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George Monbiot



Archive of his syndicated column about international and British politics and issues, arranged by topic.



Updated: 2018-04-20T08:54:53Z

 



Close Harmony

2018-04-06T12:23:27Z

Why loneliness afflicts us – and how we should address it, in words and music A 20-minute video of a talk and concert by George Monbiot and Ewan McLennan, TEDxSouthampton,…

Why loneliness afflicts us – and how we should address it, in words and music

A 20-minute video of a talk and concert by George Monbiot and Ewan McLennan, TEDxSouthampton, 23rd January 2017

 

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The Mess We’re In

2018-04-06T12:28:28Z

How did neoliberalism happen and what do we do about it? A one-hour video of a discussion with John Lanchester at the London Review Bookshop, 14th July 2016

How did neoliberalism happen and what do we do about it?

A one-hour video of a discussion with John Lanchester at the London Review Bookshop, 14th July 2016

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How to Really Take Back Control

2018-04-06T12:28:19Z

Our multiple crises, and how we can escape them A 1-hour video of George Monbiot speaking at Falmouth University, 17th March 2018

Our multiple crises, and how we can escape them

A 1-hour video of George Monbiot speaking at Falmouth University, 17th March 2018

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Replacing Neoliberalism

2018-04-06T12:28:08Z

A new politics needs a new political narrative A 13-minute video with George Monbiot for openDemocracy, 14th November 2017  

A new politics needs a new political narrative

A 13-minute video with George Monbiot for openDemocracy, 14th November 2017

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Betrayal

2018-04-06T12:28:00Z

Those who claim to defend the national interest are bent on its destruction A 5-minute video with George Monbiot for Double Down News, 15th November 2017  

Those who claim to defend the national interest are bent on its destruction

A 5-minute video with George Monbiot for Double Down News, 15th November 2017

 

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Towering Injustice

2018-04-06T12:24:19Z

Those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire were killed in an official war against public protections A 4-minute video with George Monbiot by Double Down News, 11th July 2017…

Those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire were killed in an official war against public protections

A 4-minute video with George Monbiot by Double Down News, 11th July 2017

 

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The Day I Became a Vegan

2018-04-06T12:22:04Z

The extraordinary sequence of events that changed my diet A 5-minute video with George Monbiot for Double Down News

The extraordinary sequence of events that changed my diet

A 5-minute video with George Monbiot for Double Down News

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A Corporation in Human Form

2018-04-06T12:27:52Z

What drives Donald Trump – and the rest of the psychopathic political class A 5-minute video with George Monbiot, by Double Down News, 7th August 2017

What drives Donald Trump – and the rest of the psychopathic political class

A 5-minute video with George Monbiot, by Double Down News, 7th August 2017

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Ignoble Prize

2018-04-06T12:24:12Z

If the Nobel Peace Prize means anything, it should be stripped from Aung San Suu Kyi for her complicity in the massacres in Myanmar/Burma A 4-minute film with George Monbiot…

If the Nobel Peace Prize means anything, it should be stripped from Aung San Suu Kyi for her complicity in the massacres in Myanmar/Burma

A 4-minute film with George Monbiot by Double Down News, 18th September 2017

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Putting the World to Rights

2018-04-06T12:27:42Z

How to fix our broken politics A 30-minute podcast by George Monbiot with David Runciman for Talking Politics, 15th March 2018 https://www.acast.com/talkingpolitics/georgemonbiot  

How to fix our broken politics

A 30-minute podcast by George Monbiot with David Runciman for Talking Politics, 15th March 2018

https://www.acast.com/talkingpolitics/georgemonbiot

 




What Makes Us Human

2018-04-06T12:23:20Z

The extraordinary, under-recognised aspects of human nature A 20-minute podcast of George Monbiot’s discussion with Jeremy Vine, Radio 2, 2nd March 2018 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05zwvbg

The extraordinary, under-recognised aspects of human nature

A 20-minute podcast of George Monbiot’s discussion with Jeremy Vine, Radio 2, 2nd March 2018

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05zwvbg




Aquamancy

2018-04-06T12:26:25Z

How natural flood management could save homes and lives downstream A 40-minute video of George Monbiot’s testimony to the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, 3rd February 2016.

