Are humans a 'plague on the Earth'?

Beloved nature commentator David Attenborough says he has the key to solving climate change and other threats: Limit population growth.

By Aimee Picchi Jan 23, 2013 2:16PM

Sir David Attenborough in September 2012 (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)David Attenborough has been called one of England's national treasures for his work hosting natural history programs on television, but his latest remarks might offend many of his fans. 

Humans "are a plague on the Earth," Attenborough, 86, told the Radio Times magazine.

Climate change and food shortages are due to human overpopulation, he said. 

His prescription for solving the problem? "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,” he said.

Attenborough, who was knighted in the 1980s, has made his views on population growth known before. He became a supporter of the group Population Matters in 2009, according to the U.K.'s Telegraph

Population Matters supports "working for a global population size providing a good standard of living for all and environmental sustainability," and runs campaigns supporting family planning, free- or low-cost contraception and limiting free in-vitro fertilization to people without children, according to its website.

In his latest comments, Attenborough suggested that TV programs highlighting the plight of Africans suffering from famine are part of the problem. 

"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," he said.

His comments are spurring some debate and disagreement, with Bjorn Lomborg, the author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," telling the Telegraph that Attenborough's Malthusian views are outdated. 

"We have dramatically more people but also ways to make agriculture more productive on less land," Lomborg said.  

He added that it's a "human-hating" point of view to believe that the only way to save the earth's species is to reduce the human population. 

The earth's population was estimated to have hit 7 billion in October, with more than half of those people born within the last 40 years.

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Jan 23, 2013 3:51PM
Yes, I believe we are reaching critical mass and straining natural resources. Something has to give. It's the law of nature, physics and the universe.
Jan 23, 2013 6:26PM

As George Carlin once stated:

"One day this earth will shake off the human population like a bad case of fleas..."

Jan 23, 2013 5:01PM
Of course David Attenborough is absolutely correct.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant and delusional. The data is unambiguous, and only one conclusion can be drawn from it - reduce human populations worldwide or get visited by the 4 horsemen of the apocolypse. 
Jan 23, 2013 5:24PM
I remember watching a program about a string of rocky islands somewhere in the Pacific. Not a thing on them but rock.
Scientist figured out that at one time one of the islands was occupied by rats.
They ate everything in site. Ate all the vegetation. Then they ate all the seeds.
When there was nothing else, they ate each other. When the first island was completely eaten up, some rats swam to the next island and continued in their same habit of eating away. Finally, all the vegetation, all the seed and all but one last rat existed on the last island. It died of starvation leaving behind a string of nothing but stones sticking out of the ocean.

Remind you of anything?

Jan 23, 2013 7:10PM

Get rid of social programs that gives losers on the system more money for re-producing and the reproductve rate of douche bags will drop dramatically if they had to pay for the kids they keep popping out. Free housing, free insurance, free schooling, free lunch programs, free food, phones etc.... I have to work and pay for my kids. Getting harder to take care of my own when everything keeps going up around me to pay for these irresponsible wastes of life.

Jan 23, 2013 3:44PM
I agree with Mr. Lomborg, but it's a matter of putting our long term interests ahead of our short term interests. Since short term interests seem so much more popular than long term interests, I'm afraid Mr. Attenborough  will end up being right.
Jan 23, 2013 6:03PM
David Attenborough is Master of the Bleeding Obvious! Come on now people, the earth is over populated and filthy - People have created less than they destroy. Mother Nature is a true Force and she is getting mad. Nature will correct what stupid people choose to ignore.

This is the truth, it isn't just about food, it is about sucking up and dominating the planet using land and air and depleting everything like a virus so that other animals are falling extinct.  It is ignorant to try to treat it like a political statement to debate and point fingers at haters or policies. Our issues are obvious and to play debate is ridiculous.

Jan 23, 2013 6:33PM

Doesn't matter if anyone agrees with him right now. We all eventually will, when we are killing each other for just clean water..... You can keep burying you head in the sand, and tell yourself it isn't a problem right now, so why should we do anything about it? But it will eventually become a very big problem...... and it will be right at your doorstep.



Jan 23, 2013 6:22PM
That's western culture for you.  The native americans had the most sustainable form of life living in peace with nature, rahter than destroying it.
Jan 23, 2013 5:50PM

More than 7 billion people.......



and yet.......




Everybody sucks but me.

Jan 23, 2013 6:56PM
ted turner said it best....poor people (not so called american poor) are travelling to take resources. they dont care about laws or sovreinty. get ready, its coming. you will large scale wars in the years to come mostly due to overpopulation of 3rd world countries
Jan 23, 2013 5:37PM
Prof. Paul Ehrlich said this in a major book in 1968, "The Population
Bomb" --- he still stands by it.   Montana just made a pop. of one million and it's too many for old timers...Calif. will be around 50 million by 2050 and I won't be around to despise the newcomers and the jammed US 91 with 20 lanes by then between Orange county and the Inland Empire.  I guess the muckymucks who run Haiti have never heard of the book, or the use of condoms, right? 
Jan 23, 2013 5:46PM
omg, about time this was talked about, could you amagine a world with no famine and where human life was more sacred, with technology taking more jobs and more people out of work farms running at max capacity, trash being dumped into the ocean along with human sewage and fertilizers creating larger and larger dead zones in the ocean and more people having multiple children on welfare we need an easy way to make large populations of people infertile for sevreal years tell we can get this under control it would be the greatest thing to happen to humanity ever. alowing more money and time to create technology to leave our children with a clean and wonderful earth THIS would please god. HE gave us the brains and would expect us to use it.
Jan 23, 2013 6:37PM
their are more people alive right now than all the people that have ever died! WAY MORE. Populations are exploding!
Jan 23, 2013 5:49PM

Which one of you people who agree we have too many people volunteer to be the first to go?


So most replies i have gotten say that attrition will decide and we dont have to kill anyone.


I agree that I should not be forced to pay for anothers lack of restraint in having children they cannot afford. It does not mean I cannot voluntarily do this.


However, if i have a job that can support 15 children, it is not your right or the governments right to tell me I cant have those 15 children. My rights come from my creator. Not you or any government official.

Jan 23, 2013 5:13PM
Jan 23, 2013 5:52PM
54 million abortions since 1974 in USA. 130 minute. Globally its billions. Guess that programs not enough time to sterilize people?
Jan 23, 2013 7:41PM
the dumbs are over breeding, causing average IQ to go down, in addition to destroying earth.  humans are de-evolving.  give incentives to baby-free families or tax every child in families. 
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