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Questions that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this, your section,
and be answered by other readers. Please address your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

The population debate is all about enabling women in the Third World to have fewer children.
I find England overpopulated. What’s to be done about it?

Map The area of land needed to house 70 million people – the number currently living in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire – could comfortably fit into a 40-kilometre radius from the centre of London. This would require nothing more than 16 houses per acre with 4 persons per house, each house on a plot of land 9 by 30 metres, in groups of 4. This results in a density of 64 persons per acre, which is less than the 100 to 200 per acre that is average in many cities today.

If such living space were still considered to be dense, then at 8 houses to the acre instead of 16, an area with a radius of only 55 kilometres from the centre of London would be needed. I’m not proposing that this be done! These examples serve only to illustrate how little land is required to house 70 million people, giving each person plenty of space.

What’s more, enough food could be grown within the above two examples to feed 70 million people if this ever were needed. Past surveys carried out by the British Ministries of Housing and Agriculture have indicated that the retail value of garden produce grown and actually consumed on an average acre of 12 houses slightly exceeded the value, at retail prices, of the output of an average acre of farmland – including market-garden land.

‘Too many people’ is not the problem. A better question is: ‘How much land is owned by whom and to what use is this land put?’

Phil Anderson
Chief Economist SRD Group
Melbourne, Australia

What proportion of Muslim Women cover their faces in public? Is the practice increasing?
And do women who cover their faces suffer any discomfort or health problems?

Dr Kazim’s response in NI 275 contained a few points that need rectifying. At the time of the prophet Muhammed when the Qur’anic verses were revealed, women were divided into three groups: non-Muslims who were free to dress as they pleased, except for nudity; Muslims who were subdivided into the Prophet’s wives who were expected to cover themselves completely; and the remaining Muslims who were expected to wear a hijab (headscarf) and jilbab (outer body covering) such that only the face and hands were exposed. As is mentioned in Surah 33:59 this was to enable Muslim women to be distinct from non-Muslims and prevent them from being molested. Interestingly, despite this being an injunction on Muslim women, the Islamic Shari’ah (way of life) did not proscribe a punishment for not wearing the dress code as detailed. So the assertion that women are being flogged or imprisoned is either incorrect or an example of misrepresentation of Islamic law by the countries concerned. In fact there seems to be more discrimination against women who veil, as demonstrated by the French ban on schoolgirls wearing ‘le foulard’ and Turkey not allowing any government employee to wear a hijab.

Dr A Siddiqui
Shirley, England

awaiting your answers

Apart from lemmings and humans are there any other creatures that commit suicide?

D Gold
Southrop, England

How much energy is needed to manufacture an average-sized car?

Leigh Cavanagh
Staines, England

Is it ‘proven’ that long-lived creatures carry the same, unaltered DNA throughout their lives – or is this just an assumption?

Mary Morgans
Southport, England

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities, New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK, or to your local NI office (see inside front cover for addresses).


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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996

New Internationalist issue 277 magazine cover This article is from the March 1996 issue of New Internationalist.
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