Letters: Perhaps now we will take the climate seriously

These letters were published in the 7th February edition of the Independent

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Climate change discourse has been constructed, by the rich and powerful, around a misguided belief that it is only the poor who are vulnerable to climate variability. The recent events in the UK prove that wealth cannot stop the wind blowing or the water rising.

As climate change starts to impact both the rich and poor, perhaps we will finally see concerted action to address the threat – a threat which is likely to make the current weather events in the UK more frequent and intense. What we are witnessing today may be a harbinger of what we should expect for the future.

This is not about engineering, or technological solutions, this is fundamentally about our violent relationship with nature and our addiction to a way of life that cannot be supported by this little planet.

Dr Mike Edwards, Lindfield, West Sussex

We are a densely populated island. In order to supply our nation with vegetables, fruit, milk and meat, we have learned to farm more difficult landscapes. They may be the harsh uplands of Exmoor, Cumbria or Scotland, the flood-prone East Anglian Fens, or the Somerset Levels.

The farmers of these regions do not exist in isolation – they rely on their stockmen and women, their tractor and combine drivers, and their fruit and veg’ pickers to assist their businesses. These workers typically live locally to the farms, and these small communities may have a local shop, a pub, a garage, a school, and residents who work for these businesses and other support industries.

It is no more valid to criticise people for living on the Somerset Levels (letter, 3 February), where land drainage has become a finely tuned infrastructure over many generations, than it is to criticise people who live in the upland areas, where snow and ice are a frequent hazard, and occasionally in extreme weather extra support is needed from the emergency services.

When nature tests our defences, and a community is in need, we should all rally round to help. Without the rural community, providing food for our tables, we would all suffer the higher costs and greater dependence on imports. It’s not a case of town versus country, and a choice of where to live – we are all in this together.

Dave Bearman, Stawell,  Somerset

The Great Western main line between Exeter and Plymouth has been severed once again by weather conditions. It shows the folly of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s when the alternative (Southern Railway) main line, which ran via Okehampton and Tavistock, was severed.

I travelled on this line many times as a young matelot in the early 1960s and can vouch for the scenic beauty of this route. It would be better to spend some of the billions earmarked for that glorified white elephant, HS2, in restoring this missing link.

Roger Padfield, Cardiff

What state schools need to offer

As the headmaster of an independent school rated outstanding by inspectors, I certainly recognised some truths in Archie Bland’s caricature of the real “Berlin Wall” between state and private (5 February).

The effect of children’s early upbringing is profound when it comes to education, and there is no doubt in my mind that children who have received love, conversation and stability as babies start school streets ahead of those who have experienced neglect, instability and lack of human interaction. The argument that it is this that causes the gulf in attainment is clearly attractive, as shown by the massive online majority strongly agreeing with the article.

The same day as I read this piece, the parents of two children at a local primary school, also rated outstanding, visited me seeking places. Mr Bland would argue that their children, who have had excellent starts in life and the best state education available, will gain no advantage by moving – so why did they come? It is here where, I believe, Michael Gove is right.

As excellent as their children’s school is, the state primary system is simply not geared up to provide the opportunities available in the best independent schools. Primary children thrive on high expectation and ambition. They devour specialist teaching in areas such as science, computing and languages. They need to play music and sport, to experience competition, to take part in drama, to create art, to explore poetry and have the time to tackle open-ended questioning and go beyond the curriculum. Only if we can replicate this model in the state primary sector will we give all children the advantages currently enjoyed by the few.

Nicholas Bevington, Headmaster, Town Close School, Norwich

That all schools should strive for excellence is incontestable. Until the Government invests massively in re-siting, rebuilding, refurbishing, and re-equipping a vast number of state schools, and improving the staff-pupil ratio, I find that Mr Gove has no credibility.

John McLorinan, Weston super Mare, North Somerset

New age of warfare without risk

In modern warfare at least 15 civilians are killed for every combatant. As the machines take over, with unmanned aircraft (“The Few become none”, 6 February) and with unmanned tanks and submarines on the way, the tally will become 15-0.

At least the military could take some pride that they put their own lives at risk. We and our American friends will soon be able to kill people in large numbers without moving from our home bases. Difficult to take pride in this.

We are urged to celebrate this “extraordinary achievement in British engineering”. Count me out.

Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex

It’s great to learn that we now have a force of fantastically efficient  drones that can take out our enemies without any loss to our armed forces. No doubt we will get lots of lucrative orders from our allies, such as Saudi Arabia, and make a lot of money for “our country”.

Let’s hope that our enemies don’t get their hands on some too and decide to target our top politicians or monarchy because of what we  stand for.

Derek Siggs, South Yorkshire

‘Ailing’ radio 3  in good shape

I was surprised to read that BBC Radio 3, is “ailing” (“Radio 3 requiem: 6 Music to overtake ailing station”, 6 February) when our recent spring season launch demonstrated the fine creative form we’re in, with new drama, jazz and world music programming through to live classical music concerts every night.

The BBC is also the organiser of the BBC Proms and Radio 3 exclusively broadcasts every one of those Proms concerts live.

Our listening figures remain stable at around 2 million per week, as they have since Rajar records began. Audience figures are only one measure of success, and there is no pressure from within the BBC for Radio 3 to increase its audience. 

We do not chase ratings, but I am delighted that the station has experienced recent growth in its distinctiveness and audience appreciation figures and remains a vital part of the UK’s cultural landscape.

Roger Wright, Controller, BBC Radio 3, Director, BBC Proms, London W12

Shifting blame on to rape victims

Both Vicky Bayley and Phil Isherwood (letters, 4 February) ostensibly agree that rape is wrong whilst effectively blaming the victims for “choosing to put themselves at unnecessary risk” and “contributory negligence”, respectively.

Would anyone argue that a black teenager who entered a pub known to be frequented by white teenagers was complicit in any violent attack which might have occurred? No, I didn’t think so. Rape is less about sex than it is a hate crime. Arguing that a woman bears responsibility for a rape because she is drunk, is analogous to the contention that she “asked for it” because she was wearing a short skirt.

The “common sense” argument is just another way of shifting blame on to female victims.

Sarah Crooks, Derbyshire

Multi-tasking at the wheel

If Baroness Blackstone (The Big Questions, 1 February) stood near a busy road for 10 minutes or so, she would realise that the law banning drivers from using mobile phones is often ignored. A ban on smoking with children in the car is likely to achieve a similar level of compliance.

Thomas Williams, Dorney, Buckinghamshire

Lynn Hutchings’ letter (5 February) about the driver who was texting while lighting a cigarette reminded me of the time I was following a car during the morning rush-hour. The occupant was using both hands to apply eye make-up while steering with her elbows. I watched open mouthed with admiration and horror in equal measure.

Peter Spilman, Snitterfield, Warwickshire

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