Letters: Eco-celebrities

Celebrities must stop flying off to save the planet
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Sir: The message people who fly around the planet preaching against global warming send out is that it is okay to fly if you feel that your flight is justified because you are a celebrity playing at a concert that is supposed to be against global warming ("Carbon cost of climate change concert criticised", 11 April). But the action is negative for the environment, and we must weep for the Earth that they do this to it. Let them stay at home and live environmentally friendly lives.

People who are genuinely concerned about global warming have to protest against this concert because it makes it so much harder to get the real message about global warming across. I hope it will be stopped because that is the best way of protecting the environment.

We need to have more events promoting green issues, but we don't need to have people flying around to attend them. We can use local talent, and focus on what we can do in our local environment to help save the planet.



Sir: Robert J Aaronson, director general of the International Airports Council, makes the valid point that we need to have a "measured, serious and global approach" to greenhouse gas emissions (letter, 9 April). Mr Aaronson points out that aviation contributes only 2 per cent to these emissions; indeed he might have noted that travel of all sorts, on a global basis, contributes only 13.5 per cent to greenhouse gas emissions.

In the same context, the recent report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation entitled Livestock's Long Shadow observed that global production of livestock creates 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, both CO2 and methane. Professional nutritionists assure us that we do not need to eat animal products; a balanced plant-based diet is much healthier than one which incorporates meat or dairy produce; we do, on the other hand, have to travel.

Why is the travel industry subject to so much adverse publicity about greenhouse gases when livestock production is more heavily implicated in the production of these gases?

As Robert J Aaronson succinctly and accurately concludes, "to target aviation alone is worrying. It puts the emphasis on one sector that, in reality, is not causing the greatest damage".



The latest American imperial disaster

Sir: Robert Fisk's frightening article about the latest plan to "pacify" Baghdad (11 April) is one more piece of evidence that America is indeed fighting the Vietnam war all over again, as if the Bush/Cheney administration cannot accept the fact that that earlier war was lost.

In addition to the US imperial fantasies which were behind each of these two disastrous wars, there are certain common domestic political and personality considerations as well.

President Bush is obsessed with the word "victory" just as President Johnson did not want to be the "first US President to lose a war". The current mantra about turning the fighting over to the Iraqis is reminiscent of President Johnson's policy of "letting Asian boys fight Asians".

But the biggest common factor is that in each war, it is the people of the countries the US claimed to try to "save" who have been the biggest losers, and the US military and defence contractors have been the biggest winners.



Sir: Three years ago, US forces laid siege to the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Fighter-bombers and gunships were used to attack residential areas, US snipers targeted ambulances, and at least one US battalion had orders to shoot any military-age male on the streets after dark, armed or not.

According to a detailed analysis of 300 contemporary news reports by Iraq Body Count, at least 572 of the roughly 800 reported deaths during the siege were civilians, including more than 300 women and children.

Seven months later, the US, with crucial British military and political support, attacked Fallujah again, destroying large swaths of the city.

After this second attack, the director of Fallujah's main hospital reported that more than 700 bodies had been recovered from the rubble in just nine of the city's 27 neighbourhoods. Of them, 550 were women and children.

In the wake of Argentina's dirty war, a form of popular justice, involving social ostracism and colourful marches on the houses of the guilty, was developed to hold war criminals to account. After Mr Blair resigns, is it too much to hope for similar demonstrations outside his £3.65m house in Connaught Square? Or, for that matter, outside Mr Brown's new residence at No 10 Downing Street?



Sir: Stephen Jackson of Bexhill-on-Sea (letter, 11 April) states that the Liberal Democrats would want British forces out of Iraq by October and the leader of the opposition would withdraw our forces from Iraq, if he becomes prime minister. If such action happened, and all hell broke loose after our opt-out of a universal problem, would these politicians admit to having blood on their hands? Incidentally, Liam Fox has stated publicly that he favours a strike on Iran.



Sir: Tony Blair says there has been enough coverage of the British captives in Iran and it is "time to move on". I have to say I agree. Now, about those weapons of mass destruction ...



Take the bad luck out of football

Sir: Doug Meredith asks why football attracts anti-social louts when rugby does not (letter, 10 April).

The point of a game is to produce a fair result according to pre-agreed rules. If results are unduly influenced by luck and if the honour and fortunes of a club rely on those results, then trouble is unavoidable. This is not a sociological breakdown; it is a fault in the rule-book.

The thing to do is to tweak the rules so that more goals are scored. This would reduce the large number of low-score results which characterise top-level games. Nothing is more likely to enrage fans than their opponents walking off with all three points following a lucky last-minute goal after their own strikers have spent 90 minutes hitting the woodwork.

The present goalmouth is the traditional eight yards by eight feet. It was designed to be defended by 5ft 6in goalkeepers, tired after a day's work. The present generation of athletic six-footers have made it almost impossible for strikers to score without a good slice of luck. Enlarging the goal to, say, nine yards by nine feet would increase the number of goals and reduce the large number of games determined by lucky goals. The 1-0 result would become, say, 7-4 and the fans would not have much cause for street fighting.



