Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Time’s Up for Time’s Up

by Lizzie Howe

It’s time for a change in conversation about feminism in the twenty-first century. Many prophesied 2018 as a ‘post-Weinstein’ era, in which rampant sexism and sexual assault would be a thing of the past, and abusive men consigned to the annals of history. Unfortunately, this movement has proved that although there needs to be a reevaluation of feminism in the 21st century, the current reevaluation has utterly missed the mark.

After several accusations against Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly had attacked and assaulted multiple young women seeking a career in the film industry, the floodgates opened in the American media. One such example of this was a list published by Buzzfeed, listing every woman who had allegedly been attacked by Weinstein, of which some were credible and others were less so. Due to relatively relaxed defamation laws, which place the burden of proof on the accused rather than the accuser, it became easy for woman after woman to point fingers at men for outrageous and unchecked behaviour - some of which was entirely justified, and yet some of which managed to hijack the movement into a direction that led it far from the realms of credibility.

The pinnacle of female empowerment apparently came during the Golden Globes, when the red carpet was festooned with women in black. Although this was in theory to be a defiant stand against the tyrannical men in the industry who had been in power for too long; in reality, it became an exercise in vanity. Many of the dresses were more glamorous and expensive than had been seen in many years. Bianca Blanco, who turned up in a red dress, was reportedly snubbed by the other women at the event, proving that female solidarity was clearly a central theme to the evening.

Although the Time’s Up Movement did attempt to address issues affecting women universally, one being the potential establishment of a legal fund consisting of $13 million for lower-income women seeking justice for workplace assault, this has been ignored in the loud conversations over injustice in Hollywood. Although sexism and abuse should be vilified in every industry, when the conversation becomes solely about a very small number of women in a very small and specific industry, it is frustrating to read as what seems to be a genuine vehicle for change becomes bogged down in the issues which, to be frank, do not demand the greatest attention.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Photography: Silhouettes

by Naeve Molho

Saving the Planet is Not Impossible

by Georgia McKirgan

In an earlier Portsmouth Point article I talked about the importance of investing in cheaper and more efficient renewable energy sources rather than subsidising the current expensive and inefficient technologies. At the end of the article, I said:

“If  you are concerned about the future of the planet there are two simple policies you could adopt in your life that would make a huge difference. Stop eating beef and stop buying single-use plastic drink bottles. You won’t get the same psychic Income that you get when you drive past a wind turbine but you will actually be doing something that will make a difference.”

Recognising the environmental challenges posed by meat production, I decided to look into taking this approach of investing in cheaper technology rather than relying on taxes, subsidies and education to the environmental challenges posed by meat production in food supply. Currently, about 24% of the world’s landmass is used for either raising animals for food or growing crops that are used to feed animals that are used for food and that doesn’t include the water these animals and crops require or the gases that the animals produce. The Impossible Food Company was set up in 2011 by Patrick O. Brown, a biology professor at Stanford University with the aim of taking animals out of food production by 2035. Professor Brown had conducted research into a molecule called heme and he believes that heme is a key factor in understanding how meat behaves when it is being cooked and eaten. Heme is abundant in animal muscle but is found naturally in all living organisms and the heme molecule in plant-based heme is identical to the heme molecule found in meat.

To produce heme protein from non-animal sources, Impossible Foods selected the Leghemoglobin found naturally in the roots of soy plants.To make plant-based heme in large quantities, Impossible Foods' scientists then genetically engineered a yeast and used a fermentation process very similar to the brewing process used to make some types of beer. In 2016, Impossible Foods launched its first meat-like product, The Impossible Burger. Rather than trying to recreate the texture of steak, the company focused on a ground beef-type product that cooks and tastes exactly like meat. To replicate the fat in burgers, The Impossible Burger uses coconut fat mixed with ground wheat and potato protein.

The finished product is stunning. It looks and tastes just like a regular burger but there are other advantages. The plant-based burger has more protein, less fat, no cholesterol and fewer calories than a regular burger. The company says producing meat in this way uses 95% less land, 74% less water and produces 87% less greenhouse gases than regular meat production. The Impossible Burger was originally only available in a number of Californian burger chains but the company is now gearing up to sell the product in supermarkets and other retail outlets. Apart from the environmental benefits described above, there is one other big is cheaper than regular ground beef.

