Letters: Climate Change

Signs of hope in battle to save the climate
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The Independent Online

In these days of funny money and eye-watering personal fortunes, the $3.5bn Ecuador asks for keeping oil in the ground and the rainforest above it standing (Johann Hari, 26 May) could easily be paid by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Warren Buffett. How about a whip-round?

Mark Rasmussen

London E11

The introduction of new laws to weaken the protection of the Amazon rainforest is deeply disturbing ("Brazil shreds laws protecting its rainforests", 25 May) – all the more so because Europe's insatiable appetite for cheap crops to feed our factory farms and cars is a key driving force behind their destruction.

Huge swathes of forest are being replaced by huge plantations and cattle ranches, while local communities are either being driven from their land or exposed to dangerous pesticides and chemicals. The resulting deforestation already makes Brazil the fourth largest emitter of climate-changing emissions.

Pressure should be put on Brazil to stop this destruction – but Europe must take action too.

This must include the scrapping of unsustainable European targets for increasing biofuel use, and urgent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to support home-grown animal feeds and planet-friendly meat production.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran

Food Campaigner

Friends of the Earth

London, N1

Johann Hari cites a heart-warming Ecuadorian example of the environment taking precedence over short-term profit – but there's a fascinating example of local environmental concerns winning out over the search for oil closer to home.

Last week Surrey County Council ruled against a planning application by Europa Oil and Gas for an exploratory drilling rig near Coldharbour, Surrey. The decision was all the more interesting as the council was ready to give the application the not-so-green light, but hundreds of objections from local residents and dozens of citizens attending the hearing apparently changed the planning committee's mind.

In places as diverse as Ecuador and the Home Counties people are beginning to see that protecting the environment can be prioritised over squeezing every last drop of fossil fuel from the earth.

Prateek Buch

Woodford Green, Essex

I hope the world will wake up and pay Ecuador the £3.5bn to leave its oil in the ground and save the rainforest. I don't know what Britain's share would be, but I know we've spent far more on far less.

Don Williamson

Ebbw Vale, South Wales

I read with dismay in your South Georgia report (27 May): " ... the rising temperature of the sea water, at least some of which is thought to be attributable to man-made climate change, which could have a devastating effect ...".

All the harmful temperature changes happening and predicted are due to man-made climate change – there is a scientific consensus on this issue; it's not natural or random. It is a shame this article suggests harmful climate change may not in fact be man-made. Harmful climate change is man made. Your article creates doubt about this fact.

Simon Nash,

Bromley, Kent

Act boldly to curb alcohol

Figures released by the NHS Information Centre on alcohol-related hospital admissions surpassing 1 million show us once again the need for the Government to take firm action in this area of health policy. The clinical community has consistently, and for many years, urged the Government to adopt a more proactive approach to combating the harmful effects of alcohol.

The equation is simple. More must be done to address the needs of those people who come into contact with the NHS with alcohol-related health problems while also taking measures which will encourage lower levels of consumption by the population.

The former requires joined-up multidisciplinary clinical teams which sit across the health service and community settings to ensure patients receive appropriate early and consistent interventions, thereby reducing admissions generally and dealing with the more serious "revolving door" patients with liver disease.

The latter requires bold action to address the promotion, availability and affordability of alcohol. The Government has made very early and tentative steps in this regard and it is clear that bolder steps will be needed to bring about genuine behaviour change.

The Government's forthcoming alcohol strategy will be crucial; the figures highlight this more than ever.

Professor Jon Rhodes


Professor Sir Ian Gilmore

President-elect and Chair of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance,

British Society of Gastroenterology

London NW1

Where is the Labour vision?

Perhaps now is the time to remind Ed Miliband that his sole political purpose is to win the next general election and that to do so needs a strategy.

The task should not be difficult, given the current systematic dismantling of the state education system, the fog surrounding NHS reforms and the entry into these two lucrative markets of the unfettered friends of the Conservative Party, whose gratitude will be expressed in associate directorships and party donations. The task is made easier still by the electorate's obvious dislike of the self-serving Nick Clegg.

