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23 November 2022

Letter of the week: The new resource war

Write to letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

John Gray (“The dangerous conceits of the green revolution”, 18 November) rightly highlights the dependence of green technology on conflict minerals. Nowhere is this felt more than Eastern DR Congo (where I have worked with coffee farmers in the North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces since 2008).

However, while he states that mineral-related conflict and violence continued for many years after 2002, he doesn’t say that brutal armed struggle over control of these resources continues to this day. More than five million people are currently displaced in DR Congo in appalling conditions, in what the Norwegian Refugee Council says is the most neglected refugee crisis in the world. At least 230,000 have had to flee their homes so far in 2022, and overnight I have received reports of yet another massacre in North Kivu. It is vital that the green movement demands traceability and accountability in the supply chains for the minerals that we need to create a sustainable planet.
Richard Hide, Sheffield

Gray vs green

The essay in response to Greta Thunberg’s guest edit (“The dangerous conceit of the green revolution”, 18 November) contained John Gray’s usual mix of interesting insights and dubious generalisations. The points about shifting to a decarbonised energy system and the strain this will place on other resources doesn’t receive enough attention. However, regarding “bourgeois protest culture”, a cursory glance at these groups shows they represent a wide range of socio-economic positions; they often include pensioners, students with large debts and ordinary workers.
Jack Garganey, Fife

John Gray’s piece was, as ever, interesting, provocative and challenging. But as I read the part dismissing those taking various forms of direct action to highlight the climate crisis, I couldn’t help wondering what he might have written about the suffragettes. Would he have been equally dismissive of those women who took direct action in the fight for votes?
Jol Miskin, Sheffield

Looking for a new England

Andrew Marr (Cover Story, 18 November) is correct to identify that Lords reform would signal Labour’s determination to transform Britain, but his worry that a democratically elected second chamber would challenge the primacy of the Commons is unfounded. Dividing all the seats in the upper house in direct proportion to the votes cast in the general election would create a revising chamber whose mandate is secondary to that of the Commons, ensuring its members can’t challenge MPs’ primacy.
Billy Bragg, Bridport, Dorset

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THANK YOU

Clarity is in short supply in Westminster, but Andrew Marr nails the problem: the lack of a long-term (or any) narrative for the UK and the almost complete severing of the experience of the majority of people outside of Westminster from the politics practised there. The problem of debating England’s national identity without rage remains untouched by either main party, while the elusiveness of a unifying story most of the country can agree upon, and vast wealth inequality, were a big part of what led to the self-harm of the Brexit vote.
Marie Donnelly, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Tilling the land

At last, an editorial that mentions land value tax (Leader, 18 November). Here is a policy which is fair, socially beneficial and produces lots of cash for the public purse. Taxing land annually on its maximum permitted development value ensures that public funds benefit from these increased values, ensures that the rise in value caused by public planning policies comes back to the community, and greatly inhibits the hoarding of land.
Michael Meadowcroft, Leeds

Law of the jungle

Bruce Daisley (The Diary, 18 November) portrays Matt Hancock as a hapless victim of bullying, but Hancock agreed to go on I’m a Celebrity, presumably in the belief that by taking the humiliations he could reboot his career. Hancock must also have realised he would be a target because of what the audience knows about him – including that he’s moonlighting from a well-paid job.
John Harris, Llaneilian, Anglesey

A true great

Michael Henderson (“The tragedy of English football”, 11 November) states: “England has never produced a Pelé, a Di Stéfano, a Cruyff or a Zidane.” But England had one man who rose from the ashes of Munich, February 1958, gracing every playing field with his balance and balletic artistry. Are you telling me Bobby Charlton would not be in this football pantheon? I beg to differ.
Dermot Dolan, London E17

Decluttering the hard way

Oh Nicholas (Down and Out, 11 November), please don’t fall out of the window. Yours is the first column I read after my NS lands on my doormat. I don’t understand how you lose so much stuff when your flat is so small. Losing the brush from the dustpan-and-brush set, destroying your only frying pan while trying to close a window: what calamities befall you. You should visit the wonderful charity shops on London Road. How do you think all the students manage?
Terri Charman, Coulsdon, Surrey

Looking for a new England, part 2

The Proclaimers, “too Scottish” (The Critics, 18 November)? In what parallel reality can I buy an NS wherein Billy Bragg is too English?
Ernie Watt, Edinburgh

@anneapplebaum
Anne Applebaum, historian and journalist
“A system with an emphasis on individual rights and open, competitive markets – the very basis of US strengths – faces existential questions in an age of big data and AI.” The more fundamental questions posed by the mess at Twitter, from @JeremyCliffe.
“The chaos at Elon Musk’s Twitter is a parable of US power in the age of Big Tech”, Jeremy Cliffe, 16 November

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[See also: Letter of the week: from left to right]

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This article appears in the 23 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Russian Roulette