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.

 

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