Marking Progress

Each Sunday morning I join a local painting group.

We learn ‘old school’, classical techniques under the guidance of Jules.

I retain memories of daunting early classes. Experienced peers dashing off landscapes, portraits, animals etc on real canvases!

While I painted aubergines and apples onto cheap, small boards.

Two years later (i.e. last week), carrying a large work-in-progress canvas home, an elderly couple approached.

I noticed the woman looking at my picture.

As we drew level she caught my eye and said, “That’s a really great find you made!”


Confused at first, I saw the footpaths were covered with council cleanup junk.

She thought I’d salvaged the painting from someone’s discard pile.

I grinned and replied, “Actually, I’m painting this one.”

Laughter all round.

An unexpected, sideways compliment.


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51 Billion To Zero

“There are two numbers you need to know about climate change. The first is 51 billion. The other is zero.”

So begins Bill Gates’ outstanding new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“.

Fifty-one billion tons of greenhouse gases generated by human activity are added to the atmosphere every year. This number is increasing.

Zero is what we need to achieve to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

There are some very impressive aspects to this book.

Firstly this is the best overview of the climate crisis faced by the planet I’ve read.

Bill articulates the causes and impacts, the science and the challenges very clearly. He’s applied his obvious intelligence and resources to explore the matter broadly, and as a communicator, shares what he’s learned very effectively.

This book is an holistic education for anyone wanting to get an up to date understanding of the climate crisis.

Usefully the book segments human activity and the various potential developments which are worth pursuing. It’s a non ideological survey of the current and emerging possible pathways to reach zero. I like the way Bill presents, with a pragmatic and open mind.

The five segments explored are:

The next most valuable aspect for me was a critical thinking framework of ‘five questions to ask in every climate conversation’ (Chapter 3).

My favourite was, “What’s your plan for cement?” The production of steel and cement creates about 10% of  all emissions, and the question is a reminder that any comprehensive plan needs to account for more than electricity and cars

Finally the most important aspect of the book for me, is that the author is Bill Gates himself, by any metric a World Class Leader.

With his voice and resources now publicly directed toward the climate crisis, our planet gains a powerful advocate.

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Two To Tango

Pablo Picasso and John Lennon are world class leaders I chose for immersion study last year.

Towering, iconic individuals of the 20th century.

Yet with a curious similarity – their creative breakthroughs actually the product of intense partnership. Picasso and Georges Braque pioneered Cubism between 1907-14, in the process revolutionising modern art.

The two painters shared so many ideas, theories, models and inspiration, that it’s difficult for a regular viewer like me to discern which artist painted which picture.

“The things that Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were, no one would understand them anymore. It was like being roped together on a mountain.”

Liverpool teenagers,John Lennon and Paul McCartney formed The Beatles and went on to produce the soundtrack to the Boomers awakening.

Paul said the two had a habit of “answering” each other’s songs. “He’d write ‘Strawberry Fields, and I’d go away and write ‘Penny Lane’ … to compete with each other. But it was very friendly competition.”

Interestingly, on outgrowing The Beatles, Lennon formed a new, intensely activist and artistic partnership with Yoko Ono.

I’m fortunate to know the value of fellowship, encouragement and especially productive rivalry in powerful collaborations.

And have lived the natural cycle, from first meetings, through inspired activity to parting, even death. 

The leader myth is often one of lone genius, the daring radical, a solo sailor or intrepid explorer.

The reality is rooted in vital relationships.

It takes two to tango.

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