Whatever it takes, fossil fuel addiction must end

These letters appear in the Thursday 25th issue of The Independent



Hamish McRae’s column of 18 June is another brilliant analysis by the Independent team. It summarises the major conflicts and most prominent trade deals of recent weeks and brings them into context with the world’s still increasing hunger for fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are at the centre of the conflicts in the Middle East and the Ukrainian-Russian dispute. BP just signed a big deal with China and the day after his column was printed the long-disputed Canadian pipeline pumping oil for China has been approved. According to his analysis we are still relying for more than 85 per cent of our energy on fossil fuels. Nuclear and renewables still play an insignificant part compared to fossil fuels. McRae’s analysis is brilliant but scary. It shows our dependency and our powerlessness to do anything about it.

However, I cannot quite follow his conclusions, that fracking should be seen as a relief. Surely, this will only prolong our dependency, or addiction, I prefer to say, and exacerbates global warming and the pollution of air and water.

Our growth-whatever-the-costs ethics seem to be so deeply enshrined in our thinking and actions that nothing seems to stop our addiction to fossil fuels and nobody dares to question it. The scary weather events in the UK over the last winter and in New York the autumn before all seem to be forgotten or largely ignored, like the protest camps against fracking and indigenous peoples’ demonstrations in Canada.

There is increasing scientific evidence that if we continue with business as usual – and it looks with fracking as if we are even accelerating – the weather events of the last winter will look small compared to what is in store.

It is high time to reconsider our economic growth paradigm. Whatever the cost might be. It might be unusual and at most uncomfortable but still by far better than being exposed to a planet out of balance.

Dr Christoph Zöckler, Senior Adviser and Fellow, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge


Slavery and philanthropy

As a Bristolian, I was saddened by the article on Edward Colston (“Statues of shame”, 23 June). Of course I deplore slavery, but what good is brought about by expunging Colston’s name from the city and taking down his statue?

Condemnation will not prevent the modern trafficking of people. It is better to celebrate the fact that, despite all, he did a great deal for the benefit of citizens. In this he is truly an example.

I wonder to what degree the money of modern philanthropists is utterly free of contamination.

Nick Stanley, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


In the late 1830s a barber named Sutherland rode the three miles from Elgin to Kintrae three times a week to a retired farmer, James Gilzean, who had grown too old to walk into the town to be shaved. The money to pay him came from an account held for Gilzean’s son, Sandy, by the retired Sheriff Substitute of Inverness, James Gilzean’s brother.

The money had been made in Jamaica, probably from the proceeds of a slave gang hired out for seasonal labour on the plantations of the Blue Mountains. The slave economy went as intimately as that into the lives of people all over Britain. It’s hard to hold the likes of Colston, personally or symbolically, uniquely responsible for that level of acceptance and exploitation. Or for that matter, the cities of Bristol or Liverpool.

The historian Richard Pares’s “anger and shame” needs to be felt too. By all of us.

Jim Brennan, West Bromwich, West Midlands


High-speed rail  for the North

One of the biggest benefits of high speed rail is the economic redevelopment opportunities. There is great potential through the connections to the east and west coast main lines for cities other than Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to benefit from HS2, but the challenges around realising these benefits need to be tackled now.

We need to think long and hard about the cities we include in the proposed HS3 linking Manchester and Leeds. Examples could include Liverpool via Warrington, and Preston via Bolton in the west, which will also allow high-speed services to run from London to Liverpool and London to Preston. In addition, from Leeds, the line could be extended to Darlington and Newcastle via York.

To increase the benefit to the North, further assistance would be needed to ensure that northern cities are well prepared for bringing forward infrastructure work. In particular, planning to fast-track the development of employment and local transport infrastructure will be required.

Including these additional cities will significantly improve the ability of the northern cities each side of the Pennines to compete with London as a regional powerhouse.

Jeremy Acklam, Institution of Engineering and Technology London WC2


Extensive effort has been made by our specialists to identify all archaeological features along the route of the North-South rail line. We continue to work with English Heritage, local authorities and others as we develop our programme of surveys and investigations.

We understand the importance of the deserted medieval village remains at Doddershall (“Village fate”, 20 June). Specialists working for HS2 Ltd, including myself, have met members of the Buckinghamshire Archeological Society over the past couple of years and we look forward to our continued dialogue. We have discussed options to limit the effect of the HS2 works around Doddershall with English Heritage, and are working with our engineers to reduce the extent of land required for construction and mitigation at this important site.

Archaeological sites, historic buildings and features have been avoided where possible and work will continue to reduce the impact of construction on our heritage.  Where we do affect archaeological remains, such as those at Doddershall, there will be an extensive programme of archaeological investigations.

HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in the UK. It will also be the biggest series of archaeological investigations ever undertaken in Britain. This is an unrivalled opportunity to advance our understanding of our ancestors and the land they inhabited.

Helen J Glass, Archaeology and Heritage Adviser, HS2 Ltd London SW1


Consider the lilies –and the cats

I note that in her recommendations for scented plants (21 June) Anna Pavord included regal lilies. Gardeners who have cats (their own or visiting) should be aware that all parts of lilies are toxic to cats, the biggest danger being from the pollen, and so ideally should not be grown if cats are around.

Many garden centres are now including warnings about lilies at the point of sale. Could I suggest that any future gardening recommendations involving lilies do the same?

Sandra Bishop, Chigwell, Essex


Right school,  wrong job

Alison Willott (letter, 23 June) is right: some private schools – not all – provide excellent facilities and opportunities. She is somewhat starry-eyed about their products: in 40 years in industry I encountered some good ones, but also a number of useless individuals whose only qualification was that they had been to A Certain School.

Can we take it that Ms Willott is ready to pay more taxes to afford the same excellent facilities and opportunities to state schools?

Peter Metcalfe, Stevenage, Hertfordshire


An unpleasant ‘community’

So Diane Coyle worries about EastEnders not being representative, on the basis that it is “too white” (report, 24 June)? That is the least of the problems with the programme. Quite how so many dysfunctional, aggressive, unpleasant, homicidal and moronic people are meant to form a “community” representative of Britain is truly beyond fantasy.

She should get out more and meet real people (dare I say, north of Watford?)

Nic Siddle, Chester


Attend carefully to what you say

For several years I have been grinding my teeth at the use of the loathsome aberration “attendee” (Errors & Omissions, 21 June). I can’t see what is wrong with “attender”. Someone who attends is an attender, surely.

Mary Richards, East Wellow, Hampshire


No more need for court dress

I note that Rebekah Brooks invested in a demure wardrobe for her trial. Now that it is over, can the charity shops of Chipping Norton expect a windfall?

Anne Thomas, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

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