ConnectedCities – A Global Sustainable Development Strategy – Planning for prosperity. Review of book and website.

This visionary proposal is made against the backdrop of the existential challenges facing all humanity. It makes inspiring reading in these otherwise depressing political times.


Challenges and opportunities Sir David Attenborough warns “Climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years.” “…time is running out.” “We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) COP 24 report October 2018 showed that CO2 emissions are on the rise again after stalling for four years. To limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, an essential goal, governments must slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030. Teresa May committed the UK to cut carbon emissions to almost zero by 2050. Much more drastic cuts are needed. The Extinction Rebellion demands that Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.


The demands of humanity constantly increase. By 2050 global population is likely to be 9.7 billion, an increase from 7.7 billion today. The UN predicts that by 2030, almost 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. 95 percent of urban expansion will be take place in the developing world. Today cities account for 60-80 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions. Clearly we need to plan for sustainable growth worldwide.

These problems are not new. A century ago Ebenezer Howard identified three big problems for which Garden Cities were the solution: mass migration to cities from the countryside and the resulting slums; pollution; and the need for green spaces and access to the countryside. Today the world faces exactly the same forces, but now on a global scale. And the reason they are now global is because we have not done what Howard proposed.


The UK’s population, now 66.96 million, is expected to rise to 78 million. Population growth, poverty, extreme inequality , the housing crisis and the pressing need to address climate change and car dependency must be addressed. It is essential to reduce both emissions and traffic congestion. This offers an opportunity for a comprehensive new approach to strategic planning integrating brownfield and green field development.


The Future ConnectedCities draws its inspiration from Ebenezer Howard’s Social Cities . The vision, especially in developed countries, is for compact, high quality, walkable, sustainable developments focused around existing and new railway stations, providing frequent train services, clustered around “hub towns”. Disused railways could be re-opened.  There are some 2500 railway stations in the UK – a good place to start. Groups of settlements – some existing, some new – would be linked using existing rail corridors and clustered around a ‘hub town’. Together they would form a ConnectedCity. Local business could flourish. Local transport would become viable. Long, stressful, expensive daily rail travel would be reduced. See 2050 Travel.


There is a broad range of alternatives:

  • Town growth within an existing town
  • New green quarters on the edge of a town
  • Or a new green town


Unaffordable Housing is a major issue for the under forty year old generation. People being unable to live near their parents adversely affects family life. Public ownership of land and the removal of land cost could result in more affordable housing. The ConnectedCities approach could help avoid Green Belt controversies. We need to re-think local government. If people are fully involved in making decisions about their ConnectedCity, by means of Citizens Assemblies, it will be possible to avoid the situation in which Borough Councils are criticised for imposing unwelcome decisions on a neighbouring town like mine.


Wellbeing – not growth. Whilst helping to address these issues, the ConnectedCities proposals would help create a flourishing economy and greater wellbeing for all citizens. Clearly, constantly increasing GDP (Gross Domestic Product) drives overconsumption of the Earth’s resources when we should be reducing our ever growing footprint now exceeding 1.7 planets. New Zealand is eschewing GDP in favour of wellbeing as a guiding indicator . The Welsh government has a Well-being of Future Generations Act .


One of the many advantages of a ConnectedCity is that people are generally able to travel by one means or another to their destinations within fifteen minutes and would not need to use a car. Globally, nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day, most of them young men. A Connected City would similarly provide access to countryside. We know how important a green environment, particularly one including trees, is to human wellbeing. No one should live in a totally urban environment. We also know how good it is for peoples’ mental health to grow food together. Agriculture, sustainable, would be nearby. Butterflies, moths and birds would re-appear. Countries could become more self- sufficient, cutting food miles .
Case Studies On the website, case studies are provided applying to a broad range of circumstances: a town growth zone, a new green quarter on the edge of an existing town or a new green town .


A Cities Act is required to confer on local authorities which adopt it powers to establish ConnectedCities, supervise their development, and eventually transfer the administration of each to a ConnectedCity council.


If you want to help make all this happen, sign up for the occasional newsletter , get the support of your MP, County Councillor and local representatives and contact ConnectedCity . Buy the book from Connected Cities and access the excellent website which can be navigated to provide detailed information on every aspect of these proposals. You may also wish to support the New Garden Cities Alliance whose aim is to work in partnership with existing bodies to establish standards for Garden Cities that Britain can be proud of. Also to establish exemplars for an environmentally sustainable society that promotes the wellbeing of all citizens.


Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness . Bruce Nixon

Bruce gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done. Contact me from my website Creating a just, sustainable, non-violent world .


Teresa May faced an Impossible Task.

Peoples Vote

Protesters carry a banner at the People’s Vote anti-Brexit march in London on March 23, 2019. Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images.                                     

She faced a deeply divided House of Commons and divided Tory and Labour parties, unwilling to agree to the Brexit proposals she negotiated with EU leaders. Almost certainly any other leader would have faced the same situation. Leaving the EU is the wrong diagnosis for a real crisis – see The dismantling of the state since the 1980s .  


Vote Leave was launched in October 2015 with the support of both right and left wing Eurosceptic politicians, leaders from the business world and trade unions and the European Research Group . It was arguably a campaign organised by politicians wanting more power. It was not about giving more power to the people.


The constantly repeated “Brexit is the will of the people” is propaganda. It was the will of people instigating the campaigns. It was the will of Nigel Farage, a narcissistic demagogue, hungry for power. Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, was de facto leader of the Conservatives, argue Messrs Hutton and Adonis in a chapter of their book Saving Britain. Certainly, 52% of those who voted, voted leave and 48% voted to remain. However only 37% of electorate, representing 26% of “the people”, voted for Brexit. So 74% did not vote for Brexit – see Democracy and its crisis. It is important to note that just over 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted in the referendum backed Remain. I have argued elsewhere about the flaws in the referendum .


Citizens were grossly misled. For a democracy to work there must be standards of truth and integrity. Citizens, MPs and Ministers need to be well informed. Both Vote Leave and its rival organisation, Britain Stronger in Europe“, were severely criticised by sections of the media and academia for a campaign described by the Electoral Reform Society as “dire”, which left the public seriously lacking proper information. Now far more information is available, particularly about the damage to our country already taking place.


On 17 July 2018, Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and referred to police for breaking electoral spending laws. It was financed by Aaron Banks and other sources, now under investigation Farage’s new Brexit Party, which has no manifesto, is in fact a company with shareholders . Boris Johnson is due to appear in court over Brexit misconduct claims. The Electoral Commission claims that urgent improvements are needed to ensure transparency for voters in the digital age .


Underlying the popular vote for Brexit was the failure of successive governments to create an industrial strategy that would bring prosperity to citizens outside the prosperous London area.  To a considerable extent, the Brexit vote was a protest against government from Westminster. Of course the issues were diverse. But the essential problem was that for over a generation successive governments had failed to create an industrial strategy that would bring prosperity to citizens throughout the UK.


Brexit is not a solution to the diverse problems of the UK.  Brexit revealed the UK as a deeply divided country. For Teresa May to devise a Brexit acceptable to all parties was impossible. Furthermore, Brexit was a supposed solution to problems that had not been systematically defined. The idea that departing the EU would be a solution is simplistic.


All solutions other than Remain are inferior, in my view, and offer less benefit. Remain provides a seat round the table so that we can work with our European colleagues for a better EU. There is absolutely no doubt that the EU needs considerable reform. It already faces criticisms from other member countries. Wealth is systematically extracted from southern countries of Europe to the north.  Some of its policies are flawed – such as the costly registration of seeds which reduces essential plant diversity, fishery policy and above all the farm subsidies mainly benefitting large landowners rather than the small farmers we need.  People also forget that the EU was formed, partly to prevent war between European nations. Today we need a united Europe to defend ourselves from the threats posed by China, Russia and Trump’s USA. The EU is a powerful representation of high standards for goods and services, sustainability, human rights, democracy and enlightenment.


When there are essentially three alternatives – in; out or some modified membership, and one is chosen, it is inevitable that large numbers of people, half the nation, will be dissatisfied and feel unrepresented. Win, win solutions are needed, not a compromises. This can be achieved through consensus design instead of ideological battles that divide our country.


The current way of doing politics is inappropriate when humanity faces existential threats such as irreversible climate change . Nor is it the way to do politics in a nation so divided in wealth. Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special rapporteur. We need entirely different ways of addressing the existential challenges we face. Instead of being tribal, political leaders need to collaborate in bringing about change. There needs to be continuity, not “all change” when government changes. Leaders need to be servant leaders.


