Letters: Eager to save the planet

We are eager to save the planet, but give us a clear lead
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Sir: Letters you published on 9 July illustrate exactly why we ordinary people do not know what to do about reducing our carbon footprint. One letter says one thing, another the opposite. My family is doing its best because we think that we should start somewhere, but we know a number of perfectly reasonable people who believe, as Jonathan Gill does, that it's rather "pathetic".

The elements are attacking us, but instead of fighting what threatens us all, people all over the world are fighting each other, for all manner of reasons, most of them selfish and, in the face of this global danger, trivial.

Until the powers-that-be decide to harness man's knowledge and ingenuity to sort out the mess that man's knowledge and ingenuity has landed us in, we cannot make progress and will leave our children a terrible legacy. I do not want this to happen, and am "doing my bit", but I clearly need help.



Sir: While much has been written about the need for all of us to cut back carbon-dioxide emissions, little has been said about the "carbon shifting" that threatens to undermine these efforts.

Carbon shifting can occur whenever reducing our carbon emissions results in a cash saving. If I turn down the thermostat by one degree that not only makes an emissions saving but also saves me money. Whether or not there is a net environmental saving depends on how I spend that saving. Cycling rather than driving may be good for the environment but if I decided to spend my savings on an extra holiday abroad I may have improved my health but made the environment worse. Unless carbon shifting is addressed, campaigns using the cash savings to persuade us to reduce energy consumption can offer only the illusion of success.



Sir: As a nation, we don't really understand the real changes needed to have an effect on climate change, or we are not prepared to act, beyond changing a few lightbulbs. This was nowhere more apparent than in the television news directly after Live Earth, when we were shown excerpts from the concert, and two minutes later clips from the Grand Prix. I cannot imagine what the carbon footprint of that event must be. How many people will have left Live Earth and headed home to watch the Grand Prix at home on television, oblivious to its impact?



The men who bent the rules over Iraq

Sir: The juxtaposition of the photographs of Alastair Campbell and Roger Federer on your front page (9 July) says it all. Those who play by the rules win and are admired: those who bend the rules usually lose and are despised. The one saving grace in all this is that they do share one thing in common - spin.



Sir: If it is true, as Alastair Campbell says, that only Tony Blair had no doubts about waging war against Iraq, does that not rather suggest that he had already made a commitment to George Bush of our unconditional support?



Sir: And do you have anything to say for your client in mitigation? Yes, Your Honour, his mates had Severe Doubts about what he was doing.



Sir: With three British soldiers killed in Iraq in three days, how long before Gordon Brown has the guts to bring all our troops home? Our forces are not dying in defence of this country but in a senseless, illegal conflict. When the head of our armed forces says our troops should come home "sometime soon" as they are serving no useful purpose in Iraq, it is time for our PM to follow that advice.



Threat of a unitary county council

Sir: The letter from Sir John Banham (7 July) concerning the various unitary bids from some county councils was interesting. Living in North Yorkshire, one of the areas under threat from a county unitary authority, I was saddened to read such a letter coming from Sir John.

There is no way on earth that anyone can seriously consider a council covering over 3,100 square miles with a population of 582,000 should be regarded as an acceptable unit of local government. The only UK local authority that covers a larger area is the Highland region in Scotland. The only two local authorities with a population larger than the proposed North Yorkshire Unitary are Birmingham and Leeds.

There can be no democratic gain from a local council as large as the one proposed. As to the so-called savings, what savings were there for ratepayers when local government was last reorganised only 30 years ago in the name of "streamlining bureaucracy?" Bigger is not always better.



Sir: The residents of North Yorkshire have not been consulted. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the unitary proposal there has been no referendum and neither were the county councillors given a mandate to respond to the Government's invitation to apply for such a change to our representation.

It is an insult to say that district councillors are motivated by self-interest and that bogus polls "shame a banana republic". I currently elect my district councillors and I am not being given a say in the proposed change to my electoral representation - that is what is shameful.

That district councils should work more co-operatively I don't doubt. However, to replace them with Local Forums and the like, which will have a county councillor on board but which will primarily be made up of unelected persons "who know what is best for us" is not my view of democracy.

To impose this on a county the size of North Yorkshire which, though it may not have the equivalent population is geographically far larger than Greater London, which does have a borough structure, fails to recognise the diverse needs of this huge county.



Private schools aid social mobility

Sir: Malcolm Povey (letter, 2 July) denounces the private schools sector, stating that it offers no means of increasing equality in our society.

I have recently left Manchester Grammar School, one of the top independent day schools savaged by Mr Povey, and I would like to tell him of our bursary scheme. We have a long-established fund that aids in the education of the less affluent but nonetheless bright boys who take our entrance exam.

I myself am not from a wealthy family and have only had one relative go to university, yet through MGS and its superb education (I too have benefited from the bursary foundation in the past) I have now been offered the chance to continue in higher education and carve out a vastly superior life for myself than would otherwise have been possible.

Mine is not an isolated case and it would appear that far from inhibiting social mobility as Mr Povey suggests, independent schools allow students to realise potenial they might otherwise not have utilised and thus aid in social mobility.



