The great red herring of overpopulation - Part 3

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
The great red herring of overpopulation - Part 3
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M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The Bodega Brothers sing a song dedicated to the neo-Malthusians: [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fb00g1wU3oU]YouTube[/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/30-1]The Great Distraction: ‘Overpopulation' Is Back in Town[/url]

by Betsy Hartmann

excerpt:

Quote:
Instead of lumping all people together into one destructive human mass, it’s important to carefully assess which human activities harm the environment and which enhance it.  [The Center for Biological Diversity] blames overpopulation for the accelerated extinction of plant and animal species.  Missing from this simple picture are the ways in which different systems of production yield very different environmental results.

WilderMore
Fidel

Yes, if we're going to carry on with predatory capitalism consuming away at itself, then we will just have to put a stop to the proliferation of human life in general. Apparently the two themes are generally incompatible. We need a good war. A war to end all wars is surely on order and an excellent make work project for the masses.  We are so much gum on the bottoms of their shoes. Something is surely being hatched behind closed doors and in the shadows away from democratic debate. It's much too quiet as it was during that down time between the great wars. The opportunities are limitless.

Fidel

My God we're like viruses! We just keep replicating. I'm convinced now that people are the enemy. Too many proles. It's time for masters of the universe to cull the herd. I think it was Phil Windsor who recruited Prince Barnyard of the Netherlands to head up the WWF. Bernhard of Lippe-Beasterfield was a Nazi sympathizer, too.

And Al Gore is a great protector of the environment and humanitarian. In the 2000s he linked up with David Blood, a Goldman Sachs investment genie and formed Generation Investment Management. GIM is a hedge fund that makes money by preventing economic development and poverty reduction for hundreds of millions of human beings in the capitalist third world by speculation on carbon credits. Blood and Gore stand to profit handsomely from the Malthusian propaganda. By the magic of free market economics, corrupt representatives for billions of people may trade away any hope for a better future so that privileged westerners may become rich and powerful at the expense of millions.

Lachine Scot

I'm just jumping into this topic here, but has anyone seen the new Canadian documentary Surviving Progress, sort of based on the book A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright?  I saw it at the Vancouver Int'l Film Fest last weekend and was pretty disappointed to see Wright spouting neo-Malthusian ideas. He said the population of the Earth has to go down to about 2 billion for us to survive. Or rather, some of us, I guess.  Too bad, because I liked his Stolen Continents.  The rest of the documentary is relatively conventional and uninsipring, sadly-- I had high hopes :/

Fidel

Yeah Wright is a disappointment in that regard. He came close to sounding like a socialist at times during a speech at Massey Hall a couple of years ago. 

milo204

i don't know, i think there's merit in the claims that like economic growth, population growth cannot be exponential.

Especially in a modern resource destroying, people living in cities era.  Perhaps if we lived in a different way, but that's not the case, and if we lived sustainably there probably wouldn't be so many of us.

The thing is the more people the more we burn fossil fuels, the more we destroy land to farm monocultures for food, the more we overfish the oceans, the more species we drive into extinction by taking land, etc.

I think this CAN be racist but it doesn't HAVE to be, depends on who's using the argument.  

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

M. Spector wrote:

Dissecting those "overpopulation" numbers, Chapter 3 of a new book [url=http://www.amazon.ca/Too-Many-People-Immigration-Environmental/dp/160846... Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis,[/url] by Ian Angus and Simon Butler, is [url=http://links.org.au/node/2520]available online for free download[/url].

TORONTO BOOK LAUNCH
Featuring co-author Ian Angus and special guests

Sunday, November 6 at 3pm
Trinity-St. Paul's Centre
427 Bloor St W | TTC: Spadina

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/qwF189

Resistance Press invites you to hear author, socialist and climate justice activist Ian Angus speak about his new book. ...

Copies of Ian's book will be available for sale during the meeting.

Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Organized by Resistance Press Book Room
Open Saturdays, 12pm-3pm
416-972-6391 | socialist.ca

Gaian

link on the blink

Gaian

James Lovelock puts the sustainable figure at 1 billion...and not a American billion either. Silly old white racist know-nothin' scientist. What could he know about performing libidinal miracles? :)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Gaian wrote:
James Lovelock puts the sustainable figure at 1 billion...and not a American billion either.

You mean a British billion? The one with 12 zeroes? yikes!

