Earth day

The Big Coffee Table Book of Doom!

Neo-Malthusians again predict doom to celebrate Earth Day 45

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Overpopulation
populationspeakout

Just in time for the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, populationspeakout.org aims to revive good old-fashioned overpopulation doom. The group has issued a 316-page coffee table book, Overdevelopment Overpopulation Overshoot, filled with spectacular photographs intended to alarm people about the problems created by growing human numbers. In fact, if you agree to scare your friends and neighbors the group will send you a copy as a free premium to display on your coffee table.

To illustrate the group's dire points, editor Tom Butler (of the Foundation for Deep Ecology) has arranged the photos into essays: "Human Tide," "Urban Animal," "Feeding Frenzy," "Material Planet," "Trashing the Planet," "Energy Blight," "Climate Chaos." The book opens with a photo of a giant Easter Island moai statues, which is supposed to represent "a civilization that overshot the land's carrying capacity." This is not an auspicious beginning. The parable of Easter Island ecocide has been strongly questioned by recent research, which finds that while changing rainfall led to population shifts on the island, it was European disease and enslavement, not population-driven warfare, that spurred the society's demographic collapse.

In his introduction, William Ryerson, the CEO of the Population Institute, makes the salient point that "women everywhere should have the means to time, limit, and space their pregnancies." He cites a United Nations estimate that that it would cost an additional $3.5 billion annually to provide modern contraceptive information and services to the more than 220 million women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy. In addition, total fertility rates—the number of children a woman bears over the course of her life—are high in male-dominated cultures that exclude girls and women from schooling.

Nevertheless, the total global fertility rate has fallen from over 5 children per woman in 1970 to 2.45 today, rapidly approaching the 2.1 rate that is the threshold of population stability. The fact is that education is great contraception; the higher the female literacy rate, the lower a country's total fertility rate. And according to United Nations data, female adult literacy has increased from 70 percent in 1980 to over 82 percent today. Since 1980, literacy among women ages 15 to 24 has increased from 78 percent to 90 percent.

Longer life expectancy,lower infant mortality, and mass access to education, modern contraception, and market opportunities outside of the home are attainable only in countries where there is some measure of social peace and rule of law. If the global trend toward less violence continues, then opportunities for women to control their own fertility will grow.

Ryerson believes that it should be possible to stabilize world population at 8.3 billion by 2050. Basically, he is adopting the United Nations' low variant population projection, in which world population tops out at that figure and begins to decline to 6.7 billion by 2100. In a 2013 study, Spanish demographers Félix-Fernando Muñoz and Julio A. Gonzalo calculated that future population growth will most likely continue to track the U.N.'s low-variant trends. "Overpopulation was a spectre in the 1960s and '70s but historically the U.N.'s low fertility variant forecasts have been fulfilled," noted Muñoz.

IpanemaBook
Overpopulation

Let's turn now to the images that are supposed alarm readers about overdevelopment and overpopulation. To illustrate the Human Tide, the book shows "a rising tide of humanity cover[ing] Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro."

I have been on Ipanema Beach several times, and I have never seen the number of people in the photograph chosen by the editor to illustrate the supposed human tide. My best guess is that the photo was taken during the New Year's Day celebrations when throngs go to Ipanema for concerts and other festivities.

Ipanema Empty
Rio

On my visits, I found the beach to be about as crowded as this.

Butler chooses a Google Earth aerial photograph of the New Delhi city grid to make the point that human beings are now "urban animals."

NewDelhiBook
Overpopulation

The caption for the New Delhi photo notes that the city has an average population density of 30,000 per square mile. Sounds bad, right? Not when you consider that the population density of Brooklynk averages 35,000 people per square mile. Manhattan's population density today is 70,000 people per square mile, down from 87,000 per square mile in 1910.

Brooklyn Grid
Google Earth

Butler is right that humanity is urbanizing. The United Nations estimates that 54 percent of the world's people now live in cities and that the percentage will increase to around 80 by 2050. But this is good news, not bad. Urban dwellers have greater access to education, market opportunities, and medicine, and they have fewer kids. Meanwhile, reducing the number of people tearing up the landscape as hardscrabble subsistence farmers ultimately means that more land can be set aside for nature.

This may interest the deep ecologist Eileen Crist, whose afterword in the book, decries "the near conversion of the biosphere into a human-food pantry."

