CAM 82 letters

CAM 82 letters

New normal

Anne Stotter (Letters, CAM 82) asks, 'Where is the much-needed treatise on prosperity without growth?' It was published in 2009 by Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey. It's called, Prosperity without Growth: foundations for the economy of tomorrow.

Pam Lunn (New Hall 1968)

Anne Stotter asks (Mailbag, Issue 82) “Where is the much-needed treatise on prosperity without growth?” It’s in your bookshop: Prosperity without Growth by Tim Jackson (Earthscan, 2011). I don’t know why it’s not heard of more often.

Michael Snell (Jesus 1961)

I read with interest the letters critical of economists’ “fascination with growth”, apparently ignoring limits posed by population increase, shortages of raw materials, warming and pollution.  I believe Malthus (1798) was the first to theorise about the dangers of population overtaking the ability of the land to feed the people. Around the end of the Second World War there was a famous report to the US Congress predicting the end of the availability of oil, iron ore and other raw materials in 20 to 50 years. It is remarkable what relative price changes and human ingenuity have achieved! Perhaps economics can expand analysis to the additional problems though, given the difficulty of ascribing an opportunity cost to a crash fatality, to estimate one for a dead whale or a vanished coral reef is perhaps beyond any discipline.

Of far more interest are the moral and political problems associated with calls for a halt to growth. Who is to say that the people of the Ganges delta, let alone those in the inner suburbs of our cities or in rural poverty, may not aspire to the standard of living enjoyed by even the average person in the developed world? Is that latter standard to be reduced to enable others to catch up to eliminate growth? “Nudging” is surely insufficient for such a marked change and there is little sign in this fissiparous, nationalistic world of any combined push being thought of, let alone initiated.

I will certainly not be around to see what happens

Brian Luker (Sidney Sussex 1955)

I have little or no understanding of economics, but on the rare occasions when I read an article on the subject, like 'A New Normal' (CAM Easter 2017), invariably I'm amazed by the stress on the desideratum of apparently endless 'growth', as if the planet's potential to produce riches were infinite, a distinctly dodgy premise I'd have thought (famously challenged as long ago as 1972 in the Club of Rome's report, Limits to Growth). Equally baffling is the complete absence of any reference to the economic implications of the current environmental crisis. My understanding is that, in order to stave off environmental catastrophe, it's imperative to make drastic cuts in emissions of CO2, methane & other greenhouse gases, & in furtherance of this goal to move from coal & oil to renewables as our primary sources of energy. Even without an understanding of economics, it's plain to me that this must necessarily involve seismic economic shifts, but it appears to pass the economists by completely. Ostriches? Or am I missing something?

Janet Rizvi (Girton 1958)


Professor Virgo (CAM 82) is quite right that students are not "consumers". 'Consumere' in Latin means "to destroy" or "waste". The Brontë sisters died of consumption. Planet Earth is now suffering from a similar disease.

John Anderson (King’s 1959)


Two thoughts dropped into my head when reading the article on gravity and the letters regarding age in the last issue. I find now that time has become less significant: the new enemy for an oldie on this earth is indeed gravity. And long before Newton, which ancient Bible illustrator might it have been who decided it was an apple that brought about the Fall?

John Ironside (Peterhouse 1952)

The gravity article (CAM 82) looks at work which is now going on to add another term to Newton's gravitational acceleration, to predict the observed rotation curves of spiral galaxies, without the need for dark matter (Professor Erik Verlinde). This is based on Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). Professor Richard McMahon is also looking at how gravity varies at large distances, but this time at the far edges of the universe, using quasars.

The article shows that opinions differ widely about the contents of the universe. Professor Andy Fabian is happy to accept the existence of dark matter and dark energy, even though this mass and energy has not yet been directly detected.

We are at a very interesting point in the investigation of the variation of gravity with distance. To make progress in combining relativity and quantum mechanics space and time may need to be separated.

Readers might like to look into the creation of the concept of space-time in 1905, as detailed in books by Arthur Miller (ISBN 0-387-94870-8) and Anna Cerbara (ISBN 978-1-520-85454-0).

Those wanting to know more about Modified Newtonian Dynamics might like to read two books by Robert Sanders (ISBN 978-0-152-11301-4) and (ISBN 978-1--107-15526-8).

Kenneth Barnsley (Trinity 1970)

Bop On

I was surprised to see Pleasure Machine (nee 1972/73) suggested as the first disco at Churchill

As JCR Entertainments Secretary from 1970 to 1972 I inherited a proud tradition of Churchill Discos in the Pavilion. I recall reproducing hand-drawn posters (sadly I can't find an example) in Engineering, and distributing them as far away as Homerton. We also put on events in the Buttery with local rock band Wild Oats

The 'new' condom machine was also installed during my period of office. I was particularly amused by correspondence with the London Rubber Company's 'Customer Relations Officer' – perhaps we may have been 'living off immoral earnings'?

PS: Cancellation of the 1969 Churchill May Ball saved me from the nominated task of "looking after all the needs of the headline band" at the tender age of 18 – it was Black Sabbath.

David Bullock (Churchill 1969)

The article in issue 82 vividly indicated how the 'music/dancing/friends' scene has moved on. In my time one of my favourite regular events was Jazz at the Rex Ballroom, where town and gown mixed most harmoniously.

The resident band was the University Jazz Band and the style 'trad' but with increasing 'mainstream' tendency. It was a very accomplished outfit and was a regular national competition winner.  The pianist was Gerry Brindley, a Selwyn organ scholar and great character, whose true allegiance was much more Thelonius Monk than Earl Hines!

What memories!

Bryan Alexander (Selwyn 1956)

I'd normally end the night with "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (the Saint Etienne cover) when I DJ'ed at Wolfson. Not because it was demanded, just because I wanted to!

Steve Bradshaw (Wolfson 2000)

I can't remember any anthem for Fitz (88) although we did play Transvision Vamp a lot. I do recall a move to rename the 'bop' to modernise the name. The name 'fip' was suggested (fully integrated party). Clearly didn't take off.

Loona Hazarika (Fitzwilliam 1988)

I don’t remember an anthem for Queens’ – can anyone help?

Helen Williams (née Stokes, Queens’ 1984)

Disappointed Selwyn Halloween Bop of 2015 and 2016 didn't get a mention, but an inspired piece of writing nonetheless.

Ellen McPherson Selwyn 2014


I read Dr Lucy's article on Admissions with great interest (CAM 82). Were I to go through this process now, I wouldn't have had a hope of being accepted. I was a prime example of someone who benefitted from the now outdated system of 'connections'. Many members of my family, going back several generations, were at Trinity, and this proved the deciding factor (no 'strings' were pulled on my behalf). I didn't have to sit an entrance exam; instead I had lunch with Harry Williams, the admissions tutor, and was told "yes, you can come, as long as you get your physics A-level" (I had failed this the first time round). So I came in 1959 as a budding medic, managed to get my degree & qualified in 1965. Perhaps I should never have been accepted, but went on to have a reasonably successful career in general practice. I suppose my patients would be the only people to say if I should have been allowed to become a doctor!  But I must thank Trinity for the very lenient and informal, if now unacceptable, admission system they had 60 years ago.

Tim Paine (Trinity 1959)

As one who matriculated in the early 50s, I was particularly interested in Professor Virgo's comments on teaching excellence.

I failed to benefit from my years at Cambridge for a number of reasons; principally my own immaturity; such that I could not bring myself to seek support I needed.

But – at the same time - no member of staff never really seemed to interest himself in my survival, academic or social. So I was never helped to learn. Should they have done so?

I have only learned to learn when, after a relatively successful public service career on two continents, I was able to explain to New Zealand undergraduate students the mechanics and systems which I had learnt in my work. BUT now I was able to integrate such practical experiences with current academic theory and thought, and to share this with undergraduates.

I had learned at last to think, and distil by myself!

John Lee (Emmanuel 1952)

On Age

I ‘retired’ from General Practice at 59 in 1990. I was at Gonville and Caius from 1951-54 after National Service in the Royal Artillery. House jobs at the Radcliffe Oxford, surgery at Birmingham and Obstetrics at Brighton followed. After seven years as a GP at Lichfield, where three of my children were born and twenty years at Chertsey, Surrey, where we adopted another, we took a long holiday abroad and then I worked in 20 different practices as a locum. I also did ‘fitness for work’ examinations for the Government.

Second retirement took my wife and I to Minehead after selling our house in Surrey. Here we joined U3A, walked a border terrier, painted, read books, went on geology trips, enjoyed films, plays, book fairs, opera, concerts and country pursuits, went cruising and made new friends.

This nirvana existence was interrupted by CABG heart operation with pacemaker in 2008 and during convalescence I edited and published my father’s 200-page war diary; the story of a TA Volunteer in 1908, six weeks of near death in Gallipoli, then 18 months in Allenby’s Cavalry in Palestine until the fall of Damascus.

I have now sold 500 copies under the name Mountains of Moab. There is a copy in the University Library. Another publication which I have just had printed and now needs a reprint is Away From All Danger. This tells the story of my evacuation to a Stately Home in Herefordshire during the whole of World War II. I was nine in 1939 and 14 at the end of the war. It is a vignette of our development in total safety from the bombs and bullets and deaths of war, but full of amusing events in our unhindered rural setting with an odd assortment of teachers and rustic characters.

I thank my University for giving me the incentive always to be interested in everything and everybody around me and for opening the doors of life and its wonderful opportunities. When one door closes, another opens.

John Godrich (Caius 1951)


‘Your magazine has been a source of great joy to me throughout the years and I always find myself eagerly awaiting the next issue.’

Maria Haka Flokos (Girton 1980)

Cambridge Bookshops

Cambridge bookshops were certainly celebrated in song during the 1950s to the tune of Frere Jacques, but so also were the local brewers: Wells and Winch's, Wells and Winch's/ Benskin's Beers, Benskin's Beers/ Tollemache's Brewery, Tollemache's Brewery/ Greene King's Ales,  Greene King's Ales.   

Greene King flourishes still, having swallowed Tolly Cobbold.  The other two by various routes disappeared into the maw of Carlsberg.

Kenneth Greenwood (Emmanuel 1950)

Admission of women

This is a special year for me, and my contemporaries, who were admitted to Girton and Newnham Colleges in 1948. Twenty years ago, we – and all those who had preceded us as students at Girton and Newnham – were invited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the admission of women as full members of the University in 1948.

The occasion was a very happy one. Having collected our gowns at the 'Vesting Area' at Girton, we drove to Cambridge in four coaches, each accompanied by a police-outrider. St. John's Street and Trinity Street had been closed to traffic. Bells pealed, flags flapped. King's Parade was full of spectators who cheered as we clambered from the coaches. As we entered the Senate House a fanfare was played by Crispin Steele-Perkins. There were speeches and an oration delivered
by the University Orator. We then proceeded to a marquee for tea and champagne.

It is now 70 years since women became full members of the University. Of my own group of eight friends, (who met annually until this became difficult), three have died, as will many of those who attended the 1998 celebration. I think it would give us survivors great pleasure if CAM would recall the momentous change in the status of women students at Cambridge in 1948 and the joyful celebration of 1998.

Kathleen Kummer (Girton 1948)