcissistic because we lack that anchor. In the case of Jo Cox, one can understand Jeremy Corbyn feeling the loss, and David Cameron too because “she was one of us”, a fellow MP. But as we move away, the expression becomes less of an expression of loss in a relationship, and more of a superficial gloss. How many of those, especially famous people, who are making statements today actually knew or had heard of Jo Cox?

Zachariah Wells comments on public vigils of mourning that "People will go there to worship their own idea of a person they did not know. They have been invited to do this. It is a form narcissism." Wells adds that “I have a very hard time believing that this kind of "grief" has been earned, nor that it will last longer than the present moment” And Eva Wiseman, asks the question: “The worry is that we're self-identifying, and making a stranger's death all about us. Projecting our own little concerns on to the blankness of a screen.”

The worry is that we're self-identifying, and making a stranger's death all about us.

Direct grief also differs from vicarious grief in longevity. Where there is a relationship of whatever kind broken by death, the other person is always missed, and while intense mourning may diminish, that sense of loss, and that kind of grief never goes away. Vicarious grief on the other hand, fades, because there is no direct relationship to sustain it. Nowhere is this more apparent that the collective vicarious grief at the death of Princess Diana, which vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

By contrast as Dr Leeat Granek explains, grief over the loss of a relationship goes on:

“Having spent years studying grief, and being a griever myself now entering her tenth year of loss, I know that grief does not work this way. It is not an event in time. It is not even just an emotional response to a loss. It is a process that changes us permanently but also constantly as we ourselves change and grow. In this sense, grief is just like love. It is not something that happens once and goes away — it is something that evolves, expands and contracts, and changes in shape, depth, and intensity as time goes on.”

Elizabeth Wilson, writing in 1997, sums up the contrast between direct and vicarious forms of grief:

“In the week after Princess Diana’s death I was baffled and deeply alienated by the public response to the horrifying accident, and its amplification by the mass media. I could neither understand nor share the apparent outpouring of grief, nor the explanations thought up by media commentators for the flowers, the poems, the queues and the candles. Of course, I thought it was terribly sad—the death of a young woman and mother when on the threshold, it seemed, of a happier period in her life—but I did not feel I had lost a friend or a member of my family. On the contrary, since a neighbour of mine had just died, I was painfully aware of the difference between the death of someone who actually was a friend and the more ethereal loss of someone known only as a media figure.”

Of course the recent incidents – the murders in Orlando, and the murder of Jane Cox, have also been marked by extreme forms of hatred. And it is only right that we should take cognisance of that, and it is right and proper that statements should be made against those xenophobic forms of hate and prejudice.  And there can be no doubt that we are saddened and shocked  by the deaths of others.

But we should not let that blind us to the fact that unless it leads to change, vicarious grief has often more to do with ourselves and how we feel than those who have perished.

It is understandable that the 9/11 massacre and the bombings in London are so immense that we should mark them. For other events we seen bound up in what appears to be a learned behaviour rather than a natural one., in which we mourn the passing of strangers, and not those whose relationship with us has touched our lives. And the media presentation has a lot to do with this.

As R. Scott Sullender notes in “Pastoral Psychology”:

“Accessing the human innate capacity to empathize, the media invites us to share in the sorrow of others and to bind together in times of collective tragedy. At the same time, the intensity and scope of the public’s exposure to unnatural death might be creating a generation that is actually less sensitive to the needs of others. “

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 25
















For the next weeks, my Sunday postings will be a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966).

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time.

The Martyr's Crown
by G.R. Balleine


PETER worked with success for perhaps eighteen months, and Tertullian refers to `those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber'. Then storm-clouds gathered. In 65 plague swept through Rome, claiming 30,000 victims. This no doubt reawakened the cry, `The Gods are angry!'

In 66 Nero, who had fled from the plague, returned in a bad temper. The building of his Golden Palace had stopped for lack of funds. His expedition to find Dido's treasure had returned empty-handed. In a fit of rage he had kicked his beloved Poppaea, and she had died. Rumours of revolt were spreading. A hurricane devastated Campania. Something must be done to placate the Gods. And what better scapegoats could be found than the detested Christians?

