THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Like a lot of people, especially in Britain, I grew up watching David Attenborough programmes. I still watch them all the time as they are far and away the best of their kind and I can’t stand most other kinds of TV programme.

Attenborough is a very well-loved figure in Britain. The strange thing is that he has recently been becoming controversial.

Originally, many of the climate change activists were angry that Attenborough wasn’t saying much about the problem.

Then he made a documentary called ‘The Truth about Climate Change’ of which this is an excerpt with some commentary…

I also noticed a great post or two at Wis[s]e Words where he shows that Dutch Evangelical TV had been editing his programmes to remove all references to evolution. The links for 3 videos [in English] demonstrating the editing are HERE, HERE and HERE

Also…

In January 2009, Sir David revealed that he had received hate mail from viewers for not crediting God in his nature programmes.

The most recent documentary , ‘Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life’ might not have helped him in those circles.

However his most recent pronouncement may be causing outrage from the very same people as he has started to talk about human overpopulation.

He has become the patron of the ‘Optimum Population Trust’ which is a group that accuses both governments and greens of having a taboo on the subject of human population.

As the BBC article says…

In a statement issued by the Optimum Population Trust he is quoted as saying: “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.”

The Trust, which was founded in 1991, campaigns for the UK population to decrease voluntarily by not less than 0.25% a year.

It has launched a “Stop at Two” online pledge to encourage couples to limit their family’s size.

Overpopulation is the elephant in the room.

So more power to David – even if I suspect he would find my ideas a little to the left of his.

10 comments

  1. I tend to think that global warming is something at least partly caused by man. So I’m not someone who tries to pretend that it isn’t real.

    However, I generally have doubts when the topic of “overpopulation” comes up because I’ve seen the people who talk about it miss a couple of points.

    How people choose to act has a far greater impact than the number of people around. Take global warming. It is caused by burning fossil fuels. Stop burning fossil fuels and the problem will, given time and if this is done soon enough, stop. And it will stop even if the population grows.

    Most of the predications that we will run out of food (the earlier concerns about “overpopulation” seemed to be based on worries of mass starvation rather than things relating to environmental protection) have not come to pass. Ehrlich’s predictions certainly didn’t and he was someone who came in more modern times how may have had access to more modern pieces of knowledge. And from some reports agriculture/the growing of food has actually been allowed to decline because more o it was being generated than could be readily sold or used.

  2. Nathaniel does not believe that Ehrlich’s predictions came true. Probably he might think differently if he lifed in a different part of the world, and anyhow the good news is that overpopulation doesn’t happen overnight. First begin the wars, then the epidemics, or maybe starvation at the periphery is first, I don’t know that. Then all the people who are living high on the hog pretend it isn’t happening, and they either become quite desparate to protect themselves from other people (think pyramid scam and the like, walled compounds) or they rush out and try to help the people to whom it is happening.

    Sound familiar?

    People who do not understand either the biology or the history should do some study and thinking before they decide they know the answers. This is not a game.

  3. My understanding is that Ehrlich said there was going to be mass starvation both inside the USA (western world) and out (3rd world). And that this was going to happen by what we now see as several years ago (a couple of decades past).

    There is starvation in the world today, but there are also the foodstuffs that could end it. I don’t know if most people in those parts of the “periphery” where hunger is or was rampant know that elsewhere there is (and was in the past) the food to feed them. But while you talk about how this is not a “game” that is a pretty big fact to overlook.

    While I’m sure there are other people who know history better than me I do know that there have been plenty of wars, times of famine, and diseases in the past when population levels were a great deal lower.

    And about people living “high on the hog”. That is probably us in the western world. There are plenty of billionaires that want to join us as the 3rd world industrializes, but what defines them and us from the past is our great ability to manipulate resources, ecologies, and the world at large to a greater degree. Though keep in mind that we are able to do all this without having large numbers of children.

    I hope I wrote this with fewer typos then my last comment but what I put forward then and now are valid points.

  4. The only real studies into how we can feed an expected population of 10 billion suggest that it can only be done on a strict vegan diet and the method includes the composting of all animal and human waste.

    Effectively that means using your gran as fertiliser. If this kind of population maintenance is not a problem for you then that’s your own business.

    As for the west doing things without large numbers of children… this is solely because they have systematically robbed other parts of the world of their wealth for 400 years.

    I don’t think that that is a good thing.

  5. I admit to not being expert enough to define if a study or projection of the future is “real” or not. My point before is that we (as a species) have had and currently do have enough food to feed everyone. Though it didn’t happen. Perhaps it didn’t because of how political structures, society, and economies work (and have in the past), not because there wasn’t enough food for everyone.

    We have robbed a great many places around the world of their wealth, and that adds to our ability to do things. And I certainly didn’t say it is a good thing if the west decides to rob the rest of the world more. However a big way we increase our abilities is through devices of many sorts.

    On a (very) micro-scale one man can dig a trench in a day that would have taken a crew of people longer with hand tools. A great many of these devices are run via fossil fuels. Those are where the bulk of our problems with global warming come from.

    These devices are generally noted in economic terms rather than a census (noting population size). They are used, built, and profited from in values generally marked by dollar (or some other kind of currency) amounts. At least when trying to get a handle on global warming problems why are we measuring them by per capita pollution when (in my opinion, but with some reasons behind it) we should be measuring them by pollution per unit of economic activity?

    With at least this particular problem I think we are paying too much attention to population size when the real concern should be elsewhere.

  6. i actually agree with most of that.

    In addition

    An average Indian produces 1 ton of CO2 a year. An average British person produces 10 tonnes. An average American produces 25 tonnes.

    In our current paradigm, who is advanced?

  7. Thanks, paradigms can sometimes be interesting to think about.

    While it takes someone to think about where pollution comes from to note the different amounts on average by population good luck on finding it listed by economy.

    It isn’t impossible to try to figure that out, but that we don’t generally even note it may say something or other. Though I cannot really say if I’m going to far with that or not.

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