Response to David Attenborough on famine and population

20 September 2013

Veteran broadcaster David Attenborough caused a minor furore earlier this week with his comments on population control, saying that famines in Ethiopia were ‘about too many people for too little piece of land’. Sending flour bags to Africa was ‘barmy’, he said, suggesting that famine was nature’s way of dealing with too many people.

We thought such ideas has been consigned to history long ago. Sadly not. Here’s the text of the letter our new director, Nick Dearden, wrote to the Telegraph in response:

Sir David Attenborough is right to be concerned about threats to Africa’s ability to feed itself. Backed by £400 million of British aid, the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is forcing African governments to adopt policies that make it easier for foreigners to take over agricultural land, much of which will be used for the production of biofuel or other export crops.

But if his concerns are really about too many people and too little land, his attention should be focused nearer to home: Europe’s population relative to its land area is more than double that of Africa’s. Our consumption levels are only made possible by the ongoing extraction of agricultural and other raw materials from developing countries.

Allowing Africa to feed its own people, rather than greedy Western markets, would make “barmy” food aid redundant.



The Paris attacks make climate protests more important than ever

18 November 2015

It will be deeply ironic if climate activists from around the world are among the first to fall foul of France's emergency powers. Of course, those campaigners have nothing to do with the brutal attacks on Paris last Friday night. On the contrary, they will challenge the unequal, unsustainable and militaristic policies on which terrorism has thrived.

Food speculation rules face delay

16 November 2015

The financial press was buzzing last week with reports that the high profile EU legislation to tackle the financial crisis of 2007-8 is at risk of being delayed. This legislation was passed at the beginning of 2014 and thanks to public campaigning here in the UK and across Europe, includes provisions to tackle reckless betting on food prices.

The elephant in Paris – guns and greenhouse gases

13 November 2015

There is no shortage of words in the latest negotiating document for the UN climate negotiations taking place in Paris at the end of November – 32,731 words to be precise and counting. Yet strangely there is one word you won’t find: military. It’s a strange omission, given that the US military alone is the single largest user of petroleum in the world and has been the main enforcer of the global oil economy for decades.