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- Arts + Ents
Thursday 24 August 2006
Immigration must worsen our impact on the planet
Sir: There is, alas, a flat contradiction between your twin campaigns for ever more population growth through ever more immigration, and ever greater sustainability through ever less resource consumption. Total environmental impact equals, by definition, average impact per person multiplied by the number of people.
Current world population growth is about 80 million per year, or 1.5 million per week, or 10,000 per hour. These are mostly poor people, who would be better off living in a rich country, where they could each get richer, consume more resources and produce more waste and pollution.
All of this would, of course, "contribute to the economy" of the rich country, in that it would cause more money to change hands, and so add to GDP; but it would also, equally obviously, desertify the planet faster and bring the looming "discontinuity" (polite term for "the collapse of civilisation as we know it") nearer. After all, total natural resources per person (the ultimate basis of all wealth) equals, by definition, the total natural resources of our finite planet divided by the number of people.
The UK's ecological footprint is already three planets. This means that, to achieve sustainability, we must reduce either our population or our consumption per head (or some combination) by two thirds. What we definitely cannot do is continue adding to our numbers by some 300,000 per year.
Please could you break the mad taboo, and read the 1973 report of the all-party Population Panel. Championing its main conclusion - that we need to stabilise our population - would make a far worthier campaign.
OPTIMUM POPULATION TRUST UPPER COXLEY, SOMERSET
Influx of workers drives wages down
Sir: Well done to The Independent for your myth-busting cover story (22 August) on the facts and fantasies about immigration, highlighting the vicious lies that other newspapers have been spouting.
However, my initial pleasure was rather marred by the comment piece on page 2 by Sir Digby Jones, who celebrated immigration from eastern Europe as being great for British business. I hate to say this, but if Sir Digby and his former employers at the CBI are rubbing their hands with glee over the benefits they and their fellow capitalists are gaining from immigration, this probably does not bode well for any worker in this country, wherever they may originate from.
Sir: I am a retired trade unionist and shop steward and ex-Labour voter and I am opposed to discrimination of all kinds. I would like to point out that unskilled workers have as much stake in this country as leader writers for The Independent. They have mortgages, heating bills and council taxes to pay. They are the ones whose wages are being driven down by workers from Eastern Europe. When Digby Jones says "We could not do without them," what he means is "Without them we would have to pay decent wages."
The so-called skill shortages which employers complain about were brought about by the short-termism and greed of British employers who at the first opportunity stop taking on apprentices and cancel training schemes.
I am in favour of free movement of labour in the EU, but only when the economies are more equal. That is how it worked in the past.
SELBY, NORTH YORKSHIRE
Sir: Sir Digby Jones may well welcome this influx of cheap labour - remember that the CBI opposed the minimum wage. However, I fear the UK is increasingly becoming a low-wage economy with escalating dependency on welfare top-ups such as family credit and housing benefit.
I wonder how much the UK tax-payers will be asked to pay when immigrants with dependants become eligible for these benefits.
ST MARGARET'S AT CLIFF, KENT
Sir: I am sure your support of immigration would not falter even if Polish leader writers and journalists arrived to do your jobs at minimum wage levels. There are a great many places in the unemployment queues for the indigenous skilled workers of this country. Where better to lecture the British on the positive aspects of immigration and castigate those who fail to see its advantages?
New Europeans face a double standard
Sir: Thank you for confronting the lies and conjecture that are the hallmark of much of the British press when looking at immigration. The benefits migrants bring to Britain and metropolitan areas like London in particular are yet again being overshadowed by the challenges people fear we will face when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU.
The overwhelming majority of those who have come from new EU member states are in work, paying taxes and National Insurance, although research has shown that not all employers are respecting their responsibilities. Most migrants have no right to housing and some other benefits due to restrictions the UK government introduced.
Many of the new workforce come short-term to improve their language skills and widen their horizons as our gap-year young people do. Others come to work hard and send money home to support their families. Many work below their qualification level and in jobs where vacancies are hard to fill. The NHS has made a point of recruiting Polish dentists, yet we are back to arguments that see an easy connection between unemployment, vacancies and migrants.
Migrant workers, the British public and journalism itself deserve better than simplistic xenophobic stories acting as a recruitment tool for the parties on the far right.
As a member of the EU, Britons enjoy the right to free movement and a number of other benefits, yet we are now being urged to make second-class citizens out of new Europeans. We should continue to refuse such double standards.
JEAN LAMBERT MEP
CLLR JENNY JONES AM
(GREEN PARTY GROUP)
White tribes who join the witch-hunt
Sir: I commend The Independent for Tuesday's excellent immigration edition. It is such a pleasure for once to see a newspaper celebrate the positive impacts of immigration; as a Londoner it is something I do almost daily. In my area of south London there is a large immigrant population which is mostly well integrated. However, some parts of this community do seem to have problems in fitting in.
We have three distinct immigrant groups: Australians, New Zealanders and white Africans. Although I don't easily identify with a number of their cultural traits (tacky Nineties rock music and drunken late-night streaking) their presence is most welcome as they bring vibrancy to the park with their weekend touch-rugby, exuberance to the pub for any televised sporting event and a regular supply of biltong to all our corner shops.
