Let's concentrate on the rain forest crisis

My June 6 letter on climate change provoked a response from Malcolm Scott two days later.

My June 6 letter on climate change provoked a response from Malcolm Scott two days later. Before I submitted my letter to The Journal, it was read by post graduates with degrees in Earth sciences, physical geography and other disciplines.

I would suggest Malcolm reads my letter again as I didn't deny anything, but I was quite amused to be classed as in "cool denial". I did refer to the possibility of reasonable discussion, to cut out some of the hysteria, but Malcolm decided to descend into condescending rhetoric.

I would also recommend Malcolm watches the film The Great Global Warming Swindle or looks up the Stern Review on the internet and scrolls down to "positive response", and also looks up Ten Facts About Global Warming.

It is correct that man destroys his habitat, which greatly affects the ecosystems. The Amazon rain forest is one of the biggest carbon sinks in the world and is being destroyed at an alarming rate. It is also home to many rare plants that can be used to treat child cancers. It would be more beneficial if Malcolm concentrated his efforts on these areas.

The evidence of climate fluctuations is undeniable, but measured over tens of thousands of years, our climate varies, not randomly, but systematically. It is recorded that 100,000 years ago hippopotami and elephants roamed where London now stands. A few thousand years later it was near polar conditions, then much later there were very warm periods again.

Climatic change involves numerous different trends and consequently it is impossible to tell how long any trend will persist and we can only guess at what the future holds. Therefore, it is undesirable to programme children to repeat what they have been told about climate change, as shown on the BBC Breakfast Show; schoolchildren need to be taught on a much wider basis. If Malcolm would like to come to my neck of the woods, he could meet dozens of people who grow their own produce and use, understand and respect nature. Now, they are real true "friends of the earth".

GORDON TOMLINSON, Seaham, County Durham

Shooting stars in the charity firmament

I FEEL that people who enjoy country sports get such a bad press that I must express my admiration and gratitude for an annual event that goes from strength to strength and raises a phenomenal amount for charity year on year.

Organised by volunteers, sponsored by businesses and patronised by hundreds of people who enjoy shooting, Whitfield Clay Pigeon Shoot is a wonderful example of a country event which harms no one and raises a huge amount of money for local charities.

This year hundreds of adults (and children) gathered together in a spectacular location to shoot clays, bought nearly £2,000 worth of raffle tickets, swelling the coffers to over £30,000. This was all donated to worthy causes.

And never a cross word exchanged, unlike other urban sports that swell only the coffers of business, give little back to the community and often result in violence and vandalism.

My thanks to all concerned for a well organised and mutually beneficial weekend.

PAT REED, Regional Fundraising Manager, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, Haltwhistle, Northumberland

You are helping to rebuild lives

THIS letter is to say a big "thank you" to the people who generously donated to a collection to raise money for a school that we are linked with in Sri Lanka.

On Boxing Day 2004, the village of Palana West was hit by the tsunami and many buildings were destroyed. In 2005, we helped raise money for a new school to be built there.

This week our own school, Chatton Church of England Aided First, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Bishop Martin Wharton came to join us at the Thanksgiving Service in our local church and a total of £191 was raised in the collection.

This money, along with any more from our anniversary garden party today, will go towards equipment for the new school in Palana West. Thank you again.

SARAH RENNER & CLAIRE RATHBONE, Year 4 Pupils at Chatton School, Old Road, Chatton, Northumberland

Public has not fallen for county's nonsense

THE leader of Northumberland County Council's personal preference for a single unitary authority for Northumberland (Voice of the North, June 8 & 14) does not represent that of his council.

I attended the shambles of a county council meeting where the division in the Labour group was such that both options, one and two unitaries, were put forward to the minister without any preference for one or the other being expressed.

I am quite confident that the majority of county councillors actually do want two unitary authorities for Northumberland, whatever the new leader might say, but if Coun Hillman disputes my version of events then I challenge him to publish the wording of the motion of that meeting so that readers can try their hand at making sense of it.

More importantly, the county council is ignoring the opinion of the vast majority of the people of Northumberland who, in every recent poll, referendum or consultation on this topic, have expressed a clear preference for two unitary authorities, to ensure that local government does not move too far away from local people.

