(CNN) — The issue of overpopulation as a cause of wildlife loss in Africa is not one that Prince William lets go of.
While seeking reactions to the speech that the second in line to the British throne delivered on Monday at an awards ceremony in which he said “Increasing pressure on Africa’s wildlife and wilderness, as a result of human population, poses a huge challenge to conservationists,” I came across almost identical statements he had made four years earlier.
“Throughout my lifetime we have seen global wildlife populations more than halve,” they claim the prince said in 2017 at a gala for the same charity, The Tusk Trust. “Africa’s rapidly growing human population is projected 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 is putting wildlife and habitat at a premium.” huge pressure.”
Then, as now, people have been quick to point out two things: The first is the hypocrisy of the Duke of Cambridge. He is about a man who has determined the size of his family, who frequently travels by plane and leads a lavish lifestyle (read: generates a large carbon footprint) in one of the 15 countries that consume the most energy of the world. (Energy consumption is a limited measure of the UK’s environmental impact, since the UK largely imports its products. Another country, China, handles the energy used to produce those goods.)
The second questionable point of the prince’s statements focuses on the inaccurate conclusions that follow from the increase in the African population. Although the African population is growing, it is still more sparsely populated than Europe or Asia; indigenous communities that live closest to wildlife are often excellent stewards of the environment, since his survival depends on him; and, again, it is human behavior, and not the number of people, that most directly harms the biosphere.
But there is more wrong with what Prince William said: by identifying population growth as the problem, he logically presents population control as the solution. This automatically transforms wombs into legitimate places for climate politics. In other words, women’s right to contraception and education become a weapon: they are no longer tools that help women to access more choice, but rather this goal of gender equality is hijacked to impose the someone else’s schedule.
Let us imagine for a moment that we accept that population growth, and specifically population growth in Africa, leads to increased pressure on wildlife, an argument that Prince William finds unanswerable. How should this be addressed? A one-child policy as a condition for development aid? How will the impact of that population reduction be measured? Who is to say if it is enough to mitigate environmental damage? And if it is not, what will happen then?
Prince William appears to have avoided speculating on how to fix his problem. His grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, was not so wise and it is known that he asked for the “voluntary limitation of the family“to cope with a growing human population.
It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the body of women is involved in the political agenda. In 2017, Denmark, which often tops rankings of the best countries to be a woman, pledged additional funding to help women access family planning because “part of the solution to reduce migratory pressures on Europe is to reduce the very high population growth of many African countries“.
It should be obvious to everyone that the panic over population growth in the Black, Brown, and Indigenous areas of the world is underpinned by race and class bias. It should be equally obvious that what every woman needs is the freedom to choose for herself if she wants to have children, when and how many. If despite his years of talking about conservation, Prince William hasn’t considered that his concern for Africa’s wildlife might stigmatize African women, perhaps now is the time to do so.