Population Matters

Lord May apologises to the future

Lord May apologises to the future

Lord Robert May, former President of the Royal Society and Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, will be joining emeritus Professor John Guillebaud and others to mark the 20th anniversary of the burial of the “eco-timecapsule” at Kew Gardens on 5 June 2014.

World Environment Day

5 June 2014 is World Environment Day and marks the 20th anniversary of the burial of ‘Apology to the Future’ eco-timecapsules in the UK and abroad. To commemorate the event, a ceremony will be held in Kew with an introduction from Zac Goldsmith MP, and readings from The Promise. Introduced by the Lady Mayor of Richmond, Meena Bond, speakers at the reception to follow will include Kew’s Director, Richard Deverell, Professor John Guillebaud, Lord Robert May, Sir Crispin Tickell and Baroness Jenny Tonge. Also on the programme will be a specially written song about the eco-timecapsule project.

Those who witnessed the burial of the timecapsule in 1994 and will be returning to mark the 20th anniversary include actress Susan Hampshire and some whose parents brought them as babies to the original event. Messages of support have been received from many of those unable to be there on the day, including Sir David Attenborough, Jonathon Porritt, Lionel Shriver and Kim Ellis, Director of Sydney and Mount Annan Botanic Gardens.

John Guillebaud

Explaining the inspiration for the eco-timecapsule project, Professor Guillebaud said, “Time capsules usually record a particular time and place for posterity, and are buried without any future date for ‘unburying’ in mind. Those that we buried in 1994 were different. The concept came through that well-known saying: ‘We have not inherited the Earth from our grandparents — we have borrowed it from our grandchildren.’ I reflected on how angry they are likely to be if we continue (and there has been no obvious letup 20 years later) to wreck their loan to us. With 25 years as the accepted average duration of a generation, ‘our grandchildren’ meant people living 50 years ahead. So this project was addressed to the people of 2044. We felt it was essential to apologise. But more important for all concerned at that time and since was the pledge: to do all we could to save the planet by individual and united action ‘according to our talents and opportunities’, influencing those in power and changing as necessary our own lifestyles — with the goal that the finders of each timecapsule in the year 2044 will wonder why we apologised!”

Earlier in the day, John Guillebaud and others will take part in the Green Transport Challenge to demonstrate transport congestion and the viability of travel by bike, the most sustainable mode of transport, and to raise funds for Population Matters. This will be a competition between means of transport — cycling (John Guillebaud on his Brompton, supported by other cyclists), running (John’s son Dr Christopher Guillebaud and Dr Rebecca Foljambe), London Transport and car — finishing at Kew Gardens. The starting point in Central London is to be the Margaret Pyke Centre, where Professor Guillebaud formerly worked in family planning, with sustainability as a motive. As he says, “For the environment, contraceptive pills are just like bicycles (OK, despite being not much good to get you from A to B — and the latter may be a bit cumbersome in the bedroom!)”. Indeed, to make the point back in 1994, he put a packet of pills into the time capsule.

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