IoS letters, emails & online postings (5 December 2010)

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John Rentoul suggests government child poverty targets are arbitrary or unachievable, but they have been achieved by other European nations, so there is no reason we cannot achieve them, too ("The right to speak truth unto prejudice", 28 November).

Around a million children have moved out of poverty from the strategies that have been pursued in the past decade. Many more have seen real terms increases in income bring them closer to the day when they will move above the poverty line.

We need to unlearn the idea that a culture of inequality with an ever widening gap is inevitable. We need to unlearn the idea that Britain has more "feckless" parents than other countries – there is no inherent deficiency in the character of Britain's parents. We need to unlearn the idea that progressive income tax is a relic of a bygone age – it can again help achieve fairness. And we need to unlearn the idea that it is acceptable for tens of billions to go cheated, avoided and unpaid in taxes by wealthy individuals and corporations, while we proceed with tens of billions in cuts to the incomes and services the poorest rely on.

Alison Garnham

Chief Executive

Child Poverty Action Group

London N1

How unfortunate that Chris Huhne's detailed comments on the prospects of the Cancun conference fall so far short of the punch of your headline, "Cancun needs realism, not blind hope" (28 November). The reality of impending climate disaster, if not catastrophe, is more important than the sacred cows hidden in his apologia. The impossible economic paradigm of continuing growth in global GDP; the business as usual (apart only from emissions, of course); the sacrosanct nature of unfettered "free enterprise" which guarantees an inordinate remuneration ratio, both within and between countries, and the real implications of a burgeoning increase in population numbers are realities that ensure climate targets will fail to be reached.

Must we wait until the waters render properties near the Chelsea Embankment untenable before we are willing to slaughter some of these sacred cows?

R J Snell

Chippenham, Wiltshire

Your report "Voices from the frontline of global warming" (28 November) makes it shamefully clear why so many dismiss the fact or the urgency of global warming: all those already affected by the changes taking place are poor, and so of little political consequence to the rest of us who have the power to act.

Graeme Jackson


Has any attempt been made to square the two major problems facing the world today, namely climate change and overpopulation?

Tony Hill

Colyton, Devon

Your leader on the Prime Minister's green credentials makes for worrying reading ("Cancun: Where's green Dave now?", 28 November). Photographed in the Arctic, David Cameron distanced himself from the old "nasty party". Now safely in office, he is showing his true colours. But are we really surprised he quickly lost the need to be different from Tories of old in his dealings with the business folk and corporations who so enthusiastically funded his party and its general election campaign?

Mike Abbott

London W4

As Christopher Hitchens demonstrated in the debate with Tony Blair, it is easy enough to catalogue all the bad things human beings have done and do in the name of religion ("The great faith debate, 28 November). The question is, what on earth can atheists bring to the debate?

They have been rehearsing Hitchens's arguments since the 17th century, to no effect. They have had no effect on the entrenched antagonisms in this country, let alone those in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria or India.

To enable mankind to grapple effectively with real problems there is a crying need for a "faith debate", but atheist quips and snidery have no useful place in it.

Maurice Vassie


Paul Vallely is a bit harsh on individualism ("The referees' strike? I blame John Locke", 29 November). The Hobbesian view of the state of nature is of an environment so terrible and uncertain as to justify the contract with Leviathan. For Locke, the state of nature is merely irksome, so the power that rational, rights-bearing individuals should allow the state is significantly weaker. Both sought to explain why we should exchange some of our natural rights for the protection afforded by the state, but for Locke, the state's potential to abuse its authority was also to be feared and thus constrained.

The list of states that oppress their citizens is depressingly long, so I'm with Locke on this one.

Cherry Bradshaw

Via email

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