IoS letters, emails & online postings (15 November 2009)

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While it is disappointing that an effective deal on global warming is unlikely to materialise in Copenhagen in December, it is hardly a surprising outcome, as has been suggested by some green groups.

How can anyone realistically believe that world leaders, who have so far failed to deliver anything more than the largely ineffective Kyoto agreement, are going to negotiate a deal that will save the planet from global warming? Why do we continue to believe that leaders sharing capitalistic values, the exact same capitalistic values that have taken humanity to the brink of disaster, are capable of delivering a solution in Copenhagen?

The fact is that capitalism, long term, will fail to provide us with the most basic of human needs – a secure place to live and food to eat. Capitalism is dead – it is the road behind us – but how can we expect our politicians to accept this? They are, after all, a product of the political systems they serve.

It should therefore come as no surprise if Copenhagen produces yet another Kyoto-style agreement. Capitalism is dead – long live capitalism.

Flemming Bermann Director, Carbon-info.org

Fair Oak, Hampshire

Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (Letters, 8 November) should go vegetarian: the number of humans who will starve to death this year (60 million) is the same number who could be adequately fed by grain if Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10 per cent; it takes 16lb of grain and soya beans to produce 1lb of feedlot beef; an acre of land can grow 2,000lb of potatoes but the same amount of land can only produce 165lb of beef; it takes 25 gallons of water to produce 1lb of wheat but 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1lb pound of meat.

Mark Richards

Newcastle, Staffordshire

It is not the case that Leeds, "instead of raising the pay of female staffers, wants to cut the salaries of male workers" ("A slice of Britain", 8 November). The city has raised the pay of jobs that are largely female – care assistants' pay, for example, has gone up by more than £4,000 a year and that of cleaners and kitchen assistants by more than £1,000.

Out of 23,000 staff evaluated by a process that involved union representatives, 20,500 had their pay increased or held at the same level. The rest, of which the refuse collectors are the largest group, had their current pay guaranteed for three years, up to February 2011, while negotiations continued. Half way through those negotiations, the refuse collectors went on strike.

The council has put forward productivity proposals that would ensure that all refuse workers gained or only lost a token amount. Current recruitment is not to break the strike, which would be illegal, but only to fill existing vacancies.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds

In your excellent Berlin pullout last week, Rupert Cornwell writes: "For sheer spookiness, nothing matched the trip across civilisations on an all but empty underground train in Berlin, as it passed from East to West at the Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse." In fact, a West Berlin underground line ran north-south through East Berlin, passing ghost stations – sealed to all but armed soldiers – and stopping only at Friedrichstrasse. The line did not appear on East Berlin maps and, until November 1989, Easterners had no idea of its existence. Friedrichstrasse was also an overground station, where trains from the West terminated on special platforms, sealed to all but Westerners. They said farewell to Eastern friends in the Hall of Tears before passing the checkpoint to the platforms.

Cleverly (like subterranean capitalists) the East set up a duty-free shop on one platform so Westerners could board the train in the West, cross, stock up and go back without ever actually entering East Berlin. Spooky? It was that, all right.

Christopher Hilton

Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire

The East Coast Main Line does make a respectable amount of money each year (Janet Street-Porter, "That's no way to run a railway", 8 November), but when the National Express Group took over, its bid was based on paying enormous premiums to the Government at regular intervals, like rent to a landlord. Because the amount it offered to pay vastly outstripped its available cash, and since the parent company could not cough up the difference, the franchise will be back in public hands until someone else takes over.

Dominic Hinde

via email

I do not know Sarah Brown, but we both have children with cystic fibrosis ("Life is cosy on planet Sarah", 8 November). It is the most common inherited genetic disease, where the average life expectancy is 35. So, perhaps Mrs Brown is choosing to spend her time with her children and in particular her son, who by all accounts will lead a happy life but does require extra attention, with a daily handful of pills and physiotherapy. How can this be faulted?

Kristian Teleki

Trustee, Bounce Trust

Cambridge

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Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: sundayletters@independent.co.uk (with address; no attachments, please); fax: 020 7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2009/November/15

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