The Great Man’s Role In History

by Philippa Noble

The theory surrounding the "Great Men" of history suggests one sole person can be culpable for historic events and societal turning points - a common example of this being Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, references can be made to key figures on both sides, attempting to show full culpability or partial. This, of course, has become the subject of heated debate within the study of Historiography with arguments both for and against.

The argument for is often linked with the “masterminds” of terrible events in the 20th century. Hitler and Stalin are the most commonly referenced examples, potentially pushing us away from grappling with how an entire society could potentially be responsible for the Holocaust or any number of Stalin’s brutal regimes. These examples often look to pass blame onto the seemingly “most responsible person”, and still in the public’s view it seems reasonable that Hitler was fully culpable for the Holocaust. After all, it’s what we’ve always been taught: from a young age history has been simplified to key figures. Even in later life, biographies one of the most common ways of communicating historical knowledge to the masses, reinforcing in our minds once again that history revolves around “Great” individuals.

There are two main reasons why this belief is furthered into academic circles. First, the existence of conscious agency, proposed in Ron Rosenbaum’s “Explaining Hitler”, proves that these great leaders knew what they were doing. Of course, this cannot be denied: we all have choices to make and, with "Great Men" often being concentrated in positions of great power (for instance established monarchy or dictatorships), it becomes evermore unrealistic to avoid the role of the figurehead. In the specific example of Hitler, to disagree to such an extent that he becomes nothing more than a function of others’ aims is to attempt to excuse his part in the Holocaust and the millions of murders that took place within it.

Second, a less extreme belief in "Great Men" would reason that they are in fact “harnessers” of society. There may be public belief or societal values behind a cause, but it can be argued that it takes a certain personality to hold enough power to command change. Here, charisma that is apparent in the powerful leaders of the 20th century is explained as the reigns with which the “Great Man” controls the nation. This belief is easier to agree with: charisma is a known characteristic of the typical "Great Men" (if they do in fact exist), and this fits again with the running example of Hitler. During his rise to power, change and action was brought about by his persuasiveness, personality, and charisma. He was the enthusiasm the German population believed they needed.

Looking to a different example, Deng Xiaoping is a more positive representation of “Great Men”. Having inherited immense power from Mao (although lacking the same title, he was supported by various prominent generals), his courage and morality brought about a truly revolutionary change in China’s politics. Deng moved himself out of power, introducing the collective government that has continued to check China’s leaders until very recently. His legacy will surely go down in history, no matter how short-lived it will prove to be, influencing Chinese politics and bringing the nation to the world’s forefront by opening it up to capitalism. His thoughts were even reinforced this year with Xi’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, so even as his most evident legacy is wiped away, traces of his other policies remain.

In The 100 Most Influential People In History, Michael H. Hart includes many scientists and political leaders, yet the least disputable are those commanding the arts. Writing, painting, and creating require creativity, self-awareness, thought, and in some cases bravery. At number 31, William Shakespeare makes an appearance. In his widely published works he expresses individual reflections, humour, and confidence. Coming to fame in the early 17th century, Shakespeare used his scope of influence to address topics such as racism and antisemitism. Although this alone may not define William Shakespeare as a “Great Man”, his sizeable impacts on British society and recently the world are shown most simply in how he shaped the English language. It is unlikely for any other author to have been in such an opportune position (with audiences for Elizabeth I and James I) and to have such personality coming across in his works that his words are woven into our modern language.

Nevertheless, the debate continues; it remains reasonable that the many forces in society (for instance, the economy, societal values, and the law) add or detract from any action "Great Men" want to take. Bullock in “Parallel Lives” explains the rise of social and economic history within academic interests as a cause of disbelief in “Great Men”, however in this argument it is more pertinent to remind ourselves that this history has always existed - its growth is just another variation in historiographical trends. Yet, this rise in popularity could be reflective of our societal evolution, towards more focus on society as a whole rather than the adamant promotion of figureheads - wiping out “Great Men” from our contemporary societies.