There are ways in which the diverse needs of the United Kingdom can be met. Power needs to be devolved to the countries and regions of the United Kingdom under the principle of subsidiarity. More specifically we need to use Citizens Assemblies . Around the world people are innovating with new forms of democracy. Drawing from classical ideas of random selection and modern institutions such as juries, more deliberative and participative forms of democracy are taking shape”. And through Citizens Conventions Citizens should decide where power lies in this country”.


“Citizens Assemblies are in the news, from the assemblies that led to the referendums on equal marriage and, to demands for a Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit to sort out the blockages at Westminster. While the Electoral Reform Society has helped run two citizens’ assemblies recently, and political scientists have been studying them for years, to most people the phrase ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ means little. Firstly, Parliament and your local council are not citizens’ assemblies. Rather than elections, the members of a citizens’ assembly are typically selected at random from the general public – like a jury. It is still up to elected politicians whether or not to follow the assembly’s recommendations”.


To quote from the Electoral Reform Society website: “A constitutional convention is a process for involving members of the public in making decisions about the constitutional shape of a country, region, nation or state. Conventions and assemblies on constitutional issues have been held in a number of countries and regions, including Ireland, Iceland and British Columbia. The UK also has experience of constitutional conventions, most notably the Scottish Constitutional Convention which paved the way for the creation of the Scottish Parliament…..It’s time for a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention to decide the future shape of our country”.


For comprehensive proposals to bring about fundamental change in how we do politics, see my blogpost Re-imagining Politics – A Collaborative Democracy


What can you do? Lobby your MP, use your vote and support the many campaigns for reform of our outdated democracy including proportional representation and a new written constitution.

Support campaigns for political reform: The Institute for Public for Public Policy Research, The Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, Electoral Reform Society , Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, People’s Vote and many more.


Bruce Nixon is an author, writer, speaker, blogger and activist.

I am so glad I was there at this historic event.

Stay in Europe Fix Britain

Over a million people came from all over the UK to demand a second peoples vote. It was such a happy event. It felt so good to be there with lovely people of good will, of all ages, in all their diversity, having a great time. Mark you, I was exhausted when I got home.

Me and My Friends from Berkhamsted

We may be at the beginning of a benign turning point after two and a half frustratiing and, for meny people, miserable years of uncertainty and political chaos. There is certainly a lack of great leadership. I remind myself that, in the history, sometimes things need to get disastously bad before a dramatic change comes about. We learn from our mistakes. Perhaps this is a 1940 moment. A National Government was formed, Churchill replaced Chamberlain and the nation was united in winning the war, ultimately with American help. Subsequently a number of great leaders created a post-war settlement including the NHS in UK and much later the Europen Union emerged after several forms of European collaboration. Part of the intention was to prevent further wars in Europe. Now is certainly a defining moment in the 21st Century for the UK and Europe. Europe will have to respond not only to some of the underlying causes of Brexit but other discontents such as the flaws in a system that extracts wealth from south to north.

Two little Girls with their Mum and Granny

As I write, signatures in the petition to revoke Article 50 approach six million. This can hardly be ignored by government or Parliament. So there is a good chance that there will not only be a Peoples Vote but that revoking article 50 will be included in it.

Music Maker

However, if the so – called Peoples Vote takes place it is vital we ensure that this time it is a properly conducted referendum.

Woman Sitting on Block

My view is that Brexit had no hope of working to the benefit of the nation. Inevitably it would lead to chaos and division. Furthermore it was a “solution” without a “problem”. The problems it was supposed to remedy had not been identified or properly defined first. No way to solve our problems. There were popular calls from certain politicians, such as the dubious “get back control”. Control for whom and for what purposes we may ask. Possibly to undo our high food standards and workers’ rights. Certainly there are many policies of the EU that need to be changed but that is not justify leaving. It requires vigorous action to bring about such changes.


The principle of subsidiarity applies to the European Union. Subsidiarity is a principle of social organization that holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate level that is consistent with their resolution. The principle of subsidiarity , laid down in the Treaty on European Union, defines the circumstances in which it is preferable for action to be taken by the Union, rather than the Member States.