According to Clement of Alexandria one of the first to be arrested was Peter's wife, the staunch old Jewess, who had welcomed Jesus to her cottage in Capernaum, and had been her husband's helpmate through all his missionary work. They say that Peter, when he saw his wife led out to death, rejoiced that she was homeward bound, and called her by name very encouragingly, `Remember the Lord.' The story is so simple that it may be true. A romancer would surely have invented something more dramatic. Peter had written to Pontus, `The more you share Christ's sufferings, the more you will rejoice, when His glory is revealed.' This was probably what he meant by `Remember'!

Next comes the Quo Vadis legend. There are several versions. The Apocryphal Acts of Peter, written about 16o, says that Xanthippe, one of Nero's court ladies, sent him warning that his hiding-place was known. `The Brethren urged him to escape. "Shall I desert my post?" he asked. "Go," they said, "that you may still be able to serve the Lord." So he yielded saying, "I will disguise myself and go." But at the city gate he saw the Lord about to enter Rome, and asked, "Lord, whither goest Thou? (Domine, quo vadis?)." He replied, "To Rome to be crucified." "What," cried Peter, "crucified again! Then, I will turn and follow Thee." And the Lord ascended into Heaven.' This story is not incredible. Peter was a visionary, much influenced by visions. If he was doubtful whether his flight was right or wrong, this would be just the state of mind to induce a vision.

The story was told by many early writers, but with different explanations. To some Christ's words were a rebuke. Those who desert their post `crucify the Son of God afresh'. To others it was a call to a higher duty than obedience to the rule, `If you are persecuted in one city, flee to another.' Rome would not be won till Christ was crucified again in the person of Peter.

That Peter was martyred is certain. In 96, only thirty years after it happened, Clement of Rome, a survivor of the massacre, wrote that Peter had `contended unto death'. All contemporary records, however, of his end have vanished. This is not unprecedented. A vast number of ancient books have vanished. Of the three contemporary Roman historians of the period, Fabius Rusticus, Cluvius Rufus, and Pliny the Elder, not a line survives. Of Tacitus' Histories only one manuscript escaped destruction.

And in 303 Diocletian ordered a world-wide destruction of Christian documents, which has left wide gaps in our knowledge of early Church History. In the Roman Mass worshippers still say they revere the memory of twelve martyrs, whose names are solemnly recited. These must have been famous in their day; but the learned Jesuit, Professor Jungmann, in his Missarum Sollemnia admits: `There is considerable doubt about the last five.

From the viewpoint of historical truth little more can be established than their names.' And even of Peter the story of his death can only be reconstructed from traditions.

Clement, our best witness, wrote from Rome; and he attributes Peter's arrest to `jealousy (dia.Zelon)'. This is an ugly word. He is warning the faction-rent Church in Corinth what harm party-jealousies can do. Jealousy led Cain to kill Abel, Joseph's brethren to sell him as a slave, Saul to lay traps for David. Through `jealousies' the `vast multitude' lost their lives under Nero, and `through wicked jealousy' Peter had `endured many torments and gone to his place of glory'.

This is susceptible of only one interpretation. The trouble at Corinth was not the jealousy of the heathen, but of rival Christian groups; and jealousies of this kind had evidently been responsible for the death of Peter. The Roman Church before this had been blamed for its dissensions. Paul had rebuked its `rivalry and. envy', and the way some preached Christ `out of party-spirit'. Perhaps at this time a militant group, foaming with rage against Nero, despised Peter's pacifism.

We do not know who was guilty; but thirty years later Clement could state as a well-known fact that Peter had been betrayed by the jealousy of fellow-Christians. His form of martyrdom was crucifixion. This was universally believed in the second century, and is implied in the Fourth Gospel (xxi. 18), for what other form of death requires the victim to stretch out his hands and be bound?

The Apocryphal Acts of Peter add a strange detail, `He was crucified head down-wards, having himself desired this.' This became the accepted tradition, repeated by orthodox Fathers of the Church like Origen and Ambrose; and the fact that the writers of the apocryphal books were puzzled to explain it shows that they did not invent it. One makes Peter say, `Crucify me head downwards, for the Lord said, "Except you make the top the bottom, you shall not know the Kingdom".' Another said, `Christ hung feet downwards, because He came down from Heaven, and Peter feet upwards because he was going to Heaven.' Not till Jerome (about 360) do we meet the explanation that later became popular,

`He said, "I am not worthy to die like my Lord".' The difficulty lay in the idea that Peter chose this position. This form of crucifixion was not unheard-of. Seneca reports that he had seen some years before `crosses on which men hung head downwards'. Nero's septic humour may well have tried to rob death of all dignity by treating Peter thus. The unexpectedness of this detail sounds as if it might be true.