West Kansas
Overpopulation

Recent research by Jesse Ausubel and his colleagues at the Human Environment Program at Rockefeller University finds that humanity may have reached peak farmland. Agricultural productivity per acre is improving faster than the demand for food; as a result, fewer acres are needed to grow crops. These trends suggest that as much as 400 million hectares could be restored to nature by 2060, an area nearly double the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River.

Bailey Cabin
Bailey

Secondary forests like the one that surrounds my cabin in Virginia are now expanding on abandoned farmland.

The book focuses on "overshoot," the claim that humanity's numbers are now too great for the carrying capacity of the earth to sustain. Carrying capacity is defined as largest number of individuals of a particular species who can survive over long periods of time in a given environment, the level of which depends on the effect of the relevant limiting factors. As an illustration of human overshoot, the editor provides a photograph of women lined up to receive dollops of rice in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya:

Somalia Refugees
Overpopulation

Really? The fact that that Somalia has been in a state of civil war since 1991 might have some relevance to the prevalence of hunger in that country.

The photoessay "Trashing the Planet" is filled with graphic displays of the heedlessness with which people dispose of their garbage. All of the photos except one showing a tire dump in the United States are from poor developing countries.

Ivoire Garbage
Overpopulation

Butler and his colleagues fail to acknowledge that trash disposal has been largely tamed in rich countries. A 1991 report for Resources for the Future once calculated that if the current rate of waste generation is maintained, all of America's garbage for the next 1,000 years would fit into a landfill measuring 120 feet deep and encompassing 44 square miles, about one-thousandth of one percent of the surface area of the United States.

Modern Landfill
WM

A photograph of piled-up eucalyptus logs in Brazil is supposed to depict "Nature's Unraveling." Rather than offer up eucalyptus plantation forestry as an example of unraveling nature, Butler and his colleagues should instead be applauding it as yet another way humanity is decoupling from nature. Resources for the Future economist Roger Sedjo predicts that "by the middle of the twenty-first century most of the world's industrial wood will be produced from planted forests covering a remarkably small land area, perhaps only 5 to 10 percent of the extent of today's global forest." Again, human ingenuity produces more from less, sparing nature.

As an example of "Darkening Skies," the editor selects a photograph of burning oil refineries in Iran. Why were they burning? Because they had been bombed by Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq War. Somehow that doesn't seem like a pertinent illustration of overpopulation or overdevelopment.

Iran refineries
Overpopulation

In rich countries, skies are actually lightening. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that since 1980, emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulates, and sulfur dioxide are down by 67, 52, 53, 50, and 81 percent respectively. The best evidence finds that increasing wealth from economic growth correlates with a cleaner natural environment. That is to say, richer becomes cleaner.

Global average temperatures have been going up, and most climate researchers are convinced that adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere has contributed to that trend since the 1950s. To suggest the advent of "Climate Chaos," the editor chose a photograph of a major flood in the Uttarakand in 2013 that inundated a statute of the god Shiva.

Shiva
Overpopulation

Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2014 Synthesis Report notes that there is low confidence that climate change has so far affected any global trends toward increased flooding, hurricanes and typhoons, or droughts.

On the back of the book, physicist Albert Bartlett starkly asks: "Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?" The folks at populationspeakout.org apparently think this is a devastating observation. But is it?

In his insightful 2013 book The Infinite Resource, the technologist Ramez Naam counters such thoughts with another question: "Would your life be better off if only half as many people had lived before you?" In this thought experiment, you don't get to pick which people are never born. Perhaps there would have been no Newton, Edison, or Pasteur, no Socrates, Shakespeare, or Jefferson. "Each additional idea is a gift to the future," Naam writes. "Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations." Fewer people means fewer new ideas about how to improve humanity's lot and to further decouple our endeavors from the natural world. "If we fix our economic system and invest in the human capital of the poor," Naam writes, "then we should welcome every new person born as a source of betterment for our world and all of us on it."

The goal of empowering women and girls is central to making the world a better place. It is the right thing to do regardless of the effects on future population trends, though the evidence does suggest that the results will please those worried about "overpopulation." Focusing just on the increase of human numbers is a distraction and misleads the public and policymakers from what really needs to be done for humanity and the natural world to flourish. Happy Earth Day 45!

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183 responses to “The Big Coffee Table Book of Doom!

  1. But this is good news, not bad. Urban dwellers have greater access to education, market opportunities, and medicine, and they have fewer kids.

    And that herd will be thinned so much easier in the coming zombie apocalypse. City folk will be ill-equipped.

    1. because access to education and medicine- and less little people to drag along- means they are ill-equipped?