Underlying the Leave vote are fundamental issues that have not been adressed for at least two generations. These problems would best be addressed by regional government supported by Westminster. Partly, Leave was a protest against Westminster, a centralising government seen as out of touch with the regions. Furthermore different parts of the UK wanted different things. People in the London area, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland largely wanted to remain. Likewise different generations had different views. The young whose future was at stake, some of whom were not eligible to vote, predominantly wanted to remain. In such circumsatances, with such a tiny majority of those who voted, no referendum could possiblly create a happy solution.


There are also all kind of processes that could get us out of this mess. These include Citizens Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions. Currently what the public see in the House of Commons is out-moded, often abusive, adversarial debate rather than constructive dialogue in which people listen to eachother and arrive at consensus. The search needs to be for win;win slolutions in preference to compromises. For a rich source of ideas including these approaches go to the Constitution Unit at University College London and sign up for their newsletter.


The Long Revolution We need to see this period of chaos a part of what the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) calls The Long Revolution. We have thoroughly out-dated political system which has reached crisis point. Right now, at last, we may be at a historic turning point.


What can you do? Lobby your MP, use your vote and support the many campaigns for reform of our outdated democracy including proportional representation and a new written constitution.

Support campaigns for political reform: The Institute for Public for Public Policy Research, The Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, People’s Vote and many more.


I shall be posting another blog when there are further developments and a way forward has been agreed.


Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness . He gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done.

Bruce Nixon



Parliament is unable to see the wood for the trees. We need a second Brexit referendum.

Amidst all the daily chaos in a quarrelling House of Commons, one simple fact remains. The often quoted “will of the people” is unknown. The 2016 referendum asking the people of the UK whether they wanted the country either to remain a member of or leave the European Union was deeply flawed. The diverse economic and social issues underlying what was in part a protest vote had not been defined as top priorities. And will certainly not be remedied by Brexit. Indeed leaving the EU will only make the situation worse, as is already happening.


Meanwhile our Government fails to address with urgency the existential crisis facing the world. The latest Institute for Public Policy Research report This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown, argues that this is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown warns that mainstream political and policy debates have failed to recognise that human impacts on the environment have reached a critical stage, potentially eroding the conditions upon which socioeconomic stability is possible. Human-induced environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace and the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes in societies around the world is rapidly closing. These outcomes include economic instability, large-scale involuntary migration, conflict, famine and the potential collapse of social and economic systems. The historical disregard of environmental considerations in most areas of policy has been a catastrophic mistake.

Now, children as young as five are due to be among the thousands of pupils walking out of their lessons as part of a climate change protest.


Brexit was the work of a few egoistic men, backed by big illegal money, partly provided by Aaron Banks, who showed little concern for the interests of the nation. They might be called psychopathic or narcissistic. They misinformed the public and misused social networking and Russian interference is alleged. The concept of “taking back control” is very dubious. Control for whom and for what purpose? Have those who use this phrase not heard of the principle of subsidiarity?


Corruption Arron Banks is being investigated over the Brexit campaign. Banks is the biggest individual donor in British political history, pouring millions of pounds into referendum campaigns.  These are astonishing exposures of corruption that adds to the case for constitutional reform, up – to – date surveillance and a second peoples’ vote. Also see Arron Banks and why he’s being investigated over the Brexit campaigning investigated over the Brexit campaign .


The problem with Brexit is that it is a supposed solution without a problem. Under a systemic approach, problems and key issues are identified first; then the desired state is envisaged and a comprehensive strategy is developed to bring it about. Of course we know that the Brexit vote was a protest about the failure of successive governments to create a prosperous new 21st century economy for the whole of the UK that would benefit all citizens. Brexit will only make the situation worse. Different parts of the UK will want different solutions. So power and financial resources must be devolved to the different countries and regions.


Under the principle of subsidiarity , “in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.” So we use it to create a level playing field in key areas such as healthy food and sustainable and humane agriculture.


The constantly repeated mantra “Brexit is the will of the people” is either unwitting misinformation or clever propaganda designed to mesmerise us.  Certainly, 52% of those who voted, voted leave and 48% voted to remain, a tiny difference. However, only 37% of electorate, representing 26% of “the people”, voted for Brexit. So 74% did not vote for Brexit. Did all those wanting to leave do so for the same reasons? Did they have a clear idea of what would follow? Many parts of the United Kingdom did not want to leave. There were huge differences depending on age. Sixteen and seventeen year olds, amongst those likely to be most adversely affected, had no vote. The referendum was poorly conceived and inappropriate for such a complex issue. And it was explicitly advisory.


