Zac Goldsmith: You Ask The Questions

The environmentalist and Tory adviser answers your questions, such as "So why the Tories, not the Greens? And when did you last use public transport?"
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What are the three key actions we need to take to save the planet? A DAVIES, Burton upon Trent

Governments need to find ways to make the market embrace the value of the environment. Corporations need to be encouraged, and if necessary compelled, to internalise the cost of their impact on the environment. As individual voters, investors and consumers, we need to be aware of our power - and use it.

Should we fine people who don't recycle? ALEX KROHN, by e-mail

We need to make it easier to recycle - then we can think of fines. More important, we should encourage the big retailers to produce less waste.

How do you think voters will react at the next election if told not to take cheap flights by a bunch of Old Etonians? NEIL COURTNEY, Greenwich

Air travel is becoming a major factor in causing climate change. It follows that the predicted growth in aviation cannot be environmentally acceptable. That's a fact, whichever school you went to. We're all in this together.

Why the Tories and not the Greens? TARA BRECON, High Wycombe

Because the Tories are irreversibly committed to dealing with these huge problems; because their approach works best; and because they have a realistic chance of forming the next government.

Can you prove that reducing CO2 emissions will cause reduction in climate change? If not, then why expect those who stand to lose to take any action? PETER HAYWARD, by e-mail

If we are right about climate change, and do nothing, we are in real trouble. If we're wrong, but still pursue green policies, there is no remotely comparable downside. The case for the precautionary principle is overwhelming.

When was the last time you used public transport? SALLY DUFF, Nottingham

Not since I bought a scooter a few months ago.

Why do you oppose wind farms? PETER ALLINSON, Dorset

I don't. I strongly believe in wind energy but reject the manner in which giant wind monocultures have been brutally imposed on local communities.

How large is your eco-footprint? ROBERT UHLIG, by e-mail

Relative to a resident of Tuvalu, huge no doubt. But I believe it's smaller than average for this country.

Are you a vegetarian. If not, why not? ADRIAN SMITH, Norwich

No. According to a local paper, I am "Devon's only Jewish pig farmer". I don't have a problem with meat consumption, which is natural. I have a problem with intensive meat production, which isn't.

Will your involvement in environmental politics continue to be an exercise in hypocritical attention-seeking? KATHLEEN CASARES, by e-mail

I've never engaged in "hypocritical attention-seeking". To be effective, environmental solutions must necessarily apply to, and be applicable by, people of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Would you have become editor of The Ecologist purely on your merits? JACQUELINE ZOFF, London

Who knows? But I hope I have been broadly useful to the causes it espouses.

Do you wear normal clothes or ones woven from organic fabrics? LOUISA JENSEN, Oxford


Will we eventually need personal carbon quotas? DAVE COCKCROFT, Stroud

Carbon rationing will definitely play a part in dealing with climate change. Unless we set tight limits and a high price on emissions, I don't believe we have a chance.

How can you say the underlying philosophy of the Conservatives is in harmony with your aims? DEBRA VANDEMOORTELE, by e-mail

I don't claim the Conservative Party has always been the environment's best friend. But today, more than any other major party, it has dramatically pushed the environment on to the political agenda, and shown genuine radicalism and courage. I don't believe you can be a conservative without also caring deeply about the environment. Conservation, democracy, decentralisation, local empowerment - these are conservative principles at the heart of environmentalism.

What will you do if Cameron wimps out or ignores your suggestions? PAUL LARKIN, Hackney

If I thought that might happen, I wouldn't be wasting my time. Nor would the 150 people who are involved in the Quality of Life policy group. Obviously, not everything we suggest will be accepted. But the next Conservative manifesto will be a green one. Anything less will be rejected by the public, let alone me.

Isn't it easier for rich people to be green, given the premiums on anything eco-friendly from organic veg to private wind turbines? MARINA GRACZYK, by e-mail

To a certain extent that is true. So the challenge for any political party in improving the environment is to ensure its solutions are fair to all members of society.

How many times a year do you fly? Is it true you have a private jet? SERENA DAVISON, by e-mail

Yes I fly, but rarely, because I hate the experience. No I don't have a private jet!

