Tough decisions

Dear Editor,

Jeannette Schael (in a previous letter to the editor) rightly slams deforestation for cattle and livestock feed but obvious ideas like spurning Brazilian beef and meat from any soya-fed livestock are sadly not a silver bullet.

Other destruction includes coca (Colombia), Coltan (DR Congo), sugar cane for biofuels (Brazil), palm oil (South East Asia), rubber trees (Vietnam) plus logging, other cash crops and different mineral extraction across various countries. Criticism is easy but developing countries can be seduced by such ideas in their understandable pursuit of Western lifestyles and jobs to afford them.

Profits determine land and resource usage while human activities are capable of wrecking the planet several times over even if more food is produced in far less space. There is a far saner alternative.

Tribal people show conservation can be combined with careful usage, although we can’t all live like that, but Harvard biologist EO Wilson took the idea further in “The Diversity of LIfe”. He showed how rainforests could be carefully and profitably be used in situ.

The problem here is equally obvious, though. Major investment is needed up front coupled with persuading or even bribing the countries involved to adopt such measures.

Ecuador found oil in its Yassuni national park a few years ago and offered to leave it in the ground if the country were compensated. All the words about conserving rainforests being vital then counted for little as most wallets remained firmly closed.

Well-off Westerners need to realise that avoiding ecological meltdown does not just depend on limited lifestyle changes but will have major impacts on their convenience, choice and finances. This won’t be popular.

Iain Climie, Whitchurch

Brexit view

Dear Editor,

You kindly invited those of us who hold a different view of Brexit to the one espoused by Jennifer Godshall Johnson (Letters to the Editor, June 4, 2021).

My view is: Some of us do not view the EU through rose-tinted spectacles as worn by Jennifer.

Like many I voted to join the Common Market 47 years ago and have not forgotten the butter mountain and olive oil and wine lakes as the common agricultural policy funded French, Italian and Danish farmers to over produce.

But 47 years later, we have the EU attempting to position itself as a global superpower while enforcing protectionist measures to protect French and German interests. The European commission has traditionally protected the interests of the self-interested Germans and massaged the huge egos of the spiteful French.

Jennifer should ask how many UK companies were awarded EU contracts or how many UK citizens were employed by the Commission or its agencies during our membership. After 10 years of trade negotiations the Swiss have withdrawn from trade talks as the EU is impossible to deal with.

Ask the Greeks if the EU was helpful in restoring the Greek economy after the financial crisis. The Italian economy does not meet the criteria for EU membership. The EU parliament and commission is a huge cash cow and provider of jobs for the Belgians who acquiesce every German or French proposal or demand.

The budget, to which the UK was the second largest contributor, has never been successfully audited. Millions are unaccounted for, and further millions are wasted annually as the EU parliament de-cants from Brussels to Strasbourg for a few days to satisfy the French.

Rest assured, the EU, France and Germany in particular, were never our ‘friends’. This has been confirmed by the attitude of Merkel and Macron, and their predecessors both pre and post Brexit.

Ask our fisherman if they had fair access to the fish stocks in our own waters. Brexit was not the success we hoped for, yet, but that is due to the belligerence of the EU, Junker, Verhofstadt, Tusk, Selmayer et al. Barnier is French.

The outcome was all we could hope for. My alternative view is formed from living and working in Germany (15 years) where my children were born. The USA (3 years), Norway (1 year) and latterly Belgium (3 years). Britain never had the internal influence to be an EU superpower. Brexit can never be overturned. We are where we are. Onwards.

Allan Law, Andover

Tale of a volunteer

Dear Editor,

As news of the new coronavirus started to emerge from China in January 2020 I, like many I suspect, thought that it wouldn’t affect us here. But then as the virus swept the world and the numbers piled up, we began to face the enormity of it.

But what could I do? I’m an ex-teacher with grade 4 CSE Maths so I’m not going to be much use. Then came the call for volunteers to help at the vaccine centre to be set up at The Lights Theatre in Andover. I submitted my name and received an email confirming I was on the list the very day that I received another letter saying I should continue to shield until March 31. Salvation was at hand in that I had the date booked for my first dose of the vaccine on January 21, so I requested that I remain on the list until three weeks after that first jab when I would feel safe enough to do some of the outdoor duties. So, on February 26, I reported for my first shift – two hours, 8am – 10am ushering people into the car park and pointing them in the right direction.

That first shift was remarkable. I hadn’t expected the effect it would have on me. I was suddenly overwhelmed as I realised that I was a tiny, tiny wheel in this huge movement that was going on not all over the UK but all over the world in an effort to rid ourselves of this threat.

There is something in the British psyche that instantly seeks this response, to be involved and ‘do our bit’. Within days of the threat of lockdown becoming real a volunteer group to help with shopping etc had been set up in the village where I live. I joined that list as a volunteer but had to withdraw as a result of the shielding order and almost immediately after informing the organisers that I would have to withdraw I was contacted to see if I needed any assistance.

The atmosphere at the vaccine centre is one of complete positivity. Almost without exception everyone who comes in is excited and pleased to be there as they arrive and then as they leave the sense of gratitude, relief and euphoria is palpable. There is a great sense of camaraderie among the volunteers. I’ve met great people who are giving up their time to be part of history, because that is what we are living in now. Children in the future will come home from school and say, “Gran, you were alive in the great pandemic of 2020-21. What was it like?” It makes you realise just how effective that WW1 poster, ‘What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?’ must have been at the time.

Inside the actual vaccine centre all is calm and business like as person after person comes in and is treated in exactly the same way, asked the same questions, time after time. Those who may be feeling apprehensive for whatever reason are given some extra time with a vaccinator who answers questions to help them come to terms with their fears and to ease their way through to getting their dose.

In my life I have been involved in community drama, cricket, hockey and many other organisations; this is the best thing I’ve ever done. It has helped me to deal with the tension that we all have felt as the crisis unfolded.

When I was a student, I appeared in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, no I didn’t play Hamlet, I was Bernardo, probably the smallest role in the cast, but I had the first line, “Who’s there?” If I didn’t come on and say that line the rest of the play couldn’t happen. That was when I discovered I liked being part of a team. Sometimes you get to play Hamlet, but more often than not you’re just Bernardo asking, “Who’s there?”

Name and address supplied