12/13/12: The Population Bomb

by Dean Hansen

Gil Bailie writes:

In my youth I was much involved in the environmental movement. I remember with chagrin how Paul Ehrlich’s book “The Population Bomb” captured everyone’s attention and almost complete credulity. What’s even more amazing is that many people still believe it, when it is now perfectly clear that population decline—and the related aging of the world’s population—is the reality facing us today.

Here’s a minute-and-a-half video to that effect. [Doughlas Remy notes: The video is produced by the Population Research Institute, a non-profit organization which describes itself as “pro-life” and is funded by right-wing foundations.]

Behold one of Mr. Bailie’s endlessly recurring (and pet) monomaniacal themes.

Those nasty population bomb hysterics, according to the film, “thrive on an imagined crisis that has been both imminent and re-scheduled again and again over the past two centuries.”

Second Coming of Christ

The “imminent” return of Jesus

Hmmm … that sounds oddly familiar. I guess “imagined crises” have nothing on the return of Christ, do they?  Oh wait…. That has been both “imminent” and “re-scheduled” again and again … over the past twenty centuries, if you believe the hundreds of false prophets called on by God to declare the approaching and glorious advent.

So, does the fact that over-population hasn’t destroyed the planet yet mean we don’t need to re-schedule Christ’s return? Or does it happen independently of whether there are any people left to care?

I wonder how Mr. Bailie’s credulity stacks up against anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming? I’m sure the extra four billion people we’ve added to the earth since he and I were born in the 1940’s has had no appreciable impact on our carbon footprint or his mathematical certainties. Let’s try some actual math here: With 99% of scientists affirming in unison the reality of global warming, poor Paul Ehrlich is outclassed trying to compete very effectively as a lone voice in the wilderness on a related topic.

Climate consensus pie chart

According to Gil’s epic little 90-second public service announcement, every family on the earth could live “comfortably” in Texas (with their own house and yard!)  Really?  Explain to me how they intend to survive in the midst of a two-year drought and oppressive triple digit temperatures? Where will they get water? Food? Air Conditioning? A record number of cattle ranchers in Texas have had to auction off their herds of cattle at a steep loss to keep them from dying of starvation and thirst and to avoid bankruptcy and complete financial ruin. Now, imagine a city with a density like Tokyo, Shanghai or Hong Kong, filling up every nook and cranny of a land mass the size of Texas. Buildings, people, neon, cars, noise, and pollution as far as the eye can see.  No more trees, grass, flowers or animals … especially cattle. Just us. I guess those little details don’t matter much when you live in a fantasy world dominated by church doctrines that teach it’s “morally wrong” to give condoms to people in Africa suffering from AIDS.

Overpopulation babiesYes, let’s make more babies!  What have we got to lose?  Just our sanity, and the world we hope to bring them up in.

Of course what this marvelous and laughable pretense of a film overlooks is that physics trumps economics. Finite resources = dying populations.  According to scientists (those secular bastards!) population ignores the demographic transition model alluded to in this film, and exponential growth will continue until we hit an unsupportable load capacity which doesn’t even factor in the added disaster of climate warming. But why be dismayed by simple facts? Efficiency leads to even more consumption because it drops prices and allows faster extraction from ecosystems. If making babies is all you want to do, pump away and let the devil take the hindmost. But be prepared for a very rough ride.

Overpopulation in China Crowded Beach in BeijingNo sense worrying about over population. Malthus was such a jerk anyway. Never mind that he lived in an Empire where most of the population were either slaves or serfs, there was no education, thinking got you branded as a heretic, and most of the agriculture was for subsistence (that is what wasn’t stolen for the lords and dukes). We’ve already destroyed 95% of old growth forests since “taming” the new world. Bah! Who needs pristine environments with pure water and silent majesty? They just block the flow of traffic.  Let’s cut down the rest of the trees young and old to make way for more highways and more post-modern millennial Levitowns. Let’s increase fossil-fuel production to sustain growth and secure market profitability, plutocratic excess and endless bottom lines.

Overpopulation Catholic church and birth controlLet’s build more ribbons of concrete to connect all the inner-city infrastructure so we can have one massive, squalid ghetto-plex running from Mexico to the Tehachapi mountains, and from New Jersey to Maine. Just think of a large loaf of bread covered in expanding green mold. We’re the mold. Give us more graffiti and less saw grass. More smog and fewer dandelions. Don’t forget the advertising signs, strip malls, cyclone fences, and phone poles. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Strip mining for silver, diamonds, and coal enhances the natural beauty of the land. Excavate those troublesome mountains for gold and leave the rubble behind. Poison the rivers with mercury, arsenic and raw sewage. Spew more chemicals and industrial waste into the atmosphere as we ramp up for the miracle baby boom of the future that will save us from the Muslim hordes and immigration problems. Cancel licensing restrictions on Nuclear plants and build them near cities close to the ocean like those clever Japanese folks did. Fish the seas dry until the entire marine ecosystem collapses from overuse. Look for new oil exports by exploiting the Northwest passage, which fortuitously has opened for the first time in recorded history as a result of burning fossil fuels from the same oil that caused the melt. (This is roughly the equivalent of being overjoyed to discover thousands of flopping fish when the tide mysteriously rolls out and getting caught collecting them when the ocean comes crashing back as a tsunami wave to kill what’s left).

Coal plantPipe in petroleum through the Alaska and Canadian wilderness. What’s a spill or an Exxon Valdez now and then? Frac for oil reserves and risk the further contamination of declining agricultural land. Suck the last potable water from the worlds aquifers. Burn more coal to light houses no one can afford to buy with their junk mortgages. Be sure to remind the public that coal is “clean” energy. No one gives a shit if you’re telling the truth anyway. Just remember that sage advice from Rhett Butler, “There’s money to be made in the collapse of civilization.” Destroy the remaining habitat of endangered species of wildlife. Cut down the rest of the Brazilian rain forests to graze cattle so we can slaughter them and eat more hamburger. Build more airports close to suburbs, eliminate noise and perimeter restrictions. Pass laws protecting people’s right to own guns and carry concealed weapons into bars. Build more bars, gas stations, fast food franchises and WalMart stores. The future is bright.  Especially if the sun novas.

We are the only species that soils its own nest and takes real pleasure in doing it. God forbid that we should ever have to inventory our own foolishness and be honest about the resulting consequences. No! Let’s bury our collective heads in the sand and keep repeating the faithful refrain, “This isn’t really happening!  This isn’t really happening!” until there’s no one left to keep it from happening. After all, God gave us the plants, trees, animals and land to subdue and strangle into obedience. How can we go against the sovereign word of the Lord?  After all, he did promise to come back, didn’t he?


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