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Reaction to ‘Ending the oil age’, Big Oil RIP?, NI 477.

The carbon tax in British Columbia lowered their emissions by 16 per cent while the rest of Canada is up 3 per cent. It works. How much has divestment lowered actual emissions to date? I think not at all. How much will it reduce emissions? Probably not at all. It doesn’t make sense economically. Capital flows right in when shares are sold off by ethical investors, and many fossil fuel extraction companies are privately capitalized. It has no real economic effect, whereas a carbon tax would cut directly into the profit margin of all extraction operations, and reduce the total amount extracted greatly.


If we want to get effective climate laws of any kind, then we need to reduce the power and influence of fossil fuel companies. That’s where the trends and strategies described in this article come into play. It’s true that divestment and anti-oil-sponsorship campaigns don’t have an immediate impact on emissions, but they do erode the social licence of these companies and push them closer to pariah status. If this happens on a large enough scale, it will make it much easier for us to break the links between the fossil fuel industry and government.

So if you want a carbon tax (or any other form of climate legislation), you should be cheering on the divestment campaigners because their work is helping to bring effective climate laws closer to reality!


It doesn’t matter how eloquently we argue the risks of climate change and the other harms from the extraction and burning of oil (and gas and coal) as long as half of us are heating poorly insulated houses with gas, driving long distances daily in gasoline-engine cars, and using embarrassing amounts of electricity produced mostly by burning coal. We can protest, we can disinvest, we can write letters, and little will change. To actually reduce emissions, we need to reduce these things drastically, not only by adding a lot of solar and wind (which will require diverting some of the last of the fossil fuels from other uses) but also by efficiency. Beyond efficiency, we need to get over the idea that we’re entitled to lights burning all over our houses and cities, to living space that’s 68 degrees F in the summer and 72 in the winter, to vacations that require air travel, to a way of life that requires driving from our homes to our places of work. But we will have to do it ourselves; government will never mandate it, or assist, and will likely impede the transition on orders from its owners.

Mary Wildfire

Reactions to S Bedford’s article on Mother Teresa’s legacy NI 475

I, too, worked in Prem Dan.

Imagine an empty Costco or Home Depot. Then fill it with cots and then on the cots put concentration camp-like emaciated people. There is a plate full of human faeces – enormous amounts – next to each cot. Then a urinal next to that, filled. Each morning I washed the sheets, emptied the urinals and faeces and mopped the floor.

I worked with one Indian man who had a massive open wound in his foot – with maggots. We could see his tendons moving. Four helpers lifted him onto a concrete table, put a stick into his mouth and pinned down his extremities while I assisted the nurse in cleaning his foot. This situation really made me question the whole thing – especially afterwards when I went outside in the courtyard and discussed with health professionals from all over the world why there were no pain meds. This was in 1997.

The pain and suffering was to be closer to God – or to earn their right to heaven.

Regardless what the reason was, it was wrong. The amount of screaming I heard in those few minutes has been with me the rest of my life – and I was not even the person in pain.

Ben Lynch

Written letters

System switch

Cuba (NI 476) appears to be changing from a society where the state owns the means of production to one where there is more private ownership and small businesses are allowed. Yet most people (other than the élite) still have to work for wages. Wages are a hallmark of capitalism, whereas socialism implies the abolition of the wages system. So Cuba is switching from state capitalism to a mix of state and private capitalism.

Paul Bennett Manchester, England

Disappointing debate

I was disappointed by the level of debate in the Argument (NI 476) on ‘Is boycotting Israel the right way to fight for Palestinian rights?

The ‘yes’ argument in particular was emotive (eg ‘they [the cultural and academic élites of Israel] represent a rogue regime whose moral legitimization should be questioned’).

Neither argument looked at the pros and cons of the specific boycott called for by some NGOs, of goods made by businesses in Israeli settlements – for instance, the practicalities, the wishes of the Palestinians in those areas, the comparative employment wages, etc etc.

No attempt was made by either party to consider a shared common goal.

Jeremy Newton Radlett, England

Two halves

My background is mental-health work, including working with people in suicidal crisis. It is a shockingly under-reported statistic that more than three times as many men as women kill themselves in the UK.

So I was somewhat dismayed to notice that you saw fit to print a letter (‘Control freaks’, NI 476) suggesting humans would be better off if 90 per cent of males were killed or neutered. Would you ever print a similar letter suggesting we’d be better off with 90 per cent fewer women, especially if three times as many women as men were killing themselves?

I wonder also if you would print any article where someone who said they supported gender equality says ‘I’m not a fan of women’? (‘Women on the edge of time’, NI 474). Or where a man says he personally wouldn’t invite women to join a gender-equality movement ‘per se’ but that perhaps men should indeed ‘work with progressive women who are willing to learn’ from their apparently already-perfect wisdom on the matter?

It’s not enough to grudgingly acknowledge that any male suffering that might exist is all Patriarchy’s fault, as if women play no role in what is socially expected of men. When progressive gender equality becomes about both genders listening to each other (not just men listening to women) we may start to get somewhere. But for this to happen, progressives must first stop dogmatically ignoring or belittling the very real suffering of ordinary men, and acknowledge the part both genders play in creating our social pressures and structures.

Glenn Bassett Enfield, England