Readers' letters - April 3
It's time for Julian Assange to leave Ecuadorian embassy
Julian Assange has had his internet access cut off and the world knows about it, although obviously not from him.
He has made the use of the internet his tool or weapon to spread information that others don’t want spread and this has made him a number of enemies but seemingly few friends.
There have been concerns that he may have endangered a number of people as well.
To most of us, being offline, even for a few hours, is horrifying as we will miss the latest Twitter from some Twit or an Instagram photo.
We think our lives would lose meaning – well, actually it might gain some meaning.
Perhaps the Ecuadorian embassy should allow him incoming messages only.
He has confronted a number of issues and maybe carried the torch of truth, but it is time for him to come out and sort out his own life first.
We need to widen debate on fracking
On the question of fracking, there is little debate to speak of.
Proponents, including industry and government officials, repeat the same arguments ad nauseam, while opponents point out the accumulating evidence of the harms caused by this technology.
It isn’t clear when enough evidence will be enough.
Never perhaps, for the industry will argue that the technology keeps improving.
The Government will argue that regulations are gold standard.
More time and resources will be devoted to further studies that are unlikely to be more conclusive.
One should also be careful with words and talk about the ‘dangers’ rather than the ‘risks’ of fracking, for risks are taken but dangers avoided.
And who knows, perhaps the risks are worth it?
For without people taking risks, we wouldn’t have cars or planes, I have been told.
Yet I am not sure whether we are better off with either.
We got rapidly used to both, but certainly air quality has deteriorated and this is a high price to pay.
Of course such discourse will be branded heretical, yet I am not against technology nor innovation.
My contention is that the direction we want technological development to take should be given thought.
Once a technology develops, it loses flexibility as money is invested, hardware and infrastructures are built and social habits develop.
It is therefore crucial to make sound decisions at the initial stages. Thus the people are wise to oppose fracking and call for an open debate before its economic viability in the UK is ascertained.
However, the debate should not be an engineering debate about the ‘risks’ of fracking, which might never be settled.
It should be a political debate about the kind of society we want to live in, and how we go about building it.
I believe that such a debate should be welcomed and encouraged by the government of any democratic nation.
As political theorist L Winner, whose work inspired this piece, wrote in 1986, it is high time to tackle “a problem that has been brewing since the earliest days of the industrial revolution – whether our society can establish forms and limits for technological change, forms and limits that derive from a positively articulated idea of what society ought to be”.
Transport should be a priority
Like many people, I suspect, I stayed at home over the Easter break – not because I wanted to, particularly, but because I was put off by the prospect of spending hours in a car, stuck in jams on the motorways.
The number of cars on our roads – together with the awful public transport over bank holidays – means a staycation is forced upon us.
If they want us to get out and spend our money, the powers-that-be have to make transport a priority.