Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

Ageing Populations, Politics and Demographic Decline in the U.K.

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The England and the U.K., like much of the developed and now developing world has an ageing population, even more so electorally, which is having a significant impact upon democracy and the economy, at the expense of younger generations.

Not only are politicians catering to ageing and regional electorates, younger generations although ignored, are expected to support older generations through the tax system, but will not receive similar state benefits in future due to budget impairment.

From The Guardian:

Some parts of UK ageing twice as fast as others, new research finds

Study by thinktank Resolution Foundation warns divergence will have political and economic impacts

Parts of the UK are ageing twice as fast as other areas of the country, while in some cities the population is getting younger, a divergence that will have a lasting impact on local economies, local government and national politics, according to new research.

A study by the Resolution Foundation, an independent thinktank, found that the populations of Maldon in Essex, Copeland in Cumbria and Richmondshire in Yorkshire are ageing twice as fast as the rest of the UK, while Nottingham and Oxford are growing younger.

The report, entitled Ageing, fast and slow: When place and demography collide, said that while the UK population as a whole is ageing – one in four will be older than 65 by 2041 – there are widespread divergences in the pace and even the direction of ageing.

The UK’s average age has been rising steadily, from 36 in 1975 to 40 today, but there is a 25-year gap between the oldest and youngest local authorities: North Norfolk, where the average age is 54, and Oxford, where it is 29, reflecting its large universities, the Resolution Foundation said….

….Charlie McCurdy, researcher at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Everyone knows we’re getting older, but how and where this ageing is taking place is less well understood.

“Britain is growing apart as it ages because many rural and coastal communities are welcoming fewer babies each year, while migration within the UK and from abroad has seen younger people concentrating in urban areas that are already relatively young.”

Middle-income areas are ageing fastest, while the richest and poorest areas age the slowest, the research found. There are two key drivers: young people are leaving rural and coastal communities, which are already older on average than other locations, for urban areas, and low local birth rates are a key factor in ageing in older communities.

Poorer urban ethnically diverse areas are ageing more slowly because of high birth rates. The high birth rate in Barking & Dagenham – 19 births per 1,000 people, compared to 11 in the UK as a whole – has given it the highest proportion of under 18s in the country (30%).

The think tank says increasing divergence between old and young areas will have a lasting impact on local economies, local governments and national politics.

MPs are becoming increasingly reliant on the demographics of their constituencies, with older and younger seats becoming safer for the Conservatives and Labour respectively.

For local economies, the foundation says that policymakers should tailor their economic strategies to local demographics, including benefitting from the potential of young graduates, or the greater spending power of pensioners.’

For more articles and blogs about demography, population growth and economy click through.

 

Population Growth or Decline?

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Since the 1970s, and earlier with Malthus and eugenics movement, we have been presented with the threat of catastrophic population growth due to fertility rates in the less developed world, then due to ‘immigration‘ from the less developed world when in fact we are facing population decline from mid century; contrary to UN Population Division data which inflates future headline growth?

This ‘misunderstanding’ has been highlighted by science journalist Fred Pearce in ‘The Coming Population Crash: and Our Planet’s Surprising Future’; Hans Rosling in ‘Don’t panic the truth about population’; Prof. Wolfgang Lutz of Vienna’s IIASA and Sanjeev Sanyal demographer at Deutsche Bank.

Most belive the world is experiencing high population growth but research debunks this and finds we will be facing population decline.

Global Population Growth or Decline? (Image copyright Pexels.com)

‘Book review: ‘Empty Planet‘ explores the world’s next biggest population threat

Humanity is facing an imminent catastrophe, Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson assert in their new book

The central assertion Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson make in Empty Planet is one that readers of the daily news or regular government reports will find deeply counter intuitive. According to all that received wisdom, there is a worldwide population crisis, with humans reproducing at ever-increasing rates, rapidly eating up all the world’s resources and driving the engines of runaway climate change.

Stripped of modern trappings such as greenhouse gases and industrial meat farming, this is fairly close to the old vision of 18th-century scholar and theorist Thomas Malthus. He declared back in 1798 that in conditions of economic and cultural stability, the human population would continue to increase, even to the point where it chokes resources and overburdens the Earth itself.

Such a view has been the standard for centuries, and some of its proponents have made quite tidy sums writing books about the doom it foretells, most notably Paul Ehrlich. His 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb warned of imminent, widespread famines as the result of human overpopulation.