How natural flood management could save homes and lives downstream

A 40-minute video of George Monbiot’s testimony to the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, 3rd February 2016.

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The Utter Weirdness of the British Countryside

2018-04-06T12:26:15Z

And why rewilding makes sense here An 80-minute video of a talk by George Monbiot, hosted by the Sustainable Earth Institute at Plymouth University and the Network of Wellbeing, 15th…

And why rewilding makes sense here

An 80-minute video of a talk by George Monbiot, hosted by the Sustainable Earth Institute at Plymouth University and the Network of Wellbeing, 15th January 2016.

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Unprostrated

2018-03-16T12:23:08Z

I have prostate cancer, but I’m happy. Here’s how. By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th March 2018   It came, as these things often do, like a gunshot…I have prostate cancer, but I’m happy. Here’s how. By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th March 2018   It came, as these things often do, like a gunshot on a quiet street: shocking and disorienting. In early December, my urine turned brown. The following day I felt feverish and found it hard to pee. I soon realised I had a urinary tract infection. It was unpleasant, but seemed to be no big deal. Now I know that it might have saved my life. The doctor told me this infection was unusual in a man of my age, and hinted at an underlying condition. So I had a blood test, which revealed that my prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels were off the scale. An MRI scan and a mortifying biopsy confirmed my suspicions. Prostate cancer: all the smart young men have it this season. On Monday, I go into surgery. The prostate gland is buried deep in the body, so removing it is a major operation: there are six entry points and it takes four hours. The procedure will hack at the roots of my manhood. Because of the damage that will be caused to the surrounding nerves, there’s a high risk of permanent erectile dysfunction. Because the urethra needs to be cut and reattached to the bladder, I will almost certainly suffer urinary incontinence for a few months, and possibly permanently. Because the removal of part of the urethra retracts the penis, it appears to shrink, at least until it can be stretched back into shape. I was offered a choice: radical surgery or brachytherapy. This means implanting radioactive seeds in the parts of the prostrate affected by cancer. Brachytherapy has fewer side effects, and recovery is much faster. But there’s a catch. If it fails to eliminate the cancer, there’s nothing more that can be done. This treatment sticks the prostate gland to the bowel and bladder, making surgery extremely difficult. Once you’ve had one dose of radiation, they won’t give you another. I was told that the chances of brachytherapy working in my case were between 70 and 80%. The odds were worse, in other words, than playing Russian roulette (which, with one bullet in a six-chambered revolver, gives you 83%). Though I have a tendency to embrace risk, this was not an attractive option. It would be easy to curse my luck and start to ask “why me?”. I have never smoked and hardly drink; I have a ridiculously healthy diet and follow a severe fitness regime. I’m 20 or 30 years younger than most of the men I see in the waiting rooms. In other words, I would have had a lower risk of prostate cancer only if I had been female. And yet … I am happy. In fact, I’m happier than I was before my diagnosis. How can this be? The reason is that I’ve sought to apply the three principles which, I believe, sit at the heart of a good life. The first is the most important: imagine how much worse it could be, rather than how much better. When you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your condition is ranked on the Gleason Score, which measures its level of aggression. Mine is graded at 7 out of 10. But this doesn’t tell me where I stand in general. I needed another index to assess the severity of my condition, so I invented one: the Shitstorm Scale. How does my situation compare to those of people I know, who contend with other medical problems or family tragedies? How does it compare to what might have been, had the cancer had not been caught while it is still – apparently – confined to the prostate gland? How does it compare to innumerable other disasters that could have befallen me? When I c[...]



