Experts have critiqued Prince William comments suggesting that population growth was responsible for the endangerment of wildlife in Africa.
The increasing pressure on the African continent’s “wildlife and wild spaces as a result of human population” was presenting “a huge challenge for conservationists, as it does the world over,” said the prince speaking at the Tusk conservation awards in London on Tuesday, November 23.
He said it was “imperative” that the natural world is protected “not only for its contribution to our economies, jobs and livelihoods but for the health, wellbeing and future of humanity”.
Prince William’s remarks are nearly identical to a 2017 speech he gave at a gala for the same charity.
“In my lifetime, we have seen global wildlife populations decline by over half,” the Prince said at the time. “Africa’s rapidly growing human population is predicted to more than double by 2050—a staggering increase of three and a half million people per month. There is no question that this increase puts wildlife and habitat under enormous pressure,” he added.
According to the experts, the ideology has racist and class prejudice connotations. Saying in short, Black, Brown and marginalised people are blamed for overpopulation and consequently the environment’s demise.
“As Equals” editor Eliza Anyangwe said Williams’ remarks really boils down to race and gender.
“It should be obvious to all that panic about population growth in Black, Brown and Indigenous parts of the world is underpinned by race and class prejudice,” she writes. “It should be equally obvious that what every woman needs is the freedom to choose for herself if, when, and how many children she will have.”
“If despite years of talking about conservation Prince William has not considered that his concern for Africa’s wildlife could stigmatise Africa’s women, perhaps now is the time for him to do so,” she concludes.
With a background in sexual and reproductive health, Josina, from the grassroots environmental collective Land in Our Names said that the narrative on overpopulation is often linked to the “demonisation of Black and Brown women’s fecundity.”
“There’s a long history of Black women being blamed for having too many children. Now, what is too many? There’s no one in the royal family who will be demonised for having too many children. [United Kingdom Prime Minister] Boris Johnson has got quite a lot of kids.”
“Conservation’ comes from a very colonial time. It treats people who are living there as feckless and worthy of being kicked off the land,” Josina added.
The African continent only contributes to 2-3% percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, even though most experts agree that Africa will witness a population boom.
The wealthiest 16% of the world population also consumes 80% of all natural resources; 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions.
The world’s population is now close to eight billion and is expected to grow to about 9.7 billion by 2050.
Asia population density is at 100 per square kilometer, Europe population density is at 72.9 per square kilometer and Africa has a population density of 36.4 per square kilometer.
Heather Alberro, a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, said that equating population growth with climate change, or conservation, is a complex issue.
“Focusing only on human numbers functions as a red herring,” she said. “What research increasingly shows is that extreme poverty, socioeconomic inequality and capitalist systems predicated on endless growth for maximising shareholder value are greater predictors of ecological decline.
“Is it any wonder that a poacher, driven by poverty and the lucrative price tag associated with ivory would be compelled to kill an elephant?”
Alberro argued that the focus should be on how global inequities are at the heart of the climate crisis.
“Reckoning with the ongoing, violent legacies of colonial capitalism, which continue to drive the exploitation of people, places, resources, other species, is an important first step towards truly transformative change,” she said.
“The irony is that recent research has found that Indigenous peoples are often the best stewards of ecosystems.”
Many took to social media to voice their frustration at the royal figure’s sentiment.
“Africa isn’t even in the top two most populated continents – it’s Asia, then (surprise, surprise) EUROPE. The UK is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Prince William needs to mind his own rarted business and take his neo-colonial mindset elsewhere,” tweeted a UK based journalist.
“Prince William, with two kids and another on the way: it is clear Africa are having too many children here,” she continued.
“It would be helpful if Prince William paid attention in history. By far the greatest losses of wildlife in Africa occurred in the early 1900s when Europeans arrived with guns and hunted across the continent. To blame African civilians is to totally misunderstand African history,” tweeted Adam Armstrong.
“Mr. William has no moral authority to say anything about Africa or about Africans and their lives. He should spend his time reading good history books and raising his many children and spending time with his very huge family spread out across the world. His opinion is sewage”, tweeted another user, Dr. John Njenga.