People on both sides were misled and could not have known what the consequences would be. Now we know far more. Brexit is not the will of the Scottish people nor of those in London and the South East. Certainly it is not the will of most people under 45. The younger you are, the more likely you are to want Remain. 75% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted Remain. Most MPs, about 73%, are in favour of Remain.  Nowhere else in the world would 37% of an electorate constitute a mandate for major constitutional change. Generally a two thirds majority is required. The referendum was poorly conceived and inappropriate for such a complex issue.  This is another reason why we need a written constitution that sets out clearly how referenda must be conducted and the penalties for the sort of abuses set out above.

In these circumstances, a second referendum is the most democratic action for government to take.

A useful way of helping to reach consensus on issues such as membership of the European Union is the Citizens’ Assembly as described in these two articles: We can break the Brexit deadlock: with a citizens’ assembly. Put ordinary voters from both sides in a room and they may talk, listen and find a compromise. Such a process needs to be used in Parliament, instead of old-fashioned adversarial debate. People need to listen to each other. Consensus decision making decision-making is needed.


A very good analysis of the Brexit Referendum is provided by Wikipedia here


So what can people like you and I do?

  • Lobby your MP or candidate. Demand their commitment to PR, votes for 16-17 year olds and comprehensive constitutional reform in the next Parliament.


  • Support campaigns for political reform: Young People’s Party, For our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice, UK Youth Parliament, Compass-The Progressive Alliance, Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 50:50 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party, Voice4 Change, Young People’s Party, People’s Vote and many more. Young people’s campaign .

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution: A Call to Greatness . He gives talks on the situation we are in and what is to be done.


The case for a second poll grows by the day.

Here is a valuable article by Peter Kellner, published in the New European, 24 November 2018


The People’s Vote March to demand a final say on the Brexit deal. (Photo by Nicola Tree/Getty Images)

Leading pollster PETER KELLNER on the inexorable logic driving calls for a People’s vote.

Here is a thought experiment. Imagine that the Brexit referendum two years ago had weighted each vote by age. That is, the votes of 20 year-olds, with more than 60 years (on average) still to live, would have six time the weight of retired people with a life expectancy of ten more years. It would reflect the fact that the outcome of the current Brexit saga will affect young voters for far longer than those in their seventies or eighties.

Before anyone shrieks against this exercise in outrageous ageism, I am not actually proposing a change in the laws on referendums. But, as a theoretical exercise, it makes an important point. We know that young voters are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit, while older voters voted two-to-one to leave the EU.

I have taken YouGov’s analysis of the referendum result by the age of its respondents. My estimate is that such an age-weighted recalculation of the vote would have produced not a 52-48% majority for Brexit, but a clear majority, approaching 60-40%, for staying in the EU.

Back to reality: one person one vote – regardless of age – is, rightly, here to stay. But even on that basis, we are rapidly approaching the day when the declared result of the 2016 referendum can be called into question.

This argument does not depend on voters having the right to change their minds – though they do, and the minority of voters who have changed their mind have switched more from Leave to Remain than Remain to Leave. The argument here is more narrowly about demographics.

Around 600,000 Britons die each year; a further 700,000 reach voting age. Taking account of polling data about older voters, and recent surveys of the views of new voters, and allowing for the fact that older electors are more likely to vote than younger electors, we find that:

  • 320,000 Leave voters and 160,000 Remain voters die each year,
  • 395,000 Remain voters and 60,000 Leave voters reach voting age each year.

Combining these two sets of figures, and demography alone is shrinking the Leave majority by almost 500,000 a year, or 1,350 a day. As the overall Leave majority in the referendum was 1,269,501, the effect is to cause the Leave majority to disappear on January 19, ten weeks before the scheduled Brexit day.

That calculation is an estimate, subject to a margin of error. But the direction, and broad dimensions, of demographic change are clear. By March 29, around 1.6 million people will have died and almost two million youngsters will have gained the right to vote. Even without a single voter of two years ago changing their minds, Brexit will cease to be the desire of a majority of living voters in the early weeks of next year.

Put another way, those who say that it would be a democratic travesty to reverse the decision of the 2016 referendum are implicitly saying that, by next spring, the views of dead voters should still count, while the wishes of those who have reached the age of 18 since June 23, 2016 should be ignored.

To make this point is not in any way to concede the wider democratic argument about the case for a public vote. Polls since the agreement was announced have shown that most voters want a fresh referendum. By 59-41% (excluding don’t knows), voters want a public vote anyway; and the margin rises to almost two to one (64-36%) if no deal is approved and the choice is between no-deal and no Brexit. And support for Remain is also rising.

We should not be surprised. Fully 75% of the public believe that the Brexit being delivered is “nothing like that which was promised two years ago”. Just seven per cent disagree. A big majority thinks that Brexit “is turning into a disaster for our businesses, our public services and the future of our young people”.

Already in September, more people (44%) expected the economy to be weaker than stronger (21%). That two-to-one gulf has now widened to a four-to-one chasm. There has also been an increase in pessimism on the NHS, the standard of living, and the future prospects for today’s children, if Brexit goes ahead.

Views may change; and no government should ever be a slave to opinion poll findings. But in as far as the debate is about democracy and the will of the people, the case for sticking with the 2016 result is getting weaker by the day.

Peter Kellner is the former president of YouGov



BLOG – Review and Synopsis of The Business Plan for Peace – Building a World without War. By Dr Scilla Elworthy. November 2018


As I begin to write, it is Armistice Day when we honour the dead on both sides of the conflict. The best way to honour all those who lost their lives in the Great War and subsequent wars would be to commit to end war for good. In her book Scilla Elworthy shows us how this can be done. Her key message is: War is past its sell-by date.


This is a marvellous book both visionary and, as the title implies, hard-headed and pragmatic. It’s based on years of practical experience of peace-making and the prevention of violent conflict.

Key Themes


At the heart of this book is the belief that humans have the capacity to evolve and become more humane. There is a growing change of consciousness centred in Europe and much of North America. Thus peace and a future without mass violence is possible. Journalists on the whole tell a different story. There is a lack of balance. BBC and other media do not balance their reporting of violence with enough stories of those who prevent or reduce terror and courageously carry out other humanitarian acts. There is a need for media education. Terrorism should be deprived of the oxygen of publicity. However the media serve us by confronting us with the horror of what is happening to families, just like ours, suffering bombardment in the rubble of Syria. Every time I see this I think of my precious little two year old grandson. How can we be so inhumane?


At the centenary of the ending of World War 1, we are reminded of the horrors of the then new military technology that provided a massive killing machine in which millions of young men slaughtered each other for no good reason. Total deaths included from 9 to 11 million military personnel. The civilian death toll was about 8 million, including about 6 million due to war-related famine and disease.


The belief that it is necessary to hold massive weapons to prevent war dies hard. Significantly, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, USA, Russia, China, France and the UK are the top arms sellers. USA accounts for approximately half this expenditure. Britain is the second biggest arms dealer in the world  . These exports are said to be “essential for our security and prosperity”. But in fact they fuel war and contribute to the increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West. Far better to address the causes of war.


What astonishes me in Scilla’s book is the vast amounts spent on violence, and the money to be made from it, compared with the total underfunding of peace. In 2015, the economic impact of all violence was $13,600,000,000,000. Most of this is government spending on military and internal security. Useful sources of information include the  Global Peace Index (GPI) 2017 which measures the relative peacefulness of nations and regions and The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP). There are two divergent tendencies: richer countries tend to become more peaceful, poorer countries more violent.


The Economic losses from conflict in 2015 were $742bn compared with total peacekeeping $8.3bn. If the international community doubled peacebuilding over the next ten years the yield is calculated as $2.9 trillion. Currently we spend $9 billion annually on ice cream. A 2.5 percent tax on current annual arms sales – $94.5bn would yield about $2,360,000,000 that could be invested in addressing the root causes of conflict.


Vast sums are made from war: War makes a few extremely rich. Global military expenditure in 2016 was $1,686, 000,000,000  rising to $1.700, 000,000 in 2017 . According to the UN it would cost $340,000,000,000 to provide primary and secondary education to every child in the world and $28,400,000,000 per annum to provide basic water and sanitation services by 2030. Leaving an ample $1,317,600,000,000 for all other sustainable development goals. If we spent such sums on dealing with the causes of armed conflict, and preventing wars, we would have a very different world. Or, for example, training 40 million unemployed youth and educating 27 million not in education in the Middle East (World Economic Forum ).

