April 11: Pollution is a wake-up call to whole world

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EVEN THOUGH the worst of the air pollution to afflict Yorkshire and the rest of the country yesterday appears to have passed, and been replaced by more seasonal weather, it is a timely reminder about the fragility of the environment that should not be overlooked in a general election being dominated by the economy, NHS and personal mud-slinging.

Having built his leadership around the images generated by a husky-powered trek to a remote Norwegian glacier to see the effects of global warming at first hand, and then promised to preside over the greenest government ever, David Cameron now rarely speaks about the environment for fear of offending those on the Tory right with strongly-held views on climate change.

Yet, while this week’s pollution can be attributed to unusual meteorological conditions that have seen tiny dusty particles from the Sahara pollute the atmosphere and exacerbate the health of asthma sufferers and the like, it should not preclude any discussion on how to reduce carbon emissions.

Like it or not, this is critical to creating a more sustainable planet and political leaders owe it to present and future generations to look at ways of reducing air pollution and why, for example, a disproportionate number of people die in York each year because of unhealthy climatic conditions.

This will not happen if leaders let the issue drift on the wind; they need to look at how industry can become more environmentally-friendly, without being crippled by additional costs, while also bringing their influence to bear on those ambivalent countries like China where smog is regarded as an every day occurrence. It is not – it is a wake-up call to the world.

Voice of summer: Richie Benaud remembered

HOW prophetic that Richie Benaud, so long the voice of summer, should pass away on the eve of a new county season – his like will not be seen, or heard, again. Not only was the Australian one of the giants of the game, but a seamless transition from the field of play to the commentary box saw him become one of the great gentlemen of cricket.

As sport mourns one of the last of a dying breed of broadcasters who empathised with their audience, it was Benaud’s economy of words – spoken in such a distinctive tone – that stood him apart from his more verbose peers. Unlike many commentators and pundits, he only spoke when he felt he could add to the pictures. When Ian Botham hit a swashbuckling six during the unforgettable Ashes clash at Headingley in 1981, Benaud observed casually: “Don’t bother looking for that, let alone chasing it. It’s gone straight into the confectionery stall and out again.” Such spontaneity is beyond many of today’s commentators who struggle to show any restraint or objectivity – it is all about who can screech the loudest.

Perhaps the best tribute to Benaud is the fact that he was revered by cricket devotees in England and Australia in equal measure. A man who expected and championed the highest standards of sportsmanship, and with the authority to change the laws of the game following the notoriety of the Trevor Chappell underarm delivery, he was also a man of lasting principle who resisted the financial overtures of the pay-per-view broadcasters because he believed terrestrial channels had a duty to show sports like cricket. As such, cricket will be much the poorer without Richie Benaud and his cheery ‘Morning everyone’ – heart-warming words which could be guaranteed to uplift the spirits of all and signal summer’s arrival.

Life and death: NHS must not be run by red-tape

WHILST politicians fight tooth and nail for the keys to 10 Downing Street, patients such as Angela Paton face a true life-and-death battle.

At 41, she is one of the UK’s oldest survivors of the degenerative Morquio Syndrome. Yet Angela, from Leeds, and fellow sufferers such as six-year-old Sam Brown from Otley, fear the impact on their health as their access to Vimizim – the “miracle” drug which has vastly improved their quality of life – is withdrawn.

Appalling red tape means the NHS has failed to reach a decision on whether to fund the drug. Instead, sufferers have been forced until now to rely on the goodwill of its manufacturer to provide the medication on compassionate grounds. Not every drug can be funded, but to leave sufferers in a state of such tortuous limbo reveals the NHS lacking the compassion and empathy that it promised in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal.