In order to soothe their rages, the mentally ill were once encouraged to weave baskets or daub canvases with crapulent depictions of their crazy dreams, but now, whether it is owing to a change in psychiatric theory or a lack of art-and-craft materials, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of loons writing letters to the newspapers, an example of which follows:
Sir: Thirty years ago the world population stood at 3 billion. Today the poor benighted planet accommodates 6.47 billion people - and all of us exhaling CO2 (not to mention hot air).
Leaving aside questions of the amount of CO2 produced in the course of manufacturing and selling the vast numbers of ridiculous products which we are told are now essential to our lives, what is the carbon emissions impact of 6.47 billion people merely breathing in and out, and what (if anything) can or should we do about that?LEANDRA BRIGGS
BRIGHTWELL-CUM-SOTWELL, OXFORDSHIRE(Leandra Briggs, “Letters”, The Independent, 2nd November 2005.)
In an attempt to answer Ms Briggs’ last and most thought-provoking question, I suppose our very own Labour Government could ban breathing in public places, but, though some of its ministers might find the policy an exciting one, it would be hard to enforce, as would a breathe-slowly policy. Wholly impracticable would be a No-Breathing Friday, an impracticability which is to be regretted, because it would cut British emissions by 14.3 percent. Generally felt to be inhumane would be a cull-of-the-population policy, though, with a discriminating eye, the Labour Government would be able thereby to increase its share of the vote as well as reduce human carbon dioxide emissions, a “double-spanker” in Labourite ministerial terms. We could, of course, put pressure on those fat greedy Americans to reduce their lung-capacities, but we would first need to overcome that entrenched American prejudice that sees a lungful of air as fundamental to their way of life.
Now, if we cannot yet find a practicable and humane way to stop people breathing, then we’ll need to stop them breeding. This will at least hold emissions in check. And if we are to tackle this problem in earnest, we will need to implement a world-wide policy; for the majority of these billions of earth-damaging humans live and breathe in the Third and Second Worlds. In the Second World, the Chinese Government has already taken the lead by restricting births to one child per couple. Why not implement a similar policy in the Third World, enforced by the United Nations? Non-governmental organisations could also help, encouraging students in the First World to take gap-years in the Third World, where they might build cold showers in places such as Namibia, Sierra Leone or Sunderland.
If Ms Briggs is not seeking policies, however, but rather imploring us to make individual efforts of conscience, then perhaps she could set us an example and stop breathing. The gesture would be appreciated.