Mission Critical: The Number One Environmental Challenge

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    October 13, 2011


    Mission Critical: The Number One Environmental Challenge

    At this Earthwatch debate, Sir Crispin Tickell, Jo Royle, and others discuss some of the most complex environmental challenges we face today – including population growth and ocean protection.

    A packed auditorium of 750 people at London’s Royal Geographical Society were treated to an inspiring and animated evening of discussion about some of the most complex environmental challenges we face today. Leading international environmentalist and authority on climate change Sir Crispin Tickell, who addressed world population issues and the need for better education, emerged as the victor, as voted by the audience at our tenth annual debate.

    With strong competition from his four fellow speakers, Sir Crispin made a concise and compelling argument that positioned the need to address the exponential growth of the world’s population and provide better access to education as the overarching issue that embraced the other topics that were addressed. “Of all the interconnected problems we face, perhaps the most serious is the proliferation of our own species. We are like a species out of control,” proposed Sir Crispin. “In seeking to cope with this problem, the role of education, and in particularly that of women, is critical. Where women have achieved broadly equal status with men, human fertility has dropped.”

    The debate was expertly chaired by journalist and broadcaster Sheena McDonald. The four other speakers were Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London, who put the case for food security; Mike Mason, energy advisor to the president of the Maldives, who presented the argument for a zero carbon future; and Jo Royle, environmental campaigner and skipper on board the 2010 Plastiki expedition, who flew the flag for protection of the oceans. Completing the lineup, Daniel Yeo, a water security and climate change policy analyst at WaterAid, addressed water scarcity.

    An international online audience was able to take part virtually in the event, posting comments and voting via Twitter and Facebook.

    Earthwatch Executive Vice President Nigel Winser concluded at the end of the event: “As Earthwatch marks its 40th anniversary, we look ahead to the coming decades and the challenges and opportunities that we face as a global community. As all our expert speakers here tonight acknowledged, these challenges are massive, complex, and sometimes overwhelming. They are also intimately related. In reality we cannot choose one priority, but must address all of these issues simultaneously and empower people through education to become agents of behavioral, cultural, and political change.”

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