The Apocryphal Acts also state that Peter was martyred in Nero's garden on the Vatican, the scene of the former massacre; and their topography is probably more reliable than their hagiography. They do not hesitate to invent fantastic miracles; but, when they state where Peter died, they would repeat the current Roman tradition. They would lose the confidence of their readers if they contradicted the prevailing belief. The Vatican in those days was a rural district outside the city. It contained a steep, vine-covered hill, the Mons Vaticanus, and a valley at the foot, the Vallis Vatican, where Nero had his private garden. Here was his circus, an oval race-course for chariot-racing, which could be flooded and made a naumachia, a lake on which gladiators could fight from rafts.

Nero's garden was a conspicuous spot; and, if Peter died there, it would not be forgotten. This became the universally accepted tradition in Rome. An early version of the Acts ('not later than 200', says James) reports that the cross was placed `at the place called the naumachia beside Nero's obelisk on the Vatican'. Another version says, `by the obelisk between the two turning-posts'.

If he was executed in the Emperor's garden, his death must have formed part of a public spectacle. Nero's blase boon companions looked for more exciting entertainment than the death of an elderly Jew. That cross was probably a minor detail in some brilliant pageant. In his imperial box Nero sat betting with gaunt Tigellinus, while by the ancient obelisk, that once, with our 'Cleopatra's needle', in Moses's day had guarded the Temple of the Sun in Egypt, Peter hung dying in excruciating agony.

Truly a tragic death! In Galilee he had dreamed that he would see God's Kingdom a reality and earth purged of evil. Buoyed up by that hope he had carried the Good News from land to land. He knew now what his Master's warning had meant. Those who would not follow to the cross need not follow at all. What had this untiring life of strenuous work accomplished?

Strange results followed from it, as our Epilogue will show. But its chief practical result was to have spread through East and West the facts of the life of Jesus, as we find them in Mark's Gospel. Paul had broadcast deep ideas about divine redemption, but Peter told the concrete facts about the Galilean Carpenter, without which theology would be mere speculation. In addition to this, if the view taken in the previous chapters is correct, we can credit Peter with three epoch-making achievements.

When the problems raised by the Gentile converts threatened to split the Church, Peter's common sense had checked the schism that seemed inevitable. He had planted his message from Jewry to Jewry right across Asia Minor, and thus built up Churches which became the strongest in early Christendom. His crowning triumph had been to rebuild the Church in Rome after the great slaughter, and leave a team of trained disciples to carry on his work in the strategic centre, to which Europe, Africa, and Asia were going to look for guidance. A servant who had done this might without presumption hope to hear his Lord's `Well done!'

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Hungry Earth












Today's poem was reflecting on the terrible earthquake in Italy.

The Hungry Earth

Beneath tremors start, there are houses above
A church where people come pray and love
There is no defence on such terrible days
Vulcan with hammer sings anger and praise

The townscape above, the clock tower face
And here is the might, the rending of space
The grinding of rock, the earthquake does form
And dark is the time of this oncoming storm

When words simply fail, what tongue can recite?
The shaking destruction, the earth in its might
It shatters the hills, it tears up the plain
And after is weeping, tears falling like rain

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail
In a moment is silence, then a cry and a wail
Unforgiving, how brutal, how savage this end
And out comes a cry for child, lover or friend

The rescuers come, with compassion and love
As if heaven sent, come down from above
To search over rubble, for life signs blaze
And rescuing each, hearts sing in praise

The hungry earth is eating, and devouring life
Human conflicts are petty, compared to this strife
With trembling and fear, lives hang by a thread
And we comfort survivors, and bury the dead

Friday, 26 August 2016

How Geography Shaped the Politics and Economy of the Channel Islands















My post today is a selection from "The Channel Islands" by David Thomas Ansted and Robert Gordon Latham, published in 1865. Most travel guides look at the population, the sights to visit, something of the history, but this is an exception. It begins by looking at the geography of the Islands, and then considers how this has shaped their subsequent history, so it is a bit different from the general guidebook.

How Geography Shaped the Politics and Economy of the Channel Islands
by David Thomas Ansted and Robert Gordon Latham


That the Channel Islands possess great importance as military stations, and are capable of affording refuge to shipping in time of war, is a fact that has always been felt, and from time to time acted on by Great Britain. Large sums of public money have been expended in fortifying them and commencing harbours. The harbours, however, at present available, have been constructed entirely at the expense of the islanders.

