Lies, damned lies and statistics

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It was recently quoted in a paper that Scientists had declared that Pollution from Nitrogenous Fertiliser was costing every person in the European Union £650 a year. There was no challenge to the declaration but I, with no scientific knowledge on the subject look at that declaration with a degree of scepticism. First of all how could they possibly measure the amount of pollution and value the cost to every individual? If it were true it would mean that many of the farmers using Nitrogenous fertiliser were massively wasting it and I can’t believe that because it is not cheap.

We do have to look after the environment but the use of fertilisers is a necessity if we the food producers are to supply the needs of ever expanding populations or even just feed the starving populations in many countries of the world.

Wild exaggerations such as the above do no good unless they are backed up with solid facts. It seems that it is not only politicians that quote doubtful statistics and there are plenty of them around doing so in the run-up to the election.

Of course there will not likely be much attention paid to the above though undoubtedly some environmentalists will get it into their speeches while at the same time ridiculing scientists for saying that organic food is no better than that produced commercially or that GM food holds no health challenge.

It seems funny that scientists are quoted when they are saying doubtful things and ridiculed when they come out with positively proven facts. I don’t like the saying, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Thereby implying that statistics are false. I believe that unless statistics are true they are useless. But of course there is always the temptation to select the statistic that suits your argument whether it be true or false.

I have always in the past been most interested in politics and elections but the one to be held on the 5th May cannot stir me to be enthusiastic about it and I find it difficult to know why.

It may be as Tam Dalyell said, in the run-up to the formation of the Scottish Assembly, that we were on a slippery path to separation. I sincerely hope he was wrong but I wouldn’t bet on it. Like most Scots I have a very strong belief in the traditions of our country looking at history, I am proud of the part Scots have played in the government of the UK in all political parties. I am sure we can continue to keep our end up providing we do not cut ourselves off or so disgust the English that they are glad to be rid of us.

Maybe of course it is just that my generation is past it as Janet and I await the imminent birth of our fourth Great Grand Child. That immediately cheers me up to muse about what that generation will experience in the next 80 years. And another thing that will cheer us is the forthcoming Royal Wedding, which for a change looks as if everything is right this time.

What’s to come in the next 80 years cannot be foreseen, and with the earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornados, and the Hard Winter we have just experienced it is easy to be pessimistic. But this wonderful spring brings forth optimism. My mother’s saying that a normal spring means that the Birch leaves will be the size of ‘a moosie’s lug on the 1st of May’. Last year it was the 10th of May before they appeared at that size and this year they are at that size on 10th of April.

I’ve just been listening to Peter Melchett on the early morning Farming programme condemning a proposal to set up a huge pig unit. He is one of those who jumps on every statistic that suggests that all modern methods of Farming are wrong.

I remember when he gave evidence to the Agricultural Select Committee about aid for the Western Isles. After he had gone on for a while about how the environment was being ruined he was asked the straight question, “Have you ever been to the Western Isles?” He had to answer that he hadn’t and I’m afraid that finished his evidence.

David Myles