A good demonstration why you should never take the word of a famous figure on trust

Not the first time I’ve seen Attenborough say something so fact-challenged.

Humans are a “plague on the Earth”, according to naturalist and documentary-maker David Attenborough.

Attenborough told Britain’s Radio Times that humanity must limit population growth or “the natural world will do it for us”.

He is of course entitled to believe that. But of course his own continuing existence is evidence that it’s not really a genuine belief.

The 86-year-old said human population growth needed to be curbed.

“We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves – and it’s not an inhuman thing to say. It’s the case.

Here’s where the facts go flying out the window in favour of common misconceptions.

See, according to Wikipedia, the last famine was in 1984-1985. That famine was very well publicised, and it’s why everyone associates Ethiopia with famine. So either there’s been some famines in Ethiopia that no one’s bothered to list on Wikipedia, or there haven’t been any serious enough to warrent mention.

But what caused the 80’s famine?

The great famine of 1983–5 is often ascribed to drought, and while climatic causes and consequences certainly played a part in the tragedy, it has been shown that widespread drought occurred only some months after the famine was under way.[5] The famines that struck Ethiopia between 1961 and 1985, and in particular the one of 1983–5, were in large part created by government policies, specifically the set of counter-insurgency strategies employed and so-called ‘social transformation’ in non-insurgent areas.[6][7]

So while the agricultural environment is a challenging one, and there are a great many poor people, the real killer was the government.

Big government – the cause of, and apparently the solution to*, all life’s problems.


*Results may vary – wildly.

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