Some that believe in "Great Men" do so due to their view that mankind cannot do things as horrific as, for instance, the Holocaust. This, however, seems more naïve than anything else. If this theory is used only to pass on blame from social agency, then "Great Men" become scapegoats for society’s sins. Hitler’s Germany took an active role in the Holocaust, from playing a part in the secret police to reporting neighbours. And those who didn't also didn't take effective action against him. Here, the native population became at best enablers and at worse aids to ridding Germany of the so-called “untermensch”. A prominent example of this is Adolf Eichmann, the main organiser of the Holocaust.  Therefore, Hitler was not acting alone: ideas and action stemmed from both himself and others, detracting from the responsibility we give him as a society. No one in the most morally black-and-white event in the 1900s is free of blame - even the British who appeased Hitler until he had sufficient power and confidence to expand lebensraum past agreements. Philippa Gregory would even argue that the millennias-long history of antisemitism contributed and enabled Hitler. And of course, luck and mistakes also play a huge part in the historical narrative. Being in the right place at the right time let Hitler seize power with the Nazi party; the mistakes of Trotsky and Zinoviev allowed Stalin to play off their unpopularity and become the leader of the USSR.

Furthermore, common belief would hold scientists within the ranks of "Great Men". However, it can be argued that most scientific discoveries are inevitable and would have been found maybe even within the next 100 years as other areas of science developed around the topic. For instance, the discovery of the heliocentric universe. This was first hypothesised by Greek philosophers, then by Copernicus, then by Galileo. "Great Men", as shown earlier, need individual thought and creativity. Some scientists could have this, with discoveries being made far before supporting scientific knowledge existed, however examples such as Fleming, although he found a truly significant antibacterial, show that often scientists have very little part to play in discoveries.

Finally, in the case of political philosophers it is individual thought that fails them. These figures had huge effects on events in both the 18th and 20th century with revolutions and the rise of communism - featuring philosophers such us Rousseau, Marx, and John Locke. Nevertheless, the recurring message throughout history seems to be “we deserve better”. If political philosophy only ever takes a single step in the direction of “better”, can these thinkers ever be "Great Men" as they only extrapolate a small amount on past trends? The progression of politics is fairly linear (with the exceptions of fall backs in the dark ages - potentially as a result of the loss of knowledge and fall of politically advanced empires). Therefore, it can be argued with ease that such progressions are inevitable and many would have arisen within the century of the first hypothesis. The common understanding of “Great Men” here fails as although such philosophers are influential, they are replaceable and give little in the way of significant gains.

Perhaps instead the argument is not whether they exist or not, but in what cases we see "Great Men". Following the argument above, Michael H. Hart would be incorrect in attributing huge societal shifts to political philosophers and certain scientists. However, it is possible in very strict conditions for these "Great Men" to appear. Unfortunately for them, what is believed to be the easiest way of becoming a “Great Man” is long gone; forgotten within the anachronistic era of unchecked monarchy. It appears that firm executive power is necessary for such people to arise, indicating that either a monarchy or dictatorship is required. In these instances, culpability can easily be placed on those in power as the public have very little say in the decisions of leaders. However, in the last few centuries greater levels of democracy have developed and transparency has increased, making leaders more accountable but also making public opinion a larger factor in national decisions (see the Brexit vote). Nevertheless, there has been a resurgence of "Great Men" in the last century with leaders harnessing chaos as a stepping stone to total power. Bullock in “Parallel Lives” talks about how this chaos is an enabler for "Great Men" to take power and then fully assert themselves in long term roles. This isn’t just a brief episode for the 1900s; it could be said that this is what Xi Jinping is aiming for currently. Removing checks of power in order to exceed the maximum term length creates optimum conditions for seizing total power. His emulation of Mao’s cult of personality and the gradual centralisation of rule that has characterised his premiership of China also falls into line with the definition of a “Great Man”. Maybe Mr Jinping is attempting now to join the ranks of other historical figures.

