Many thanks to Roger Martin of Population Matters for this March 10, 2011 talk by Sir David Attenborough to the Royal Society of Arts and Commerce. The talk was introduced by the Duke of Edinburgh. Eric Rimmer provided this link for viewing or listening to the talk: http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2011/rsa-presidents-lecture-2011
PLANET AND POPULATION
Your Royal Highness, President, Ladies and Gentlemen.
May I first, sir, thank you for inviting me to give this, the last lecture in your Presidential series. And may I also congratulate you, Sir, on your coming 90th birthday. This year is a rich one, when to comes to anniversaries. April 29th is the fiftieth birthday of an organisation without which our planet would be in much worse condition than it is today.
Fifty years ago, a group of far-sighted people in this country got together to warn the world of an impending disaster. Among them were a distinguished scientist, Sir Julian Huxley; a bird-loving painter, Peter Scott; an advertising executive, Guy Mountford; and a powerful and astonishingly effective civil servant, Max Nicholson. They were all, in addition to their individual professions, dedicated naturalists, fascinated by the natural world not just in this country but internationally. And they noticed what few others had done – that all over the world, charismatic animals that were once numerous were beginning to disappear. The Arabian oryx , which once had been widespread all over the peninsula had now been reduced to a few hundred. In Spain, there were less than a hundred imperial eagles. The Californian condor was down to about sixty. In Hawaii, a goose that had lived in flocks on the lava fields around the great volcanoes were reduced to fifty. The strange little rhinoceros that lived in the dwindling forests of Java – to about forty. Wherever you looked there were examples of animals whose populations were falling rapidly. This planet was in danger of losing a significant number of its inhabitants – both animals and plants.