New Internationalist

Letters

issue 130

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] HEALTH[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Blatant untruths

It is a pity that Debbie Taylor’s leading article on Justice in Health (NI 127), the thrust of which I approve of strongly. should contain some blatant untruths. To speak of cancer as an ‘almost totally preventable disease’ is most misleading. Cancer has always existed, and occurs in peoples with a very low level of industrial and other pollution; heredity plays a strong part and you cannot prevent people carrying certain genes.

Likewise, to say that people are not killed by germs in any part of the world is quite untrue Meningeoccal disease and gastroenteritis kill a few children in Britain every year, all of them healthy and well-nourished: again ‘host factors’ play a part, as they will in any part of the world. It is of course quite true that socioeconomic factors are behind most diseases in Third World countries: but drugs will continue to play a role for many years to come. The scholarly founders of medicine included men like Leishmann, Manson-Bahr. Pasteur and others without whom the causes and epidemiology of the great scourges of men would not be understood and preventive medicine would not have reached the potential it has today.

All right-thinking doctors and health workers would applaud D. Taylor’s fierce attack on the inequalities in medicine world-wide but it is unhelpful when attempting to confront the medical establishment with unpalatable facts to include unnecessarily provocative and ill-founded remarks.

Andrew Porter
Consultant Paediatrician
William Harrey Hospital
Ashford, England

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Carping

I wish I could recommend your ‘Justice in Health’ issue unreservedly but it was spoiled by your leading article. The inadequacy of this Ivan Illich-type carping has been well exposed elsewhere but, from someone so recently benefitting from the extravagance of intercontinental jet travel, it was snide to refer to kidney dialysis machines as ‘shielding the door of death from our sight’.

What gives you the vision to tell us there is no cancer virus? There is compelling evidence for several. I was intrigued by those cancer cells which were ‘thoroughly permeated with food additives, pesticide residues, heavy metal pollution and radiation’. I fear that was science fiction but it is dangerous and tragically misleading. The causes of cancer and heart disease are NOT as well known as the causes of tuberculosis. By all means stop smoking, keep your weight down and drink only moderately (and never when driving) but PLEASE do not clutch at selected straws in the kind of medical research to tell a man xvho develops chest pain that he should have been more careful with his diet or that he should have jogged more times around the block.

Andrew Holton, B.Sc., Ph.D., M. B., Ch. B.
Leeds, England

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[image, unknown] FOOD FIRST[image, unknown]

Nigeria’s Agriculture

While your excellent cartoon feature on World food problems illustrates many of the causes of hunger, it is (I think) surprisingly irrelevant to the hungriest continent of all - Africa. In Africa, land is not a scarce resource and ownership is not usually indicative of wealth (wives, camels or cars are the symbols). Here in Southern Nigeria, there is plenty of land and few restrictions on ownership. And yet the region imports food - not only rice from the USA and Thailand (yes, Thailand. . . but also yams, a traditional Southern staple crop, from the more arid North. There are two reasons for this. The first is a traditional antipathy towards agricultural work in an area where Nature has in the past needed minimal assistance to provide abundant food, while the second and much more important reason is the rapid urbanisation. Low food prices and (relatively) high wages encourage people to move to the towns. The same low food prices mean that rural incomes stay low and make it uneconomic for farmers to produce food for sale in the markets. At the same time, growing urban populations put pressure on services but remain politically articulate against an official rise in food prices, which would go a long way towards easing the problem.

However, the current recession and the damp-down on imports is having its effects on prices. An outbreak of spider-mite and mealy-bug diseases has hit the cassava crop, extensive bush-fires early in the year have made plantains very scarce and the late arrival of the rains has delayed the new yams. At a rough estimate prices of the staples - rice, yams, plantains and cassava have risen by 200 per cent in the past five months.

It remains to be seen whether these increased prices will actually boost local production or whether the Government will continue to import cheap American rice for the immediate comfort of its urban citizens.

Edward Barrow
Benin City, Nigeria

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[image, unknown] TERRITORY[image, unknown]

Anarchists awake

In your feature ‘The Growth of Nationalism’ (NI 123) your facts about the Libertarians are wrong, The imitation of Anarchism represented by the ‘Anti-Vietnam War’ opposition has of course passed away but the class-struggle. Anarchism remains. A resurgence from Poland to Senegal of interest in libertarian resistance, ideas and actions is underway. The anarcho-syndicalist International Workers Association with roots back to the 1st International has re-emerged while the Marxists and Nationalists feud for State power, In Spain the Confederation National Trabajo has recently held its VI Conference much to the dismay of the capitalists, Statists and others who also thought that the Libertarian movement of workers had collapsed.

Alan Kerr
Black Flag
Anarchist Blade Cross
London, United Kingdom

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Forestry Facts

You are right to point out the relative lack of controls over development in countries such as India, especially as regards pollution (NI 120).

However, with regard to forestry, two points need correcting, First, deforestation has been caused mainly by social pressures from people requiring land for cultivation and not for industralization.

Second, some academics are taking an interest in herbal medicines. On a recent visit to the Kerala Forest Research Institute in Southern India I was impressed to find a large project classifying some 600 medicinal species growing in the local forests, of which 200 were being cultivated at the institute.

Roger C, Thomas
School of Forestry
University of Canterbury
Christchurch, New Zealand

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[image, unknown] WORLD MAP[image, unknown]

Scientific, it isn’t

I applaud your publication of the Peters map. The rationale for Peters’ projection is compelling given his purpose of representing the populous nations of the earth more fairly with respect to their actual sizes. Where we must settle for a flat representation of the earth Peters’ map may, in general, be the best we have for the reasons he gives. But maps are put to many purposes and it is naive to suppose that one projection can serve them all. Peters should not judge all maps by his conception of what they ought to represent, but rather by what they were designed to represent, Furthermore, to suggest that no map is scientific if it fails to meet Peters’ standards of representation (see New Internationalist, May 1983, p. 22) reveals ignorance of the history of map projection or of scientific method or both. If Peters map gains general acceptance it will be because it is more useful or more palatable than others, not because it is more scientific. It isn’t.

Nathan Houser
Indianapolis
Indiana, USA

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Money makes the world go around

Kate Begley claims that ‘it is nonsense to suggest that we are all party to the exploitation of the Third World.’

Unfortunately. it is only too true. She is right, however, when she says ‘In a less obvious sense we are ourselves exploited by the same system’.

At a time when society’s essential needs can be produced by fewer and ever-fewer people, our moral responsibility for one another - and so for the building of a true community - is frustrated by a money-system whereby society’s own credit is utilised as a monopoly by the joint-stock banks, at great profit to themselves but at terrible consequences to the weak, both nationally and individually.

This power-structure, an impersonal social system which we have inherited from the past, favours the strong but drives the weak to despair. In fact, it has turned our 20th century society into little more than an animal jungle.

There is a terrible irony in Richard Clarke’s letter on the same page, when he declares with complete confidence: ‘Indeed, the whole of human history is nothing but the progressive transformation of human nature’.

It pre-supposes a righteous judgement to come!

L. Knight
Guernsey
Channel Islands

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Mercy Killing

C & D MacNamara’s and David Willis’s attacks (Letters, NI 24) on ‘impartiality’ of the BBC also apply to its bias in Third World reportage, as a BBC-1 News at Nine report confirmed just the day before my July copy of NI arrived.

The report devoted itself to showing how those kindly whites in Namibia cull game in the Etosha Park by anaesthetising it first, then killing it when unconscious; an impression of merciful and humane white rule.

But not a mention was there of the far more important fact that for years black humans in Namibia have been ‘culled’ by whites through murder, torture and rape (see the fully documented recent church reports), that Namibia is illegally occupied by South Africa, or that South African troops launch repeated ‘blitzkriegs’ against neighbouring Angola.

Lest the BBC retort that this was a ‘nature’ film, then let it prove its ‘balance’ with a film of Russian animal welfare activities in Afghanistan - without once mentioning that, like Namibia, Afghanistan is illegally occupied by foreign troops flouting UN resolutions!

L Clark
Uxbridge
United Kingdom

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