The cost of living crisis – was it always inevitable? 

is the cost of living crisis caused by a growing global middle class pushing up the price of scarce resources?

It’s possible that the current cost of living crisis in the UK is due to a long term trend of a growing middle class increasing demand for scarce natural resources, which pushes their prices up, further compounded by an increase in wages and thus cost of production as developing countries have become richer since the 1960s.

While this is clearly positive development, we in the UK have not invested sufficiently in the kind of technologies which could have helped us live more efficiently and thus protected us against the current short term shocks which have led to spikes in the cost of energy, raw materials and food.

The cost of living crises: a long term trend?

The UK government’s line on the cost of living crisis is that it’s driven by the post-pandemic squeeze on supply chains, and the war in Ukraine restricting the supply of raw materials, food and energy. 

And the government can’t admit this but there’s a lot of objective data that suggests the current crisis has been made slightly worse by BREXIT making it more difficult for British Business to trade with Europe. 

However I think there’s something more fundamental going on – in that even without the above three mega-events – we’d still be seeing an increase in the cost of living in the UK – all these events have done is rapidly accelerate a trend that was always inevitable given the trajectory of our high-consumption global development over the last several decades. (Moreover at least two of the above events are symptoms of that same economic trajectory).

The prices of energy, food, and the raw materials we need to keep our industries going, build our houses with and make the stuff we all want, are determined in a global economic system of demand and supply. 

This is just basic economics – the more demand there is for goods, the more the prices of those goods increase, and the less supply there is of those goods, again, the more the prices increase. 

A Growing Global Middle Class

Over the past several decades developing countries have become wealthier – in population terms the main drivers for this are China, India and also countries in South America – and we’ve seen a massive increase in the middle classes in those countries. 

Research by PEW (1) has found that in 1975 the global middle class numbered 1 billion, by 2006 it numbered 2 billion and by 2015 there were 3 billion people in the global middle classes. 25% of these live in advanced economies and 40% live in the BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China, with the rest living in other countries. 

Brookings (2) put the size of the global middle class at 3.8 BN in 2018, the point at which there were equal middle class and rich consumers relative to those classified as poor and vulnerable. 

This is a huge success story for global development – with literally billions of people being lifted out of poverty and into relative affluence but this has also meant a huge increase in demand on the limited global resource base – on energy, food, and various raw materials. 

We now have billions of more consumers demanding those resources that only a few decades ago a scant billion living mainly in affluent Europe and America could afford.  

Just one indicator of this is the increase in demand for beef since the 1960s (3) – a very inefficient use of land per calories –  but nonetheless something that consumers clearly want to eat more of as their incomes increase…

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, in the post-colonial era, it used to be the case that the raw materials we used to import, and increasingly the finished products (clothes, cars, and increasingly tech gadgets) we imported were cheap because of ‘our’ relative wealth and ‘their’ relative poverty – we benefited not only from being the only ones able to afford cars and consumer durables (low demand on raw materials = cheap resources) but also their cheap labour due to the relative differences in wealth between developed and less developed countries. 

But now that many of those once poor countries aren’t so poor, we’ve got the double-whammy of more demand on those limited global resources and having to pay higher wages to the people in China (mainly China) who want to earn enough to buy the very same products they are making. 

So I think what we are seeing now is basically just a more crowded marketplace, more demand for limited resources, more demand for higher wages, and thus higher prices for basic products. 

Of course it’s not just the free market that determines these prices (there is no such thing as a purely free market) – the power of Nation States also comes into play – as they try to use policy-led coercion or brute force to secure cheap resources for their populations – according to David Harvey this is what the illegal U.S. War in Iraq was about – all about oil – and it’s probably what Putin’s war in Ukraine is about – Ukraine has lots of natural resources and it’s a bread-basket – as Putin sees it (probably) that is massive region full of natural resources that he wants to secure for Russia rather than those resources being sold (on the ‘free’ market to European countries. 

And this also explains why ‘enlightened’ states in Europe and America are prepared to put up with human rights abuses in Qatar and Saudi-Arabia – they have huge oil reserves to put it bluntly and death sentences for gay people isn’t going to over ride the perceived importance of maintaining access to that of so precious resource – and oil of course isn’t only necessary to keep our cars on the road it’s also necessary to keep our military machines operating – so these unsavoury relationships are about maintaining both economic and military power. 

Extraction of Profit from the U.K. over Investment?