However it is very upsetting to realise that some of this group fail to see the connection between themselves and their fellow immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. I strongly object to being told by immigrants with white skin how Britain is being destroyed by offering immigrants with brown skin or foreign accents the same rights and privileges they themselves enjoy.
Just because you Ozzies, Kiwis and Saffas are spared the attacks the tabloid press dish out to all other immigrants groups it doesn't mean you're expected to join in. You're better than that.
Caricature of idle, feckless natives
Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown excelled herself with her emotive diatribe (23 August) against the "indigenous population". One phrase from her derogatory remarks is enough to make the point: "keep indolent British scroungers on their couches drinking beer and watching TV". I doubt that The Independent would publish an article that used similar language, about "dispossessed Ugandan Asians".
I am now going to my local bank and I shall see if there are "two fit white British men" loitering outside or whether they only loiter outside Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's bank.
OLDHAM GREATER MANCHESTER
Here to work, not to scrounge
Sir: One would think that East European migrants are the culprits if you listen to the scare mongering stories about full schools and council house waiting lists.
Here are some of the facts. Out of 427,095 East European immigrants who have come to Great Britain (Home Office figures), only 110 applied for council houses, 5,943 applied for benefits, 21,114 applied for tax credits, of which 14,009 were approved. Eighty-two per cent of them are aged between 18 and 34. Most of them will go back long before they have reached pension age, having paid tax and National Insurance in the meantime.
Immigrants are not a problem but an opportunity. They are not a liability but an asset.
CHAIRMAN EUROPEAN MULTICULTURAL FOUNDATION, LONDON SE1
Sir: Congratulations on your excellent and independent coverage on immigration.
I live in the small, beautiful burgh of Queensferry, ten miles north of Edinburgh. It takes me no more than a few seconds from my front door to bump into a Czech, a Hungarian, a Pole, a Latvian, a Lithuanian, a Bosnian, an Italian, an Indian, a Pakistani - oh, and an Australian and an Englishman. And you know what? They're all Scots, living in and giving so much to their community. We're open for business. Come and join us.
SOUTH QUEENSFERRY, EDINBURGH
Money-making puts our culture in peril
Sir: Reading the various comments in The Independent, I see that almost everything said about the influx is about money and economics.
I happen to live with a partner who is himself an immigrant from the USA. Yet we find amongst all our friends, all of whom would be referred to as "liberal centre-left" and intelligent, a deep unease about unlimited immigration.
Why? Because these are tiny islands with severe housing problems even for native-born British. Because of our long history and traditions, our culture, our music (I do not mean pop and rock), our art, our religious tradition, our poetry, what we always felt was quintessentially English, just as there is something quintessentially Italian or French or Dutch.
To feel this is now being lost, to feel alarmed about it, is, it seems, racist, bigoted. What matters is money-making, a successful economy, to make us the envy of the world. What, one wonders, would Blake make of the new Albion?
The use of a virus
Sir: Ian Leslie (letter, 22 August), challenging the proposition that religion must be useful because it has survived, notes the success of the influenza virus while doubting its utility. I may not be able to help him on religion, however the influenza virus has been useful as a vehicle for the continuity of its line of genetic material, the persistence of which is due to the virus's repeated successful exploitation of the cells of host organisms.
Sir: Chris Newell (letter, 23 August) should bear in mind Karl Popper's distinction between scientific hypotheses - "the earth is flat" - which can be falsified, and others which cannot - "kindness is a virtue". No scientific proposition is ever more than a hypothesis. That's how science develops. Robert Winston is absolutely right to allow for other categories of statement - about religion, god, or whatever - as these are and always have been essential to human thinking and behaviour.
DR I B YAUGHAN
Sir: Considering your justified concern for the environment, I was surprised to see your feature on the 10 best Australian wines (23 August). While Europe continues to produce an abundance of first-class wines would it not be more ecologically aware to buy locally?
Sir: It constitutes a wide to call Samuel Beckett "a rather weak bowler" (Extra, 23 August). Young Beckett was considered quite talented at the art of right-arm off-breaks, his school magazine describing him as "a dangerous bowler on his day". Wisden refers to the Dublin University matches against Northamptonshire in 1925 and 1926, when Beckett "conceded 64 runs without taking a wicket". However, in the first match he bowled eight overs for only 17 runs; he was "clearly under-used", the verdict of authorised biographer James Knowlson. Then again, perhaps the future Noble prize-winner was ball-tampering with Guinness.
REVD KIM FABRICIUS
Sir: Turner Broadcasting will edit scenes of smoking and other "inappropriate" behaviour from Tom and Jerry and other cartoons broadcast on its network (report, 22 August). I propose that Postman Pat be immediately banned, as he frequently has an unrestrained cat in his van. My brother, now in his twenties, was an avid Tom and Jerry viewer. He is a fervent anti-smoker, and to my knowledge has never dropped an anvil on anyone's head or slammed the lid shut on a piano player's fingers.
Sir: I would have thought that with his great popularity in Britain, and the fact that he once wrote a column in The Independent, Bill Bryson would rank among the great Iowans. He said, "I come from Des Moines [Iowa], somebody had to."
ST ALBANS, HERTFORDSHIRE
Sir: Dr Michael Johnson is right: the elongation of "preventive" to "preventative" is unnecessary (letter, 19 August). Does he advocate "causive" and "argumentive"?
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