Roman from Africa who ruled Britain

Sir: Quintus Lollius Urbicus, referred to by Christina Patterson in her column of 6 April, was indeed governor of Britain, on behalf of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, in the middle of the 2nd century, and was born and brought up in the Roman province of Africa, the area now known as Tunisia. He was an active governor, and his chief achievement was that he began the construction of a line of forts from the Forth to the Clyde, which became known as the Antonine Wall.

But there is no reason to describe him as a "black governor". Q Lollius Urbicus was, like other eminent Romans dwelling in what is now Tunisia (the emperor Septimius Severus, for instance, or the theologian Augustine), of Italian descent, and his skin would not be "black" in any racial sense.

Even if he had been descended from the Carthaginians (the previous rulers of Tunisia), or if he had been of native Numidian (Berber) descent, he would still be no more "black" than if he had come from Spain or Illyria or Asia or Syria (and there were many men and women from all those provinces who did settle in Roman Britain).

The Roman Empire was, in many ways, a cosmopolitan society, and there would no doubt have been some black Africans, from lands beyond the Sahara, in Roman Britain.

But the Roman Empire was not an "equal opportunities" employer, and I am afraid that these black Africans would be more likely to be present in Britain in such occupations as soldiers, sailors, servants or gladiators than as governors, civil servants or merchants.



My very own private finance initiative

Sir: I am building shelves for a friend. It's going well, a bit over budget and over schedule, but that doesn't matter, because we're doing this on PFI (letter, 12 April), and I've allowed plenty of slop in the budget.

All materials and my labour costs are paid for on my credit card, to be repaid by a modest direct debit payment from my friend's bank account every month for 20 years. This tiny expense also covers a small insurance policy in case the shelves fall.

She will, of course, continue to pay even if she moves house, but hey, who thinks that far ahead?



Split the Union and restore democracy

Sir: Like all Unionists, Sir Malcolm Rifkind (8 April) takes it as given that the Union is a Good Thing and fails to spell out why it would be a "political tragedy" if the Union were to break up.

The British nations do not necessarily need their own political union to operate successfully within or outwith the EU. The four Scandinavian nations illustrate this. When their essential interests are affected they act together.

Many now believe Scotland might do better as an independent nation within the EU. Sir Malcolm's comparison with "Perthshire" is ludicrous. Perth-shire does not constitute a nation. Not even Yorkshire constitutes a nation. The only nation to have left the Union, Ireland, and then only part of it, seems to have done remarkably well. Why should the rest not follow suit?

British people no longer accept that the Union is the political equivalent of motherhood, and one of the reasons for this is that, daily, they see the British government, elected on a narrow and outdated electoral system, acting contrary to their interests, growing ever over-mighty, sucking up taxes and defying all expressions of popular will. Restoring our nations might be the first step towards restoring democracy in the British Isles.



Sir: Alex Salmond states that if the Scottish National Party gets enough votes in May, he'll move towards taking Scotland out of the Union.

I suggests he puts up candidates all over England and he'll get the mandate he wants.



Suicide drop hides a distressing picture

Sir: Although the overall figures for suicide may have fallen to an all-time low (report, 12 April), this masks regional differences in the UK which continue to show an appalling story.

In areas such as west Belfast, Glasgow and Liverpool, the toll on young men's lives lost to suicide continues to be horrendous. In Scotland as a whole, the number of men committing suicide has risen by almost a quarter over 15 years.

There is a risk that in welcoming the overall downward trend, we ignore what is going on beneath the surface. What is most significant is the pattern reinforcing the huge variation according to social class. I would like to see figures showing a clearer picture of geographical and social distribution. Otherwise, I fear that a mood of complacency may be allowed to creep in.



Crunch time for carrots

Sir: Roger Dobson ("A few home truths", 10 April) creates a new myth with his claim that plane-spotters supposedly ate carrots to improve their night vision. The supposed carrot eaters were, in fact, night-fighter pilots.



Tories back Labour

Sir: The shadow minister for Home Affairs (letter, 12 April) states that Lord Adonis has "done some good things in his period as an Education minister ...". Perhaps Mr Green could consider sending The Independent a list of these "good things". Teachers would be interested to learn precisely which of the policies that have driven so many colleagues out of the classroom are admired by the Conservative Party. This is the Tory Party's problem in a nutshell: too often, it has been New Labour's closest friend.



Moving battle

Sir: As a keen amateur historian born and raised in south Leicestershire, imagine my annoyance when reading in your article "Britain's forgotten battlefields" (10 April), that the battle of Bosworth Field was "near Nuneaton". The battle site is at Market Bosworth, near Hinckley, Leicestershire. From the 12 battlefields you comment on, I would have thought Bosworth was easily the best-known, because it marked the start of the Tudor period.



Life among the rubbish

Sir: Mary Dejevsky's column on recycling (Opinion, 10 April) was spot on. I live in Fulham/Hammersmith and the rubbish hasn't been collected for two weeks. The street is starting to resemble the refuse tips in Manila. Green credentials of politicians? Read thinly-veiled attempt to hike taxes. I am all for recycling but to get recycling bags you have to turn up at the council during office hours and show your identification. They don't even provide bins. For this brilliant service I pay £125 each month in council tax.



Hard to handle

Sir: Am I the only oldie to recall the 1960s BR carriage loo notices which exhorted "Gentlemen lift the seat"? I could never decide whether it was a request or the definition of a gentleman.