5 questions answered on the fracking comments

According to Cameron,"fracking is safe."

Five questions answered on PM David Cameron’s recent fracking comments

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has outlined why he thinks people must accept fracking in the UK countryside. We answer five questions on his comments.

What are the key points made by David Cameron in his article?

The Prime Minister wrote the article to speak out in favour of fracking. He said: "fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down", adding that it will create jobs, bring money to local neighbourhoods and that "local people will not be cut out and ignored."

What about the potential damage to the environment, did he address this issue? 

Yes. According to Cameron,"fracking is safe." He says: "International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated." He added that: "I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery."

What about the North/South issue, where will fracking take place?

Cameron, who is no doubt keen to repair damage done by his father-in-law and former government advisor, Lord Howell of Guildford, who said a few weeks ago that gas fracking should be confined to the North East because it was full of "large and uninhabited and desolate areas," confirmed that fracking should take place in both the South and North of England and not just in certain parts of Britain as has been suggested.

He said: "This is wrong. I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together."

What did he say are the benefits of fracking to local communities?

Cameron laid out the benefits fracking could bring to local communities.

"Fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods," he said

"Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists. If gas is then extracted, 1 per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10m – will go straight back to residents who live nearby."

He added that this money could be used for reduction in council tax bills or invested in neighbourhood schools.

What have those against fracking said?

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrat party in coalition government with Cameron’s Conservatives, has said fracking may damage rural areas.

He told The Sunday Telegraph earlier in the month: I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs, and has not considered the long-term threats fracking poses to the countryside.

"I think this is a very short-sighted policy, and we will all be left to live with the consequences."

He added: "This technology can lead to earth tremors and I’m particularly worried that buried nuclear waste in my part of the country could be affected. We should be investing more in renewable fuels."

A Greenpeace sign outside Conservative HQ. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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What’s the secret of the world’s best-paid sports manager? Ask the Chicago Cubs

Theo Epstein is a star because he values the person as much as the player.

As I write, the Chicago Cubs, perennial underachievers, are three wins away from reaching baseball’s World Series for the first time since 1945. By the time you read this they may have crashed out. Besides, baseball – like cricket – is a language that asks a lot of its translators. So, in writing about the Cubs, I’ll skip the baseball bits. Fortunately, the lessons of the Cubs’ success (they were the outstanding team of 2016, even if they don’t win the World Series) transcend baseball.

To understand the future of sport – and perhaps employment – I recommend a pair of profiles of Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations for the Cubs, one published in the New York Times and the other written by David Axelrod (Barack Obama’s strategist) for the New Yorker.

Epstein, 42, has just agreed a contract extension worth $50m over five years, making him the highest-paid non-player in professional sport. There is plenty in the profiles on his whizzy use of data analytics; his algorithmic tests that measure players’ co-ordination (essentially using neuroscience to measure talent); as well as the Cubs’ coaching programme dedicated to mental health and managing stress. Most timely and important of all is Epstein’s emphasis on character. He talks about “scouting the person more than the player”. He wants the right kind of people on the field.

“In the draft room [where the team decides which players to sign], we will always spend more than half the time talking about the person rather than the player,” he has said. “We ask our scouts to provide three detailed examples of how these young players faced adversity on the field and responded to it, and three examples of how they faced adversity off the field.”

Epstein is well known for empowering a “geek department” inside his baseball teams. Yet instead of perceiving a conflict between science and the human realm, he sees the two as part of the same big picture. He craves players with character who can benefit from the insights of science.

“Character” is a vexed subject inside sport. It sets off uncomfortable associations. Talking too much about character – building it, or even just valuing it – sounds dangerously close to endorsing an amateur ethos. Victorian public schools often celebrated sport explicitly in opposition to intelligence, even achievement. H H Almond, the headmaster of Loretto from 1862, got an A for candour (if nothing else) when he ranked his school’s priorities: “First – Character. Second – Physique. Third – Intelligence.”

The Victorian notion of games cast a long shadow over sport and society in the 20th century. The first phase of ultra-professionalism, in the office as well as on the sports field, was a reaction to Almond’s set of values. The concept of character was recast as a consolation prize, doled out to the class dunce or the twelfth man. Crucially, reformers and nostalgics alike bought in to the historical perception of a separation or conflict between character, intellectual life and sporting achievement.

The Cubs, however, know better. To adapt Almond’s clumsy saying: intelligence and physical skills derive, significantly though not entirely, from character. Character is now being understood not as the destination, but the foundation, even the process.

This is an overdue reassessment. In the loosest terms, I would identify three phases in the development of professional sport. Phase one optimised the body. Sadly, though we are still inching forward, the human body is now reaching the outer wall of virtuosity. All sports will tail off in speed of progress, in terms of pure physicality.

Phase two of modern sport turned to psychology. Realising how hard it is to gain an edge through physical conditioning, everyone suddenly started talking about the mind: the inner game of this, the mental game of that. However, reconfiguring the mental approach of elite athletes – already in their twenties and thirties, with deeply ingrained habits and highly evolved psychological software – is also exceptionally difficult. That is why many top athletes recoil from conventional “sports psychology”; the discipline is oversold and under-sceptical.

We are now entering phase three: the whole person. Sustained high achievement relies on something much deeper than a few sessions with a sports psychologist. So you need the right people in the room.

Coaches in future will be numerate and intellectually unthreatened by the scientific advances that illuminate sport. But the best coaches will never lose sight of a parallel truth: that although science can help us to understand what happens on the sports field, and sometimes how to do it better, it cannot conveniently convert athletes into inert particles, as though it were a ­physical science. Coaching can benefit from ­science but remains an art – one that revolves around understanding and helping people.

In most sports, players and coaches are really in the business of decision-making. The winning team, as Pep Guardiola says, makes more good decisions. Sport, in other words, advances when it trains people to make better decisions. There are now highly evolved analytical techniques for understanding how those decisions influence results. However, the athletes themselves are still people, imperfect and imperfectible. If you want machines, you get dummies.

This month, I was asked to found a new institute of advanced sports studies at the University of Buckingham. The mission is to create undergraduate and postgraduate courses that attend to the entire mindset – critical thinking, ethics and leadership, as well as data analytics and sports science: a kind of “PPE of sport”. After a misleading triple fissure – character, body, mind – sport is starting to put the pieces back together again. That’s why, this month, I’m rooting for Epstein’s Cubs.

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood