Overpopulation is a threat that must be faced - Readers' Letters

At the present time we are facing two global problems – the Covid pandemic and the threat of climate disaster. They seem to be unrelated, but in fact their arrival together points to their common source in human overpopulation.

Each year hundreds of millions are added to the total human population. In 1960 that total was 3,000 million; now the total is 7,900 million (UN figures). The rate of growth is relentless and it is placing huge strain on the planet we all share, Earth.

Overpopulation is the source of pandemics for two reasons. First, it puts increasing pressure on other species. Other species are stressed by encroaching humans and then the viruses to which they are prone make the jump into human populations. Second, transmission of such viruses is facilitated by high population density. When people are living in huge cities with millions of inhabitants, viruses can spread like wildfire. We have seen during the Covid pandemic how a virus which probably originated in Wuhan, China, quickly infected the whole world.

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Overpopulation is a major factor in the threat of climate disaster. The industrial development of the whole world has been powered by fossil fuels, first coal and gas, and then oil. But that development has come at a huge cost in terms of CO2 emissions and damage to the planet's climate system.

There is much resistance to the idea that overpopulation is a major issue. Even people who accept that planet Earth cannot sustain endless growth of commerce and industry, balk at the idea that the present rate of population growth is likewise unsustainable.

Let us hope that COP 26 does not shy away from uncomfortable topics such as population. The facts of our situation are grim, but if we turn a blind eye to them, they will only get worse. We need to face the facts and devise our policies within that framework. If not, then we are merely dumping our problems onto future generations, however few those generations may be.

Les Reid, Edinburgh

Fishing forgotten

Have both the British and Scottish goverments totally abandoned the Scottish fishing industry and our coastal communities post-Brexit? The industry was again betrayed as apart of the negotiated settlement.

For the second time the fishing industry was made a pawn in negotiations and has been left in an extremely vulnerable situation with our vessels still facing unruly behaviour from our European fishing neighbours.

Our fishing fleets are facing hard practical problems and a feeling of betrayal is felt strongly throughout the industry.

Many onshore jobs will be affected by this current situation and the knock-on economic impact on our coastal communities should not be underestimated.

There seems to a feeling within the industry that politicians do not understand the real implications if the current situation persists. Hopefully some politician will grasp the nettle.

DG McIntyre, Edinburgh

Holding pens

The majority of drug deaths are primarily due to heroin, which is highly addictive. For several years many have been pressing for the possession of heroin to be decriminalised, so that addicts can be treated as patients, rather than being imprisoned as criminals; this is not the same as legalising drugs – dealers should be prosecuted.

This is a problem for the whole of the UK, which has one of the largest prison populations in Europe, with the highest rate being in Scotland. Many prisoners are there for drug-related offences and as one recovering addict is reported to have said – prison is a holding pen for the NHS. In addition almost a quarter of prisoners are on remand awaiting trial, so prisons are also holding pens for the legal system.

Perhaps the two professions involved need to review their responsibility for this situation.

Dr David Hannay. Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway

Drugs disgrace

It is a fact that Scotland recorded 1,339 drugs deaths last year – a figure three-and-a-half times higher than in England and Wales. How did that happen?

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In the mid-nineties drug deaths were 267. When the SNP came to power there were 445 deaths, with 352 rehab beds available. By 2014, the year of the independence referendum, drugs deaths numbers were half of today's total. Ten years of the nationalist administration resulted in 70 rehab beds and over 1,000 deaths. The trajectory is clear and yet no one in the SNP administration was concerned enough to demand a change in policy.

Many of those dying now have spent years fobbed off on methodone, with treatment never an option. Other younger addicts may die because of experimenting with unsafe concoctions.

This from a First Minister, once health minister, who dubs her government progressive and says taking care of the most vulnerable is her priority.

The one-trick pony that is the Scottish Government is not to be deflected from its one true goal – independence. Shame on them and shame on Scots who have not yet seen them for what they are.

Alison Fullarton, Eyemouth, Scottish Borders

High priorities

I trust the current political furore over drug deaths doesn’t lead to any reduction in the resources to deal with other emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.

S Beck, Edinburgh

Red squirrels

I’m afraid that John Lloyd is mistaken in his belief that red squirrels are non-native to Scotland, or to other parts of the UK (Letters, August 2).

They have lived here for around 10,000 years, whereas grey squirrels were introduced by the Victorians in the 1800s. It’s a fact that they had to be re-introduced to Scotland in the 18th century, mainly from Sweden and central Europe, due to their almost total extinction as a result of mass hunting and destruction of their habitat, but, unlike greys, they have an ancestral claim to our land, in the same way that our descendants living across the globe have a deep-rooted sense of connection to their country of origin.

The most significant threat to red squirrels associated with grey squirrels is the spread and transmission of the squirrelpox virus. It can take just one grey squirrel to pass this virus to a local population of red squirrels, after which it spreads quickly amongst them with devastating effect. It’s not the greys' fault – it’s another example of human interference having a negative impact on other species.

When we interfere with the natural world in so many careless ways, it behoves us to do all that we can to mitigate the damage which we inflict. Sometimes that may mean more interference in order to right a wrong.

Life throws many challenges at us, but we have to face up to our responsibilities as guardians of our damaged, ailing planet.

Carolyn Taylor, Dundee

Take note, Virgin

I received my new debit card from the Clydesdale Bank, sorry Virgin Money, which somewhat surprised me as the current one had over two years left to run.

However, it would appear that cost is not an issue for Virgin Money management in its headlong rush to removes all traces of the institution which has served Scotland rather well over many years and replace them with its gaudy, tacky and infantile new image.

Originally I was saddened at the possibility of the Clydesdale Bank notes disappearing but those notes represented solidity, not triviality, so I shall no longer feel so bad should they go the same way as the name.

John Thornton, Burnside, South Australia

Online learning

As the US Centre for Disease Control announces a do not travel instruction to countries including Ireland and Greece, it is a potential disaster that Nicola Sturgeon has opened up travel to Scotland to the whole of the EU and the United States.

On top of that Scotland's schools reopen in two weeks with unvaccinated kids then, even worse, the university campuses reopen with thousands of students from around the world descending on our cities.

Have we learned nothing from the deadly second wave last Autumn? I beg the SNP to ignore the lobbying of Devi Sridhar and Edinburgh University and make all learning online until this pandemic is over.

David Watson, Edinburgh

Answers, please

How many bridges do cross the Forth (Letters, July 31)? I've got 16 so far, but I've probably missed a few.

John Piggott, Stirling

Zany advice

Doubts about the usefulness and reliability of some of the advice given to governments by their expert, chosen advisers have been raised in the context of the outlook for the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Steuart Campbell's letter (3 August), one of these distinguished experts – Sir David King – is reported to have proposed refreezing the Arctic Ocean, so as to offset global warming, using a geoengineering technique yet to be developed.

The same adviser has previously warned young ladies not to associate with men who run fast sports cars. His reasoning was not concerned with worries about worsened motoring risks but, rather, to obviate increases in global warming by these fast cars' relatively high carbon dioxide emissions!

Charles Wardrop, Perth, Perth and Kinross

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