Lighten up, Sir David. Our wildlife is safe

  By Matt Ridley Sep. 12, 2013, The Times

  1. Publicising his imminent new series about the evolution of animals, Sir David Attenborough said in an interview this week that he thought a reduction in human population during this century is impossible and “we’re lucky to be living when we are, because things are going to get worse”. People will look back in another 100 years “at a world that was less crowded, full of natural wonders, and healthier”.

  2. His is a common view and one I used to share. He longs for people to enjoy the open spaces and abundant herds of game that he has been fortunate enough to see. To that end he thinks it vital that there should be fewer of us.

  3. Ever so politely, I would now passionately disagree with the two premises of his argument. It’s actually quite likely, rather than impossible, that population will be falling by the end of this century and it is also quite likely that the people alive then will have lots more wilderness to explore and wildlife to admire than today.

  4. The rate at which world population grows has roughly halved from more than 2 per cent a year in the 1960s to roughly 1 per cent a year now. Even the total number of people added to the annual population has been dropping for nearly 30 years. If those declines continue, they will hit zero in about 2070 — not much more than 50 years from now. In recent decades the birth rate has fallen in every part of the world. Fertility in Bangladesh has fallen from nearly 7 children per woman in the 1960s to just over 2 today; Kenya from 8 to 4.5; Brazil 5.7 to 1.8; Iran 6.8 to 1.9; Ireland 3.9 to 2…

  5. Europe, Asia and Latin America have already gone through this transition and most countries are producing babies at or below replacement rate of 2.2 per woman, at which population stabilises (without immigration). Africa, for so long written off as a special (basket) case, is following suit almost exactly. For this reason alone, I suspect the world population will stop growing and begin to shrink even earlier than 2070 and almost certainly within this century. But even if it does not, there is good reason to reassure Sir David that our great grandchildren will have more wildlife to look at than he has had.

  6. An ingenious study by scientists at Rockefeller University in New York has recently calculated that even with population continuing to grow, and even with people eating more food and especially more meat, we have almost certainly already passed “peak farmland”, because of the rate at which fertilisers are improving yields. (Or we would have done if not for biofuels projects.) We will feed nine or ten billion people in 2070 from a considerably smaller acreage than we need to feed seven billion today.

  7. Land sparing is already occurring on a grand scale. Forest cover is increasing in many parts of the world, from Scotland to Bangladesh. Wildlife populations are booming in Europe (deer, bears, boar, otters), in the polar regions (walrus, seals, penguins, whales) and North America (turkeys, coyotes, bison, geese) and this is happening fastest in the richest countries. According to one recent report, animal populations grew by 6 per cent in Europe, North America and Northern Asia between 1970 and 2012, while shrinking in tropical regions. There is almost a perfect correlation between the severity of conservation problems and poverty, because the richer people get, the less they try to live off the land and compete with nature — the less they seek bushmeat and charcoal from the forest.

  8. Once again, Africa may spring a pleasant surprise. Over the past four decades agricultural yields in Africa hardly budged while they doubled or quadrupled in most of Asia. That is almost entirely down to a dearth of fertiliser and it is beginning to change. If African yields were to rise, the acreage devoted to farmland globally would start to fall even faster, releasing more and more land for “re-wilding”. The great herds and flocks that so delight Sir David would reassemble in more and more places. The happy conclusion is that making people better off and making nature better off are not in opposition; they go hand in hand.

  我们从考试要求出发,仍然是从三个角度来探讨这篇文章的写作手法。第一从逻辑(reasoning)、第二从感情铺垫(appeal to emotion)、第三在从可信度(evidence)上着手。今天我们专门来讲一下说理reasoning如何分析。

  这篇文章的逻辑非常清晰,要比以前201605亚太讲Air conditioning还有201610北美讲Library这两篇文章都要明显。



  1. “a reduction in human population during this century is impossible.” (Para.1)

  2. To preserve the “opening spaces” for wilderness. (Para. 2 paraphrasing)


  “there should be fewer of us.”(Para 2)



  1. “population will be falling by the end of this century”(以此反驳了上述的Premise 1)

  2. Even if the population keeps growing, “our great grandchildren” will still see more wildlife. (以此反驳了上述Premise 2)


  Human population will not have an adverse effect on natural environment in the future.


  Premise 1(population falling):


  Premise 2(more wilderness):

  作者这里运用说理来证明他的观点,为前提2又提供了一个新的理由来支持,在第6段作者申明“because of the rate at which fertilizers are improving yields.”而这个命题的True or False与否作者是想通过University research来证明的。



  1)The richer people get, the less they conquer and interfere in the wilderness. (Para.7 paraphrase)[这个点作者其实没有提供进一步证据证明,读者需要通过常识来判断这个命题的真假。]

  2)The richer countries have encountered more wild lands. (Para. 7 paraphrase) [这个点作者通过整段para. 7举例evidence证明]

  3)If the countries are provided sufficient fertilizers, Africa, the representative of poorer countries, will not encounter depletion of forests. [这个点作者通过整段para 8说理reason证明]


  Our offspring will still see more wildlife.

  通过这样的分析,想必大家心中对这篇文章的逻辑框架有了更清晰的了解。接下来,我们来看一下一段Appeal to logos应该如何写作:

  [一开始提出自己的论点]Throughout the whole article, the author establishes a sound argument to rebut David Attenborough’s claim, especially targeting his two premises presented at the beginning of the passage that “a reduction in human population during this century is impossible” and that reduction of population is essential for maintaining “the open spaces and abundant herds of game”.

  [说明作者一开始就让步的意图]This intentional illustration of the opponents’ groundwork as opening is to win the argumentative manner and endear the audience whose opinion is expected to diverge from the author.

  [说明作者如何反驳对手第一个前提]After successfully attracting their attention, Ridley then immediately arranges his solid reasoning to loosen Attenborough’s basement. The author first challenges his first premise–the legitimacy of the despair about reducing human population—with trustworthy evidences in paragraph four: the apparent shrinkages of fertility in different countries tell most of the story.

  [说明作者如何反驳对手第二个前提]The author further refutes the continual loss of wilderness under human interference that Attenborough insists as his second premise; this time valid reasoning plays the primary role. The research result from Rockefeller University cited in paragraph six demonstrates that “fertilizers are improving yields”, proving the likelihood of less land to satisfy thousands of months. The author in the last two paragraphs continues to consolidate the possibility in the resilience of natural ranges by logic. On one hand, evidence has shown that rich countries have already sparing their forest cover, breeding more animals. On the other hand, the author skillfully employs a persuasive assumption that even the poor countries, as represented by Africa, can “release more and more land” if depletion of fertilizer begins to change. This persuasion about both rich and poor countries finally wipes out the reader’s doubt about Ridley’s refutation against Attenborough.

  [最后小结全段] In short, the step-by-step logic fueled up with abundant evidence firmly convinces the reader that the following centuries promise a brilliant future for natural environment.



  1. 分不清楚哪里是evidence哪里是argument?这两个概念是批判性思维的基础,大家一定要搞清。

  2. 不会去找conclusion的premise。前提和结论又是两个基础概念,要不断问自己,为什么作者说这句话是true的,文章有没有其他的claim让这句话成立。

  3. deductive reasoning和inductive reasoning的区分比较模糊,虽然考试的时候并不用特地写明两者,但是分清两者对大家的分析会大有帮助。