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The Herald - May 2009
The Rev Dr James Torrens mentioned the General Assembly’s call for congregations to reduce their carbon footprint by 5% each year. I’m delighted that finally the Church of Scotland is taking climate change seriously, though I wonder what part of Scriptures it got its guidance from to help decide this particular action? It certainly took the lead with appointing women ministers, although again I’m not familiar with any passage in the Bible that says this was the right (or wrong) thing to do. Many of the controversies in Christianity have arisen through both literal interpretations of scriptural text and deliberate selection of specific passages to justify personal views. Surely what makes Christianity relevant in today’s world is its core and everlasting value of unconditional love, as demonstrated by selflessness, forgiveness, not judging others, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile to help somebody else just as the Good Samaritan did all those years ago, values that are desperately needed in todays selfish society, values that Church of Scotland Ministers must mirror as bastions of the Christian Faith, values that seem to be sadly lacking in some individuals in this unfortunate debate.

The Herald - May 2009
I find it extremely ironic that on the same day the Church of Scotland’s general assembly will debate the election of a gay minister to a church in Aberdeen a conference is to be held lower down the same hill on the Scottish Government’s climate change bill. In this ‘lower’ conference we’re going to hear how millions of Malawians are going to suffer through a warming climate; that their river levels are going to fall blocking up drinking water and hydro electric intakes; how the rainy season’s going to be shorter affecting the growing of their staple diet of maize. May I suggest that the general assembly gets of its high horse, cancels the debate on gay ministers, moves en-masse down the road to the climate change conference, and instead gets involved in something that Jesus would expect them to get involved in.

The Herald - November 2008
Martin Luther King Jr famously said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

But to say his people are "free at last" is to turn a blind eye to the tragedy that is Africa. There is no freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Darfur or Zimbabwe. The nightmare that is African man's inhumanity to African man runs endlessly on.

On Remembrance Day, while we reflect on the many who gave up their lives for a free world, I have a dream that one day African people will join hands in friendship and peace; that from South Africa to Sudan and Sierra Leone to Somalia there will be no more conflicts over race or religion; no more ethnic cleansing or genocide; no more corrupt or power-hungry leaders. I have a dream that one day African politicians will work selflessly for their countries and their continent.

Let's hope for freedom for the raped in Darfur and the starving in Zimbabwe. For Africa to become a great continent, this must come true.

The Herald - September 2008
In referring to the US government’s efforts to secure a 378 billion pound deal to save its financial industry, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said ‘one of the ironies about this financial crisis is that it makes action on poverty look utterly achievable’ . It is indeed ironic that whilst these ‘bank robbers and asset strippers’ happily pocket their million pound bonus’ we read in the UN Millennium Development Goals report published at the midway point to 2015 that carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, international trade negotiations are years behind schedule, 2.5 billion people still have no sanitation, more than half a million pregnant mothers die in childbirth, and that we’re unlikely to reduce by half the number of Sub-Saharan African’s living on less than $1 a day. In this hellish mix of financial greed and extreme poverty we learn from the President of the United States that democratic capitalism is indeed the fairest economic system possible and this bailout must be supported. On behalf of mankind may I say that we are indeed very grateful for your advice Mr Bush.

The Herald - August 2008
Referring to the collapse of the World Trade Talks in Geneva, Anne Johnstone summarised ‘once again this year the rich world will grumble, while the poor world starves’. In the meantime the US maintains its billions of dollars support to its farmers, Nicolas Sarkozy argues that world food prices justify its subsidies to his French farmers, and the Chinese continue their rape of Africa, not only through raw material extraction but also with imports of its cheap goods, strangling the efforts of local producers and their products in the process. National commercial interests continue to take precedence over global benefit, and those with the most influence benefit the most. Its a short-sighted world we live in, a world where greed, power and status rule OK. A light did shine briefly during the climate change talks in Bali when the poorer nations patience finally blew over the US’s self-interest and forced them to bow to popular consensus, but like the G8 promises they will be forgotten, or simply put aside as is the way of our political leaders with their short term mentalities. In the meantime global crises of food, water, and raw material shortages, over-population and climate change increasingly wreak their enormous damage.

Nelson Mandela was 90 in July. At the celebrations in London, he said “You will understand that it is in your hands to make a difference. It is in your hands to make of our world a better world for all, especially the poor and the vulnerable.’ Surely its time our political leaders embraced a new way of thinking, a thinking where global benefit takes precedence over national self-interest, otherwise very soon there isn’t going to be a planet worth living on.

