LETTER : Andrew Lees was a local hero

Share
Related Topics
From Mr Nick Mayhew Sir: Your generous coverage of Andrew Lees's tragic death and his concerns in Madagascar has been very welcome. His obituary (9 January) by Richard D. North was, I thought, particularly evocative of much that was so special about him.

However, Andrew would have been sorely troubled by some of your more recent reports. First, Richard Dowden largely couches the question of whether or not Rio Tinto Zinc should mine for titanium dioxide in Madagascar in terms of our consumer demand for the stuff (11 January), and then Richard North misrepresents much of what Andrew stood for, along with many of the key environmental issues that his work in Madagascar has raised ("Less forest but less poverty, too", 12 January).

Andrew certainly saw the potential for getting us to "think globally" via a greater understanding of the origins of assorted commodities; he reckoned that such insights could, in turn, empower people to "act locally" in a well-targeted way. However, Andrew was also keenly conscious of the capacity of big corporations - especially through advertising, disingenuous PR and so on - to cover their tracks and mislead consumers, and thus to maintain an unsustainable demand for their products.

Therefore Andrew had severe doubts about the efficacy of "green consumerism". He was always far more interested in enabling people to "act locally" closer to home, where there was more at stake and where the people directly affected (by a particular industrial operation, say) had greater access to "the truth". This might have included the profound value of a particular ecosystem, or the assorted details and pleasures comprising the ways of life under threat, or the "facts" that the industry was trying to conceal from a wider world.

Andrew went to Madagascar to record the views and perspectives of the local people, and to communicate to them Friends of the Earth's knowledge of the likely repercussions of a mining operation in their backyard. This should be seen as an act of international solidarity and an attempt to empower others rather than being branded by Richard North as "fundamentalist" and representative of gross "eco-colonialism".

Of course Andrew was a romantic - but he was also profoundly aware of the tightrope of contradictions he was treading. He was certainly no "purist". Perhaps Andrew's burden was that he had so much to give. And the fact that we now all have so much to learn - and do - is our problem.

Yours etc.

Nick Mayhew London, NW5

12 January The writer is a former campaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
One 200ml bottle of codeine linctus contains three times the equivalent level of morphine you'd get in casualty if you broke your wrist  

The ‘war on drugs’ consistently ignores its greatest enemy: over-the-counter painkillers

Janet Street-Porter
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable