Curtailing global warming, 'Jerry Springer' and the Christian message and others

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The Independent Online

Well-managed forests can curtail global warming

Well-managed forests can curtail global warming

Sir: Thank you for publishing the article "Keystone copse" (January 5th) and informing your readers about carbon sequestration and forests.

It's true. Forest can be sources or sinks of CO 2 depending on management. Forest loss, for example, is the second largest source of CO 2 worldwide. Forest decay and the subsequent release of CO 2 is a natural part of forest dynamics.

When looking at total losses and gains, however, one must take a longer-term perspective. The effects of thinning are, as the article notes, merely temporary. Over longer stretches of time - roughly 10 years - carbon gains will outnumber losses.

What's important here are the concepts of forest permanence and forest stewardship. If our forests are to be an asset rather than a detriment in the fight against global warming, they must be preserved and managed in a manner that works with the knowledge we have gained from studies like that done at Edinburgh.

In fact, in the United States, we have been conducting exactly this type of research for more than 10 years. In California, these findings have been used to establish a rigorous, scientific and practical programme for the accounting of forest carbon emissions and reductions via conservation, stewardship management practices and reforestation. This new programme can serve as a benchmark throughout the US, Europe and beyond as we all strive to curtail the harmful effects of global warming.

President, The Pacific Forest Trust,
Santa Rosa, California, USA

Sir: Professor Solt's scepticism about the value of trees in combating global warming is nonsensical (letter, 7 January). Large-scale planting of woodland would achieve a major net absorption of carbon dioxide over a period of from 50 to 100 years (the main growth ages for trees, depending on the species and climate).

After that, woodland will retain the absorbed carbon indefinitely, so long as new growth is allowed to replace felled or fallen trees. This is in addition to the benefit the professor recognises, that the felled wood can be used to replace fossil fuel (and structural materials that are made using fossil fuel energy).

Of course once mature, woodland cannot absorb any additional carbon, but it can go on supplying energy. Most importantly, those 50 to 100 years it takes to reach maturity represent the sort of time-scale in which we most urgently need action over carbon dioxide. We need that stop-gap for the world to set about the serious long-term project of developing technology and economies that do not need fossil fuel.

This is not to mention the many other benefits that afforestation can bring: soil conservation, water catchment protection, and non-timber forest and woodland produce.


'Jerry Springer' and the Christian message

Sir: I am not surprised that atheist Richard Newson is happy to let Songs of Praise remain on the schedules (letter, 10 January). It is made to be completely anodyne. My guess is that he would be upset by a real Christian programme telling him that he is a sinner who needs to be saved, but he is never going to see that because the BBC keeps to its restrictive religious guidelines.

Either we have complete freedom of speech where there is Jerry Springer - The Opera on BBC1 and a preacher calling the nation to repentance on BBC2, or we have a level playing field where Christians are not allowed to proselytise and atheists are not allowed to denigrate Jesus.

What is totally unacceptable is that the BBC gags Christians from saying what they really believe, whilst giving atheists free rein to peddle whatever filth they like. The BBC is not just blasphemous, it is hopelessly biased against Christianity.

Hexham, Northumberland

Sir: Clearly those who wished to prevent the screening of Jerry Springer - The Opera are selective in their vigilance.

As alternatives to BBC2's transmission, Channel 4 showed Jackie Brown, a film which probably features as many if not more swear words, as well as violence and drug abuse. Meanwhile, on ITV1 Ross Kemp starred in Ultimate Force, a testosterone-driven "drama" which started with a female SAS recruit undergoing simulated torture, featured a violent shoot-out and ended with her joining her male colleagues in the showers after earning her stripes by taking out some terrorists.

Am I missing something?

London N8

Sir: Can you pass on my thanks to those zealots who engineered all the free publicity for Jerry Springer - The Opera? Without their diligent campaigning I would have missed this hilarious television treat. The only downside was its punctuation by intelligence-insulting disclaimers.

Those who argue that a licence payer has "rights" ignore the minuscule size of the stake they hold. Each hour of BBC broadcasting costs a licence payer 0.69 pence - taking into account only 1 and 2 (with Freeview it is even cheaper). Jerry Springer was the best 1.38 pence I've ever spent.


Sir: DJ Taylor (Opinion, 10 January) celebrates the fact that offended Christians are aping their minority-religion cousins who resort to violent criminality. Apparently, this levels the "45 degree-angled playing field". Surely, as a Christian, Mr Taylor should be calling for less violence all round, not more?


Sir: Amid the brouhaha about Jerry Springer - The Opera, has anyone asked Satanists their opinion about the characterisation of the Devil?

Marple, Greater Manchester

Safe conduct

Sir: Alistair Darling says he is likely to be "attacked and lynched" if he goes for a walk in parts of the south-east, citing his decision to refuse a bypass for the A27 trunk road at Arundel (Monday Interview, 3 January). I was disappointed that it appears Mr Darling is treating the problems we face over this heavily congested road so flippantly, especially at a time when my county council is working closely with the Highways Agency on an environmentally acceptable solution.

Like Mr Darling, I have no wish to see vast areas of countryside being covered in concrete. However, in the case of Arundel, there is widespread support for a bypass from local residents and a business community that needs to keep on the move. Mr Darling's comments take no account of the damage that the congestion on the existing road is having on the ancient and historic town of Arundel itself, as well as on many villages in our area of outstanding natural beauty, thanks to the rat-running undertaken by many vehicles to escape the A27 bottleneck at Arundel.

So, Mr Darling, come for your walk. I will be happy to escort you, and explain the many advantages that an Arundel bypass would bring. The only threats we will face will be from the fumes and being caught in the daily traffic jam.

Cabinet Member, Highways and Transport
West Sussex County Council
Chichester, West Sussex

Guantanamo guilt

Sir: I would have thought that for The Independent, as a UK newspaper acutely concerned with civil liberties, the "real outrage" and "greatest disgrace" of Guantanamo (leading article, 10 January) from a British perspective is that our government has not merely countenanced what has gone on at Guantanamo but has accompanied its perpetrators down the path of detention without trial.

What can possibly excuse Blair for refusing to make Guantanamo a sticking-point in this country's "special relationship" with the USA? A "coalition of the willing" was essential for Bush's credibility in invading Iraq. Whatever Blair's "conviction" about the rightness of the invasion, the "willingness" did not have to extend to countenancing the torture and brutality which made a mockery from the outset of his claim to the moral high ground.

It seems odd that your leader-writer presents the US as bearing exclusive responsibility for Guantanamo.


Post Office closures

Sir: We actively try to keep open all post offices in convenience stores and/or provide financial assistance for relocation to a site nearby ("Tesco under fire for closing post offices in local stores", 30 December). Our plan has been highly successful, with the majority of post offices remaining open.

All this is against a background where it is the policy of Post Office Ltd to reduce the number of outlets. The relocation of the Eastbourne post office referred to was prevented by intervention from Post Office Ltd and we remain ready to support an alternative proposal.

Group Corporate Affairs Director
Tesco Stores Ltd
Cheshunt, Hertfordshire

Einstein the Zionist

Sir: Einstein's address to the National Labor Committee for Palestine - which Howard Jacobson quotes (8 January) - followed the attacks by the Irgun Zvai Leumi on Arabs in November 1937. Up until then, the policy of the Zionist leadership during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 was one of "self-restraint" - no retaliation to killings of Jews in Palestine. The Irgun condemned this approach and breached this guiding principle. Einstein was actually a severe critic of the Israeli right and was scathing about Menachem Begin when he visited the US in late 1948.

If Einstein wasn't a Zionist, it was a bit odd of Ben-Gurion to ask him to stand as second President of Israel in 1952. Einstein condemned Begin's "military Zionism" and always supported the peace camp in Israel. He never renounced his Zionism.

This distortion of history by Dr Farooq is part of a wider phenomenon by those who do not believe that the Jews have a right to national self-determination. It is perfectly possible today to be a critic of the Sharon government and to be a supporter of Zionism. Yossi Beilin, the architect of the Oslo Agreement does not disavow the term "Zionist", neither does the mainstream Peace Now organisation. Yet this is always airbrushed out of existence. Those who oppose Zionism per se seek to portray dissent against Israeli government policy as anti-Zionist, which necessitates the de-Zionisation of Einstein and other major figures such as Bertrand Russell and Aneurin Bevan. In 2005, Zionism is a pejorative term and past progressives cannot be allowed to embrace it.

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Drug testing

Sir: The Conservative Party's support for compulsory drug testing in schools backed by expulsion (without appeal) is not the way to protect the safety and wellbeing of young people (report, 7 January). Research in the US found no difference in rates of drug use between schools that test and those that do not. The strongest predictors of drug use were attitudes towards drugs and perceptions of peer use.

Drug use and drug-related problems are much higher among children who regularly truant or who are excluded from school - expulsion therefore risks making the problem worse. If schools are concerned about the presence of drugs on the school premises, testing is unlikely to tackle the problem.

We should not be complacent, but there is no evidence of increasing drug use among young people. Indeed, use of Class A drugs among the under-16s has fallen significantly since the mid-1990s. Claims that current strategies based on education and prevention, particularly in schools, are failing are premature. To suggest widespread and increasing use, when the majority of young people do not use drugs, can make it more difficult to resist peer pressure.

Chief Executive
London SE1

Blair and Brown

Sir: I couldn't give a Jerry Springer about Gordon Brown's personal ambitions or Tony Blair's place in history. The Labour Party was elected to provide honest, efficient, humane and effective government now. If it can't put up a team to do that job - together - it deserves to be out of power for another very long time.

London E8

Driving lessons

Sir: As I drive a Vauxhall Astra ("You are what you drive", 8 January) do I need to start eating badly and reading the Daily Star, stop watching the BBC news and give up bell-ringing, or can I continue to be independent?

Calne, Wiltshire

Sir: Oh dear - I search in vain for myself as the owner of a Citroën. What does that say about me? An individual? I hope so.

Norton, Worcestershire

Triumph of irony

Sir: Surely there is no inconsistency between Janet Street-Porter's recent appearance in the jungle and her criticism of American popular culture (letter, 10 january). Clearly Janet's jaunt was intended to be ironic and of course as we all know, those from the colonies don't get irony - which is why their culture is so much more popular than ours these days.

Saltford, Somerset

Famous Belgians

Sir: How could you dedicate two pages to Belgium (7 January) and include Jean-Claude Van Damme in a list of famous Belgians, yet not have a single mention of Georges Simenon, one of the world's most prolific and well-liked novelists? Shame on you!

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire