Day By Day

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Defusing the Population Bomb

One of the central tenets of the "green" movement is that there are just too damn many humans on the face of the planet. This has been an article of faith for greenies ever since the publication, way back in 1968, of Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" and that faith has long been resistant to reason and evidence. Time after time demographers and economists have pointed out that the population bomb has been a dud and that famines and predicted resource shortages have not materialized, but to little effect.

Finally, after half a century of hysterics, a faint glimmer of reality has begun to seep into the world-view of some environmentalists. A case in point is this article by Fred Pierce which states at its outset:
A green myth is on the march. It wants to blame the world's overbreeding poor people for the planet's peril. It stinks. And on World Population Day, I encourage fellow environmentalists not to be seduced.
Some greens think all efforts to save the world are doomed unless we "do something" about continuing population growth. But this is nonsense. Worse, it is dangerous nonsense.
Pierce's article focuses on an important advance in our understanding of population growth. We have long known about the "demographic transition" whereby economic development produces a marked reduction in female fertility. What has now become apparent is that declines in female fertility are taking place not just in developed nations, but worldwide [with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa]. It is this new information that has caused Pierce to proclaim that the population bomb is a dud.

Of course, Pierce is himself an environmentalist and is still attracted to the puritanical doomsday predictions on which the movement is based. After assuring us that population growth in and of itself will not bring about global catastrophe, he immediately makes reference to an alternative round of apocalyptic predictions.

The population bomb is being defused right now -- by the world's poor women. Sadly, the consumption bomb is still primed and ever more dangerous. Now that would be a proper target for environmentalists.
So, the "consumption bomb" is beginning to replace population growth in the fervid apocalyptic imaginations of environmentalists and some within the movement are not happy to see that. Pierce's article has spawned heated responses from people and organizations that have a major investment in population control, like this article by Robert Walker, an executive with the Population Institute. These organizations are not going to go away, and will continue to promote their anti-humanist agenda throughout the world. That is why I am not much encouraged by the defusing of the population bomb. It will have little effect on the anti-humanists' sensibilities and will simply encourage those within the green movement to focus ever more intently on their anti-capitalist agendas.

The resistance of green activists and other assorted apocalyptics to reason and evidence is the subject of yet another piece, this one by Sean Collins. He writes:

[T]he end is very clearly not nigh. By any sensible measure – life expectancy, wealth, literacy rates, food supply, social freedoms, even the general state of the environment – we live in an era that far surpasses any previous one. Our best days are – or at least should be – ahead of us. Yet books that have had the temerity to point out these simple facts – like Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist or Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World – are routinely pilloried by liberal-left and green commentators.
Collins rightly identifies the apocalyptic visions invoked by the Greens as "moralistic and misanthropic self-loathing". I would not venture to judge the deep psychological problems associated with this movement, but there is something here that goes far beyond rational or reasonable discourse.

No comments: