The plague of mankind
Will Oremus at Slate approvingly notes “Britain’s best-loved naturalist,” Sir David Attenborough, speaking out against the scourge of humanity:
“We are a plague on the Earth,” Attenborough said of humanity as a whole, in a quote promptly picked up by London’s Times and Telegraph and plastered on the Drudge Report. “It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so.” The full interview is available only in print, but the Independent cribbed from it liberally enough to give you the gist. “It’s not just climate change,” Attenborough went on. “It’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.”
According to Oremus, anyone who objects to this nonsense is contributing to “a predictable gnashing of teeth from online commenters and cranks.” Of course, Malthusian whack jobs have been predicting Armageddon for decades, and they’re always dead wrong. Attenborough was at least smart enough to give his junk science prediction a 50-year expiration date, ensuring he’ll be long gone by the time his doomsday prophecy is falsified.
And while Oremus tries to soft-shoe his way past the number of radical environmentalists who advocate the involuntary reduction of the human cancer, through either more aggressive birth control or mass die-offs, they’ve always been out there. A University of Texas professor preached the same sick fantasy as Attenborough as far back as 2006, predicting that an angry Gaia would soon kill off 90 percent of the human population. Like Attenborough, he was fully on board with this gruesome agenda. And while I wouldn’t blame anyone for trying to forget it, Hollywood delivered a big-budget movie in 2008 that dramatized Mother Earth conducting precisely this sort of genocidal pest control.
As it happens, there’s a little controversy brewing between 14-year-old environmental activist Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, and the White House, because she tried to publish Attenborough-style flapdoodle about overpopulation on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-journal, but they refused to accept it without heavy editing. Since the original essay was only 1000 words long, young Miss Irwin took this as an insult. Which, as much as one might disagree with her ideas, is understandable. She’s forward about her beliefs, and it’s lousy of Clinton (or, presumably, the huge staff that she never talks to, as we learned during the Benghazi hearings) to invite Irwin to write for them, and then trash her work. Or perhaps Clinton and her people should think twice about using the opinions of 14-year-old children to push their agenda.
At any rate, here’s how Bindi Irwin views the ticking population bomb:
“How is it possible that our fragile planet can sustain these masses of people?” Bindi wrote.
“Think of it this way. Pretend for a moment that I’m having a party, inviting 15 of my closest friends. I’ve rented a room big enough to fit 15 people, I’ve bought 15 sandwiches for each of my friends to eat, and I have put together 15 party bags, one for each friend.
“My party is about to start, and I hear a knock at the door. My friends are here! Only, when I open the door, 70 of my friends are standing there wanting to come to the party!
“What do I do? My room is only big enough to fit 15, with 70 we won’t have any room to move and dance. I don’t have enough food. Do I divide the sandwiches among the 70 people? But then everyone will still be hungry. What about the party bags? Do I only give the party bags out to my closest friends? Isn’t that unfair to everyone else?
“That is the crisis facing mother earth today.”
None of this bears any serious resemblance to the population of the Earth, but then again, neither does anything David Attenborough rambles on about, and he’s not fourteen years old. The Earth is nowhere near overpopulated in terms of humans versus surface area, nor is the size of the human population causing the dangerous depletion of any resources. Individual parts of the world are overpopulated, and political failure (i.e. socialism and communism) interfere with the development and distribution of vital resources, causing shortages and famine. But if you’re fortunate enough to live in a relatively free, technologically advanced society, you’re not being crushed like a sardine or starved. Even Slate concedes this, later in an article that started out applauding Attenborough for spouting garbage the author knows is not true:
Fortunately, the problem isn’t as straightforward as Attenborough’s excerpted quotes make it out to be. Yes, there are a lot of people on Earth, but a steady easing of population growth rates is expected in the coming decades even in the absence of population-control policies. And yes, we could eventually be in danger of running out of space to grow the food needed to feed everyone, but that’s as much a function of Western consumption habits as sheer numbers. In short, what we need in the world is not necessarily fewer people, but a lighter environmental footprint per person.
In other words, we know this overpopulation/humanity-is-a-virus Agent Smith stuff is nonsense, but it’s useful for herding guilt-riddled suckers into the other wacky environmentalist crusades that have more political utility, so let’s give the old boy a round of applause!
“These days the most effective environmental arguments seem to be those that tie climate change to deadly extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy,” Oremus chirps… ironically on the very same day that “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg shredded that hoax in the Wall Street Journal:
As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don’t indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago.
While it is likely that we will see somewhat stronger (but fewer) storms as climate change continues, a March 2012 Nature study shows that the global damage cost from hurricanes will go to 0.02% of gross domestic product annually in 2100 from 0.04% today—a drop of 50%, despite global warming.
As you can tell from this excerpt, Lomborg is a climate-change believer (an entirely separate topic that we’ll have little room to explore in this overpopulated column) but he’s growing exasperated with hucksters peddling paranoid fantasies to gain political advantage over the gullible. Specifically, he was debunking the climate change part of Barack Obama’s inaugural speech.
The Population Research Institute has dedicated itself to debunking this hysteria, and while debating their conclusions is to be encouraged – debating all scientific theories is encouraged, according to the very definition of science – there’s a lot more hard data packed into their presentations than you’ll find in anything said by genocide fetishists.
The enduring appeal of overpopulation mythology to certain quarters of the Left is easy to understand. It delivers an immediate jolt of guilt to the unwary listener – you’re sinning against Mother Earth just by living! – and guilty people are easier to manipulate with collectivist philosophy. Leftism is all about redistribution, and trapping people within the vision of an exhausted, zero-sum world makes them more likely to accept redistribution through government force. If we accept that we’re living on a tiny, fragile “Spaceship Earth,” we won’t object too strongly when the captain and his officers bark orders at us.
The failures of the world’s collectivist states are obscured by howling about overpopulation, thereby presenting poverty and environmental desecration as everyone’s fault. And of course, what better way to express your contempt for the benighted, disobedient Little People than by comparing them to a virus, and declaring that you’re doing them a huge favor by merely tolerating their continued existence?