Inside Out

A week of talks, exhibitions and performances with the New Statesman.

The New Statesman is delighted to be associated this year with the Inside Out Festival, an annual week-long feast of discussion, debate, art, film and performance. Inside Out 2010 takes place between 25 and 31 October at a number of venues across London, including Somerset House, the Barbican and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as rarely used spaces in nine of the capital's institutions of higher education.

The festival director, Sally Taylor, said: "There is certainly no shortage of festivals in London, but this is an arts festival with a distinct twist. The sheer breadth of talent in the nine universities involved is staggering.

"We want as many people as possible to come and enjoy the fruits of this talent and passion in October. From the art of Cézanne to the art of war, from the abuses of contemporary history to the history of men's underwear, this year's Inside Out Festival will be a feast -- a cultural 'pick'n' mix' -- for bright thinkers and art lovers, young and old."

And the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, added: "As a magazine, we like to look beyond the obvious and seek out the unusual, the witty, the irreverent and the thought-provoking. In this festival we have found all of these things and more."

The festival will open at Senate House at the University of London on 25 October with a high-profile debate: "Should the university continue to exist in its current form?"

Among the many other highlights are a debate on the literature of the New Labour years with the novelist Blake Morrison and Professor Robert Hampson; a panel discussion of the "uses and abuses of contemporary history" with Peter Hennessy (author of the recently republished Secret State), the Labour MP and former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell and the constitutional expert and regular NS contributor Vernon Bogdanor; and "The Art of War", a debate chaired by Philippe Sands, QC, on the idea of war as entertainment.

For a full programme, see here, and keep an eye on newstatesman.com for further updates.

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Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump wants to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency - can he?

"Epa, Epa, Eeeepaaaaa" – Grampa Simpson.

 

There have been countless jokes about US President Donald Trump’s aversion to academic work, with many comparing him to an infant. The Daily Show created a browser extension aptly named “Make Trump Tweets Eight Again” that converts the font of Potus’ tweets to crayon scrawlings. Indeed, it is absurd that – even without the childish font – one particular bill that was introduced within the first month of Trump taking office looked just as puerile. Proposed by Matt Gaetz, a Republican who had been in Congress for barely a month, “H.R. 861” was only one sentence long:

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018”.

If this seems like a stunt, that is because Gaetz is unlikely to actually achieve his stated aim. Drafting such a short bill without any co-sponsors – and leaving it to a novice Congressman to present – is hardly the best strategy to ensure a bill will pass. 

Still, Republicans' distrust for environmental protections is well-known - long-running cartoon show The Simpsons even did a send up of the Epa where the agency had its own private army. So what else makes H.R. 861 implausible?

Well, the 10-word-long statement neglects to address the fact that many federal environmental laws assume the existence of or defer to the Epa. In the event that the Epa was abolished, all of these laws – from the 1946 Atomic Energy Act to the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – would need to be amended. Preferably, a way of doing this would be included in the bill itself.

Additionally, for the bill to be accepted in the Senate there would have to be eight Democratic senators who agreed with its premise. This is an awkward demand when not even all Republicans back Trump. The man Trum appointed to the helm of the Epa, Scott Pruitt, is particularly divisive because of his long opposition to the agency. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said that she was hostile to the appointment of a man who was “so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency” that he had sued the Epa 14 times. Polls from 2016 and 2017 suggests that most Americans would be also be opposed to the agency’s termination.

But if Trump is incapable of entirely eliminating the Epa, he has other ways of rendering it futile. In January, Potus banned the Epa and National Park Services from “providing updates on social media or to reporters”, and this Friday, Trump plans to “switch off” the government’s largest citizen-linked data site – the Epa’s Open Data Web Service. This is vital not just for storing and displaying information on climate change, but also as an accessible way of civilians viewing details of local environmental changes – such as chemical spills. Given the administration’s recent announcement of his intention to repeal existing safeguards, such as those to stabilise the climate and protect the environment, defunding this public data tool is possibly an attempt to decrease awareness of Trump’s forthcoming actions.

There was also a recent update to the webpage of the Epa's Office of Science and Technology, which saw all references to “science-based” work removed, in favour of an emphasis on “national economically and technologically achievable standards”. 

Trump’s reshuffle of the Epa's priorities puts the onus on economic activity at the expense of public health and environmental safety. Pruitt, who is also eager to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, spoke in an interview of his desire to “exit” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. He was led to this conclusion because of his belief that the agreement means “contracting our economy to serve and really satisfy Europe, and China, and India”.

 

Rather than outright closure of the Epa, its influence and funding are being leached away. H.R. 861 might be a subtle version of one of Potus’ Twitter taunts – empty and outrageous – but it is by no means the only way to drastically alter the Epa’s landscape. With Pruitt as Epa Administrator, the organisation may become a caricature of itself – as in The Simpsons Movie. Let us hope that the #resistance movements started by “Rogue” Epa and National Parks social media accounts are able to stave off the vultures until there is “Hope” once more.

 

Anjuli R. K. Shere is a 2016/17 Wellcome Scholar and science intern at the New Statesman

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