I make no apologies for going on at too great a length last time about the recent flooding. The real damage is not yet fully assessed and yet the whole fiasco is likely, once again, to slip into history - another case of ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind.’ Such an attitude must not prevail.
If I stand accused of taking a simplistic view of what others see as a complex issue, then so be it. Asking the question is often a prerequisite to finding the answer. I do not feel the least bit guilty. I can only say in defence that in business we would often demand a ‘single-mindedness of purpose’ as opposed to ‘a diversity of interests’ as an approach to solving many of our major problems. Looking back I am not at all embarrassed to recall that on various occasions I had to insist that my people, when considering a particular difficulty, must approach it as though they were seeing it through a long lens and a wide viewfinder.
In my defence, or at least an attempt at self-justification, it is quite true that in many instances we found, when confronted with a dilemma, (and surrounded by our advisers, consultants and such experts stating firmly that the problem ‘could not be resolved,’ and putting forward their very detailed and cogent reasons why), we would have a round-table discussion at which a good question to ask is for an explanation of their ‘WHY.’ When asked that question three or four times the explanations and the reasons invariably alter or disappear and the meeting, more often than not, would come up with an acceptable and viable solution. Clarification is the first step towards resolving the problem, whether it be large or small
I guard against the use of clichés. However many clever sayings have been attributed to Rudyard Kipling. The one below is one of my favourites, although when I first heard it I could swear that he had only four friends. Even so I still think it could be applicable to my wish for a holistic approach, by the powers that be, to this particular flooding problem.
I had six honest serving men,
They taught me all I knew,
Their names were if and why and when,
And how and where and who.
I am aware that I am getting close to one of my pet hates, pomposity, but I will take the risk. After all that has happened I understand that the cost of the consequential damages of the recent flooding is likely to be in excess of £17 billion - and that is only the direct costs. Surely the Authorities must now co-ordinate their efforts in achieving an integrated solution to the problem. Some lateral thinking is required. Dammit! They could even achieve some breathing space by embarking on a few select ‘river bypass’ schemes. Undoubtedly there are certain locations where immediate benefit could be gained by applying the same logic as to ‘motorway bypasses’ to prevent certain towns and villages being, in their case, flooded with traffic. They cannot be allowed to wait until the next time.
But enough about flooding, it is time to change the subject.
Some 10 years ago my friend Douglas published a book which was called ‘Standing Room Only.’ ’It was the result of much researching, on his part, concluding, in essence, that much of the world's problems stemmed from overpopulation.
Douglas has been my close friend for over half a century. We first met at the Royal Technical College. It was at a time when it was claimed that Imperial College, London, (founded in 1907), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (founded circa 1880), and the ‘Tech’ were all on par as the supreme science and technical colleges. I doubt whether that was actually the case then. But I think it was more imagined than real on my part, but, in any event, it certainly could not be claimed now. Nevertheless ‘The Tech’ has a long and noble history.
In a restructuring of technical education in 1887, Anderson's College merged with the young Chair of Technical Chemistry, the College of Science and Arts, Atkinson's and Allan Glen's Institutions to form the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. Anderson's College Medical School became a separate institution at this time; day and evening courses were offered in science, engineering, weaving, pharmacy, architecture and design and music.
At the invitation of His Majesty King George V, the College adopted the name Royal Technical College in 1912 and was renamed the Royal College of Science and Technology in 1956, (at which, by the way, Joyce studied for her honours degree), before the College, receiving its own Royal Charter as the University of Strathclyde in 1964. Strathclyde University, with its many faculties for university status, may have lost some of its eminence as a centre of excellence for scientific and technical research and education, although much good work is still being carried out there. As a point of interest, it was at that university that my daughter Lindsay was granted an honours degree in Town Planning and I, somewhere along the way, was made an honorary life member of the athletic club for services to sailing.
However, I have deviated from the point of discussion - Douglas's book. The book as I said was published some 10 years ago and, if I remember correctly, he argued effectively about the dangers of a world population explosion, listing the frightening amount of humans added each year, a startling review on fuel reserves and future energy demands and argued, even then, that global warming was a threat. He expressed concerns about the assumption that there would be enough food, and enough water to serve the growing numbers, who will, in turn inevitably create too much pollution. His book ended with a summary of statistics that would alarm most right-minded people.
10 years is a long time, in public opinion, and I am quite sure Douglas's views would have wider acceptance now, gaining consensual agreement in many authoritative quarters, and be seen as common sense by others. I think he should reprint it as I am confident it would have a more favourable reception in today's climate. However, he is presently far too busy running his many companies which occupy more and more of his time. He, for one, is certainly someone with a single-mindedness of purpose to problems; no deviation, no subtlety and is straight to the point. His tremendous enthusiasm and energy has to be admired but I am somewhat sad to witness, through pressure of business, a slight cooling off of his long-standing, true and faithful relationship with the lady ‘Contender’.
They have both shared a close and caring association for many years now, in real terms of intimacy she giving him great satisfaction, and it would be a pity to see it break up. The ‘Contender’ is indeed some lady. She is, of course, his 10 tonne sailing yacht. I am told he is also cutting back on his tennis this year
By the way, readers may remember me telling them earlier about a marvellous party in Gleneagles to celebrate a 80 years ‘young’ birthday party – well, it was Douglas's party.
My computer friend has been somewhat quiet during this chapter, and frankly so he should be. He has been a little troublesome and whilst I am told, by others, that it is quite normal, they do not realise that he and I make up a partnership and I need him. I know from time to time he throws a tantrum, (as it is his want), but it is a pity he feels it necessary to shore his independence in this way. Thankfully his show of petulance does not last long.
Wasn't it Bill Gates, at a recent international conference on Information Technology, stated somewhat portentously, “If General Motors, at their conception, had the benefit of computers, we would all, by now, be driving automobiles costing less than $25 and travelling with at least 1000 miles to the gallon.” And was it not the President of General Motors who replied “Hell! And if the automobile industry had had the benefit of computers at the very beginning you would all be driving cars that crashed at least twice every day!”
Posted on 10 September 2007 – Single-mindedness of Purpose