David Attenborough makes an important point about global leaders being in denial about climate change (report, 2 January). However it’s not only our leaders who are wilfully ignoring the scientific facts, it is those they represent: us.
The rate of change in our climate is sufficiently slow from a political viewpoint that it can safely be ignored until after the next election, and the evidence of low levels of savings and pension provision suggests that we share our leaders’ short-term view of life. I don’t believe our leaders are so stupid as to think climate change is not a reality, or powerless to make a difference if they chose to; it’s just not a priority.
Solutions to big problems often comprise many different elements, and some of these might be: continued and strengthened international political debate and agreeing of targets; more effective communication from the scientific community; and continued pressure from the likes of Greenpeace. In the end, though, I think we may have to rely on the fact that economics usually trumps politics and hope that investors recognise the economic consequences and opportunities of climate change and act accordingly.
Amol Rajan asks: “How can you get global co-operation on climate change when the economics of it are so unpredictable?” (Letter from the Editor, 27 December) The economics of energy supply will remain unpredictable for as long as we rely on internationally traded commodities (fossil fuels) which are subject to regional geopolitics and politically inspired decisions about supply and demand.
The situation is made even more uncertain by the fact that supplies are eventually going to run out, and may well be stranded in situ long before that if rapidly worsening climate change forces worldwide decarbonisation.
This should be compared with renewable sources of energy, where the price is predictable and the supply is inexhaustible, locally produced, and non-polluting. Maybe the question should be: “How can you hope to have economic stability until the issue of climate change is settled?”
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Tom Bawden (1 January) is right to say that an emotional charge is urgently required if the issue of climate change is to be understood by the non-scientific community. Our natural scepticism is often encouraged by the short-termism of weak politicians who prefer to ignore the problem while they are in office. Surely it is absurd that we readily accept the views of scientists in vital areas such as medicine but scoff at them when climate change is up for discussion.
But who is capable of delivering this essential message in a palatable form which sceptics will be prepared to listen to? I would suggest that Bill Bryson, the author of The Short History of Nearly Everything, is the man for the job. In that book he managed to explain a great deal about complex fields of modern science to at least one ignoramus, whose view of the world has been changed as a result.
Why anyone would drink protein shakes
Nicholas Lezard (“Why would anyone drink powdered protein?”, 30 December) makes snide comments about those who use gyms: in a country where average levels of physical activity fall well below those recommended, I would suggest that anyone who takes time to go to a gym should be praised, not condemned as “narcissistic”. The people I meet in my local council-owned leisure centre aren’t there for narcissism. They are trying to build up some fitness.
The use of protein shakes is based on solid scientific evidence that ingestion of additional protein in the half-hour or so following exercise enables the muscles to rebuild the losses incurred during exercise. Improving muscle strength is an integral part of becoming fit, and that doesn’t necessarily mean “body-building”.
As I approach 70 years, I know that like everyone else of my age, I am undergoing a progressive loss of muscle mass, and anything I can do to lessen this is likely to increase the duration of my independence in old age. Why is that a subject for derision?
And as to his absurd comments about protein shakes likely being made of “dried and ground-up worms”, let me assure Nicholas Lezard that the proprietary protein shake that I take after exercise is made of soy protein (fine for vegetarians) and is available in a range of flavours (banana and strawberry are my favourites) that make it truly delicious.
Emeritus Professor of Human Metabolism at the University of Oxford
Gallipoli: The British suffered most
John Walsh, writing about the anniversaries that fall this year (1 January), is peddling the old myth that Gallipoli was an exclusively Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) operation.
Exact figures for casualties on the Allied side are difficult to come by, but the best estimates show that the Anzacs had about 11,000 dead and 24,000 injured. British casualties came in at about 34,000 dead and 80,000 injured. The French casualties were about equal to those the Anzacs suffered. This is not to decry the sacrifice made by Australia and New Zealand. In proportion to their populations at the time their casualties were huge.
If you get the chance to visit Gallipoli try to see some of the beaches at the south-western end, where British forces landed. In all probability no one else will be there. Visit V beach, where the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers lost so many troops in the landing that they were merged and nicknamed the Dubsters. There you will see a beach where blood really did “stain the sand and the water”.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
More high-speed lines, fewer local trains
The city of Tours in France, where I live, has had trains à grande vitesse (TGV) for many years. I was interested, therefore, to read John Lichfield’s article (27 December) concerning developments in the system.
The line which previously terminated at Tours is now being extended to Bordeaux, and, although it is a while before it comes into service, French railways (SNCF) are already giving us a grim foretaste of what we might expect.
The fastest services now bypass us, even though our urban population is about 400,000 and we are a hub of no fewer than seven railway lines. This has increased our journey time to Paris by 20 per cent and we have also lost our direct trains to Lille, with its simple connection for London.
However, it is not only the TGV service which has deteriorated. The massive investment in this system has led to much under-investment elsewhere. The classic route to Paris has fewer and fewer trains because ageing rolling stock is not replaced. Some other lines are restricted to 40kph; trains are replaced by buses or cancelled, sometimes at very short notice.
This may be due to the TGV, it may be due to general dysfunction in SNCF: I cannot draw conclusions. However, I do see a deteriorating railway with mounting frustration among travellers.
Once a great supporter of HS2, I now feel that, should it go ahead, it must never be at the expense of what railways can also do very well: taking local traffic off the roads.
Ebola quarantine: a modest proposal
The wonderfully decent and heartwarming proposal from Clark Cross (letter, 31 December) that health professionals returning from “Ebola countries” should be placed in isolation units is a splendid idea. Especially if the US, EU and UK were to batten down the hatches and leave western Africa to its own fate. This would ensure that no more selfless doctors and nurses would travel to assist health services in these afflicted areas to try to contain and halt this horrific infection.
Perhaps Mr Cross would like to consider the apocalyptic words from a senior US health-official: “Ebola” and “Lagos”. Or perhaps he would rather we quarantine the entire continent?
Her bed is nothing to my desk
I’m no professor or art student, but if an unmade bed can be sold for over £2.5m then my untidy desk is worth at least double. I like to think it is a parody of organisation, and contemporary art obviously.
Better still, although we’re no longer sure Tracey Emin really lay in her bed (letters, 31 December), I assure you that I’ve worked at my desk. I made it how it is and never will onlookers have seen such talent!
Great art tells you something about yourself. Tracey Emin’s art only tells us something about her.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire