Attenborough, large families and overpopulation


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Sir David Attenborough has hit the news today with his view that people should not be allowed to have large families. 

His opinion is clear.  Stop the large families and the rest of us can have more ‘stuff’: “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.”

Stop large families and have more STUFF! Yep, that’ll help the world.

Advocating China’s one-child policy, Attenborough says that humans have stopped evolving due to stopping natural selection, and raising 95-99% of their babies which are born.  As a result of stopping this process of natural selection – I assume by the excellent medical  leaps and bounds by which babies who once would have died are now able to go on to live long and healthy lives – he believes that large families should now be stopped in order to limit the population.

He hasn’t mentioned that the total fertility rate worldwide has actually decreased.  He hasn’t mentioned that the world’s population has been increasing not because of growing birthrates which have actually been dropping, but primarily because of better education regarding health and because of medical advancements leading not only to a decrease in infant mortality, in stopping or curing of once-fatal diseases and also of people living to ripe old ages.  He hasn’t mentioned that China is in a deep pensions crisis, with not enough workers to support the country’s elderly and that it also has a worrying imbalance of males to females.  He has also ignored the fact that the entire world’s population can fit into the country of Wales.  His sole belief is that the birth rate needs to be controlled in order to curb population.

I find it ironic, therefore, that he has chosen to work against natural selection himself and to be fitted with a pacemaker.  A typical overpopulationist opinion of: ‘Overpopulation? It can’t be me. It must be you!’


Edit: We represented large families in Channel 5’s news debate against Population Matters. Click here to see it. 















21 thoughts on “Attenborough, large families and overpopulation

  1. It sounds like Sir David Attenborough has jumped on the Agenda 21 bandwagon. The one child policy hasn’t done China any favours and they are now considering reversing the policy.

    1. Actually the one-child policy has pulled China away from the brink of disaster. They have stabilised their population and those one-children are now able to have two children. It was extremely effective and did everything it set out to do. It was a harsh policy but if they hadn’t have implemented it they would now be well over capacity. It was completely necessary.

  2. No offense, but your response seems out of anger. Are you taking this personally or what?
    I agree with the idea of population control. We simply cannot provide the basic material needs for this many people. By material needs, I mean food, water, clothing, housing, ect…. Our planet cannot sustain our current level of consumption of natural resources. Period. So population control is not about personal choice but about survival of our species over the long term.

    Our first issue will be fresh water, then food (less water = less food). You can see it is starting to happen already, read up on the water issues that states like Colorado and Texas are having. Only 1% of the planets water is usable to humans. 1%!!!! Think about that when your popping out another kid and realize that there is fairly good chance your grandchild or great grandchild will not have food or water.

    No one is saying don’t have kids, we’re saying do it responsibly and with conscious thought of how your actions affect the lives of everyone who lives on this planet. Stop thinking of me and starting thinking of we.

    1. Agree! Sir DA is not saying have less kids so he can have more stuff either. He also advocates the conservative use of resources along with a reduced birth rate.
      The simple fact is that no matter how conservatively you use resources there is still a maximum capacity of the earth. Having more than 2.2 children per couple will increase the population. It has been estimated that maximum capacity is somewhere around 12 billion. We are already over 7 billion. The population has tripled in the last 50 years. You do the maths.

  3. Oh, one other thing. The world’s population may fit into Wales, but have you even considered the amount of healthy land you will need to grow food for all those people. It takes 2-4 acres to feed a family of 4 and that’s 2-4 acres of land of FERTILE land in an area with a suitable climate. Not to mention the amount of water needed to grow the crops. We can’t even feed our current population. 1 Billion people on this plant currently suffer from hunger and you want to add 10 more because your mommy timer is in overdrive. Yes, it sucks but face it, we don’t need more people and if people were considering the fate of all us they would realize that having a large family is irresponsible.

  4. Human intelligence is too self oriented to solve this problem.
    The world is collapsing under our weight, and this doesn’t make us think?
    Our planet could be uninhabitable in 50 years, and this doesn’t make us think?
    We are running towards the abyss!!