Bricker and Ibbitson say such books and the thinking behind them are “completely and utterly wrong”. They agree with Malthus, Ehrlich and company that humanity is indeed facing an imminent population catastrophe – but the problem won’t be overpopulation. “The great defining event of the 21st century – one of the great defining events in human history – will occur in three decades, give or take, when the global population begins to decline,” they write. “Once that decline begins, it will never end.”

The authors know they’re working against not only popular perception, but also raw numbers. They point out that the United Nations predicts the human population to hit 11 billion in the 21st century, up from the nearly eight billion on Earth today, an increase from five billion since 1950.

But Bricker and Ibbitson say that population growth rates have declined slightly in the 21st century, particularly in what they refer to as the richest places on the planet. Japan, Korea, Spain, Italy, much of Europe – all such places are facing long-term reproduction rates that won’t come close to sustaining their current population levels. And they claim this same levelling and then downward trend will be seen in places such as China, Brazil, Indonesia and even such fertility hot zones as India and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The main reason Bricker and Ibbitson cite for their certainty about all this is that the floor of the world’s basic prosperity is steadily rising. Two things happen as a result: an increasing number of women in developing countries are gaining more education and more control over reproduction, and an increasing number of couples are therefore either postponing having children of their own or having far fewer children than their ancestors did.

Empty Planet makes the case that this change is not only inevitable but already well under way, and that it will be permanent: humanity will simply go into terminal decline, no asteroid or other global catastrophe required. As mentioned, readers have heard such alarming claims before – Ehrlich, for instance, was certain the human population would reach its breaking point in the 1970s.’

 

For more articles and blogs on population decline, population growth and immigration click through.

 

Cars Killing Cities and Citizens

Article discussing issues, assumptions, entitlement and habits round the use of motor cars or vehicles in urban areas in America, same issues exist in Australia.  Often if not always accidents, injuries, deaths, more roads, car parks, traffic congestion, bitumen or asphalt, fossil fuels and pollution are never questioned or linked to car usage.  However, if question do arise about pollution, traffic congestion etc. the deflection used is blaming ‘immigration’ or ‘population growth‘ rather than focus upon the incentives e.g. salary package tax breaks and lack of disincentives e.g. discouraging private motor vehicle usage.

Car or vehicle usage and infrastructure costs not questioned

Cars, Roads and Fossil Fuels (Image copyright Pexels)

From The Week: ‘American cities need to phase out cars

Ryan Cooper

August 19, 2019

On August 12, a man named Umar Baig was driving illegally in Brooklyn — speeding his Dodge Charger down Coney Island Avenue far, far above the speed limit of 25 miles per hour. At the intersection with Avenue L, he ran a red light, and smashed directly into the side of a Honda SUV.

The collision was so violent that Baig’s car lifted the Honda completely off the ground for a split second in the process of flinging it at high speed across the oncoming lanes of Coney Island Avenue — where the SUV crushed a cyclist named Jose Alzorriz, who had just pulled up to wait for the red light Baig blew through. Bystanders lifted the car off him, but Alzorriz later died of his injuries. (A pedestrian and the Honda’s driver were also injured, but not fatally).

This was the 19th cyclist killed by a car in New York City so far in 2019, in addition to 69 pedestrians — as compared to 10 and 107 respectively in the whole of 2018. For reasons of safety and basic urban functionality, it’s time to start banning private automobiles from America’s urban cores.

The basic problem with cars in a dense urban setting like New York is that they go too fast and take up too much space. Dense cities are enormously more energy efficient than sprawling suburbs or exurbs because apartment buildings and row houses are far more efficient to heat and cool than single-family homes (due to shared walls), larger enterprises can take advantage of efficiencies of scale, and because lots of people packed into a small area enables highly-efficient mass transit. New Yorkers emit only about 2.3 tons of carbon dioxide per person, as compared to 45 tons from residents of Flagstaff, Arizona.

A car-centered transportation system is simply at odds with the logic of a dense city. For commuters, cars take up a huge volume of space being parked at home and at work. On the road, a lane of highway traffic can transport about 3,000 people per hour under perfect conditions, while a subway can easily manage 10 times that — and many do even better. And while subways can be delayed, conditions are rarely ideal on the highway — on the contrary, every day at rush hour most are jammed to a crawl with too many cars, or slowed by some gruesome accident.

What’s more, the terrible toll of injuries and deaths inflicted on New York’s cyclists and pedestrians this year is simply what happens when one allows cars to roam free in cities. It is highly risky to allow huge, heavy steel cages capable of high speeds to be flying around crowds of delicate human bodies. It takes only a slight error or moment of inattention to get someone brutally killed.

