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Monday 14 May 2012
Letters: Green energy
Wind farms preferable to fracking
The campaign against wind turbines seems to be gathering momentum with luminaries such as Donald Trump, the Duke of Edinburgh, and your own correspondent Terence Blacker in the vanguard (30 April). Add to that the anti-turbine campaign launched in Parliament by Lord Carlile on 19 April and the report by Bill Bryson (30 April), President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and one has to wonder whether windmills should ever have been allowed into the UK.
What no one from the anti-turbine lobby seems to recognise is that without renewables we will be forced to develop shale gas. Fracking is a filthy process involving undeclared chemicals that will see thousands of well-heads spring up all over our green and pleasant land. There is likely to be permanent contamination of the countryside by toxic ponds and significant threats to animal and human health. Why on earth aren't CPRE opposed to fracking instead of wind turbines?
Dr Robin Russell-Jones Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
I had some sympathy for Mr Cook's concern about a wind farm in his area (letters, 11 May) until I read that the turbines were "less than a mile away".
If I have to choose between destroying the planet, stopping my use of electricity, or having a wind turbine in a field near my house, I will certainly settle for the last option. I have already had solar panels fitted to my roof; a neighbour has a wind turbine installed in his garden. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. We have had wind mills around the country for centuries. They are an accepted part of the landscape. Wind turbines are elegant, and at the right distance, their sound no worse than waves breaking on a beach.
I live on the fringe of the Lake District National Park, an area being targeted by wind farm developers. When planning permission is granted, there are included provisions for the reinstatement of the site, when the permission expires (usually after 25 years). There have been a large number of cases involving, for example, quarrying, where the operator has avoided the restoration obligation by going into liquidation. There is a huge amount of concrete and wiring under a windfarm, therefore restoration cost are very substantial.
Should there not be a national moratorium on any further permission, until the wind farm industry has set up proper funding to meet this obligation?
Ofsted head's attitude will damage education
The new Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw's diatribe against teachers (report, 11 May), based upon anecdotally fuelled prejudice rather than evidence or reason, demonstrates that he has taken on an overtly political role in the Government's confrontation with teachers, akin to that of the "enforcer" Lucca Brazzi in the Godfather movies. Not only has this nothing to do with improving standards, it militates against it, since it makes it less likely that Ofsted will form an effective relationship with teachers, in which both can work for the good of education.
Michael Wilshaw displays spiteful arrogance towards the teaching profession, and seems to think that this constitutes good leadership. It is precisely this attitude, combined with an increasingly punitive and irrational educational environment created by successive governments, that drove me out of teaching. How many good teachers and headteachers will leave as a result of this maniac at the helm of Ofsted?
The four Ofsted teams to which I have been subjected have all consisted largely of washed-out-looking, 50-something ex-teachers. What does Sir Michael "teaching isn't stressful" Wilshaw think persuaded them to join his profession? A desire to do good?
I was dismayed to read Sir Michael Wilshaw's remarks. In 1985 I was the head of a large comprehensive, with a split-site school to run, as well as a significant number of teachers, including two deputies, on strike. I supervised 150 pupils in the hall on many successive days. It was stressful, but nowhere near as stressful as the situation faced by many teachers today.
If you are young or at all uncertain, the nervous strain of facing a difficult class day after day, week after week, is really stressful. Most teachers are average, some are below average, but they are still well-intentioned and conscientious. It is they who, feeling the pressure of Big Brother looking over their performance and at risk of derision from their pupils, are most at risk. Any "off day" resulting from illness or family stress can cause them to get very near the edge.
One gets the best out of people by praise, not contempt.
Having taught biology to A-level and other science subjects between 1972 and 2001 I can attest to the major cause of the very real stress to which classroom teachers are subjected which has been, and still is, the constant change and upheaval created by the plethora of "innovations" instigated by politicians of all governments.
If the new head of Ofsted really thinks that "teachers don't know the meaning of stress", he and his henchmen will presumably not be daunted at all by the suggestion that, when an inspector judges a lesson to be a failure, he or she should be prepared to deliver a sample lesson at an outstanding standard to the same class the next day?