The Herald - May 2008
The images of widespread devastation caused by cyclone Nargis in the Irrawadda delta region of Burma, with latest estimates of 20,000 dead, are truly heartbreaking. Yet so far the government refuses to open its borders to international aid agencies, apparently more prepared to let hundreds of thousands of its own people suffer simply to safeguard its human rights record. The real tragedy is there is nothing to protect because the world already knows the truth as witnessed by its reactions to the monks demonstrations last year. In the year that China is itself exposed to world scrutiny there is a brief window of opportunity for it to demonstrate a compassionate side and influence the Burmese government into accepting the help offered immediately.

New Civil Engineer - May 2008
I refer to Mr Oliver’s comments on roads, especially his conviction that ‘we must increase the amount we invest in the motorway network.’ Has it not escaped his attention that it costs £1.25 for a litre of diesel, that increasing fuel demands from China and Indian will force prices ever higher, and that increasing use of crops to feed our cars will cause millions of people starve to death? Surely investment in very fast broadband is more sustainable, encouraging us to work from home and replacing the madness that is commuter travel. Unfortunately that would not be in the interest of civil engineers, would it?

The Herald - April 2008
How do you solve a problem like Zimbabwe? Even if the recent election results truly show that President Mugabe gained nearly 50% of the vote he has surely lost the moral right to govern any longer.

The country has serious food shortages, hospitals have no drugs or adequate doctors, schools are desperately short of teachers, the little fuel that is available is mostly through the black market, there are daily blackouts and sometimes there is no drinking water for weeks. Inflation is rampant, unemployment exceeds 80%, corruption and crime are on the rise, people are regularly beaten up on the streets by riot police and life expectancy is the lowest in Africa. Yet the Southern African Development Community, through Thabo Mbeki, says there is "no crisis in Zimbabwe".

Is it possible that we in the west are really to blame, that our past colonial misdemeanours are the true present cause of Sub-Saharan Africa's problems, that the scars we left many years ago continue to hurt present-day Africa to the extent that the likes of Mugabe will never admit to his mistakes while we stay silent about ours?

The Herald - February 2008
I note that Steven Spielberg recently resigned as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics in protest over Chinas role in the Darfur crisis. Sudanese forces and militia groups continue to murder, rape and pillage the innocent population despite the global protests. The United Nations admit the situation is spiralling out of control. Although more than 6 months have passed since the signing of the UN Resolution which authorised joint UN/African Union force to bring stability to the region, the Sudanese government has done everything in its power to prevent its deployment. The truth is that whilst China pulls the purse strings and holds the keys to Sudan’s prosperity, only a threat from China will make the government listen to international protests and make it take positive action to end the crisis. China’s demands for raw materials can be provided cheaply in Africa. It invests in democracies and dictatorships alike to satisfy its ever expanding economy. Not too many questions are asked about corruption or human rights during the investment process. In return, these countries benefit from their links to Beijing, not only in terms of strategic protection but also through trade deals where, amongst other advantages, modern weapons are offered for sale. Many will argue that the Olympics is not the arena to highlight these issues. I would say it’s our duty to bring to an end the tragedy that is Darfur, and Burma, by whatever peaceful means are available.

The Herald - February 2008
I refer to yesterday’s editorial regarding the violence in Kenya and wish to say that my thoughts and prayers are with the people there. I know of many youngsters who give of their time voluntarily to help orphans whose parents have dies of HIV/AIDS - they must be exasperated and angry by the role models set by their political leaders selfish actions. It is certainly true that until free and fair elections become accepted as a vital part to Sub-Saharan Africa’s development there is little chance of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals being met, and for that reason it becomes an International issue. Malawi has her presidential elections in 2009. We must learn from the lessons of Kenya and ensure Malawi does not suffer a similar fate.

The Herald - December 2007 (with Prof. Robert M. Kalin,Strathclyde University and Prof.Alan Ervine, Glasgow University)
We would like to congratulate the Glasgow students on their success in ‘Dragons Den’ with a highly innovative, and potentially life changing, reverse osmosis water purification system. This young talent has shown that Scotland really can lead the world in producing innovative solutions to make the world a healthier place to live in.

We further welcome this timely success because as the world continues to focus on energy and oil dependency, the UN Water for Life decade (2005-2015) has seemingly been relegated. The world population has risen three-fold within the lifetime of the post-war generation and continues to increase at an alarming rate. Supplying food coupled with increasing urbanisation and burgeoning living standards has resulted in increased contamination and marked reduction in the volume of our global ‘fresh water bank’.

A potential global disaster brought about by the lack of clean water and proper sanitation is perhaps a generation away. Even now there are 5 million deaths per year from water related illnesses and patients occupy over 50% of all hospital beds in developing countries. Thousands die every day from diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, and a range of other infectious diseases. The UN Water for Life focus has dedicated 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation and we propose that provision of clean water and sanitation should be considered an overseas aid priority for the Scottish Government.

It is our belief that Scotland must engage with the UN Water for Life decade to take steps to clean-up our global groundwater and rivers, oceans and the atmosphere. The Glasgow students have shown to the world that Scotland continues its tradition of innovation in water science and engineering and still has the potential to make a significant contribution in this area and we would call on our country to follow in their footsteps.

New Civil Engineer - December 2007
Whilst I share some of the editors enthusiasm about the governments more positive attitude towards Infrastructure Development I’m afraid it stops at the proposed third runway at Heathrow airport. My first question is why do all governments have national economic advantage as its primary driver? My second queries the sustainability of such a folly when we know fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive (cost and environment) to extract. The third is the signal we send to the international community – what argument do we have to stop the Chinese pressing ahead with their proposed 600 new coal-fired power stations no matter what the carbon differential between the two projects? We live in an inter-connected world and future economic thinking has to be based on global rather than national benefit otherwise our desire to be the best will become the world’s downfall.

The Herald - December 2007
I refer to the letters of Neil Craig and Chris Parton on Monday. Firstly I am not an eco-fascist as Mr Craig has described me in his web comments. I have worked in the oil and gas sector for many years and consider that nuclear power is an essential ingredient in the future energy mix. However, I do believe that any development has to be sustainable globally which air and road travel clearly isn’t using fossil fuels. The already high oil prices will continue to rise through increasing exploitation costs and an ever widening supply-demand gap. Higher costs will not only affect fuel but many essential products like plastics and medicine. Secondly Mr Parton’s allegation about the flat earth brigade is the converse of what he suggests - it is indeed the case that those who hold traditional views about present climate change being a natural cycle are the ones unwilling to accept the ever-increasing weight of evidence against them. I agree that there are questions on the reliability of historical temperature measurements but there is no doubt that the earth is warming. Glacial retreat is a sustained and accelerating global trend, not just demonstrated by the 27 monitored by the World Glacier Monitoring Service but by many others around the world from scientists who have no desire to become embroiled in the global warming debate - the Greenland ice cap, the Andes and Alaskan studies are typical examples, and all come to the same independent alarming conclusion. I mentioned 2 affects of glacial melt in a previous letter - a third consequence is the ever-expanding glacial lakes. Over 2000 of these exist in Nepal alone, held back by increasingly unstable natural dams. Many hundreds of thousands of people are at risk from their collapse. It is therefore preposterous and potentially disastrous to suggest that global warming is a political scam to keep the population alarmed. Unlike Mr Craig, I do not question Sir David King’s integrity with his assertion that there is an unarguable link between temperature rise and carbon dioxide levels. In fact this difference of opinion now remains the only argument in favour of climate change sceptics since all agree that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are way above the normal range as far back as records go, and will continue to rise. We have had many natural cycles in the past but man’s interference in nature has ended that. It’s time the climates sceptics came on board and helped plan for our very uncertain future.

The Herald - November 2007
In his letter (November 26) Neil Craig said: "We know for a fact that no unprecedented warming is taking place." Sir David King, the UK's chief scientist, would refute that, saying: "The weight of evidence for climate change, and the causal link with greenhouse gas emissions is unarguable and the science is clear that this rise in temperatures will continue and accelerate."

Physical evidence is widely available. In this month's Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, the facts are that most of the world's glaciers are melting, accelerating their rate of loss, and many have disappeared. The reduced summer meltwater will translate to lower river water flows, affecting millions of people who rely on them for drinking and agriculture. The loss of glacier mass is transferred to the sea, forcing sea levels up, affecting those who live by the sea.

