Miles Kington: All this statistical hot air is leading to global warming

Endless emissions of facts and figures are spewed into the atmosphere by the uncontrolled information industry, polluting our thoughts
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The Independent Online

Five tons of carbon dioxide.

That's what was put into the atmosphere by David Cameron's flight to Norway to see global warming for himself.

Fifteen tons of carbon dioxide.

That's what was put into the earth's atmosphere by Gordon Brown's flight to New York to lecture people on the environment.

Twenty tons of bedlinen.

That's what was handled last week by nurses working unpaid overtime in the National Health Service.

Fifty tons of opium gum taken from freshly harvested poppies.

That was what was in a shed unwittingly passed by Defence Secretary John Reid as he drove through Afghanistan on a tour of inspection of the British Army's fight against drugs.

One hundred acres.

That's the amount of woodland cut down each day to provide the newsprint to bring us useless statistics about the way we are treating the environment.

Statistics.

That's the name we give to the endless emissions of facts and figures spewed into our atmosphere every day by the uncontrolled information industry, polluting our thoughts and confusing enough people to cover the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight.

That's a small version of Wales.

When we need an illustration of how much of England is covered by concrete, we say "an area as big as the Isle of Wight".

But when we need an illustration of how much woodland is chopped down each day to provide the world's newspapers, we say "an area as big as Wales".

Wales.

That part of Britain occupied by the people who used to occupy England before the Saxons drove them west, and who are now getting their revenge by sending John Humphrys and Huw Edwards back to London to help us go digital.

Digital?

What's that?

Well, it's the new broadcasting system that's going to replace analogue in the next little while.

How will I get digital?

Well, there are several different ways of getting it, but it's quite simple.

If it's so simple, why do I need John Humphrys and Huw Edwards coming on and telling me how to do it?

Well ...

And why do they keep asking themselves questions, and then saying, Well, and then answering their own questions?

Well, you see, when they ask questions and then answer them, it makes them sound chatty and conversational, and reliable and approachable, in a warm and wonderful way that the Welsh and Scottish and Irish have, but not the English, who only have Melvyn Bragg.

Twelve.

That's the number of books that have changed the world, according to Melvyn Bragg. And they all come from an area of land the size of Britain. Which, by coincidence, is Britain.

Not a foreign book among them. An extraordinary statistic.

And 11 out of the 12 are by English authors, with only the Scotsman Adam Smith as 12th man.

What are the chances of the 12 books that changed the world being all English?

It's a million to one against. Statistically.

"Perhaps you could enlarge on that."

That's what Melvyn Bragg says to the experts on In Our Time on Radio 4, when he isn't quite sure what they are talking about.

In Our Time?

That is the curiously named Radio 4 programme on which Melvyn Bragg does A-Level revision sessions on subjects like immunisation and Goethe, which are not in our time at all.

In Our Time is also the name of Ernest Hemingway's first book.

Ernest Hemingway? He was a famous writer who had a scar on his forehead caused by a drunken incident in Paris in the 1920s.

What happened was that he thought he was flushing the lavatory, but pulled a skylight down on his head instead.

Even if you forget all the statistics in the world, I think you will have no difficulty remembering that.

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