Taking into account all the evidence laid out above, it is naïve to believe there are intrinsically "Great Men". The scenarios and examples used show that the situation has to allow for the rise of these figures: there must be established total power, or sufficient chaos for total power to be established. Yet, in this statement, the entire theory of "Great Men" is contradicted. Their existence relies on enablers within society, yet their very definition dictates that they rely on nothing but their own actions. Therefore, "Great Men" in whole cannot exist; if their rare occurrence relies on societal shifts and the lenience of the population, then that in itself proves that they are no more than “harnessers” of the public.

This is not say, however, that the theory of "Great Men" isn’t useful in general. The concept aids the teaching and communication of history to the mainstream audience. It makes history accessible and simplified, introducing people to entire eras centered around each revered figure. Furthermore, it feeds into the historicism of the population with the ready consumption of biographies which in turn funds academic interest in the subject (through museums, novels, and theatre). Although it seems that the existence of “Great Men” in reality is contradictory, their existence in public beliefs and their effects on the subject are imperative. In an academic sense, they may have negative effects, with confusing history and giving those with culpability an easy way of passing blame. However, the funding and widespread appreciation for history that is gained through their “existence” shows how they can be beneficial to both the public and academics.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Return of the Beast: March Madness at PGS

by Tony Hicks

Images of the snow that hit PGS earlier today - hopefully, the last we will see of the Beast from the East.

Are the Paywalls the Answer to Journalism?

by Ellie Williams-Brown

The internet appeared to be a gift to journalism - offering a place where readership could expand, new ways to interact with the audience,  a range of views would be read,  and help the industry to thrive. However, while some of this has happened, there has also been a downside. The internet has created echo-chambers and has led to a reduction in print media, with many publications closing and some legacy media moving online, such as The Independent. Opinions on this shift away from print vary, but one tactic by media magnates and companies to falling sales has been the introduction of paywalls. When the average person spends more than 5.5 hours a day on digital media, it makes sense to try and capitalise on the digital consumption instead of pushing failing print media.

There are two different types of paywall - hard and soft. A hard paywall allows either no or minimal free content before readers have to pay, while the latter provides significant access to free content if users subscribe. Whilst this extra step in accessing content may be frustrating for some readers, it reminds us that journalism is worth paying for. Funding local and national newspapers is important for both educating the public and ensuring they are not turning to overly biased online news sources who have no incentive to publish factual information, unlike many newspapers who have signed the IPSO Editor’s Code of Practice. Whilst there are many major newspapers with undeniable bias - the Sun and the Mail rely on provocative statements and outlandish claims - this is still a way to at least hold them to the account of truth. With online news sources, there cannot be a claim that there is any real mechanism to hold them to the same level, spare in the court of public opinion.

The main argument against paywalls is that it will push readers away to different publications - why would anyone pay to read an article that they can get for free from a reasonably similar news outlet? The competition with free media means paid news needs to have something inherently better that defends its right to charge readers. There are numerous sites offering news of a similar quality, and people can usually turn on a TV for news anyway. The New York Times lost 10% of its online readership with two years of a paywall and The Times and the Sunday Times had their pageviews plummet by 90%. If paywalls are to be introduced and readership continue, papers should be able to justify why their newspaper is of a better quality, or a nuanced view which ensures people will be paying, and consistently.

A major counter-argument to paywalls is whether they can work in conjunction with journalism’s main aims to educate and inform. The oppression of the press is one of the most grievous things a country can do as the media has a key role as the Fourth Estate to hold government and authority to account, as well as  can educating readers on national and global issues. Arguably, paywalls could be seen as a new form of  censorship, restricting information from the poor and allowing it for those who are better-off. Making people pay for online news can be seen as the withholding of information, especially for those who cannot afford it. But, people have always had to pay for the news, this only presents a problem now as it can turn some to less credible news sources that remain free. However, if there are no paywalls to provide a revenue stream for those “credible news sources” how much longer will they be here?,  Media companies have all suffered from falling advertising revenue, as well as a loss in sales. The Guardian offers an example of a legacy media company who has yet to introduce a paywall, instead relying on a membership model that allows more content and special events for members. This suggests to survive without a paywall a loyal base will be necessary, but it does work. In the 2016-17 financial year, the Guardian increased its digital revenue by 15% - to £94.1m - which includes the membership income, whereas ad revenue grew by less than 10%.