Perfect freedom from customs'-duties, and all other taxation for the benefit of England, an absence of interference with local laws, and even a permission to use in the public courts, and for public occasions, the French language, and to employ French coins in circulation, has been granted without question.

That a people so governed should be loyal, and should do all in their power to retain the customs and privileges under which they have so long flourished, is not surprising. That islanders should be hardy boatmen, and but indifferent agriculturists, might also be expected; and that a people so greatly favoured by nature in climate and fertile soil, and by political circumstances in their local governments, should be free and independent, jealous of interference, and rather proud of what they have already done, than careful to adopt new systems of which they have had no experience, is neither to be wondered at nor blamed.

In visiting these possessions, therefore, or while reading an account of them, the traveller in the one case, and the reader in the other, will do well to bear in mind, that both place and subject are neutral ground. The islands can neither be regarded properly from an English nor from a continental point of view. The people have customs, venerable from age and historical association,—customs, superseded in Normandy and England, but not, perhaps, the less adapted to small communities.

They have a language which, in its peculiarities, must be regarded as unformed rather than deformed. They are, in Guernsey especially, and in some respects also elsewhere, singularly tenacious of their family ties, and apt to narrow, rather than extend, their social circle. They are, in a word, islanders rather than English.

It must also be borne in mind, that hardly any Celtic element is recognisable in these islanders. They are not like the Manx men, the Welsh, or the Bretons. They are Normans, but Normans of the old school. Norman freemen, before there were Norman barons and vassals of the crown, retaining the northern love of independence, and not at all the Gallic tendency to depend on the fostering hand of a central government.

They thus offer curious points of character; and, till lately, the mass of the population in some of the islands had undergone marvellously little change.

But the time of change has come. Roads, steam-boats, and public works, have already so far altered the peculiar features of the larger islands and the national peculiarities of their inhabitants, that we must now seek for many quaint and interesting characteristics that, only a few years ago, openly presented themselves in the streets and market places.

The cultivation of the land is improving; legitimate trade has assumed large proportions; excellent roads, and noble piers, quays and harbours, have been constructed at vast expense; and to provide funds for these, the inhabitants have been contented to tax themselves very heavily. Prices of all kinds of food, house-rent, and other necessary items of expenditure, have become gradually higher and higher,—have approximated, in fact, more and more to the prices of similar articles in the great centres of population; so that now, the islands have almost ceased to tempt the possessors of small incomes and large families to migrate thither. In the place of these, of whom, however, many remain, there is a rapid increase in the number of tourists, who flock over by hundreds, in search of health, amusement and relaxation; and who will find their time well spent in examining the numerous objects of interest that here abound. It is desirable to clear the way for their benefit, and state briefly and what is distinctly remarkable and best worthy of notice in every part of our little channel archipelago; and in the history, antiquities, science, natural history and literature belonging to its various members.

To give the reader some idea of the very great number of islands, islets, rocks and shoals, forming the Channel Islands, a list is subjoined of the various groups, as named in charts; and to this is appended the proximate area, in square miles, of the space each group may be considered to occupy.

It must be understood, that the area given is not that of the actual land. In some of the groups, the surface of rock exposed at high water is not more than a few square yards in area, for every square mile of dangerous surrounding sea; but, estimating the dimensions by the extent of dangerous water, a very fair idea will be formed of the relative importance of each group in navigation. It would, perhaps, have been interesting, had it been possible, to state the number of rocks beyond a certain size, visible at all times of tide; but no sufficient materials exist for this.

















In this list, the names of all those islands that are regularly inhabited are indicated by a star (*). Several of the others are occasionally visited during summer, either for herbage or as fishing stations, and on them are huts or other buildings. The most important of them are the Burhou larger island, the 'Maitresse lie' of the Minquiers, some of the larger of the Ecrehou rocks, and some of the Chaussey islands. On the Ecrehou rocks are remains of buildings of great antiquity, said to be constructed of stone brought from the main land of France.

In addition to this long list of names, each of which represents a group, and often a very numerous group of rocks, there are many smaller groups, and a multitude, almost countless, of detached rocks, either visible at some time of tide, or dangerous to navigation from the sea breaking over them. Close to the French shore, both of Brittany and Normandy, but especially the former, the rocks and shoals are almost too numerous to be marked in any chart.

