Sir: In last week’s issue the former Northern Rock chairman rejoiced in the ‘good news’ that climate change would not start to damage our planet for another 57 years (‘Carry on warming’, 19 October).
I am not a scientist. As a minister, I rely on the opinion of experts including the government chief scientist, the Meteorological Office and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They do not share Lord Ridley’s views.
The latest IPCC scientific analysis from 259 climate experts in 39 countries, reviewed by another 659 experts who dealt with 53,000 individual comments, is clear about the very real threat that dangerous man-made climate change poses to humankind. But if we followed Lord Ridley’s logic, presumably we wouldn’t just stop investing in clean energy but we would also slam the brakes on investing in long-term infrastructure, maybe stop preserving historic monuments, eat up the world’s resources, deplete oceans and hack down forests. Since the full consequences of our actions wouldn’t be felt for 57 years, why worry?
To a Conservative, especially, this is an appalling argument. Margaret Thatcher reminded the 1988 party conference that, ‘It’s we Conservatives who are not merely friends of the earth — we are its guardians and trustees for generations to come… No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy — with a full repairing lease. This government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full.’ Have we forgotten her words already?
Rt Hon. Greg Barker, MP
Minister for Energy and Climate Change, London SW1
The real Kenya
Sir: Aidan Hartley refers to Kenya (‘Are you my death?’, 28 September) as ‘an important modern country, with a booming economy and a bright future’ rather than as the typical ‘ill-managed African banana republic’. I would need at least two pages to paint a very different picture of Kenya, but three observations should suffice.
First, nothing has been done to address the ‘historical injustices’ largely related to the aggressive policy of Kikuyu colonisation of the country successfully pursued by the first Kenyatta government from independence in 1963 to 1978, which led directly to the murder and eviction of the Kikuyu from places like Eldoret, capital of the Nandi tribe. The land issue lies at the root of all Kenya’s tribal problems and cannot be satisfactorily solved by anyone, because Kenya’s population is already too large to be sustainable.
Second, the Westgate Mall incident is just the most recent and high-profile example of a total collapse of security, which is now out of control throughout the country and mainly affects the indigenous African population. Hartley described, earlier this year, an attack on him involving serious gunfire from AK47s, at the gate of a neighbouring ranch in Laikipia District. Such occurrences are no longer the exception and confined to frontier areas. They are the ‘new normal’ all over Kenya.
Third, corruption and outright theft of government moneys have been rooted in Kenya’s DNA ever since the first Kenyatta government recommended that serving civil servants should be permitted to engage in private business. Last week the country’s auditor-general revealed that 303 billion Kenyan shillings (£2.244 billion) have gone ‘missing’ from the national accounts: one third of the national budget.
‘An important, modern country… with a bright future’, Mr Hartley? I beg to differ. More accurately, a totally insecure country, ruled by an irredeemably greedy and corrupt elite, riven by deep-seated and irreconcilable tribal animosities.
An atheist’s faith
Sir: I am sorry that Matthew Parris (19 October) feels that I do not measure up as an adversary on religious questions, but I am puzzled that he should be so exercised on the question of miracles. Surely as an atheist he accepts, de fide, that even the most baffling cures have a scientific explanation. Equally a Christian believes that ‘nothing is impossible to God’ (Luke i 38). The irascible tone of his piece suggests that, at some level, the phenomenon of faith disturbs him.
Piers Paul Read
Cut the cutting
Sir: Brendan O’Neill says anyone opposed to circumcision is backward and that a child has no right to be left intact (‘The first cut’, 19 October). He justifies this largely on the grounds that it is an ancient tradition and God decrees it in Genesis.
I consulted a Jewish friend who works in the medical profession. He was circumcised as is the tradition and is unaware of any impairment to his sexual life. He did not have his son circumcised. The reason? ‘No medical procedure is risk free so I chose not to follow tradition.’
Selective quoting of religious texts is often used to justify activities and really cannot suffice in the modern world. According to Genesis, God flooded the world and killed the entire human and animal population other than Noah, his family and certain pairs of animals. It can be scientifically proven this did not occur, so the circumcision text should also be up for discussion. As for traditions, well, these can change. We may still dance round the maypole but we tend not to sacrifice virgins. Circumcision and female genital mutilation simply reduce the pleasure from sexual activity and come from a time when sex was considered to be sinful. I am happy to be intact and would encourage future generations to be so too.
Sir: Tristram Hunt’s words were ill-chosen when he wrote that Ida Copeland’s Spode collection ‘went under the hammer’.
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