Letters: Climate change

The unglamorous truth about climate change
Click to follow
The Independent Online

As a long-term reader I write more in sorrow than in anger to express my disappointment at your Big Question (10 July) on climate change, particularly the parts dealing with “the way forward”.

In the final section, you concentrate on areas which you may deem to be newsworthy, such as aircraft (2 per cent of UK emissions) and nuclear power (4 per cent of UK energy), but which actually are peripheral issues. Even behaviour changes, while more important, are still only a small part of the picture.

The single most important aspect is – as it has been these past 20 years – deploying effectively the most efficient technologies already in existence.

You made a great fuss of the US energy secretary (and Nobel laureate) Stephen Chu when he was here a month ago.Youreported him as talking not just about gimmicky white roofs, but about the fact that the critical climate-change issue was far greater energy efficiency.

In hisRoyalSociety lecture, he referred to not merely low-hanging fruit, but fruit that was actually lying on the ground, waiting to be picked up. He made the point that more carbon had been saved from the adoption of boring old efficient refrigeration technology in the United States than via all manner of trendy renewable energy sources.

Almost half the world’s fuel is burnt in buildings. Just ensuring that existing buildings are upgraded and new ones are super-efficient will achieve far more than anything else you cite (and create manymorejobs too).

Iamsick of articles which ignore what every independent study shows to be the cheapest and most cost-effective – even if leastglamorous – option for combating climate change.


What are we doing in Afghanistan?

I’m very disappointed in The Independent’s position on the war in Afghanistan (leading article, 10 July). We have been in that benighted land for nearly eight years and the goal of “crushing the camps which train terrorists” is apparently no closer to completion.

What camps? After eight years and the participation of more than 40 countries, have we still not found them? And do terrorists actually need “camps” in Afghanistan or anywhere else, or just a backroom in Leeds, Reading, Riyadh or Islamabad? Or maybe even a quiet corner of the Lake District?

We are currently losing a soldier a day in pursuit of this dubious enterprise. And what is there to show for it? What is our government’s appraisal of the situation? Are we winning, and if so by what measure?

The Independent is allowing itself to be sucked into the argument about lack of equipment, but this is merely a sideshow; we have known for years that the equipment is below par. More important questions are those regarding lack of accountability, lack of strategy, and whether our continued presence there is not a persistent stimulus to terrorist activity elsewhere.


Our young people killed in Afghanistan are collateral damage of an international arms trade we enthusiastically sustain, in which we participate, and from which we profit.

Our bombing in Afghanistan and Iraq has killed far more innocent Afghanis and Iraqis than any civil war in either countrywould have done.

We are seeking to establish a democratic system in an area of the world culturally alien to it. Many of our main allies in the area are deeply undemocratic states; at least one a monarchic misogynistic theocracy as repressive as the Taliban themselves.

For the second time in 30 years, self-trained indigenous Taliban Afghanis are withstanding the combined might of super-power armies, massively superior in technological warfare. In the 1970s, Russia had many more well-trained conventional forces than we can muster or would ever commit.

They were politically able to accept a loss rate our public would never permit, yet they had to give up.

The internet and global communication; the irresistible dissemination of ideas from women’s rights to the benefits of democratic institutions, and, yes, even free world trade are far more likely to defeat misogynistic repression than our assembly-line production of martyrs for men who know how to exploit them.


If our motive for being in Afghanistan is humanitarian, then be prepared for countless future military interventions on behalf of democracy, selfdetermination, women, and sexual minorities. If it is fear of al-Qa’ida reestablishing a base, then the west will need to flex its military muscle until the Muslim world consists entirely of client states.

But what about 9/11 and 7/7? Acquiesce in foreign adventures and we the citizenry become belligerents, hence targets. Alas, each of us in a democracy is jointly and severally responsible for the actions of our elected government.

These days, empire means blowback, sometimes even in our homeland.


David Miliband’s assertion that the future of Britain rests upon the successful outcome of the war in Afghanistan has all the trappings of a Newspeak announcement from George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

As was the case of the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq, the 2001 US/UK invasion of Afghanistan was founded upon a false casus belli manufactured by a frustrated US administration requiring an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to the Caspian Sea.

Britain has no right to be in Afghanistan and Britain will remain susceptible to retaliation until we cease to promote American foreign policy and remove our armed forces from other nations’ soil.


When the Prime Minister states that “There is a chain of terror that runs from the mountains and towns of Afghanistan to the streets of Britain” he is right, but not in the sense he intends.

