Letters: Snow threat

Snow threatens wildlife, but newspapers get through
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The Independent Online

The impact of prolonged snowfall on birds and other wildlife is causing starvation, dehydration and hypothermia, a grim toll rising with every day the snow blanket persists.

Less widely understood is the insidious toxic legacy for wildlife of the tonnes of salt grit spread on our roads, a few footways and some car parks. Road-salt contaminates ground- and surface-water, poisons wildlife and kills trees and other vegetation. Birds, including already-declining species such as house sparrows, are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of ingesting road-salt. Aquifers, rivers, streams and ponds (and hence our drinking water) are also sensitive to contamination from road-salt and anti-caking agents.

To tackle this toxic legacy, local authorities and their contractors must rely far less on liberal applications of often ineffective road-salt and more on the traditional approach of mechanical snow-clearance, using contractors with machinery and shovels. De-icers and traction-aids should be deployed in environmentally sensitive rural and riverside locations.

We can help our embattled wildlife by keeping feeders well-stocked, and regularly putting out scraps and fresh water.

Cllr Tony Harwood

Maidstone, Kent

My black bin now contains a month's garbage, the binmen having missed two collections due to snow. The roads are open and traffic is moving, but they cannot, it seems.

My newspaper girl, who can expect no pension, wears no heavy protective or high-visibility clothing, no fancy gloves, has no vehicles to move her around, and carries a weighty bag full of newspapers, trudges through the snow to deliver our paper every day. She has not missed even once.

I do not wish to see a response from a council quoting health and safety rules.


AMERSHAM, BUCKinghamshire

Generation has lost interest in politics

One wonders whether Celebrity Big Brother or the General Election will attract more attention this year. Whatever politicians say, we shall probably have forgotten it in 24 hours.

It wasn't always like this. In the General Election of 1950, almost 84 per cent of the electorate voted; in the Euro election in 2009, almost the same percentage did not vote. In the 1950s, politics was not a spectator sport and millions of people were involved in politics directly, through their local parties or associations, or through their trade unions.

The political parties were mass movements, with countless members volunteering to do the unpaid political footslogging. They understood the importance of politics and how their own lives were affected by it, including life or death in wartime. Today, this has been long forgotten and our compatriots are seemingly interested only in bread and circuses. If Napoleon were alive today, I'm sure he would say we are no longer a nation of shopkeepers but a nation of shoppers.

Today, it's simply a question of what's in it for me? Which party leader is better-looking? Which one offers better services and lower taxes? No interest in politics and no involvement, or even understanding, but ever ready to condemn the only people in public life we can actually remove, not overpaid, shallow, TV performers, footballers or bankers, but our detested MPs.

In the end, politicians are chosen from among the electorate; if they are found wanting then perhaps we should consult the mirror if we are to find where the true fault lies.

Tony Williams


Gordon Brown may claim that "the Liberals, I think, are closer to us on tax", but Liberal Democrats would do well to remind themselves of his track record. This is the same Gordon Brown who increased taxes on the lowest paid by raising the 10p tax rate to 20p, when Lib Dem policy is to raise the tax threshold to £10,000, thus taking many of the poorest out of paying tax altogether.

One has to look only at the failure of Labour to address their 1997 manifesto commitment to a referendum on electoral reform to see that Brown's recent pronouncements are solely about his own and his party's self-interest. Genuine liberals have a clear choice at this election, and it is best served by voting Liberal Democrat; not for Brown or Cameron.

Steve Travis

West Bridgford, NOTTINGHAM

Given the parlous state of the British economy, can we ask the leaders of the three main political parties to pledge to tell us, every time they make a promise before the 2010 election, how they intend to pay for it?

If it is by raising taxes, they should tell us which taxes they plan to raise and by how much. If it is by cuts in spending, they should tell us which services or benefits will be reduced, and by how much. And if it is by making "efficiency savings", they will tell us how many workers will lose their jobs. Such a pledge would help to restore the credibility of British politicians that was lost in last year's expenses fiasco.

David Hewitt

London N1

The animosity between the Conservative and Labour parties is apparent whenever their representatives at any level appear on our TV screen or on the radio. Neither party wants to talk about its own intended policies, but their members quickly turn to insulting their opponents, and talking critically about their policies. It seems this confrontational style begins at the top with both Gordon Brown and David Cameron then filters down to all levels.

If we have four or five more months of this negative campaigning to endure, nobody will be earning my vote. I'd rather abstain.

Malcolm Wild

North Shields, Tyne & Wear

Convoys could curb the Somali pirates

Before Somali piracy gets even more out of hand, is it not time for the naval task force to switch from defending a shipping lane to a convoy system, as used on the North Atlantic during the Second World War?

The pirates, not being stupid, have taken to attack before the lane starts and after it finishes. Adopting the convoy system would mean that incoming ships would gather say, at an agreed point off western India.

Helicopters on the escort warships would range ahead, monitoring seas when the ships approach danger zones, armed with rules of engagement stating that if some blokes on an inflatable start launching RPGs, the chopper crews can rocket them.