Yet it seems that Miliband's last drop of political cunning was spent in the campaign to defeat his brother. Why else would he devote most of last week's energies to the attack on the soft target of Kenneth Clarke, whose error most would privately agree is one of convoluted expression and unfortunate tone?

Miliband is bereft of ideas. The weak and the vulnerable need a visionary social reformer, our students need education of the highest quality, and the ordinary tax-paying citizen needs protection from the excesses of the abusers of the banking and benefits systems. What we have instead is a politician who reacts, a politician who has no sense of priority. He is a deputy head overwhelmed by the scale of the top job and aware that another better suited lurks within the school.

Our society needs the protection of a strong opposition. Please give us it.

Graham Parker

Kirklevington, Stockton

These cyclists are no martyrs

I am tired of the holier-than-thou martyr position taken by the likes of Dennis Leachman in his letter of 26 May. I need my car for work and I am a courteous, careful motorist. In 30 years of driving I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I've seen cyclists adhere to the Highway Code.

Cyclists aren't even that nice to pedestrians. Last week I was walking in a pedestrianised area outside Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. A cyclist was approaching me near a bus shelter when he obviously expected me to move.

When I politely said that this was a pedestrian area he replied: "Get out of my f***ing way you daft c**t." I'm quite a tough person but I was left quite shaken by the incident.

Cyclists should not preach to pedestrians . They are not above the law.

Shirley Wishart


The other day a friend was ticketed for cycling on a pavement because motor vehicles were blocking the cycle lane. He should not have been where he was. The drivers should not have been where they were. The police did not fine them or even issue a warning. One law for the environmentalist on two wheels; another for the polluter on four.

Peter Forster

London N4

Historic office demeaned

Over the past decades I have watched on TV the workings of our House of Commons in Westminster. As a British citizen, I marvel at the pomp and pageantry which is unequalled anywhere in the world. After royal occasions, the next on my list has been the sittings of our elected MPs, chaired in the past by such greats as George Thomas, Bernard Weatherill and Betty Boothroyd.

However, in more recent years, the role of Speaker seems to have been demeaned by the holders of the post, firstly Michael Martin and now more tragically by John Bercow. Last week I watched him, full of his own importance, and wearing a horrible green tie, as he smirked and grinned and nodded to his mates while escorting the President of the USA to address both Houses of Parliament.

He, like his predecessor, has lost all that was beautiful about the role of Speaker of the House of Commons, especially the regalia that used to go with the job. Let's hope that his successor will show more respect for this historic office and the deference that is due to Parliament.

Terry Duncan

Bridlington, East Yorkshire

Baffled by rail ticket prices

In the Eighties I lived and worked in Italy. I remember asking a colleague if he knew how much the train fare to Florence would be.

He took out a timetable and looked in the back, where the price per kilometre was stated. He then looked at the timetable, which showed the distance to Florence, took out his calculator and worked out the price.

I asked him how much a return would be. He looked at me as if I were an imbecile and said, "Twice as much!"

I explained that the reason behind my question was that in the UK things weren't so simple and told him that a return ticket from Chelmsford to London was cheaper than a single ticket. This merely convinced him of my stupidity; he said that this couldn't possibly be true: "You clearly don't understand the system."

The same is true today; I still don't understand the system.

Lee Pickering

Chelmsford, Essex

Victims of macho management

Sharon Shoesmith, the story so far:

After the Climbié murder, there is an inquiry. Things are reorganised by arrogant, macho-manager politicians, ("It won't happen again"). This puts social workers in charge of education and education experts in charge of children's social services.

Next: it does happen again.

The education expert is immediately crucified, (despite strong public support for her from local school heads). The rest of the Directors of Children's Services, who are education experts, are sent off to learn how to manage social services. Why didn't the Government think of this before they appointed them? So far as I am aware, the social work experts have not been sent off to learn about education.

The last 30 years have seen a wave of instant, macho-management solutions to complex problems, starting with the poll tax. The past year has seen a worsening flood of them: instant academies, the Defence Review, NHS reforms, budget cuts.

