David Attenborough: This Heaving Planet

July 20, 2011 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Population Matters for this article by Sir David Attenborough.  See http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2011/04/human-population-essay-food

This Heaving Planet

By David Attenborough

April 27, 2011

Half a century ago, the WWF was formed to help save endangered animals. Today, it’s human beings who are increasingly at risk, through overpopulation and food scarcity. Can we bring our birth rate under control and avert potential catastrophe?

Fifty years ago, on 29 April 1961, 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; a powerful and astonishingly effective civil servant, Max Nicholson – and several others.

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 Arabian Peninsula, had been reduced to a few hundred. In Spain, there were only about 90 imperial eagles left. The Californian condor was down to about 60. In Hawaii, a goose that once lived in flocks on the lava fields around the great volcanoes had been reduced to 50. And the strange rhinoceros that lived in the dwindling forests of Java – to about 40. These were the most extreme examples. Wherever naturalists looked they found species of animals whose populations were falling rapidly. This planet was in danger of losing a significant number of its inhabitants, both animals and plants.

Something had to be done. And that group determined to do it. They would need scientific advice to discover the causes of these impending disasters and to devise ways of slowing them and, they hoped, of stopping them. They would have to raise awareness and understanding of people everywhere; and, like all such ­enterprises, they would need money to enable them to take practical action.

They set about raising all three. Since the problem was an international one, they based themselves not in Britain but in the heart of Europe, in Switzerland. They called the orga­nisation that they created the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2011/04/human-population-essay-food

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