A very important chain of light-houses indicates, by a line of fire, the outlying points of the Channel Islands and the whole adjacent land.

From Cape la Hague, in Normandy, to Les Heaux, in Brittany, there are no less than thirteen lights, several of them of the first class, placed at intervals on the French coast. The Casquets light, and a light recently placed on the Hanois rocks, near Guernsey, mark the approach to the islands from the Channel; while various coast and harbour lights on all the principal islands assist in pointing out to the mariner the dangers that exist to navigation and the welcome refuge offered.

The subjoined cut represents the Chasse marie, a kind of French coasting vessel, characteristic of the Channel, and often seen in Guernsey seeking shelter from westerly gales. These craft are extremely picturesque, and were formerly common. Diminished smuggling and improved navigation have rendered their visits less frequent of late years.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Misreported News













The JEP reported this on 23 August 2016:

“THE heartbroken mother of a woman who died after being swept out to sea has today paid tribute to her ‘bright and bubbly’ daughter – and said she hopes her death will teach others to respect the coast. Kim Noble has told how her daughter, Joy Godfray, was dragged out in a second as she paddled up to her ankles with a friend in rough seas at Green Island on Saturday.”

“The talented guitarist and pianist would have celebrated her 32nd birthday the day after the tragedy. And Mrs Noble said she also wanted people to know the ‘true facts’ about her daughter’s death after a series of hurtful comments were posted on social media, including one which stated that rescuers should have left her body in the sea and another which branded her ‘brain dead’ for going into the water.”

But the story was reported very differently in earlier versions of the news. Rather than being someone paddling who fell and was then swept out by an undercurrent from a wave, the news stories all gave the same impression: that Joy Godfray was out swimming in the treacherous seas. Nowhere did it mention what has just been mentioned, that she was dragged out when just paddling in ankle deep water.

This was how the story was reported on August 21 in the JEP:

“A SWIMMER has died after getting into difficulty in rough seas at Green Island. The Fire and Rescue inshore RIB and an RNLI lifeboat were launched at about 8.20 pm on Saturday. One male swimmer had already been rescued by a member of the public but another - a woman in her 30s - was dragged east towards Le Hocq.”

Another story around the same date said:

“A SWIMMER who died after getting into difficulty off Green Island yesterday evening has been named as 31-year-old Joy Godfray.”

And on August 22, the report said:

“A WOMAN died after being dragged out to sea in treacherous conditions at Green Island at the weekend. Joy Godfray got into difficulty while swimming with a male friend at high tide on Saturday evening as the Island was battered by strong winds and pounded by big swells. The man, believed to be aged in his 30s, was rescued by a member of the public but Miss Godfray was carried away from the shore and towards Le Hocq.”

This is a mixed report; it gets the fact that she was dragged out to sea, but also suggests that she was dragged out while swimming, not while paddling.

The Sun also reported:

“Jersey Fire Service’s rescue boat and two RNLI lifeboats set out to sea at approximately 8.20am yesterday morning following reports of two swimmers caught in rough conditions.”

The Independent reported:

“A woman drowned while swimming off the coast of Jersey.”

And yet the same article mentions another drowning – “A man has died after being swept into the sea as he sat on rocks with his family in Cornwall.”

The Daily Mail had:

"Swimmer Joy Godfray died in hospital after getting into difficulty off Green Island in Jersey on Saturday night - the day before her 32nd birthday. "

And the Mirror:

"The woman who died after swimming off Green Island in Jersey last night has been named as Joy Godfray."

Even the BBC report has this same misrepresentation of the facts:

“A swimmer who died after getting into difficulty in the sea off Jersey has been named. Joy Godfray, who would have been 32 on Sunday, was rescued by the coastguard near Green Island at 21:00 BST on Saturday, but was pronounced dead in hospital. A man swimming with her was helped to shore by a member of the public.”

I think that even if someone had been foolhardy enough to swim in such treacherous conditions, that it is simply cruel and thoughtless to say as much on Facebook, as appears to have happened.

When I read the earlier stories, I did wonder why on earth anyone would be swimming in such a sea, in force 7, gusting to force 8, a powerful swell and tempestuous waves. It seemed lunacy. But I didn’t comment. The family would have enough to grieve over without heartless comments.

But other people read that story, and decided to comment.