Contrary to Reason

2018-03-12T07:17:59Z

Steven Pinker claims to champion Enlightenment values. But his latest book is an affront to them By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th March 2018   One of the…Steven Pinker claims to champion Enlightenment values. But his latest book is an affront to them By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th March 2018   One of the curiosities of our age is the way in which celebrity culture comes to dominate every aspect of public life. Even the review pages of the newspapers sometimes look like a highfalutin version of gossip magazines. Were we to judge them by the maxim “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”, they would not emerge well. Biography dominates, ideas often seem to come last. Brilliant writers like Sylvia Plath become better known for their lives than their work: turning her into the Princess Diana of literature does neither her nor her readers any favours. Even when ideas are given prominence, they no longer have standing in their own right; their salience depends on their authorship. Take, for example, the psychology professor Steven Pinker, who attracts the kind of breathless adulation that would seem more appropriate in the pages of Hello magazine. I am broadly sympathetic to his worldview. I agree with him that scientific knowledge is a moral imperative, and that we must use it to enhance human welfare. Like him, I’m enthusiastic about technologies that horrify other people, such as fourth-generation nuclear reactors and artificial meat. So I began reading his new book Enlightenment Now with excitement. I expected something bracing, original, well-sourced and well-reasoned. Instead, in the area I know best – environmental issues – I found an astonishing mishmash of factoids, mistakes and outright myths. The alarm began to sound for me when he characterised “the mainstream environmental movement” as “laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation, an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens and cancer.” Yes, I have come across such views, but they are few and far between. When they are expressed on social media, they are rapidly slapped down by other environmentalists. They are about as far from the environmental mainstream as they are from the humanitarian mainstream. But this is just the beginning of the problem. Rather than using primary sources, Pinker draws on anecdote, cherry-picking and a litany of discredited talking points developed by anti-environmental thinktanks. Take, for example, his claims about the famous Limits to Growth report, published in 1972. It’s a favourite target of those who seek to dismiss environmental problems. He suggests it projected that aluminium, copper, chromium, gold, nickel, tin, tungsten and zinc would be exhausted by 1992. It is hard to see how anyone who had read the report could form this impression. The figures it uses for illustrative purposes have been (I think deliberately) transformed by some critics into projections. Its actual prediction is that “the great majority of the currently important non-renewable resources will be extremely costly 100 years from now.” It would be perfectly reasonable to take issue with this claim. It is not reasonable to recycle, then attack, a widely circulated myth about the report. That’s called the straw man fallacy. It is contrary to the principles of reason that Pinker claims to champion. Citing the famous ecologist Stuart Pimm, Pinker maintains that “the overall rate of extinctions has been reduced by 75 percent”. But Pimm has said no such thing: I c[...]



Parklife

2018-03-03T06:12:28Z

Our national parks are ecological deserts, run for the benefit of a tiny minority. It’s time we reclaimed them. By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 28th February 2018 Visit…Our national parks are ecological deserts, run for the benefit of a tiny minority. It’s time we reclaimed them. By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 28th February 2018 Visit any national park in Britain and ask yourself what you are seeing. Is it the “wild”, “unspoilt” landscape the brochures and display boards promised? Or is it eerily bereft of wildlife and rich ecosystems? Is it managed in the interests of the nation, or for a tiny, privileged minority? I suspect that if we saw such places called national parks in another country, we would recognise them for what they are: a complete farce. One of the reasons for this dire state is burning. Much of the land in our national parks is systematically burnt, with the blessing of the agencies supposed to protect them. This vandalism is sometimes justified as a “conservation tool”, but it bears as much relationship to the conservation of wildlife as burning libraries bears to the conservation of books. So weird has our engagement with nature in this country become that we can no longer tell the difference between protection and destruction. On Dartmoor and Exmoor, the national park authorities and the National Trust, charged with protecting the land, instead torch it to favour sheep. In the national parks of central and northern England and Scotland, this arson is conducted on behalf of another species: red grouse. Burning by grouse estates roasts reptiles, small mammals, insects and tree seedlings. Research conducted at Leeds University shows that it also damages and dries out peat, raises the acidity of rivers and could increase the risk of flooding downstream. But the amount of burning, which produces young heather shoots for the grouse to eat, has been increasing exponentially: according to one study, by 11% a year. The management of grouse moors is intensifying, to give the select group of people who shoot them as many targets as possible. The burning is accompanied by the mass killing of birds of prey, weasels, stoats, foxes, badgers, pine martens, domestic cats and other predators. The continued disappearance of hen harriers, golden eagles, peregrine falcons and other raptors when they cross grouse moors is no mystery. A study on Langholm Moor in Scotland discovered that when the persecution of birds of prey ceases, grouse numbers drop below the point at which driven shooting is economically viable. (Driven grouse shooting involves clients waiting in shelters, called butts, while lines of workers chase the birds over their heads). Though it is illegal to trap, shoot and poison birds of prey in this country, the economic model depends on these practices. Don’t expect any help from the statutory agencies. Natural England, the government body charged with defending wildlife and ecosystems, behaves as if it were a subsidiary of the grouse shooting industry. The formidable conservationist Mark Avery has produced a long catalogue of this agency’s collusion: granting grouse moors consent for the killing of protected birds; removing hen harrier chicks from their nests; supporting the roads the estate owners build to take their clients to the shooting areas; refusing to release the results of its study on hen harriers. Nor should you expect much help from other groups. In 2016, after a video of a man trying to kill hen harriers on its property caused a furore, the National Trust revoked the grouse shooting lease on its land in the Peak District National Park. Bu[...]



