Letters: Put a price on nature – and it goes to the highest bidder

These letters appear in the Saturday 23rd November edition of the Independent

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It is profoundly depressing to read that The Independent supports “giving the natural world a value” (“The price of nature”, 22 November).

The natural world has a value that is incalculable. But your editorial means backing a monetary value for it.

Already we have put up for grabs – by the world’s oligarchs, bankers, hedge-fund managers, and diverse rip-off merchants around the planet – much of our precious inheritance.

These individuals and corporations, who have managed to amass, for their private indulgence, a disproportionate part of the common weal, are using it to buy up our water, our land, our most attractive streets and squares in our capital city, and much more. Even our power has been surrendered to the Chinese.

We use animals as if they were things, with our battery farms. Plants are treated as biological mechanisms by agri-business, and our sacred Mother Earth is smothered in an obscene mound of soiled pound notes and dollar bills.

Whatever is given a monetary value is eventually sold to the highest bidder.

Jim McCluskey, Twickenham


Perhaps it is time for Gaia to put a price on the human race – one that emphasises what a myopic liability it is.

Michael McCarthy, London W13

The clamour of aid agencies for strategies to cope with humanitarian disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines distracts attention from the wider context that, as so often, underlies human tragedy.

This is a part of the world where relentless population growth and commercial exploitation of the natural environment have destroyed the habitats of countless species with merciless disregard, driving many to the point of extinction.

Nature is now reminding us that there are consequences to such naked self-interest and that we spurn respect for the natural order at our peril.

A Greek dramatist or biblical prophet would no doubt add that overwhelming human ambition blinds us to our own vulnerability and invites destruction.

We reap what we have sown.

Dominic Kirkham, Manchester


Cuts make divorce more stressful

We wish to highlight a worrying lack of awareness about the alternatives to going to court for separating couples. Despite the fact that these alternatives often reduce the stress and cost of divorce, new polling shows that the British public remain sceptical about non-court-based processes which help avoid conflict.

The problem has been exacerbated in recent months by the Government’s cuts to legal aid. They have directly resulted in fewer people having access to free legal advice, with the result that far fewer are being directed by legal professionals towards solutions other than court.

The numbers speak for themselves: publicly funded mediations are down by 40 per cent – a trend that urgently needs to be reversed.

Solutions offered by family law professionals can take away some of the difficulty of separation. So what a tragedy it is that so few people appreciate the huge benefits of these alternatives to court.

We all have a responsibility to ensure people are far better informed about these options, and minimise the stress for the couple, for their children and for their family and friends.

Rt Hon Lord Falconer  of Thoroton, Lady Butler-Sloss, Liz Edwards, Chair, Resolution, Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive, Relate, Bob Greig, Director, OnlyMums and OnlyDads

The reason we have ‘no wars on’

“We have the disadvantage that we actually have no wars on,” Paul Pindar told the Public Accounts Committee. What he meant was perhaps: “We have the disadvantage that Tony Blair sent soldiers to wars that were none of our business and with little public support. We have discovered that people do not like to die for lost causes.”

Simon Allen, London N2


Army recruitment is apparently being hit by the disadvantage that we have no wars on.

This is a bit like saying that we need more crime in order to encourage recruits to the police force, or that we should scrap health and safety to encourage recruits to the fire service.

Fewer wars: less killing and bereavement, fewer lost limbs and lost minds, less post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some disadvantage!

Sue Gilmurray, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Azerbaijan on journey towards democracy

I wish to express my concern about the claims in the article “The Independent is banned from Azerbaijan’s Baku World Challenge for wanting to look beyond the marketing hype”, 20 November).

First, Azerbaijan is an open country for all foreign travellers, including journalists. However, organisers of events such as Baku World Challenge have their own policy on whom to invite, which I think needs to be respected.

Regarding the media and human rights environment in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan’s strategic choice is establishing mature democracy in the country.

We are members of a range of European institutions, including the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and a strong partner with the European Union.

One of the key areas of our cooperation involves strengthening democracy and human rights.

We welcome criticism that is constructive and helpful; however, our critics should take into account the progress Azerbaijan has made in its journey towards democracy, as well as its recent achievements.

Azerbaijan has turned into a reliable member of the international community, and the government maintains its commitment to strengthening democratic standards in the country.

Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan, London W8

Somali people also victims of violence

I am sorry to hear that Mark Buckmaster’s relative was killed by Somali bandits (letter, 21 November) but am saddened that his anger is as indiscriminate as the cyclone that recently hit Somalia.

The Somali people are desperately poor and most are not pirates or warlords but are themselves  victims of the terrible wars that have riven the country and led it to its failed-state condition.

Mr Buckmaster may believe their misery is deserved, but punishing them by withholding humanitarian aid when they desperately need it won’t stop piracy or terrorism.

Jonathan Wallace, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne

Failure to understand how hard life can be

I found the letter from Dan Dennis (21 November) disgusting. Doubtless, as a member of the University of Oxford, on a good salary, he can afford a nice house with a bedroom big enough for a large bed, a dialysis machine and room to swing a couple of cats as well.

Most people live in small places, with tiny rooms and often have room only for a small bed. Lack of imagination makes it impossible for people like him and those wealthy members of the Government to understand how hard life is for the majority of the nation.

I have never needed welfare – in fact, I have a degree from “the other place” and I’ve had well-paid jobs all my life – but I’ve seen enough to know how other people suffer.

Remember, “there but for the grace of God go I”.

John Day, Port Solent, Hampshire

Parable of the financial services

John Dakin writes (21 November) to profess his shock at Sean O’Grady’s supposed mea culpa on mobile phone use while driving, but that is a clear misreading of the piece. It is obviously intended as a modern parable: a metaphor for the behaviour of financial services workers.

There is the reckless  risk-taking, selfishly focused on personal gain at the expense of others; the refusal to accept complicity when it all goes horribly wrong; and the repetition of the same behaviour, even after penalties have been applied.

It’s got it all: what a wonderful article.

David Gould, Andover, Hampshire

Pleasure of shopping is disappearing

Visiting my local Asda, I was repeatedly asked if I would like to use one of its self-service tills. When I said that I preferred to be served by a real person, they looked at me rather pityingly, as if I was mad or just odd.

I realise I am probably fighting a losing battle, but it does seem sad that one of the pleasures of shopping – having a chat with a friendly member of staff – is rapidly disappearing, presumably so that these chains can employ fewer staff. 

Perhaps it is a metaphor for modern life; convenience and profit becoming more important than human contact.

Andrew Lee-Hart, Wallasey, Merseyside

An eternal problem?

Has there ever been a time when the climate was stable?

Peter Richardson, London N6