Letters: Lampedusa tragedy driven by population

These letters appear in the Wednesday 16th September edition of The Independent

Share

Italian divers have now recovered more bodies from the boat carrying African migrants off Lampedusa. The divers “unpacked a wall of people,” with corpses “so entwined, one with the other, they are difficult to pull out”.

Tens of thousands of migrants attempt the perilous crossing from North Africa to Sicily and other Italian islands each year, and accidents are common. What is the cause of this burgeoning human catastrophe?

According to the World Bank, since 1960, the population of Somalia has grown three-fold from 3 million to 9 million,  Ethiopia’s population has grown four-fold from 20 million to 80 million and in Kenya a massive five-fold increase has occurred, from 8 million to 40 million.

Such increases in population in the very poorest parts of the world drive famine and strife, which lead to desperate mass migration.

However, major charities have persistently refused to acknowledge the need to accompany their food-aid programmes with family planning initiatives. In taking this politically self-interested position these charities have actually fuelled the scale of the tragedies unfolding in the poorest parts of the world, including Africa.

Alan Stedall, Birmingham

 

Peter Popham (11 October) asks what is in Europe’s power to do to change the political and economic situation in places like Eritrea and Somalia and prevent another Lampedusa? And the answer is absolutely nothing, because the only thing that would stabilise those situations would be European “boots on the ground” for a very long time – and we no longer have either the boots or the will for that. The rest is just so much useless talk.

R S Foster, Sheffield

Child protection lost in the void

In your report (11 October) about yet another debacle in Haringey children’s services you refer to lack of communication between the various departments.    

In December 2008, following  the Baby P tragedy, a council meeting of the “Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership Board” was held at the Wood Green Civic Centre, and a small group of us activists for child protection in our chaotic borough attended as observers.

As we sat to one side, 28 representatives of the over-multiplied Haringey children’s agencies crowded around a huge rectangular structure formed out of 12 long trestle tables arranged in four rows of three. This structure was so wide that notes could not be passed from one side to the other but had to be frisbeed across or passed around in flurries of scattered documents.

It was so long that when the speakers at one end of the table were waffling about improving communication, those at the other end were shouting that they could not hear what was being said. It would have been side-splittingly funny, had the consequences of such anarchy not been so heartbreaking.

It was a long time ago but I found my notes on the meeting with very little difficulty. I just typed “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” into my computer search panel.

L Rivlin, London N10

Poor-quality teaching

On BBC radio news I heard a striking Manchester teacher declare: “We [teachers] deliver a quality product to our children.”

I worked as a teacher for 40 years and have recently retired from 10 years as governor of the local comprehensive, and know that the Manchester teacher’s comment was so partially true as to be rubbish. At my former comprehensive the best departments achieved over 60 per cent A-C grades for their GCSE pupils, delivering a quality product, but the worst languished at 30 per cent, letting down their pupils dreadfully.

At every school where I taught the same discrepancies existed. In the last, the best departments achieved 80 per cent A and A*, the worst about 50 per cent. Of course there will be a variety of results and the very best departments will always shine out, but in all schools that I have had experience of the discrepancies are too wide.

Two surgeons at Cornish hospitals have been suspended because the success rate of their operations was below par. It is much easier to measure teachers’ success rates than doctors’ and I suggest that the process of naming and suspending heads of poorly performing departments start forthwith.

Charles Noon, Cadeleigh, Devon

Not sexism, just sex

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown conflates sexism and sexuality (“Women are complicit in misogyny”, 14 October). Sexism, misogyny and misandry are unacceptable, but sexuality is hard-wired, though it may be modified by cultural, political, legal, and philosophical factors. 

As soon as you set yourself up as a judge of how consenting adults may express their sexuality you are on the road to repression. Whatever Yasmin might think of Fifty Shades of Grey, the phenomenon it has created has proved that many women refuse to be infantilised by censorship, and will decide for themselves what they want to read. Would she like to return us to the days of the Lady Chatterley case, when Mervyn Griffith-Jones famously said: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” 

I must stop now, I need to book tickets for the British Museum shunga exhibition. Joan Bakewell spoke very highly of it on Radio 4.