Ralph Nader coined the phrase "Unsafe at Any Speed". Capitalism is "Unsustainable at any Population Level".

6079_Smith_W

Geez... why do I get visions of the creation museum when I think about this daft theory that population is irrelevant because capitalism is the real bogeyman? Do you think human communities have never hit the wall before bankers started ruling everyhting?

 

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Vanessa Baird wrote:

Population is certainly a multiplier, but that does not make it the cause of the problem. As the Australian writer Simon Butler puts it: "People are not pollution. Blaming too many people for driving climate change is like blaming too many trees for causing bushfires."

The real cause of climate change is an economy locked into burning fossil fuels for energy. Massive fossil fuel use in industrialised countries cannot be countered by handing out condoms.

The excessive focus on population is a dangerous distraction from the core problem, which is not how many of us there are but how we use the planet and share its resources.

There's no dodging it. We need an energy revolution – away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and energy conservation – which is as radical and more rapid than the industrial revolution that laid the basis for our carbon economies. And we need it regardless of how big the population gets.

So, instead of a fanfare of orchestrated fear and panic, let us welcome baby 7 billion with a resolution to tackle the real issues facing humanity – climate change, inequality and poverty – and stop obsessing about human numbers.

The Guardian: [url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/24/population-hysteria-da... population hysteria is more damaging than it seems[/url]

Fidel

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Geez... why do I get visions of the creation museum when I think about this daft theory that population is irrelevant because capitalism is the real bogeyman? Do you think human communities have never hit the wall before bankers started ruling everyhting?

 

In A Short History of Progress, Canadian author Ronald Wright wrote:

Ronald Wright wrote:
Marx was surely right when he called capitalism, almost admiringly, "a machine for demolishing limits". Both communism and capitalism are materialist Utopias offering rival versions of an earthly paradise. In practice, communism was no easier on the natural environment. But at least it proposed a sharing of the goods. Capitalism lures us onward, like a mechanical hare before the greyhounds, inisisting that the economy is infinite and sharing therefore irrelevant. Just enough greyhounds catch a real hare now and then to keep the others running till they drop. In the past it was only the poor who lost this game; now it is the planet.

And there it is - capitalism is the abomination that maketh desolate. And it maketh desolate at an increasingly frenzied pace since the 1990s. 

Glenl

Sorry for being technical but when I divide the land area of the planet (148 million km2) by the population of the world (6.8 billion souls) I end up with roughly 20000 square meters each. That's a 200 by 100 meter lot of land, and that's without deducting the land area that is uninhabitable. 200 by 100 to feed, house and energize one person. Surely at some population level, assuming we don't grow the earth land mass, it becomes hard to sustain regardless of ideology. My math may be wrong?

6079_Smith_W

And try working arable land, use of energy, and fresh water into that equation. I, for one, don't think I would be too happy planted at the top of Mount Robson.

I'm still wondering why anyone cooked up this red herring in the first place. I think most of us know that globalization and predatory capitalism are bad things. Why the need to pretend that there are no other imbalances or limits to growth? The two claims have no relation whatsoever.

 

Glenl

I never meant to imply the current population was unsustainable. At some level it must become so.

Fidel

I live on a quarter acre of land, and I can grow enough vegetables to supply more than one family easily. I've not come close to max'ing out my vegetable garden plots. Most of my property is either green grass, weeds, my house, or gravel driveway. 

We have one billion chronically-hungry people, and none of them live in socialist Cuba. It's a failure of capitalism in democratic capitalist India, Ethiopia, Chad, Congo, Bangladesh etc.

80% of chronically hungry nations are exporting food to "the market" while anywhere from 4 to 10 million human beings die agonizing deaths from starvation and related diseases each and every year like clockwork.

It's a glaringly obvious failure of an economic system that fails miserably to satisfy real demand for food.

Capitalism has been a monumental failure for billions of people whether good economic times or bad.

6079_Smith_W

Well yes, global capitalism has been a monumental failure for most of us.

That does not mean that there are no limits to growth. In fact, hunger and periodic famine were the norm through most of our history, and our population was held in check by such limits.  

WHile there are some connections between capitalism, industrialization and population (for one thing, that they led to a population boom in Europe) the attempt to make an agrument against capitalism by trying to discredit concern over population is screwy and unfounded, IMO.

 

 

 

 

Fidel

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Well yes, global capitalism has been a monumental failure for most of us.

