David Attenborough asks corporations to buy wilderness to lock out poor people

By Ian Angus

January 18, 2012 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- 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 favour of REDD+, the UN-sanctioned program to privatise 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.

(Click here for a video critique of REDD.)

Since I am quoted (largely out of context) and since David Attenborough is also quoted, perhops I should point out that the article by Ian Angus is ill-informed, and misleading, as anyone who takes the trouble to read or listen to any of the origuinal texts or speeches will realise. We live in a far from perfect world, but rants such as Angus has written do little to move things forward.

Yes David was speaking at a gathering, which included lawyers; it also included people from a very wide range of other backgrounds. And Yes David dis mention over-population. And I would also point out that most conservationists like myself do not believe that continued economic growth is sustainable. I would also point out that many, like me, but no all, also believe that the capitalist model of economics is doomed to failure in the long term. However, I and many of my fellow conservationists als believe that we have to do something if the natural world is going to survive into the latter part of the 21st century. Doing nothing, which seems to be all that is ion offer by Ian Angus, is siomply not an option.
And finally the idea that the nature reserves are some sort of exclusive club is arrant nonesense. Indeed one of the reserves we have help fund is believed to have a group of uncontacted indigenes using it. And since they are in voluntary isolation, they are being l;eft alone. As Sir David made very clear indeed in his speech, a key part of WLT's policy is involving local communities in the management of protected areas.

Other than a rant, I am not quite sure what the writer hoped to achieve. I am always interested in informed dialogue, the problemsd are acute, and we don't have all the answers. But simple rants do not move anything forward.


Angus may be ill-informed, John Burton, but the indigenous people are not. They have a better grasp on what is being done to them in the name of "saving the planet," than the "humanitairans" trying to "save" it (watch the video).

Even the supporters of the WLT are not informed as to who the donors are, the "partnering organizations," or why money is being raised and to what ends: http://www.worldlandtrust.org/news/2011/11/opposition-redd

If Agri-business was not detroying the planet in the name of greed, the planet would very well be able to produce enough to feed the number of people contained on it.

Corporations desire "population control" simply because they fear the power of an informed population and their numbers.

David Attenborough does, however, quote Thomas Malthus and use him as an example of a prophet. Really? No matter the academic dismissal, the illogical and unsound theories of this "prophet" have been many times disproven. And yet, elitists seeking to continue land grabs and ways to hide their destruction keep using Malthus as "proof" and justification of their greed.

Angus' interpretations and quotes that you object to seem the only logical outcome and familiar paths of what the corporations have in mind.

John Burton says that I quoted him "largely out of context."

I quoted him just once, as saying that REDD+ is "“by far the best option on the table for raising significant funds for biodiversity conservation".

Here is the entire sentence I quoted from. What's interesting is that the words shown in bold below were in bold in his November 29, 2011 statement, so obviously he considered them particularly important.

"Until those campaigning against REDD+ can come up with a viable alternative, I think it is by far the best option on the table for raising significant funds for biodiversity conservation."

Of the words he put in bold, I omitted "I think it is." Is that what Burton means by "largely out of context"?

Here's the source: http://www.worldlandtrust.org/news/2011/11/opposition-redd