As the ability of the Earth to reflect the sun's heat is reduced through decreasing ice coverage, combined with reduced vegetative cover because of continued deforestation and increased desertification, combined with increasing methane emissions from Siberia, carbon dioxide release from our own peat bogs and continued man-made emissions, it becomes possible to glimpse the looming catastrophe not many years from now as the Earth's temperature begins to spiral out of control. Yet many are not persuaded by the arguments. So, do we do nothing and see what happens? Unfortunately, that's not an option because the earth is warming and we have to plan contingencies. Do we take the risk and not bother to reduce emissions? That's not an option either because oil prices are going up. Or is it best to minimise the risk by setting tough reduction targets for emissions, because surely by doing that we're encouraging man's innovative capabilities to find more sustainable energy sources and means of transport? Why not be united in encouraging world leaders to take drastic measures in Bali because in the end that will be good for all of us?

The Herald - November 2007
Anne Johnstone is so right to say that ‘Action, not words, will solve this burning issue’ in her commentary on climate change, and goes on to mention the 1.7 million motorists who signed up to petition against the very measures that would actually reduce carbon emissions. I’m beginning to think that the world has become completely insane. We have overwhelming evidence that carbon is the cause of global warming and that if we continue to expand our economies at the current rate using fossil fuels it will soon be too late to make a difference, with catastrophic consequences for mankind. The reality of climate change can be seen in melting ice, dying coral reefs, rising sea levels, changing eco-systems and prolonged and more severe droughts. According to the World Health Organisation 150,000 people are already dying every year from climate change, yet unbelievably we have the majority of Scottish MSP’s agreeing to scrap bridge tolls, who, together with their Westminster colleagues considering a third runway at Heathrow, provide evidence that our MP’s and MSP’s continue to prioritise national economic growth as their top priority bar nothing. I was at the Christian Aid ‘Cut the Carbon’ rally through London in October to support the core marchers who had just completed 1000 miles of marching in 80 days to raise awareness of the threat of climate change. They included a representative from Kenya, Mohammed, who described the distress global climate uncertainty was causing to his people – years of drought followed by devastating floods this summer. In fact floods have been enveloping large swathes of Sub-Saharan Africa this year, causing misery to millions. Britain is very much to blame for it all. We started the industrial revolution after all, and the FTSE 100 companies are together responsible for 15% of global emissions, so we cannot sit back in denial, do nothing and simply blame it on the impasse between China and the USA . I worry a great deal about the future for my two children. What will they think of you and me in 50 years time, maybe a lot less than that, when these predictions come true? I’m ready for a bumpy ride because I care a great deal about my family and our beautiful world, but do we have politicians with the guts to ride along with us?

The Herald - September 2007
Bill Bryson wrote in ‘A short History of Nearly Everything’ that Einstein couldn’t bear the thought of a universe where some things would remain forever unknown – the theory in quantum physics that one particle could instantaneously influence another trillions of miles away was a particular bugbear and a stark violation of his special theory of relativity, a matter that apparently haunted him to his dying days. We’re told that information from space can now tell us what happened to within minutes of the Big Bang. Theories abound as to what went on before then, maybe one day we’ll find out, but I wonder whether it really matters? The question I would like to know the answer to is what is the purpose of life and how should we live it on a day to day basis? Will understanding the origins of the universe, and beyond, help us to do just that? Like most people on this planet I’ve been searching for answers most of my life and the best I’ve found is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ – a guide that I believe would make this a significantly better world to live in if we all followed it – and something I’m convinced that nothing better will ever be found.

The Herald - February 2007
I refer to the BBC's Frontline Scotland program on Malawi in which the sustainability of the projects supported by the Executives International Development Fund (IDF) were questioned. Whilst many projects do indeed bring much benefit none are truly sustainable, for how can providing drugs and food or training of health professionals be continued if the funding runs out? Economic development will only happen when irrigation water for agriculture and clean drinking water for health are delivered, a fact recognised by Malawi's President who has given his highest priority to these two vital areas. Malawi has water in abundance, more than the west coast of Scotland. The mountains provide a perfect environment for reservoirs yet tragically water tumbles uncontained down their sides during the wet season causing enormous hardship in the valleys below through flooding. Even more tragically, as the water runs out the rural population suffers, exacerbated by poor harvests such as in 2005 when many became severely malnourished leading to the UN declaring the country an emergency relief zone. Our International Development Secretary, Patricia Ferguson, recognises the importance of water for the country yet refuses to support such projects. In fact she completely removed water as a priority area from the IDF in its review last November, arguing that 'substantial funding' is being provided by DFID. In fact the £65,000 I believe she refers to is for mapping water borehole positions, many of which are drying up as the water tables drop or are simply polluted and therefore unusable. If the IDF are sincere in their efforts to make a sustainable difference in Malawi it must prioritise and support water related projects immediately, for in Malawi water truly is life.

