11 March 2007

Alternative to Wind Farms

Letter to our local paper, the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald:

I am sure that no one really wants wind farms, so why not find a way to do our bit without spoiling the landscape, etc. Let’s save more energy than a wind farm would generate.

I am told that good environmental gains can be achieved by reducing our energy consumption. So if you want to stop a wind farm, act now to reduce our ‘carbon footprint’ by saving energy at home, school, at work or when travelling. Global warming is a big problem that deserves this action anyway.

An energy consumption audit for the area would provide current figures. We can then determine target values that would justify a rejection of wind farms. Any targets would have to be better than those that the Government has already signed up for.

We all know the sort of things that are required, but do we do them? Let’s hear what you really have done. We recently got rid of our answering machine at home, relying on the service provided for free by BT. I switch off all my computer equipment at the plug when not in use, including the broadband router.

Like many others we will soon need a new TV to get digital reception. I understand that LCD TVs are better than standard TVs for power-consumption, and that plasma screens are worse. It is surprisingly hard to find an LCD TV that has a proper on/off switch to avoid wasting power on standby! Comet and Currys in Kendal don’t list any power consumption figures.

When I wrote to the Government in late 2005 to ask for mandatory low standby power levels for TVs, set top boxes and the like, the minister hoped for the best and said that the “specifications of televisions and set top boxes are a matter for manufacturers and the market”.

Is this just fiddling while the earth burns? Small decisions will add up, but we need to take bigger ones too. Unfortunately I think it will take some big shock such as the stopping of the already-diminished Gulf Stream to get us to act seriously. Even if we demonstrably do our bit locally, it may that we will need to have wind farms so that the rest of UK keeps its lights on.

Back in the here and now, perhaps saving our nice landscape and the planet can be done if we all pull together. I’m far from perfect, so what else should I do?

Cluster bombs

Part of letter to our MP, David Maclean:

Further to my previous letters: I understand from a recent Guardian article that the UK has called for a ban on cluster bombs to protect civilians – good news. I would be grateful if you could press the government to ensure that it covers all cluster bombs, including ‘smart’ and self-destruct sub-munitions. I agree with the quote from Handicap International that cluster munitions should be “moral[ly] unacceptabl[e] in the international community”.

House of Lords

Part of letter to our MP, David Maclean:

May I briefly congratulate the Commons for voting in favour of an elected House of Lords. Whatever its eventual name and remit, removing hereditary positions and people in power because of their religious positions is surely the correct decision for a modern fair society.

Don’t Renew Trident

Part of letter to our MP, David Maclean:

I am writing to urge you to vote against Trident renewal this week, primarily because it sends the wrong signal in a world where we have already lost moral authority. If we commit to renewing, then it will give the green light to other countries who don’t feel that they can trust the international community.

I see the West’s unfair handling of the Palestinian situation as the fatal flaw in our foreign policy. The crucial test is whether something is fair – all our dealings with the Arab world over the last 60 years have been unfair or hypocritical, ie supporting undemocratic oil kingdoms, and the unequivocal support of Israel in an attempt to make up for failing the Jews during the Second World War. Who can be surprised that the Arab world and many others do not trust us and take the wrong message from our tragic invasion of Iraq. We need to unravel our selfish foreign policy and what better way than to do the right thing as regards nuclear weapons.

Our nuclear deterrent is an expensive fig leaf, never to be used. I understand that we couldn’t use it without USA approval, so why not rely on the USA’s nuclear fig leaf? The cold war showed that Mutually Assured Destruction of an escalating arms race is a waste of time and money. We need to concentrate on the threat of Global Warming, not bicker amongst ourselves - we won’t fall apart if we don’t have an enemy to hate. The time is ripe to show that we can take the obvious sensible course - ridding the world of nuclear bombs. Building trust throughout the world can only be done by taking (very slight) risks such as this. True attempts to build trust throughout the world might eventually win people’s hearts and minds.

Many other important countries in the world don’t have nuclear weapons, yet they are at the top table. It could be said that having nuclear weapons makes us more of a target for disgruntled terrorists.

On a more prosaic level, I understand that Trident renewal would break the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is also very expensive. Our current predilection for interventionist wars would suggest that money is needed for conventional forces. Failing that, using the money to boost our aid budget might also win hearts and minds.

At the very least, put off the renewal decision for a few years. Or abstain?