    We will argue to the end!!

    Like T.S. Eliot wrote,
    “We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw.”

    1. Totally agree – but the people now having 12 kids possibly won’t live to see it – they just leave the mess for their children and hope for the best.

  5. And we all see how well China’s policy is doing for the “unexpected” babies…being abandoned (and usually very underdeveloped!) or stuck down sewage drains! But the world will probably end before we see it collapse under our populations.

    1. China would be a lot worse off if they hadn’t implemented that policy. They have successfully stabilised their population to the extent that they have now increased it to allow for 2 children per couple.
      The world will end as a result of over population. Maximum capacity is 12 billion or thereabouts. We are over 7 billion already. The population has tripled in the last 50 years. Grab a calculator and do the maths. Its not hard to work out that we are going to hit maximum capacity within our children’s lifetimes if not our own.
      Our only hope is if people pull their heads out of the sand and take action. Hopefully it happens faster than the abolition of slavery or giving women the vote.

      1. That’s utter rubbish. The population has not tripled in the last fifty years. The increase in the world’s population has nothing whatsoever to do with birth rates either, so demanding a limit on births is ludicrous. Therefore the population will increase as people age, then decrease as they die. The maths has been done – click on the link within the text. The whole world can fit into Wales, leaving the rest available for all the resources. Plus resources change – they don’t stay the same (apart from water and, well, as long as the water cycle exists we need not worry).

  6. “Stop large families and have more STUFF! Yep, that’ll help the world.”

    If the “stuff” you are referring to is more open space and less people for the future generations of people and animals – then yeah, it will help the world – a lot. However, the reality is less people equals LESS stuff, not more.

    For example, the arguement that China is considering reversing the one-child policy is a completely economic-based decision. Of course capitalism wants you to have more kids – that’s more buyers – and China is entering the capitalistic marketplace whether it wants to admit it or not. You are correct in that there will be an ECONOMIC crisis when the population goes down – not as many people to buy all the STUFF which over the long run equals LESS stuff being produced – not more. That also means less polution and garbage being produced and less human destruction. We as humans are not able to live harmoniously with the environment – and the more of us there are – the worse it gets. Eventually it will get bad not only for the environment and the animals we share the earth with – but for us too.

    I think that those of you who are all for having tons of children (live births – I’m not talking about adoption here) need to look around and see how the human population growth HAS damaged the Earth and continues to do so. You cannot argue that human population growth hasn’t damaged the animal population and the environment in general – there are simply too many of us – and there doesn’t need to be. The decision to have fewer children is a responsible one not just for you but for them. My decision to not have any children of my own is almost 100% based on the fact that I don’t think the Earth is capable of sustaining what we have now, nevertheless a whole bunch more people. I don’t trust people who can’t see past their own basic desires to have a pile of kids come hell or high water and be dammed to the rest of you. and ultimatley to them. I sincerely hope that I am wrong about the future – for the sake of all of your kids.

    This kind of attitude reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on a bicycle…”I love my kids, but not enough to stop driving my SUV.” Good luck to them – they are going to need it.

  7. I believe that people can have as many children as THEY CAN SUPPORT. If you’re super rich, by all means, have a bunch of children, because you are able to support them with all the resources that they’ll need. If you’re poor, I’m not saying don’t have kids, but don’t have too many and expect your financial situation to get any better. Just be realistic with how many kids you’ll have and see the long-term effects of it. Yes, kids are great. But I do agree with many of the other people who state that it’ll use up our resources a lot faster and such.I agree with Chris H: Starting thinking about WE, not ‘ME’.

  8. I also like to add that when you have more and more kids, the age gap between the oldest and the youngest child also increases (usually. not so in the case of multiple births obviously). Personally, I do find it a little bit weird for a child to be older than his sibling by more than 10 years old. 15, 20 years for me is just really really unusual. At 20 years old, one could have given birth to a child already! And obviously, as the age gap grows and as time passes, the mother grows older as well, which puts herself and the baby at risk for a plethora of medical risks.

