President Donald Trump has threatened to deploy the National Guard to quell Portland protests in an apparent attempt to save face hours after he backed down and agreed to remove federal troops from the city.
Trump once again decried ‘agitators and anarchists’ in Portland during an address in Midland, Texas, on Wednesday afternoon following the announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin a phased withdrawal of federal officers on Thursday after almost a month of nightly violent clashes outside the city’s courthouse.
The president praised the officers’ efforts before warning that he will take even stronger action if the unrest continues after they leave.
‘If they don’t solve that problem locally very soon, we’re going to send in the National Guard and get it solved very quickly, just like we did in Minneapolis and just like we will do in other places,’ he said.
‘They want to solve their problem, they’ve got a very short time to do it, but they’ll either solve their problem or we send in the National Guard.’
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President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the National Guard to quell Portland protests during a speech in Midland, Texas on Wednesday afternoon – hours after he backed down and agreed to remove federal troops from the city
A protester taunts federal officers after being shot with less-lethal munitions outside the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse after an unlawful assembly was declared Tuesday night
A mortar round thrown by protesters explodes amidst federal officers in downtown Portland Tuesday night
Trump made the comments during a speech on restoring energy dominance in the Permian Basin, where he railed against liberals for trying to regulate the area’s oil industry.
He segued into the protests in an awkward fashion by charging that eliminating methods such as fracking could turn the US into Venezuela. He said the US ‘isn’t far from that – just look at Portland’.
Trump expressed similar sentiments about the situation in Portland in a pair of tweets ahead of the speech, writing: ‘If the Federal Government and its brilliant Law Enforcement (Homeland) didn’t go into Portland one week ago, there would be no Portland — It would be burned and beaten to the ground,’ he wrote.
‘If the Mayor and Governor do not stop the Crime and Violence from the Anarchists and Agitators immediately, the Federal Government will go in and do the job that local law enforcement was supposed to do!’
The tweets came just after Oregon Gov Kate Brown confirmed that the federal government had agreed to remove agents from Portland if officials secure the city and its Mark O Hatfield federal courthouse, where the height of the violence has occurred.
Just before Trump’s tweets, Oregon Gov Kate Brown (left) confirmed in a statement that the federal government agreed to withdraw agents from Portland
‘Beginning Thursday, all Customs and Border Protection and ICE officers will leave downtown Portland, and shortly thereafter will begin going home,’ Brown said in a statement.
The DHS said it had signed on to the joint plan to end the violence in which state and local law enforcement would begin to secure areas around federal properties.
In a statement, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said that the ‘department will continue to maintain our current, augmented federal law enforcement personnel in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked and that the seat of justice in Portland will remain secure’.
Trump had said earlier on Wednesday that federal agents will not be leaving Portland until local officials rid it of ‘anarchists and agitators’.
‘We’re not leaving until they secure their city. If they don’t secure their city soon, we have no choice. We’re gonna have to go in and clean it out,’ the president told reporters ahead of his flight to Texas.
‘So in Portland, they either clean out their city and do the job and get rid of the anarchists and agitators, which is what they are. They’re not protesters.
‘They either clean out their city and do it right or we’re going to have to do it for them.’
At the Midland event Trump specified how he intended to intervene in the future – by sending in the federal National Guard.
The president has made the same threat on multiple occasions in the two months since protests broke out nationwide over the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed when a white Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck during an arrest.
In the first few weeks of protests he did send troops to several US cities, but they were only allowed to serve as support for law enforcement and did not have any power to arrest or detain citizens.
To give them those powers Trump would have to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to deploy troops when federal laws cannot be properly enforced.
Trump signaled his intent to invoke the act last month but never followed through amid a debate over whether he could do so without consent from governors, most of whom said they did not want troops in their cities.
Protesters face off with federal officers in downtown Portland after an unlawful assembly was declared Tuesday night
Several moms stand behind protesters holding shields during another night of protests in downtown Portland
One protester is seen holding up a shield to protect himself from less-lethal munitions fired by federal agents
A demonstrator flashes a peace sign at federal officers during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse early Wednesday morning
Mothers face off with federal law enforcement officers during a demonstration against police violence and racial inequality in Portland Tuesday night
Federal officers advance on retreating demonstrators after an illegal assembly was declared during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse
Demonstrators retreat as federal officers launch tear gas on them during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse early Wednesday morning
The talks between the White House and Oregon began on Tuesday, a day after the US Marshals Service and the DHS debated whether to send in more agents.
