Letter: Down-to-earth look at the world's problems

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Sir: It is, of course, interesting to learn how the universe started; how and when it is likely to end; and, more especially, whether there is any form of life on any of the planets that presumably surround many of its countless suns, the nearest of which is, however, some five light years away. But it is clear that such information cannot be of any direct benefit to the human race.

Nor can the attempted creation of a breathable atmosphere on the Moon or Mars. Such schemes, even if practicable (which is very doubtful) could only be accomplished by the diversion of resources badly needed elsewhere. The preservation of our own atmosphere is obviously preferable to the creation of a new one on Mars.

To what end, therefore, should such resources be put? In his great work entitled The Way, the ecologist Edward Goldsmith maintains that ever since the days of Galileo, Western science has been exploiting nature rather than co-operating with her. Whether this theory is accepted or not, it cannot be denied that during the past 200 years, Western industrialisation, whatever its immediate benefits, has now had ecological effects that threaten the very future of life on earth. The threat may or may not be very imminent, but it certainly exists.

Some efforts are being made to deal directly with such effects. But the 1992 Rio conference has shown that they will not succeed unless the great emergent nations of the East are persuaded to modify their own vast future plans for industrialisation by some change in the terms of trade.

This, therefore, is the real problem that confronts the West. Painful concessions may have to be made if world industrialisation is ever to be halted. It is, above all, for the European Union (possibly within the framework of Gatt) now to think out ways and means of attaining this end. 'Stargazing', inspired by a vague wish to get out of this wicked world altogether, will not help at all.

Yours truly,


House of Lords

London, SW1

30 November