As a result of that darker side of social media, the JEP’s latest story tells us what really happened, and suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

Paddling, and stumbling, and dragged out by a sudden wave: this was the true story. It is a tragic story, but it is also a tragedy that the story was misrepresented by the media for so long.

But despite that misleading reporting, it is good to see so many tributes, even before the true story was told. 

Scores of people have written messages of condolence to the family – some who clearly knew Joy. Karen says she was a ‘wonderful girl’, and Nat writes ‘thanks for being a dear friend – for all the teenage fun and laughs.’ Steven says she was always kind-hearted and cheerful, and a former teacher says ‘I have never forgotten her cheeky sense of humour and mischievous smile’.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Oysters and Sea Lettuce and Sand Furrows











A few days ago, the JEP carried this story:

BOLD new proposals to tackle Jersey’s growing sea lettuce problem, which would involve cutting huge troughs and ridges into St Aubin’s Bay, have been unveiled today.

Environmental lobbyists Save Our Shoreline have suggested cutting a number of 400-metre-wide channels into the sand.

They claim that the move would accelerate the flow of the outgoing sea water close to the sea-bed and pull the lettuce out to sea, preventing it from ‘matting’ at the top of the beach.

David Cabeldu, researcher for SOS Jersey, together with Tony Legg, of Jersey Sea Farms, who are both putting forward the proposal, were due to meet Infrastructure Minister Eddie Noel this afternoon.


The reader might have been alarmed by this dramatic picture, but in fact, the proposals were nothing like as large-scale and gigantic as suggested in that story.

Jacqui Carrell, writing to the JEP, corrected this impression

The JEP article ‘SOS propose accelerating flow of outgoing sea water’ [18 august 2016] is incorrect about the width of the proposed channels. They will have given readers the impression the channels are going to be very wide and all over St Aubin’s Bay! SOS Jersey would like to reassure everyone that the proposed channels are not going to be 400 metres wide, but 400 metres LONG and ONE furrow wide.

To clarify, these furrows would be low and temporary and dug at specific angles to the tidal flow. Sea lettuce will wash up and down with each tide, but these channels should prevent it from gaining a hold in the intertidal areas and other specific areas and, as a result, stop its accumulation at the top of the beach.

The furrowing will be done early in the season and repeated if necessary; this approach is meant to be a short term, partial solution to the sea lettuce problem until the Jersey native oysters programme starts to show results. We are mindful of tidal flows and of the local flora and fauna, and furrowing plans reflect these.

We would also like to clarify that SOSJ have acted as facilitators in the proposed Jersey native oyster project and haven’t the resources to carry out further surveys. We will issue no proposals: that is for the relevant States department to do. We will monitor and help when possible, but Infrastructure are now in a position to continue the sea lettuce project in collaboration with Tony Legg of Jersey Sea Farms.


Why Oyster farming?

Oysters feed by filtering water to remove phytoplankton and other particles floating in the water. This action helps to maintain water clarity and quality and to cycle nitrogen and phosphorus, two nutrients that can be harmful to our bays. Increased filtration by healthy oyster populations can also prevent harmful algal blooms. These blooms can affect the health of the water and wildlife living in and around it.

But oysters need some removal of sea lettuce before they will prove effective. As noted in the Mill River, in Canada, in 2012, too much sea lettuce choked oysters. This is the story:

Hal Perry said sea lettuce is choking out oysters and costing fishermen their living. The underwater plant grows profusely when there is excess nitrogen in the waterway from nitrate run-off from farmers' fields, industry, cities, and sewage or forestry practices. As it rots, it sucks oxygen from the water.

Oyster fisherman Johnny Powers said he's never seen an oyster season this bad. "All dead, not a single living oyster amongst it," said Powers, as he pulled up a nearly empty oyster tong from the riverbed. "Most of the fishermen I talked to say there's anywhere from a 35 to 50 per cent mortality rate," he said. "So that's our income cut almost by 50 per cent."


A report in August this year confirms that the problem remains unresolved for Mill River estuary:

“Back in the late 70s, we use to dig clams on almost every point on the Mill River and Hill River, but now there’s not a clam to be seen,” said Mr Lane, adding when sea lettuce dies and goes to the bottom, it can smother clams as well as oysters, “Talk to oyster fishermen, they will tell you in the last five years that the amount of oysters they’ve caught that are dead has increased and the amount of live ones are decreasing.”

