Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Population or Overpopulation?

Environmental doomsayers have been predicting . . . uh . . . doom . . . for the past 40 years. I remember in elementary and junior high school, way back in the 1960s, reading and hearing all of the rabid, fear inducing pronouncements on the end of civilization, the end of the human race, the end of all life on Earth, the end of the Earth. And yet, here in the future, in the 21st century, for heaven's sake, the human population of the Earth has doubled. That can only mean that the Earth, civilization, and humanity are still here.

The doomsayers are still crying out with their message of death, doom, and destruction. This time, THIS TIME, they insist, as they've been warning us all along, we really are doomed. Or are we?

Back in the 1968, Paul Ehrlich's predictions of doom and gloom in his book, The Population Bomb never came to pass. Did he recant his obviously mistaken thesis? No, that mode of thought where you admit your mistakes when they are proven wrong, is passe in some circles. Instead, he restated the same thing in a later book, The Population Explosion, which may have come out in 1991. He also had an article in The Atlantic back in 1997, saying much of the same stuff that he claimed in his books. Michael Fumento fisks that article and Mr. Ehrlich here.
Ehrlich, a butterfly specialist, began his spectacular doomsaying career back in 1968 with his best-selling book "The Population Bomb." Among his predictions then and since:

* "The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines . . . hundreds of millions of people (including Americans) are going to starve to death." (1968)
* "Smog disasters" in 1973 might kill 200,000 people in New York and Los Angeles. (1969)
* "I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." (1969)
* "Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity . . . in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion." (1976)
It's not only Paul Ehrlich though. There are websites devoted to predicting the same unfounded Malthusian garbage that Ehrlich has made a career out of. At Culture Change, we are warned that,
The ecosystem's capacity for humans has been exceeded by a factor of ten, according to the logic of Overshoot by William Catton: the amount of stored energy from the sun (including fossil fuels) humans use is the equivalent of ten earths' intake of usable solar energy for photosynthesis.

If one tenth of today's population is what thereby could survive sustainably, that would have to be in a healthy ecosystem. But when the ecosystem has been poisoned, trashed and depleted—e.g., millions of tons of topsoil are lost daily due to modern agricultural practices—then the survival rate would only be perhaps one tenth of the one tenth! Intrinsic is the role of petroleum, which is going to "be history" early this century.

World population growth has slowed down a little in recent years, like a runaway train dropping down to 90 miles per hour from 100 miles per hour. Unfortunately, the world's biggest polluter, the U.S., has a hidden policy for population growth through massive and mostly legal immigration. The U.S. is headed for over 300,000,000 people before 2010. No other industrial nation is growing in population, besides the UK. Perhaps the estimate of 1/3 the world's present waste being generated by the U.S. is too low by now.
And wouldn't you know it, they're fans of Paul Ehrlich. They recommend his latest book on the dangers of overpopulation, written with Anne Ehrlich, One With Nineveh. This guy never gives up. But why should he, when he's got an audience that will lap up every incorrect claim with the same view that even though the reality is the exact opposite of his Ehrlich's predictions, if we just wait long enough-.

On the other hand, along with the afore mentioned Michael Fumento, we have Walter Williams. And Williams says,
For most of mankind's existence, he has been self-sufficient and spent most of his time simply eking out a living. In pre-industrial societies, and in some places today, the most optimistic scenario for the ordinary person was to be able to eke out enough to meet his physical needs for another day. With the rise of industrialization and development of markets, and the concomitant rise in human productivity that yielded seemingly ceaseless economic progress, it was no longer necessary for mankind to spend his entire day to meet his physical needs. People became able to satisfy these needs with less and less time. This made it possible for more people to have the time to read, become educated in the sciences and liberal arts, gain more knowledge and become more productive. The resulting wealth also enabled them the opportunity to develop spiritually and culturally through attending the arts and participate in other life activities that were formerly within the purview of the rich.

Contrary to the myths we hear about how overpopulation causes poverty, poor health, unemployment, malnutrition and overcrowding, human beings are the most valuable resource and the more of them the better. There is absolutely no relationship between high populations and economic despair.
His message is the exact opposite of Ehrlich, Gore, and the other environmental snake oil salesmen. So which one is right?

Look around you. Compare what humanity has now to what it had 40, or 100, or 1000 years ago, and you can only conclude (if you're being honest and apolitical) that Williams is correct. So why do so many people still accept what Ehrlich says? I don't know, but I have to assume that it has a lot to do with the kind of thinking that still accepts Communism as a viable economic system even though it has a perfect 100% record of failure, the same people that still believe that children don't need explicit phonics instruction in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

So I will keep hounding my elected representatives to let oil companies drill in ANWR and on the continental shelf, keep taxes low, and stay out of people's business, because, as Walter Williams says,
The greatest threat to mankind's prosperity is government. A recent example is Zimbabwe's increasing misery. Like our country, Zimbabwe had a flourishing agriculture sector, so much so it was called the breadbasket of southern Africa. Today, its people are on the brink of starvation as a result of its government. It's the same story in many countries — government interference with mankind's natural tendency to engage in wealth-producing activities. Blaming poverty on overpopulation not only lets governments off the hook; it encourages the enactment of harmful policies.
UPDATE: I forgot to include this George Carlin video. While I don't agree with all of what he says (But I do agree with a lot on this one), I completely respect his delight in getting as many people angry with him as he can. I found it at American Digest. This is George Carlin, so there is a LANGUAGE WARNING.

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