CURBING climate change linked to spiralling population growth is one of the biggest challenges facing our world – and you are the ones who have to tackle it.
That was the hard-hitting message from Cheltenham-based environmental campaigner Jonathon Porritt when he spoke to an audience of sixth form geography pupils in Cheltenham yesterday.
The former head of Friends of the Earth gave a talk entitled Sustainable Cities at a geography conference hosted by Cheltenham Ladies' College.
And he pulled no punches, telling his young audience introducing sustainable practices in large urban areas was crucial to the planet's future.
"The growth in human numbers is by far the biggest influence on the world today," he said.
"Most of the growth in cities is going on in developing and emerging countries where there is an inexorable migration of people into cities.
"All big climate issues we are up against will be helped by a gradual decline in the number of human beings."
He said according to projections the world's population was set to grow to nine billion by 2050.
In cities, he pointed out, it was vital to improve sustainability by implementing contraception programmes.
He added: "Most cities are built close to the seaboard or rivers and the majority of inhabitants live close to sea level.
"Right now urban planners are looking at this with a growing sense of ill-ease.
"We are seeing the accelerated process of melting of Arctic sea ice during the summer.
"Data tells us it is getting worse and worse.
"For urban populations accelerated climate change and rising sea levels present an extra-ordinary challenge. You are the ones who will have to learn how to adapt.
"When you hear people banging on about the importance of climate change they are talking about what will happen to your world."
Following the talk the audience was full of questions.
Jonty Lawford, head of geography at the Ladies' College, said: "It's quite an inspiration for pupils to listen to someone who is globally well known.
"Theirs is the generation that will have to tackle these issues, which is quite a daunting prospect.
"But it is our job to empower them with the knowledge and confidence to do it."