Connect with us


When individuals become a community: altruism alive in Lincoln



Church of England priest and journalist Giles Fraser recently explored altruism for Radio 4’s History of Ideas series. To him the ‘selfish gene’ theory can’t explain acts of altruism, the selfless concern for the well-being of others. As a priest he used the sacrifice of Jesus as an example of the ultimate altruistic act. Which leads us to an altruistic community project in the Cathedral city of LincolnJesus Christ Superstar.

From August 1972, playgrounds across the UK reverberated with twisted lyric versions of the most well-known number in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera. I’d sung a version of the song but never seen the production. So I was intrigued in late 2014 by the buzz created by a proposed amateur staging of the rock opera, in Lincoln Cathedral.

Local entrepreneur and impresario Ben Poole conceived of a production that would bring together people of all ages and social backgrounds from across Lincolnshire and beyond, providing an opportunity for strangers and families to work together, learn new skills and improve their quality of life and wellbeing. Critically the vast majority of the large cast were to have little or no theatre experience. This was to be an inclusive and diverse volunteer community project.

Ever the perfectionist, Poole, who also runs Lincoln’s acclaimed Imperial Teas, was determined that the production would stand equal to any West End or Broadway production. Both Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice gave their altruistic permission and blessing for the amateur production to go ahead. Local businesses and individuals donated considerable time, resources and money. The large cast committed to two nights a week through the winter and spring months and four nights a week in the final build up to opening night on 23 July 2015, the start of a ten-night run.

The Cathedral became involved when the producers approached them tentatively, happily lending the venue, their financial backing and name, so the community could participate in the life of an iconic building within the city. Right from the onset the project was built on the generosity expressed by all involved.

And the event sold out within days.

Interested as Blue & Green is in social impact, philanthropy and altruistic enterprise I was able to secure a press pass to review the show but also to explore its unique DNA. Attending a pre-show reception in the magnificent Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral to chat, again there was a real buzz. We all knew the previous night’s first performance had been a triumph with a spontaneous standing ovation as the show ended.

We all took our seats in the magnificent 12th century nave surrounded by a large cast recreating scenes from first century Palestine. The minimalist and stepped stage set was juxtaposed by two massive medieval pillars of the Cathedral’s main tower. The production team had certainly pulled out all the stops with the costumes, staging, lighting and soundscape.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of this magnificent performance it is worth saying that by the interval, the lady to my right was sobbing and I may have had a speck of dust in my own eye. Without a religious bone in my body I was genuinely moved by a unique telling of a story we think we all know.

The leads’ performances ranked alongside any of our country’s best actors. Ben Poole took on the demanding role of Jesus alongside his many other responsibilities, final year drama student Mark McCredie brilliantly portraying the anguished and pivotal role of Judas, Sophie Kamal was a compassionate Mary, local AC/DC tribute band singer Andrew Cowley was the Jewish priest Caiaphas, Peter Merrick was the complex Pilate and Jim Burrows was a wild and mercurial Herod. But the real star was the vast ensemble cast. Nearly 200 ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing.

The Cathedral solemnly struck 10 as Jesus died on the cross. And then, resurrection and another standing ovation as we were all led out to Minster Yard to face the entire cast vocalising the melody of Jesus Christ Superstar. A light rain fell as the cast and audience mingled with hugs, handshakes and honestly-felt congratulations shared between families, friends and strangers.

Evaluating the impact of any community project is a challenge. Did the production meet its original goal? Providentially one of the event’s financial sponsors was local data business Slingshot Intelligence. Not only were they generous in their financial support of the production, they were also members of the cast and also used their technology to profile the cast and audience. This allowed them to see if the production had drawn people from across the social spectrum. Their assessment? Success.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a controversial rock opera, accused by some of being blasphemous when it originally debuted. It mixes powerful political and human drama with high camp. It could be viewed as a theological defence of the role of Judas. It was condemned as fuelling anti-Semitism at one point but is actually a criticism of any organised religion claiming to act for the greater good. It explains more clearly and powerfully than any theologian ever has the central and simple tenets of Christian philosophy; reciprocity, love, hope, kindness, tolerance and altruism.

Last night my wife and I were sitting in our garden and at 1015pm we heard the distant hum of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ reflecting off the Cathedral’s massive West Front. I might sit outside every night just to hear that wonderful, uplifitng sound.

In my humble critical opinion, Superstar Lincoln is a triumph. Five-stars.

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Editors Choice

2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage



Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker |

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

Continue Reading


How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018



Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art |

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly


Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

Continue Reading