The £60,000 the county council administration is paying for what I understand to be three local sessions of strictly limited public engagement behind closed doors, would have gone a long way to asking every voter a straight question.

Meanwhile, mention of £17m savings and a "brand new council" makes me laugh. I understand this to be the "best possible interpretation of the best possible scenario"; in other words, forget it.

I believe the reason NCC is fighting so hard for one unitary authority is to ensure that nothing changes at County Hall except the reduction of local accountability and representation. The public have not fallen for this nonsense, but the scandal is that their voice may not be heard.

Every person who cares about local democracy should protest about this vigorously and ceaselessly until the minister gets the message that Rural Northumberland and South East Northumberland can stand up for themselves and want their own strong and effective councils.

COUN GORDON CASTLE, Independent, Alnwick Ward, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland

What is so wrong with the status quo?

I AM writing in response to the letters concerning the reorganisation of local government in Northumberland. County Council Leader Peter Hillman states there is only one way forward: one unitary council. The leader of the Conservative and Independent Group, Sue Bolam, favours the two-council option. They are both speaking in the interests of democracy. The Government says we need unitary government.

I believe they are all wrong. What is the matter with the present system? Of course, if people want to get rid of democracy and representation then you must agree with Peter, Sue or the Government, but I assert there is another way.

When I was county councillor at Widdrington, there were four district councillors, two from Widdington and two from Chevington, and I know the people of that area were well served by their councillors. Incidentally, they were not of the same political party. People came to the five of us with their problems and tried our best to sort them out.

Now, what is the new proposal?

One councillor to replace five councillors. This is an absolute farce and an impossibility, unless of course you want to deny democracy and representation. Your councillor would have to be a superman.

I hear the words "after frequent consultation". Where is the consultation if you deny the popular choice, ie, the status quo?

I have heard it said that parish councillors would have to do a lot more work. Who in their right mind would willingly undergo the work, "the slings and arrows" as a parish councillor? Do the parish councils have the expertise, the officer back up, the legal set-up? Obviously not.

I see I am told to give my viewpoint to Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Brilliant. She has already ruled out of order my opinion and that of the majority of others. How absurd.

Once again we have a cost-cutting exercise, to save money so that there will not be an inordinate increase in the council tax. Yes, we do need to save money but surely as we need to spend more money on health and education (plus, of course, the A1 north of Morpeth). We could use the Liberal idea of a penny income tax for health or education. We could also prevent the rich and famous `patriots' from using their overseas tax havens, but then that may be asking too much.

JOHN MORRIS, Red Row, Northumberland

Tesco-on-Tyne will have nothing to offer

WHILST the City of Sunderland may be criticised for not acting quicker and allowing the Vaux situation to develop, they do at least deserve some credit for since standing up to Tesco. The council realise that allowing the construction of a huge warehouse is not a suitable use for a prime city centre site.

The same cannot be said for Gateshead Council. In their desire to remove the town centre car park, they have rushed willingly to anyone preparing to offer assistance. Were they not in negotiations with Government bodies in previous years to allow the development of a suitable town centre?

One of the criticisms levelled at the North-East economy is the low level of small and independent business start-ups. That Gateshead Council is willing to allow a number of small independent retailers, many of whom have stayed loyal to Gateshead for many years, to close is scandalous.

Council leader Mick Henry is quoted as saying "We know the level of investment Tesco can make, but it isn't just about money. They're committed to creating an exciting and vibrant town centre." How can such a statement stand up against Tesco's plans to develop a single destination centre at the expense of the existing independent traders?

If Tesco were truly committed to creating an exciting and vibrant centre, then surely the development could allow for existing traders. However, it would appear that competition, no matter how small, does not sit comfortably with their expansion policy.

It would appear to many that Tesco is intent on a policy towards creating a monopoly market. Gateshead, as a North-East council, should not in my opinion be supportive of such a policy.

Once this development is complete and Gateshead town centre can be safely renamed Tesco, then I feel it will have nothing to offer as a shopping destination.

May I offer my wishes to those who are going to lose their businesses and be made unemployed due to this development, and wish them success with their future campaign to save their livelihoods?

I fully support development of the town centre, and accept the demolition of the car park. I acknowledge previous successes of Gateshead Council.

However, in this instance they should be ashamed of their actions towards the existing small traders. I have no connection to any of the traders who will be affected by this development.

NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne

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