Last Day Free: summer six-pack

Six of the Best posts unlocked in the 2nd Opinion archive

THERE’S JUST UNDER 24 HOURS LEFT before the locks snap shut on the best posts of Q2, 2021.

Here they are again — please tell your friends.

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An earthquake under Big Oil

Shell, the Netherlands’ biggest company and a lodestar for the country’s outsized role on the world stage, was told by a Dutch judge to dispose of its most polluting assets to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Similar litigation is likely to follow in other jurisdictions.

Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% within 10 years: the interest served with the reduction obligation outweighs the Shell group’s commercial interests and may curb the potential growth of the Shell group - Judge Larisa Alwin 

Read the full post here: An earthquake under Big Oil


A border buried at sea

In Belfast, rioting on the Shankhill Road signalled distress among mainly Protestant communities in Northern Ireland over the terms of the Brexit deal between London and the European Union. In the unionist mind, a perception had taken root that nationalists are in charge of Northern Ireland - de nationalisten het voor het zeggen hebben in Noord-Ierland. Next to longstanding mistrust, the new and unstable element was a border buried at sea. 

Brexit negotiators on both sides feared a resumption of republican violence if a new border was installed on the mainland of Ireland and Northern Ireland, so the eventual compromise was to locate Europe’s newest border in the Irish Sea.

Read the full post here: A border buried at sea


A voice like sand and glue

In May, Bob Dylan - rockstar, troubadour, poet and Nobel laureate - turned 80: the protest singer’s long efforts to shake the mantra of being “the voice of a generation” have created a legacy of classical proportions. My post on the confessions of a Bob-cat was the most-read on 2nd Opinion to date.

There’s a lone soldier on the cross, / smoke pouring out of a boxcar door. / You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done / but in the final end we won the war / after losing every battle 

Read the full post here: A voice like sand and glue


Deventer murder: trial and re-trial by media

In the Netherlands, opinion pollster Maurice de Hond took issue with a chart-topping Dutch podcast, the Deventer Mediasaak. The series exposed dark arts and behind-the-scenes media manipulation. De Hond successfully cast doubt on the verdict in a murder case despite evidence that the guilty man had been duly convicted.

IN DEVENTER, a municipality in the southwest province of Overijssel, lived a handyman by the name of Michaël de Jong. This man had nothing to do with the murder of his friend Jacqueline Wittenberg

Read the full post here: Deventer murder: trial and re-trial by media


The double-Dutch standard in Sex Ed

In a guest post, special correspondent Betsy Middleton peered into the prejudices of sex education in Dutch schools. This is the kind of public service that policymakers, with their grown-up attitudes to sex, might be expected to do well. The Netherlands is a secular state with a 'sexular’ approach to Sex Ed, but stubborn stereotypes persist.

Freed from the influence of Christian conservatism, Dutch society grew suspicious of socially conservative influences - especially Islam - from immigration 

Read the full post here: The double-Dutch standard in Sex Ed


A wafer-thin plan

Whether the next cabinet is Rutte’s fourth - Rutte IV, or D66 leader Sigrid Kaag’s first as prime minister, Kaag I - the bargaining to form a new coalition was happening - as usual - behind closed doors. The prime minister deployed Herman Diederik Tjeenk Willink, a 79-year-old former civil servant-turned Labour party politician, in the role of informateur with a brief to rebuild trust between the cabinet and parliament.

Guido Braam, a circular economy champion, touted a “man on the moon mission” to unite the political factions around a plan to mimic the basic operating principles of Nature - a source of new ideas for agriculture, climate, finance, housing, industry, labour markets and foreign policy

Read the full post here: A wafer-thin plan

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All six posts are free to read until noon on Monday, July 12, 2021.

After that, the locks click shut again - except to subscribers, who can browse the entire 2nd Opinion archive including art and short films at any time. Big thanks from me to all of you for supporting this newsletter.

Groeten! — Mark

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After the long lock-down, the summer season is here. With the holidays, for many of us, comes a summer project. Or several. Mine include a “busman’s holiday” to learn more about the differences between ‘good’ offsetting and ‘bad’ offsetting of carbon emissions - a task helped by publication in November 2020 of the Oxford Principles for Sustainable Offsetting.

I’ll also be drafting scenes for a stage play to capture the human drama behind the existential struggle for Big Oil. As I’ve reported here, that contest that has enveloped climate activists, investors and oil executives - many of whom are engaged in a parallel inter-generational struggle, often within their own families.

And if time allows, I’m keen to learn more about #neurodiversity - a challenge to each and every one of us, whether we realise it or not. This isn’t a new issue, but it is more ubiquitous than previously understood, a corollary of our digital lives and ever-increasing screen time. The promise of neurodiversity is immense, but every other kind of diversity - cultural, racial, sexual - seems a walk in the park by comparison.

In the coming months, I’m hoping to post updates on all these themes - in tandem with my summer projects - as I go along. So the editorial remit for 2ndOpinion will change. I won’t abandon the Letter From Amsterdam format, but I’ll try to use it sparingly.

Big bedankt for being here.