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Man has become a plague on the Earth, says Sir David Attenborough

David Attenborough said the negative effects of climate change and population growth would be seen in the next 50 years

David Attenborough said the negative effects of climate change and population growth would be seen in the next 50 years

  • by STEPHEN MCGINTY
 

HE HAS made a career of ­coming face-to-face with the planet’s most dangerous ­species but none more dangerous than … man.

Sir David Attenborough, 86, has warned that humans have become a “plague on the Earth”.

And the veteran broadcaster said the negative effects of climate change and population growth would be seen in the next 50 years. He told Radio Times: “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.

“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 co-ordinated view about the planet, it’s going to get worse and worse.”

Sir David, whose landmark ­series are being repeated on BBC2, also said his style of presenting would soon be extinct. He told the magazine: “I’m not sure there’s any need for a new Attenborough. The more you go on, the less you need people standing between you and the animal and the camera waving their arms about. It’s much cheaper to get someone in front of a camera describing animal behaviour than actually showing you [the behaviour].

“That takes a much longer time. But the kind of carefully tailored programmes in which you really work at the commentary, you really match pictures to words, is a bit out of fashion now… regarded as old hat.”

During his long career, the naturalist has seen the global population more than double from 2.5 billion when he joined the BBC to nearly seven billion today. He has previously spoken out about the environmental problems of overpopulation.

In a previous interview, he said: “We cannot continue to deny the problem. People have pushed aside the question of population sustainability and not considered it because it is too awkward, embarrassing or difficult. But we have to talk about it.”

He has also previously insisted that the key to addressing the problem is to put women in control of their own lives, both politically and socially, and to allow them free access to adequate methods of birth control. However he has spoken out against the draconian methods in place in China where parents are permitted one child or punished with forced abortions.

He said: “Draconian measures making it illegal to bear children with horrible punishments for infringement are not going to work. You have to convince the population that it is in their interests and make it possible for them to do something.”

His remarks come as Scotland’s biggest ever campaign on tackling global hunger is launched today by a coalition of leading Scottish international development charities and faith groups. The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign is calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to use the UK’s G8 presidency in 2013 to take action on the root causes of the hunger crisis in the poorest countries.

Yesterday Val Morgan, spokesman for the IF campaign in Scotland, said of Sir David’s comments: “Population growth can increase the demand for food, land and water, and put additional strain on resources. It is well-established that as families become less poor, they have fewer children. But if families are trapped in poverty, child numbers are less likely to fall.

“We need to prioritise tackling these root causes of poverty to help ensure growing populations don’t exacerbate food insecurity. Equally, a huge amount of the world’s food supply is being wasted – for example being used as biofuels to burn in cars. If this were stopped there is enough food to feed everyone.”

 

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