â€œWe are a plague on the Earth,â€ declared the famous British TV naturalist David Attenborough in the January issue of Radio Times. â€œItâ€™s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. Itâ€™s not just climate change; itâ€™s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us.â€
This is not a new warning. Would-be prophets of doom, from 19th-century population-growth alarmist Thomas Robert Malthus to popular 20th-century starvation forecaster Paul Ehrlich, have been preaching imminent ecological catastrophe for centuries now. All their prophecies have failed to materialize. Is there any reason to believe that Attenborough is any different? Probably not, reports Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey.