Jane Goodall, primatologist, asked: I am always being asked my views on the continued growth of the human population. It is a bit of a minefield. What are your views?Here's an excerpt from the BBC documentary Planet Earth with Attenborough narrating:
Attenborough: The world's population has grown three times bigger since I started making television programmes, and the notion that you could have that vast increase in one species without having some kind of deleterious effect is obvious nonsense. If there are three times as many people, they have all got to have houses. They all want to have food. They all want to have cars. They all want to travel by air. And where does all that space come from? The only place it can come from is the natural world. And it is absolutely evident that this can't go on for ever. So what is going to stop it? Either the natural world will stop it – and the natural world is already stopping it in Africa with great disasters. Or else we do something ourselves. Now, of course, it is a minefield. But nonetheless you have got to tread into it. The one hope is this: wherever women are given the vote, are allowed to be literate, are allowed to have control over their own lives and have the medical facilities that enable them to do so, whenever that happens, the birth rate falls.
Toren Atkinson, singer, Vancouver, Canada: Of all the currently threatened species (or groups of species – ie frogs), which ones in your opinion should demand the most attention to save?
Attenborough: There is no hierarchy. There should be enough people around to care for everything.
Liz Cunliffe, music teacher, Paris: What do you hate most about life in the 21st century?
Attenborough: Crowds, I suppose.
Dave Kempton, retired police officer, Highnam, Gloucestershire: Is there an animal that you think has a sense of humour?
Attenborough: I am pretty sure that chimps do.
Tony Moon, film-maker/university lecturer, Brighton: In cases where a plant is impersonating an insect visually for purposes of pollination, how has the plant "seen" what the insect looks like?
Attenborough: The answer is that the plant hasn't seen what the insect looks like. The insect has seen what the plant looks like, and the closer it comes to the female that it is impersonating, the better and more effective it is so that it is the insect which is carrying out natural selection not the plant.
Michael Steer, student, Barnsley, South Yorkshire: What are your views on vegetarianism?
Attenborough: I think that if there is such a thing as biological morality, you might say that we evolved as omnivores. We don't have long guts like a cow to digest nothing but vegetation. We have molars, which are there to grind up, but we also have canine teeth, which are good for eating meat. So I think that, biologically, we evolved as omnivores and not as vegetarians. However, as I get older, I get more and more distressed about what I discover about the way that animals are killed [for meat]. There are other reasons for being vegetarian as the world starves – you can get much more sustenance from vegetation than from feeding that vegetation to animals and eating the meat. But I am not a vegetarian myself.
Sylvia Greaves, learning mentor in a secondary school, Huddersfield: I work in a secondary school. What one thing would you most like us to impress upon young people's minds?
Attenborough: That we are part of the animal world. We are part of the natural world.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
David Attenborough on Human Population Growth, Vegetarianism, and Wry Chimps
Here's an excerpt from an interview with 84-year-old David Attenborough that ran in the Guardian today. It's not a formal interview, rather some questions posed by Guardian readers and public figures: