Letters: Fighting climate change

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The Independent Online

Tiny islands could have a big role in fighting climate change

Sir: The Chagos islands are strategic not only in the war against terror, but also in an equally dangerous threat: global climate change ("Judges dismiss 'repugnant' attempts to deny Chagos islanders their home", 12 May).

Since the pioneering measurement of CO2 on Mauna Loa by C D Keeling, the UN's Global Atmosphere Watch, an international network of monitoring stations, has been set up, supported by nations as disparate as China and Brazil, but mainly the USA. "Baseline" atmospheric stations monitor key gases; elsewhere, air is collected in flasks and sent to labs. But monitoring has major gaps - apart from Cape Point, there is virtually no continuous monitoring in the South Atlantic, Africa, the Indian Ocean or South Asia.

Key locations that would help are UK-owned: the Chagos and Ascension, as well as the UK South Atlantic isles, close to the major CO2 uptake by the ocean. A baseline station on a Chagos island, with both greenhouse gas monitoring and upward looking infra-red analysis to ground-truth satellite studies, would not be expensive. It would do much for the security of the world.

UK remote islands are major assets. Ascension's unchanging strong winds are perfect for wind power. South Georgia's interior is one of the windiest places on earth. Here, where wind is abundant, is where we should be setting up hydrogen plants and aluminium production, in effect exporting wind energy by displacing fossil-fuel production elsewhere.

The inhabitants of remote islands like St Helena and the Chagos have been poorly treated. It is time to do better. Monitoring provides useful employment. An obvious solution is to take the islands away from what is in effect still the Colonial Office and place them along with Jersey and Guernsey in the Duchy of Normandy. Once given full British citizenship the Chagos islanders will be loyal guardians: even the US base will benefit.



Bono confronts the African Aids crisis

Sir: Having seen the picture of Bono with his slick corporate CEO friends earlier in the week, I approached the RED Independent (16 May) with caution. Trepidation turned to nausea as I encountered Hirst, Brown, Blair, Taylor-Wood, Armani and, to top it all off, the anointed one, Geldof. If only RED sold ivory towers ....

However, I read Bono's editorial and, to be fair, his heart (and some of his head) is in the right place. So, much to my chagrin, I'll apply for a RED card.



Sir: When the main problems facing our civilisation are our consumption patterns and the poverty brought about by a political system ruled by corporations, the idea that getting people to consume more will actually reverse any of these trends is illogical.

We refuse to accept the difficult decisions needed because we are addicted to our current lifestyles and refuse to make the necessary sacrifices to save ourselves and those of the poorest who already suffer needlessly.

When our best hopes of tackling Aids and poverty rely on a pop star who thinks that we can change the world through our credit cards, I become profoundly pessimistic.



Sir: I find your Red issue a waste of time. We don't need publicity stunts. What we need is straight-talking unsentimental people who are going to be brave enough to go to tell Africans that they cannot have multiple partners and multiple children when this epidemic is ruining their countries. To provide infrastructure and education is positive but to be sentimental and forgiving over the Aids crisis is insulting.



Sir: Bono asks in his guest editorial, What can I do? The answer is simple - for him, Geldof, and the hundreds of others in their sphere who really wish to change things dramatically and totally. Give everything away. The lot. Give away your millions, all of you; set that psychological example to the young who dote on you, and you will create an explosion that cannot be ignored and will resound for the rest of the century. Will you have the guts?



Sir: Bono is right: people are tired of messianic rock stars. The Bono-edited Independent was none the less fascinating. Bono's editorial alone was incredible. Blatantly conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the one organisation who could at a stroke revolutionise the whole way Aids and HIV is viewed and treated in Africa - and whose heinous medieval dogma has helped cause this disaster in the first place. I of course refer to the Catholic Church .



Sir: Thanks to Bono for publishing the report "Third World cash exodus 'points to laundering' " and letting us know that the cash flowing into the UK from poor countries dwarfs our aid budget. However, his campaign won't get my support until the Third World's endemic corruption is brought under control.



Sir: Bono is an excellent musician, but a misguided politician. His association with Bush and Blair has given them some moral legitimacy in return for a few crumbs to Africa - not to mention inviting that well known bastion of liberalism, Condoleezza Rice, to contribute, while the suffering of Iraqis and Palestinians continues.



Sir: On Tuesday, I bought the Bono-edited Independent. The girl who often serves me asked me why it was suddenly "all red". It gave me a brief opportunity to explain to her, and to customers within earshot, all about Aids, Africa and RED. Thank you, through your special edition, for giving me that opportunity - and thank God for Bono.



Orwellian answer to traffic emissions

Sir: The debate about road congestion charges (The Big Question, 12 May) usually overlooks its worst aspect: total monitoring of citizens. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, society must discourage driving one way or another; the real issue is whether to do it anonymously, such as through fuel taxes, or through means that require Orwellian surveillance.

Blair's preference for the latter is well known, and he has already begun recording everyone's car travel; but this policy could be changed in the future. Incorporating it into a tax scheme will make it much harder to eliminate. Will Britons defend their freedom?



Sir: So, road pricing is back on the agenda, and you offer increasing car tax and fuel excise duty as an alternative.