Commonhealth

2018-02-26T11:24:10Z

A remarkable experiment suggests that emergency admissions to hospital can be reduced by tackling loneliness By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 21 February 2018   It could, if the…A remarkable experiment suggests that emergency admissions to hospital can be reduced by tackling loneliness By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 21 February 2018   It could, if the results stand up, be one of the most dramatic medical breakthroughs of recent decades. It could transform treatment regimes, save lives, and save health services a fortune. Is it a drug? Is it a device? Is it a surgical procedure? No, it’s a newfangled intervention called community. This week, the results from a trial in the Somerset town of Frome are published informally, in the magazine Resurgence & Ecologist. (A scientific paper has been submitted to a medical journal and is awaiting peer review). We should be cautious about embracing data before they are published in the academic press, and must always avoid treating correlation as causation. But this shouldn’t stop us feeling a shiver of excitement about the implications, if the figures turn out to be robust, and the experiment can be replicated. What these provisional data appear to show is that when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly. While across the whole of Somerset, emergency hospital admissions rose during the three years of the study by 29%, in Frome they fell by 17%. Julian Abel, a consultant physician in palliative care and lead author of the draft paper, remarks that “no other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.” Frome is a remarkable place, run by an independent town council famous for its democratic innovation. There’s a buzz of sociability, a sense of common purpose and a creative, exciting atmosphere quite different from that of many English market towns, and, for that matter, quite different from the buttoned-down, dreary place I found when I first visited, 30 years ago. The Compassionate Frome project was launched in 2013 by the town’s GP, Helen Kingston. She kept encountering patients who seemed defeated by the medicalisation of their lives: treated as if they were a cluster of symptoms rather than a human being who happened to have health problems. Staff at her practice were stressed and dejected by what she calls “silo working”. So, with the help of the NHS group Health Connections Mendip and the town council, her practice set up a directory of agencies and community groups. This let them see where the gaps were, which they then filled with new groups, for people with particular conditions. They employed “health connectors” to help people plan their care and, most interestingly, trained voluntary “community connectors” to help their patients find the support they needed. Sometimes this meant handling debt or housing problems, sometimes joining choirs or lunch clubs or exercise groups or writing workshops or men’s sheds (where men make and mend things together). The point was to break a familiar cycle of misery: illness reduces people’s ability to socialise, which leads in turn to isolation and loneliness, which then exacerbates illness. This cycle is explained by some fascinating science, summarised in a recent paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Chemicals called cytokines, which function as messengers in the immune system and cause inflammation, also change our behaviour, encouraging us to withdraw from general social conta[...]



