Printed in The American Almanac
August 25, 1997
His Royal Virus
Reported by Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA)
In the event that I am
reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus,
in order to contribute something to solve
Prince Philip, in his Foreward to
If I Were an Animal - United Kingdom, Robin Clark Ltd., 1986
I just wonder what it would be like
to be reincarnated in an animal whose species had been so
reduced in numbers than it was in danger of extinction. What
would be its feelings toward the human species whose population
explosion had denied it somewhere to exist.... I must confess
that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly
Press conference at the National Press
Club in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of the "Caring for
Creation'' conference of the North American Conference on Religion
and Ecology, May 18, 1990.
It is now apparent that the
ecological pragmatism of the so-called pagan religions, such as
that of the American Indians, the Polynesians, and the
Australian Aborigines, was a great deal more realistic in terms
of conservation ethics than the more intellectual monotheistic
philosophies of the revealed religions.
Address on Receiving Honorary Degree
from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, July 1, 1983.
For example, the World Health
Organization Project, designed to eradicate malaria from Sri
Lanka in the postwar years, achieved its purpose. But the
problem today is that Sri Lanka must feed three times as many
mouths, find three times as many jobs, provide three times the
housing, energy, schools, hospitals and land for settlement in
order to maintain the same standards. Little wonder the natural
environment and wildlife in Sri Lanka has suffered. The fact
[is] ... that the best-intentioned aid programs are at least
partially responsible for the problems.
Preface to Down to Earth by HRH Prince
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 1988, p.|8.
I don't claim to have any special
interest in natural history, but as a boy I was made aware of
the annual fluctuations in the number of game animals and the
need to adjust the "cull'' to the size of the surplus
Lecture to the European Council of
International Schools. Montreaux, Switzerland, Nov. 14, 1986.
The great difficulty about "life''
is that we humans are part of it, and it is therefore almost
impossible to study objectively.... It therefore tends to be
anthropocentric and gives scant attention to the welfare of all
the other life-forms which share this planet with us.
...When the Bible says that man shall
have "dominion'' over God's creation, the choice is between
understanding dominion as in "having power over,'' or dominion as
"having responsibility for.''
Interfere with the Balance of Nature
Once you have interfered with the balance of nature it becomes
necessary to maintain the balance by artificial means. This means
that some animals have to be killed in the interest of maintaining
the health and viability of the species as a whole as well as the
benefit of other more vulnerable species. Unfortunately there are
many people who object to that sort of thing.
Ecology is not concerned with the fate
of individual animals. It accepts the concept of the exploitation of
surplus natural resources because that is in the way the natural
system works, but it must always be done on the principle of
maintaining a sustainable yield.... The inexorable rule of nature is
that if you mess up your environment you will have to pay a heavy
price sooner or later.... Just look around the globe today and you
cannot fail to notice areas which at one time supported highly
successful and civilized populations are either deserts or they have
reverted to jungle.
The reason is quite simple: they
over-exploited their natural resources and they paid the price. It
is naive to think that we can escape the same fate for very much
longer. We are only managing to put off the evil hour by frantically
digging up and using mineral resources that can never be renewed. As
if that were not enough, we are polluting the atmosphere, the land
and the waters with every kind of noxious substance. The
"greenhouse effect'' alone could well have devastating consequences
for all life on earth.
This is a reflection of the duality of man's brain. The left brain
produces the reasonable answers after objective scientific research,
while the right brain prefers the acceptable and the emotionally
satisfactory answers. How often do people say, "That may be so, but
I prefer to `believe' or I like to believe ... this, that or the
The duality of the brain has created great problems for modern
man.... It is ... significant that successful engineering makes
money. This is in stark contrast to the supernatural, whether it is
religious or mythological. In the latter cases the truth may be
equally certain, but it is not verifiable, and the outcome of
following rules is seldom predictable. It is, of course, possible to
exploit magic and mythology commercially, but it could hardly be
described as a manufacturing industry....
There is an understandable public pressure for schools and colleges
to concentrate on utilitarian subjects to the exclusion of cultural
and aesthetic development. In other words, the development of the
left brain is given a great deal more attention than that of the
right brain.... The trouble is that neglect of the development of
the right brain leaves it in a state of vacuum.... This means that
the right brain is ready to absorb the first plausible ideas it
happens across. The occult, obscure religious rites, parapsychology,
astrology and similar attractive but irrational notions are sucked
into the vacant space without any discrimination or critical
faculty.... I also suspect that the use of drugs might be seen as a
substitute, or short cut, to filling the vacuum of the right
I mention all this because man's attitude to nature is partly a
function of the left brain and partly a function of the right brain.
