The Short People Solution to Climate Change


As who does not?

Short people are more climate-friendly argue researchers at New York University and Oxford University in a provocative new paper, Human Engineering and Climate Change, to be published in the journal Ethics, Policy and the Environment. This is not the first time that environmental concerns have motivated such a suggestion. For example, back in 1967 Technology Review published an article which argued:

A reduction in man's size might be compared to an increase in the size of the earth….Consider, as but one example, the relation of man's size to the facilities provided for his transportation. Smaller man could mean smaller vehicles, either smaller highway rights of way or greater capacity for existing highways, easier provision for off-street parking … Similar benefits of smaller human size become apparent in buildings.

In 1984, the Washington Post in article on how to feed an allegedly overpopulating world cited futurist Graham Molliter as envisioning "an outer-limits scenario: using genetic engineering to produce smaller people–who need less food." 

In the new article, the researchers point out that international treaties and markets have not had any real impact on the amount of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide humanity is producing by burning fossil fuels. So perhaps something more drastically creative should be done—thus their proposal to shrink the average size of human beings. As their article points out: 

[One] more striking example of human engineering is the possibility of making humans smaller. Human ecological footprints are partly correlated with our size. We need a certain amount of food and nutrients to maintain each kilogram of body mass. This means that, other things being equal, the larger one is, the more food and energy one requires. Indeed, basal metabolic rate (which determines the amount of energy needed per day) scales linearly with body mass and length. As well as needing to eat more, larger people also consume more energy in less obvious ways. For example, a car uses more fuel per mile to carry a heavier person than a lighter person; more fabric is needed to clothe larger than smaller people; heavier people wear out shoes, carpets, and furniture more quickly than lighter people, and so on.

Reduced average human size might be achieved by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of embryos in which only those expressing genes for shorter stature are implanted; using hormone treatments to stop growth earlier in children; or encouraging low-birth weight infants.

In addition, the researchers suggest deploying pharmacological treatments to induce meat aversion in people since livestock production results in a lot of greenhouse gas emissions per calorie. We could also use less electricity for lighting if humans were genetically modified to have eyes more like those of cats that can see better in the dark.

Another possible technique would be to treat people with cognitive enhancements since a side effect is that smarter people tend to have fewer children. Also, it might be possible to pharmacologically boost empathy in people so that they will cooperate more easily to address environmental problems.

I am not sure what pharmacological treatment might be implied by the authors' observation that "testosterone appears to decrease aspects of empathy." Why pull punches when it comes to saving Mother Earth: If men are bad for the planet, why not suggest getting rid of the bearers of Y chromosomes? 

What about the ethics of meddling in this way? The authors stress that adoption of all of their proposals should be voluntary. 

Via The Atlantic blog

Disclosure: Although I am six feet and five inches in height, most of my best friends are shorter (but a few are taller). 

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  1. You can tell she loves short people because you can’t read the whole shirt from above.

    1. Yeah…but from below it just says…”people”.

      What’s up with that?

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  2. waiting for the announcement from genetic control….

    1. What’s the hurry, they have until Friday.

  3. Why not just upload our consciousnesses to the grid, and make it solar powered?

  4. A Chem E friend made a quasi-humorous life-cycle analysis for exercisers vs. non-exercisers that “proves” that the non-exercisers’ carbon footprint is smaller than the exercisers’. And he’s pretty much right. Exercisers do tend to (perhaps counter-intuitively) eat more and definitely exhale far more CO2.

    1. plus all that driving to the gym.

    2. What do you want to bet, your friend could write a paper on reducing physical activity as a means of controlling human carbon output and get it published in an allegedly serious publication?

      1. It worked for Alan Sokol.

      2. No bet at all. He does more serious life-cycle analysis for a living and holds a PhD. I only put proves in quotation marks because he only bothered to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but I have no doubt he could write up a more rigorous version, make a nice model with some pretty graphs, and have it published in a major journal.

        1. The point is that it is probably true, but no more informative to the climate change abatement policy debate than saying people who have electrical power at their residence have a larger carbon footprint than those who don’t.

          1. To the people who would like to stop others from having electric power at their house, that is very relevant.

            1. Environmentalists are led by people who think the 5B people least like them on Earth should perish without breeding (preferably soon). Their useful idiots seem to be working hard for those last 2B spots. I want everybody to have electricity, so I guess I’m the racist hater.

  5. We could stunt the next generation’s growth by having kids start smoking at an earlier age. Climate problem: SOLVED.

  6. Environmentalists wan to turn humans into Ewoks, and turn the Earth into Endor.

    1. Little cars that go beep-beep-beep get excellent gas mileage.

  7. If only people could shrink
    Our world wouldn’t be so overcrowded
    Bring ourselves down to size
    There’d be so much more food to go ’round

    Why don’t we build a machine
    With all the know-how of the industries
    We put a man on the moon
    On earth we’ll need more room to breathe real soon


    Drink your vaccine and let’s shrink
    And bring your poodle so it doesn’t eat us
    The roads will be so wide
    No traffic jams when we’re half a foot tall

    Bring what you need down here
    We’ll shrink it all by microwave
    Don’t wanna die like dinosaurs
    We’ll have enough resources to go round


    So now you’ve made the big shrink
    Meanwhile we’ll keep acting big
    We well-bred beautiful people
    Who says we have to go too?

    Cops and mason businessmen
    Were exempted from the ovens
    As if you weren’t already.
    The rest of you are all our termites now

    1. I’ll see your Dead Kennedys, and raise you one Doctor Shrinker.

      1. He’s the man with an evil plan.

    2. Are Cambodian’s short?

  8. Life imitates Vonnegut, eh? (Not mentioned in that summary is that he had the Chinese intentionally adopting such a plan, though to ridiculous heights.

    1. “heights”, really?

  9. thus their proposal to shrink the average size of human beings

    “In other news, Stihl’s stock prices have skyrocketed.”

  10. So Reason concludes that Sanger and Hitler were right, for the sake of global warming?

  11. .Consider, as but one example, the relation of man’s size to the facilities provided for his transportation.
    Does not pass the “look at the SUV drivers on the street right now” test

  12. We’ll need 8 Earths if everyone is Al Gore sized.

    1. Just for Al Gore.

  13. Binding works for feet, maybe we should try it with children in general. The muffling of the noise would be a bonus.

  14. not sure if trolling, or just an environmentalist.

  15. I’ve been short. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

  16. North Korea is a definitive pioneer in this sphere — after all, they’re shorter than their capitalist pig neighbors, and that helps Holy Terra heal from the ravages of mankind.

    Therefore, digicultural city-state lifeways require city-state super-gambol-lockdown-esque ultra-dictators like Kim-jong Il. Take that, White Injun.

    1. I fucked that up pretty badly.

      “… like Kim-jong Il in order to heal Gaia.”

    2. Indeed, an extremely short, malnourished population combined with a short lifespan really do demonstrate the superiority of DPK.

      Also, as someone who is 6″10, 270lbs, fuck the little chumps at NYU and Oxford. I’m sorry you guys got bullied by someone bigger when you were in school. Suck it up.

      1. I’m 6 feet and 5 inches, and just proportionally considerably bigger than most people — from shoulder width to shoe size. I still got bullied in middle school because I was very non-confrontational. Happily, it didn’t work out for the bullies too well eventually.

        1. I’m 6’2″ and around 220, with a (recently acquired) athletic build. Got picked on a lot as a kid, because I was a skinny nerdy tall pacifist, and they knew I wouldn’t fight back. Been over three decades since anyone last tried to mess with me.

          1. 6′ 0″, 210 pounds. Was pretty average to slightly small through high school. I was only bullied once, in 6th grade. No one tried again after I got in trouble for hurting that guy more than the administration thought was necessary.