Wheel of Fortune

2018-02-22T10:08:27Z

Only the left can break the cycle of wealth accumulation. By George Monbiot, published on monbiot.com, 21st February 2018   This is my opening speech at the Intelligence Squared debate…Only the left can break the cycle of wealth accumulation. By George Monbiot, published on monbiot.com, 21st February 2018   This is my opening speech at the Intelligence Squared debate at the Emmanuel Centre, London, 21st February, with Roger Scruton, Stella Creasy and Kwasi Kwarteng: The Left Has Right on Its Side.   I speak without notes, but this is the text I roughly memorised. I should confess that sometimes the left drives me round the bend. The meetings, the posturing, the infighting: it can be infuriating. The old adage that the right looks for converts while the left looks for traitors is all too often true. Despite this, I belong to the left and will never give up on it, because without it there is no solution to a predicament that every generation faces. This predicament is the escalating concentration of wealth and power that threatens to destroy democracy and eventually make life unlivable. Wealth and power concentrate not because those we confront are wicked (though there are one or two). Their escalation, in the absence of a political movement to restrain it, is an intrinsic feature of complex human societies. It occurred even in the world’s first cities, in southern Mesopotamia. A useful way of looking at this problem is the concept of patrimonial capital, popularised by Thomas Piketty*. Piketty showed that when the return on capital increases faster than the growth of economic output, inequality spirals, social mobility stalls and the enterprise economy is replaced by a rentier economy. In other words, once you have money and property, you can use it to accumulate more money and property, taking an ever greater share of society’s wealth, through the harvesting of economic rent. By economic rent I mean charging people over the odds to use a non-reproducible resource over which you exercise exclusive control. Think, for example, of the ridiculous price we pay in the UK for train tickets, because the train companies have us over a barrel. By this means, through no enterprise of their own, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. This process has no natural limits. Eventually, as we’ve seen in the past, the very rich can capture almost the entire production of society. At this point, the debt, destitution and unemployment that results can cause economic collapse: the Great Depression is a good example. This predicament is not a perversity of the system. It is an innate characteristic. It is bound to work this way, unless there is a political movement capable of breaking the vicious circle of wealth accumulation. But the problem doesn’t end there. The economic power of the owners of wealth translates into political power. The richer a tiny segment of society becomes, the better it is able to capture politics and undermine democracy. Eventually, we get a government of the elite, by the elite, for the elite. Does that sound at all familiar? To illustrate this problem, let’s take just one aspect of economic rent; the excessive fees we pay for renting a place to live. In the late 19th Century, a notorious slum developed in Bethnal Green called the Old Nicol. Entire families were crammed into single rooms in the slum’s cellars, which were just five feet high and had no natural light. Infant mortality was over twice the national average, partly because most families had only one bed, with the result that many babies were killed through a[...]