Now to my mind we could, as a nation, have secured ourselves against this inevitable cost of living crisis driven ultimately by resource scarcity in the context of an increasingly wealthy global population, but we didn’t. 

Instead we as consumers have squandered a decent portion of our wealth on consumer frivolities (holidays, throw away clothes, meals out etc. etc.), take on more debt than we needed to in order fund high-consumption lifestyles, and just generally been very wasteful.

Moreover, the global companies who have worked to bring us these products have extracted huge amounts of profit out of the country which is now sitting in tax havens, and, as a form of capital, is used by mainly the top 10% of global population, especially the top 1% to maintain their power and comfortable lifestyles, rather than being invested back into sustainable solutions for a sensible-consumption global future (more of that later). 

A good example of how profit and capital has been used by the wealthy to benefit themselves rather than societies is the property boom in London – with billions of pounds being spent on investment properties to secure a nice lifestyle in a vibrant global city which has pushed the cost of housing up astronomically so that now even young professionals have to spend half their income just to rent a room in a shared house. And London isn’t the only city this has been happening in either. 

Granted some of our wealth has gone to fund education, health and pensions, but these are creaking, and these could have been much better funded. (The average person in the UK is much better off in this regard than the average person in the U.S.) 

So after several decades of (granted successful) development we’ve now got a super rich global elite who are sitting on piles of money, which is perversely contributing to rising prices itself (in the form of property price increases) and four decades of underinvestment in those technologies which could have if not averted the current cost of living crisis certainly helped to lessen its impact. 

The Cost of Living Crises could Have been Avoided!

Just think what all of those trillions of extracted wealth could have done if invested in ultra-energy efficient infrastructure, local energy production (yes, sorry, solar and wind if combined with efficiency can go a LONG way to securing our energy needs!) and local sustainable food production – we’d be much more resilient to the kind of global market shocks we’ve seen since the Pandemic!  

Final thoughts/ Disclaimers

NB this is just a working theory, but TLDR – we were always going to have a cost of living crisis in the U.K at some point! 

P.S. also keep this in mind – the top 10% of people in the UK are in a much better position to weather this current cost of living crisis, the top 1% won’t even feel it at all! 

P.P.S when thinking about policy solutions to the Cost of Living Crisis – remember this – the Tory party (especially Rishi Sunak whose wife is the daughter of the CEO of one of India’s largest tech companies) have a global perspective – gleaming extreme teeth-whitened smile aside, good old Rish is probably  NOT thinking primarily about the well-being of the average British-bound person in the U.K. – he is more likely to be thinking about what’s good for him and his extensive network of global elite colleagues (the top 0.01% in his case).

From the perspective of the global elite, an increasing cost of living in the UK is not necessarily bad for them because they are globally mobile – they can base themselves in different countries to avoid the worst excesses of economic crises as they move around the globe, while the average UK citizen is ‘doomed to be local’ and suffer at the hands of Rishi’s piecemeal policies, which IMO are just about enough to give him a chance of being voted back into power in a few years, good old Rish!  

Signposting and sources

This is an overdue personal rant relevant to the Global Development option, part of the A-level in Sociology specification

Sources

  1. PEW: How a growing global middle class could help save the world’s economy
  2. Brookings: A global tipping point
  3. Our World in Data

COP 27 – A Sociological Analysis

COP 27 – where 198 nations met to discuss climate change and agreed to do very little about it!

36 000 people representing 198 nations, companies, international organisations and civil society met in Egypt in November 2022 to try and agree further commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming, but little progress was made.

This post summarises the outcomes and applies some sociological concepts to this contemporary event.

What is COP 27?

Cop stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ who meet to discuss actions to combat climate change under the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. In 2022 this was attended by representatives of 198 countries and several other representative from companies, international organisations and civil society groups.

2022 was the 27th international meeting on Climate Change since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, this year it was held in Egypt and was attended by 35 000 people.

Paris 2015

The 2015 COP meeting in Paris was especially signficant because this was the first time countries agreed to try and reduce global warming to within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels by the year 2030.

