Letters to the Editor: 'Old Testament tales today'
Sir - For someone who is not particularly religious, I find myself thinking a lot about the Bible lately.
No, not the Nativity, more like Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden and Noah and the flood. Mostly in the context of global warming and the consequences for us as a species.
You see I have come to the conclusion that climate change is a danger that we have not as a species evolved to deal with. It doesn't fit the fight or flight scenario, yet is the biggest threat we have ever faced to our existence.
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We watch the Australian bush or the Amazon rainforest burn, shrug our shoulders and get on with whatever we were doing.
If we were faced with an invasion by aliens from space, the world would unite to deal with the threat. But global warming is like the thief in the night that sneaks up on us unnoticed and it is our future that will be stolen.
Unfortunately, climate change is just one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; we also have loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution, and an ever-increasing population.
If we are to have any hope of dealing with these threats, we need to make drastic changes to our lifestyle.
And therein lies the problem. Nobody wants to change to a more frugal lifestyle. The whole global economic system is based on ever-increasing consumption. What politicians are going to tell voters to "give up your auld sins" and live a simpler existence? For every Greta Thunberg there are a million Donald Trumps and Jair Bolsonaros.
Surely we have had enough warnings in recent years with fires, floods, and droughts increasingly giving us a view of how our world might be if we don't take urgent action.
Yet we set targets for reducing carbon emissions for 10, 20, 30 years' time when we may not even be here in 30 years' time if we don't act now.
So, am I optimistic about the future?
Well, I suppose hope springs eternal in the human heart but it is difficult to be optimistic.
As I face into 2020, I will try to eat less fruit from the tree in the Garden of Eden and perhaps hope that when the Ark sails Noah will have a place for me.
Oh and maybe read the Bible a bit more - well the Old Testament anyway.
Portarlington, Co Laois
Why Groucho was on the money
Sir — Some of the headline-grabbing stories during the year remind me of a quip from Groucho Marx taken from one of his movies.
“For years those in positions of trust and high authority have diddled you out of your hard-earned cash...
“Now at last it is my turn.”
Beaumont, Dublin 9
Vital help for the people in real need
Sir — The distribution of more than 2,000 food parcels by Brother Kevin Crowley and his volunteers in the Capuchin Friary in Dublin just before Christmas was an increase of 500pc on the number of recipients in 2011.
But this figure probably doesn’t reflect the true number of those in need. Brother Kevin said that many of those who presented themselves at the Friary for food parcels were from a middle-class background but had now become Ireland’s new poor.
Without question, pride, shame and embarrassment has prevented many more thousands in need of availing this charity.
At this time of year when the vulgar and immoral disparity of life is so visibly rampant, people like Brother Kevin selflessly reach out in a tangible way to the suffering, struggling poor of Dublin and beyond.
It is the self-sacrificing few like Brother Kevin who, not just at Christmas but 365 days of the year and without regard to personal wants and needs, provide for those less fortunate in a society that exalts the wealthy and powerful, however gained.
Templeogue, Dublin 6W
Leader Leo goes back to the future
Sir — Leo’s recent behaviour smacks of the oft-quoted French revolutionary leader: “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”
In the Library — a poem
Every morning they ask me
“Did you do the back-up?”
And every time I hear the words ‘back-up’, the street at home
floats before my eyes.
My father tackling the horse.
Moving him under the shafts
of the cart. Coaxing him.
Ringsend, Dublin 4
We ignore lessons of history at our peril
Sir — The Government tells us the housing crisis is not a crisis because they will solve the problem if given time. But I think they are ignoring history.
If they look back they will find that the present housing crisis is not a new phenomenon. Just after World War II, the problem was massive — and history shows us how it was solved
Hundreds of houses and apartments in Italy were reduced to ruins. In Britain, 202,000 houses were destroyed and a further 255,000 were rendered uninhabitable. France suffered even worse, with 460,000 buildings gone and a further 1.9m damaged.
In Germany, meanwhile, about 3.6m apartments — or one fifth of all dwellings — were gone. After all, they did lose the war. In the Soviet Union, not only were many of the major cities laid waste by the Germans, but also 1,700 smaller towns and more than 70,000 villages were utterly flattened.
And so it went. Much of Europe’s housing stock was war damaged, and sometimes twice — once by the Germans “on the way out” and the later by the Russians “on the way back”.
In Asia the position was just as bad. There were 9m people homeless in Japan and the best estimates for China say 100m homes were gone.
So for humans to survive, the people alive after 1945 had no choice but to undertake the most radical rebuilding of the world in the history of the world. But before this new world could rise from the ashes of the old, there was the debating we humans do so well. The one thing everyone agreed on was that it should not be left to the “free market”.
Private landlords and developers had no incentive to create spacious, healthy environments for people, be as tenants in social housing or affordable houses for purchasers. The developers’ interest then, as now, is to maximise profit.
According to architects like Le Corbusier, one of the most influential planners of the era, governments that allowed the free market to act were failing the people who elected them.
Here in Ireland we have ignored history too, hoping the problem will be solved by private developers. But they just build shoe boxes to sell to families. And instead of inserting social housing in their estates, they attempt to pay local authorities a penalty price which absolves them from providing social houses as a condition of planning approval.
The lesson from history? To solve the housing crisis, the Government needs to build, and not leave the work to developers.
