IoS letters, emails & online postings (30 January 2011)

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The Government's report into global food production published last week calls for urgent action to stop food shortages. Clearly the issue of waste in the Western world is one which could be changed by changing the mindset of people. But for me, the first question to address is how this report reflects on food production here.

The biggest farmer in the nation is the Co-op. It prides itself on its ethical and sustainable credentials and claims to be "good for everyone". But where I live in the Ribble Valley it is trying to sell agricultural land for housing. The housing "crop" is far more financially rewarding than grass, and the Co-op is prepared to ignore its own policies in pursuit of the large profits available from selling houses in our rural landscape.

If the Co-op needs to increase its return from land assets, then it could take up the idea of creating more allotments. There is a national shortage of allotments and people are prepared to rent them and work hard to provide their own food rather than buy beans which have been flown from Kenya or broccoli which has come all the way from Spain.

Once our green fields have been built on they are lost for ever. So here is a sustainable, ethical, community-based response which the Co-op could pioneer in order to begin to address Britain's demand for food.

Nick Walker

Whalley, Clitheroe, Lancashire

Surely if the main characters in the Blair/Brown government were less worried about how they would be portrayed in each other's diaries, then tensions would have been eased, relationships better and the course of history could have been changed. I, clearly wrongly, assumed that running the country would keep the Prime Minister and his team busy. Does David Cameron have extra time to be keeping a tell-all diary that will secure his place on the US speaking circuit? What about Michael Gove? Perhaps if we really are "all in this together" the present government should learn from the past, focus on the task in hand and agree that nothing good comes from this diary business.

Richard Cook

via email

L J Atterbury's complaint (Letters, 23 January) about Sunderland public library's sale of a copy of The Calling of a Cuckoo by the former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, is based on two false assumptions. First, that no library should ever dispose of any of the books it acquires. In the UK, only the five legal-deposit libraries have such a policy. All other libraries – public and academic – not having elastic walls, have always had to make space for new books by disposing of others which are out of date, superseded or no longer being used. Second, that the copy sold was the only one held by Sunderland libraries. In fact, they still have one copy in stock, which the staff have presumably assessed as enough to meet the current and likely future demand for that title.

M R Stallion

Braintree, Essex

On 23 January, I took a return train journey between Crayford in Kent and Bedford. It involved the use of four overground trains. Not one of them had any heating, despite the temperature being little more than five degrees above freezing.

To me, this suggests two possibilities. Either train operating companies are deliberately turning off onboard heating to save money or they are not spending sufficiently on maintaining onboard heating systems – and the four on which I travelled all just happened to be defective.

I used two Southeastern trains between Crayford and London Bridge; an East Midlands train between St Pancras and Bedford, and a First Capital Connect train between Bedford and St Pancras. The last one was so cold I had to go into a shop at the terminus after getting off the train simply to get some circulation back in my feet.

Barry Cross

Dartford, Kent

Tom Hodgkinson writes: "There is something beautiful and fascinating about... the death of Keats" ("Our plan? To jump off the treadmill", 23 January). At 25? From consumption? Coughing up blood? Tom, have you seen a young person die? It's brutal.

Pat Rogers

Tiptree, Essex

Now we learn that undercover police officers have have had affairs with, and even married, environmental activists. This resembles the case of the German politician Vera Wollenberger, who played an important role in the opposition against the communist government of the former East Germany. After the wall came down she learned from her Stasi files that her husband had reported her political activities in great detail to the Stasi and had married her for that purpose. It is mind-boggling that the Metropolitan Police is not afraid to use similar methods to undermine democratic activities.

Jens Rolff

Sheffield, South Yorkshire

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