Nationally Determined Contributions

Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs are fundamental to reducing global emissions and keeping the rate of global warming in check. They are specific country agreements which contain policy measures countries are prepared to implement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries are supposed to publish these regularly, but only 24 had published revised NDCs since the previous COP meeting in Glasgow in 2021 and only 54 countries have long-term plans for reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Main Outcomes of COP 27

The main outcomes of Cop 27 were:

  • The creation of a loss and damage fund to compensate developing countries for the disproportionate damage they have suffered from climate change caused primarily by developed countries which have been the main beneficiaries of the wealth generated by the industrial revolution. However there are no details of who is going to contribute, when, to what organisations or how much money is involved.
  • Countries failed to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to hit the 1.5 degree increase by 2020 target, although in the last year a few countries have got more ambitious and so now we are on target to only increase out emissions by 10% rather than 13%.
  • Countries failed to commit to phasing out all fossil fuels, although they recommitted to phasing out the use of coal which had been introduced as part of Cop 26 in Glasgow.
  • There was a commitment to scale up the use of low emission energy, although gas might be redefined as low emission because it’s less toxic than goal and oil.
  • There was a recommitment by developed countries to provide $100 billion in funding to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change by funding projects such as sea defences and reforestation. However only $20 billion in funding has been provided since this was first agreed in 2021 and this year some countries tried to remove this commitment.
  • There are plans in place to restructure the World Bank so that it can provide funding to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change.
  • Copy 27 recognised that there might be ‘tipping point’s as the climate warms – once we get above a certain temperature things might get rapidly worse as climate change doesn’t happen in a smooth and linear fashion. They also recognised that climate change has a negative impact on people’s health which is a basic human right.

Criticisms of COP 27

Great Thunberg didn’t attend COP 27 because she accused the attendees of Greenwashing which is where governments use the international conference to make it appear like they are doing something about Climate Change but in reality they are not.

If you look back at the ‘achievements’ above you can clearly see that while these commitments are dressed up as ‘progress’ in reality very little has been achieved since Paris in 2015.

More radical climate activists such as Great Thunberg and organisations such as 350.0rg believe that we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels much ore rapidly and that it is possible to transition to fully renewable energy supplies such as solar and wind much sooner than 2030, but there just isn’t the political will to do so.

350.0rg’s demands.

Sociology applied to COP 27

COP 27 is an example of globalisation in action as this is one of the largest international meetings in history, attended by representatives of nearly every country on earth.

There is very little substance to any of the actions agreed upon at COP 27 and specific progress towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels remains extremely limited. This suggests that if there is any kind of consensus at the level of national governments (or nation states) then that consensus is to do relatively little about getting global warming under control by 2030.

Nation States seem more committed on prioritising economic growth and poverty alleviation and setting up resilience funds to help poor countries deal with the negative effects of climate change, rather than a radical shift away from fossil fuels, suggesting support for the Marxist view that nation states are in alliance with the polluting fossil fuel companies.

There is a considerable portion of civil society (i.e. ordinary people) who think governments aren’t doing enough fast enough to combat global warming and climate change. For example Just Stop Oil have been active recently shutting down motorways, mainly representing the young rather than the old, and another organisation is 350.0rg who believe that a much faster transition to renewable energy is possible!

Anthony Giddens has said that Nation States are too small to deal with global problems – maybe we are seeing that here – while some nation states have committed to reducing emissions, most have not, and there’s not very much the committed states can do to force the others into following suit!

Signposting

The environment and development is one of the topics within the Global Development option on the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.

Sources

UK Parliament: House of Lords Library: COP 27 Progress and Outcomes

The Guardian: What are they key outcomes of COP 27 climate agreement?

United Nations: COP 27

Is the Environmental Crisis Built on Systemic Racism..?

You’re more likely to live next to a waste incinerator in the UK if you’re black compared to if you’re white, and thus more likely to be breathing in toxic fumes.

The same trend is also true globally: ‘people of colour’ living in the global south are more likely to suffer environmental harms associated with climate changed compared to the majority white populations of the global north.

This is according to a recent report: Confronting Injustice: Racism and the Environmental Emergency jointly published in 2022 by Greenpeace and The RunnyMede Trust.

This report makes the very dramatic claim the current environmental crisis is based on a history of systemic racism rooted in Colonialism and in this post I summarise this report and suggest some limitations of it.

The Environmental Crisis is Built on Systemic Racism…

(Quite a claim!)

The report notes that it is mainly countries in the global south – mainly Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Africa – which have to bear the costs of global warming. It is these poorer countries which suffer economic setbacks because of increased sea level rises flooding land and destructive ‘extreme weather events’ such as cyclones. The report estimates that Mozambique, in Southern Africa suffered more than $3 Billion of environmental damages in 2019, for example.

Another dimension of ‘environmental racism’ is how the mainstream media under-reports man-made environmental humanitarian disasters in the global south compared to ‘white victories’ such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos space flight programmes….

And one further example lies in how Indigenous activists lives are put in danger.

Colonialism, Extractivism and Racism

The report also highlights three case studies of how colonial powers set up in developing countries (then simply their colonies) and systematically went about displacing indigenous peoples in order to extract resources for profit.

The three examples provided are Shell extracting Oil in Nigeria, and the displacement of the Ogoni people; the destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and the establishment of meat and soy production and also the establishment of industrial scale fishing in Western Africa which has ruined local communities which used to rely on small scale fishing.

The report also covers the waste aspect of Environmental Racism – countries such as the UK tend to ship their toxic waste to poorer countries who often have lower pollution standards – so poor people end up recycling metal from plastic by burning the plastic for example….

Find out More…

There is more in the report such as how environmental racism works in the UK and how we can tackle climate change by simultaneously tackling racism in society, and I recommend you give it read: Confronting Injustice: Racism and the Environmental Emergency.

Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This contemporary report is clearly relevant to the Environment topic within the Global Development module, and you will also find lots of supporting case studies which support Dependency Theory.

In terms of social theory, this is a great contemporary example of ‘grand theorising’ – there’s nothing postmodern about this, and in fact reports leading to theorising such as this implicitly criticise the concept of postmodernity.

Sociological Perspectives on the War in Ukraine…

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having profound negative implications for not only Ukrainians but also the populations of every European country, and Russia itself.

This post explores some of the sociological concepts we might use to better understand the war and its consequences….

Students need to be able to apply contemporary events to their answers in their exams where ever possible, and this event is the most recent and ‘highest consequence’ event since the Pandemic, so it’s worth thinking about how you can make it relevant.

Global Development

This conflict is immediately relevant to the War and Conflict topic. It reminds us that conflicts do not only happen in the developing world and it’s also a grim reminder of the extreme social and economic consequences of war.

The war has disrupted the majority of Ukraine’s businesses meaning it’s economic output is well down, including its wheat production – which has implications for the cost of basic food stuffs in other countries as wheat is one of Ukraine’s major exports.

Also the damage done to infrastructure in Ukraine is going to mean billions of pounds of rebuilding after the war is over, hopefully sooner rather than later!

Crime and Deviance

Under United Nations conventions Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is illegal – one country isn’t supposed to invade another member country of the UN without the agreement of all the other nations, and Russia doesn’t have this consent in this case.

From a ‘human rights perspective’ this invasion is also a disaster – Russia is shelling civilian areas and killing children, and allegedly forcibly deporting prisoners of war back to Russia.

However the international community has been powerless to prevent this invasion, showing us that those Nation States with huge military power still have the capacity to do what they want.

European nations are generally in consensus about the immorality and illegality of the war, but that’s nominal (in name only) – but they aren’t prepared to go to war with Russia preferring ‘softer’ sanctions such as stopping buying Russian oil, but so far that is having limited affect.

The Family

The issue migration is relevant here. Consider the contrast between how the UK welcomed wealthy Russian Oligarchs since the collapse of the Soviet Union, without really asking any questions about how they accumulated their wealth or what links they may have had to an increasingly repressive regime under Putin. In sociological terms these are the ‘global elite’ – countries tend to try to attract these types of immigrant by offering favourable tax policies and turning a blind eye to any shady business and political connections they may have.

Contrast this to the difficulties so many Ukrainian refugees have faced trying to get into Britain despite the fact that there are people who have signed up to let them live in their houses. The Home Office seems to be deliberately delaying the issuing of visas – this is typical, countries tend not to welcome the poor and needy.

Other relevant posts

You might also like to read this post on the relationship between the war and globalisation.

Not All Afghan Women Feel Oppressed by the Taliban…

If you want an alternative point of view on the Taliban’s take over of Afghanistan, you should try following @janeygak on twitter.

She is pro-Taliban, anti-American, anti-liberal, and very active on twitter – constantly putting out tweets and re-tweets, such as this, stating that she doesn’t care about inclusivity or diversity in the Taliban government…..

And this is her take on capital punishment, she supports it…

NB – the account is semi-anonymous, I’m going with this article from CNN as confirmation that this is a woman rather than a man.

Either way, whatever the gender, it’s a great source to see the perspective of the other – most definitely NOT the mainstream American liberal view of what’s happening in Afghanistan at the moment.

