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There are now over twice as many middle-aged people renting than in 2008.  Rising house prices in a stalling economy means that home ownership is becoming unrealistic for more and more people, with it being estimated that a third of millennials will rent for their whole lives.

As of yet the laws surrounding tenancies and tenants’ rights have not caught up with the increasing in renting within our society.  The two areas that are most lacking are evictions and landlord maintenance responsibilities.

Section 21 of the UK Housing Act 1988 states that tenants can be evicted without reason.  This is in fact a breach of international law and does not meet the standards set by other countries, such as Scotland and Germany.  In Scotland courts are able to distinguish between ‘mandatory’ and ‘discretionary’ grounds of eviction and in discretionary cases the landlord must justify their case for repossession to be mandated.

This problem feeds into the issue of homelessness caused by the ending of private sector tenancies.  It is the largest contributor to homelessness in England with 92% of London’s homeless population driven into it via this route.  No fault evictions must be addressed to help tackle this issue.

The other area of shortfall is in regards to maintenance as the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that landlords must deal with ‘disrepair’ but only for structural issues.  This means that other indicators of poor housing, such as damp, mould or asbestos, do not legally need to be dealt with by the landlord.  As a result of this, 27% of private sector rental properties fail the decent home standard due to at least one indicator of poor housing.

Applicants for Law can consider how they might interpret these laws when dealing with cases.  Land Economy students can study the rise in house prices and how it is greater than economic growth.        

The fire at the old headquarters of Littlewoods served as a fitting visual to the slow downturn in the prosperity of department stores and there physical premises.  Homebase recently announced the planned closure of 42 stores putting around 1,500 jobs at risk.  This comes amid a climate where Marks and Spencer (whose share price has dropped 6% in the last year) and House of Fraser have also been forced into store closures and can be placed within a broader picture of the closing of British Home Stores and Woolworths.

Their recession is predominantly down to the changing of consumer habits and its impact goes well beyond the financial stability of the department store to affect whole town centres.  Architects have indeed been inspired by the pulling power of department stores in their designing of shopping centres – John Lewis is the linchpin in Birmingham’s Bull Ring and Manchester’s Trafford centre.  These stores bring an increase in footfall that attracts local business.  Applicants for Economics and Land Economy should consider the impact that the receding of physical department stores will have on local economy. 

The rise of online retailers that fulfil the same role as department stores has led to the restructuring of department stores to put much greater emphasis on their online presence.  This can in part be put down to the same behavioural activity that made department stores successful, browsing.  Applicants for Psychology can question whether online retailers are able to provide a comparative shopping experience for the consumer that will lead to an equal or greater level of purchase.

The owners of Homebase, the Australian corporation Wesfarmers, recently sold the company to Hilco for £1.  This is an enormous loss on their purchasing of the company in 2016 for £340 million.  This can in part be put down to their attempt to rebrand the company on structure of their successful chain, in Australia, Brunnings.  Was there failure due to not considering the habits of British shoppers compared to their Australian counterparts?  Is the local nature of department stores to blame for their being usurped by international companies like Amazon?

Today the BBC released the towns and cities across the UK that are about to exceed or have already surpassed the air pollution limits set by the World Health Organization.  In total, there are 47 locations across the UK that fit this criteria, according to the WHO’s new report.  When broken down, the data shows that the majority (32 areas) are over the air pollution limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, whilst only 15 are at the limit. 

These UK cities cannot compare with the baffling levels of air pollution found globally, including Pasakha, Delhi and greater Cairo.  Although under revision, the WHO’s most polluted city in 2015, Muzaffarpur in India, had an astonishing 197 micrograms per cubic metre.  Although it’s no surprise that areas such as Manchester and London have exceeded the limit, it may be unexpected that they are in fact below many other locations, such as Port Talbot in Wales, displaying the worst levels of pollution at 18 micrograms per cubic metre.  London’s figure has in fact fallen in the last few years from 17 in 2013 to 11 in 2015, and this trend has occurred in other cities.  It is worth considering, however, how this data is extracted and, with cities such as London whose geographic parameters are often questionable, how such factors are measured.

The Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, Simon Gillespie, has raised his serious concerns about the environmental state of the UK, encouraging the government to adopt WHO air quality guidelines to help improve national health.  Polluted air can cause long term diseases, increase mortality rates and trap people in their houses.  Globally, it is estimated that 7 million people die per annum from such exposure, with the majority in countries in Asia and Africa.  Even though the levels of pollution in some of these LEDCs may figure lower than those in MEDCs, the quality of health care is far poorer.

The UK government has a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality, reduce emissions that cause debilitating diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer.  A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs mentioned a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy plan to be implemented later this year.  Students considering Geography and Land Economy in particular should consider the impact of rising air pollution and how the government could implement an effective and successful plan to improve the impact such levels are currently having on the UK and across the world.

As a lover of second-hand clothes and flea markets, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad also happened to be the eighth richest person on Bloomberg Billionaires Index.  Hailed as one of the most influential business men and entrepreneurs of the twentieth century, Kamprad’s wealth was estimated at around $73.8 billion.  Sadly, the mogul passed away late last month aged 91, leaving behind his staggering fortune.  Regrettably for his families and heirs, they will inherit a mere fraction of Kamprad’s enormous wealth.

Starting at the age of five, Kamprad sold matches to his neighbours and gradually progressed to selling seeds, stockings and stationary from his bicycle as a teenager.  By the time he was 17 he had founded IKA; the first mail-order catalogue launched in 1951 and in 1955 the famous flat-pack furniture was launched.  By 1985 it had stores in Europe, Norway and the US, eventually establishing 412 stores across 49 countries.

Kamprad grew up on a farm in southern Sweden and attributed his financial outlook to the attitude of the agricultural region in which he grew up.  This functionality displayed in his business model permeated to the style of furniture he sold.  Rooted in his homeland, he even conducted meetings in the downstairs of the flat in which he was living and grew up.

Although renowned for his internationally successful flatpack empire, Kamprad was equally known to be frugal in his financial dealings and perspective throughout his life.  Bloomberg reported that his purpose is charity donations and ‘supporting [design] innovation’.  Most of Kamprad’s furniture stores are owned by the Stichting Ingka Foundation and controlled Liechtenstein-based Interogo Foundation.  The latter foundation is itself managed by Stiftungsrat Foundation Council, consisting of a Supervisory Council in which, as Bloomberg reports, the Kamprad family ‘ha[s] been and shall always be in minority’.  The Kamprad family has no control over ownership of the company’s shares, with Kamprad arranging all the logistics personally so that they have no control of the IKEA company and will therefore receive minimal sums.  They will receive a small amount from Ikano Group, owned by the family and who runs a number of businesses in a variety of industries.  IKEA Foundation’s Chief Executive, Per Heggenes, confirmed Kamprad’s philanthropic outlook, stating in 2012 that he was ‘not interested in money’.  The complex structure put in place by Kamprad not only means that profits can be reinvested into the company but also ensures IKEA’s longevity, as not even a direct heir can take control after his death.

Applicants for Economics, PPE or Land Economy might want to consider the complex nature of the internal structure Kamprad set up to protect his company’s reputation and longevity.  Although he himself had not been involving in running IKEA since the late 1980s, with his son taking his place on the board of Inter IKEA in 2013, Kamprad had set in place the foundations to remain in control of his company and maintain the ethical values he practiced throughout his life and were inspired by the place in which he group up.

This week McDonalds have trialled the ‘McVegan’ burger in Finland, citing promising results. Anyone who isn’t Finnish, hoping to get their hands on a McVegan burger, should keep their fingers crossed for good sales.

Veganism has increased 360% in the UK since 2010, and 500% in the US since 2014. There is no doubt that this way of life, and indeed the phrase ‘veganism’, which at one point was widely ridiculed as ‘hippie kooks or radical politics, veganism’ has ascended to the astral plane of aspirational living’, whether it be an ethical choice, a health choice, or a choice made by intolerance to certain food groups. So why has veganism become so widely adopted in the western world?