That does not mean that there are no limits to growth. In fact, hunger and periodic famine were the norm through most of our history, and our population was held in check by such limits.  

But which dominant economic system is still based on growth regardless of resource limits? Capitalist banksters aren't listening to that mumbo jumbo. They still want their cut and exacting pounds of flesh when the economies don't grow. It's kind of like being made to walk the plank which used to be there and is now not, and so it's a lot like being tossed overboard in a storm.

Aha! Y'see? Your problem is that you have no other economic system to point to right now which can be described accurately as a globalizing pox on humanity and nature in general. People in socialist Cuba are a heckuva lot closer to living within their means compared to about 15% of the rest of humanity responsible for gobbling up most of the resources and doing a majority of the polluting.

Quote:
WHile there are some connections between capitalism, industrialization and population (for one thing, that they led to a population boom in Europe) the attempt to make an agrument against capitalism by trying to discredit concern over population is screwy and unfounded, IMO.
 

The problem for neoMalthusians will be breaking the news to about a half a billion people living in leading capitalist countries that cold war era promises for middle class capitalism based on consumption were colossal lies. And if they can't be truthful about it, then they should hire some better propagandists. These ones stink. Because they will find it increasingly difficult to convince billions of people that in order to save the planet they will have to be killed slowly by capitalist austerity measures, capitalist wars of conquest, and entrepreneurial capitalist horsemen of the apocalypse in general. Luck to them for sure.

6079_Smith_W

I don't know, Fidel. I think I could point to some evidence of food and resource shortages in the former East bloc, Kampuchea, North Korea, among other places,  if you think that counts. And no, I'm not trying to attack alternatives to capitalism. I am just pointing out that it is not the only factor.

And I am not sure what you are refering to or trying to say in your last paragraph. I am talking about the fact that Europe's population quadrupled between 1700 and 1900. Much of that had to do with the introduction of the potato, which was done for both in the interests of the public, and in having a more efficiently-fed workforce.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Glenl wrote:
I never meant to imply the current population was unsustainable.

The current population is unsustainable, under capitalism. That's why so many are dying of hunger, curable diseases, wars, toxic environments, and drought.

The sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits.

A socialist society can sustain more people with the same resources, if owned collectively, managed democratically, and distributed equitably.

That's why talk of absolute limits of sustainable population size are meaningless without specifying the socio-economic conditions under which they are to live.

Gaian

MS, can you provide this democratic socialist with any historical evidence? No theory please.

And a PS : "James Lovelock puts the sustainable figure at 1 billion...and not a American billion either."

That was meant to suggest the EArth's bearing capacity of the American consumer, as opposed to, say, the Indian consumer. Bugger all to do with the differing weight given to a mathematical figure. Simply what each national would consume at their given level of lifestyle and expectation.

Glenl

Another logical variable would be standard of living.

Fidel

6079_Smith_W wrote:

I don't know, Fidel. I think I could point to some evidence of food and resource shortages in the former East bloc, Kampuchea,

If you look it up, you will discover that the former USSR was Cambodia's main source of relief aid up to 1988. The capitalist West turned their backs on Cambodia and VietNam after 1975 or so, the same as they did after abandoning Afghans to their own devices when the CIA's and Brits proxies tore that country apart from 1992 to 1996.

The doctor and the madman bombed the living daylights out of Cambodia in paving the way for Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge to takeover. The Reaganauts and Thatcherites insisted that the Khmer Rouge have a seat at the UN and refused to acknoledge the killing fields up the late 1980s. For years the Western world aided and abetted the worst mass murderers  since Adolf Hitler: Pol Pot and his dreaded Khmer Rouge.

6079_Smith_W wrote:
North Korea, among other places,  if you think that counts. And no, I'm not trying to attack alternatives to capitalism. I am just pointing out that it is not the only factor.

If you want to consider other factors, then consider that North Koreans had little trouble feeding themselves while trading freely with the former USSR. It's a country the size of Mississippi located in a mainly mountainous part of the peninsula and suffering inclement weather patterns of which typhoon season can leave the mostly lowland farming districts flooded and crops destroyed by nature. The USA has been at the forefront preventing humanitarian food aid to N.Korea, Cuba, Vietnam etc over the course of a cold war and continuing today. Blocking humanitarian aid is illegal according to the UN.

Same was true of 1970s Yugoslavia, a former country described by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic as having the largest middle class in the world as a percentage of a country's workforce. Free market diktats which the banking cabal and WTO, IMF and Western world neoliberal institutions forced on that country were criminal and led to civil war and very similar to what has occurred in Egypt, Libya, and every other country where economic shock therapy requires military backup to prevent an outbreak of popular revolt, or in other words, democracy.

6079_Smith_W wrote:
And I am not sure what you are refering to or trying to say in your last paragraph. I am talking about the fact that Europe's population quadrupled between 1700 and 1900. Much of that had to do with the introduction of the potato, which was done for both in the interests of the public, and in having a more efficiently-fed workforce.

We have native people of the Andes region to thank for the potato not thieving capitalists. Sorry. 

Where capitalists were influential with the potato was Black '47 in Ireland. Millions starved to death while pork and corn were exported to "the market" from a dozen or more Irish sea ports. British Whigs and Tories argued for two years before any relief was organized for the Irish colony. The Irish famine was one of many deliberate famines caused by a genocidal economic ideology. Capitalism is the dominant economic ideology today, and never have there been more chronically hungry people in the world as there are now.

Capitalism is a colossal failure. It has failed in every experiment since 14th century Italy, and it's failing today. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be.

Poor countries with high fertility rates need freedom, children, and socialism in the form of public pensions, socialized medicine, public education etc

They need socialism not capitalist baubles or promises that never materialize in the capitalist economic long run.

6079_Smith_W

Actually Fidel, the push to introduce the potato to Europe was made by people who saw it as a good stable food source for workers. Of course they intended it as a way to improve industry. Anton Lavoissier, chemist and tax collector, spearheaded the efforts in France.

But it ended the needless cycle of famine in Europe (the Irish potato famine was of course, like most modern famines , orchestrated and entirely preventable). And as was my point, it was one of the first sparks that began the population explosion.

As for the other cases I mentioned, I'm sure anyone here who is interested can form their own opinions on North Korea, the Khmer Rouge, Ukraine,  Poland and other shortages.

But what I still find odd is who decided that overpopulation is some red herring that is draining people's efforts away from the real struggle for socialist revolution? Frankly, this bizarre series of threads is the only place I have heard of it as a crisis.

And if we are talking about real efforts in the real world regarding overpopulation, we are really talking about reproductive health education, and access to birth control and abortion, are we not? This is the problem which is distracting people from fighting for socialism.

If we want to look at what is really being done with respect to population, I personally have no problem with the efforts of international planned parenthood, and other organizations fighting for reproductive freedom (some of them using more radical means). As far as I understand it, the quickest and most effective means of improving the quality life in any country is to give women control over reproduction. I'd like to see more of it, thank you very much.

So sorry. Not only do I think this is a baseless argument with a made-up problem, it is at the expense of a reform effort which I think is one of the most important in the world - developed and developing.

 

Policywonk

M. Spector wrote:

Vanessa Baird wrote:

Population is certainly a multiplier, but that does not make it the cause of the problem. As the Australian writer Simon Butler puts it: "People are not pollution. Blaming too many people for driving climate change is like blaming too many trees for causing bushfires."

The real cause of climate change is an economy locked into burning fossil fuels for energy. Massive fossil fuel use in industrialised countries cannot be countered by handing out condoms.

The excessive focus on population is a dangerous distraction from the core problem, which is not how many of us there are but how we use the planet and share its resources.

There's no dodging it. We need an energy revolution – away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and energy conservation – which is as radical and more rapid than the industrial revolution that laid the basis for our carbon economies. And we need it regardless of how big the population gets.

So, instead of a fanfare of orchestrated fear and panic, let us welcome baby 7 billion with a resolution to tackle the real issues facing humanity – climate change, inequality and poverty – and stop obsessing about human numbers.

The Guardian: [url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/24/population-hysteria-da... population hysteria is more damaging than it seems[/url]

The major cause of anthropogenic climate change is an economy locked into burning fossil fuels for energy (of course the climate change we have experienced over the past few decades is mostly anthropogenic, or anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming natural climate change). Anthropogenic climate change is also caused by deforestation (and historically, reforestation and afforestation may have caused cooling episodes). Also anything else anthropogenic that reduces carbon sinks or turns them into sources. Emissions from deforestation and effectiveness of carbon sinks are more difficult to calculate though.

