Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton was an English children’s author whose books have been translated into 90 languages and have sold more than 600 million copies. Making an assumption that each of those copies has been read by, let’s say, three people – that means we are going on for two billion people who have read her books. As a slice of the total human population on the planet from the 1930s when she began writing up until today – it’s a staggering number.

Enid Blyton continued to write up until her death in 1968, and somewhere along the way, I read her books. All this is interesting, but here’s the thing. She was due to be commemorated on a new 50p coin but it isn’t going to happen. In their recommendation, the advisory committee to the Royal Mint are said to have described her as “a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”.
If quantity is a measure of how ‘well-regarded’ a write she was, then she was well regarded. 600 million copies is a lot of copies, no?

In response to the advisory committee’s recommendation, a TV talk-show host commented that ““It seems to me that if you were to draw a line in the year say 1955 and go backwards from there you could pretty much pick up anybody based on our modern values.”

I agree. When Enid Blyton wrote, she was speaking conventional truths through her characters – white is better than black, boy is better than girl, etc.
On her being homophobic, well it would be right and proper for her to be so in her time. Homosexual acts were a criminal offence in the UK until the The Sexual Offences Act was made law in 1967, and that only decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men over the age of 21.

So to accuse Enid Blyton of being a homophobe is strange. In her lifetime she would be better described as an upstanding citizen decrying criminal behaviour. Of course, she could have been more sympathetic to homosexuality, but then she could have been more sympathetic to rapists, and what would the upstanding citizens of today say about that?

As I said, I read several of her books as a child. And perhaps my attitudes have been formed because of what I read. I haven’t trawled through her books to write this piece, so maybe I would be ‘absolutely appalled’ if I were to read her stuff now.

Assuming I would not be appalled, then I have sympathy for the opinion that we are living in a world of dangerously virtuous moral finger pointing at people who lived in another era.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The writing is on the wall because of climate change worries, but even without that there are the pollution consequences. So the argument goes that the more people who divest, the quicker fossil fuels becomes unattractive to others. That’s the argument. The problem with the argument is that for every stockholder that divests there must be a stockholder that invests – there must be a buyer for every seller. The buyers are likely be those who have listened to the environmental concerns and don’t care. Being who they are, they are more likely not to care what the oil companies do.

So the worst traits and behaviour are given more free rein, leading to more shortcuts, more Gulf Of Mexico oil spills. The price will find its own level and not fall through the floor, so the fossil fuel companies won’t suffer. Perhaps the divestment movement sees other effects – such as that Governments will be carried along by the wave of concern and legislate to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

But excepting knock-on effects like this, I can’t see a flaw in the argument that the unintended consequences of fossil fuel divestment is to concentrate ownership in the hands of those who don’t care.

Biofuel From Cows Exhaust Gases

I don’t know how long cows in mega farms spend in a barn, but even if it’s only part of the day, perhaps farmers could put in a negative airflow so that the air pressure would automatically send the emissions from the cows into a holding tank.

And maybe there are converters that would grab the emissions out of the air as they pass through and would store the methane and let the rest of the gases pass through.