LONDON, September 10, 2013 ( – With his recent announcements that large families are “irresponsible” and that human beings are a “plague” on the planet, David Attenborough, the population control-endorsing BBC documentarian and naturalist, has ignored the looming threat of a global demographic winter, according to a leading pro-life activist. In recent year Attenborough is especially known for his writing and narration of the BBC documentary Planet Earth and other films in that Life series.

Joseph Meaney, a researcher and writer who serves as director of international coordination at Human Life International, told that Attenborough “may have a good grasp of film-making, but he is obviously ignorant of demography and economics.” 

“By and large, human beings have chosen the path to extinction as low fertility trends are becoming dominant around the globe,” said Meaney. 


In an interview this week with the Radio Times, Britain’s weekly TV and radio listing magazine, Attenborough, one of Britain’s most acclaimed naturalists and broadcasters, praised the Chinese Communist government’s One Child Policy that has, according to the official Chinese statistics, prevented the births of over 400 million people. 

Attenborough, 87, told the Radio Times, “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.”

The only problem with the Chinese policy, he said, is “the degree to which it has been enforced, which is terrible, and there’s no question it’s produced all kinds of personal tragedies.” 

“On the other hand, the Chinese themselves recognise that had they not done so there would be several million more mouths in the world today than there are now,” he added. 

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Attenborough’s statements clash with the recent findings of demographers who are warning of a potentially disastrous phase of global “demographic winter”. Even in China the government has tried in some areas to put the brakes on their program to avoid severe demographic imbalances where older people are rapidly coming to outnumber young workers and a abortion-generated gender imbalance means boys significantly outnumber girls.

Meaney commented, “If he had a clue about current events in the human world he would know that the entire industrialized world, with very few exceptions, is in demographic decline due to the average person having fewer than tow children in their lifetimes.”

Commenting that he believes natural selection no longer works for our species – “because 90-95% of our babies” survive – Attenborough said he believes that “human evolution” has stopped and that “things are going to get worse,” because there are going to be too many people. 

“I don’t think we are going to become extinct. We’re very clever and extremely resourceful – and we will find ways of preserving ourselves, of that I’m sure. But whether our lives will be as rich as they are now is another question. 

“We may reduce in numbers; that would actually be a help, though the chances of it happening within the next century is very small. I should think it's impossible, in fact.”

Meaney responded that governments are, in fact, receiving dire warnings about the threat to economic and social stability because populations are set to start a drastic decline over the next fifty years.   

“One simply has to look around to see the economic consequences,” he said. “And this is nothing compared to the inevitable suffering in a few decades once the majority in these low fertility nations are retirement age with a small percentage of the population in the active workforce trying to support themselves and the bankrupt pension system.” 

Instead of calling for fewer large families, Meaney said, “Sir David Attenborough would be wiser to praise generous couples having children who could mitigate the demographic disaster on the horizon. In any case, at age 87 and with heart problems, he will likely not be around to see what unfolds in the near future.” 


David Attenborough is Britain’s most distinguished modern naturalist and his career making television nature programs spans over 60 years and has earned him a knighthood as well as dozens of royal and private awards and honours, including the informal title, “national treasure”. What is less widely known, however, is his position as one of the most visible public faces of the international population control movement. 

He is a patron member of the antinatalist group Population Matters, formerly called the Optimum Population Trust, that advocates for zero population growth and proposes government-enforced population control programs. Such groups, that include the more radical Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, were founded on the utilitarian philosophy that was later popularized by Paul Erlich in his hugely influential 1968 book The Population Bomb that helped launch the contemporary population control movement.   

Population Matters, a charity and think tank that advises the government, regularly makes international headlines by advocating for forced abortion and sterilisation programs for developed as well as developing nations. In 2009, the group said that Britain must reduce its population by half, to no more than 30 million, in order to avoid environmental degradation. 

The same year, the group issued a statement suggesting that governments create a scheme in which wealthy people in developed countries could “offset” their jet-setting lifestyle by paying to enable “the avoidance of one unwanted birth in a country such as Kenya”. The group insisted that only “unwanted” children would be targeted for elimination. 

Attenborough himself has often personally advocated for reduction of human beings as a means of saving the planet. As recently as January this year, Attenborough called human beings “a plague on the earth”. He said in a letter to fellow Population Matters patron and chairman John Guillebaud, Professor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health at University College London, “Maybe it is time that instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, we should control the population to ensure the survival of the environment.”

He was quoted by the Radio Times at that time, saying, “It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change. It’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, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.”