While David Attenborough has never been shy about expressing his views on population control (he became a patron of the Optimum Population Trust in 2009), in a new interview with Radio Times, he warns either we fix our numbers, or the planet will fix them for us.
“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,” he told the Radio Times.
“We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves — and it’s not an inhuman thing to say. It’s the case. Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it’s going to get worse and worse.”
Attenborough’s comments comes on the heels of a new UN report that estimates humanity will number 9.3 billion individuals in 2050, and then hit 10.1 billion by 2100. Unless we get creative, our current resources will likely not be able to support that many people – something Hampshire College developmental studies professor Betsy Hartmann tells i09 will have to be addressed eventually.
“The real challenge that lies ahead is how to plan for the addition of 2-3 billion additional people in environmentally sustainable and socially equitable ways,” she writes. “It can be done, but it will take a lot of ingenuity, innovation, and above all, political will. What doesn’t help is getting caught in the apocalyptic Malthusian trap that the planet cannot possibly support that many people. Barring major catastrophes – thermonuclear war, an asteroid strike, the plague of all plagues – it will have to. The question is not if, but how.”