Philip Morgan


Lost memories

What a shame that Huguette Clark (Obituary, 27 May) was so reclusive. Since she was born in 1906, when her father was 67, he must have been born in 1839. There can have been few opportunities to hear second-hand accounts of life roughly 160 years ago. We are living through a year of revolutions, but he might have read newspaper accounts, or heard his parents talking, about the original 1848 Year of Revolutions. Checking his early life, I see he also fought, briefly, for the Confederate Army.

Tina Rowe

Ilchester, Somerset

Apologies for all

On behalf of my English antecedents I would like to apologise for Oliver Cromwell, the Irish Potato Famine, the Clearances (letter, 28 May), the suppression of the Welsh and Cornish languages, etc. On behalf of my Irish, Scottish (if any), Welsh and Cornish antecedents, I find I am able to forgive myself.

David Ridge

London N19

Worried despot

MI6 says that Colonel Gaddafi is "paranoid". Does this mean that any notion he may have that a large number of people are out to get him is delusional?

Sheila Yarwood

London NW1

Perspectives on access to books

Our libraries, a cherished national institution

Christina Patterson (28 May) is wrong to criticise Alan Bennett for referring to library closures as child abuse. He was using an eye-catching phrase to get press attention. He succeeded. He did not compare library cuts to paedophilia at all. He actually stated that there were many kinds of child abuse and neglecting a child's mind is one of them.

Patterson is also wrong to say libraries are empty. There were 320 million library visits last year. Yes, this number is down on previous years, but this is partly because councils have made cuts restricting opening hours so that the public aren't sure when the buildings will be open.

Libraries remain one of the UK's most cherished institutions. Alan Bennett is speaking up for them. He deserves praise and respect rather than criticism.

Alan Gibbons

Campaign for the Book, Liverpool

I was fascinated to read a middle-class journalist (Christina Patterson) criticising a middle-class author (Alan Bennett) in a middle-class paper (The Independent).

The issue in question, library closures due to spending cuts imposed by local government, might itself be something of a middle-class issue. After all, Alan Bennett is not the first literary celeb to spring to the defence of Kensal Rise library in Brent; Zadie Smith and Melvyn Bragg have also campaigned against its closure.

However it is worth noting that Kensal Rise is not the only Brent library under threat. Libraries in areas such as Cricklewood and Preston that are not so solidly white and middle-class as Kensal Rise also face the chop, but don't seem to have glitterati defenders.

Nonetheless those who want to preserve a library service for all of Brent may live in hope that E J Thribb will soon take up his pen to defend the library in Neasden shopping centre

Peter Murry

Brent Green Party, London NW2

Last chance for endangered high-street bookshops

Now that Waterstones has a new owner, its thousands of retail staff can breathe a sigh of relief. British publishing, with hundreds of millions of pounds worth of stock at risk, must also be wiping its collective brow.

Now that there is a reprieve of sorts, we have probably the last opportunity for the book trade to find some kind of sustainable shape. It appears that at present high-street bookselling is not sustainable. On the evidence of the past 15 years, specialist bookshops can survive price competition on bestsellers from supermarkets and discount stores. They can weather the troughs of recession and many booksellers believe the much-hyped encroachment of ebooks can also be seen off. What they cannot live with is the crushing price competition from Amazon.

This multinational corporation has drained the profits out of bookselling. If this process continues, the reprieve of Waterstones will be extremely short-lived.

The only people who can change this story are publishers. They welcomed the end of the Net Book Agreement because they wanted to see more retail competition. Now the competition they triggered is about to produce a resounding winner with something approaching a monopoly of book retailing.

The price-fixing agreement was put in place by a previous generation of publishers because they recognised the need for healthy bookshops to give their books visibility, to show off the mid-range and specialist titles, to provide attractive browsing environments so that people could stumble upon books they didn't even know they wanted ,and to introduce the next generation of readers to the delights of literature.

The internet cannot provide any of that, and when the majority of sales are going through a single internet outlet publishers will find their special interests and aspirations are a minor irrelevance to the multinational master they have helped to spawn.

So book publishing now has very few years to shape its future. Only a policy of positive discrimination towards stockholding bookshops will stop bookshops disappearing from all but the most opulent city centres.

Charles Tongue

Stroud Bookshop, Gloucestershire