It would be nice to think that we might at some time have a government that was capable of analysing the reasons why we have so many vehicles on the roads, and addressing those issues. A previous government effectively stopped the transport of goods by rail, and switched them to the road. John Prescott and earlier governments have encouraged growth in the South-east. Successive governments have permitted employers to centralise, often out of town, forcing employees on to the road in order to get to work.

The only solution offered - more taxes. Still I suppose we have to pay for Iraq somehow.



How we must treat dangerous patients

Sir: I was interested to read your article about James Green, who is currently awaiting sentencing for threatening to kill ("One tragedy that testifies to a decade of neglect", 11 May). Although there is a Home Office pilot programme addressing step-down facilities for people deemed to have "dangerous and severe personality disorders" and who are moving from high-secure units, provision in the community for people like Mr Green is sadly lacking.

As the Government has consistently argued, amending legislation so that personality disorder is treatable under the Mental Health Act is only one part of the equation. Ensuring appropriate treatment is provided through modern mental health services is essential. It is time for the Government to deliver on this promise.

Furthermore, there is a whole spectrum of personality disorders and the vast majority of people are not dangerous, but do require support. In tackling this challenge, the Government should look not only to the NHS, but also to voluntary agencies like Turning Point. We have a range of experience working with people who have personality disorders and a complex range of needs and, therefore, we have a lot of expertise which can be bought to bear when dealing with people in difficult circumstances such as these.



Over-hyped appeals to save the cork oak

Sir: This week's London International Wine Trade Show once again provides opportunities for the vociferous cork lobby to promote its traditional, and presumed, superiority over aluminium screw-tops. ("Cork-forests at risk from switch to screw-top wine", 15 May).

Over the past 20 to 25 years there has been an exponential growth in the worldwide consumption of wine. This has been helped by the fact that you can plant a vine and after three summers pick the grapes and make wine. This can carry on for 25 or more years before the vine needs replanting.

However, you have to wait 25 to 30 years before you can harvest the first bark from a cork oak tree. You then you have to wait a further seven to ten years before you can do it again.

Obviously the supply of good quality, full-length corks could not keep up with demand. Poor quality corks, with perhaps some "short cuts" being taken to keep prices down, resulted in an increase in tainted wines. The real danger of these is that the consumer would not enjoy the bottle, feel it was the wine, and decide to not buy that "brand" again.

Aluminium screw-caps, around for a long time in the spirits world, provide an attractive solution for that 90 per cent or so of all wines that are drunk within 18 months of being bottled. This leaves the field clear for top-quality wines, that will be carefully aged in cellars for five or more years, to be closed with traditional full-length corks.

There is not only room in the market for both, but each has its part to play. The cork protagonists are not doing themselves any long-term favours with their somewhat over-hyped appeals of their cork oaks facing decimation at the hands of the arriviste aluminium.



Dog-fighting gang on the heath

Sir: John Walsh is wrong: the savage Staffordshire bull terriers of Hampstead Heath are not some nimby upper-class fantasy ("A Hampstead Heath murder mystery", 13 May).

Last year, walking on the Heath, we saw a gang "exercising" a pair of bull terriers for fighting. The dogs were running around with car tires tied to their collars. From time to time, whenever a likely victim passed with their dog, the terriers were released and set on the unfortunate creature "accidentally".

We called the police, who arrived too late, alas, to catch what was indisputably a vicious dog-fighting gang at play.



Martyr for peace

Sir: In your short list of peace protesters ("Memorial honours sacrifice of conscientious objectors", 15th May), I was disappointed that you did not find the Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter worthy of mention. Unlike Muhammad Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam, Franz's refusal to fight in Hitler's army cost him his life.



Prison works

Sir: Nigel Morris (report, 16 May) writes of the apparent paradox whereby an increase in the prison population of 25,000 over the last decade has coincided with a fall in the crime rate. I am puzzled: surely crime has fallen precisely because more criminals are being locked up. Indeed this is proof, if any were needed, that prison is an effective tool in the fight against crime.



Blair's legacy

Sir: Tony Blair warns that "If I am deposed I won't back Brown." I should imagine that Gordon Brown would be more worried about what negative impact an endorsement by Tony Blair would have. Attacks on civil liberties, illegal wars against sovereign nations, giving the green light to third-party torturers and now preparing laws to treat animal rights activists as terrorists while at the same time failing to police the fox-hunters. His reign really does make me wonder if the Thatcherite years ever ended.



Unteachably British

Sir: The Government's intention to teach "Britishness" is bound to fail. The essence if Britishness, shared by several western European countries, is a healthy contempt for those who believe themselves to be our betters.



In proportion

Sir: With proportional representation 10 per cent of the vote may give any party - even the BNP - 60-plus MPs (letter, 10 May). But 36 per cent of the vote will never give a single party the absolute parliamentary majority. Proportional representation - it is exactly what it says on the label. What's the fuss?



Mouses in the pub

Sir: The correspondence about the plural of "mouse", reminded me that when I lived in Coventry my favoured tipple was a drink of lager and bitter, which was referred to locally as a "Mickey Mouse". Unfortunately one of my flatmates also used to go for the same drink. When at the bar, we argued over two Mickey Meece, mices, meeces, Mickey Mouses etc. The problem was resolved by ordering "a pint of Mickey Mouse please... . Oh, make that two."