Letters - 16 July 2021

From Uranium mining to William Penn

Uranium mining

I am sure Friends will be have been shocked at the revelations about the abuse that children of the First Nation in Canada have suffered. And that it is part of British colonial history too. However, there is other abuse of indigenous peoples that still continues. This is from uranium mining; uranium being necessary for the development of nuclear power and weapons. 

The tradition of the Denesuline people in what is now Canada was to respect the land and particularly they learnt not to touch the pitchblende rock from which uranium ore is extracted.  But the mining companies came along and rode roughshod over the concerns of the indigenous people. It has made profits for these companies. But for the local people it has only brought poverty and, worse, illness, suffering and desecration of their sacred land.

The Denesuline people who know the land best say ‘there is an urgency to come together in an understanding to protect future generations from harm’. We should listen to their voices. Now, with the rapid development of producing electricity from sustainable energy sources, nuclear power is not needed. Uranium mining could be stopped.

Rae Street

Let me take you by the hand

Like many of your readers I feel sure, I was drawn to the long article by Jennifer Kavanagh (2 July), having already read reviews of her book in the national press. Also drawing me was the eye-catching front cover, based on the famous diagrammatic map of London’s Underground.

I recently acquired another book – David Long’s London Underground: Architecture, design and history (2011), richly illustrated by Jane Magarigal’s quite stark and beautiful photographs taken in the 1970s. Until reading this, I hadn’t realised the pivotal role of another Quaker, Frank Pick, in shaping and extending the London Underground from a rather ramshackle nineteenth-century collection of privately built and run companies to the network we know today.

Pick was not only responsible for the successful branding of the network (commissioning the world famous ‘Johnston’ typeface and roundel), Harry Beck’s much-imitated map (already mentioned), clear signage, the building of new Underground stations designed by Charles Holden (also a Quaker, though not in membership; see ‘A Quaker in the Underground’ in the Friend, 25 January 2011). All these are still in use some 100 years later. Pick’s determination to combine utility with beauty made the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner hail him as ‘the greatest patron of the arts whom this century [the twentieth century] has so far produced in England, and indeed the ideal patron of our age’.

In her book, Jennifer Kavanagh comments: ‘…however much we complain, [London] is a city with excellent public transport, with a large network of tubes and buses run by TfL [Transport for London]’. In addition, stations provide a hub for people – small shops and businesses, street hawkers, flower sellers, Big Issue salespeople – to make a living. She gives voice to some of these people – the seldom heard, seldom listened to, who work and beg and scrape and make a living – in a way I am sure Frank Pick would have approved. Although he shunned public recognition in his life (turning down both a knighthood and a seat in the House of Lords) his is a contribution to London life and urban life which we do right to celebrate.

Paul Nicholas

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