There is no evidence to suggest that current food production is sustainable and plenty of evidence to the contrary (soil depletion, water use, fishery decline, etc.). That means though that we should be concentrating on what food is produced, how food is produced, and how it is distributed, before we consider how many people it is distributed to.

6079_Smith_W

And that our current food production, from seeding to the grocery, depends on oil. Take the oil away and that production and delivery system falls apart.

 

Fidel

6079_Smith_W wrote:
As for the other cases I mentioned, I'm sure anyone here who is interested can form their own opinions on North Korea, the Khmer Rouge, Ukraine,  Poland and other shortages.

We can believe the lapdog newz media and cold war era rhetoric, or we can believe what independent journalists and people who have lived in those countries say about it. Ask U.S. Sen. John Kerry - he admitted to running guns to the Khmer Rouge on behalf of the U.S. Government. The doctor and the madman should have been arraigned on charges of war crimes and sent to prison for life or strung-up by their nuts and gutted, one or the other.

6079_Smith_W wrote:
But what I still find odd is who decided that overpopulation is some red herring that is draining people's efforts away from the real struggle for socialist revolution? Frankly, this bizarre series of threads is the only place I have heard of it as a crisis.

Not just overpopulation but the efforts by Western world government to neocolonize Africa and other countries since turn of the last century. The U.S. Government has blood on its hands in Latin America.  And the CIA and their Belgian colonialist friends assassinated Patrice Lumumba because they did not want a strong and united Africa. What they've done in the Congo with supporting US proxies Rwanda and Uganda against the Congolese has been nothing less than deliberate genocide. Six million slaughtered in the Congo since 1998. Kissinger and the rest of them should be in prison.

They were scared shitless of communism since WW II and worked hard to make sure communism appeared to "fail on its own" through waging dirty wars and covert operations, sabotage and even false flag terrorism with NATO's "stay behind" fascist armies. Everything wrong in the world today is on their shoulders, Smith. They didn't want socialism, and so this is the result: one-billion chronically hungry people and what amounts to a holocaust each and every year like clockwork. 

Gaian

Policywonk wrote:

M. Spector wrote:

Glenl wrote:
I never meant to imply the current population was unsustainable.

The current population is unsustainable, under capitalism. That's why so many are dying of hunger, curable diseases, wars, toxic environments, and drought.

The sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits.

A socialist society can sustain more people with the same resources, if owned collectively, managed democratically, and distributed equitably.

That's why talk of absolute limits of sustainable population size are meaningless without specifying the socio-economic conditions under which they are to live.

While a more equitable society can undoubtedly sustain more people with the same resources, that (the same resources) is not an available option given depletion of non-renewable resources, inevitable mismanagement of renewable resources regardless of the economic system, and natural and anthropogenic climate change and other environmental changes. To say that the sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits is simply hubris. They are both important.

As for Lovelock, he was obviously talking about one thousand billion, not one million million. If he was talking about the population under a capitalist system at average North American standards of living, he is probably overestimating. I don't know how many people the Earth can sustain indefinitely under the best possible economic system and nobody else does either. Which means no-one can say that a population of 7 billion is sustainable under any conceivable system either.

Lovelock was talking about one thousand million. His books sell all over the world. And he would not be imagining the consumption habits of the average American with cash to spare. I don't believe he has any expectation of that being realized. That is why he also writes (wrote) about the effects to be expected from rising temperatures driving populations northward on the continents - and why the British defence ministry, taking his numbers seriously - decided to maintain their nuclear arsenals. Gwyn Dyer reported that on the publication of a new book some five years back.

And of course, belief systems and budgets that rule out measures of contraception - even though there's no sign of dieout of libidinal urges - suggests those northern cottages may become year-round residences. :) (please don't take that seriously, just trying to break the pall of pessimism).

Policywonk

M. Spector wrote:

Glenl wrote:
I never meant to imply the current population was unsustainable.

The current population is unsustainable, under capitalism. That's why so many are dying of hunger, curable diseases, wars, toxic environments, and drought.

The sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits.

A socialist society can sustain more people with the same resources, if owned collectively, managed democratically, and distributed equitably.

That's why talk of absolute limits of sustainable population size are meaningless without specifying the socio-economic conditions under which they are to live.