The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.
On Tuesday, Portland officials also announced their own action against the deployment of troops by fining the federal government until it removes an unpermitted fence around the Mark O. Hatfield courthouse.
Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly announced fines on the fence that was set up without permission.
Eudaly said the government hasn’t responded to a cease and desist demand on behalf of the city sent last week and said the bill against the federal government is now $192,000 ‘and counting’ as of Monday night.
‘We intend to collect,’ she said. ‘Typically, we would send a maintenance crew or contractor to remove such an obstruction, but I will not send workers into harm’s way,’ she said.
Protests in Portland have spiraled out of control since the death of George Floyd in May, prompting the federal government to intervene and send in troops
Demonstrators hold placards reading ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Cops are paid to protect not murder’ during a protests
Protest in the Portland entered their 62nd night on Tuesday as federal authorities attempt to quell the civil unrest plaguing the city
Demonstrator Teal Lindseth uses a megaphone during a protest against racial inequality and police violence on Tuesday night
The protests have shown no sign of stopping despite the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security weighing whether to send in more agents
‘Yes, I am afraid to direct workers to do their job and enforce our laws against the federal government—I hope that gives everyone reading this pause,’ she added.
According to the transportation bureau’s rules, which Eudaly oversees, it can assess a maximum $500 fine for obstructing the public right of way without a permit and levy a charge every 15 minutes, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly, according to Oregon Live.
The fence has become the heart of evening protests, which have broken out in the city for months following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Protesters have hit the streets demanding an end to racial injustice and police brutality.
The demonstrations have escalated into violence with protesters throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, fireworks and laser pointers at the federal courthouse.
Crowds gathered outside the Mark O. Hatfield courthouse on Tuesday where the federal government installed a protective fence
Hundreds of protesters gathered to listen to Native American speakers outside the Multnomah County Justice Center
Recent protests have escalated into violence with protesters throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, fireworks and laser pointers at the federal courthouse
Portland officials announced Tuesday the city is fining the federal government $500 every 15 minutes for erecting an unauthorized fence surround the federal court house and the Justice Center in downtown Portland
Protesters attempted to push over the fence set up by federal agents above on Friday
A fire burns behind a fence as protesters gather at the Justice Center and Federal Courthouse on Monday evening. Protests have only worsened with the deployment of federal agents to Portland
Demonstrators are seen holding up umbrellas for protection against less-lethal munitions outside the Portland courthouse Tuesday night
People gather for a demonstration in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland on Tuesday
Federal police clean in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland as the city experiences another night of unrest
Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly announced Tuesday that the city of Portland is assessing a maximum fine of $500 for every 15 minutes that the unauthorized fence set up by federal agents remains standing
Federal agents have responded with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and arrests.
Despite the clashes between agents and civilians, Trump has touted their deployment as a success.
‘We, as you know, have done an excellent job of watching over Portland and watching our courthouse where they wanted to burn it down, they’re anarchists, nothing short of anarchist agitators,’ Trump said Tuesday.
‘And we have protected it very powerfully. And if we didn’t go there, I will tell you, you wouldn’t have a courthouse. You’d have a billion-dollar burned-out building.’
US Attorney General William Barr has also defended the aggressive federal response to Congress, saying ‘violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests’ sparked by Floyd´s death.
On Monday the feud between troops and city officials only inflamed when the Trump administration announced they’ll send in additional federal agents to the city, despite demands from elected representatives and lawsuits against the deployment.
Now Oregon state leaders are advocating for a ban on tear gas, limits on munitions and legislation to require officers display their names and ID numbers in the upcoming special session in the State Legislature.
Federal law enforcement officials pictured aiming at protesters standing outside a fence they set up around the Justice Center and Federal Courthouse in Portland on Friday
Demonstrators hold signs during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Monday in Portland, Oregon
Members of the ‘Wall of Moms’ protest group lock arms as they are tear-gassed by federal officers during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Portland courthouse on Monday
A demonstrator holds a sign in front of a fire during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Tuesday in Portland
A demonstrator kicks a tear gas canister back at federal officers during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse early Wednesday morning
A protester walks through tear gas deployed by federal law enforcement officers during a demonstration against police violence and racial inequality in Portland early Wednesday morning
Federal officers are surrounded by smoke as they push back demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse early Wednesday morning
Several moms join together to block a Department of Homeland Security SUV from pursuing street protesters as they clash with federal officers Tuesday night
People gather in protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland as the city experiences another night of unrest
‘Our federal delegation has pushed for DOJ and DHS Inspectors General to investigate Trump’s lawless actions in Portland—they are also working to defund this action in Congress,’ she said.
