Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Sir David Attenborough calls it a 'plague'

13 February, 2013 - 10:48 -- John Burton
Sir David Attenborough, Patron of World Land Trust

Readers of this column (sorry, blog – old habits die hard) will know that World Land Trust's Patron Sir David Attenborough has been outspoken in recent years about the human population crisis.

He is (along with another of our Patrons, Chris Packham) also a Patron of Population Matters. This organisation’s website is well worth checking out, and anyone who is serious about environmental issues should sign up to receive their news releases. 

In a well publicised interview, recently published in the Radio Times, Sir David referred to the human population crisis as a ‘plague’. 

I think this is an incredibly apt way of describing the human condition, and I don’t recall having heard it described in this way before.

But just like vole plagues, lemming plagues and locust plagues, we have seen a population explosion because of an abundance of resources. (Human population has doubled in the past 50 years.) And what happens to ‘plague’ species? They ultimately crash, with vast numbers dying when the resources are over-stripped.

Other sorts of plagues – viruses, for example, or those carried by parasites - bear a passing resemblance to the human population crisis. Once the host of the parasite dies, eventually the plague subsides; a metaphor for the rise and fall of so many civilizations.

I am not convinced that the human species has the appetite for doing anything about this situation. Only the Chinese government has ever taken population growth seriously, and that was in the face of worldwide condemnation, particularly by religious groups.

But that leads to another Pandora’s Box.

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