Yet America’s urban centers were still rent asunder during its great mid-20th century car bender. Large swathes of our finest cities were eviscerated to make way for filthy, dangerous freeways, and hideous parking lots and garages. New cities were built entirely around this new transport paradigm, eating up vast quantities of land and forcing millions upon millions of people to spend hours every day stuck in traffic. Cars became a near requirement for most Americans, even in relatively dense metros.

This has left many American cities and neighborhoods without high-quality public transit, even where density is high enough that it could be supported. Big chunks of D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and many other places are stuck in a sort of no-man’s-land where bus and train service aren’t good enough to enable a truly car-free lifestyle for most residents — but driving and parking are still a monumental inconvenience.

All this is why American cities should follow the lead of European cities like Oslo and Brussels, and start phasing out private cars in their central cities…..

…..All this would be expensive and difficult in many cities, but the bigger obstacle is cultural. Even in New York, the only city in America where a majority of households do not own a car, laws are so ludicrously biased in favor of drivers that police and prosecutors are struggling to find a way to charge Umar Baig with a serious crime. A proposal to ban private vehicles from just a few blocks of the clogged 14th Street in lower Manhattan to improve bus service inspired screaming outrage from the reactionary New York Post, and has been repeatedly blocked by a judge. But perhaps once the manifest benefits of a car-free urban core can be widely seen, attitudes will start slowly shifting. Cars simply do not belong downtown.’

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, Immigration and Population Growth click through.

Population Demographic Decline

Many believe that local, national and global population growth is exponential leading to calls to avoid immigration or cut, need for population control etc., but is it true?  No, according to experts, outside of the UN Population Division, population will peak mid century then decline while ageing further.

What does this mean for the world and nation state economies?  Competition for people whether immigration and temporary workers to fill gaps and support budgets.

From The Lowy Institute:

‘Harnessing demographic destiny

GRANT WYETH

Competition for the world’s best and brightest will intensify as global population growth slows. Is Australia ready?

Global Population will peak then decline

Managing Population Decline (Image copyright Pexels)

Once confident predictions that the world’s population will reach billion by the end of this century are beginning to be debunked. It is now appears more likely that the global population will hit a ceiling before reaching nine billion by mid-century, and then begin to decline.

This tapering of world population growth is being driven by two key revolutions. One is increasing urbanisation, with more and more people living in cities, which makes children less of an essential resource for families then they would be in rural areas. The other is female education and empowerment, with women deciding – when given the choice – that they desire no more than two children.

Such global trends have significant implications for individual countries, both in national capabilities and geostrategic calculations. This is particularly the case for Australia. Countries that are able to both retain and attract people will find themselves at a distinct advantage.

Currently there is a low-intensity competition for human capital between mostly Western states. These countries have recognised a basic demographic problem; that their birth rates are too low to replace their populations, and without immigration they will end up with elderly societies without the workers to sustain their living standards. Alongside this, attracting highly skilled migrants also boosts productivity.

Yet the population strategies of most of these countries are under threat by parochial narratives that place the political sustainability of their immigration programs at risk.

These narratives are born out of a paradox within the nation-state, where elements within these countries believe that the strategies of the state are undermining the nation. Such sentiment seems uninterested in economic imperatives, or indeed foreign policy concerns about their country’s capabilities in relation to others. Yet these issues are vital to a national interest, and therefore need to be aligned to how a country sees itself….

….. However, it would not be prudent for Australia to rely on this possibility.  By seeking to enhance its own capabilities, Australia can help to escape the influence of external forces. Which means in a world of declining birth rates, Australia’s immigration program should be seen as the country’s principal strategic asset. This indicates that Australia may need to develop something it currently lacks – a prominent positive public narrative around its highly successful immigration story.

A recent speech from Canada’s Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer offers a good example of the way Australia can develop a positive public narrative around immigration. Scheer highlighted the bravery of migration, the honour Canada feels at being chosen by migrants, and the prosperity that has developed in Canada as a consequence of these migrant flows. It is a speech that no politician in Australia could seemingly deliver (bar its requisite politicking) but is a sentiment that is embraced by all Canadian political parties (with the exception of the Quebec nationalist parties).

As a competitor to Australia for skilled labour, the message Scheer conveyed helps to reinforce support for Canada’s immigration program. And if national competition for people intensifies as global population declines, it will provide Canada with a distinct advantage that Australia currently cannot match.’

For more articles about population growth, immigration and NOM net overseas migration, click through.