Profile: Jeremy Irons

Profile: Jeremy Irons

The world is becoming so overpopulated that nature will one day wreak its revenge, claims Jeremy Irons, the British actor. Launching himself as a green campaigner, he reveals plans to make a documentary about sustainability and waste disposal. In the wake of the global financial crisis, we are facing an economic revolution and things can ever be the same again.

By Amy Turner in The Sunday Times  (23 May 2010):

Earth will bite us back, warns Irons

There are too many humans and disease may restore the balance, the actor claims

Jeremy Irons fears population growth will be controlled only by a natural disaster.

The world is becoming so overpopulated that nature will one day wreak its revenge, claims Jeremy Irons, the actor.

Launching himself as a green campaigner, Irons has revealed plans to make a documentary about sustainability and waste disposal, likening himself to Michael Moore, the controversial film maker, although “not as silly”.

The increasing global population would put an intolerable strain on the world’s resources, Irons said, and the gulf between developing countries and westerners living a bountiful “pie-in-the-sky” existence must be addressed.

“One always returns to the fact that there are just too many of us, the population continues to rise and it’s unsustainable,” he said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “I think we have to find ways where we’re not having to scrap our effluent junk and are a really sustainable planet.”

Natural systems of self regulation may stop population growth, he said: “I suspect there’ll be a very big outbreak of something because the world always takes care of itself.”

The 61-year-old actor went on to speculate that either disease or war, “probably disease”, could become nature’s way of halving the population.

He is seeking funding for a film on sustainability, which he hopes will be in the manner of An Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar-winning Al Gore documentary on climate change.

“We’ll be pulling in a lot of expert opinion and we are in talks for funding,” said Irons. “We hope it will be a movie.”

The actor, who says he is apolitical although he is a former Labour donor and his wife Sinead Cusack is “deeply socialist”, has already made a plea for action in a short video for an organisation campaigning to end world hunger.

In a film on the website, Irons declares: “People around the world suffer hunger — 1 billion. Now that’s bad, worse than bad, that’s crazy! We’ve got to get mad. I want you to get mad. I want you to get up right now, stick your head out of the window and yell, ‘I’m mad as hell’.”

Irons, who owns seven houses, including a pink castle in Co Cork, Ireland, believes a new economic vision is needed in the wake of the global financial crisis. “We are facing an economic revolution,” he said. “I don’t think things can ever be the same again. The next generation will have to think laterally and find ways to cope with this.”

He dismissed the idea that a recovery in consumption would help Britain out of recession: “You walk down the high street and it’s just clothes, clothes, clothes. How many clothes do people need? We’re on a hiding to nothing with that.

“We’ve always known the City was a bubble. We can’t continue to divide the world between people who live a pie-in-the-sky life and people who are starving.”

Irons, who says he runs “very old motor cars” including a 13-year-old Range Rover, also launched an attack on today’s throwaway society. “Why does it make sense for us all to be buying a lot of motor cars, selling our old ones and scrapping them? Why don’t we make cars that last for 40 years? We could,” he said.

Known for backing causes such as an international ban on capital punishment and the repeal of the fox hunting ban, Irons said he developed his views after discussions with Richard Leakey, the Kenyan conservationist and politician.

Leakey has argued that the world cannot sustain more than 15 billion humans. The global population is now at 6.7 billion — and rising fast.

Earlier this year Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist, said it might be the duty of humans to commit to having smaller families and change their lifestyles to sustain the planet.

Irons, who has two children, Samuel, 31, and Max, 24, says the answer is not enforced population control: “Morally, I don’t think you can tell people not to have children.

“In the West we tend to have smaller families anyway, but in developing countries we need to offer as much technology and medical aid as possible. Whether that can happen before some natural disaster kicks in, we’ll have to see.”

The grimmer alternative, says Irons, is to continue to inflate the richer western economies to bursting point at the expense of poorer nations: “We would have to ringfence those who are starving and fighting over water, keeping everybody out. We’d live in a sort of fortress world, with an area which is fine, with its guarded oil pipe coming from Afghanistan or wherever, but I can’t see that working.”

The ultimate solution, he says, is for us all to live less decadently — growing our own food and recycling instead of replacing goods: “People must drop their standard of living [so] the wealth can be spread about. There’s a long way to go.”


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