Letters: Stop panicking about population worries


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The Independent Online

As an economist I find the Royal Society Report "People and the Planet" very depressing reading (report, 26 April). The thrust of the report is that with increasing population and scarce resources we must cut back our consumption and reduce the population. However the report is wrong on both counts.

Although population growth recently has been exponentially adding a billion people every 15 years, those who are conversant with the mathematics of exponential curves will know that they all follow a fast-escalating shape that will flatten out and even fall. The rate of growth is slowing markedly and will level off at 8 to 9 billion by 2050 and decline thereafter. This is a completely manageable number.

On resources, massive oil finds off the coasts of Greenland and Brazil – both greater than all the reserves in Saudi Arabia – together with the huge shale-gas finds in the US and in Europe will ensure the world has plenty of energy for the next two centuries.

Terri Jackson

Bangor, Northern Ireland

In Steve Connor's item on the Royal Society's report on consumption and population he remarks that "expanding the availability of contraceptives to the poorest people in the world will not solve... the most difficult problems".

Agreed, but population limitation is an essential part of any project to relieve the pressure of humanity on the world and has been too little discussed. Article after article appears discussing how we are to feed the 9bn who will be on the earth in 2050, without any mention of the possibility of an attempt to keep to a lower number. The impression has long been given that it is not quite nice to discuss population, and politicians and media have alike very often fudged discussion.

In fact, a determination to reduce reproduction has succeeded in countries such as Taiwan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Tunisia, Brazil and Mexico, using entirely non-coercive methods. It is also true that population growth is not confined to developing countries, but exists in developed, consuming countries also, especially the US and UK.

Reduction should not be difficult given sufficient funds and political will: indeed there is actually an unfulfilled demand for family planning. Two hundred and ten million women (UN Population Fund) who wish to use family planning are denied it for one reason or another. Over 40 per cent of all pregnancies are unintentional, and this results in about 40m abortions annually, of which 20m are unsafe, with a correspondingly high toll in deaths and permanent disability (WHO).

Roger Plenty

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Is Baldrick behind cunning plan for Olympic security?

Even by Baldrick's standards of intellectual retardation, the cunning plan to deter kamikaze terrorists by threatening to shoot their planes down in densely populated areas of London just about scrapes the barrel. And the tax payer is picking up a £1bn bill for this idiocy.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

I don't think Mark Steel (2 May) went far enough with his suggestions. Could I suggest all running events take place on the baggage carousels, with strategically placed suitcases as suitable replacements for the hurdles? The marathon could take place on the escalators.

David R Pollard

Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire

The initial London Olympic bid made much of the issue of sustainability. On the food agenda, there was much hoo-ha about using local, seasonal, organic, free range, etc in order to showcase how well this country can perform in the good food arena.

We are among a gang of UK organic farmers and food producers who were encouraged to bid for supply contracts, through the Organic Trade Board. We obviously all performed really, really badly at several presentations to various multinational businesses contracted to look after the million-pound contract (to give an idea of scale, they were looking for 5,000 tonnes of protein alone).

At the end of last year we all got letters saying we had not been selected to supply, apart from one small producer of UK organic ciabattas and breads. We were told during the presentations that small volumes were no problem, pricing was not an issue, location, don't worry about it: "We just want to showcase the best of British."

We may all have been turned down because we are not the "best of British", but overall the taste lingers that in the end dealing with small, environmentally friendly, sustainable artisans like us and our fellow producers was a complete pain in the backside logistically, and it's much easier to deal with huge business.

Tim Finney

Eastbrook Farm Organic Meats

Helen Browning

The Royal Oak


The queues at Heathrow are only a prelude to other gold medal queues. The ticketing for the Olympics are not for the day but for a session, which means that between each session 80,000 people will need to exit the stadium while at the same time 80,000 people will be trying to get in. Looks like the Olympics might knock Heathrow into silver position!

Steve Horsfield

Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Electoral reform is long overdue

Newspapers often encourage their readers on polling day to use their vote, whether in general or in support of particular candidates. You chose instead to follow the lead of some politicians who in the days leading up to 3 May focused on the risk that some candidates, or their supporters, might seek to exploit aspects of our electoral system through fraud (report, 3 May).