‘I know how challenging this is for Portlanders. I am committed to doing everything in my power to end this federal occupation and move forward with our community’s reckoning with racial injustice and our efforts to transform our approach to policing and public safety,’ Eudaly added.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty have called for a ‘cease-fire’ in the protests.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon filed a motion alleging that the militarized U.S. agents are attacking journalists and legal observers with riot-control munitions, despite a federal court ordering them to stop this week.
Last week, the U.S. District Court in Portland – located in the same federal court building that’s been the focus of protests – temporarily blocked federal officers from targeting journalists and legal observers at the protests.
The ACLU asked the court to sanction and hold in contempt federal agents for violating the temporary restraining order.
‘As of yesterday, the federal government owes us $192,000 and counting. We intend to collect,’ Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly tweeted Tuesday
Several moms join together to block a Department of Homeland Security SUV from pursuing street protesters as they clash with federal officers on Tuesday
A fire is set during a demonstration in downtown Portland Tuesday night
Federal law enforcement officers stand guard during a protest against racial inequality and police violence in Portland
Meanwhile, business owner Stacey Gibson (right), who owns five fast-food restaurants in Portland has said that nightly protests have been hijacked by people ‘taking advantage of an opportunity’ and who are not a part of the Black Lives Matter movement
It also asked the court to order Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli to personally appear and show why they should not be sanctioned for contempt.
The organization cited numerous instances in which agents have violated the order by firing impact munitions and using pepper spray against people clearly marked as journalists or legal observers.
One journalist, Jonathan Levinson of Oregon Public Broadcasting, said in a statement to the court that while he was trying to take a photograph Friday, he saw a federal agent raise his weapon, aim it at him and fire several rounds.
‘My camera and lens were splattered with paint,’ Levinson said. ‘Based on my position and the position of people around me, there is almost no chance the agent was aiming at anyone other than me.’
Trump had also sent troops to Seattle on ‘standby’ last week to protect federal buildings amid civil unrest.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday that she had received confirmation that agents had left her city.
Meanwhile, businesses in the downtown area are fighting to survive.
Stacey Gibson, who owns five fast-food restaurants in Portland has said that nightly protests have been hijacked by people ‘taking advantage of an opportunity’ and who are not a part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gibson said it has been ‘terrifying’ trying to keep her businesses open.
She told Fox News @ Night that she believes a bunch of opportunists are taking advantage of the protests and that the message of the Black Lives Matter movement ‘is getting lost’.
‘It’s certainly not the Black Lives movement that is causing all this damage on the federal buildings and everything else,’ Gibson said.
‘It’s just people taking advantage of an opportunity. And it’s hurting a lot of people – I mean, not just the businesses but the residents and everybody that’s trying to be down here. I mean, it’s just destroyed Portland, in my opinion.
‘It’s terrifying as a business owner. I’m just not really sure what to expect and this is just unprecedented situations.’
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Whitehall’s army of 180 diversity watchdogs
Whitehall mandarins have been criticised for wasting money on ‘non-jobs’ after it was revealed that at least 180 diversity officers are on the payroll across nine Government departments.
In a series of parliamentary questions, Tory backbencher Neil O’Brien asked Ministers how many members of their departmental staff had ‘one or more of the words “equality, diversity, inclusion, gender, LGBT or race” in their job title’.
Top of the pile was the Cabinet Office with 66 such employees, which included 41 members of the Government Equalities Office.
In a series of parliamentary questions, Tory backbencher Neil O’Brien (pictured) asked Ministers how many members of their departmental staff had ‘one or more of the words “equality, diversity, inclusion, gender, LGBT or race” in their job title’
However, further staff within the department are likely to have equality, diversity and inclusion responsibilities within their roles, without it being in their job title.
Previous job advertisements suggest that senior staff in these positions could expect a salary of about £70,000 – nearly three times what a student nurse earns.
Duncan Simpson of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘This is what happens when Whitehall chiefs rush to be right-on.
‘It would be far better for every taxpayer if mandarins focused on rooting out waste, rather than obsessing with identity politics and growing the number of non-jobs. Sensible Ministers would do well to cut the number of these culture wars commissars.’