It is easy enough to encourage an emotional concern for nature and
the living world.... Everyone can comprehend the idea of cruelty,
very few can comprehend the extinction of a species.
"Conflict Between Instinct and Reason"
Fawley Foundation Lecture
Southampton University, Nov. 24, 1967
The conflict between instinct and reason has reached a critical
stage in man's affairs, largely because the explosion of facts has
revealed the instincts for what they are and at the same time it has
undermined traditional philosophies and ideologies. The explosion of
facts has effectively altered mankind's physical and intellectual
environment and when any environment changes, the process of natural
selection is brutal and merciless. "Adapt or die'' is as true today
as it was in the beginning.
Introduction to "Exploitation of the Natural System'' section of
Down to Earth by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 1988
It took about three and a half
billion years for life on earth to reach the state of complexity
and diversity that our ancestors knew as recently as 200 years
ago. It has only taken industrial and scientific man those 200
years to put at risk the whole of the world's natural system. It
has been estimated that by the year 2000, some 300,000 species
of plants and animals will have become extinct, and that the
natural economy, upon which all life depends, will have been
The paradox is that this will have been achieved with the best
possible intentions. The human population must be properly fed,
human life must be preserved and human existence must be made
safer and more comfortable. All these things are obviously
highly desirable, but if their achievement means putting the
survival of future generations at risk, then there is a pressing
obligation on present generations to apply some measure of
Address to Edinburgh University Union,
Nov. 24 1969.
We talk about over- and
underdeveloped countries; I think a more exact division might be
between underdeveloped and overpopulated. The more people there
are, the more industry and more waste and the more sewage there
is, and therefore the more pollution.
The Fairfield Osborne Lecture, New York,
Oct. 1 1980.
If the world pollution situation is
not critical at the moment, it is as certain as anything can be
that the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a
very short time. The situation can be controlled, and even
reversed; but it demands cooperation on a scale and intensity
beyond anything achieved so far.
I realize that there are vital causes to be fought for, and I
sympathize with people who work up a passionate concern about
the all too many examples of inhumanity, injustice, and
unfairness; but behind all this hangs a deadly cloud. Still
largely unnoticed and unrecognized, the process of destroying
our natural environment is gathering speed and momentum. If we
fail to cope with the challenge, the other problems will pale
Introduction to "The Population Factor''
section of Down to Earth by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,
What has been described as the
"balance of nature'' is simply nature's system of
self-limitation. Fertility and breeding success create the
surpluses after allowing for the replacement of the losses.
Predation, climatic variation, disease, starvation--and in the
case of the inappropriately named Homo sapiens, wars and
terrorism--are the principal means by which population numbers
are kept under some sort of control.
Viewed dispassionately, it must be obvious that the world's
human population has grown to such a size that it is threatening
its own habitat; and it has already succeeded in causing the
extinction of large numbers of wild plant and animal species.
Some have simply been killed off. Others have quietly
disappeared, as their habitats have been taken over or disturbed
by human activities.
Humans are the
Greatest Threat to Survival
Interview with HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in People Dec.
21, 1981 titled "Vanishing Breeds Worry Prince Philip, But Not as
Much as Overpopulation.''
Q: What do you consider the
leading threat to the environment?
A: 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 will do. We have no option. If it isn't
controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily by
an increase in disease, starvation and war.
Address to the Joint Meeting of the All-Party Group on
Population and Development and the All-Party Conservation
Committee in London, March 11, 1987.
I do believe ... that human population pressure--the sheer
number of people on this planet--is the single most important
cause of the degradation of the natural environment, of the
progressive extinction of wild species of plants and animals,
and of the destabilization of the world's climatic and
The simple fact is that the human population of the world is
consuming natural renewable resources faster than it can
regenerate, and the process of exploitation is causing even
further damage. If this is already happening with a population
of 4 billion, I ask you to imagine what things will be like when
the population reaches six and then 10 billion.... All this has
been made possible by the industrial revolution and the
scientific explosion and it is spread around the world by the
new economic religion of development.
