While I agree with all the reasons Sonia Sodha gives for falling birth rates in some countries (“The world needs babies. So we’d better rethink what we expect from mothers”, Comment), she misses one huge and increasing reason. Younger couples are making the conscious decision not to bring children into a world that they foresee may be devastated by the climate crisis unfolding around us.
Unless the world’s leaders truly commit to massive and lasting changes to how we create and use energy, young people will understandably not wish to risk condemning the next generation to lives of potential hunger, escalating natural disasters and enforced population resettlement, with the bitter conflicts these will cause.
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire
Sonia Sodha writes: “If we want more people to want more children…” Those of us who understand the connection between overpopulation and climate change see any fall in the western birth rate as a chink of hope. Reducing the number of consumers of the Earth’s resources is only one step on the path to saving the human race, but without it there is no chance.
Keeping the ants at bay
I was saddened but not surprised to read Catherine Bennett’s article about the second-homing of Cornwall (“Rise up, Cornwall, against London’s SUV drivers lusting for a second home”, Comment). It was beginning when I lived in Cornwall 35 years ago. Many villages were starting to suffer. Cottages were closed up for most of the year; owners came down for a few weeks in summer, usually bringing most of their own provisions, so not needing to use the village shop, many of which closed. Next to go was often the village school (fewer young families), the local bus service (not enough passengers) and other facilities essential to the beleaguered villagers.
It would be a reasonable idea to charge second-homers double or even triple council tax. It might deter them a bit and would at least ensure that their money was helping to fund local amenities. Obviously, the knowledge that the Cornish don’t really want these “emmets” (ants), as they are known, has done little to deter them, but at least a forced contribution to the economy might help to offset the impact.
The evils of ‘fire and rehire’
Many thanks for again highlighting the iniquitous practice of “fire and rehire” (“Call to outlaw ‘dirty tactic’ of fire and rehire gets public backing”, News). This is one of those tangible issues that Labour should surely have prioritised in an election campaign where, inexplicably, vast swaths of the electorate claimed not to know what Labour stood for.
Here in the West Midlands, we have the case of the Heartlands hospital porters, pushed by threats of “fire and rehire” and dismissal without the customary three months’ notice into new rotas, involving considerable disruption to their finances, mental health and family lives. This is one of the wealthiest trusts in the country, with no financial necessity to treat low-paid NHS workers in this way. Nor does patient care benefit, as porters who have gained experience in specific departments over many years find themselves having to adjust to unfamiliar tasks.
Sadness at C of E revisionism
Dismay and sadness were just a couple of the emotions I felt when reading the account of the Church of England plan to review thousands of monuments in churches and cathedrals that contain historical references to slavery and colonialism (“C of E reviews removal of colonial link monuments”, News). Faced with dwindling numbers, soaring maintenance bills and an ageing church population, exactly who is going to have the time, energy and money to do this?
Looking back on history is complicated and sometimes it is good to remind ourselves how far we have come. If all evidence is obliterated, this may prove difficult for future generations to comprehend. The C of E shouldn’t worry too much about this review as in a few years’ time quite a few of the buildings will be closed and locked.
Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset
We need science and arts
Barbara Ellen spells out very well the hidden agenda of the government to bring about cuts to arts education (“How creative of the Tories to invent a culture war to disguise arts cuts”, Comment). The insidious method of pitching arts against science as a means of cutting expenditure does not hold intellectual power and will not fool any academic. Both are essential to the identity and lifeblood of the nation, let alone the economic benefit the arts generate. This is not and has never been a culture war.
Social democracy on the up
Although the last decade may not have been kind to some social democratic parties, there are signs of a recent change (“It’s not just in Britain – across Europe, social democracy is losing its way”, Comment). The US president, Joe Biden, has adopted radical social policies on health and the environment, has spent public money on infrastructure and introduced progressive taxation policies. The article acknowledged that across Europe such policies are popular with the public, as shown by Welsh Labour’s latest election victory. Mark Drakeford’s excellent handling of the Covid crisis was helped by the NHS being in public hands and through a close working relationship with trade unions that made difficult decisions easier to implement in the workplace.
Wales was the first UK nation to provide free bus passes to the over-60s and abolished charges for prescriptions and hospital parking. The rail franchise is publicly owned and the water company is not for profit. As the country recovers from the pandemic and faces the unfolding economic and social disaster of Brexit, such socialist policies become more relevant. I hope the UK Labour party can look ahead by considering these policies and communicate them effectively to the public at the next election.
And so to Jed
Further to Chandra Emmanuel’s letter (“Ted Hastings is right”), I too noticed Hastings’s timely comment in the final episode of Line of Duty – “What’s happened to us? When did we stop caring about honesty and integrity?” – and wonder whether writer Jed Mercurio might wish to grant AC-12 a period of time out of the spotlight to recharge their batteries and, in the meantime, write a fantasy drama in which corruption within the government is investigated and leads to the prosecution of guilty parties. I imagine it would be every bit as much of a cliffhanger as Line of Duty.