  9. I always find it fascinating that those who wish to share their opinion (and never kindly I might add) on why big families are overpopulating and ruining the planet for everyone else, appear to have nothing else to do then to read and comment on “large family” blogs (why are you even looking at large family blogs if you don’t like large families?) If you are so concerned about the planet and the population, get off your computers, turn off the power point and get out there and help those thousands of starving people you keep talking about. Stop talking the talk and go walk the walk. Didn’t your parents ever teach you that if you are going to say something, then say something nice? We all share the same God given planet, perhaps if you stop blaming and learnt some tolerance, we’d all get along a whole lot better.

    1. People have commented on this blog as there was a direct link from an article about Sir David Attenborough and his stance on overpopulation.
      People cannot make informed decisions if they are not educated. Most environmentally responsible people seek to educate others so they understand the complete picture.
      The author’s comments make it obvious that she is uneducated on this topic. We are just educating her so she can make informed decisions.

      God given?? I don’t follow religion as I personally believe it is a crutch for the unintelligent or those unwilling to educate themselves. But if you want to follow it then have a think about whether God would want you to destroy the planet he supposedly created.

  10. You all are ranting and raving about children being the primary reason “we have less stuff”, whereas the majority of the countries of the world complain of declining fertility rates i.e. have less children born per woman year in year out. In fact, most women choose careers over family these days.

    Just check your statistics to compare the world’s population of children with that of men and women over 60 years old and then take it a step further and compare the cost of maintaining these old people to that of maintaining the children. What do you find?

    Summary; instead of advocating for less children to be born as a means of curbing population growth or ensuring that “we have more stuff”, advocate “Mercy Killing” for retired old men and women over the age of 60 all over the world and see whether you won’t have more STUFF!

  11. That was a terrible counter argument, I was left with the overall feeling that you are incapable of nonsubjective thought on this topic. He isn’t talking about, as you so eloquently put it, STUFF!!!!. He is talking about the basic resources that we need to survive.

    “I find it ironic, therefore, that he has chosen to work against natural selection himself and to be fitted with a pacemaker. A typical overpopulationist opinion of: ‘Overpopulation? It can’t be me. It must be you!’”

    ooooooooooooooook then!

  12. Many people have already stated that higher population leads to fewer resources. People like to reference China, and also talk about themselves in the U.S. But the issue is so much larger. I live in the Middle East, where the population growth rates are ASTOUNDING and there are serious issues resulting from it – especially water. Take Egypt for example: Egypt currently has about 81 million people. Nearly 50% of the population are under the age of 25. What will happen as these young people start having more babies? There are few job opportunities for them. 28% of Egyptians can’t read (for women that statistic is even worse). So you have a huge, growing, young population, with little to no education, few resources, few job prospects, no government and lack of family planning education. In a country with diminishing natural resources. In the middle of a politically unstable region. That controls our energy source. The future looks dire for them, and I have no idea what they’re going to do. And this is just one country. The pattern is repeating in many others, especially the Middle East. And like it or not, it will eventually affect people living in the U.S. I’m happy that you are able to responsibly raise a large family. However, the raw data and numbers show that we are heading towards some serious, serious consequences. Luckily I won’t be alive to deal with it. That’s for our children to figure out.

  13. I’m sorry, I was being American-centric in my comment above. I don’t mean to only focus on larger families in the U.S. Also the UK, and other Western countries.

  14. No, he has clearly stated materialistic stuff. The argument before from population matters was that if there were fewer people than the rest ‘could have bigger houses’. They do mean more ‘stuff’.

    The overpopulation scaremongering has been the perennial myth for thousands of years. Confucius said it would happen soon and it didn’t. Then Plato said it would happen soon and it didn’t. Then Tertullion said it would happen soon and it didn’t. A couple of thousand years later Malthus said it would happen soon and it didn’t. Then Ehrlich give us not long at all and we’re still here. Population is growing because people are growing older and live longer. Why then, shouldn’t we just consider culling anyone past unproductive retirement age?

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