While a more equitable society can undoubtedly sustain more people with the same resources, that (the same resources) is not an available option given depletion of non-renewable resources, inevitable mismanagement of renewable resources regardless of the economic system, and natural and anthropogenic climate change and other environmental changes. To say that the sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits is simply hubris. They are both important.

As for Lovelock, he was obviously talking about one thousand million, not one million million. If he was talking about the population under a capitalist system at average North American standards of living, he is probably overestimating. I don't know how many people the Earth can sustain indefinitely under the best possible economic system and nobody else does either. Which means no-one can say that a population of 7 billion is sustainable under any conceivable system either.

Policywonk

Gaian wrote:
Policywonk wrote:

M. Spector wrote:

Glenl wrote:
I never meant to imply the current population was unsustainable.

The current population is unsustainable, under capitalism. That's why so many are dying of hunger, curable diseases, wars, toxic environments, and drought.

The sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits.

A socialist society can sustain more people with the same resources, if owned collectively, managed democratically, and distributed equitably.

That's why talk of absolute limits of sustainable population size are meaningless without specifying the socio-economic conditions under which they are to live.

While a more equitable society can undoubtedly sustain more people with the same resources, that (the same resources) is not an available option given depletion of non-renewable resources, inevitable mismanagement of renewable resources regardless of the economic system, and natural and anthropogenic climate change and other environmental changes. To say that the sustainability of a population or an economy is more of a social issue than a matter of hard physical limits is simply hubris. They are both important.

As for Lovelock, he was obviously talking about one thousand billion, not one million million. If he was talking about the population under a capitalist system at average North American standards of living, he is probably overestimating. I don't know how many people the Earth can sustain indefinitely under the best possible economic system and nobody else does either. Which means no-one can say that a population of 7 billion is sustainable under any conceivable system either.

Lovelock was talking about one thousand million. His books sell all over the world. And he would not be imagining the consumption habits of the average American with cash to spare. I don't believe he has any expectation of that being realized. That is why he also writes (wrote) about the effects to be expected from rising temperatures driving populations northward on the continents - and why the British defence ministry, taking his numbers seriously - decided to maintain their nuclear arsenals. Gwyn Dyer reported that on the publication of a new book some five years back. And of course, belief systems and budgets that rule out measures of contraception - even though there's no sign of dieout of libidinal urges - suggests those northern cottages may become year-round residences. :) (please don't take that seriously, just trying to break the pall of pessimism).

Thanks. I did mean one thousand million.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Marie Antoinette would have loved the population fetishists. Imagine:

"Your Majesty, hundreds of millions of people have no food security; their foodlands have been turned into monoculture croplands for export to the imperialist metropolises; they are dying of preventable diseases; their water resources are being depleted and poisoned by industrial agriculture, manufacturing, and mining; their forests are being cut down to make way for mining and pasture land; their energy resources are dwindling; their children are maimed and poisoned from working in sweatshops and factories; they can't even afford to buy the electronic gadgets they help manufacture for export to North America and Europe; their fisheries have been decimated by unsustainable factory-ship practices; they can't afford to buy the genetically-modified, patented seeds they need to grow food crops; climate change is devastating their habitats with floods, droughts, and monsoons; they are forced to live in refugee camps because they have been displaced by proxy wars backed by western imperialists."

"Let them stop having babies. Here, give them some of these condoms and birth-control pamphlets. Once they get the message, they'll be able to live just fine on what they've got with fewer mouths to feed. And send them copies of my latest speech on the need to reduce our personal consumption."

6079_Smith_W

@ M. Spector

Aside from the fact that the myths about Marie Antoinette were a jingoist and sexist fabrication (since those who made up pornographic broadsheets about her were trying to portray her as an evil foreign harpie exercising influence over their king), both you and I know how that revolution turned out.

There is no evidence she ever said anything like "let them eat cake", and how much power do you imagine she really had in that situation? In short, you might want to find another caricature.

But I wasn't even baiting, but rather trying to draw this silly argument about the spectre of anti-overpopulation into the real world. 

Are you honestly saying that you think reproductive education and choice are a bad thing, and a threat to progressive reform?

After all, which country has the most stringent laws when it comes to restricting children?

And no, I'm not talking about Stalin's decidedly non-capitalist policies in Ukraine.

 

 

 

Policywonk

6079_Smith_W wrote:

And that our current food production, from seeding to the grocery, depends on oil. Take the oil away and that production and delivery system falls apart.

And natural gas, which is turned into fertilizer.

Fidel

Policywonk wrote:
I don't know how many people the Earth can sustain indefinitely under the best possible economic system and nobody else does either.

This, whatever kind of economic system we have here in the richest and most energy-intensive and most wasteful economies, is not doable on a global scale. We would strip the earth's resources bare in nothing flat and choke on the pollution.

Cold war era promises for middle class capitalism based on consumption were politically expedient lies since the 1950s. Western world politicos and their cold warriors lied to the public, and now hundreds of millions of people are realizing they were lied to, constantly.

Policywonk wrote:
Which means no-one can say that a population of 7 billion is sustainable under any conceivable system either.
 

And especially not the new liberal capitalism.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Tom Athanasiou, in a 1995 book review in The Nation, wrote:

If ever there was a measure of the green movement's confusion, it is that so many environmentalists honestly believe that by soberly intoning that there are just "too many people'' they somehow cut across all the moral and political agonies of globalization, of rising human migrations, mass extinctions, atmospheric instability and all the rest of it. In fact, "overpopulation" explains none of these things, and as long as we cling to it we remain the confused citizens of an incomprehensible world.

Tom Athanasiou, in his 1996 book Divided Planet:The Ecology of Rich and Poor, wrote:

It may surprise the many who imagine environmentalism to be always on the liberal side of the political spectrum, but within the context set by nativism and immigrant bashing, environmentalism has become a wellspring of xenophobic resentment.

Gaian

And what the hell, it's just the grandkids that will have to worry about the numbers. In the meantime, roll the dice.

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Are you honestly saying that you think reproductive education and choice are a bad thing, and a threat to progressive reform?

After all, which country has the most stringent laws when it comes to restricting children?

And no, I'm not talking about Stalin's decidedly non-capitalist policies in Ukraine.

Wow. Debate brought to a new hitherto unplumbed level.

 

Slumberjack

Gaian wrote:

And what the hell, it's just the grandkids that will have to worry about the numbers. In the meantime, roll the dice.

If you read them the right bedtime stories, there more likely to be worried about the number of people dying from starvation and disease when there's no need of it other than for profit.

Slumberjack

Unionist wrote:
Wow. Debate brought to a new hitherto unplumbed level.

I'm sure he just wanted to get that out of the way.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Peter and David Schwartzman wrote:

Yet, despite the conflicting evidence presented, it is commonly believed that overpopulation is some absolute phenomenon and will only get worse in the future. There are two fundamental reasons why this conclusion is highly misleading. One, the root cause for widespread misery and environmental degradation is the mode of production and consumption we have in the U.S. and the global system that maintains it. Two, the overpopulation myth leads to the promotion of policies that are terribly unjust and inhumane. Now to the evidence.

[url=http://www.dcmetrosftp.org/newsletters/NL20061201.html#pop]...read on[/url]

6079_Smith_W

Unionist wrote:

Wow. Debate brought to a new hitherto unplumbed level.

 

I don't know Unionist. I think we have been here before.

And I don't know who this is directed at:

"It is commonly believed that overpopulation is some absolute phenomenon and will only get worse in the future..."

But I am arguing AGAINST the notion that it is one absolute phenomenon.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

But I am arguing AGAINST the notion that it is one absolute phenomenon.

I haven't seen those arguments of yours. They certainly aren't the same as the ones the Schwartzmans put forward against the notion that overpopulation is an absolute, inelastic truth that can be proven just by doing the math and ignoring the existence of alternative modes of production and consumption.

6079_Smith_W

Well M. Spector, that might be because my name is not Schwartzman.

In fact I agree with a great deal of what they and you are saying about global inequality, affluent nations over-using resources, and inefficiencies in our food production,

Yes, I recognize that some people (though perhaps not 98 percent of scientists) do blame overpopulation and see it as a single thing, but I do think there are far more people who recognize that there are many factors at play, as I do.

And I also agree (and in fact said) that the best way forward is raising the standard of living, and making reproductive health services and education available to those who want it (as opposed to either coerced sterilization, or denial)

I guess one area where I am not so sure is the assumption that there are no limits at all that we need to be concerned with - that switching to different energy sources is as easy as writing it. The green revolution which has allowed us to keep ahead of global population is, after all driven by oil.

And I am not that sure, either, about the future availability of water - something which is not so easy to move to places where it is scarce, and  which the Schwartzmans did not mention at all as a drinking or agriculture resource. 