          2. I did all of my vertical growing by 14 or so, and my horizontal growing continues to this day!
            I got picked on by older kids when I was younger for being extremely goofy.
            I don’t hate older people because of that, but I do relish the chance to confront bullies.

          3. I was short and skinny and a nerd as a kid, but I was never picked on because I was fearless when playing neighborhood hockey and football. Respect, it can be earned.

    3. Between this and the complete lack of lights at night outside Pyongyang, I believe you are 100% correct.

      1. Yeah, fucking Pyongyang — screwing with Holy Terra’s recovery, eh? Well, we’ll starve you fuckers, too, and your lights will go out just as effectively.

        Long live eugenics.

  17. And I’m sure hope someone also engineers a Khan Noonien Singh to provide the a proper ruler for these ‘little people.’

  18. The authors stress that adoption of all of their proposals should be voluntary.

    They always do.

    At first.

    The primary goal, of course, is adoption of the proposals. If done voluntarily, why not? But, failing that . . . .

    1. I find it amusing that the AGW lobby has taken CS Lewis’s N.I.C.E. as their model. That Hideous Strength should be required reading.

    2. Why jump to that conclusion? If you are at all open to trans-humanism (if you aren’t I can sympathize), you have to think about the useful ways in which you could change the human body and mind.

      1. Why bother with the human body? Why not a cybernetic self with nothing more than a brain and a dick attached to machines?

        1. The dick goes too far.

          1. There are some things I just won’t part with.

        2. I don’t know. But I think that at some point people will do just about everything that it is possible for people to do, so we’ll probably find out at some point how it woudl work out.

          1. Why not a cybernetic self with nothing more than a brain and a dick attached to machines?

            Only if women will have 4 boobs and no brain.

            1. Well, the no brain part is easy enough; 4 boobs will be harder. Conjoined twins maybe?

  19. Reduced average human size might be achieved by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of embryos in which only those expressing genes for shorter stature are implanted; using hormone treatments to stop growth earlier in children; or encouraging low-birth weight infants.

    That’s all kinds of disturbing, especially since the people thinking that are likely inclined to make it government-run and mandatory.

    Let me guess — the authors of these recommendations are virtually all short men who are having trouble attracting women, because women tend to prefer taller, more alpha-looking men?

    1. The average female orangutan is three times stronger than a conditioned, specially trained human male. We’re pretty weak in proportion to our size. Why the fucking shit would we want to make ourselves smaller and weaker to satisfy some Malthusian dipsticks’ fantasies?

      1. I agree. We need to go the other direction, if anything.

        1. We need to win the race against the space aliens. What space aliens? I don’t know yet, but when we find them we want to be the terrifyingly powerful Supermen, not the other way around.

          1. That guy on the cover of Fast Company downblog is what we’re shooting for.

      2. Maybe we’d be stronger in proportion to our size if we are smaller.
        How do we compare to really big animals in terms of strength:size? Is that really important? Particularly as we move more and more away from dependence on physical strength to get work done?

      3. We’re pretty weak in proportion to our size.

        Oh, I don’t know. People sometimes rip cars doors off when they are hyped up. Maybe it’s just that animals don’t have consciences holding back their natural strength.

  20. Not to mention, one look at Mainland China would tell you what happens when the average citizen is shorter — the population expands to consume the available calories, and the net total human biomass stays the same.

    1. Excellent observtion!

  21. But if you’re one of those people who think mind is entirely a product of brain state or activity, wouldn’t smaller people experience less intense pleasure, because less brain matter is involved? Less pain too, though.

    1. Why don’t you ask a small person?

    2. Smaller body, same number of sensors in the skin = greater density of sensors => more pain and pleasure.

  22. Ok, let’s all make ourselves short. You first. Tell me how it works out with the ladies.

  23. Earth is an island, so you would expect, over a long enough time-frame, for the kinds of evolutionary effects seen on islands. This includes a tendency for larger animal species to get smaller. So, if this is a problem/solution, it will take care of itself as our species responds to isolation and destruction of natural habitat.…

    The principal result shows that mammal species may increase their rate of morphological change by up to a factor of 3 within a few decades of dramatic and rapid change in their environment.