The health benefits are hard to argue against. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegans are less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure than meat-eaters are. Biology students might want to think about how this nutritional choice may affect people’s health.

Also ethical campaigns about the dairy and egg industry being unsustainable and morally bankrupt, such as documentaries such as ‘Cowspiracy’, ‘Vegucated’ or ‘Live and Let Live’ (available on Netflix) are increasing in popularity.

However, the idea that veganism is a predominantly western phenomenon. Countries such as Taiwan and Korea have a raging vegan-friendly culture because of factors such as Buddhism and dairy products not being widely available. Geography and Land Economy students may want to think about why companies choose certain countries to trial their products, and how a small community can represent a larger demand.

So what about the people within the vegan community? Well, the average age of the vegan comes in at 42, whilst the political orientation is 52% liberal, with 32% being neutral, and 47% do not actively practice any religion. Psychology students might want to think about how personal traits can affect other lifestyle choices.

Now, perhaps the most controversial question to pose. Is veganism a fad? Well statistics show that there are many more former vegetarians/vegans than people who currently eat this way. One third of a survey maintained the diet for three months or so, and 53% of former vegetarians/vegans maintained the diet for less than a year.

Economics students may want to think about the economic implication of a growing vegan community to the meat trade. 

At 6.15 on Wednesday the 20th of September, Maria made landfall on the Island of Puerto Rico.  Carrying winds of over 155 miles per hour, Maria is the first Category 4 storm to hit the Island since 1932.  On some parts of the Island 30 inches – two and a half feet – of rain fell in one day.  By the end of the 20th of September power and cut from the entire Island.

Now, three weeks after the devastating storm hit, Elon Musk and his car and battery manufacturing company Tesla say they can restore and rebuild the island’s power infrastructure through renewable sources.

Crucial to the plan is the battery technology developed by Tesla for use in their electric cars. These batteries are already deployed on small islands such as Ta’u in American Samoa and tend to work in conjunction with Solar City (another Musk company) solar panels.  For Musk and the Tesla brand, this is the perfect opportunity to deploy a flagship model of it’s capability.  The emergent opportunity serves the dual purpose of demonstrating the ease, efficiency and efficacy of renewables while forcing the technology and economic value of Tesla’s technology into the public sphere.

While Musk has entered talks with governing officials in Puerto Rico, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has been granted approval to float large balloons over the Island to restore cellular service.  In the context of a federal government immobilised by a President’s unwillingness to act corporations are stepping in.

But at what cost? Are their motives philanthropic, or will Tesla monetarise its monopoly on the Puerto Rican electricity grid? And when companies fill the breach of governments in times of crisis, what is the long-term cost?

Sand is becoming the centre of an urgent debate concerning environmental damage to riverbeds across Africa. Sand dredging to make key building materials such as concrete, bricks and glass, are jeopardising coastlines across African countries. According to the BBC, sand is now the second most used natural commodity today, after water.

These have colossal environmental implications, but also impact those who depend on rivers in different ways, including for water. Moreover, a black market in different countries for sand has developed to meet demand, and because trading sand has become a lucrative business. Dredging through transnational industries and black market traders has resulted in riverbeds across the global South being left dry. Consequently, communities who rely on the river, as well as animals such as migratory birds, have been left without access to water and fish.

The issue is gaining global prominence, with Cambodia permanently banning sand exports earlier this year citing serious damage to coastal ecosystems. Environmental activists have encouraged such bans, hoping that it will make a difference and set an example for other countries to follow suit.

With projected population increases across the globe, how will demands for water and resources be met with sand dredging on the rise? Will dredging continue to have negative impacts on local communities and the environment? Are there more sustainable alternatives? These questions should be considered by applicants to Geography, Land Economy and PPE.

The streets of Mumbai have been filled by blue dogs after a local river was filled by industrial dye by a manufacturing plant in the Taloja Industrial area of the city. So far, over ten cobalt canines have been spotted this month, with residents of the area reporting the sightings and the waste-filled river to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). The shocked local population have also been capturing the pigmented pooches on camera and sharing the unusual videos and photos on social media.

