Read on the street 29 February 2020
Just over a fortnight ago, The Sunday Post reported the happy fact that for the first time since safety records began nobody had died in the Scottish hills during January, one of the harshest months of the year. And to think some people say newspapers only ever report bad news.
Sadly, February has proven less kind, with two deaths in Scottish mountain ranges within the past 10 days and several other near misses, including avalanches, falls, and an increasingly hopeless search for a missing Slovakian walker.
The incident that triggered most column inches, however, involved four ill-equipped tourists rescued in blizzard conditions near the summit of Ben Nevis. They owe their lives to luck and the brave volunteers of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (MRT).
I’ve written previously about the risks borne by those who head to the mountains, especially in winter. What that incident reminded me was that the hardy souls who willingly put themselves in danger to help those in trouble on our hills also refuse resolutely to play the blame game.
As social media was flooded with angry comments about the four young men airlifted to safety, John Stevenson of Lochaber MRT urged people to “cut the guys a little bit of slack”.
Similarly, John Allen, who led Cairngorm MRT for nearly 20 years, notes in the introduction to his excellent book, Cairngorm, John: “No rescuer ever rushes to judgement, far less blame. Everyone involved knows that under different circumstances, in different times, it could have been them.”
We all make mistakes. Some have more serious consequences than others and often that is down to nothing more than good or bad fortune.
In all walks of life, I think we would do well to borrow from the ethos of the mountain rescue teams and cut people some slack.
Have a good and safe weekend.
Questions of skill and compassion
“It is absurd,” writes Janice Turner “that the government categorises me, sitting on my backside writing this, as ‘skilled’ and the (mainly) women who will gently guide my mother – most of our mothers – towards her maker as ‘unskilled’... If we regarded caring as skilful we wouldn’t pay less for it than working on a till at Aldi.” Well, quite. I wonder if the highly skilled Priti Patel is paying attention.
Read in The Times
How to spend $10bn
Surrounded as we are by confusing information and virtue signalling celebrities, many of us feel understandably uncertain about what actions and behavioural changes we should each prioritise in the battle against climate change. As highlighted here last week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has the same problem, multiplied by 10 billion. Fortunately, he isn’t short of people willing to offer him advice.
Read in The Economist
Is coronavirus here to stay?
COVID-19 is already reported to have killed upwards of 2,000 people worldwide and is unlike most viruses that capture popular attention in that it is deadly, but not too deadly. With so little data, prognosis is difficult. However, concerns that it is beyond containment, and will therefore be with us indefinitely, is nowhere more apparent than in the race to find a vaccine, one of the clearest strategies for saving lives in the years to come. As the outbreak continues to spread, is it even containable?
Read on The Atlantic
It pays to be tall
In 2008 a report by The Economist studied the curious relationship between height and income, revealing that the tallest quartile of the workforce earned up to 10% more than the shortest. Now there's new evidence of that lofty ambition. A study released this week reveals that presidents are becoming taller relative to average Americans. At 6’ 3”, Trump is notorious for ridiculing his shorter rivals. “MINI MIKE is a 5’4” mass of dead energy”, he tweeted recently, goading Mike Bloomberg. This begs the question: did Trump supporters put him in power because they look up to him, or because they literally look up to him?
Read on The Economist
Why Netflix turned to junk
As the Netflix streaming service has been forced to rely more heavily on its own produced content, it’s fair to say there have been more than a few misses among the hits. As more traditional studios (think Disney and Warner) launch their own streaming platforms, they are naturally taking back the films and TV series they were, until recently, happy to lend to Netflix. So, there is a gap to fill and without decades of content to fall back on Netflix needs to keep churning out the content. To do so, it is increasingly reliant on money raised by issuing debt, at a disproportionate rate to the revenue it is generating via subscriptions. It’s a risky move, yet the junk bonds remain oversubscribed, showing at least that investors have faith that the current undisputed king of the streamers can see off its competition. NPR’s Indicator, a ten-minute daily business podcast, neatly explores how Netflix got here and where it might be headed next.
Listen on Apple Podcasts
Things are getting Messi at Barca
FC Barcelona has long lived by its motto “més que un club”. That it is “more than a club” is something few people would dispute. Owned by fans, renowned for an attractive style of football that has also brought considerable footballing and financial success, FCB is also a symbol of Catalan identity and culture. However, the club has recently been plagued by scandal and disputes between management, coaching staff and players. The team continues to deliver success on the pitch, thanks primarily to the exploits of Lionel Messi, considered by many to be the greatest player the game has ever seen. But with their talisman out of contract and free to leave at the end of the season, Rory Smith suggests in The New York Times that a watershed moment in the club’s history looms large.
Read on The New York Times
When cold becomes too cold
Two weeks ago here I shared a piece by Jonny Muir, who was preparing for the gruelling Carnethy 5 hill race. An experienced mountain runner who has studied and written about the sport extensively, Muir was nevertheless humbled by mild hypothermia that day in a stark reminder that nobody is immune to errors of judgement or the effects of wild winter weather. Here, he swallows his pride and shares generously the lessons learned.
Read on Heights of Madness
Written by David Gaffney, Partner