Ray Konisky, a Marine Ecologist, writing in UNH Magazine, Winter 2011 noted also how excessive sea lettuce could affect oysters:

"In the past, there was enough natural flushing, with tides going in and out, to handle any excess." Now there's too much—especially nitrogen, which has risen 42 percent just in the past five years. Algae blooms, including a large alga known as sea lettuce, can spread in thick green mats, making it hard for anything else, including oysters, to survive. It's a vicious cycle: Just when the bay needs its natural water treatment system more than ever, oysters are suffocating in sea lettuce and silt.”

Oyster can help restore the ecosystem, but they need some help. And both removal of excess sea lettuce and furrows may be one way forward.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Brown Study












This is an occasional blog which looks at what Gordon Brown has been saying and doing. Today’s offering is a reprint of an article first published in Project Syndicate, and later in Eyewitness News. This is a very interesting analysis of the situation which fleshes out what he sees as 8 uncertainties.

  • The first uncertainty is the date when exit negotiations will start.
  • The second uncertainty is whether the negotiations can simultaneously resolve the United Kingdom’s terms of exit from the EU and its future trading arrangements with Europe’s single market
  • The third uncertainty is Britain’s negotiating objectives.
  • The fourth uncertainty arises from voters’ concerns over immigration and the extent to which any new EU trading arrangement must be conditional on restricting the free movement of workers
  • The fifth uncertainty is the EU’s own negotiating stance, starting with who will lead the negotiations, the European Commission or the Council of Ministers
  • The sixth uncertainty is the economic circumstances under which the negotiations will take place
  • The seventh uncertainty is whether the UK itself can survive as a United Kingdom.
  • An eighth and even greater uncertainty, however, concerns Britain’s future global role.
When Article 50 is triggered is still a matter of uncertainty because at the moment there is no team of negotiators ready, no negotiating positions decided upon, no model to aim towards, and no idea of compromises which may need to be made.

John Redwood said PM Theresa May wanted to "get on with it" and trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - which officially begins Brexit. But Mrs May has said she will not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty this year and it is widely thought it would be triggered at the start of next year. rexit Secretary David Davis has predicted the trigger will take place "before or by the start of next year".

Juliet Samuel, writing in the Telegraph, points out the problems with haste:

“We don’t have enough trade negotiators or lawyers. And it would be better if clear lines of command, staffing and seniority are established before negotiations start. What is currently happening is a game of ping pong: ministers want policies from their civil servants, but the civil servants need direction to be set from above.”

BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action looked at “Brexit: The Legal Minefield”. It featured three legal experts - Mark Elliott, Catherine Barnard and Steve Peers. Regarding law which had been enacted because of membership of the EU, the panel agreed these would be in force until revoked. They would need to be placed into three categories:

  • Keep, because they form part of what is seen as acceptable in civilised society – rules on discrimination would be here.
  • Retain but revise
  • Revoke
There is a lot of legislation, and it all has to be carefully sifted, and looked at when one piece impacts on another. This is major surgery. Boris Johnson’s own stance, set out in a Telegraph article on the subject was, as one legal adviser commented, "nonsense on stilts".

Remaking Britain
By Gordon Brown


LONDON – Britain will has a new prime minister – but the country’s post-European Union future remains uncertain. Indeed, prolonged delays are likely in implementing the voters’ decision to leave the EU.

The first uncertainty is the date when exit negotiations will start. The process should be completed within two years of invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon; but the incoming prime minister, Theresa May, has already said she would not want to trigger negotiations until the end of the year.

The second uncertainty is whether the negotiations can simultaneously resolve the United Kingdom’s terms of exit from the EU and its future trading arrangements with Europe’s single market. While the UK will claim that, under Article 50, negotiators should be “taking into account the framework of future relationships,” the EU trade negotiator is insisting that future arrangements can be discussed only after Britain leaves.

The third uncertainty is Britain’s negotiating objectives. Will it seek full access to the single market (the Norwegian option), or to part of it (the Swiss option)? Or will it go for the Canadian low-tariff option, or just trade with Europe on the same terms that all World Trade Organization members do?

The fourth uncertainty arises from voters’ concerns over immigration and the extent to which any new EU trading arrangement must be conditional on restricting the free movement of workers. The new prime minister has said she would not accept engagement in the single market without a deal on managing migration.