Resisting Resistance

2018-02-17T07:48:40Z

A US-UK trade deal threatens to export the horrors of US corporate livestock production By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th February 2018   It looks like a proper…A US-UK trade deal threatens to export the horrors of US corporate livestock production By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th February 2018   It looks like a proper zombie apocalypse. Bacteria we thought we had conquered are on the march again, defeating almost all attempts to slaughter them. Having broken through the outer walls, they have reached our last lines of defence. Antibiotic resistance is among the greatest threats to human health. Infections that were once easy to quash now threaten our lives. Doctors warn that routine procedures, such as caesareans, hip replacements and chemotherapy, could one day become impossible, due to the risk of exposing patients to deadly infection. Already, in the European Union alone, 25,000 people a year are killed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Yet our last defences – the rare drugs to which bacteria have not yet become immune – are being squandered with wild abandon. While most doctors seek to use them precisely and parsimoniously, some livestock farms literally slosh them around. They add them to the feed and water supplied to entire herds of cattle, pigs or poultry: not to treat illness, but to prevent it. Or not even that. In the 1950s, farmers discovered that small quantities of antibiotics added to feed make animals grow faster. Using antibiotics as growth promoters – low doses routinely applied – is a perfect formula for generating bacterial resistance. Yet many countries continue to permit this reckless practice. The US Food and Drug Administration asks drug companies voluntarily to refrain from labelling antibiotics as growth promoters. But with a nod and a wink, it suggests they be rebranded for “new therapeutic indications”. Around 75% of the antibiotics used in the US are fed to farm animals. Our city is under siege, and we are knocking down our own defences. The EU and the UK are no paragons. The Guardian has revealed that both pork and chicken sold here are infected with resistant superbugs. Outrageously, it is still legal in the UK to dose chickens with fluoroquinolones, powerful antibiotics that save many human lives: a practice even the US has banned. But in other respects, the US, whose corporate livestock production looks more like HG Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau than anything you’d recognise as farming, makes our methods seem virtuous. Last week, the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics revealed that the US uses on average roughly five times as many antibiotics per animal as the UK does. Why? Because the stack ‘em high, sell ‘em low model of farming there, in which vast numbers of animals are reared in appalling conditions in megafarms, cannot be sustained without mass medication. The animals are weaned so young, are so debilitated and so crowded that extreme methods are required to keep them alive and growing. The impacts are not confined to the US: when America sneezes, the world catches antibiotic-resistant Salmonella. There’s an urgent need for a global ban on the mass treatment of livestock with antibiotics, and on any use of the antibiotics of last resort in farming. Tough as this is for the economics of megafarms, human life is more important. But the opposite is happening. The US government hopes to use trade treaties to break down the resistance of other nations to its farming practices. And the UK is at the top of its list. The EU [...]



Revolt of the Robots

2018-02-09T09:01:46Z

How we can find meaning, purpose and pride when the workplace no longer offers them By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th February 2018   Why bother designing robots…How we can find meaning, purpose and pride when the workplace no longer offers them By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th February 2018   Why bother designing robots when you can reduce human beings to machines? Last week, Amazon acquired a patent for a wristband that can track the hand movements of workers. If this technology is developed, it could grant companies almost total control over their workforce. A fortnight ago the Guardian interviewed a young man called Aaron Callaway, who works nights in an Amazon warehouse. He has to place 250 items an hour into the right carts. His work, he says, is so repetitive, antisocial and alienating that “I feel like I’ve lost who I was … My main interaction is with the robots.” And this is before the wristbands might be deployed. I see the terrible story of Don Lane, the DPD driver who collapsed and died from diabetes, as another instance of the same dehumanisation. After being fined £150 by the company for taking a day off to see his doctor, this “self-employed contractor” (who worked full-time for the company and wore its uniform) felt he could no longer keep his hospital appointments. As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han argues, in the gig economy, “every individual is master and slave in one … class struggle has become an internal struggle with oneself.” Everything work offered during the social democratic era – economic security, a sense of belonging, social life, a political focus – has been stripped away: alienation is now almost complete. Digital Taylorism, splitting interesting jobs into tasks of mind-robbing monotony, threatens to degrade almost every form of labour. Workers are reduced to the crash dummies of the post-industrial age. The robots have arrived, and you are one of them. So where do we find identity, meaning and purpose, a sense of autonomy, pride and utility? The answer, for many people, is volunteering. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the NHS, and I’ve realised that there are two public health systems in this country: the official one, performing daily miracles, and the voluntary network that supports it. Everywhere I look, there are notices posted by people helping at the hospital, running support groups for other patients, raising money for research and equipment. Without this support, I suspect the official system would fall apart. And so would many of the patients. Some fascinating research papers suggest that positive interactions with other people promote physical healing, reduce physical pain, and minimise anxiety and stress for patients about to have an operation. Support groups save lives. So do those who raise money for treatment and research. Last week I spoke to two remarkable volunteers. Jeanne Chattoe started fundraising for Against Breast Cancer after her sister was diagnosed with the disease. Until that point, she had lived a quiet life, bringing up her children and working in her sister’s luggage shop. She soon discovered powers she never knew she possessed. Before long, she started organising an annual fashion show which, across 13 years, raised almost £400,000. Then, lying awake one night, she had a great idea: why not decorate her home town pink once a year, recruiting the whole community to the cause? Witney in the Pink has now been running for 17 years, and all the shops p[...]