Dr Giles Watson
Cardinal Brady's indefensible acts
John Kenny (Letters, 9 May) seems to equate the Catholic Church with a multinational company where career progression is the main aim. Maybe he is right. He is not, however, correct in saying that in 1975 the man who is now Cardinal Sean Brady was a "junior priest". He was 35 years old and would not have been dealing with the matter unless he was "prudent and of mature age" (Crimen Sollicitationis Papal Instruction 1962). None of which alters the fact that the then Fr Sean Brady chose to interrogate a young boy, alone, asked questions which must have shamed and terrified the child and then swore him to secrecy with the threat of excommunication. That Cardinal Brady still thinks he acted correctly is why he should be removed from his post.
Blood donors turned away
Like Natalie Haynes (10 May) I am a regular blood donor. However, it seems to be becoming increasingly difficult to donate due to cutbacks, with sessions now shorter in duration and of less frequency. In the past I was able to walk in off the street to donate, but because there is no longer the staff to cope with this, people are now often turned away (and possibly lost to donation in the future). Of late I have found it to be virtually impossible to donate in my area without an appointment, which has to be made at least three months in advance.
I, more than most, understand the need to freely donate blood as my wife has a medical condition which has required 57 units over the past 26 months.
This government had plans to open up more of the service to private enterprise. Further privatisation – such as the storage and delivery by private companies – should concern all of us, bearing in mind the failures of past privatisations (water, energy, etc). That such a life-giving substance as blood should be subject to the profit motive simply beggars belief.
Consett, Co Durham
Tonsillectomies improve health
Rachel Gallagher (letter, 26 April) writes that her son's health had been improved by tonsillectomy and asks why medical experts don't conduct surveys to find out the truth about the benefits or otherwise of tonsillectomies.
I am happy to tell her that many have done so already. Here in Wales Rosemary Fox conducted such a survey with others in 2003-05, published in 2008 in the Journal of Laryngology and Otology, as did Akgun and colleagues in 2004, published in the same journal in 2009 to name but two.
Unsurprisingly both papers showed that tonsillectomy significantly improved the health and quality of life of patients in whom tonsillectomy was indicated.
Regrettably, too many people in high paces seem to believe refusing a service saves money, and that it is too expensive to offer excellent care. Experience suggests that offering the best treatment as soon as possible is less expensive both in the short and long term – but try explaining that to the closed minds of those in Westminster and their allies.
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan
MPs' privileges are uncurtailed
You report (12 May) a No 10 spokesman repeating the Coalition mantra – the government inherited a very tough fiscal challenge, we are having to make spending cuts across the board. Perhaps someone could ask the Government why the taxpayer subsidy on the drinks and food in the Houses of Parliament's bars and restaurants was increased in January this year to almost £6m?
How glad I was to see that pay and pensions are to be reduced across the public sector. When will the MPs' pay and pension golden bucket be reduced? That's the one we all want to see trimmed.
It seems churlish to criticise Mary Beard's hairstyle (letters, 11 May), but it not only appears inappropriate for someone of her age and distinction, it also distracts from what she is saying.
There are many men on screen with equally wrong-headed and distracting hairstyles. The BBC's Will Gompertz has a sort of fringe, more of a pelmet, really which flops about below his bald top and makes him look as though he is on the way to entertain at a children's party.
Advice is needed for these folk. Whether we like it or not, television is a visual medium.
Rather than concentrating on "cures" for obesity in children and teens doctors should recognise that it is an environmental problem. For generations most children had half an acre to run around in – the street.
The dominance of the car in residential roads has denied them this everyday healthy activity and obesity is one result. When cholera and dysentery were rife in London, doctors offered quack remedies which failed; a healthy environment (Bazalgette's sewers) cured diseases. Our children need a healthy environment of streets where they can play out.
Director, Children's Play Advisory Service, Coventry
Prince of weather
Prince Charles as weather presenter (report, 11 May)? Don't give up your day job. Er, does one have one?
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