In theory, the Norway option – membership of the European Economic Area – could be stretched to include a Liechtenstein-type protocol on limiting residency permits, or involve use of the EEA’s safeguard clause, which might allow restrictions on migration if inflows rose too quickly. But, fearful that others would demand a similar dispensation, the EU would find it difficult to agree to such a change.

The fifth uncertainty is the EU’s own negotiating stance, starting with who will lead the negotiations, the European Commission or the Council of Ministers. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already made it clear that she will not give the Commission carte blanche to negotiate on Germany’s behalf. Beyond this question lies another: whether Europe will agree on its final negotiating stance before France’s presidential election next spring and Germany’s general election next autumn.

The sixth uncertainty is the economic circumstances under which the negotiations will take place. Britain appears to be sliding toward recession as companies put their investment plans on hold. Business pressure on the UK government to move more quickly will thus grow, as a longer wait means a further ebbing of confidence and, in turn, a weakening of Britain’s bargaining position.

The seventh uncertainty is whether the UK itself can survive. Lord North is remembered for losing the British union with America. Two centuries on, the outgoing prime minister, David Cameron, may be remembered for losing two unions – with Europe and between England and Scotland. Whereas Conservatives want Scotland to be in a Britain without Europe, Scottish nationalists want Scotland in a Europe without Britain. And with Northern Ireland’s Republicans, led by Sinn Fein, demanding a vote to reunite with the south, the very existence of the UK is now squarely on the agenda.

There is one way to lessen uncertainty and risk: The government should quickly announce that it will be negotiating with the EU on the basis of the Norway option of membership of the EEA. And it should make clear that EU nationals resident in the UK are welcome to stay.

This avenue would give Britain what businesses want – access to the single market. While the UK would still have to contribute to the EU budget, it could repatriate responsibility for agriculture and fisheries policies and negotiate its own trade deals (for example, with China and India). Joining the EEA would offer an additional advantage – giving Scotland the level playing field it wants in trading with the 27 EU members.

It is also essential to resolve the vexed issue of migration. Any genuine solution must include a fund to help communities whose health facilities, schools, and other public services are under stress because of above-average population growth. Tougher enforcement of minimum-wage and other legislation protecting workers is needed as well, so that we allay fears that migrants are forcing a race to the bottom. And EEA negotiations should begin on the basis that our membership would include a protocol on migration and the ability to use the safeguard clause if pressures grow.

An eighth and even greater uncertainty, however, concerns Britain’s future global role. In particular, how will it respond to the irreversible shift in the global economy’s center of gravity toward Asia, and to the technological innovations that are revolutionizing industries and occupations – and thus increasing voters’ anxieties about their employment prospects and future livelihoods?

The referendum result revealed high concentrations of pro-Brexit sentiment in towns once at the center of the British industrial revolution but now awash with derelict factories and workshops, owing to Asian competition. These areas rebelled against the advice of political and business elites to vote “Remain” and instead demanded protection from the vicissitudes of global change. The “Leave” campaign’s very slogans – centered on bringing control back home – aligned it with populist, protectionist movements that are fracturing old political loyalties throughout the West.

The result has exposed a Labour Party divided between a leadership that elevates anti-globalization protest above winning power and a Parliamentary group that knows it has to explain how globalization can be managed in the public interest.

But the governing Conservatives are also split on how to respond to globalization. Some believe in a global free-for-all; others believe that Britain should be free of foreign entanglements; and a third cohort wants, like Labour, to be part of the EU, viewing it not as the problem, but as part of the solution to managing globalization. But, because of these divisions, none of the leadership contenders have put forward any proposals that address in any meaningful way the grievances of those who feel left behind.

So post-referendum Britain needs a more comprehensive debate on how it will cope with the challenges of global change and how it will work with the international community to do so. A viable program for managing globalization would recognize that every country must balance the autonomy it desires with the cooperation it needs. This would include coordinated monetary and fiscal policies across the G20 countries; renewed efforts to expand world trade; new national agendas addressing inequality and promoting social mobility; and a laser-like focus on science, technology, and innovation as the key to future growth.

As long as globalization appears leaderless, anti-globalization protesters will stifle reform, shout down proposed trade deals like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and make national economies less open. Now facing life outside the EU, Britain cannot ignore or sidestep these global issues. The UK must now decide whether it will stand up to the protectionist impulse that drove Brexit and what part it can play in making globalization work for all.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/remaking-britain-after-brexit-by-gordon-brown-2016-07