On the passing of HRH Prince Philip - an environmentalist
I think it is timely to highlight the fact that HRH Duke of Edinburgh appears to have had a pretty good understanding of environmental issues and the role of human population numbers in environmental degradation. His reputation for having a curmudgeonly persona went before him, and possibly gave him licence to blurt out his thoughts, uncensored by notions of political correctness. His gratuitous remarks to more or less strangers, regarding their appearances, or rude questions, characterised his multitudinous "gaffes". He was refreshingly "un careful" and honest in interviews, so he spoke of what many refer to as "the elephant in the room" - human population numbers - as though this reality was indeed not only visible but very obvious. He remarked in one interview that where humans are, there is nothing else (!) He was unmeasured in his comments, so his message was clear. He also remarked, in one interview, that no-one wants to talk about it [population]. I have not, so far, found an interview where any interviewer delves deeply into this with him.
Other conservationists will speak of population as being the huge problem, but it is inserted, rather that the key message, e.g. David Suzuki and David Attenborough. The Australian Conservation Foundation, of which Prince Philip was once president (1971-76), now refuses to discuss population, although it is the biggest, if not the sole, threat to wildlife and biodiversity in Australia. ACF have made a statement https://www.acf.org.au/acf_statement_on_the_passing_of_prince_philip and credit him with seeding the idea of creating this body, but they do not mention his stand on global human population. Here is one of the prince's statements to People Magazine:
“Human population growth is probably the single most serious long-term threat to survival. We’re in for a major disaster if it isn’t curbed–not just for the natural world, but for the human world. The more people there are, the more resources they’ll consume, the more pollution they’ll create, the more fighting they’ll do … If it isn’t controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily by an increase in disease, starvation, and war.”
Prince Philip was in a privileged position which may have, in a different personality, stifled self expression, but it seemed to have given him licence to make utterance on the subject that others would have steered clear of. It was his choice to speak out, and his good fortune to have a ready audience.
The question is, has it done any good? The world's human population is steaming ahead and, at the last count was around 7.9 billion. When Prince Philip was born, nearly a century ago, the world population was around 1.9 billion. Did Prince Philip not say it loudly enough or often enough? Or would it have made no difference if he had saved his breath?
He has apparently passed on his concern and viewpoint to his son, Prince Charles, and also to his grandson, Prince William. Although they will probably make no difference, there is some satisfaction and comfort in knowing that a few individuals, who hold positions of respect in the realm, are conscious of the perilous position of life on Planet Earth. Although they, as individuals, are not in immediate peril, they must realise that, ultimately, the demise of the biosphere will affect them too. They certainly are not exceptions to the need to protect each other and the rest of the population from Covid-19. It is ironic that the bluntly spoken duke once said that he would like to be reincarnated as a virus to control population!