The US/UK military campaign to subjugate the rebellious Pashtun province of Helmandis not winning hearts and minds. Instead, it sows seeds of bitterness and vengeance with every (shamefully underreported) air strike. The occupation is radicalising a new generation at home and abroad. And, in counterpoint to its stated aims, it provides a training and testing ground for guerrilla tactics and technology.

The asymmetric conflict against the Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan is resembling more and more the US embroilment in South Vietnam, with one crucial difference; the then Labour government had the courage and foresight not to involve UK forces.


The murder of a leading feminist and the stoning of women campaigning against President Karzai’s laws, which sanction rape within marriage, should not be tolerated by the UN, let alone theUKand US.Yet President Obama and our own Prime Minister have sanctioned more troops to support such a regime. Our taxpayers’ money and troops are supporting this policy.


Prince of Wales’s carbon footprint

The Prince of Wales’s concerns for “the environment” ring hollow (“Just 96 months to save the world”, 9 July). That this absurd, overprivileged man, who spends much of his life in a Range Rover between shooting parties shielded by an army of courtiers, should pronounce from on-high about what the rest of us are doing to the planet is a bad joke.

Perhaps Mssrs Porritt and Juniper should take him aside and suggest that, instead of the occasional glib forecast of coming catastrophe for which he is more culpable than many (30 per cent emissions reduction? Have we unassailable proof? And what is this 30 per cent of?), Charles Windsor starts to set substantive examples for we little people out here.


‘Wonder drugs’ are a distraction

It’s notable that the new drug Rapamycin (“Secret to a longer life…” 9 July) originated on Easter Island, whose society is believed to have destroyed itself through ecological collapse.

Perhaps we should show less interest in these alchemies of our time and focus scientific and healthcare resources on tackling more urgent problems, such as delivering known technologies already proven to prolong lives, albeit not those of rich westerners: therapeutic foods for 60 million acutely malnourished children, for example, or oral rehydration to prevent an annual 1.4m child deaths from diarrhoea. Climate change is even more pressing.

Fail to tackle that, and any Rapamycin-takers who do manage to prolong their lives will probably wish they hadn’t.


British workers exploited abroad

You report on the scandal of Britain’s fruit-farm workers (10 July), but I don’t think they are any worse treated than many of the thousands of Britons who go out to Europe each year to work for British holiday companies.

My daughter worked for a season as a chalet host for a well-known travel company. She had her flight paid, her accommodation provided (a tiny, shared bunk-bedroom with a shower in one corner) and her season’s ski pass provided. She worked nine hours a day, six days a week, and often did 15 hours or more on a Saturday (changeover day).

After adjustments, her salary came out at about £1 an hour, before tax. Even if you factor in the ski pass, she still earned less than £2 an hour. So next time you take a cheap skiing holiday, remember to tip the chalet staff.


Holy relics and ancient practices

You report (9 July) that Catherine Pepinster, the editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, welcomes the forthcoming display in Britain of the remains of St Thérèse of Lisieux, arguing that in the past most people thought worshipping holy relics “a perfectly normal thing”, and to do so in this day and age is “just returning to an English tradition that has been lost”.

One wonders whether Ms Pepinster would advocate, on the same grounds, a return to such venerable traditions as hunting witches and burning heretics at the stake?


Pick ’n’ mix Bible

I wonder if one of your recent correspondents (letters, 11 July) who have discussed which bits of the Bible should be accepted and which rejected could tell us the source of the criteria they use when making their choices.


Packed lunches

What’s wrong with a packed lunch? In your article “Jamie’s dinners fail to get schoolchildren eating more healthily” (10 July), you state that a majority of pupils prefer “to bring packed lunches or buyjunk food...” as if those two alternatives to a school meal are practically the same. There are many healthy things that can be packed. The main problem with school lunches is the length of the queue. Having a good packed lunch gives freedom and the time to relax or enjoy a club. Long live the packed lunch.


Religious leaders

Is the Rev Professor Graham Everest (letter, 9 July) complaining that religious leaders are all old men or that The Independent reminded readers of that by publishing a photo of them? He surely can’t be suggesting that the photograph was misleading and that a whole lot of youthful and female religious leaders were left out, or edited out, of the shot?


University places

I fail to see any problem with fewer university places available than numbers of potential students applying for them (report, 10 July). Surely by its very nature university should be selective; for higher education to be effective it needs to select those of appropriate talents. The value of a degree is hugely reduced since my day when only 13 per cent of the cohort attended.

Let us celebrate competition for university places.


More burqas, please

In complete disagreement with many of your correspondents, and having been subjected to bare arms, legs, bulging stomachs, pierced navels and tattoos for much of the summer, I would warmly welcome a greater take up of burqa-wearing by British women.