And I think I have made my other arguments on this clear enough.

 

Fidel

They need socialism in all those third world capitalist shitholes where life and labour are dirt cheap.

The problem with capitalism is that it has no soul. Capitalism is the abomination that maketh desolate. It will surely end us unless we stop gazing perilously into the precipice before us. At this precipice we must change. The time has come for humanity to grow up and move beyond this predatory phase of capitalism. We must develop aspects of ourselves other than self-interest and greed. We must strive to become more than this very unscientific capitalist notion of what man is. We must break free from capitalist shackles and ankle irons defining us as one-dimensional prisoners of our own greed and self-interest. We must create a socio-economic system that prioritizes all of humanity's needs not just those of a handful few gained at the expense of the many. Right now the needs of a capitalist monetary system are prioritized above everything that is important to man's needs. Capitalism is rot and decay. Capitalism is layers of rust encrusting a new way.

Policywonk

M. Spector wrote:

6079_Smith_W wrote:

But I am arguing AGAINST the notion that it is one absolute phenomenon.

I haven't seen those arguments of yours. They certainly aren't the same as the ones the Schwartzmans put forward against the notion that overpopulation is an absolute, inelastic truth that can be proven just by doing the math and ignoring the existence of alternative modes of production and consumption.

M. Spector wrote:

6079_Smith_W wrote:

But I am arguing AGAINST the notion that it is one absolute phenomenon.

I haven't seen those arguments of yours. They certainly aren't the same as the ones the Schwartzmans put forward against the notion that overpopulation is an absolute, inelastic truth that can be proven just by doing the math and ignoring the existence of alternative modes of production and consumption.

I find this a straw man argument, as Wackernagel and Rees' work on ecological footprints suggests not that the Earth is overpopulated, but that humans are in overshoot because of the modes of production and consumption. Given that we agree that the statement that the Earth is overpopulated is not an absolute, inelastic truth, what is the probability that the current population can be sustained even if the modes of production and consumption were quickly put on a more sustainable and equitable footing? I ask this because environmental conditions are not a constant, and the damage done by unsustainable modes of production and consumption will likely not be repaired quickly. For example, even if humans stopped emitting greenhouse gases immediately, there is still a significant possibility that we will still experience a 2 degree global mean temperature rise. And the evidence suggests that the current level of food production is not sustainable even under current environmental conditions.

 

Gaian

Slumberjack wrote:
Gaian wrote:

And what the hell, it's just the grandkids that will have to worry about the numbers. In the meantime, roll the dice.

If you read them the right bedtime stories, there more likely to be worried about the number of people dying from starvation and disease when there's no need of it other than for profit.

The point of my post, Sj, is that the people arguing from theory do not have the precautionary principle in mind. Look it up. There's just naked ego at work out there,

They are willing to crapshoot with the lives of their progeny. Only Homo sapies can manage that, with a collective hubris that's bringing us all down along with the even older species that Darwin came across. Hell, we never came down from the trees in that regard. See The Naked Ape.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Policywonk wrote:

Given that we agree that the statement that the Earth is overpopulated is not an absolute, inelastic truth, what is the probability that the current population can be sustained even if the modes of production and consumption were quickly put on a more sustainable and equitable footing?

I don't know the answer to that question, and nobody else does either. What I do know is that the probability is significantly greater than it is under the current capitalist system of production and environmental exploitation, and that's why the fight for ecosocialism is so important.

It is quite possible that capitalism has so despoiled the earth that we have reached (or soon will reach) certain irreversible tipping points - in climate change, soil degradation, aquifer depletion and contamination, and the life in the oceans, to name but a few possibilities - that will make it impossible under any system of political economy to avoid a catastrophic die-off of human populations. It is in fact certain, in my mind, that such tipping points and resultant die-offs (as well as widespread barbarism among the surviviors) will occur if capitalism is not eradicated, and we don't have much time left. Certainly not enough time to make drastic cuts in population levels without committing mass murder and abolishing reproductive rights altogether - and even cutting the world's population in half would not stop the profit-driven plunder of the environment that continues apace in the present system. It could at best "buy more time" - but for us to do what? Continue with the current profligate and unsustainable system, but with fewer mouths to feed, and fewer hands to do the labour?

Humanity needs nothing less than a revolution, and population reduction is no substitute.

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