Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A close call

For a moment there I thought I was going to have to do the unthinkable and write a favorable post about an article by Thomas Friedman, apostle of globalization, high priest of the Church of Climate Change Doom -- a column in Pravda on the Hudson, The New York Times.

What fooled me was, first, the headline: "The Earth Is Full." (After a little research I "got" it: he or the copyeditor was playing off the name of his bestselling book, The Earth Is Flat.) And his first paragraph is promising:
You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?
I thought Friedman was going to point out the devastating effects of the world's runaway population growth, which learned dolts of both the political left and right make short work of. Leftists ignore the numbers and say it's all a matter of people consuming too much and oppressing the Wretched of the Earth; at most, they'll admit there's a problem but add that once the Third World enjoys First World living standards, through more foreign aid and "development," birth rates will drop. So-called conservatives also see economic development as the magic ingredient. That, and more technology.

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But Friedman's column turns out instead to be a plugfest for a book about the crisis of, yes, climate change: The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World, by Paul Gilding. Friedman and Gilding are soul brothers, united in their belief that the problem isn't numbers, it's consumption.

What China’s minister is telling us, says Gilding, is that “the Earth is full. We are now using so many resources and putting out so much waste into the Earth that we have reached some kind of limit, given current technologies. The economy is going to have to get smaller in terms of physical impact.”

In a general way, your blogger agrees with some of Friedman's vaporous prescriptions: 
We will realize, [Gilding] predicts, that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less. “How many people,” Gilding asks, “lie on their death bed and say, ‘I wish I had worked harder or built more shareholder value,’ and how many say, ‘I wish I had gone to more ballgames, read more books to my kids, taken more walks?’ To do that, you need a growth model based on giving people more time to enjoy life, but with less stuff.”
Fine. I'm for more happiness, more time to enjoy the sunshine, read books, take walks. Our culture overemphasizes owning things, especially silly technological gadgets. We could do with some value maturation.

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But that isn't going to overcome what I agree is a looming environmental crisis. Leisure isn't "free." It doesn't drop as the gentle rain from heaven. You have to buy the liberty to pursue higher things. And unless you are born to great wealth, you have to earn the money to buy it by producing some good or service that someone will pay you for. That's the only stable foundation a "happiness-driven growth model" can rest on. Lying in the grass and counting the stars is spiritually uplifting, but as an end in itself it becomes self-indulgence. And for most of us it would be impossible anyway outside of an economy that produces things -- consumes things, for that matter.

Friedman and, if his discussion gives an accurate picture of the book, Gilding do the usual shuck-and-jive act about overpopulation, pretending all would be okay if we just reduced our ecological footprint. Here's a news bulletin for you, gentlemen, courtesy of the Population Reference Bureau:
The growth rate of 1.2 percent between 2000 and 2005, when applied to the world's 6.5 billion population in 2005, yields an annual increase of about 78 million people. Because of the large and increasing population size, the number of people added to the global population will [remain] high for several decades, even as growth rates continue to decline. 

Between 2005 and 2030, most of this annual growth will occur in the less developed countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America whose population growth rates are much higher than those in more developed countries. The populations in the less developed regions will most likely continue to command a larger proportion of the world total. (Emphais mine.)
Graphically, it looks like this:


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(Source: United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects, The 2008 Revision)

It seems safe to say that Friedman and Gilding are not likely to show up in Cairo or Yemen and suggest to the good people there that they should try to get by with less stuff, which they have precious little of anyway, and groove on more free time, which they have all too much of. 

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What our crusaders for Gaia actually urge, stripped of all the quality-of-life poetry, is that we in the "developed" countries should cut back on making and using goods so that the bottom dwellers in the "underdeveloped" countries can carry on having lots more babies than we do. They appear not to understand, or at least find it in bad taste to mention, that sub-Saharan Africa and such are in their wretched condition because their rich uncles have promoted survival and population growth beyond the regions' natural capacity for sustaining life. We've slashed infant mortality; great; more people to reproduce, more people to starve. We're their worst friends.

Friedman and his co-visionary are worried to death about our ecological footprint. But although we should, within reason, try to curb our burdens on the natural environment, we're not the biggest problem. That lies elsewhere, in places like the Sana, Yemen, which Friedman adduces as an example, where "we" (he means "they" but is too chicken or too thick-witted to say so) "are currently growing at a rate that is using up the Earth’s resources far faster than they can be sustainably replenished, so we are eating into the future."

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The backward countries should be given all the help we can give them ... so long as it's in aid of population stabilization. If they insist on going on a breeding spree anyway, let nature take its course. We can't -- and morally shouldn't -- keep subsidizing their dysfunctional behavior.

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10 comments:

yih said...