There are two divergent tendencies: richer countries tend to become more peaceful; poorer countries become more violent.


Switching from war to peace. For example, Lockheed Martin in partnership with BAE Systems building a Joint Strike Fighter was estimated to cost in 2013 $400bn. BAE Systems and similar companies need to switch investment from fossil fuels to renewable energy would do far better to turn its attention to sustainability . The Lucas Aerospace Plan – The fight for useful work at Lucas Aerospace 1976  is a model for the world that was unfortunately not supported by the management or the Labour Government of the time. We now need a major campaign to accelerate widespread divestment from harmful activities into innovative financing linked to renewable energy, beneficial individuals and communities.


“If you want peace, don’t talk to your friends. Talk to your enemies.”

Desmond Tutu.


The need now is for dialogue and the skills to bring peace about. This was tried and tested successfully in South Africa following Nelson‘s release from prison. So we know it is possible. The basic principles are dialogue, prevention and early intervention. Western countries are perfectly capable of intervening with such an approach if they were so minded. The major obstacles are: disbelief in this possibility, mind-sets, fear, aggression, competition, and greed – and the vast sums to be made from war. Underlying violence is often a sense of humiliation or injustice.


Preventing violence at source – a software approach. The case of Syria offers an example of how a software approach could have worked. Protests began in January 2011, calling for democracy, an end to the state of emergency in force since January 1963 and an end to corruption. On 15 March a “Day of Rage” took place, considered to be a national uprising. The terrified Syrian regime became violent. Scilla describes how a different scenario could have developed. If the Syrian regime had shown willingness to listen a different scenario would have developed. Expert mediators could have worked with all parties to understand their demands and fears, then a series of meetings then propose terms for a series of meetings between the regime and leadership of protests, upholding the principle of respect for all sides.


Women are needed. This is not surprising. Scilla says research for this book has shown how vital is the work of women in stopping people killing each other. Example after example demonstrates their innate skill. Crisis Group has found that a peace agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years if women participate in its creation, yet until recently women made up only 2.5% of signatories to peace agreements. Thousands more women are needed at every level. Peace-building cannot succeed if half the population is excluded from the process.


Reversing climate change and the destruction of Planet Earth. However what I also find astonishing the low priority given to reversing climate change and the destruction of Planet Earth, our home. This other existential threat is already having disastrous consequences for human beings, rich and poor, and all life on the planet.


The Structure of the Book


The structure of the book is systematic: Part One. The Problem of War. Why it is in global interests to stop war. The costs of warfare to amounts spent on human needs. The drivers of war. Why war continues, whose interests it serves, how policy makers think, why people love to fight.


Part Two. How can war be stopped? Basic principles – dialogue, prevention and early intervention. Understanding motivation and how dialogue can begin. Basic strategy for building peace, the most effective methods, local, national and international. Costing the business plan for peace, first ever assessment of what a ten year strategy would cost, applying it to Syria as an example. The rise of citizen action, what works and what does not. What you can do. The qualities of people doing it and the skills you will need. Finally, a useful toolbox.

My conclusion is that ending war must become a mass movement. This requires a coalition or alliance of organisations such as those below. Who is up for leading that?

What you can do:

  • Be an activist.

“Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” Alice Walker

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness . It was Oxford Book of the Month November 2016.  Bruce gives participative talks on transforming UK Democracy. You can sign up for my occasional newsletter here










Remembering Keith, a Servant Leader

A national conversation about British capitalism is needed. Will Hutton, commenting on Philip Green’s downfall , says we should look closely at British capitalism. He argues that “British capitalism needs a root-and-branch makeover. We need more firms committed to creating value animated by a purpose. Firms that want to be great places to work, to serve their customers, to possess shareholders who take on that vision and to recognise their responsibility to the society of which they are part. A national conversation about how to do this has not even begun”.

Dr Keith Panton provides an example of  corporate leadership at its best. He was not ambitious in the ordinary sense, just enormously talented. He cared about his employees and country. He became the first black Jamaican to become Chairman and Chief Executive of Alcan Jamaica. He saved the company from closure and contributed to his country in many other ways. There are servant leadership organisations in the UK and USA. Executive of Alcan Jamaica.