Elections staff and the police work hard to prevent fraud. The police investigate electoral fraud because it can involve serious criminal offences. The Electoral Commission monitors and reports on how allegations are dealt with.

Far from putting "little or no pressure" to tighten the voting system, the Commission first called in 2003 for the system of household registration to be replaced with individual electoral registration. In 2006, the House of Lords twice amended an elections bill because it failed to implement this recommendation: that legislation did eventually tighten the rules for postal voting so that all postal votes must be accompanied by the voter's signature and date of birth, which must match those on the original application.

In 2009 the last government finally legislated to introduce individual electoral registration, and the current government has announced it will speed up the timetable. Both acknowledged the continuing pressure from the Electoral Commission to make this change.

Following the 2010 General Election we said the government should review the case for requiring voter ID in polling stations. The government has made no progress on this since then.

Peter Wardle

Chief Executive, Electoral Commission, London EC1

Fatal flaws that undermine Ofsted

Just having retired after nearly 30 years of headship I have come to a few conclusions regarding Ofsted (Education, 26 April). Headship is hard and stressful; it demands long hours and a whole range of skills. It can also be hugely rewarding. A number of heads cannot last the course and look for a way out. The escape route many take is to become Ofsted inspectors. So we have the senseless situation where those who couldn't survive being a head are going in and inspecting those who choose to stay on to try to make a difference.

It would be far more honest if inspectors who judged a school to be unsatisfactory and needing improvement were then compelled to stay and work at that school for at least six months or until that improvement had been made. After all, if the judgement is made by experts then surely those experts are exactly the people needed to put the situation right?

I suspect that grades would improve dramatically if this regime were introduced and people who had escaped from schools to take the Ofsted shilling were suddenly faced with the day-to-day reality of school life again.

As a head of my own school and governor at two others I have been through at least 12 inspections. These schools have all been judged good, so this is not a communication from an embittered head driven out by a failing grade. Rather, it is a note of despair about the money that Ofsted costs, the harm that it can do and the bolthole it provides for people who should still be working in schools.

David Saunders

Langford, Bedfordshire

Murdoch's 'success'

Rupert Murdoch's apologists in these pages (letters, 3 May) and on the Commons' committee, rely on the undoubted fact of the mogul's long history of commercial success to conclude that he must therefore not be an unfit person to run such an enterprise. This is the spurious logic that could be used to argue that Rachman was a good landlord.

Vaughan Thomas

Usk, Gwent

Something about Harry

What is it with James Lawton's love-in with Harry Redknapp? For three successive days we've been subjected to his tedious rants on the missed opportunity by the Football Association around Redknapp's non-appointment as England manager. On 1 May we were told "his treatment has been nothing short of abysmal".

In his recent court case Redknapp claimed to "write like a two-year-old" and said he couldn't spell or "even fill a team sheet in." If true, is this the man we want representing the country on a global stage?

Steve King

Washington, Tyne and Wear

A day before the fuss over the way new England manager Roy Hodgson pronounces his "R"s, you ran an article by Fulham fan Michael McCarthy headed "Don't do it, Woy – it isn't worth it". Where The Independent leads, The Sun follows?

Clive Goozee


Cameron's charm

"Now that the Prime Minister's lost his charm, what's left?" (Matthew Norman, 2 May). Unless that's a typo and Mr Cameron's cleaning lady has just retired, I'm afraid I don't understand the question.

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire

Self speak

Will Self's Opinion was excellent ("London thinks only of itself", 28 April). But have a heart Will! I know plain English can be boring, but dirigisme, desuetude, entrepot, satrapies, echt, fanfaronade, all in one short article – quite put me off my breakfast.

Austen Moore


Obscure gem?

"After that she [Chloë Sevigny] was Kate Beckinsale's plainer 'best friend' in Walt Whitman's tale of Ivy League graduates, The Last Days of Disco" (Independent Magazine, 28 April). Now that's a film we'd all love to see, rather than Whit Stillman's film of the same name.

Andrew Belsey

Whitstable, Kent


I don't think "I'ink" for "I think" and "I sh'ink" for "I should think" are necessarily posh (letters, 1 & 2 May). One of the worst culprits is Ken Livingstone – is he posh?

Francis Kirkham

Crediton, Devon