Bill Butterworth 14 October 15
There is a problem with the political rhetoric which has come out of the party conferences and continues to smoulder in the background of the electorate gossip. Nobody wants to appear heartless but many, maybe most, do want some sort of control. The result is a circular discussion with no particular policy or consensus emerging except that people are a bit worried about it all and nothing is done. Promises, promises.
The truth is that there is a simple argument which is unavoidable. It is one of arithmetic. Last year the UK had a net immigration rate of 330,000 which government admits to. (Heaven knows what the real figure is.) We built 120,000 houses and we have no apparent increase in services. The NHS is already clearly under great pressure.
Frankly, the UK is acting like a bunch of amateurs. It is quite simple. There is only a finite amount of services in the pot. It is not really about the colour of skin, nor about the change of culture, nor of the terrorist threat. It is more fundamentally unsophisticated than that. It is about numbers. If we either choose to allow more immigrants in, or try but cannot stop net immigration rising, even if it is kept at only its present level, there will be significant social problems and a general fall in the standard of living. Most of the electorate is already conscious that there are not enough doctors, nurses, schools etc to go round. George Osborne wants, quite rightly, to balance the books (before we become another Greece).
It is quite simple. Stop the numbers rising or spread the resources thinner.
What has this to do with sustainability?
Well, most of the population numbers question comes down to energy and food production. People consume energy and most of the energy we consume globally comes from hydrocarbon fuels. When we burn them, we get the greenhouse gas Carbon dioxide and global warming. Strange as it may seem, there is a possible saving grace in that, but on one condition and that is that we manage it right. (Which we don’t show much sign of so far.) That saving grace is the Carbon dioxide because plants with green leaves take water in through their roots and Carbon dioxide through the small holes (called “stomata”) in their leaves to make sugars and then build into the plant itself – wheat, for example, which we can eat, So more food could come from more Carbon dioxide. To achieve this, however, we need more green leaves than we have at present. That means stop building on good farm land and reclaim the deserts. Secondly, we need to stop making Nitrogen fertilisers because the energy cost of 1 tonne of Nitrogen nutrient in a manufactured fertiliser is 21,000 kWh. (Yes, that is right 21,000 kilowatt hours and that is a modern USA factory.) The fertiliser we need could come from municipal and industrial wastes. (It has been done successfully and safely; see my book “Reversing global warming for profit” published by MX Publishing.)