James Watt invented the steam engine in 1776, allowing us to create energy from burning coal to start with. His student and protege William Murdoch aka “The Maker of Light” created gas lighting in the 1790s, which has evolved to become one of the most energy intensive functions we indulge ourselves in on the planet today. John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre in 1887, giving us the option of running cars on the tarmacadam roads previously developed by John Loudon McAdam in the early 1800s.
It goes much further than that. The invention of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 has saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people and contributed hugely to population increases around the globe. John Logie Baird invented television in 1926 and allowed us to see the world beyond our own immediate environment, thereby helping to give us ideas above our station and encouraging consumerism. The earlier invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 has now promoted the extensive mining of toxic metals, often undertaken by child labour.
The refrigerator was invented by a Scot, William Cullen in 1748, enabling us to transport food around the planet, taking us away from local food supplies and encouraging destruction of faraway habitats and cultures.
Even when you are quietly looking out the window contemplating these things in the morning, just think of the heat being generated by that toaster, invented by Scot Alan MacMasters in 1893. If you think the bathroom is the only escape from all this, Visit the bathroom and even the humble S-bend was invented by a Scot Alexander Cumming in 1755, and think about the water usage promoted by that, in all our homes, every day, and throughout the world.
There is no doubt about it. We Scots have practically invented climate change. Surely no other nation has made a bigger contribution. In the spirit of making a superficial and meaningless gesture, I think I might change that tea towel, although that too would result in unnecessary waste if everyone started doing it.
Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross
Unwilling to act
$100 billion seems a lot to most people dealing with economies of daily life, never mind climate chaos. This is the money promised at a previous COP some years ago, but still not delivered by the developed world (that caused most of the problems) to help the developing world (that suffers most of the consequences).
Let's put that in the context of not only the cost of fires and floods across the world or the islands that will disappear or the disruption to the fishing industry.
The USA alone had a budget of $770 billion on military spending for the one year of 2020. We could add some of the other big military spenders: China $252bn; India $72.9bn; Russia $61.7bnl and of course the UK at $59.2bn.
Meanwhile the major oil companies such as Shell and Siccar Poin will make the situation much worse by opening the Cambo oil field costing more than $5bn.
The money is obviously there but the political will definitely is not. Unless we make our politicians pay by voting them out, at every opportunity, they will continue to lie and try to fool and blame us.
Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Jane Lax berates Nicola Sturgeon for being seen in the company of Alan Cumming (Letters, 11 November).
I’m not an SNP voter and I fully realise that governments and politicians must be held to account, but it seems to me sometimes, that were Nicola Sturgeon to help an old lady across the street, there would be outraged letters from some of your regular correspondents (they know who they are) complaining that she was holding up the traffic.
Michael Grey, Edinburgh
No matter how we try to convince ourselves that our civilization rests on the rational foundation of the Enlightenment, the politics and social behavior of broad sectors of our society suggest otherwise and we seem to be trapped in the same atavistic behavioral patterns as our ancestors.
Humans appear to have an inner need for renunciation, limitation, and self-punishment that becomes active when we face danger, real or invented. The Covid restrictions and climate politics of recent years clearly satisfy a deep-seated spiritual need for sacrifice, repentance and submission.
Radical movements emerge like Extinction Rebellion and Zero Covid demanding ever more extreme measures and reminiscent of the Black Death’s flagellation processions. Instead of appealing to the Bible they invoke "the science” which, to all intents and purposes, fulfills the same function.
The West stands accused of sinful living with its materialism, consumption and enjoyment of life.
In addition, there are heretics: sceptics who undermine the grand moral purification with their doubts. For this we’ll be punished by God/Gaia sending viruses, diseases, floods and droughts.
Science is invoked as an authority, not to examine or overturn existing assumptions, but to confirm accepted views. Scientists are the heralds, the voices of conscience, functions once the role of priests. In the West it has become a substitute religion and a source of divine revelation.
Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife
‘Benefits’ for MPs
Regarding the current controversy over MPs earning large amounts of money from jobs on the side, sometimes working overseas and being unavailable in person for their constituency duties, not to mention unable to attend their place of work, might I suggest that there are already rules, sanctioned by Parliament, for people receiving payment from the state, which might be appropriately applied to MPs, in order to ensure that they comply with reasonable rules for their conduct, and meet the terms of their entitlement.
For example, every fortnight they must attend their constituency, or face sanctions; they must provide evidence of their constituency work; and they must declare any change in circumstances, such as extra income, which will then be deducted from their pay.
These conditions are already applied to people receiving state benefits, presumably approved as fair by Parliament, and, as MPs are also in receipt of benefits, so to speak, from the state, I don’t see any reason why our MPs shouldn’t be subject to the same general rules.
What’s the word?
What's the more likely derivation of "Tory" – old Irish "toraidhe" (thief, villain) or "toerag" (contemptible or worthless person)? I'm spoilt for choice, frankly.
Steve Hayes, Leven, Fife
Cycle of violence
Human beings are capable of committing the most heinous crimes against their fellow humans. They also have the capacity to do, not as they would be done by, but as they were done by. Children who have been victims of abuse, and have known no kindness or love from their parents, may behave in similar ways towards their own children, despite vowing never to do so. This is what they know about parenting, and they act without thinking about or analysing their behaviour. Thus, abuse is passed down the generations.
The same unreflective process can be seen in the situation in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, where groups of young men have recently been reported to be marching through Haifa, in northern Israel, carrying Israeli flags and shouting “Death to Arabs!”.
Palestinian citizens who survived the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, to make way for Jewish immigrants during the founding of Israel, make up about 20 per cent of of Israel’s population. Racism against them is encouraged by Israeli politicians and parties, whose goal is to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel.
The children of Palestinians face an uncertain future. They have learnt that the meek will not inherit the earth, and no amount of patience and stoicism will change their situation. They have also learnt that those who profess to have God on their side are no more entitled to this claim than they are.
Carolyn Taylor, Broughty Ferry, Dundee
Refugees should not be footballs, and free Europe should not be checkmated by the manœuvres of dictators.
European states have the logistical power to act properly for the abused migrants at the border of Poland. They need to be processed as if they had arrived on democratic soil.
There are two imperatives. No person should in any circumstance be returned into danger. No migrant should remain the plaything of criminals like Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko. If anything, his own citizens need to get in the queue.
Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland
Alex Orr can juggle as many anti-Brexit figures as he pleases (Letters, 10 November) but this statistical indignation ignores some elephants in the room.
No mention that only 19 per cent of Scotland's exports go to the EU; we actually conduct more commerce with the rest of the world, which we can now engage in unfettered by single market regulations. The fact that rUK accounts for nearly two thirds of our trade is also apparently irrelevant.
The SNP leadership only favours re-entry to Europe because it is a convenient stick to beat the Tories with and they dream of extending the begging bowl to Brussels, which they see as a surrogate Westminster.
Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh
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