Sir David Attenborough: People and Planet

Royal Society of Arts 2011

This important speech by Sir David Attenborough, introduced by Matthew Taylor and chaired by his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, was delivered at the Royal Society of Arts in 2011.

The serious dangers presently facing the earth's ecosystems are well understood. Climate change is a problem caused by over-consumption which has two main causes (a) greed and unfair consumption of resources; mostly by populations in the affluent developed areas world, and (b) rapidly increasing numbers of people globally. The combination of increasing per capita global consumption and increasing numbers of global consumers is accelerating humans towards confrontation, and the planet towards disaster.

At bere:architects one of our key aims is to urgently deliver projects that prove that the developed world can make massive ten-fold reductions in per capita energy consumption. In order to persuade people to make these changes, we are trying to provide solutions that enhance the quality of life for people, rich or poor. But our work can only demonstrate how to solve the first of the two problems noted above. Sir David explains that the second problem, consumer population growth, is not properly recognised or even discussed and as responsible citizens we need to avoid creating situations where our children are growing up in a world in which there aren't enough resources to go around, even after massively reducing our per capita demand on energy.

Without any doubt, solving the second problem is imperative for a civilised, peaceful global community. To solve this problem, mankind needs to agree what are the limits of a sustainable-sized global family that will have enough resources to share around. World leaders need to look at how their own communities can sustainably provide for their needs without unfairly robbing other communities of the opportunity to do the same, now and in the future. World leaders need to do this urgently and amicably, otherwise they are leading their nations into a dreadful future of confrontation over resources.