''Two Thumbs Up!!!'', to use an oft-used movie poster quote.
I won't name names, but we've both seen the ''we can (and should) 'outbreed' the third worlders'' in regards to that Arkansas family (who is IIRC, up to 15 kids now).
Even at that level of baby production for White women 14% of the world's population can't 'outbreed' 86%, the numbers just don't work.
I suspect you've seen this, as have I. Just on the quote ''LIKE "HALF THE WORLD" TO COME TO AMERICA'' I did some quick and dirty math:
World pop.:~7 bil.
China pop.:~1.1 bil.
India pop.:~1 bil.
California pop.:~55 mil.
Gusstimating ~1/2 those from China and India alone stop at California that would swell the population there to about 1 billion.
Japan land area size (and a few other traits) are shared with CA, and it's population is ~125 million. A California with a billion-plus people? I doubt you'd ever consider visiting there again.
And that would put the US population at about 3.8 billion (half the world minus ~310 mil.).
That would take care of all that empty real estate in a big hurry...

Rick Darby said...

And that would put the US population at about 3.8 billion (half the world minus ~310 mil.).

Well, that would solve our real estate sales problem jolly quick.

Congratulations on seeing through the conventional unwisdom (among certain white boosters) that whites should try to outbreed the Third World's octomoms. Whites don't have their fecundity rewarded by Western governments, unlike everyone from mestizo border jumpers to Africans. And adding to overpopulation, even in defense of whites, places an extra burden on the earth's resources.

What orthodox insanity. Developed world whites' tax money enables African and Muslim states to propagate far beyond the natural support available from their environment. Then licensed fools like Friedman and Gilding preach to productive whites to live more modestly so the Third World Baby Factory can stay at full production.

yih said...

Exactly. There is a term in ranching known as 'carrying capacity' i.e. how many head over how much land. Too many animals in a given area and they start to suffer due to the lack of adequate available food and water (also pests and disease spread like wildfire). But generally domestic livestock don't fight among themselves over scarce resources they just eventually start dying off due to malnutrition/thirst.
And once an area of land is denuded from overgrazing it takes years (sometimes never) to regenerate naturally.
That's what would likely happen in a 3.8 bil. pop. USA. It would become a wasteland 'from sea to shining sea' brutally and rapidly.
Because unlike livestock, it would be the movie 'Soylent Green' brought to life, with or without the (implied) cannibalism.

Maria said...

Some developing countries have already stabilized; Brazil for instance, and in a very short time (the previous administration instituted a policy of giving away free birth control pills.)

Today, Brazil is at 1.9 TFR and likely to stay there.

Most of South America and even Mexico is just a little bit ahead of that range.

Population is not growing anywhere in East Asia except Catholic Philippines and Muslim Indonesia.

India will have a big problem sustaining population growth in the near future given its hugely imbalanced male-female ratio.

The real problem is Africa and some of the Muslim countries.

Van Wijk said...

We've slashed infant mortality; great; more people to reproduce, more people to starve. We're their worst friends.

Exactly. Much of the Third World relies on the White Man's Magic (i.e. modern medicine) to survive. Absent this, populations would plummet due to famine and plague. The other two horsemen are never far behind.

Congratulations on seeing through the conventional unwisdom (among certain white boosters) that whites should try to outbreed the Third World's octomoms.

The "we must outbreed them" argument put forward by Steyn and others relies on so many assumptions that it fails as soon as it's spoken. It assumes that the population to be outbred (Mestizos, in our case) will remain more or less peaceful while the breeding game is going on. It never specifies the conditions of victory. (At what point can we say that we've "won" the game? 500 million? 700 million? After reaching 1 billion people, will the Mestizos throw in the towel?) It never addresses the ecological impact of such a horrifying increase in population. Our wild places will necessarily have to be developed for farmland and housing. They are implicitly asking me and mine to live like sardines in a can alongside hostile aliens and do without the wilderness I love so that we don't have to do something unpleasant, like deport the goddamn aliens. These terms are unacceptable.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that virtually all environmental organizations have been co-opted by the left. Those Sierrans who had logical concerns about importing massive numbers Third World people (who themselves don't give a damn about the environment) were widely derided as racist. Modern environmentalists have no answer to brown population booms, and are therefore worthless.

Rick Darby said...

Van Wijk,

The Sierra Club won't even talk about immigration because Big Daddy won't allow it.

Van Wijk said...

Interesting read, Rick. Are you at all familiar with Edward Abbey?

Rick Darby said...

I remember he was one of the heroes of the Berkeley Ecology Center where I volunteered in the '60s. Never read him though. Wasn't he an early promoter of eco-sabotage?

Maria said...

I used to be a member of the Sierra club. In 2006 I politely sent them an email asking what their position was on Mexican drug cartels planting dope on prime California wilderness land (which is highly environmentally destructive.)

Unsurprisingly, I received no reply. I let my membership lapse since then and now simply have no use whatsoever for the "official" environmental lobby.

Van Wijk said...

Wasn't he an early promoter of eco-sabotage?

One and the same. He's notable in that he dismissed the notion that the environmentalist must be a leftist. Here are his articles on immigration and private ownership of firearms.