Letters: Capitalism is heating up the planet

These letters appear in the Monday 30th edition of the Independent

Your leading article’s statement “ultimately, the solution [to climate change] lies with the market” (28 September) is astonishing since climate change is caused by none other than the market itself. 

A cursory look at the major stratigraphically significant trends over the past 15,000 years shows a sharp rise subsequent to the industrial revolution and the onset of the market economy. This is why when analysing environmental indices (CO2 emission, global temperature, sea levels, biotic and sedimentation changes, etc), they are compared with pre-industrial levels. 

While the actions of mankind over the past few thousand years have had a detrimental effect on the environment, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution and the onset of capitalism that such effect became geologically significant – so much so that two eminent scientists, Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, proposed in 2000 that this age be called the “Anthropocene”, “the recent age of man”. 

Capitalism – a system that is incessantly expansive and inherently wasteful – is the precise opposite of what is required to combat climate change. You are right that “the cost of mitigating climate change is certainly high”; the cost is the market economy itself and that’s the reason for the US, UK and other governments’ reluctance to take up any serious measures to counter global warming. 

It is a stark choice that confronts us: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.

Fawzi Ibrahim, London NW2


Two facts: earth’s climate is changing; there are things we can do to reduce the damage. Why are we standing around arguing about the causes? 

If I see a heavy truck rushing towards me I take evasive action – the sooner the better. I don’t stop to argue about whether the driver is mad, the brakes have failed, or it is an uncontrollable skid. I get out of the way, as quick as I can.

Let flat earthers believe what they like. Let climate-change deniers pretend they are shivering. If they obstruct, they will have to be pushed aside.  But for heaven’s sake, stop wasting time arguing with them. Get moving! Go on! Move!

Kenneth J Moss, Norwich


Mark Avery (25 September) is right to highlight the lack of concern by the main British political parties about the state of our environment. Our future well-being is dependent on a healthy environment and the only way to achieve this is policies which put the environment first. This means long-term thinking. There is a gaping hole in our politics here. At the moment, none of the mainstream parties are anywhere close.

Mark Holling. North Berwick, East Lothian


Land seizures, from Henry VIII to Ed Miliband


The rule of law, cited by James Paton (Letters, 27 September), exists to uphold the interests  of the community at large,  not just segments of it, such  as property developers.

Indeed, Ed Miliband’s “use it or lose it” plan for developers’ land banks is not without precedent in England. In the 1540s, when most people rented their homes, difficulties were being caused by owners who had let their properties fall into decay or ruin. The outcome was a series of urban regeneration acts. One such, passed in 1540 under Henry VIII, was an “Act for re-edifying of decayed Houses in sundry Towns, and Places of the Realm”. The measures it laid out were radical. Head-lessees, and then owners, were required to repair or rebuild the properties concerned. If neither did, then after five years they would forfeit their leasehold or freehold interests to the local authority concerned.

The measures worked – not surprisingly, in view of their stringency. To them we probably owe some of the fine 16th-century houses which are now so much admired.

Arthur Percival, Faversham, Kent

The compulsory purchase of land banks proposed by Ed Miliband puts Labour’s housing policy in line with the supporters of land value tax (LVT). We believe that the present taxation system is flawed and unfair. When the value of UK land increases due to increased demand, the owners, including UK and international speculators, have done nothing to increase their personal wealth.

Renters gain nothing while their rents increase. The issue is how to make some of the increase in land value available to all. LVT taxes some of that increase in land value.

It should result in the abolition of the regressive council tax and business rates. It should cover all land, used and unused, so bringing land banks and empty homes into use, making investors look for income from renting, building and creating jobs to cover the tax. HMRC would spend less chasing tax-free money parked in overseas accounts; banks have yet to find a way of moving land into their vaults.

John Lipetz Coalition for Economic Justice Richard Murphy Tax Research UK Dr Stephen Battersby Pro-Housing Alliance Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17


The niqab affects all our freedoms


May I add something to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article on the niqab (23 September)? When she writes that “some good friends I deeply respect defend the choice [of the niqab] as a fundamental liberty” we need to make a total denial of that fallacy.

There is really only one fundamental liberty; the liberty not to be incarcerated without due cause and process. All other liberties are conditional on not affecting those of others. Whether it is the supposed liberty to take other people’s property, to drive uninsured, to wear Nazi regalia at a Jewish funeral, or use foul language in a public place, the rights of others may be legally enforced to limit it.

Those who have been most vociferous in the cause of liberty to wear the niqab – if it is in fact a liberty – are from cultures which are most punitive in respect of female dress and female activities. The niqab is offensive to a majority of British people including many Muslims; it has led to breaches of the peace in France; it is discriminatory, being discarded in all-female gatherings; it damages free intercourse between people; it poses dangers through restriction on peripheral vision, denial of recognition and the possibility of substitution of one person for another. These matters must not be swamped by irrational opposition.

Tony Pointon, Portsmouth


Bad experience  of Lariam


Eight years ago my daughter went to Ghana during her gap year, to work in an orphanage. She was prescribed Lariam as her anti-malarial drug before leaving. (“The Lariam scandal”, 27 September.)

She experienced unusual feelings of depression and detachment despite liking her new environment, and it took her a couple of months to work out that these were chemically driven and not a reaction to being far away from home etc. She went to a hospital and her anti-malarial medication was changed. The symptoms abated, never to return.

At around the same time, I emailed her because I had been sitting at dinner next to a medical consultant who told me “I wouldn’t give Lariam to my dog”.

B Davey, London N6


How to limit the cost of libel suits


I don’t entirely agree with your leading article “Fettering of the press” (17 September): the Ministry of Justice’s one-way cost proposals would not entirely remove the restraint on opportunistic claims for libel, defamation, or invasion of privacy, since claimants would still, after all, be liable for their own costs.

But a better idea might be  that the losing side, be they claimant or defendant, should  only be liable for their own  costs plus a maximum of the  same again from the other side. This provides a greater disincentive to vexatious claims, while  still discouraging the other side from throwing money at teams of expensive lawyers. Because it would apply either way, it also gives some relief to newspapers  or journalists threatened by rich claimants.

Overall, costs should come down, since both sides are aware of the hazard of out-spending the opposition. The result would be more even-handed justice and fewer protracted cases.

David Watson, Reading