5th June 1994
We are writing this letter of apology to you on 5th June 1994. It is World Environment Day when we hope that all citizens of the late 20th century will think about the world which you - two generations ahead - will inherit.
We fear that you will be facing a huge range of problems, because we have failed to take effective action on population growth, misuse of resources, and care of the environment.
Already there are over 5,500 million people on this planet. More than one third of them suffer the ills of poverty. There is growing degradation of earth, water and air, the prospect of disruptive climate change, the destruction of natural systems, and the extinction of numberless species.
Although birth rates are falling there are currently almost 2,300 million people under the age of fifteen. They are the next generation of parents. The best scientific prediction we have suggests that even if they all had access to education and up to date methods of family planning, you would be sharing the world with 5,000 million people. The worst prediction is for 12,000 million, which would mean that by 2044 you would be trying to provide for more additional humans than the total we now have. We also fear that if in your time there are fewer people than these estimates, the shortfall will be due to starvation, war and disease.
You know the problems you face. We can only guess at them. If they are as bad as we fear, we say sorry. In 1994 we see some hopeful signs. More and more ordinary people, especially children, are concerned about what is happening. Some action followed the United Nations' Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, and we have hopes of the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo later this year. In particular we want it to help meet the needs of the world's women, so many of whom want the choice of using modern methods to allow them to plan their families.
Every child should be a wanted child, everywhere: we reckon that a child born into a family in an industrial country will consume at least 30 times as much energy and resources, and produce 30 times as much pollution, as one born in a poor family. This also serves to emphasise the need for action on both poverty and overconsumption.
We have today buried this letter and relevant objects to focus attention on the urgency of action to keep the planet in good health. We have chosen Kew because it is a haven for plants and because those who care for them are part of a worldwide network devoted to conservation and sustainable development. Our hope is that by the time you open this capsule and read our letter you will question the need for an apology. For that to be so, all will have to do their share and not leave everything to someone else or to governments.
In signing below, on this World Environment Day 1994, we pledge ourselves to respect the needs of our children and grandchildren in going about our daily lives. We each aim to make our contribution to a saner, safer and sustainable world. According to our talents and opportunities, we will work to advance the painful process of changing hearts, minds and policies before it is too late.