Thursday, April 5, 2012

#UK #Fascist #PoliceState :Guardian Weekly Letters, 6 April 2012

Lockdown London; fearing Frankenfood; Multilingualism works
Clearly the security measures described by Graham augur badly for the UK as a humane, democratic and equitable society. The great pity, as he implies, is that they place the already considerable tension between heightened anti-terror security and civil liberties in the country under further strain.

Holidaying in London recently, my wife Julie and I were disappointed at the authoritarian and coercive atmosphere we found there. It all seemed uncomfortably removed from the admirable democratic and civil libertarian tradition Britain has built up over centuries and for which it is rightly renowned. We found the Old Bailey cocooned in security measures not far short of a kind of ongoing partial lockdown. And on one memorable day the British Museum was closed while security personnel and scientific experts took control in no uncertain terms to investigate a possible chemical attack. I was told to be careful speaking at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, lest anything I said could be construed as incitement. And so on.
Up to a point in this post-twin towers and 7 July London bombings environment, the heightened security is understandable. Certainly the balance between security and civil liberties is a difficult one to achieve. But if Graham is right the British state is not getting the balance right in its shift towards "much more authoritarian styles of government".
Having read Graham's article, my fear is that the London Olympics security measures are tipping the balance further away from civil liberties in the direction of an Orwellian police state.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia

Most dangerous pollution

London's recent record air pollution reminds me of my experience as a house physician in London during the great smog of 1951, which caused over 4,000 extra deaths from respiratory failure in a single weekend (London air pollution soars to record high, 23 March). More dangerous to human health than local pollution is the annual dumping of 10bn tonnes of the greenhouse gas CO2 into the earth's atmosphere from global fossil-fuel combustion. This has led to the exponential rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration from its pre-industrial level of 250 ppm to its present concentration of 392 ppm.
Combined with deforestation, this has resulted in average global warming of 0.8C over the past century. The outcome of this anthropogenic climate impact has been extreme weather events, melting of the Arctic ice cap, loss of biodiversity, threats to food and water security and countless deaths from heat stroke.
Catastrophic global warming can only be averted by a new industrial revolution, transforming our present carbon economy into a photon economy, harnessing the sun's energy directly to provide solar thermal electricity from desert regions. The main obstacle to universal adoption of clean renewable energy is the huge vested interests of fossil-fuel industries, which prioritise short-term profits ahead of the sustainability of our species.
Bryan Furnass
Canberra, Australia

Easy on the PR, please
Your story, Brazilian economy on a roll (16 March), frankly reads like a blurb from the Brazilian government's PR department aimed at foreign investors. Towards the end Tom Phillips says "Challenges remain," proceeds to mention Rio gang violence and poverty, then concludes on a note of optimism and a quote from the head of the Rio's "newly created investment agency".

There is not a single mention of the environment costs – and commensurate human costs – of the burgeoning mega-consumerism or inevitably zealous exploitation of resources (such as the "fledgling oil boom off the Rio coastline") that are fuelling the "boom".

It's been said before on this letters page, but I'll say it again – there's a massive disjunction in the Guardian in terms of editorial coverage of environmental issues and the finance reporting, and in the media more broadly. We need to move beyond this obsession with growth statistics and generate a more holistic approach to finance and economics journalism that always factors in the environmental repercussions.

Surely the Guardian should be at the vanguard of this discourse in its Finance pages?
Daniel Etherington
Rome, Italy

Fearing Frankenfood
There are more than two types of people in the world who have an opinion on genetically modified food. It certainly extends beyond the God v climate change debate that is put forth in Brian Palmer's How Frankenfood can spring to life (16 March). Granted, many people like myself see genetically modified crops as Frankenfood. We also recognise that we are running out of options to feed a starving world.

However, what Palmer fails to mention is the power we are about to grant multi-national pharmaceutical companies to miraculously fix all of our problems. Must we give the rights to grow food to these money-hungry, power-hungry corporations only to have them take our basic rights away?

For them to insert termination genes into the seeds so that farmers are prevented from seed saving? The same corporations that also force farmers to purchase their expensive accessories – fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, which must also be sprayed on to these crops to maximise production?

Before we start categorising everyone into two types of people we must consider the rest of us. There are many others who see this as a complex problem, who don't fit the shallow terms of the debate and who don't need another fluff piece about how amazing GM food could be.

People need to feel a sense of responsibility and empowerment to change a world that relies on others to fix the very problems that they've created through greed, laziness and arrogance.

Candace Davis
Kingaroy, Queensland, Australia

Multilingualism works
Robert Phillipson (Linguistic imperialism alive and kicking, 16 March) states that the British approach in Africa and Asia aims to strengthen English rather than promote multilingualism. Last month while at a language policy conference in South Sudan – the world's youngest country – I stressed the British Council's commitment to the principles of the Unesco campaign for mother tongue-based multilingual education. I emphasised our alignment with the values of the African Union, promoting the use of African languages in the education system – in partnership with English and other ex-colonial languages.

Governments worldwide want better access to English for their citizens to improve education, work and social mobility prospects – and they come to us for advice and support. While part of our mission is to develop a wider knowledge of English in the world, we do this within a wider aim of promoting the advancement of education.

English should add to a child's linguistic heritage, not replace it. This is, after all, how we see foreign languages being taught in British schools.

Most of the 10 million teachers of English around the world are bilingual or multilingual non-native English speakers. Multilingualism gives people great advantages in their lives and their jobs, and we promote it as a value. Phillipson quotes his experiences from before 1992 – the reality in 2012 is different.
John Knagg
British Council
London, UK

• I never thought I would live to see the solecism "six-month anniversary" in the Guardian, although I have seen it in several lesser organs (23 March). I realise that Latin is no longer taught in most schools, but surely the connection between annus, a year, and anniversary is obvious even to the most ignorant of journalists? "First half-anniversary" may never stick, but perhaps "sixth luniversary" is worth trying.
Ted Webber
Buderim, Queensland, Australia

• Syria's first lady, Asma al-Assad – like so many of the immoderately moneyed – seems to have fallen a sorry prey to what Herr Marx termed "commodity fetishism", what with her adored Louboutins (23 March). And here I had thought that Ba'athists avowed socialism. When at long last her boudoir's walk-in closets will have been precipitately abandoned, will there be found there a booty of shoes to rival that of Imelda Marcos?
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US

• In response to Stephen Hines's letter (23 March): it's been a while since I heard that computer games improve brain/hand communication. If you really want to do something about that, take a pencil and a piece of paper. You'll be amazed what else you can learn, if nobody tells you how to go about it.
Emil Baer
Napier, New Zealand

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