Radical lifestyle changes are needed to halt global warming. Don't most fly in the face of global capitalism? GODFREY BARTLETT, Brentwood, Essex.

Many of them relate to the way we do business. If every soft drink can thrown away in the US last year had been recycled it would have saved enough aluminium to re-build the entire world aeroplane fleet. We need to design waste out of the system. We need to move away from the throw-away society. That doesn't have to equate to mass sacrifice.

I'm a traditional green wet-liberal lefty brought up on wholemeal bread, lentilsand recycling. How will toffs, Tories and gamblers like you win over the likes of myself? ALISON GIBBS, by e-mail

I've also been concerned about the environment as far back as I remember. If we're to stand any chance at all of protecting the planet we need to ensure the battle to become everyone's - and not just the "wet liberal lefty" minority that you say you belong to. Incidentally, I think your stereotypes are out of date!

Would you like to see privacy legislation to protect the rich and famous? EDWARD STEIN, Manchester

Legislation is long overdue, but for everyone not just the rich and famous. The media is as intrusive of grieving mothers or people suffering from psychological illnesses as it is of so-called celebrities. I don't want to live in a society in which private traumas are turned into public entertainment.

What is it like having your personal life sifted through in the pages of national newspapers? SAN BHATIA, London

If my name was removed from many of the articles printed about me, I wouldn't be able to recognise myself in them. It's amazing how cavalier newspapers are with the truth, quite often literally fabricating whole narratives. So it's hard to answer because the life they're sifting through often isn't mine, rather some caricature figure bearing my name.

Jimmy Goldsmith was not noted for monogamy. Do you agree with speculation this runs in the family? SAM KADUK, by e-mail

It's an interesting question for a geneticist - but not for me.

Your father is rumoured to have helped Lord Lucan escape. Did he ever speak about this? Do you think it's true? ELIZA RONAN, Sevenoaks, Kent

He once told me a secret is something you tell one person at a time. So either I was at the end of a very long queue, or the answer is "no".

Do you keep in touch with Imran Khan? SHEENA MCINTYRE, Glasgow

Often. Imran is an extraordinary man; incorruptible and with total integrity.

How do you feel about Muslim women covering their faces or, like your sister Jemima, wearing miniskirts ? KAREN BROWN, Brighton

There seem to me to be two types of Islam: one essentially a private contract between man and God. The other involves top-down, authoritarian instruction delivered by a questionable religious élite. In Britain, that élite has no formal power, thankfully, and the choice largely remains with the women themselves.

Are you religious and do you believe in a God? ZETA HOFFMAN, by e-mail

Not formally. But there is a magic in humanity and in the natural world. For me, God is merely shorthand for whatever is responsible.

Is Hugh Grant, your sister's boyfriend, as annoying in real life as on screen? MARCUS LEVITIN, by e-mail

Are you as abusive in real life as on e-mail?

If you care so much, why not give away all your millions? JASON ASHCROFT, Cardiff

My money allows me to work for the things I believe in. I'm grateful for that - and glad it remains in my control.

If you had been the son of say a coal miner, would you have been so enamoured with the Tories? IAN MCDONNELL, Essex

I can't see why my belief that the Conservatives are best placed to deliver what's needed would be any different.

What are your guilty pleasures? KATHY STEVENS, Chelmsford

I don't get any pleasure out of guilt.

Do you agree with your father that withdrawal from the EU is essential? If so how can we achieve environmental targets? GUILLAUME RENAUX, Paris

I believe in political decentralisation. The EU is a flawed organisation but Europe is unarguably the best place for dealing with some issues, like the environment.

Is poker really a game of skill? DALE MCLEOD, Edinburgh

It's definitely a game of skill. That's why the final tables in big tournaments tend to feature the same faces. But there's enough chance in it to allow people like me to luck my way through.

Do you ever play strip poker? If yes, could I play with you? JENNY BAKER, Winchester

I haven't - but I'm sure it would be a good way to distract an opponent.

You Ask The Questions

Next week: Margaret Beckett, Foreign Secretary

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