Tragic history of Jews in Poland

Sir: Everyone is entitled to a subjective view of Poland's tragic and complicated history and so Helen Mordsley is entitled to see the dark lining in Polish-Jewish relations (letter, 6 July).

She refers to a "long history of anti-Semitism" but forgets that it was six centuries of tolerance and encouragement of Jews while the rest of Europe was slaughtering them, which led to Poland possessing the largest concentration of Jews in Europe.

As Poland sought to recover its independence in the early 20th century some nationalist parties did see the Jewish presence as a threat and some Jews did pine for the old occupying powers. This was not a universal view by either side and Marshal Pilsudski, the Polish leader, specifically condemned anti-Semitism.

Under Nazi occupation, Poles and Jews were herded into separate circles of hell, as the Nazis annihilated as many Jews as they could and enslaved the Polish nation and massacred millions of its citizens. Some Poles betrayed Jews. Others risked mandatory death sentences to save them and the Yad Veshem Museum shows more Poles than any other nationality among the Righteous who saved Jews.

As post-war Poland plunged into civil war between the Communist occupiers and the former anti-Nazi resistance, tens of thousands were killed, including returning Jews. The worst pogrom of Jews in Kielce was specifically provoked by the Communist authorities in order to discredit the democratic opposition to the Communists in the eyes of a gullible world.

It is a sorry but misunderstood history, with many highs and lows, and it cannot be defined simply by the comments of random individuals made to Ms Mordsley.



Four-day wait while bank takes its cut

Sir: We received a payment from a client and I noticed that the cheque was drawn on an account at the same branch of Lloyds TSB as our own. I decided to drop it into the bank in person. I asked the cashier whether the cheque would clear quicker because only one branch of one bank was involved. The answer was that the normal clearing time of four days would apply.

The clearing system derives from the days when a document was taken from one bank to another. In the case of a single branch this is not required; it's absurd to have to wait four days whilst my money is busy earning interest for the bank. No wonder banks are regarded with such loathing.



US donors not ashamed to brag

Sir: I find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with Richard Dawkins (letter, 30 June). With regard to why Americans donate more than the British to charity, the tax issue is a red herring as that country's wealthy elite pay little tax anyway.

The real reason is a different attitude to the bragging rights of money. Americans are open about their finances. In the US people I barely knew would happily discuss details of their finances with me. In Britain bragging about charitable donations would be thought crass.

Americans get an additional, feelgood benefit from making charitable donations: everybody thinks you're a great guy and you get to show off that you're so wealthy you can afford to give it away.



Icons of modish media jargon

Sir: I am becoming more and more curious about the increasingly frequent, indeed, obsessive use of the words "icon" and "iconic" in the media. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines icon as "image, statue" and iconic as "of an image or portrait; following a conventional type".

I thought I would keep a note of the five next uses I came across; I was surprised that this exercise took less than half an hour on the TV/radio and with the newspaper:

From the BBC (radio and TV): "an iconic part of the southwest coastal path"; "she is one of those controversial iconic Republicans"; "[the Royal Family] were celebrities; she [Princess Diana] was an icon". From The Independent: "authentic stars like Clapton, Baker ... became global icons"; "if Diana were the Royal Icon, Tina [Brown] is the media icon".

What's it all about?



T-shirt politics

Sir: In response to John Goldman's letter (9 July), why not a T-shirt with "40 Years Illegal Occupation" on the front and on the back "Suicide Bombers = Murder"? Then we could all wear one, even the police.



Cornish milk at Tesco

Sir: I was rather baffled to read Jim Bassett's claim (letter, 6 July) that he has never seen milk labelled as "Cornish" in his local Tesco store in Padstow. Our customer service team in the store would certainly have been happy to help. Our "localchoice" milk, which allows customers to support small, independent family-run farms in their area, was launched in May and has been available in Padstow since then. Farmers supplying localchoice are paid 23p per litre, one of the best prices paid by any retailer.



Disappearing dome

Sir: While I welcome the wonderful facelift to St Paul's, your delightful photograph (6 July) is taken from about the only place left from where you can still see that sweet dome not dwarfed by the ghastly tower buildings which have been and are still being built around it. There are today over a dozen cranes within a few yards of St Paul's, ensuring that our London skyline is soon to be obliterated.



Single answer

Sir: "Britain has the highest rate of single-motherhood in Europe, which is why we also have the highest prison population," says Bruce Anderson (9 July). Oh good, that's sorted that out! No need to consider the wealth of evidence that single mothers may make good, loving parents if they are properly supported, or the disastrous effect that the return of potentially dysfunctional fathers can have. No need to look at how many of the inhabitants of British prisons ought to be there and how alternatives to prison work in other systems.



Left standing

Sir: In a letter to a weekly left-of-centre periodical last Friday I suggested that Gordon Brown should take his summer holiday within the British Isles rather than jetting off abroad and burning up the earth's precious atmosphere. Before the morning was over Mr Brown had appeared on television to confirm that he was planning to do precisely this. This puts the political influence of The Sun well and truly into the shade.