Robin McKie writes of a “society-wide vision” that includes policies in the areas of transport, power generation, house heating and agriculture in order to reduce climate emissions (“It’s now… or never”, Focus). Of course we need all of these guidelines. What is missing, however, is the understanding that we cannot have “business as usual” with other technologies.
We need social innovations, such as a universal basic income that gives every individual security, a standard four-day work week with no loss of wages, which reduce travel, but above all offer people more opportunities to use their time well in family and community and a relocation of communities and economies.
System change, not climate change, is the motto: that a broken society cannot be repaired with the approaches that have broken its key understanding.
Natalie Bennett, Green Peer
House of Lords, London SW1
The government is ignoring the increase in road traffic in London during Covid, which is estimated at 30%. And instead of delivering on the 2019 election program pledge to spend £ 9.2 billion on improving the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals, the government has removed it from the budget. But while the central government fumbled, the local government acted. More than 500 jurisdictions have declared a climate emergency. Great Britain no longer needs “plans… with a program” and “a clear strategy” (“If we want to be the climate leader, we have to put our own house in order”, editorial), it just needs urgent funding and action existing plans across the country.
The real cost of Christmas
Michael Savage’s article on toy suppliers warning of shortages this Christmas and “buy now” to avoid disappointment sums up many problems (“Only 132 days until Christmas (and it’s best to buy now),” News). People in developed nations are conditioned to want things and to want them at all costs as they consider this to be an innate right. Our children are conditioned as well, especially at Christmas. How many times have I heard young children say that they have “ordered” what they want in advance, even those who still believe in Santa Claus?
Consumption destroys us, and while I realize that buying things for Christmas is an important way to make up for other difficulties for people who have a hard time feeding and clothe their children all year round, this could be as an attitude that needs to be addressed. Encouraging parents to buy things for Christmas in August in case they go out is manipulative and harmful.
I defied this bookstore too
I grew up in the same little Scottish town as Val McDermid and was a regular at the same “absolutely terrible” bookstore, James Burt on Kirkcaldy High Street. The trick to dodging the intimidating assistants was to wait outside for an adult to come in and lock her behind you and impersonate her child; 1960s store etiquette meant the staff didn’t bother you and you could dodge behind the bookshelves and get a free read in the kids’ section. I’ve spent a lot of Saturday mornings doing this. The books and stationery smelled wonderful.
Don’t overwhelm the teacher
Peter Hyman’s solution to student learning and assessment, as diverse and holistic as he intends to be, is not ideal (“Let’s not go back to failed exams. We have better ways to assess our children,” comment). Imagine the assembly line experience of setting up a series of micro-assessments and completing all of the paperwork to record every microsecond of performance in the two-year A-Level and GCSE courses. Yes, change is necessary – but not to replace one tyranny with another.
Be sure to adapt the exam methodology to the subject matter, but make it light and unobtrusive to unleash the broader educational experience. Take the time to do cross-professional advice to make it more inspiring. Make it workable to avoid demoralizing and overworking an already exhausted profession.
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Who needs the Dorchester?
While Jay Rayner was squandering £ 370 on lunch at the Dorchester (“Dark food and inexplicable prices in that Park Lane pop-up make a jaw-dropping dinner,” Observer Magazine), I went to Square & Compass in Worth Matravers, Dorset, one of only five pubs that do that Good beer guide every year since the first issue in 1974. I had a pint of Moonlight from Hattie Brown’s Brewery in Swanage with a vegetarian pate. Cost: 6 €. Result: heaven.
Roger Protz, former editor of the Good Beer Guide
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Heat pumps: a caveat
Your contribution on heat pumps overlooked a detail when converting from gas boilers to heat pumps (“Heat from earth and air: Can heat pumps replace old gas boilers?”, Business). The vast majority of us use radiators with our gas boilers and they are designed to operate at 75-80 ° C in the coldest winter weather. Most household heat pumps peak at 55 ° C (and those that can go higher have a dramatic drop in efficiency), which means that the radiators will need to be increased in size when moving.
At these temperatures, it would be necessary to increase the existing radiator surface by 80%, which can often prove to be a decisive influence on the installation costs. Many houses have already been thermally insulated to the greatest possible practical extent (double glazing, attic insulation, cavity filling, etc.). If the heating system is not upgraded when switching from the gas boiler to the heat pump, it is no wonder that many people have a disappointing experience, as some reader reports in your article point out.
Dr. Chris Underwood
Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle City Council says they want to put up information boards to interpret the city’s Boer War Memorial (“For right-wing culture fighters, shedding light on past conflicts is an insult to our history,” commentary). But who should we trust to write it? Should it be the descendants of the soldiers named on its pedestal? Or maybe the successors of the Boers who fought against them? We could leave it to a historian, but what kind? Social? Marxist? Postcolonial? Maybe a postmodernist who tells us that we can never know anything about the truth of the conflict?
Whoever gets to write this panel, I expect it will provoke just as much outrage as the memorial itself is now.
Field of dreams
“Innings that other batsmen play in their dreams, Root has started playing in his sleep” (“Captain relaxes and returns to a dream-like state”, sport). Thank you, Jonathan Liew, for a sentence that will be singing to me all day.