In the three months since I wrote my last article, there is little to report on the proposed Tesco development at the former B&Q site; unitary local government has taken a step further backwards; and many commentators are up in arms with the Met Office, whose promise of a barbecue summer didn't materialise for most of the country: "What a waste of public money! Unaccountable quangos! Cut their funding at once!" How very democratic!
But what the Met Office actually said was, "Odds on for a barbecue summer." Have none of these commentators ever been to the races? How much fun would it be to see them remonstrating with their bookmaker because the odds-on favourite which they had backed had not actually won the race! But I suspect the said bookmaker could refute their misguided protestations far more eloquently than I could.
However, I am pleased to report hearing from a new correspondent, who points out:
"Unfortunately, there is only one option open to us to save the planet that will guarantee that we use less energy, and that is birth control." The logic certainly seems straightforward enough, even if some readers may find the suggestion unpalatable: exponential population growth is fundamentally unsustainable and must reach a limit sooner or later, and given that each generation is bigger and uses more resources than all preceding generations put together,
I suggest we should assume that it will be sooner.
But birth control alone cannot provide an answer to the urgent problem of climate change. For if we wanted to use birth control to halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, rather than doubling them as we otherwise will, then we might reasonably expect to have to halve the population in the next forty years, all other things being equal. But compared with our life-span, this suggests no new births at all between now and then, by which time there will be very few women of child-bearing age, and our present civilisation will pretty much come to an end. We need to act much more quickly than simple birth control will allow, yet it is difficult to see what sort of modification we might contrive that would be both effective and acceptable. If natural wastage is too slow, perhaps another natural solution such as a virulent pandemic is needed to provide a practical way forward. Meanwhile, back at the racecourse...
"So here we are at the Save The Species Handicap, where the going is expected to be heavy on a course which has consistently lacked proper stewardship and has become rather dilapidated. They're under starter's orders, and they're off. Straight into the lead goes Spirit of Free Enterprise, but he stumbles at the first hurdle and causes Light Touch Regulation to collide with Credit Crunch putting them both out of the race, together with the joint favourites Laissez-Faire and Status Quo who plainly didn't see what was in front of them. One has to question yet again whether such crowded fields are good for the sport. Coming into the next turn the rank outsiders, Climate Mitigation and Adaptation, are looking increasingly lame, but meanwhile moving steadily up through the field come the four horses from the Apocalypse stables - it's Pestilence (out of Conquest) followed by War, Famine and Death..."
Which horse would you favour? And would you put money on it?
Mike Brain (firstname.lastname@example.org)