  24. Short people die of heart problems because red blood cells remain the same size regardless of body size, smaller arteries get blocked by thus relatively larger blood cells, the more and faster we die of coronary/respiratory problems. Physiological constraints limit larger or smaller body sizes, e.g. weight and respiratory stresses on larger body joints, bones and organs; cell, protein molecules’ sizes limit smaller bodies respiration, organ functions etc., red blood cell size cannot be adjusted because it is physiologically constrained by respiration and metabolic functions and by the sizes of the molecules comprising the cells, this idea of re-engineering body sizes ignores laws of physics but is a great argument for increasing school curricula to include basic education in science.

    1. Small people do exist. I don’t think anyone is talking 1 foot tall here or anything.

  25. Well, it’s about time science got around to proving that us short people are superior.

    You can all begin welcoming me and the rest of your diminutive overlords at any time.

  26. No ‘Slapstick’ reference? Hi ho.

  27. Forget about height, let’s start with weight, we don’t need no high fallutin’ bio-engineering to do that one first.

  28. I don’t think that this is going to happen ever, either voluntarily or by force (it would be kind of funny if instead of driving electric cars, rich liberals started shrinking, though). But I have often thought that it would be really cool to be very small.

  29. Why pull punches when it comes to saving Mother Earth: If men are bad for the planet, why not suggest getting rid of the bearers of Y chromosomes?

    Sounds like a prelude to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland.

  30. I’ve long thought how awesome it would be if humans were like ‘half’ the size that they are. You’d be about 40″ tall, weigh maybe 15 or 20 pounds. (Law of cubez)

    You’d be able to scramble much more quickly, and climb respectably, like squirrels and monkeys. All natural stuff like trees and mountains would seem way bigger. Two foot waves would be plenty adequate for surfing. Existing houses would be massive palaces. And wild animals would be much more exciting and thrilling.

    Also not just food, but weed, beer, and heroin would all go a lot farther. A pint would be the equivalent of like 2 full pitchers!

    1. Oh yeah and the dream of unpowered human flight with, like, carboard wings tied to your arms would actually be feasible.

    2. All natural stuff like trees and mountains would seem way bigger.

      As would lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

  31. It sounds like these folks looked at the scenario portrayed in the movie Serenity and thought, “That could have worked, if the right people had been in charge.”

    1. More like The Time Machine. Me, I think I’ll pick Team Morlock.

  32. This is retarded. More imaginary solutions to imaginary problems.

  33. God, schmod! I want my monkey man!

  34. So what you’re saying is that if we can genetically modify people to assure dwarfism and if dwarfism really does help prevent climate change, then we have no moral option but to genetically modify all babies now? Or is that just the bleeding-heart liberal in my head talking?

  35. Also, it might be possible to pharmacologically boost empathy in people so that they will cooperate more easily to address environmental problems.

    Something tells me sheep genes will be involved.

  36. Will not happen. Chicks dig tall guys.

  37. In addition, the researchers suggest deploying pharmacological treatments to induce meat aversion

    Oh you BASTARDS…

  38. too tall did not read.

  39. It would have upsides.

    You could go gamefishing.

    For sardines….

  40. Suffers from white-collar bias. What about physical jobs that require height, strength and the ability to walk all around the job site? Less strength, less height and shorter legs will make it harder to be a blue-collar worker in some contexts, probably resulting in less productivity. The effect would be magnified in countries with less white-collar employment.

    I’m not really talking about factories so much, since they have machines to assist in the inputs. But a lot of retail and warehouse work relies on humans to move stuff, and it wasn’t a coincidence that the biggest guys always ended up on the loading dock.

  41. Liao ignores that his proposals make no sense when they’re voluntary.

    Liao and his co-authors follow in the footsteps of James Garvey and Peter Gleick; showing us what we can expect from our new Ethical Overlords.

    I’ll go for older Ethics: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Bring it on, Liao.

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