NB – I don’t endorse any of her views, or those she retweets, this is strictly in the interests of giving some exposure to, a voice to someone actually inside Afghanistan, and it should help bust a few myths about how the ‘oppression of women’ works in Afghanistan.

This particular woman certainly isn’t oppressed.

NB – she’s also a bit fan of Bitcoin, in fact she provides a link to her Bitcoin wallet in her profile, and the reason she supports this cryptocurrency is because it’s a means whereby countries such as Afghanistan can break their dependence on US Aid and the US dollar more generally.

There’s a lot of commentary on how the Western media misreport what’s going on in Afghanistan, this is kind of like the modern day version/ interpretation of Neo-Marxist views of the media, but coming from an Islamist perspective.

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Japan to Release Fukushima Nuclear Waste into the Sea

Japan announced today that it’s going to release one million tonnes of contaminated water from the old Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea – which will no doubt have negative consequences for fishing around Japan and maybe in neighbouring countries.

It was 10 years ago when an earth quake ruined the nuclear plant, putting it out of action, and 10 years on the Japanese government is still dealing with its legacy – a toxic radioactive legacy that is going to linger for many years into the future.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a great example of how large scale modernist projects can go very wrong and cause enormous high level environmental damage. When we way up the huge costs of nuclear disasters such as this, it makes smaller scale renewable energy systems look much more appealing.

It’s also a reminder not to trust BIG tech or governments – the two together are required to build and back huge high tech projects like nuclear power – and when they go wrong, it’s the government that has to deal with the problems, and in this case we can see that they don’t have any decent answers – other than holding onto the waste and then finally releasing it.

All in all, it’s a great argument for people centred development, small scale solutions to meeting our energy needs!

Sociological Observations on the UK’s Vaccine Role-Out

The UK has vaccinated more people (proportionate to population) than any other country:

This is probably due to a combination of the following:

  • A successful ‘social policy’ initiative by the UK government – a sustained focus on getting as many people as possible vaccinated in as short a time as possible and the funding to match.
  • Our National Health Service – so having the infrastructure in place already to enable a relatively easy roll-out of the vaccinations.
  • The fact that UK companies are in the front-line of researching and producing the vaccine – so our ‘industrial and knowledge infrastructure’.
  • Possibly the high level of trust people place in the medical profession (not so much in the government).

However, ethnic and class inequalities are still in evidence:

It’s interesting that the UK is so far ahead of the rest of the EU in rolling out the vaccine, so clearly this isn’t just a matter of ‘developed’ countries being better equipped to roll out mass vaccination programmes.

However I think it’s certainly the case that without a functioning Nation State a mass vaccination programme would be much more difficult to roll-out and track.

Ethnic minorities are less likely to have received the vaccine

Lower social classes are less likely to have received the vaccine:

You should be able to apply some perspectives and sociological concepts to analyse why this may be the case – perhaps lower levels of trust in institutions by these groups?

Interestingly India has just started a mass roll-out of vaccines, aiming to inoculate 300 million people by August – I have a feeling they are going to hit their target, despite the much larger number of people and larger geographical area!

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How Pollution and Toxic Waste harm development

Western models of development are built around high levels of production and consumption to increase economic growth, and all other things being equal, the more we produce and consume, the more pollution and waste we produce.

According to the World Health Organisation, Air Pollution kills 7 million people a year, most of whom live in developing countries.

This recent report outlines the 15 most polluted cities in the world, 10 of which are in India, which reflects the extent to which India’s recent development has been dependent on the largely unregulated use of fossil fuels (coal and oil) in recent decades.

There are some regions of earth where pollution is particularly intense, and these tend to be areas of resource extraction or industrial manufacture in countries with lax environmental legislation.

One well-known historical example of this is Shell’s oil extraction operations in the Niger Delta – where huge amounts of oil have leaked into local water ways, destroying local economies and ‘gas flaring’ is used to burn off excess gas generated during the oil extracting process. You can explore this more in this video: Poison Fire.

There are also certain regions of China which are very polluted, and this is something Anna Lora-Wainwright (2018) explored in her recent ethnographic study – Resigned Activism – Living with Pollution in Rural China.

NB – this isn’t ‘ordinary pollution’ she’s looking at – she studied three villages in total, all of which are coping with the effects of large-scale industrial pollution because of the heavy manufacturing or waste disposal that occurs in those areas. All of these villages have well over the national average of cancer deaths reported, and it’s obvious the pollution is the problem

One village was dealing with phosphorus pollution, another Zinc and Lead pollution and the third the pollution from electronic waste. The later village has global notoriety – Guiyu is well known as the world’s largest e waste site.