Nigel Scott, London N22

Will GM rice save lives, or money?

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary,  chooses his comments carefully in his support for genetically modified crops (interview, 14 October). He must know that the chief argument is not over whether they are safe to eat but whether they are safe to grow. 

He stresses the potential value of golden rice, without drawing attention to the fact that this is apparently the only example of a GM crop which is designed for the benefit of the consumer. The bulk of GM developments are for the benefit of the producers, under the guise of agricultural “efficiency”. 

There is a huge body of evidence to show that the safest, most efficient and sustainable approach to feeding the world is to encourage local independent farmers with disinterested scientific support to develop their own seed varieties. 

Sarah Thursfield, Llanymynech, Powys

I looked in vain in John Sauven’s article on GM rice (Voices, 15 October) for any evidence of risks to health, food security or wildlife. Mr Sauven makes light of the risks of vitamin A deficiency, which affects children’s immune systems and kills around two million every year in developing countries. It is also a major cause of blindness and diarrhoea. Boosting levels of vitamin A in rice appears to provide an obvious way of helping to combat this problem.

Two studies, both published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dismissed the claim that the amount of vitamin A in golden rice was too small to be of benefit. The second was published last year. It found that a bowl of cooked golden rice, between 100g and 150g, could provide 60 per cent of the recommended intake of vitamin A for young people.

Of course GM is not the only solution, and of course varied and adequate diets are needed. But this has not happened in many parts of the world. So why rule out another avenue for nutrition?

David Simmonds, Epping, Essex

The World Health Organisation  had a plan to end vitamin A deficiency by 2000, well before the advent of genetically modified “golden rice”. The programme of fortification and dietary diversification failed to reach its goal solely because of a lack of political will to supply the resources.

Owen Paterson’s belated hand-wringing over the fate of poor children with vitamin A deficiency conceals the complicity of governments in their fate. This failure is outrageous indeed, but it has a political cause and is not due to a lack of GM food.

The diets of poor children are also likely to be deficient in other micronutrients such as iron, and to be low in protein. Must they wait and suffer until rice has been genetically engineered to improve these traits before they can have an adequate diet? That does sound wicked to me.

Dr Sue Mayer, Litton, Derbyshire

 

Cashing in on Royal Mail

Courtesy of the government sell-off, Royal Mail shares are now being sold on the open market with investors making more than £300 profit each. Would Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Duncan Smith et al care to remind us how strongly they object to the “something for nothing” culture?

Peter Cave, London W1

 

Assuming the Queen continues to adorn UK postage stamps, will she be paid for display of her image? Or will she be treated as an advertiser? In either case we, the taxpayers, should be informed.

Lory R Rice, Milton Keynes

 

With Royal Mail privatisation, whose inspiring iconic visage might one day appear on our postage stamps: that of George Osborne? Rupert Murdoch? Mickey Mouse?

R A Soar, London N1

University market

Professor Hamilton (report, 9 October) is right that there is no “market” in the sense of different prices for different qualities of education. A market based on cost would simply exclude almost everybody – including the average Conservative voter’s family – from being able to afford his prices. A flooded market should force prices down, but of course Oxford isn’t part of a market with other, newer universities. It is in a market with Cambridge, which means he could charge what he liked and still fill the place with the undeserving rich.

Clive Tiney, York

Fair crowd

Ian Herbert (15 October) notes that the Wales football team had a crowd of only 11,250 for their match against Macedonia last Friday. But let’s put that in perspective. If you allow for the relative populations of the two countries, Wales’s crowd was bigger than was England’s for their match at Wembley the same night.

Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury

All in it together

Alex Taylor’s letter (15 October) was right in every respect. However, it was aimed at too narrow a target. If, as he rightly says, the middle classes are suffering, and their offspring destined to suffer even more, what hope is there for those who are at the bottom of our class system?

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born