As of August 2016, about 7.4 billion people inhabit this planet. The United Nations estimates around 11.2 billion will roam the Earth by 2100, even though many scientists believe our planet has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people.
Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist and television presenter, warns the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction, is to limit human population growth.
He told Radio Times back in 2013:
“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.
“We keep putting on programs 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.”
The wildlife legend also stated more and more people should be persuaded against having large families.
“If you were able to persuade people that it is irresponsible to have large families in this day and age, and if material wealth and material conditions are such that people value their materialistic life and don’t suffer as a consequence, then that’s all to the good. But I’m not particularly optimistic about the future. I think we’re lucky to be living when we are, because things are going to get worse.”
Sir David, who is a patron of the UK-based charity Population Matters – that promotes family planning and campaigns for sustainable consumption – said the best way to tackle booming populations is to give women more political control over their bodies. He told The Independent in 2014:
“We can’t go on increasing at the rate human beings are increasing forever because the Earth is finite and you can’t put infinity into something that is finite. So if we don’t do something about it then the world will do something about it – the natural world that is – we will starve.
“The only straw of comfort or of hope, and even that is pretty fragile, is that wherever women are given political control of their bodies, where they have the vote, education, appropriate medical facilities and they can read and have rights and so on, the birth rate falls, there’s no exceptions to that. There are still quite a lot of parts of the world where those things don’t apply, so those of us who live in the parts where they do apply ought to help the others to have that possibility.”
On the sidelines of a 2015 UN conference tasked with clinching a climate rescue pact, Sir David explained how the Sun could save the Earth.
“Governments with science research budgets should be spending their cash on finding new ways to gather, store and distribute energy from sources like the Sun, wind and waves. The essence of the thing is that it should be cheap. Goodness me, if we could catch one five-thousandth part of the energy that the Sun sprays onto the Moon, onto this globe every day, we would supply all the energy requirements of humanity. So how inefficient are we that we can’t get that much?”
At BBC Future’s World Changing Ideas Summit recently, Sir David reiterated how through cheap solar energy, the present generation can save the wonders of the natural world for future generations:
“Supposing that those people who had invented the steam engine and so on had in fact turned their thoughts on how to use energy and heat from the Sun – that could have changed history. We would no longer have to fell forest; we would no longer have to take oil over vast areas of land that have been completely destroyed. Above all we would no longer have polluted the atmosphere. If we get cheap energy which doesn’t pollute, then we are into a golden age.”
Will humanity come to its senses in a global way, to overcome the threats to the future of the planet posed by overpopulation and environmental damage?
Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University and author of The Population Bomb, told LiveScience:
“Government propaganda, taxes, giving every sexually active human being access to modern contraception and backup abortion, and, especially, giving women absolutely equal rights and opportunities with men might very well get the global population shrinkage required if a collapse is to be avoided.”