World Population: Numbers Matter | Letters

“Don’t panic about the birth of Baby 8 Billion,” says Danny Dorling (Commentary). Panic, no, but think more carefully, yes. It’s good that Dorling is focusing on consumption as a major driver of resource depletion and carbon pollution. But he is wrong to dismiss population growth as unimportant. The average consumption per person multiplied by more people gives you a bigger result. It’s not “snake oil for the math illiterate”, it’s math.

Uncertainty is what lies behind the average consumption per person, and that’s where inequality comes in.

The other issue he overlooks is the will of the people carrying the babies. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that half of all pregnancies in the world today are unplanned. Unplanned is not the same as unwanted, but more than half of these pregnancies end in abortion. Education and access to sexual and reproductive health services are crucial for women to take charge of their own bodies and their own lives.

Dorling is right not to panic about aging populations: it is something we can manage, with good will, humanity, migration and foresight. He is also right to celebrate individuals with us now. But let’s not make it harder to fight climate change and biodiversity loss by pretending numbers don’t matter.
Rosalind Dean

Bring back the Lords Reform Bill

Why reinvent the wheel? Why start from scratch, as Keir Starmer seems to suggest (“Starmer ‘will abolish Lords to restore faith in politics'”, News). The Coalition Government’s Lords Reform Bill won a record majority of 338 for its second reading in July 2012, backed by substantial majorities of MPs from all parties.

However, progress on the bill was stalled in 2012 by an unholy alliance between the Labor leadership and reactionary Tory rebels. Were it not for these silly board games, by 2022 we would have had a senate with democratic legitimacy, representing the nations and regions of the UK. Starmer apparently favors even more “consultation.” It looks like an even more delaying tactic.

As an active participant in all of the cross-party consensus building over the past two decades, I suggest that it would be more appropriate to reintroduce the 2012 bill for detailed parliamentary scrutiny. Decision rather than delay is more likely to restore confidence in politics.
Paul TylerLiberal Democrat Critic for Political and Constitutional Reform 2005-2021
Sheepscombe, Stroud

Give Camilla a break

I don’t see that what Camilla chooses to do with her private life, what practices she chooses to institute, what she believes in, has anything to do with anyone else (“Indian Gurus and Therapies holistic: so much for ‘ down to earth ‘ Camilla”, Comment). I certainly don’t think they should become the focus of criticism or debate. In years past, Charles has been criticized for his “holistic” beliefs and organic ideas, most of which are now mainstream, and any conscious person is committed to ecological ideals. Leave Camille alone!
Kate King
Tiddington, Stratford-upon-Avon

Self-centered? Not this retiree

Referring to “the latest announcements, as boring as they are for all sections of the electorate except pensioners…”, Isabel Hardman lumps all pensioners together (“This sullen silence among MPs speaks volumes. They have reconciled with defeat”, Commentary). Many retirees look beyond personal financial interest and care about vital issues such as climate change, workers’ compensation and health services. We want this appalling government out of office as much as any other section of society.
Jane Gifford
Tantobie, Stanley, County Durham

The right word

Your report on efforts to bring back obsolete dialect words reminded me of an argument when I was a young deputy editor at Log, in Newcastle upon Tyne (“From blatherskite to yewcums, the battle is on to save Britain’s endangered words”, News). The deputy editor, a Londoner, tried to dismiss a headline on an investigative report, written by a Geordie deputy editor: ‘Spelk killed man in lumberyard’. The sous chef crumpled up the title and threw it on the table saying, “Speak? You can’t use it – it’s not an English word. The night editor overheard and shouted: ‘Let it rest, Mr Cotsford, everyone in our traffic area from Berwick-on-Tweed to Stockton-on-Tees will know it’s a splinter. But a shard with a capital S will not fit in 24 points on a single column.
Peter Crookston
London W11

Congested Cambridge

Why would the Greater Cambridge Partnership, of which I am chairman, consider a congestion charge during a cost of living crisis in the UK’s most unequal city (“Two wheels good… town v gown split over Cambridge car charge”, News)? We want to give low-income people more opportunities to work and be educated. The £5 daily charge would not come into effect for another five years, and not until alternatives were in place. The work of setting up these alternative options would begin as early as this time next year.

We are already seeing congestion return to pre-pandemic levels and with further growth we expect 20,000 more daily car trips if we do nothing. We suffer the consequences of a fragile bus network where services are cut at short notice because operators cannot operate them on a commercial basis. The outlook is not good, with all the consequences for the environment and the quality of life in a city suffocated by transport poverty.

The main driver of our support for the proposals is that they would allow us to take bus transport out of the region from private operators and bring it back into the ownership and control of local authorities, where we believe it belongs.

It is therefore not a city dress. It’s about the future of public transport, ending transport poverty and making our region’s opportunities available to all.
Elisa Meschini

Internet 0, Pen 1

We’re at least 15 years into the smartphone era and most people can cope with the technology. May I therefore congratulate the Observer for the 2022 World Cup wall chart. Ten matches and all the stats are at your fingertips, but filling in the match results manually with my humble Biro gives me a ridiculous chill.
David Newton
Alness, Ross and Cromarty

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