The Herald - December 2006
Ian Bell is right to shake his head in disbelief at the proposed 40 billion pound investment in Trident. My potential vote for labour (and any thought of support for the Tories) has definitely gone out of the window now. What sort of message are we sending to the international community that we would be prepared, and thats the fundamental point, to blow up millions of people should the 'right' conditions develop. Its right and proper this matter should be raised in the public conscience before Christmas. Its the time of Advent, after all. A time to reflect on our growing obesity, our billions of pounds of personal debt, the ever increasing poverty gap, a world contaminated by carbon emissions, with HIV/AIDS devastating African economies, and now, to add yet more joy to the season, our governments obsession with WMD's. Where has it all gone so terribly wrong?

New Civil Engineer - November 2006
I have to take issue with Rennie Witts letter that the debate about global warming has been stage managed. Unless 99% of the worlds scientists are having a collective delusion, together with the United Nations, DFID, Al Gore, and many others, then the inconvenient truth is that climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. I was in Malawi last November. The country was suffering its worst drought for many years. The UN had declared many parts emergency relief zones. People were dying from hunger and thirst. The pain and anguish of the government personnel responsible for supplying water to those affected was clear to see and feel. And its not just Malawi - the same is true for Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and many other Sub-Saharan African countries. As rainfalls reduce so the water table drops, and the millions of pounds already delivered in aid producing drinking water through bore-holes becomes wasted as the boreholes dry out. Climate change is affecting the most vulnerable now on a daily basis on a massive scale and it is costing lots of money to the organisations responsible for delivering aid. Yet its business as usual in the UK. We go blindly on planning airport expansions and motorway improvements as though nothing is happening. Surely its time to take a deep breath, reflect on the very serious mess we have got ourselves into, and change direction.

The Herald - November 2006
There have been may comments about the Stern report in your letters page over the last few days. It is a fact of life that economics, and in particularly bottom line short term profit decide all Western actions now. I was in Malawi last November. The country was suffering its worst drought for many years. The UN had declared many parts emergency relief zones. People were dying from hunger and thirst. The pain and anguish of the government personnel responsible for supplying water to those affected was clear to see and feel. The fact is that the rainy season there has become more unpredictable through climate change. And its not just Malawi - the same is true for Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and many other Sub-Saharan African countries. As rainfalls reduce so the water table drops, and the millions of pounds already delivered in aid producing drinking water through bore-holes becomes wasted as the boreholes dry out. Climate change IS affecting the most vulnerable now on a daily basis on a massive scale and it is costing lots of money to the organisations responsible for delivering aid. I wonder if Sir Nicholas Stern has factored this into his economics?

The Herald - September 2006
Each day brings in more evidence of the rapid destruction of our planet. The BBC news (Friday 15) could not have been more stark. Scientists now believe that it could be as little as 4 years before it will be too late to make a difference to global warming. In the meantime we continue to deforest the planet at an alarming rate, China presses on with the construction of its massive coal-fired power stations, and the US president refuses to accept there's a problem at all. Its even business as usual in the UK, with the airline industry tripping over itself to offer low cost flights, and with petrol prices falling what incentive do we have as consumers to reduce CO2 emissions? The trouble is, in a few years time there won't be an economy to have business in anyway. We struggle to cope with disasters as it is. Look at New Orleans a year after Katrina. Despite the billions of dollars of support little progress has been made. Its a stagnant city in the middle of the wealthiest nation in the world. The UK is very susceptible - the sea will slowly engulf the south-east region and other low-lying areas of England with its remorseless rise, displacing millions of people as it does so. As the insurance industry struggles to meet increasing demands for compensation globally its premiums will rise to unaffordable levels. So, business and the general public will be unable to manage risk. House prices start to fall, before long the building and banking industry collapses through customers bankruptcy and property devaluations. The economy pitches into a downward spiral. In its own interests the business community must surely act now to reduce co2 emissions otherwise there won't be a 'business as usual' to have in the future.

