River Wissey Lovell Fuller


June 2011

Ron mounts his soapbox to air his views on Osama Bin Laden, Coastal erosion and Electric cars

Osama Bin Laden

So they sought him out and killed him, probably no less than he deserved, although this tendency for the Israelis and the Americans to assassinate people without any form of trial is rather worrying, it must be against international law, it is something that they can now do because they have the technology, but it is setting a dangerous trend.

According to President Obama, Bin Laden was a terrorist "responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men women and children" and there is little doubt about the truth of that.

Osama didn't see it like that. He was incensed by Russia's invasion of Afghanistan and left his home in Saudi Arabia to go and join the Mujahadeen to fight against the invaders, the Americans were his ally and helped to equip the Mujahadeen with arms, so that they finally succeeded in convincing the Russians that the occupation wasn't worth the cost in lives and money. But Osama was not just against the Russians, he was against any foreign invader of Middle-Eastern Muslim nations. He was against the Americans and British for attacking Iraq following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, presumably he regarded Kuwait as a stooge of the West. He then began rousing anti-western emotions with his anti-western rhetoric claiming that America was the worst terrorist, and to some extent he had a point. American actions in Vietnam, in South America and then in Iraq, with British help, and later in Afghanistan has resulted in the deaths of not thousands, but possibly millions, of 'innocent men women and children'. Whatever reasons the western allies might give for their actions it is easy to understand how Osama was able to motivate young men to try and hit back at the west by the only means at their disposal, terrorist attacks. The most outrageous and horrific of terrorist attacks was undoubtedly the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York in September2001.

After 9/11, as it is now known, the Americans were desperate to take revenge which may have been one of the underlying reasons for the second attack on Iraq. George Bush, along with Tony Blair, started an irrational, illegal and unjustified 'war on terror' resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. There can be little doubt that their action, along with the illegal, unjust and ruthless behaviour of the Israelis towards the Palestinians, (with the support of the Americans and the acquiescence of the Europeans), did more than Bin Laden ever could to generate anti-western sentiments and to motivate young Muslims to contemplate terrorist actions. Those young men (and women) do not see themselves as terrorists, rather they see themselves as brave fighters fighting against vastly superior forces to avenge the deaths of their people.

The only way to defeat this type of terrorism is by convincing the majority of the people of the rightness of your position, which may well mean removing some of the causes for their sense of injustice, killing Bin Laden will do nothing to remove the desire to strike back. Of course you can never defeat fanatical religion by logical argument you have to convince the majority of that religion's following that murder driven by fanaticism is not a part of that religion and hope that the fanatics will be defeated within their religious community.

Coastal Erosion

Recently I saw yet another news item on TV about coastal erosion along the east coast and, as with every other recent report, rising sea levels are seen as partly to blame. Furthermore there is an implication that the problem is going to get worse because of the anticipated further rise in sea level in the near future.

Over the last 100years, according to published data, there has been a rise in sea level of 18cm (about 7inches), giving an average of 1.8mm/year, and it seems reasonable to assume that that figure is fairly accurate. I very much doubt that, with daily tidal variations of 10feet or more, those 7inches over 100years will have made very much difference to coastal erosion. The number of storms, the amount of rough seas and the number of droughts are surely far more important.

Measurements of the current rate of sea level rise are clearly difficult when the annual rate is so small, it is possible to find published figures that vary between 3mm/year and 1mm/year, the 1mm figure being the more recent. Whichever figure is correct it seems unlikely that sea level rise is likely to be a significant factor in coastal erosion in the next hundred years. It is difficult to understand why reports put so much emphasis on sea level rise as a major factor in coastal erosion.

Since the last ice age 22,000years ago, the sea level is thought to have risen by considerably more than 50m, but in the last 2000years it has risen by less than 1m.

Electric Vehicles

Regular readers will be aware of my reservations over the government's drive towards more electric cars at this time. Electric cars will do very little towards reducing carbon emissions as long as most of our electricity is produced by fossil fuel burning power stations. Furthermore, the 6kw limit imposed on domestic charging rates and the limits imposed on range by battery capacity, both combine to restrict the practical use of electric cars.

In the 1930s, 40s and 50s trolley buses found considerable favour for passenger transport in many large urban conurbations, most notably London of course, where they had the largest fleet in the world of over 1700 vehicles. They were to be seen in other towns in the UK and other parts of the world. Most passengers and people at large were very pleased with trolley buses, I remember them well and liked them very much, their smooth (and rapid) acceleration and quiet pollution free operation were a sharp contrast to the diesel buses of the time. It seems that the relatively low cost of diesel fuel compared with electricity in the late 1940s and 50s rendered trolley buses uneconomic, resulting in a rapid switch to diesel buses, so that trolley buses had disappeared completely from London by 1962. Other towns in the UK followed suit, but they were retained in some other countries. Trolley buses are still to be seen in some European towns and in San Francisco and Seattle in the USA. Spain bought the entire London fleet but subsequently, I am told, and for reasons I do not know, the Spanish government banned the use of electric vehicles on Spanish roads, I assume that ban no longer applies.

With the current price of oil and the likely trend in future oil prices it is possible that trolley buses will once again be economically viable. Certainly, if the government is keen to move progressively towards the use of electricity for road transport they should consider the possibility of starting that trend by switching subsidies away from electric cars, which many people will not want at this stage, towards trolley buses, which most people, passengers and people living and working in the towns, would very much welcome I am sure.

Ron Watts

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