Nobel laureate Sir John Sulston delivers the Rutherford
Memorial Lecture in the St David Lecture Theatre last
night. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The world had some difficult decisions to make as an
increasing population stretched resources, a visiting Nobel
laureate said in Dunedin last night.
''The 21st century is a critical period for people and the
planet. Our population growth is pushing our planet to the
limit and there are limits to growth on a planet with finite
resources,'' Sir John Sulston said in the St David Lecture
Theatre last night.
The 550-seat theatre was three-quarters full for the Royal
Society of New Zealand 2013 Rutherford Memorial Lecture.
With the human population forecast to pass 10 billion this
century, there were some ''difficult ethical, legal, social
and scientific'' decisions to be made, the chairman of the
Royal Society of London's people and the planet international
working group said.
''It is not feasible for all of Earth's present inhabitants
to consume material resources at the current rate of most
"If we do nothing, the discrepancy will increase. Our
descendants ought to have opportunities at least as great as
those we ourselves enjoy. But if we continue in our current
style, they will not.''
The effects of population and consumption should be
considered together, he said.
''They should not be split up. If we don't talk about this
properly, we won't make progress.
"We have more people and we have more consumption, with the
accompanying emissions that are leading to climate change.''
Humans had a responsibility to nurture Earth and its
resources, Sir John said.
''We are the most powerful species on Earth. We can grow our
capability in a way no other species can. So, we have a
responsibility for what we are doing. At the moment, it's a
failure of stewardship.''
Sir John was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology
or Medicine in 2002, with Sydney Brenner and Bob Horvitz, for
their work on the nematode (worm) Caenorhabditis