Address at the Salford University Degree
Ceremony, July 16, 1973.
There may be disagreements about the
time scale, but in principle there can be little doubt that the
population cannot go on increasing indefinitely. Resources
presently being used will not last for ever and pollution in its
broadest sense, unless severely checked, is bound to increase
with population and industrial activity.
Address to All-Party Conservation
Committee in London, Feb. 18, 1981.
I suspect that the single most
important gift of progress to conservation has been the
development of human contraception techniques.
of the "most important"
Interview with HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in People
magazine, Dec. 21, 1981 titled "Vanishing Breeds Worry Prince
Philip, But Not as Much as Overpopulation.
Q: Is birth control part of
A: Yes, but you can't legislate these problems away.
You've got to get people to understand the need for it: the more
important people, the ones who have responsibilities have got to
do it because they're at the receiving end. They've got to
accept the measures.
The Chancellor's Lecture, Salford
University, June 4, 1982.
As long ago as 1798, Malthus
explained what happens when the factors limiting the increase in
any population are removed. One of the factors noticed by Darwin
was that all species are capable of producing vastly greater
populations than can be sustained by existing resources;
populations did not increase at the rate at which they are
capable was the basis for his theory of Evolution by Natural
The relevance to natural selection of this capacity for
overproduction is that as each individual is slightly different
to all the others it is probable that under natural conditions
those individuals which happen to be best adapted to the
prevailing circumstances have a better chance of survival. Well,
so what? Well, take a look at the figures for the human
population of this world. One hundred fifty years ago it stood
at about 1,000 million or in common parlance today, 1 billion.
It then took about a 100 years to double to 2 billion. It took
30 years to add the third billion and 15 years to reach today's
total of 4.4 billion. With a present world average rate of
growth of 1.8%, the total population by the year 2000 will have
increased to an estimated 6 billion and in that and in
subsequent years 100 million people will be added to the world
population each year. In fact it could be as much as 16 billion
As a consequence the demand on
resources of land alone will mean a third less farm land
available and the destruction of half of the present area of
productive tropical forest. Bearing in mind the constant
reduction of non-renewable resources, there is a strong
possibility of growing scarcity and reduction of standards. More
people consume more resources. It is as simple as that; and
transferring resources and standards from the richer to the
poorer countries can only have a marginal effect in the face of
this massive increase in the world population.
Speech at the Margaret Pyke Memorial
Trust Dinner in London, Dec. 14 1983.
So long as they [birth control
methods] ... remained taboo subjects the chances of making any
impression on the human population explosion were that much more
In the introduction to the IUCN Red Data Books which list all
animals and plants under threat of extinction, it says that
virtually everywhere the major threat to a wild species is loss
of habitat to a rapidly increasing human population requiring
more space in order to build villages and cities and grow more
food. But starvation and poverty cannot be eradicated solely by
increased food and resources at the expense of what remains of
the natural world. Any increase in the provision of food and
resources must be accompanied by a drastic reduction in the rate
of increase in the human population.
Address on Receiving Honorary Degree
from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, July 1, 1983.
The industrial revolution sparked
the scientific revolution and brought in its wake better public
hygiene, better medical care and yet more efficient agriculture.
The consequence was a population explosion which still continues
The sad fact is that, instead of the same number of people being
very much better off, more than twice as many people are just as
badly off as they were before. Unfortunately all this
well-intentioned development has resulted in an ecological
disaster of immense proportions.
The Chancellor's Lecture, Salford
University, June 4, 1982.
The object of the WWF is to
"conserve'' the system as a whole; not to prevent the killing of
individual animals. Those who are concerned about their
conservation of nature accept that all species are prey to some
other species. They accept that most species produce a surplus
that is capable of being culled without in any way threatening
the survival of the species as a whole.
A Question of Balance by HRH Prince
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Michael Russel (Publishing) Ltd., 1982.
It is curious how many philosophers
from Plato to Keynes' time have believed in and advocated the
control of society by "philosopher kings.'' According to Plato,
"its kings must be those who have shown the greatest ability in
philosophy,'' but--realistically--he added, "and the greatest
aptitude for war.'' Such people may exist in the imagination and
occasionally someone with the necessary qualities may briefly
dominate the stage of history, but it is a naive appreciation of
human nature to imagine that such processed paragons can be
invested with the necessary powers and not be tempted to take
advantage of their situation.