Finally the correct words to articulate our fatal population growth dilemma

By Donald A. Collins | 25 January 2013
Church and State

Describing mankind as a “plague on the Earth”, veteran nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough says we need to limit population growth or famines will do it for us. (Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Not that this individual is the first to spell out the major culprit of our increasing planetary woes. Certainly Paul Ehrlich’s prognostications and those of many others come to mind.

But here is the right LANGUAGE which should send shivers down the spines of all of us, not just the enlightened cognoscenti who have so ably put forth the facts on global warming, environmental degradation and the likely collapse of civil society.

Who is this savant? Wikipedia tells us

Sir David Frederick Attenborough, OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FSA (born 8 May 1926) is a British broadcaster and naturalist.

His career as the face and voice of natural history programmes has endured for 60 years. He is best known for writing and presenting the nine Life series, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, which collectively form a comprehensive by survey of all life on the planet. He is also a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only person to have won a BAFTA in black and white, colour, HD and 3D.

Attenborough is widely considered a national treasure in Britain, although he himself does not like the term. In 2002 he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote. He is a younger brother of director, producer and actor Richard Attenborough.

Again, our colleague, Joe Bish, of Population Media has highlighted this signal announcement with these words and with these attached reference materials which we suggest you read and watch in full.

You may have seen headlines in the past few days relating to Sir David Attenborough’s recent remarks, which reportedly went something like:

“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.”

Coverage has been robust!

Two items below relate to this story. First is a link to an article where you can hear a 5-minute MP3 audio report, in which Population Matters Chief Executive, Simon Ross, gives commentary on the Attenborough story.

Also providing commentary on the audio is Rob Bailey, a senior energy, environment and resources research fellow at the Chatham House think tank. Mr. Baily’s concludes that: “We are now in a period where the earth’s environment, climate, biodiversity and water resources are changing with unprecedented rapidity…. That is all the result of man’s activities on the planet and it’s going to have profound implications for us. So I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement, unfortunately.”

Sir David Attenborough recommends population control to avoid “plague on the Earth”

Secondly is a story published at Live Science.

Filmmaker Sir David Attenborough Calls Humans a Plague
22 January 2013

Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist and television presenter, has some harsh words for humanity.

“We are a plague on the Earth,” Attenborough told the Radio Times, as reported by the Telegraph. “It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so.”

Attenborough went on to say that both climate change and “sheer space” were looming problems for humanity.

“Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he said.

Sir David is not the only naturalist who has warned of population growth outstripping resources. Paul Ehrlich, the president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University and author of “The Population Bomb” (Sierra Club-Ballantine, 1968) has long used language similar to Attenborough’s. And in 2011, an analysis of species loss suggested that humans are beginning to cause a mass extinction on the order of the one that killed the dinosaurs.

When asked about Attenborough’s comments on humanity as its own scourge, Ehrlich told LiveScience he “completely agree[d], as does every other scientist who understands the situation.”

Even so, that doesn’t mean forceful measures must be taken. “Government propaganda, taxes, giving every sexually active human being access to modern contraception and backup abortion, and, especially, giving women absolutely equal rights and opportunities with men might very well get the global population shrinkage required if a collapse is to be avoided,” Ehrlich said.

In fact, providing free, reliable birth control to women could prevent between 41 percent and 71 percent of abortions in the United States, according to a study detailed in the Oct. 4, 2012, issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Other scientists also agreed to some extent with the heart of Attenborough’s message.

“It’s clear that increasing population growth makes some of our biggest environmental challenges harder to solve, not easier,” said from Jerry Karnas, population campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz.

Karnas added, however, “What’s needed is not population control but a real emphasis on reproductive rights, women’s empowerment, universal access to birth control and education, so more freedom for folks to make better, more informed family planning choices.”

And population numbers would matter less for the planet’s health if clean renewable energy were widely adopted as well as planning laws, he told LiveScience during an interview.

Attenborough is famous for his “Life on Earth” series of wildlife documentaries, among other nature programming. In 2009, he became a patron of the Population Matters, a group that advocates voluntary population limitation. At the time, he released a statement saying, “I’ve seen wildlife under mounting human pressure all over the world and it’s not just from human economy or technology — behind every threat is the frightening explosion in human numbers.”

Earth’s population reached 7 billion people on or around Oct. 31, 2011, according to United Nations estimates.

In trying to determine routes to survival, one could readily say as a recent TED speaker Alexandra Paul did that the planet could not survive with more than 2 billion humans. She suggested everyone think about a one child family. This of course will not happen, but even 2 billion will not be sustainable should people around the world try and possibly attain the living standards developed countries have enjoyed for decades.

The Plague is upon us. The prospect raised by credible experts about world population reaching 10 billion or more suggests that the gentler routes to a population stabilization or reduction will not be forthcoming. Yes, full contraceptive access could be a major help, but its fulfillment on a timely basis is unlikely.

Life as I have enjoyed it will not be the lot of my children or theirs and I deeply regret this fact. However, Sir David has at least articulated the unspeakable truth — or as Walt Kelly’s cartoon possum so beautifully put it at a time years ago when the gentler solutions were possible, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Kindle Store

Professor Paul Ehrlich: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

Al Bartlett — Democracy Cannot Survive Overpopulation

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  1. As we call ourselves a intelligent species and a advanced society we refuse to open our eyes to the rate of consumption and destruction we are responsible for , we continue to ignore the inevitable fate we seem to be in a constant race to achieve , and only our own demise will ever satisfy our determination to do so , I wouldn't consider our species to be intelligent at all , we more closely resemble a parasite or virus .


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