The second in line to the British throne, Prince William, has once again caused a stir by blaming population growth in Africa for the dwindling prosperity of the continent’s wildlife. Many pointed to the hypocrisy of a father of three demonizing African households because they had too many babies.
Others noted that the United Kingdom was much more densely populated than any part of Africa and that British hunters and colonial settlers were responsible for the brutal destruction of animals. Not to mention the effects of global warming and climate change, mainly caused by William’s ancestors, compatriots and neighbors, which could endanger between 25 and 40 percent of mammal species in national parks in Africa.
However, little has been said about the historical discomfort of white elites with Black fertility and Black babies. It was the second time William had complained about the continent’s growing population raising the issue earlier in 2017. That same year, French President Emmanuel Macron, who also likes to talk about African birth rates, blamed the continent’s “civilization problems” on nations that “have seven or eight children per woman”.
And of course, there were the perhaps not entirely surprising allegations last year by William’s own sister-in-law, Meghan, an African-American woman, that some in the royal family were concerned about the possibility that her and Prince Harry’s son did not have the desired royal color. .
Western anxiety about population growth is often presented in absolutist terms: “The fundamental point of The Population Bomb is still self-evidently correct, we believe: the earth’s ability to produce food and support people is finite” Paul and Anne Ehrlich write in 2009 on their influential 1968 book on the dangers of overpopulation. They reiterated their position that “there are only two types of solutions to the population problem. One is a ‘birth rate solution’, in which we find ways to lower the birth rate. The other is a ‘mortality rate solution’, in which ways to increase the mortality rate – war, famine, plague – we find. “
However, if they could collect all the infinite stones and slap them with their fingers – just like Thanos, the villain of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War – it’s unlikely that they, like him, would evenly wipe out populations around the world to reach the optimal number of people. reach The earth could apparently keep comfortable. It is telling that the worrying, apocalyptic descriptions in The Population Bomb are about the plentiful misery in non-white countries like India, not in Europe or North America.
In the same way, the language of environmental and humanitarian concern is being used today to disguise darker fears. In contrast to Africa’s youthful and growing population, and despite William’s personal efforts, Europe’s population is aging and stagnating. Within a century, the number of Africans could more than triple to 4.5 billion, making up two out of five people, while Europeans are likely to decline by about one hundred million. By 2100, there could be at least seven Africans for every European.
With the rise of Asian giants such as China and India already fueling white racist fears (and partly driving the revival of right-wing extremism), the prospect of Europeans also sitting behind Africans is undoubtedly fueling the fire.
In fact, as Kenyan ecologist Dr Mordecai Ogada, co-author of The Big Conservation Lie, which focuses on the policy problems and prejudices underlying wildlife conservation in the country, says, “the absolute numbers of people in Africa are far from a problem for our environment more because of the very light footprint of the people here. ”He points out that many indigenous communities have little incentive to harm the environment on which they directly rely to provide for essential needs.
And when it comes to the environment, many Western benefactors “look at human numbers instead of human behavior.” This is the same flawed argument that claims that African communities that have been living with wildlife for millennia are the real threat, while Westerners who have driven many of their own wildlife to extinction have the answers.
The talk of overpopulation also feeds into a narrative that seeks to completely free the West from the problems that Africa faces. Africa – the story they want to tell – is poor and hungry because it has too many Africans who are very bad at running their own affairs without killing each other, and are unable to provide the natural resources and wildlife with which the continent blessed, to drive. Sound familiar? This was the justification for the “civilization mission” that was the cover for the cruel European plunder of the continent.
The legacy of colonialism and its genocides, displacements and murders; the trade and financial systems that continue to milk the continent for the benefit of outsiders and at the expense of locals; the interventions to support murderous, kleptocratic regimes; and the destruction of the world environment is all insignificant compared to the accident to truly house Africans. Like his ancestors before him, this is what William sees as the real tragedy of the continent – and the planet.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial views.