My series of video blogs from Yale has now been rechristened “Yale Tales”. Thanks to David Church for the suggestion.

In the latest Yale Tale, I am at last settling into the routine of student life in New Haven. I’ve been mostly a reading, writing, note-taking hermit, being a good little student and doing all my homework. I’ve made some notes below about the reading mentioned in the video.

For Yale World Fellows seminars:

Capital Punishment:-

Tomorrow night our distinguished speaker will be Tom Ullman, so the conversation will probably revolve around capital punishment. 15 US states do not allow the death penalty, but 35 still do. Arguments in favour seem to be deterrence and incapacitation. But is this the real rationale? It could be argued that it looks more like revenge. The argument seems to go: “you were wrong in taking a life, so we are going to take your life”. Surely the taking of a life is an absolute wrong – “thou shalt not kill” might be the language that many in favour of the death penalty would understand – so how can it ever be justified?

Albert Pierrepoint was the longest-serving hangman in England, and although numbers are uncertain, probably hanged about 435 people, including about 200 Nazi war criminals. He retired in 1956, and the death penalty in Britain was abolished in 1965, after several controversial hangings. A very good film, Let Him Have It, tells the story of Derek Bentley, who was hanged in 1953 for being an accomplice in a murder, while the actual perpetrator, who was under 18, served only 10 years and has been a law abiding citizen ever since. Timothy Evans was wrongly convicted of the serial murders at 10 Rillington Place, including the killing of his own daughter, which were actually committed by his downstairs neighbour John Christie. Evans was hanged in 1950 and was posthumously pardoned in 1966.

Pierrepoint kept his opinions to himself on the topic until his 1974 autobiography, Executioner: Pierrepoint, in which he wrote:

“I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people …”

Also in Yale World Fellows seminars:

– Theories of Change and the challenge of measuring the impact of NGOs

– Microfinance

– Global banking crisis – to get me vaguely up to speed on this, I watched the documentary Inside Job online – it describes bankers in their own little bubble and detached from human consequences of their gambles, deregulation aided by big contributions to political parties, finance regarded as an end in itself rather than a peripheral activity. Quote from the film: “Why should a financial engineer be paid 100 times more than a real engineer? A real engineer builds bridges. A financial engineer builds dreams. And when those dreams turn out to be nightmares, somebody else pays for it.”

Lots of other reading too:

– Psychology of climate change communications, e.g. Futerra Sustainability Communications, with lots of useful documents available online. See also Yale Panel on Climate Change Communications.

– Global movements for sustainability, e.g. World Future Council. This also gave me an excuse to watch again one of my all-time favourite TED Talks, by Tim Jackson, on Prosperity Without Growth. Tremendously inspiring with his vision for an altogether more sensible and more sustainable way of living.

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser


Coming up – BLUE Ocean Film Festival in Monterey, California, where I will be next weekend, catching up with the great and the good and the blue!


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