Letters: Dire weather - have we seen it all before?

These letters appear in the Friday 14th February edition of the Independent


As global warming continues, catastrophic weather will become more frequent, more violent, and more destructive. James Lovelock predicted all this decades ago, as vividly described in, for example, Gaia – the practical science of planetary medicine (1991). But no one listened.

So, if you are in Moorland or Wraysbury, sitting upstairs in a house whose ground floor is flooded, and you want to understand what’s going on, read it. And if you are sitting on the still-dry (but for how long?) ground floor in Downing Street or the White House, don’t just read it – act on it.

Dennis Sherwood, Exton, Rutland


I remember the 1947 floods, brought about by a similar succession of depressions from the south-west coming on top of thawing snow. It started in Somerset and spread so that 700,000 acres were flooded in England and tens of thousands of people were driven from their homes.

Now in my eighties, I have lived through many extreme weather conditions. I remember the winters of ’45, ’47 and ’63, the coastal floods of ’53, a number of severe droughts, especially in 1976, and the hurricanes in the 1990s. There have always been periods of extreme weather.

Ron Watts, King’s Lynn, Norfolk


Why are ministers willing to take the advice of experts regarding, say, medicine but not flood defence? 

There were many hysterical voices wanting the MMR vaccine banned, but ministers rightly went with the science. There are now many slightly hysterical voices on the Somerset Levels demanding a dredging programme which appears to be basically pointless, but ministers seem deaf to expert voices. What a Pickle we are in!

Jim Bowman, South Harrow, Middlesex


The residents of the Thames Valley area voted solidly for our governing parties to pursue policies to cut back spending on many aspects of public provision and safety; the Environment Agency is just one of our institutions to be reduced in size and effectiveness.

We now can see the result of this penny-wise, pound-foolish pursuit, which has left an inadequate response to the current flooding. Austerity of provision has not been matched by austerity of rainfall.

Maybe these residents might now become floating voters.

Peter Cunningham, Bath


We must be about due for a hosepipe ban, followed by a  by a drought warning?

Nicky Samengo-Turner, Hundon,  Suffolk


Take wildlife crime seriously

When the UK is hosting an international summit on the illegal wildlife trade, involving two future kings of our country and world leaders from 50 nations, all invited by the Prime Minister, why does the Metropolitan Police have a team of only five people to fight an illegal trade estimated to be worth $19bn a year?

London is a major hub for wildlife crime, a global economic crime with links to trafficking of drugs and people, and even to terrorism, not to mention threatening some animals with extinction. Isn’t it time the Met and the Mayor took it seriously and provided the necessary resources to put a stop to this trade?

Jenny Jones AM, Green Party Group, London Assembly


Days of irresponsible union power

Be careful what you wish for, Owen Jones (13 February). I lived through the time when unions had a lot more power and their leaders did not always use it wisely.

Think of the over-manning and restrictive practices in the print industry and their refusal to accept new technology. Inter-union rivalries led to demarcation disputes in shipyards that did nothing but ensure that ships could be built cheaper abroad. Strikes organised in the motor industry by a show of hands had very little to do with democracy. Arthur Scargill’s refusal of a proper strike ballot played into Thatcher’s hands; he was her ideal opponent.

I do not find it easy to say, but her introduction of secret ballots and outlawing of secondary picketing was necessary, and Tony Blair’s refusal to repeal it was the right thing to do.

However as a member of a union I believe we must not allow the pendulum of restriction to go too far and I would fight for the right of public workers to strike.

Brian Dalton, Sheffield


Holding the NHS  to account

As representatives of the 97 patient-related members of the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), we write to make some observations about your article on the engagement process used by NHS England for its specialised services strategy, claiming that it is evidence of manipulation by the pharmaceuticals industry (11 February).

The Alliance has grown steadily over the last 11 years, because of the scope of expertise it brings impartially to this complex field. As funding comes exclusively from pharmaceutical companies, the Alliance focuses solely on overarching policies and structures, not treatments. 

As such, it has been a force for good in the development of policy, with, for example, the advent of national service specifications making it much clearer what patients and their families can expect across the whole of England, in contrast to the postcode lottery of old.  The SHCA’s work to scrutinise and hold to account plans for delivering specialised services for rare and complex conditions has had an enormous positive impact for the patient population that it represents. We are confident that the SHCA represents its members in a balanced, transparent and appropriate manner.

NHS England is a powerful organisation that should do more to ensure that patient voice is embedded in everything it does. The sort of transparent engagement the Alliance has promoted at the request of its members is a force for good in giving a voice to organisations large and small in helping to hold NHS England to account. 

Ed Owen, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Rosanna Preston, Cleft Lip and Palate Association

Anne Keatley-Clark, Children’s Heart Federation

Jagtar Dhanda, Macmillan Cancer Support

Paul Lenihan, Action Duchenne

Susan Ringwood, Beat

Bromley, Kent


A snapshot of antisemitism today

Your article about Scarlett Johansson (“Rankin and a new take on why Scarlett quit Oxfam”, 13 February) and the supposed “power of a far right pro-lsrael lobby within the US” was redolent of openly antisemitic smears about Jews running Hollywood and the media.

Worse, the article relied upon quotes by the photographer Rankin that actually made no mention of “pro-Israel”. Instead, you quoted him saying “the Jewish zealots are so powerful” and “the main problem for me in all this is that kind of extreme Judaism”.

Rankin is as “a humanitarian”, so is no antisemite, but he seems to repeat antisemitic conspiracy theory. What a fitting snapshot of antisemitism today.

Mark Gardner, Director of Communications, Community Security Trust, London NW4


A glamorous image  of smoking

Please stop glorifying smoking. On the very day after Parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in cars carrying children (11 February), you showed a half-page photograph of two actors smoking above the headline “The man  behind Bond”.

What can we doctors do to persuade you to take your responsibility for public health seriously?

Dr Fred Schon, Consultant Neurologist, Croydon University Hospital and  St George’s Hospital,  London


Has it not occurred to anyone that smoking while driving is dangerous anyway? One hand on the wheel, the other with a fag. What happens if the burning bit falls on one’s thigh just as the lights turn green, or the motorway exit comes up? Oops.

David Halley, Hampton Hill, Middlesex


Cameron and the fight for Scotland

Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, is absolutely right not to get involved with the matter of Scottish independence, as he doesn’t have a vote and this is clearly an important  matter for the Scottish  voter only.

If he had battled head-on in debate with Alex Salmond, we would have heard squeals of protest from our First Minister accusing him of using his Westminster power and status to influence the referendum.

Dennis Grattan, Aberdeen


They could have let Marius live

The one question I have not seen asked is why Marius the giraffe – and, for that matter, other animals bred in captivity whose genetics do not fit in with the gene pool – could not have been castrated or neutered (as we do with domestic animals) and allowed to live out  his life.

T E Walsh, Eastbourne

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