Time to backtrack

If the government can think the unthinkable on the tube, next it should return Railtrack to public control

What would be the public response if an electricity supplier declared they had let their pylons rot, so electricity would now only be available sporadically? Would we passively accept this because “not everyone depends on electricity”? Would the government give the supplier until Easter to sort itself out? Would the newspapers relegate the story to back pages? Not likely. A private company failing to deliver a public utility, especially over Christmas, would be a national scandal.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/dec/19/world.comment

Euro Wars

The French minister hits back, as an anti-Europe tone breaks out again in Britain

The trashing of Dominique Voynet, France’s environment minister, by Prescott and sections of the British press was astonishing. She was said to head a team of “French wreckers” who “sandbagged” Prescott. Or she was “too tired” to hammer out details of a compromise at the Hague implying she’d behaved “irrationally” before. What would you expect; French, a woman and an environmentalist – she might just as well have a couple of horns and a forked tail.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2000/nov/28/comment.climatechange

How to go green

As world leaders meet to talk (and talk) about global warming, Ros Coward offers 10 practical steps we can all take to help save the planet

Today, world leaders are meeting in the Hague to discuss climate change and what – if anything – can be done to combat global warming. Their discussions will be full of abstractions about “carbon trading” and “flexible mechanisms”. But for many us here, the issue has suddenly become far from abstract. Extreme weather conditions have brought home the fact that our climate is changing – and changing fast. It may be easy to be fatalistic about it, but the truth is that although we humans have caused the problem, we also have the solution. “Think global and act local,” said Friends of the Earth founder David Bower, who died last week. In many small but important ways we can make a difference. Here are my top tips for how to begin:

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2000/nov/13/shopping

The feel bad factor

The public’s intimate relationship with their car as a ‘second skin’ is what drives their irrational fuel protests

The fuel protests are a ragbag of different interests. Their cause – “cheaper fuel” – is actively unpopular with people concerned about the environment. This is not the stuff of popular revolution. It has only become so because it has tapped into something potent; the feel bad factor.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2000/nov/07/oil.roscoward

Bones of contention

Deborah Cadbury goes back to the Victorian era to track down the strange creatures abroad at the dawn of archaelogy in The Dinosaur Hunters

The Dinosaur Hunters - Deborah Cadbury

We live in times where the idea of dinosaurs is familiar, even banal. It’s hard to imagine these creatures were once unknown, or a time when scientists, fearful for what was implied about Creation, were utterly baffled by the enormous fossilised bones.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/oct/15/historybooks.scienceandnature

Blaming, not shaming

The News of the World campaign is wrong – but so are those who vilify the ordinary people who support it

The News of the World campaign to name and shame paedophiles has met with universal condemnation in the quality press. It is represented as dangerous vigilantism which will lead to murder. Of course, I agree this campaign is misguided; it will drive paedophiles into hiding, where the possibility of monitoring is lost. But I am equally appalled at the contempt which this same liberal press is meting out on the people and communities involved in such campaigns.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2000/aug/01/childprotection.roscoward

Selling out to Mondeo Man

John Prescott’s great giveaway has set the scene for transport hell

No one can doubt that John Prescott is serious about restoring our crumbling transport infrastructure: £60bn for railways is enough to fund a railway renaissance. The plan is drawn up in the expectation that there will be a huge scale modernisation; 6,000 new trains, new stations, the clearing of railway bottlenecks to increase capacity for freight and passenger journeys. There is also real willingness to use the powers of the Strategic Rail Authority and the franchising process to improve services and control fares. Prescott deserves credit for this.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/jul/21/world.comment

On the ninth life

The clean-up campaign following Europe’s worst oil spill, in 1998, may be the last hope of saving the Iberian lynx. Ros Coward reports.

Looking at Coto Doñana in this year’s sunshine, it’s hard to believe only two years ago it was the site of Europe’s worst toxic spill. The lagoons and marshes, now drying up for summer, teem with wildlife. Flamingos move in the shallows among wading birds. There are storks’ nests on buildings and every so often a black shadow moves across the marshes; usually it’s a black kite but occasionally it’s a massive, imperial eagle. Doñana looks like the world heritage site it is, designated thus because its complex wetland ecology sustains an astonishing variety of plant, bird and animal species, including Europe’s most endangered carnivore, the Iberian lynx.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2000/jul/26/endangeredspecies.oilspills

Slurring the proles

There was a build-up to yesterday’s crime summit between Downing Street and the Association of Chief Police Officers. Using emotive rhetoric, government representatives have been talking about the “shame” of Britain’s “yobs”, about “drunken louts”, “thug bars” and the need for zero tolerance on “yobbery”.

Tony Blair’s language was particularly florid, revealing his anxieties about drunken thugs who kick down gates and hurl traffic cones. But when the rest of us worry about violent crime, do we also worry about louts, yobs and thugs or something different and more complex?

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/jul/04/ukcrime.comment

True stories

Forget the city girl oeuvre – if you want to write a successful novel, set it around a historical event. Ros Coward on why books are looking back

An aspiring novelist searching for success could do worse than look through the history books. A surefire format would be to identify a peripheral figure – a wife, servant or daughter – whose story would coincide with a significant historical moment.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/jun/16/fiction.roscoward