The Ministry of Defence (pictured is their Whitehall building) is currently seeking a diversity and inclusion director who will be paid £110,000 a year – more than is paid to an Army colonel who commands a battalion of 800 soldiers
The Ministry of Defence had the second highest number of diversity staff, with 44. The Ministry is currently seeking a diversity and inclusion director who will be paid £110,000 a year – more than is paid to an Army colonel who commands a battalion of 800 soldiers.
Civil servants have been wrestling with diversity issues in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests this year.
In June, the then Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education declared he would work on ‘tackling the whiteness of senior Whitehall’, while his equivalent at the MoD wrote in an email that ‘Systemic racial inequality… has deep roots within UK society, including Defence’.
Staff at the Department for Environment have been told to educate themselves on concepts such as ‘white privilege’, ‘intersectionality’ and ‘microaggressions’, while a member of the Cabinet Office had to apologise for using the term ‘whitelisting’.
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Covid tests chaos is blamed on ‘mad’ frenzy by parents to get checks done on children
The testing chaos was last night blamed on a ‘mad’ rush by parents needlessly seeking Covid tests for children with common colds.
Typically, coughs and colds spike every September when children head back to class, and become even more common during the winter.
But a No 10 source said the surge in demand for tests was due in part by people ‘not understanding when they should and shouldn’t get a test’.
The source said: ‘For example, whole classes of children and their families have been sent for tests after one positive case, which is mad.
‘Loads of kids get sniffles in the autumn – the difference now is they’re all being kept off school and trying to get corona tests.’
A graphic shows how parents can tell the difference between a cold, flu and coronavirus
Public health experts echoed the sentiments. Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said the same pattern of over-testing was evident in Scotland, where schools returned around a fortnight before those south of the border.
‘It was apparent from the Scottish example that a lot of unnecessary tests were taken up by parents for their children and the same thing has happened in England and Wales,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.
Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace, told MPs that there had been a ‘very marked increase in the number of young children being tested, a doubling of children under 17 being tested’, with even larger rises in those aged five to nine.
According to some reports, more than 300 schools had sent either some or all pupils home after reported or suspected cases by last week.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health advises that children with simple cold symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throats without fever should not be tested.
But The Mail on Sunday discovered dozens of examples of parents ignoring the advice.
On the website forum Mumsnet, one mother told how she had ordered a home test for her daughter because she had a cough and cold, but did not have a high temperature. ‘Trust me I don’t really want to test her. It isn’t fun for either of us. She’s been coughing on and off all morning now. Yes, I’m sure it is a cold but I’ve been told to get a test so I am,’ she wrote.
Another wrote: ‘It is bonkers. My son has a cold – sneezing, snotty, no temp, (mild) sore throat, no cough.
‘He felt well enough to be in school but I said to ask to come home at lunchtime if he was struggling. He texted at lunchtime to say that if he asks to come home, we will all have to self-isolate and get a test. So he’s staying at school. No wonder there is a massive shortage of tests, people have lost all common sense and perspective. Of course children are going to get colds in the autumn term, especially when they haven’t been mixing over the summer.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock reinforced the point, telling the BBC Radio 4 Today programme last week: ‘It is so important that we ensure that the tests are used for the people who really need them.’
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SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH sets out how mankind can pull off a miracle and save our planet
Our planet is facing an unprecedented challenge. As I warned last week, we are living in the shadow of a disaster – and it is one of our own making.
Just like the people who lived by the doomed nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, we are on the verge of destruction.
By regarding the Earth as our planet, run by humankind for humankind, we have already wrought untold damage.
Humans have destroyed half of the rainforests, replaced wilderness with settlements and farmland and caused an apocalyptic decline in plant, animal and insect species.
Ninety per cent of fish populations are either over-fished or fished to capacity. But this can be fixed with a global effort to create a network of no-fishing zones throughout coastal waters where fish can grow older and produce more offspring. They then repopulate neighbouring waters
We are polluting our air, draining our rivers, warming the oceans and making them more acidic. We have depleted the ozone layer and brought about potentially disastrous climate change.
Humankind, in other words, has set a course for a devastating future, not just for the natural world but for itself. And if we continue, we will, like the people who once lived in the shadow of Chernobyl, risk sleepwalking into global catastrophe.
What faces us today is nothing less than the collapse of the living world. Yet there is still time to change course, to find a better way of living.
We can, and must, begin to put things right. And at the heart of this global effort must lie respect for biodiversity – the very thing we are destroying.
