Letter: Catholic church coercion that denies choice over the size of the family

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Sir: In his article about the global population explosion, Nicholas Schoon ('Separating the facts from fiction', 5 September) dubs the grim prospects we face as myths] It is not a myth that the Earth's population is spinning out of control; rising from 5.6 billion to 10 billion in the next 56 years is just that. I agree that more food can be produced, but only at an environmental cost and it cannot be distributed. More threateningly, enough fresh water and enough wood for fuel cannot be produced, and waste products leading to pollution cannot be contained. Many Third World countries have made remarkable economic growth only to have the potential benefit per head of population swallowed up by ever more people.

To turn to the plight of Africa, Richard Dowden assserts that 'Overpopulation is not Africa's problem' (5 September). Of course vast extents of Africa appear to be empty. Some, true deserts, are so, but the rest is not. Where there is a very low human population density it is usually because there are light soils and no water. But such lands are used by seasonal pastoralists who are closest to being in ecological balance with their environment and do make excellent use of this restricted and fragile resource.

Intrusive attempts at farming, and the spreading of livestock by providing water bore holes, for example, has led to disaster. If it were true that Africa has ample space for more people, then this gives welcome respite for the continent and its people - far better than the congestion and overcrowding to which Mr Dowden would like to condemn them. Will he tell us why it would be a good thing for Africa to have 980 million more people by the year 2025?

Yours sincerely,

PETER JEWELL

St John's College

Cambridge

6 September

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