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Date [ 2013-12-24, 11:40 ]

The distinguished naturalist makes some unnatural assumptions. 


(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) by Ramani Rathir = Sir David Attenborough has left his nature films and has embarked on a crusade that Malthus introduced a long time ago. Mainly as population rises and food production falls, the world id going to starve to death.

Attenborough was equally eloquent. In the UK, he told Radio Times: “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.”

This line of thought may not be surprising coming from Attenborough as he is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust. It also goes under the name of Population Matters, perhaps because it cannot decide what the world’s “optimum” population should be. 

As patron, in the past, Attenborough has talked about the “frightening explosion in human numbers.”  This somewhat contradicts him earlier saying that the natural world is limiting population growth.  He clarifies that by informing that humans are outstripping the world’s resources and gives Ethiopia as a classic example.

Attenborough: “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.”

This argument has been debated by numerous people in numerous places, numerous times. The actual fact is that on a global scale, food is not running out. The shortage is due to bad politicians, breakout of war and sheer wastage by human carelessness. Thus pockets of famine emerge here and there.

Many tend to forget that the world many years back was much more hungry and famine was much more widespread and common in the past. On top of that the human population too was much lower.

Technology which fueled agricultural advances was able to feed larger amounts of people on the same amount of land. In Asia, an acre of land that was able to sustain just one crop a year was soon producing double and treble harvests of padi. This is all the result of us not being just consumers, but also producers.

The human race may have its bad and negative points but on the flip side of the coin it has been able to advance in so many ways, and has a resilience that has made Homo sapiens the sole remaining species of the six others which were wiped out long ago!

What has emerged in these times is the worrying trend NOT of human explosion but of falling populations. Europe, especially Portugal, has a shrinking population that may not be able to support its economy in the near future.

Singapore struggles to increase its citizens’ count and in South Korea the women are not responding to the government’s incentives for more babies. Tom Chivers in the Telegraph has declared that population growth is in fact slowing down and there is no need to raise the bogeyman any further.

Chivers expounds that “…the most likely outcome at the moment is that the world population will peak sometime around 2050 and at a population between eight and 10 billion. Obviously that's more than we have now, but not so many more that we couldn't feed everyone.”

It is indeed saddening to have such a respected name like Sir David Attenborough raise ghostly images of starvation and dying people. Humanity is certainly not a ‘plague’ but a living, dynamic force that has been able to outlive the dinosaur. Attenborough should then realize, that is certainly saying a lot for the human race.

abc@koreanpress.net 

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