The Herald - August 2006
I refer to Iain MacWhirters article in yesterdays Herald about climate change and his conclusion that there is a 'death wish gripping humanity'. I would describe it more as lemmings heading towards the cliff edge. James Lovelock's 'The revenge of Gaia' describes the tipping points not many years from now when it will be too late to make a difference, with catastrophic consequences for all of mankind. It is surely true that, as humans in the 'First' world, a paradigm shift in our lifestyles is required to effect the changes necessary. Unfortunately our culture has now developed to such selfish materialistic ways that we have become incapable of changing in the manner required. The response I get when challenging people with the issue is 'I'll die before it affects me' or 'Something will turn up'. We need strong-willed politicians with the guts to take the drastic, unpopular decisions necessary. Do we have them? I hope so for the sake of our planet.

The Herald - September 2005
Reflecting on recent events in New Orleans, Harry Reid suspects that there is a 'sliver of barbarity' in all of us whilst commenting on the looting and other acts of lawlessness. Abraham Maslow, a 20th century psychologist from New York, would have disagreed. He felt that people are basically trustworthy but that their fundamental needs have to be satisfied before they can start to climb the ladder of fulfilment. In this context the looters are simply satisfying their basic survival instincts and before long, as the area recovers from its devastation, they will start climbing the ladder once again. In fact Mr Bush made it clear that he has 'plenty of resources' to make it happen, and quickly. Meanwhile, in sub-Saharan Africa, millions of people struggle to survive. They don't have the luxury of a supermarket to loot and, day in day out, they die in their thousands from lack of food, water and disease. This is a tragedy far greater than 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, yet we do little about it despite having 'plenty of resources' to help lift them onto that first rung of the ladder of life.

Civil Engineering Surveyor - September 2005
Robert Fleming makes a point worth exploring in his July's commentary, that 'we have an obligation to consider those less fortunate than ourselves'. The world is clearly imbalanced at the moment and growing evermore so. For instance, the average age of the population of Malawi has dropped from 60 to 35 in the last 10 years whereas in the UK we can expect an average lifespan of 80 now with many expected to reach 100 before too long, or that the average amount of water used by an individual in Gambia in West Africa is 15 litres compared with 550 litres in California, and judging by recent news from Niger this inequality is getting even more extreme. Disease and climate change is destroying Africa. Robert is right to say that we should support the G8 commitments but surely we also need to use the skills we have developed, as engineers and surveyors, to make a difference. Unfortunately our own lives are pressured to meet on-going financial and business objectives. We just don't have the time to satisfy our own needs, let alone some poor individual in Africa. Imagine for a moment we did not have those pressures, would not our basic human values and instincts urge us to get up and help these individuals?

I was at a pre-G8 conference at Glasgow University in June. The speakers were themselves experts in a wide range of specialist fields who advised the G8 on future policies. One such Russian speaker stated that unless we got to grips with climate control, the consequences would be a deficit of oxygen by the middle of this century. ie there will not be enough oxygen in the air for us to exist. A few days prior to the conference I had also learnt that the earth will exceed its natural ability to counter the effects of carbon pollution by 2025 unless we commit to carbon reduction in a dramatic way quickly ie it will soon be too late to make a difference.

Africa has the potential to become the breadbasket of the world. Its rich agricultural lands and abundant aquifers, properly developed and managed, could feed the anticipated global population increase for the foreseeable future. The resulting change in its eco-systems would benefit the global climate. I realise that helping Africa alone will not resolve all the worlds problems, but it will make a big difference. We do have an obligation to consider those less fortunate than ourselves because the future of the planet depends on it, and we do have the skills to make a difference.

I worry a great deal about the future of my two children. What sort of a legacy am I leaving them? I know where my priorities lie.

The Herald - July 2005
Alex Bells commentary on Mother Natures rights states 'that civilisation only began when mankind mastered control over one element of nature:water'. The UN estimate that by 2025 2.8 billion people will be short of water and even now 1.2 billion have limited access. 2.4 billion have no access to sanitation facilities (almost half the worlds population) and 3-5 million are dying per year from water and sanitation related diseases. In fact 50% of disease in developing countries is caused by contaminated water. As an example of the inequality in all of this, in California each day each person uses 550 litres of water whilst in Gambia in West Africa it is only 15 litres. Clearly as a civilisation we have not mastered what is fair and balanced in all of this. My view is the more extreme these imbalances grow the more Mother Nature will want to balance them in her own dramatic way. Lets hope the G8 do indeed commit fully to Trade Injustice and Climate Change in next weeks summit.

