We have never lived so long, we have never lived in such comfort and we have never been able to cure as many diseases.
But, still, Prince Charles persists with his Private Frazer act. “We’re all doomed” was the message in his maiden speech as President of the World Wildlife Fund. If we go on damaging the environment, we’ll end up extinct, he said.
He might be right about us bashing up the environment, but he’s dead wrong about extinction. One of the reasons why the environment is getting a little bashed up is entirely because the human race is in such all-powerful shape. Prince Charles may not like the fact that the world population is soaring, but that rise is because humans are living longer and bringing up more children.
If Prince Charles saw a group of elephants or pandas producing bigger and longer-lived families, he’d quite rightly be delighted at the thought that elephants and pandas were prospering. But, when human beings do the same thing, his brow becomes even more furrowed than usual.
A Martian looking down on Earth for the last 2,000 years would see a story of humans progressively dominating the planet, developing increasingly sophisticated tools and constantly building up bigger and bigger advantages over all the other animals.
Our progress may have come at the expense of some of those animals – and the Prince, in his WWF role, is right to highlight that sadness. But to say that we’re in danger of becoming extinct while our population is inexorably rising is perverse. A good sign of extinction – or that we are endangering ourselves through our rapacious plundering of the earth – would be when populations start to go down, not up.