Attenborough asks corporations to protect wilderness from poor people

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Since we can’t stop poor people from breeding, let’s build fences to keep them out. And let’s ask the world’s biggest polluters to pay for the fences.

by Ian Angus

Regular readers of Climate & Capitalism know that David Attenborough, in addition to making nature films, is a patron of Optimum Population Trust, a British outfit that, using the name Population Matters, promotes birth control for poor people and immigration restrictions to keep those same people out of Britain.

Last year we reported a talk he gave to a posh gathering in London, chaired by no less a personage than Prince Phillip, in which he said only “flat earthers” disagree with his view that only population reduction can save the planet. Contraception, he said, “is the humane way, the powerful option which allows all of us to deal with the problem, if we collectively choose to do so.”

We haven’t previously mentioned that Sir David is also a patron of World Land Trust. This week he spoke on behalf of that group to yet another posh meeting in London, this one attended by “lawyers, city investors and business people.” (The meeting is reported in the UK Guardian.)

He repeated his message that Third World overbreeding is a huge threat, but this time he was less sanguine about the efficacy of “the humane way.”

In fact, he said, it just isn’t possible to stop population growth in time to save the planet. “Nothing we can do will stop that increase. We may be able to slow it, but stop it in our lifetimes we cannot.”

Since the population bomb can’t be stopped, Attenborough says we need to focus on “making sure mankind doesn’t spread willy nilly over every square yard of the globe.”

How? By buying large tracts of rainforest, and converting them into private wildlife reserves.

Two questions arise immediately. Who will pay for this land? And what happens to the people who live there?

The answer to the first question is simple. Attenborough thinks big businesses should contribute the needed cash to World Land Trust, which will buy the land and hand it over to local NGOs that promise to keep it safe.

Some might object that business doesn’t have a great record of environmental protection, but Attenborough is more than willing to slather greenwash over any corporation that makes a tax deductible donation. Businesses may have defiled the earth in the past, but they just didn’t know better. Today, he says, “Wealth empowers, and businesses have by no means been slow in helping. We’ve gone to multinationals over and over again.””

As for the second question – WLT preserves are no-go areas for those overbreeding locals. According to the WLT website, donors may be allowed to visit as ecotourists, but no one else gets in. “If there is occasional incursion into the forests this is quickly dealt with by the park wardens who are familiar with the borders.”

WLT is all in favor of REDD+, the UN-sanctioned program to privatize Third World forests and use them for carbon trading. In a recent statement, WLT president John Burton described the plan as “by far the best option on the table for raising significant funds for biodiversity conservation.”

The people who actually live in those forests, in contrast, say that REDD+ “threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities and could result in the biggest land grab of all time.”

Through Optimum Population Trust, Attenborough works to prevent poor people from coming to England. And through World Land Trust, he works to prevent them from living in their homelands.

And his rich donors, who do more to destroy the earth every day than his Third World victims do in their lifetimes, get tax deductions and carbon credits.


  • William, I wouldn’t say David A. is an expert in ecology. I saw him aboard a trawler while filming one of his documentaries.

  • Perhaps he needs to look at who exactly is responsible for most of the habitat loss & deforestation. The indigenous people living in these forests, indeed practicing slash & burn agriculture do not qualify as the destroyers, isn’t it the illegal [& legal] loggers and the merchants that they supply [and the consumers that buy products made from that wood]as well as the mining companies and the ranchers & road builders.
    I agree that population is a major factor, and yes, education is important as is all the work of groups such as Planned Parenthood.
    Attenborough’s solution is simplistic in the extreme.

  • William, no one disputes Attenborough’s knowledge of or commitment to “other living creatures.” But that doesn’t make him an expert in human affairs.

    In addition to causing untold human suffering, the measures he promotes will not work. By focusing on the birth rates of poor people, and greenwashing the destructive nature of the rich businesses whose donations he seeks, Attenborough puts his fame in the service of false solutions, and directs attention away from the real criminals.

  • Having met David Attenborough a number of years ago and being familiar with his record, it is my opinion that he is today without question one of the most experienced and knowledgable humans on Mother Earth that is intimately familiar with the myriad of other living creatures that we live with.

    To say that the current rate of extinction of these other creatures through loss of habitat, etc. is so severe that a sort of triage that culls humanity by this man is simply an indication of the dire circumstance we find ourselves in.

    The most appropriate recommendation made by Mr. Attenborough is 3rd world contraception for women. This must include massive investment in womens education (and mens) about the need to reduce births and provide ways to assist people to survive without the income that is often provided by children. The solution that isn’t looked at here is the development of natural energy as is described in the video of THriveMovement. Cheap energy would relive all people of the burden and emissions fossil fuel energy. Trading carbon credits has always been an extension of the dysfunctional world financial system.

  • I’m not an advocate of the Attenborough’s but I have to say that he is on the right-track. People who just want to burn it down and use it are uneducated, this inevitably leads to destruction on a huge scale. I hate the idea of mountain bikes being used on land, their tyre’s dredging up the paths and walkways, it really is irresponsible to say the least. So, protecting the land/forests can only be a ‘good thing’ as in the end we can look back and be thankful that we have preserved them.
    Not too sure about huge corporations buying it all up though; they seem to be incapable of doing good unless there is profit involved. Even then it’s a crap-shoot! We are heading for disaster with or without large companies dipping into their pockets, as the core is starting to become frantic, we can only hope that land masses stay put, otherwise we could be looking at major destruction on a global scale. Personally, I think it is a little-too-late…

  • Jane Goodall is also a member sadly, but at least she’s hasn’t been blah blahing as much.