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In his Comment column (NCE 8 June) Antony Oliver reminds us how hard we need to work to keep pace with the public's expectations on infrastructure and, presumably, on other matters that concern us as engineers. No doubt, but I don't think this goes far enough and is missing a vital point.

I have just nished reading James Lovelock's book The Revenge of Gaia, and pretty sobering it is. While not having enough science to follow all his explanations and arguments, one cannot ignore their main thrust - that we will have to slow down, or even reverse, our present rate of 'progress' if we are not to make the future environment uninhabitable or, at least, very uncomfortable.

Somewhat ramatically, he likens our predicament to Napoleon's advance on Moscow. He went too far, ran out of supplies and had to make an unplanned, chaotic retreat, losing most of his army.

Rather than trying to keep pace with the public's ever rising expectations, perhaps we should bear in mind society's long-term, as well as short-term interests, and try to inuence their expectations.

Dick Batt (M), 'Lowlands', Islet Road, Maidenhead, SL6 8LD

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