The Birling Gap and Overtourism

The Birling Gap

A hot day in an overpopulated country and even the Birling Gap becomes a traffic jam. As thousands of residents and visitors leave the tiny airless confines of their luxury hovels in the London Ant Tank and flock to the coast, the short patch of gravel along the foot of the white cliffs becomes an attractive option. Pushing and herding they pour over the grassy hills and down the metal access steps. Soon, one will fall over and there’ll be calls for fences. London is actually “planning” to grow by another 2 million people and there’ll all want a bloody selfie of themselves at the London Eye, Borough Market, The Birling Gap and all the other officially designated tourist “attractions” as promoted by the corporations which build hovels and car parks and as the people start to die of thirst, the small café will be replaced by a fucking air conditioned “visitors centre” with a Star Bucks and a Pizza Hut and a multi-story car park. And everyone will buy mugs with pictures on the side of how everything used to look when there were still only 7.5 Billion people rather than the 12 billion or 18 billion or whatever it will be by the end of the century.

This extinction rebellion campaign is a good thing but even they have got it wrong. Too many of their followers think that the extinction will be human. It wont. It’s all the other animal which are gradually going extinct and the main driver for that is not climate change, bad as that is. The main driver for animal extinction is habitat loss and that is driven by growing human prosperity and growing human numbers. The other thing that Extinction Rebellion get wrong like all western eco-warriors is that they focus on the loss of exotic animals yet don’t give a thought to local wild life. This means that the people doing most to harm the environment don’t think about how their actions affect their local environment. They abstract the problem to be something that is done by government and big corporations somewhere far away. But when we pave over our garden we’re reducing habitat for wild life. When we change land usage from agricultural to building we are destroying habitat. When we build motorways we are destroying habitat. If we use more land then there is less for other creatures.

I also wonder whether the nature of Western society is a barrier to tackling climate change and population. We’re dogmatically focused on “human rights” as we see ourslves as separate from the natural world. We also see our society as something very very new. We consider our society to have only recently evolved but in fact humans have existed for over a hundred thousand years and most of that time we have been ecologically harmless hunter gatherers. We need to start thinking long term and that could mean planning to reduce our population. In 1950 the global human population was about 2.5 billion. Today it is 7.5 billion. If we went back to 1950s levels of people then the problems of climate change would not be nearly so acute.