Cleggan, Co Galway
You're hardly a bus champion, Colm
Sir — I am in favour of the Government plan to build a Metro in north Dublin, linking rapidly growing suburbs to the city centre, with the airport being one important stop on the route.
The Metro is fast and predictable and that is what people want.
Driving into the city centre is not the answer and we need a complete change in emphasis to walking, cycling, battery-powered cycling, powered scooters, good bus services and the Metro.
Your columnist Colm McCarthy argues against the North Dublin Metro. His case is that with the port tunnel and a good bus service, there is no need for a Metro to the airport. The airport is only one of a number of important stops on Metro North.
And then in his article in your paper earlier this month, Colm confesses that he used a taxi to get from the airport.
So much for championing the bus as an alternative to the Metro.
Glasnevin, Dublin 9
Please don't extend pub opening hours
Sir — We hear that plans are in the pipeline to extend opening hours in pubs and nightclubs because our tourists are demanding this, the same way they demanded we open on Good Friday.
I’m sure gardai and the staff in the A&E departments in our hospitals might have something to say on this decision, if they were asked.
An Irish answer to an Irish problem. Words fail me.
Ballina, Co Mayo
My 10-point plan for a happy year
Sir — Please may I give 10 simple resolutions to nourish the soul, mind and heart, by doing things that enhance our levels of happiness.
1. Engage your mind with things that stimulate you
2. Go for a walk and breathe in the sweet sights and sounds of nature
3. Read books
4. Book a weekend away
5. Have a regular date night with your partner
6. Do some volunteer work
7. Smile — it will make other people feel good
8. Ignore the bullies, they’re just sad people
9. Leave the past behind, and live and enjoy, as the song says, “one day at a time”
10. Above all, stop punishing yourself by trying to measure up to someone else’s standards, and embrace the idea that you’re perfect just as you are.
A happy New Year to you all!
Glenties, Co Donegal
More Hong Kong phooey?
Sir — Yesterday, I received the most unexpected and astonishing news. It arrived by letter sent via Royal Mail from Hong Kong. It was signed by a Mr Kam, who is a global assets manager over there.
Mr Kam informed me that a Mary Gallagher, many years’ deceased, had left an unclaimed investment deposit which is now worth — wait for it — $8.5m. My heart leapt!
Mr Kam said he believed that I am the only person who matches Mary’s second name.
My heart dropped.
There are a few thousand of us Gallaghers still around.
Still, Mr Kam assured me that he and his partner, following a successful application, will assist in every way they can to have the investment transferred to me.
Then I looked at the name Kam and, in my mind, I put an S before it.
A bad word came to mind.
This, I thought, is too good to be true. But I will not give up yet. And if I ever receive the millions, I will arrange the greatest gathering of Gallaghers ever seen in Donegal since Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King of Ireland, sent his son Conall to the north west to establish the dynasty.
Clonsilla, Dublin 15
Sunday best with a newspaper at hand
Sir — This is just to say how every Sunday your paper makes my week. There are so many articles, news items from home and around the world, humorous stories, the letters section from readers, etc.
Among my favourite contributors are firstly, Brendan O’Connor whose sometimes tongue-in-cheek resume of the recent political and other happenings during the previous week is hilarious but always close to the bone.
Gene Kerrigan tells it like it is with no holds barred and punches home the truth which other journos may shy away from.
I was especially delighted to see Tom McCaughren’s name lately on your list of contributors. Having known Tom for some years now, it was great to see him appearing in the Sunday Indo. A great storyteller, a gentleman and a man with a good sense of humour.
His article last week about Christmases past was so true to life and one can sense his feeling for nature and care of the planet. His books on animals and nature plus his military collections on our UN troops are second to none (Niemba).
His collection of the Fox books for children (indeed adults too) has been translated into many languages.
So all in all to say just keep up the good work in the paper and let’s hope we can continue to open the Sunday Indo every Sunday to make our week!
Nothing showy about Taoiseach
Sir — I’ve always been a fan of the writings of Eilis O’Hanlon and indeed have written letters to your excellent paper in praise of her work.
However, two contributions in last week’s paper were scathing of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Children, the Minister for Health and a few more Fine Gael people as well.
While the whole country and indeed the entire opposition in Dail Eireann were calling for someone to make sure childcare was going to be available in the New Year, the Taoiseach and Katherine Zappone got that sorted.
However as usual in this country the “negative brigade” — including its newest recruit, Ms O’Hanlon — couldn’t wait to pick holes and condemn.
When the Taoiseach moved to have Verona Murphy removed from the election ticket because of her comments on certain immigrants, he was branded misogynistic.
Ms O’Hanlon says: “It’s a typical act of a Government which would rather play at something showy and performative rather than think about what needs to be done long term.”
Unemployment at an all-time low; balance of payments in great shape; the fastest-growing economy in the EU.
Nothing showy there.
Pat Burke Walsh,
Gorey, Co Wexford
Let's try finishing what Santa started
Sir — The season of joy is here, and Santa has distributed his presents far and wide.
It is a time of generosity and often excess, although my earliest memories are of my grandmother, from the generation who lived through the depression, always with a strong voice saying: “Save the wrapping paper.”
The austerity of her time was of course sensible, but we all knew that for us it would mean a smaller present the next year and the following years until no paper was left.
The message we should all remember from Christmas, whether or not we believe in the religious component, is that we should be generous and not just to our family and friends but everyone else.
Santa has finished his journey and his present giving so it’s our time to take up the job and help out for the other 364 days, actually 365 in 2020.