A member of the Navi Mumbai Animal Protection Cell, who had witnesses the blue dogs, commented, ‘It was shocking to see how the dog’s white fur had turned completely blue. We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.’ Dogs are not the only animals that appear to have been affected by the leaked dyes and other waste, as reports also confirm damage to other mammals, birds and reptiles. An animal welfare agency has reported that blood reports from the blue dogs show that they have been unharmed in other ways by their experience and that, on examination, the dye can be removed.

The manufacturing company deemed responsible has been shut down by the pollution control board, as positive links between air and water pollution have been made with the plant.  A regional officer MPCB New Mumbai announced that ‘none of the directions under the ‘Control of Water and Air Pollution Acts’ of 1974 and 1981 were being followed’. The affected Kasadi River, however, flows through an area populated with hundreds of factories that may have contributed to the problem.

Natural Sciences, Geography, Law and Land Economy students should examine the environmental harm caused by the polluted river (to both animal, plant and human life) and the legal case against the company concerned.

Into the Inferno (available on Netflix) is the title of Werner Herzog’s documentary about volcanic eruptions and the people who live under their threat.

It is fascinating because it looks at volcanology from a scientific and cultural perspective simultaneously, covering a number of different locations around the globe. Whilst Clive Oppenheimer, Herzog’s collaborator on the film, casts an analytical eye over the science of volcanism – volcanic gas sensing, petrology, volcano seismology and tephra studies, Herzog himself examines how the fear and awe of the volcanoes translate in to ritual and religion.

One of the problems that volcanoes present are their erratic nature. At this point in time there are active volcanoes underseas that cause giant tsunamis when they erupt, resulting in large numbers of potential casualties. The more research that is done, the more we may be able to predict, and prepare for these natural catastrophes.

Geography or Earth Sciences can lead to real-life implementation, Oppenheimer has written a wonderful book exploring the hard science behind studying Volcanoes – what we know, and where the gaps in our knowledge lie: Francis, P. and Oppenheimer, C., 2004. Volcanoes, Oxford University Press. Geography and Earth Sciences Applicants might further want to think about the importance of the study of magmatic and volcanic processes, and the methods through which volcanoes can be analysed. You may be interested to pursue the field by visiting this research group –

Those interested in Anthropology and cultural studies should pay particular attention to the ways in which volcanoes have been integrated in to the symbolic and ritual life of certain communities, and consider the inter-relationship between the environment and culture. Those interested in this area may want to consider reading ‘Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People Paperback’ (2000) by Roy Rappaport

Imagine driving in a world with….

Less traffic and pollution whilst you sail smoothly along, free from the stress of navigating your way to an unknown destination.

Personal Rapid Transit as an alternative means of travel is not a new concept. Since the 1970s, numerous global companies have developed Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PRT) for accelerated transportation, from West Virginia University, to more recent systems such as the Ultra PRT network at Heathrow International airport and the Masdar City pod car system in Abu Dhabi. The reality of pod cars as a means of personal transportation to replace conventional cars is now more imminent than ever. Last year Uber launched its first ground-breaking driverless fleet. Over the last 12 years, Nissan have been developing autonomous cars which they estimate will be introduced in another 5 years from now. Yet whilst pod cars offer the impressive benefits of convenient, affordable and safe travel it is worth considering some of the stumbling blocks that still exist. Driverless cars are currently run using a network of cameras and roof-mounted sensors that could be impeded by rain or snow. Furthermore, concerns of privacy and protection from hacking will need to be mitigated. It is likely that pod cars will still be run on fuel, so radical reductions in emissions may not be an immediate benefit of the new transport. Yet, driverless cars will make the transition to electric vehicles easier, make cities more appealing and incentivise car sharing.

Applicants for Physics, Natural Sciences and Engineering may like to research the current technology behind the driverless cars, whilst applicants for Land Economy, and Geography could consider the implications of pod cars on urban development. Those applying for Law may be interested in researching the recent law suit filed by Google, claiming the Uber stole information to develop the driverless technology.

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Dukes Consultancy 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR


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