Reporter 449, 20 March 2000


Letters

Evolution and error

Paolo Viscardi
Biology

I welcome Paul Wignall’s comments in response to my letter in Reporter 447. My knowledge of the Permian extinction is several years out of date and somewhat hazy, and it would have been useful if my errors had been corrected rather than merely being pointed out.

Unfortunately Wignall misunderstood the key problem I had with the article in Reporter 446. The wording of the sentence "Had a few hardy creatures not clung to life ... then their descendants, mankind, would not arrive on earth for another 250 million years", when taken in the context of the introductory sentence "...came within a whisker of setting the evolutionary clock back to zero..." seems to imply that if all life had been extinguished then it would have taken an additional 250 million years for mankind to appear.

This preposterous notion is hard to acknowledge, and this may be a case of ambiguity in the writing of the article leading to misunderstanding on my part.

Misunderstandings aside (conceptual or contextual), it is my opinion that a subject should be reported to a depth sufficient to engage and to inform the readership. I do not feel that enough information was made available in the article for the enormity of the Permian extinction to be appreciated.

Finally, I fail to see why the fact that the ancestors of humans were around at the time of the Permian event, and managed to survive it, is of sufficient significance to merit mention. If any event in the early history of the Earth had occurred in a way other than it did, then the present would be very different. Mankind would not have appeared if the Permian event had not occurred, in the same way they would never have arisen if any of the numerous extinction events had not occurred. ‘What ifs’ count for naught.

Biking is best

Nicola Carslaw
School of Chemistry

I was extremely disappointed by the attitude of Vic Rogers-Gentile in Reporter 447 with regard to the University of Leeds Traffic Review. As someone who cycles to work daily, I object to being classed as some kind of eccentric, classed in a group with roller bladers and pogo-stick hoppers. In fact, every member of staff who cycles to work helps Vic Rogers-Gentile find a space in the car park more easily - and should be encouraged rather than ridiculed.

I have recently tried to persuade the University to provide cyclists with secure parking facilities at work. It transpires that in the Schools of Chemistry and the Environment, there are 25 people who cycle regularly and a further 30 who supported our campaign.

Interestingly, I looked into the cost of land rental to see how much a car-parking space would yield the University in rent - the cost per parking space was more than £2,000, making the £90 that car-parkers currently pay seem very minor. While I am not suggesting car-parkers should pay £2,000-a-year to park, a similar commitment from the University towards parking provision for cyclists should be encouraged.

Finally, contrary to the view propounded by Vic Rogers-Gentile that cyclists always arrive at work ‘blue-nosed, rain-drenched and exhausted,’ I often arrive feeling the benefit from some early morning exercise, and many studies have shown that a fit workforce is an efficient workforce.

Report welcomed

David Salinger
President, Leeds AUT

After the publicity given to the intention of a Leeds don to attack the findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, I would like to point out that the Association of University Teachers positively welcomed the report.

The AUT has urged University authorities to act on its recommendations. I am sure that the stance adopted by the University of Leeds will be welcomed by our members.

A room with a view

Glyn Jones
Leeds Dental Institute

We are among the fortunate few on Level 6 of the Worsley Building in having a room with a view.

However one does have to ask what are the advantages when we witness the accumulated rubbish in the vicinity.

When one considers how much time and money must have been invested on the recently-completed horticultural scheme in Chancellor’s Court, would it be too much to ask that as much care be taken over maintaining the more peripheral areas of the University campus which are more visible to members of the general public?

Such sights do little to enhance our reputation and it would be appropriate if the area described, amongst others, were more regularly maintained.

Mine’s fine by me

Bill Birch
Mining & Mineral Engineering

It is a sad day when our University becomes involved at such a petty level in local politics. A small local opencast coal company, Cobex, has applied to work a small opencast coal site west of Bretton Hall. In spite of the fact that it would only be in operation for three years, Kirklees Council as the mineral planning authority has decided after representation from Bretton Hall (and hence our University) to reject the application on the basis of the loss of ‘visual amenity’.

When the same application was put to English Heritage and the Garden History Society, they were perfectly happy with the proposals. I have inspected the plans in detail and visited the site and can only conclude that in my opinion this has all the makings of a ‘political objection’. The opencast coal mining industry has been made to appear a political pariah with the result that hundreds of jobs have been lost. This small, well-run company could become another casualty.

How sad that because someone in authority at Bretton Hall does not want to see a distant view of a partially-obscured dump, that he is prepared to see 50 men lose their jobs, one of them a graduate from our mining department. Ah well, who ever he is, will not only never have to see the site, but also never have to meet the men he put out of work.

How typical of our University, whilst we as a mining department try our level best to train our students for industry, there is another section desperate to put them out of work. Good to know that ‘All's well in sleepy hollow' at Bretton Hall!

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