Sir David Attenborough, Britain’s best-known natural history film-maker, has joined a campaign to encourage people to voluntarily lower the world’s population by limiting the size of their families.

Attenborough has described the growth in human numbers as “frightening” and urged environmental organisations to spell out “loud and clear” the problems caused by population growth.

Sir David, who has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, the leading think tank in the UK concerned with the impact of population growth on the environment, said: "I’ve seen wildlife under mounting human pressure all over the world and it’s not just from human economy or technology – behind every threat is the frightening explosion in human numbers.

“I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more. That’s why I support the OPT, and I wish the environmental NGOs would follow their lead, and spell out this central problem loud and clear.”

Roger Martin, OPT chair, said: "We’re delighted that one of the world’s best known, liked and respected naturalists should have become our patron.

“All serious environmentalists know perfectly well that population growth, exploding in the 20th century, has been a key driver of every environmental problem. It’s a fact, not an opinion, that total human impact is the average per person multiplied by the number of people.

“Yet for far too long, governments and environmental NGOs have observed a taboo – invented in the 1980s by a bizarre coalition of the religious right and the liberal left – on stating this obvious fact. So they keep on implying that our numbers can grow forever with no ill effects. It’s a ‘silent lie’ and by encouraging us to ignore the vital need to stabilise our numbers by humane means (contraception) before nature does it for us by inhumane, natural means (famine, disease, war) this absurd taboo betrays our children.

“David’s breaking of it should embolden others in the green movement to follow suit.”

Sir David, who was knighted in 1985, is a trustee of the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a fellow of the Royal Society. He joins Jane Goodall as a patron of the OPT.

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