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Ever decreasing returns

Letters

The ICE energy board's simplification of the complex issues surrounding energy generation and the environment (NCE 26 April) is useful but it does not mention the root causes of the problem. These are the growing economy and an increasing population, which Dick Cheney identified in a report on energy for the USA.

It takes no more than common sense understanding of the wider implications of the second law of thermodynamics to realise that the factors cited already combine to diminish the quality and diversity of life on Earth. That is because any lifestyle more sophisticated than subsistence depends on unsustainable uses of energy and of the environment.

Without a greater understanding of entropy, mere technical solutions will cause further environmental damage.

At best they can only postpone the inevitable - extinction of yet more species and untold misery for millions of people within a few decades.

The art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man is no longer sufficient.

Such activities have now become a significant part of the problem. It is increasingly likely that the only acceptable long term solutions will be found in the softer human and biological sciences, and the sooner we start looking for them the better.

Paul Kirkley (M), Hazeldene, Holton, Oxford OX33 1PS.

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