The Herald - December 2004
With regard to your article that wealthy nations have a global responsibility to help the poorer nations, why does it take a headline grabbing catastrophe like the Tsunami devastation for you to give the message that the poorer nations need our help. The impact of HIV/AIDS overshadows anything else going on in the world today. It kill 6 people every minute or over 3,000,000 per year. Are people aware that whole sub-Saharan African economies are likely to collapse as a result of the impact of the disease? In Scotland the numbers of new infections recorded have almost doubled in the last 3 years. People in poor countries are more at risk because of poverty and lack of education. Health care systems are weak and people cannot afford the anti-retroviral drugs which can prolong life. In Zambia the average life expectancy has reduced from 60 to 37 in 10 years. Women are becoming the largest bearers of the disease. Parents die first, leaving increasing numbers of orphaned children, many infected with HIV/AIDS. The dramatic reduction in the working population affects the economies, making them increasingly unstable. Our politicians have a duty to do something about it, and we as individuals and you as a quality newspaper have an equal responsibility to keep telling them, for Gods sake, to get their act together.

Geomatics World - March 2003
I refer to the Jan/Feb editorial about the necessary competences of land surveyors in todays commercial practices. The editor's comments raise a fundamental question - What is a land surveyor? Is it someone who will spend 10 years 'doing topo, building, setting out surveys'? If commercial practices can sustain competitive advantage from carrying out such surveys then indeed the graduate surveyor is over-qualified. Why then has the industry spent many years trying to redefine itself and is this redefinition out of tune with UK commercial land survey practice?. Is it an academic and institutional ploy to get more students on University courses and into membership of professional institutions or does it reflect a genuine undercurrent that many of our commercial practices are failing to recognise? The reality is that globalisation is already affecting the UK survey industry. Companies, not necessarily from the UK, are regularly using cheap, skilled labour from third world countries to carry out work. This labour is making them cost competitive, still the most important factor in clients acceptance of tenders - OS rural revision is an example. Also, to think that there will always be a market for local survey companies doing local work is a fallicy. Survey instrumentation is becoming so simple to use that surely it is just a matter of time before clients do the work themselves. Even if it is carried out by commercial practices it would become so cost competitive that even trained up 18 year olds would become too expensive. Our industry environment has changed, is continuing to change, and will be unrecognisable compared to its present format in 15-20 years time. Global technologies like Synthetic Aperture Radar and High Resolution Satellite imagery will improve in accuracy and cost-effectiveness, eliminating the need for traditional aerial photography.Close range laser scanning will replace terrestrial photogrammetry. These technologies will be replaced in turn by even more advanced ones that we cannot presently imagine. Could we have conceived of LIDAR or GPS 30 years ago? Relying on tried and tested techniques and just 'doing topo, building, setting out surveys' is hiding our head in the sands. The industry has to move on, and quickly!

Geomatics World - July/August 2002
I embarked on an Open University MBA 3 years ago because I felt there was something missing from the business management competency of my old company. We had strategies, but how realistic were they? We had human resource management, but were they effective? We created annual budgets, but were they based on proper market research and reflected the market environment? A business management course structures management thinking. Of course, practical experience is an absolutely essential component to the running of a successful company, and the problem with many management consultants is they lack the necessary practical experience at the running end of an organisation. But let us be realistic for a moment. How many organisations carry out a proper evaluation of potential capital expenditures before purchase? With equipment becoming outdated so quickly, is purchase the best step? What are the risks? Will the market demand change? Has the real value of future cash flows been allowed for? Should lease/rental be considered, or maybe a strategic alliance with a competitor? A business management course will help answer these questions. It will help analyse competitive factors and build the right capabilities for strategies to counter these factors. The RICS is rightly trying to promote the surveyor as a true professional, and a policy of compulsory business management training has to be applauded. The course has to be well structured. It has to run alongside relevant management experience. There may indeed be loss of some potential members, but surely it is more desirable to have a stronger Institution with fewer but stronger professionals. In a volatile environment, with constant change and uncertainty, appropriate strategies are essential. Business Management training will help plan for that uncertainty.

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