Friday 15th Nov – Re-wiring the economy

This will be a two – handed presentation and discussion led by Ed Glennie and Gerry Hannon of SCAN (Swindon Climate Action Network).

“Treat the Earth well. It is not inherited from your parents. It is borrowed from your children”. An old Kenyan Proverb.

The editorial outline of the 2007 edition of  “HEAT: How we can stop the planet burning” by George Monbiot states: I started to worry about just how hot our world is going to get, and whether you can do anything about it? As the effect of Climate Change grows by the day, so does the amount of hot air and bluster spouted by politicians. and businessmen on what we should do about it. What with the excuses, the lies, the fudged figures, the PR greenwashing and the downright misinformation on the power of everything from wind turbines to carbon trading, when it comes to saving the world, most people don’t know what they are talking about.

We will begin with the basics of economic theory today. Economics is about flows of money, goods and services – right? Our health and happiness, and the state of the Earth’s ecosystems are “externalities”. These are outside the economy and we find ways of adding them in – or not. Drawing on Kate Raworth’s book “Doughnut Economics”, we will put forward another way of thinking in which the economy is embedded within our society and the natural environment. We will look at some of the practical implications of this approach in the context of the climate emergency. Despite the influence of the denial industry sponsored by powerful interests who resist change, we will try to offer an element of hope for the future.

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Friday 8th Nov – The case FOR Religion – Daniel Merlo

Daniel Merlo returns !

He writes

Richard Dawkins has said, “I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.” He is not alone in his vehement criticism of religion, being one of a band of so called New Atheists. However, it is arguable that his extreme views can be validly criticised for being as dogmatic as the people and beliefs that he challenges. This talk will reflect on the significant benefits that religion can provide, and offers a critique of the New Atheist position by questioning the value of truth, challenging the nature of material reality, and offering an alternative narrative to Progressivism.”

Friday 1st Nov – The Psychology of Climate Change – Louisa Davison

When I first approached Paul Archer to give a talk at Swindon Philosophical Society it was to be concerned with climate change, why we have such problems fixing it and my work with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. But once research began, I realised the problem was far more systemic than previously imagined and, not only that, saw a potential solution that could prevent us from repeating mistakes like climate change again.

It was a proverbial ‘scales fell from my eyes’ moment, a way to reimagine the world that campaigners like Extinction Rebellion and Rob Hopkins from the Transition movement have been asking us to do, and I’ve been seeing the world in a different light ever since.

I’m interested to hear what Swindon thinkers make of this solution and see how we, together, could apply it to change society for the better.”

Louisa Davison


For more about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby – see  and @citizensclimate on twitter


Friday 25th Oct – Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall – Chosen by Chris Charles

Aristotle was an extraordinary thinker, perhaps the greatest in history. Yet he was preoccupied by an ordinary question: how to be happy. His deepest belief was that we can all be happy in a meaningful, sustained way – and he led by example.

In this handbook to his timeless teachings, Professor Edith Hall shows how ancient thinking is precisely what we need today, even if you don’t know your Odyssey from your Iliad. In ten practical lessons we come to understand more about our own characters and how to make good decisions. We learn how to do well in an interview, how to choose a partner and life-long friends, and how to face death or bereavement.

Life deals the same challenges – in Ancient Greece or the modern world. Aristotle’s way is not to apply rules – it’s about engaging with the texture of existence, and striding purposefully towards a life well lived.

If you’ve not been able to buy/read the book here are a couple of reviews to whet your appetite.

Book Review: Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall

Friday Oct 18 – Dreaming the World – The Ideas of Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens rule the world, because we are the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. We can create mass cooperation networks, in which thousands and millions of complete strangers work together towards common goals. One-on-one, even ten-on-ten, we humans are embarrassingly similar to chimpanzees. Any attempt to understand our unique role in the world by studying our brains, our bodies, or our family relations, is doomed to failure. The real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively.

This mysterious glue is made of stories, not genes. We cooperate effectively with strangers because we believe in things like gods, nations, money and human rights. Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money and no human rights—except in the common imagination of human beings. You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him that after he dies, he will get limitless bananas in chimpanzee Heaven. Only Sapiens can believe such stories. This is why we rule the world, and chimpanzees are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

Video and discussion of his first two books – Sapiens and Homo Deus

Fri 11 Oct – “Campaign FOR Nuclear Power” Paul Archer

Those who believe that global energy demand can be substantially reduced are living in a Western-centric world and ignoring the evidence of the past 25 years.  The realistic practical question is how to manage increasing global demand for energy without fossil fuels.  The short answer is to electrify everything (cars, heating, industry) and generate electricity cleanly.  This cannot be done by renewables alone – we need massive investment in nuclear power alongside massive investment in renewables.

  The world needs to be like France which generates over 70% of electricity from nuclear power.  We know from history that nuclear power can be scaled up quickly in the short time frame available to us – in this imperfect world, there are no better alternatives.  I want to address the exaggerated fears surrounding nuclear power and take the side of the eco-modernists (like James Lovelock and George Monbiot) who understand that nuclear power is part of the answer. 

For information about the Campaign for Nuclear Power, visit

Fri 4th Oct “Is Britain really democratic” – Sarah Church

Democracy as a concept has centuries of philosophy, theory and practice behind it, so why are we struggling with the idea in 21st century Britain? We find ourselves at a crossroads debating how government by the people actually manifests itself- who are the people anyway, and how are we represented? Only recently the question was about how to ‘rule the void’ [Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair, Verso, 2013], but now it is clear that what was taken for apathy, was really growing anger with a system that felt less and less representative.
Is it time to change the system to keep up with how we ‘the people’ view ourselves, our rights and responsibilities? Is the current tension between representative democracy and direct democracy an anomaly and should we hope to return to ‘normal’ in due course? This talk will be a political practitioner’s viewpoint on representation and legitimacy in modern Britain.

For more On Sarah Church

Twitter – see @Sarah_C_Church