It is no accident that the stability of our planet’s climate is wavering at the very moment the extraordinary richness of life on our fragile planet is in sharp decline. The two things are bound together.
Restoring biodiversity on Earth is the only way out of the crisis we have created. And that, in turn, means ‘rewilding’ the world, re-establishing the balance between the human world and the rest of nature, step by step, as I set out below.
I don’t pretend it will be easy, yet this blueprint for survival is not merely possible but essential if we are to have any hope of saving our civilisation.
Prioritise people and the planet over profit
What has brought us to this moment of desperation? I believe it is our hunger for perpetual economic growth.
This one goal has dominated social, economic and political institutions for the past 70 years. And the result is that we are enslaved to crude measurements of our gross domestic product (GDP).
Yet the price paid by the living world is not accounted for.
There are those who hope for a future in which humankind focuses upon a new, sustainable measure of success.
The Happy Planet Index, created by the New Economics Foundation, attempts to do just that, combining a nation’s ecological footprint with elements of human wellbeing, such as life expectancy, average levels of happiness and a measure of equality.
In 2019, New Zealand made the bold step of formally dropping GDP as its primary measure of economic success and created its own index based upon its most pressing national concerns.
In this single act, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shifted the priorities of her whole country away from pure growth and towards something that better reflects the aspirations many of us have.
What has brought us to this moment of desperation? I believe it is our hunger for perpetual economic growth
Ditch oil and embrace renewable energy
In 2019, fossil fuels provided 85 per cent of our global energy, but the carbon they release into the atmosphere warms the Earth and increases the acidity of the oceans, with disastrous consequences.
Now we need to make the transition to renewable energy at lightning speed.
A carbon tax penalising all emitters would radically speed up the process. The Swedish government introduced such a tax in the 1990s and it worked.
As the new, clean, carbon-free world comes online, people everywhere will start to feel the benefits. Life will be less noisy. Our air and water will be cleaner, with fewer premature deaths from poor air quality.
At least three nations – Iceland, Albania and Paraguay – already generate all their electricity without fossil fuels. A further eight use coal, oil and gas for less than ten per cent of their electricity. Of these nations, five are African and three are in Latin America.
Profound change can happen in a short period of time. This is starting to happen with fossil fuels.
We may yet pull off a miracle and move to a clean energy world by the middle of this century.
Rewild the Oceans with huge no-fishing zones
The ocean covers two-thirds of the surface of the planet, which means there is a special role for it in our revolution to rewild the world.
By helping the marine world to recover, we can simultaneously capture carbon, raise biodiversity and supply more food.
It starts with the industry that is causing most damage to the ocean – fishing. Ninety per cent of fish populations are either over-fished or fished to capacity.
But this can be fixed with a global effort to create a network of no-fishing zones throughout coastal waters where fish can grow older and produce more offspring. They then repopulate neighbouring waters.
We need no-fishing zones to encompass at least a third of our ocean to enable fish stocks to recover.
International waters – the high seas – are owned by no one, so all states are free to fish as much as they wish. The worst-offending nations pay billions of dollars in subsidies to keep their fleets fishing, even when there are too few fish left for it to be profitable.
But if all international waters were designated a no-fishing zone, we would transform the open ocean from a place exhausted by our relentless pursuit to a flourishing wilderness that would seed our coastal waters with more fish and help us all in our efforts to capture carbon.
The high seas would become the world’s greatest wildlife reserve.
Commercial fish farming, which often pollutes the seas, must be made more sustainable.
More radically, we can reforest the ocean. Kelp is the fastest-growing seaweed, forming vast submerged forests that boast remarkable levels of biodiversity. But even this wonder plant needs healthy seas. The forests are prone to attacks from sea urchins and, where we have eliminated animals such as sea otters that eat the urchins, entire kelp forests have been devoured.
Learn to get more food from less land
The conversion of wild habitat to farmland has been the single greatest direct cause of biodiversity loss during our time on Earth.
In 1700, we farmed about one billion hectares. Today, our farms cover just under five billion hectares, more than half of all the habitable land on the planet.
If we are to farm less land, we must eat much less meat, especially red meat, and especially beef, which, when including the grain fed to cows, consumes 60 per cent of our farmland
To gain those extra four billion hectares, we have torn down seasonal forests, rainforests, woodland and scrub, drained wetlands and fenced in grasslands, destroying biodiversity and releasing carbon stored in their plants and soils. Removing the wild has cost us dearly.