Keith and Bruce Keith and Bruce

Early in January 1960, newly married, my wife and I flew to Jamaica on a Bristol Britannia that stopped off to refuel at Montreal in a snowstorm and then another stop in hot Bermuda. It was the start of an adventure that profoundly influenced me. I was to be personnel officer, helping to set up a personnel department at Alcan Jamaica’s (Aljam’s) newly-opened Ewarton plant. We started in a dusty hut before air conditioned offices were built. Two years later, Jamaica became independent. It was a time of great optimism, and we became very involved in Jamaican life. Two of our sons were born in Jamaica.

Three years later I moved to another personnel role in Aljam’s Kirkvine Head Office near Mandeville. But in 1965 we decided to return to UK. We wanted our two children to be nearer their grandparents. I had thought of staying in Jamaica, but I felt it made no sense for me to occupy a job for which there were equally if not more able Jamaicans. That’s when I met my successor Dr Keith Panton. I helped induct him into his new role. We immediately clicked. We were two young men – he a black Jamaican, I a white expatriate. We realised we had very similar values and hopes.

Soon after my wife and I set up home in UK, a large box of oranges arrived from St Elizabeth – Keith’s roots were in St Elizabeth and farming.  We lost contact until many years later when I wrote to Keith at a PO Box address in St Elizabeth. To my astonishment, I received an invitation from Keith to come out to the celebration of 40 years’ operation of Alcan in Jamaica. It was a fantastic event! When his son, David, and his daughter, Beth- Sarah, did post – graduate degrees at Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar) and Cambridge respectively, our two families became friends, exchanging visits.

By then Keith had become Chairman and CEO, the first black Jamaican in that role which he occupied for 12 years – the longest ever tenure. He saved the company from closure using German productivity improvement measures.

But German productivity methodology was not the only thing that saved Aljam. After listening to the Aljam President saying, again and again, why Alcan should remain in Jamaica and others saying why Alcan should not be in Jamaica at all, the Chairman decided to bring matters to a head. He invited Dr Panton and Dr Panton’s boss in to his office to make their different cases – Keith to keep Aljam open and running, and his boss – the Director of Raw Materials, to close it.

Very few people in the island knew about that momentous meeting. All they knew was that they came to work as usual, the plants kept running, and Ewarton Works went on to record production levels.

The master negotiator had won!

Keith had strong views on education. He believed that the Company could do more in this area, and he decided to do something about it. He introduced a programme where any employee’s child who qualified for University could attend and get Company support. This was not only a benefit for the children of Aljam employees; it was also a major contribution to education in Jamaica.

Keith was a quiet visionary.  He spearheaded the development of the Aljam vision, the by-line of which was – “Quietly achieving important goals”.

The country’s foremost orchidologist highlighted to him the fragility of the Island’s flora and the effects of bauxite mining on the delicate plants. He established sanctuaries for the tiny orchids that were found only in Jamaica.  Located at the Ewarton and Kirkvine mining areas, they were popular stops for tourists travelling from north to south coast.

His sensitive concern for Jamaica’s fragile environment went further. He established “The Alcan Chair for the Environment” at the University of the West Indies and secured a distinguished professor to be its first occupant. It is clear that Keith and I had similar priorities.

On my second visit, Keith took me all over the Island he loved, including some of Jamaica’s beautiful architectural heritage and one of the orchid sanctuaries.

After retiring he worked as a management consultant.  We worked together on an assignment for the University of the West Indies in Kingston and I did research for him at Oxford. Sometimes he just helped people out, like the man who came to him after losing his roof in the hurricane.

While at Aljam, he was ordained as an Anglican priest and, after retiring from Alcan, he was appointed Executive-in-Residence at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, while continuing his ministry. He was awarded the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship, joining a distinguished and select group of global leaders. The Government of Jamaica also honoured him for his service to the country by awarding him the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander.

 I remember Keith as a really lovely man, generous, very humorous, humble, and not ambitious in the ordinary sense, just enormously talented and a servant of his company, employees and country. I feel blessed to have known him as a friend.

This article is based on one first published 9th October 2015 in the Rio Tinto Emeritus magazine by Bruce Nixon with key contributions from Ransford Neil, formerly Keith’s Corporate Relations Manager.

Bruce Nixon is author of The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness . It was Oxford Book of the Month November 2016.  You can sign up for his occasional newsletter here