Lora-Wainwright focused on how people responded when they knew they were being subjected to a significant cancer risk from pollution – how they organised and protested, but also how they just coped on a day to day basis -living with things such as polluted water that’s going to give you cancer if you drink it.

She also focused on how this all ties in with the wider Chinese government’s industrialization agenda and the fact that the government would rather keep reports about such pollution quiet.

The book is currently under revision, but you can listen to a podcast which summarises the findings here.

It is not just industrial production processes that cause environmental problems, it’s also people’s increasing levels of consumption and the amount of domestic waste generated….

One country which faces a real challenge with pollution from domestic waste is Indonesia, a densely populated country where residents have developed the habit of throwing their rubbish in the river, resulting in one of Indonesia’s river’s: The Citarum being dubbed ‘the dirtiest river in the world’, explored in this 2020 DW Documentary.

Discussion Question: do you think industrial capitalist models of development can ever be sustainable? 

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Global Warming and the threat to Human Development

This post explores the extent to which Global Warming poses a threat to continued social and economic development.

According to the latest data from Climate.gov global warming is currently causing sea levels to rise by 0.3 centimetres a year, which means that sea levels may have risen by up to 2.5 metres by 2100.  

A recent report by Climate Central (2019) suggests that 300 million people live in areas that will be subject to severe flooding due to climate change, China and Bangladesh have the most people living in at-risk areas.

The Polynesian Island of Tuvalu, population 11 000, is on the frontline of Sea Level Rise – located in the Pacific Ocean this is a thin slip of an Island where the residents are now struggling to survive because of rising sea levels. This Guardian article (2019) takes an in-depth look the problems the residents face. There is a very real chance all of these people could end up being climate change refugees within the next decade. NB the United Nations is aware of their plight, but it’s difficult to see what we can do that is practical.  

This documentary from 60 Minutes Australia (2019) explores the rapid disappearance of parts of the Solomon Islands, where sea levels have increased by up to 15 centimetres in the last 20 years:

From a research methods perspective this is interesting as one researcher used old photos to compare where some of the islands used to be compared to their reduced sizes today; and there are also interviews with people who grew up on the islands – some of the places they used to picnic as kids are now gone forever, completely under water!

The Global Climate Risk Index is a useful broader source than the above – it focuses more on all extreme weather events, so not just flooding (also droughts and extreme weather events).

NB – just to reiterate that the latest modelling suggests that if anything sea levels are rising FASTER than previously projected, so these problems are set to get worse!

Why are so many Nigerian schoolchildren being kidnapped?

More than 600 students have been abducted from schools in the North West of Nigeria since December 2020.

The latest Mass kidnapping was in late February 2021, when over 300 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school, although they were released after a relatively short period of time afterwards.

This rather grim trend is clearly relevant to the Global Development topic within A-level sociology, especially the education topic.

Why are so many girls in Northern Nigeria being abducted?

The roots of this practice can be traced back to Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group originally founded by Mohammed Yusuf (since deceased) – the name of the group literally means ‘Western Education is Banned’ and in 2014 this was the group who gained global notoriety when they abducted 300 schoolgirls, leading to the ‘Bring Back our Girls Campaign’.

Since then Boko Haram has gone through various shifts and split in two, and probably has less power now than it did back in 2014, however, they seem to have set something of a trend with their kidnapping of girls tactics.

Since then, thousands of children have been kidnapped, but now it is not politically motivated as it was with Boko Haram, there are just rogue gangs who are now kidnapping literally for the ransom money.

There are alleged cases of organised gangs being not only paid off by local officials for returning kidnapped girls, but not even being punished, but being pardoned, and this has only attracted more people to do likewise.

It seems that dire poverty in Northern Nigeria is driving people to do this, and it’s also driving the army to not be too bothered about tracking down kidnapped children.

There’s lots of links to A-level sociology here – obviously this is a tricky barrier to development – this is happening because of poverty, local political corruption, geography – it’s very sparse in the North of Nigeria, making kidnapping an easy crime to commit.

Clearly this is going to prevent development because of the disruption to education – it’s not only the kids actually getting abducted, but it’s also children being taken out of school by parents for fear of them being abducted.

And as with so many things in development, the solutions here are not that obvious!

Also note the links to Right Realist theories of Crime – namely rational choice theory!

Find out more…

This BBC News article summarises the latest trends.

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