Veteran TV naturalist David Attenborough loves humans as much as other wildlife. But not when global populations are out of control, he tells Alison George
The latest venture for this veteran of wildlife documentaries is as controversial as anything he has done in his long career. He has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a think tank on population growth and environment with a scary website showing the global population as it grows. "For the past 20 years I've never had any doubt that the source of the Earth's ills is overpopulation. I can't go on saying this sort of thing and then fail to put my head above the parapet."
There are nearly three times as many people on the planet as when Attenborough started making television programmes in the 1950s - a fact that has convinced him that if we don't find a solution to our population problems, nature will. "Other horrible factors will come along and fix it, like mass starvation."
Trying to pin him down about the specifics of what to do, however, proves tricky. He says it involves persuading people that their lives and the lives of their children would be better if they didn't exceed a certain number of births per family. And that dramatic drop in birth rate rests on providing universal suffrage, education - particularly for women - and decent standards of living for all. It's a daunting task, but the first step, he argues, is to acknowledge that population is a problem.