Urban foxes

by Alex Porter

Foxes which lived in dense forests and woodland areas in the past have moved and made their way into our towns and cities. They are scavengers,finding whatever food is available, either given by humans or hunted by themselves and have become known as Urban Foxes.

 These foxes continually colonise and therefore spread through urban areas fairly rapidly. In fact, in Britain, foxes were first established in cities such as Bristol and London during the 1940’s and these areas are now some of the most colonised areas in the country. With 1 fox per 100 cats in Bristol, it is evident how they have grown in a relatively short period of time. Normally, a pair of foxes produces 4 or 5 cubs a year and there are around 150,000 Urban Foxes living in Britain and numbers continue to expand.

Foxes are mostly nocturnal, however you can see urban foxes out during the day. Most foxes are very allusive and are usually only seen at a glimpse. For  most of the day they hide away in their dens. Foxes either dig these out themselves or take over rabbit burrows by enlarging their openings, or they also live alongside badgers’ setts.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Is It Ethical To Keep Animals in Zoos?

by Alex Lemieux

As an aspiring vet, a strong interest of mine is the health and wellbeing of animals, no matter how big or small. Currently I am particularly interested in wild animals and during my research into zoo veterinary the question as to whether zoos are ethical pondered in my mind. If I want to go into the field, surely I should agree with the idea of a zoo, right? But unfortunately I found rather large elements of zoos, such as keeping the wild animals in a confined space, hard to justify. Counteracting this were many reasons as to why zoos are ethical such as how they increase the population of many endangered species through internal breeding so my internal debate carried on.

One obvious reason against zoos would be the cages most animals are forced to live in. From the animal’s point of view, removing them from their habitat and locking them up in a cage is against their rights and completely unjust and we, as humans, would never want that for ourselves; so why do we do it to animals? Animals have rights too, and we shouldn’t violate them by using them for our own entertainment. Domestic animals such as dogs are a common household pet and no dog owner would condone keeping a dog in a cage 24/7 so therefore we shouldn’t do it to any other animal, especially animals that belong in the wild. These animals are meant for the wild not cages and so we should let them live where they are most comfortable rather than force them to live where it is most convenient for us as there is no rule saying we are superior to all animals and have control over them.
However we should be caring for animals and if they are severely injured, it would make sense to give them the help they need that wouldn’t be available to them in the wild. There are many vets that specialise in zoo animals and it would be right to use their knowledge to aid the animals but this would need to be done in a place like a zoo where the animal is away from any further harm. If the animal was given the help in their natural habitat it would be harder for the animal to recover due to factors such as being preyed on or disease affecting them more due to their now weak immune system. Zoos are very good at rehabilitating unwell or injured animals that would otherwise not have made it in the wild and therefore keeping a species from becoming extinct. This demonstrates a positive aspect of the zoo and shows how ethical they can be in particular cases.

In cages many animals will become stressed as they are born to live in the wild and therefore in open spaces so the enclosed space will negatively impact them. In the case of humans, help is provided by the NHS to overcome anxiety in the form of mental health workers but there is little done to provide any such service in animals. Of course zoo keepers will attempt to help an animal that is clearly very distressed but any help is limited since they can’t let the animal out of their cage due to the risk it poses to the public and themselves. This means that there is no feasible way to minimize the stress to an acceptable level. If we believe so strongly in the importance of mental health zoos should not be allowed as I’d like to think animals are included as they have the right to being mentally healthy. I understand that at some zoos certain animals such as giraffes and zebras are in an open area where visitors go on a safari tour to see them, so anxiety would be reduced, but this certainly not the case for all animals or all zoos.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Join the Portsmouth Point editorial team

Portsmouth Point editors explain why you, too, should join the Portsmouth Point editorial team (video directed by Douglas James):

Photographs of the current Portsmouth Point editorial team (images by Jason Baker):

Year 13 editors (Leavers' photograph):

Photograph: Happiness

Today's Senior School Assembly was based on the theme of Success and Happiness. With this in mind, the senior prefect team requested photographs of what makes our teachers happy. The winning entry was this photograph of Mrs Riches and her family.