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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK

Global population: numbers do matter

A teeming Juhu beach, Mumbai, India.
A teeming Juhu beach, Mumbai, India. Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool/AP

“Don’t panic about the birth of Baby 8 Billion,” says Danny Dorling (Comment). Panic, no, but reflect more carefully, yes. It is good that Dorling focuses on consumption as a major driver of resource depletion and carbon pollution. But he is wrong to dismiss population growth as unimportant. Average consumption per person multiplied by a bigger number of people gives you a bigger result. This is not “snake oil to the mathematically illiterate”, it is mathematics.

The uncertainty is what lies behind average consumption per person, which is where inequality comes in.

The other issue he neglects is the wishes of the people who bear the babies. The United Nation 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 healthcare services are crucial for women to take charge of their own bodies and their own lives.

Dorling is right not to panic about ageing populations: this is something that we can manage, with goodwill, humanity, migration and foresight. He is also right to celebrate the individuals with us now. But let us not make it harder to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss by claiming numbers do not matter.
Rosalind Dean

Bring back Lords reform bill

Why reinvent the wheel? Why start from scratch, as Keir Starmer seems to suggest (“Starmer ‘will abolish Lords to restore trust in politics’”, News). The coalition government’s Lords reform bill was given a record 338 majority for its second reading in July 2012, backed by substantial majorities of MPs in all parties.

However, the bill’s progress was blocked in 2012 by an unholy alliance between the Labour leadership and Conservative reactionary rebels. In the absence of these silly party games, by 2022 we would have had a senate with democratic legitimacy, representing the nations and regions of the UK. Starmer apparently favours yet more “consultation”. This looks like yet more delaying tactics.

As an active participant in all the cross-party consensus-building of the last two decades, I suggest it would more appropriate to reintroduce the 2012 bill for detailed parliamentary scrutiny. Decision rather than delay is more likely to restore trust in politics.
Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat spokesperson 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, are anything to do with anyone else (“Indian gurus and holistic therapies: so much for ‘down to earth’ Camilla”, Comment). I certainly don’t think they should become a focus of criticism or debate. In years gone by, Charles was criticised for his “holistic” beliefs and organic ideas, most of which are now mainstream, and anyone with any awareness is committed to ecological ideals. Leave Camilla alone!
Kate King
Tiddington, Stratford-upon-Avon

Selfish? Not this pensioner

In saying “the latest announcements, annoying as they are to every section of the electorate bar pensioners…”, Isabel Hardman lumps all pensioners together (“This sullen silence among MPs speaks volumes. They are reconciled to defeat”, Comment). Many pensioners look beyond narrow financial self interest and care about vital issues such as climate change, workers’ pay and the health service. We wish this appalling government was out of office as much as any other section of society.
Jane Gifford
Tantobie, Stanley, Co Durham

The mot juste

Your report about efforts being made to bring back dialect words that have fallen out of everyday use reminded me of a dispute when I was a young sub-editor on the Journal, in Newcastle upon Tyne (“From blatherskite to yewcums, the battle is on to save Britain’s endangered words”, News). The chief sub-editor, a Londoner, tried to reject a headline on a report of an inquest, written by a Geordie sub-editor: “Spelk killed man in timber yard.” The chief sub crumpled up the headline and threw it across the table, saying “Spelk? You can’t use that – it’s not a word in the English language.” The night editor overheard and called out: “Let it stand, Mr Cotsford, everyone in our circulation area, from Berwick-on-Tweed to Stockton-on-Tees will know that it’s a splinter. But splinter with a capital S will not fit in 24 point across a single column.”
Peter Crookston
London W11

Congested Cambridge

Why would the Greater Cambridge Partnership, of which I am chair, consider a congestion charge during a cost of living crisis in the most unequal city in the UK (“Two wheels good… town v gown divide over Cambridge car charge”, News)? We want to give more opportunities to those on low incomes to work and be educated. The daily £5 charge would not come in for five years, and not until alternatives have been put in place. The work to put those alternative options in place would start as soon as this time next year.

We already see congestion returning to pre-pandemic levels and, with further growth, expect 20,000 additional daily car journeys if we do nothing. We’re experiencing the consequences of a fragile bus network where services are cut at short notice because operators cannot run them on a commercial basis. The outlook is not good, with all the consequences for the environment and quality of life in a city choked by transport poverty.

The major driver behind our support for the proposals is that they would enable us to take bus transport in the region away from private operators and back into local authority ownership and control, which is where we believe it belongs.

So this isn’t about town v gown. It’s about the future of public transport, the eradication of transport poverty, and making our region’s opportunities available to everyone.
Elisa Meschini

Internet 0, Biro 1

We’re at least 15 years into the age of the smartphone and most folk can cope with the technology. Can I therefore commend the Observer for the 2022 World Cup wallchart. Ten matches in and all the stats are at my fingertips, but filling the match results in manually with my humble Biro gives me a ridiculous thrill.
David Newton
Alness, Ross and Cromarty

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