Such convoys could branch off at an agreed point, with part of the escort, headed for the Strait of Hormuz. The rest would continue to the approach to the Suez Canal, then the escorts could wait for a new convoy coming, and lead it back to western India.

The system would entail agreement between nations whose ships use the route, and perhaps entail a fee to the escort vessels' nations, but that would be a lot less than a multimillion-dollar ransom. When the convoy system was started after savage losses from U-boat attacks in the Great War, huge amounts of shipping and lives were saved. Convoys also worked well through the Second World War.

David J Boggis

Matignon, France

Working together for the Olympics

Far from being an "ill-fitting stranger" ("The London Olympics are failing their racial promises", Comment, 21 December), I have a strong working relationship with my LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) board colleagues, and great respect for the work LOCOG has developed and delivered as part of its Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are by no means "failing their racial promises". The LOCOG board and senior management team are committed to delivering an Olympic Games for everyone, and has engaged not just with the Muslim community of Great Britain, but with all parts of London's richly diverse population.

I was invited on to the LOCOG board on the basis of my grass-roots work with all communities in the East End of London since the early 1980s, and I joined the LOCOG board before I became the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari

London SW17

Robinsons on a hot tin roof

Born and bred in Northern Ireland, I always figured NI had a close affiliation with the American Deep South redneck Bible-belt. All this Robinson stuff kind of confirms it.

It has all the Tennessee Williams ingredients: turgid, illicit sex between an older faded belle and her teenage ward; a cuckolded, scheming husband; political intrigue and claims of financial corruption; suicidal self-destruction; religious fundamentalism and homosexual taboos; hypocrisy; mendacity and political cant.

Great stuff. Makes the news almost worth reading.

Alex Noble


The fall of the House of Robinson and the possible fall of their political party, the DUP, is a combination of tragedy and farce. Tragedy in that Peter Robinson was the only DUP politician of substance who supported power-sharing, and farce in that the sex and money scandal will result in television dramas and documentaries, and the revival of that great Simon and Garfunkel song from The Graduate.

Mr Robinson is doomed not because of his personal actions, but because leaders of nations cannot be the subjects of jokes. His constituents not only lack compassion, but a sense of humour.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

At long last, Ulster Unionism has moved from the 17th century to the 18th.

K Nolan

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim

No golden age for working women

The views of David Ashton (letters, 9 January) and those of Lord Carey on life in this country before the mid-Sixties are seen though middle-class male rose-tinted glasses.

For the middle-class white male, this probably was a golden age. For many others, particularly working-class women, it was an age of great restriction. Having tasted the financial independence of work during the war years, women were again consigned to the domestic realm, mostly unseen and unheard in a white, middle-class, male-dominated society.

For many women, giving up hard-earned wartime freedoms proved difficult, and added momentum to the women's liberation movement of the Sixties and the drive for gender equality. This more realistic view of history can be confirmed by the same non-fiction books, periodicals, letters, and photographs used by Mr Ashton to support his view.

Debbie Boote

Keyworth, Nottingham

Switched on

May I suggest that Keith Sharp (letters, 7 January) try returning the threats from TV Licensing, presumably addressed to "The Occupier", annotated with the words "Gone Away". It worked for us and left us in peace for several years.

Keith Fletcher

Much Hadham, Hertfordshire

Ugly picture

As a teacher, I am charged by the government, the General Teaching Council and parents to give the safety and protection of children in my care the highest priority. So when I travel by air from Heathrow with 50 teenage pupils in March, will I be able to satisfy those expectations if I allow security staff to see beneath their clothes via body-scanning technology? Can the government really encourage a measure which, to all intents and purposes, could make State-sponsored indecent images of my pupils?

John Trant

Bishop's Stortford College, Hertfordshire

Road-train strain

Many motorists have pre-empted the so-called "road-train" technology that allows a group of cars to drive aut-onomously in a tight bunch at 70mph (letters, 9 January). Tailgating at speeds well in excess of the national speed limit is already common and a cause of many fatal collisions on the motorway network. A lower-tech solution would be for drivers to maintain a safe stopping distance between their car and the vehicle in front, a tried-and-tested approach that delivers lower emissions, fewer crashes and reduced congestion.

Andrew Davis

Director, The Environmental Transport Association, Weybridge, Surrey

What's so special?

Why is the Attorney-General so intent on changing the law on the arrest of alleged war criminals coming to the UK (report, 6 January)? Will the change in law be to exempt Israelis specifically, or alleged war criminals from any country? Why should Israeli leaders have exemption if there is sufficient evidence that they may be convicted of war crimes? Why this toadying to the Israelis? Would the same exemption apply to Mugabe, or the Burmese junta?

John Trapp


No psychic bent

You describe Uri Geller as a psychic entertainer ("Geller sues over allegation he betrayed Jackson", 9 January). No he isn't. In fact, I don't think he's even psychic.

Dr David Swann