How can we cease the expansion of industrial farmland while feeding our growing populations?
In short, can we get more food from less land – as we must do?
There are some inspiring farmers in the Netherlands who have turned away from fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and herbicides and erected wind turbines.
They have dug geothermal wells to heat their greenhouses with renewable energy, collected rainwater from their own greenhouse roofs and planted their crops not in soil but in gutters filled with nutrient-rich water to minimise input and loss. They use home-grown bee colonies to pollinate crops. These innovative farms are now among the highest-yielding and lowest-impact food producers on Earth.
For smaller-scale and subsistence farmers, there is an inexpensive low-tech approach: regenerative farming. Herbicide and pesticide use are reduced, crops are rotated to rest soils, and organic matter rich in carbon is brought back into the topsoil, storing carbon.
But these improvements will only get us so far. If we are to farm less land, we must eat much less meat, especially red meat, and especially beef, which, when including the grain fed to cows, consumes 60 per cent of our farmland.
Instead, we must change to a diet that is largely plant-based, which will reduce the space we need for farming and reduce greenhouse gases.
Estimates suggest that by changing our habits, humankind could feed itself on just half of the land that we currently farm.
Save our forests and rewild the Land
Much of the developed world cut down its forests long ago, putting most of the current deforestation pressure on the poorer parts of the world, especially in the tropics.
There the rich tree cover is still being destroyed to provide the beef, palm oil and hardwood that wealthier nations consume.
And it is the deepest, darkest and wildest forests of all – the tropical rainforests – that are disappearing. If this continues, the loss of carbon to the air, and species to the history books, would be catastrophic for the whole world. We must halt all deforestation now.
By directing our trade and investment, we can support those nations to reap the benefits of these resources without losing them.
We must find ways to make wilderness valuable to those who own and live in it, without reducing its biodiversity or its ability to capture carbon.
Reduce family size and slow population growth
When I was born, there were fewer than two billion people on the planet. Today there are almost four times that number.
When I was born, there were fewer than two billion people on the planet. Today there are almost four times that number [File photo]
The world’s population is continuing to grow, albeit at a slower pace than at any time since 1950.
At current UN projections, there will be between 9.4 and 12.7 billion people by 2100. Largely due to the demand from wealthy countries, our consumption is exceeding the Earth’s capacity to regenerate its resources.
We want everyone on Earth to have a fair share, and that means we need to both lower consumption and find ways to stabilise our population growth.
The fairest way to stabilise the global population is to help poorer nations to develop. When this happens, diet and healthcare improve, child mortality decreases and families have fewer children.
It is also true that wherever women have the vote, wherever girls stay in school for longer and wherever women are free to follow their aspirations, the birth rate falls.
Raising people out of poverty and empowering women is the fairest way to bring this period of rapid population growth to an end.
Live sustainably to revive the natural world
Before farming began, a few million humans across the globe were living as hunter-gatherers, working in balance with the natural world. With the advent of farming, our relationship with nature changed.
We came to regard the wild world as something to tame, to subdue and use. We moved from being a part of nature to being apart from nature.
All these years later, we need to reverse that transition.
But there are now billions of us. We can’t possibly return to our hunter-gatherer ways. Nor would we want to. But there is plenty that we can and must do.
We must halt and reverse the conversion of wild spaces to farmland, plantations and other developments. We must end our overuse of fertilisers. We must reduce our use of freshwater. We must immediately halt and preferably start to reverse climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
If we do all those things, biodiversity loss will begin to slow to a halt, and then start itself to reverse.
Our greatest opportunity is now
We humans have come as far as we have because we are the cleverest creatures to have ever lived on Earth.
But if we are to continue to exist, we will require more than intelligence. We will require wisdom.
Homo sapiens, the wise human being, must now learn from its mistakes and live up to its name. We who are alive today have the formidable task of making sure that our species does so. We must not give up hope.
We can yet make amends, change direction and once again become a species in harmony with nature. All we require is the will.
The next few decades represent a final chance to build a stable home for ourselves and restore the rich, healthy and wonderful world that we inherited from our distant ancestors. Our future on the planet is at stake.
© David Attenborough, 2020
Adapted from A Life On Our Planet, by David Attenborough, published by Ebury Press on October 1 at £20. To pre-order a copy for £17, with free delivery, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 by September 27.
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet will premiere in cinemas on September 28, featuring an exclusive conversation with Sir David Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin. The film will then launch on Netflix this autumn.
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