      1. Urban dweller have terrible chances in a zombie apocalypse – totally dependent on others for every facet of life, no firearms, survival skills, too close to the rest of the people being turned into zombies…

        I think you missed the joke.

        1. No, I got it. Country Folk City Folk.

          Today I am anti-joke chicken personified.

          1. Eh, we all have days like that. No worries.

            *resume whittling*

        2. Speak for yourself, CITY BOY!! This city boy got ALL the shit you mention in spades and plus I got a nice large BUNKER-like metal door to hide behind while I cook my dried out meals and drink my stored water. And pick off any zombie who looks funny from my balcony…

    2. IN 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus inaugurated a grand tradition of environmentalism with his best-selling pamphlet on population. Malthus argued with impeccable logic but distinctly peccable premises that since population tended to increase geometrically (1,2,4,8 ) and food supply to increase arithmetically (1,2,3,4 ), the starvation of Great Britain was inevitable and imminent. Almost everybody thought he was right. He was wrong.

      In 1865 an influential book by Stanley Jevons argued with equally good logic and equally flawed premises that Britain would run out of coal in a few short years’ time. In 1914, the United States Bureau of Mines predicted that American oil reserves would last ten years. In 1939 and again in 1951, the Department of the Interior said American oil would last 13 years.

      Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

      “Plenty of Gloom”,The Economist, Dec 18th 1997

      1. “[…]distinctly peccable premises[…]”

        I LIKE this!
        Can we say the current circumstance should certainly have the population gruntled? That, perhaps, Malthus, et al were without feck?

        1. If they were without feck, then I say this most deplorable situation must be remedied: feck them, already!

        2. “Peccable” means “capable of sin or error”. The word he was looking for was “peccant” (sinful or faulty).

          And you want to say that Malthus was without “effect”, the modern spelling of “feck”, but it is not so.

  2. This book seems to really pick on poor people…

    Mabye, just maybe, poverty is the problem and allowing free trade (instead of restricting it for environmental reasons) would lead to a massive dent in global poverty (though that seems like a moving goalpost) that could solve the problem.

    Prosperity leads to good things for the planet. Trade and commerce lead to prosperity.

    Also, why do they hate brown people?

    1. Have you ever noticed how the most obnoxiously socialist places on the planet are also the most crowded?

      1. no. I have not.

      2. Like Hong Kong and Singapore?

        General environmental degradation is probably more closely correlated with socialism.

        1. Yes, and?

          1. And I don’t really see the correlation between socialism and crowding.

        2. Ironically, Soviet bloc countries faced this problem because Marxian theory holds that all natural resources should be free for the taking by all people, as they are common property. This led to massive wasteful and environmentally harmful use of resources in Russia and other countries, but the East Germans had it worst because they didn’t have the nearly limitless natural resources that Russia had access too. It’s fun to read the works of East German economists during the 1950s and 60s trying to find ways to square the crucial element of the market economy (pricing natural resources according to demand) with Marxist theory. Suffice it to say, some economists got denounced for their mental gymnastics.

          California could learn something about the lesson of “free” natural resources right about now.

        3. Socialist?

          *Hong Konger narrows gaze*

      3. East Germany was practically barren compared to West Germany. Now it’s even more so.

    2. The watermelons really shoot themselves in the foot. Trade and commerce, as you say, lead to prosperity, which generally leads to lower birth rates, less pollution and less intensive land use. Pretty much everything they supposedly want.

      1. Well, it’s too fucking late for the North East US. And also probably southern california.
        Both of those areas need some culling of the herd.

        1. Too late for what?

          1. For all of the above to reduce the population to tolerable levels within my lifetime.

            1. Ah, I see. There is some nice, cheap land in northern Maine still.

      2. They aint called watermelons for nuthin’. The green is just a veneer.

  3. If all the people espousing population control would just kill themselves, then the problem would go away.

    1. But THEY aren’t the problem. It’s all the poor people.

      1. Poor people are not my problem. The overpopulation whiners are my problem. If they all killed themselves, then my problem would go away.

        1. yes, but they, of course, disagree. If you convince them- NOBEL FUCKING PRIZE!

        2. Psychopath…

          1. Grow some skin, loser…

          2. “Psychopath” is such a retrograde term. Clearly, people like Hitler, Pol Pot, and Ted Bundy should be described as population control activists.

            1. +10 killing fields

      2. Thats the mindset. Take my uncle biggest proponet of global warming and gentry liberal I know: he owns two houses, 8 vehicles, one rv, that he drives to his beach house and has the complete gull to talk about what other people need. If you dare point out his hypocrisy he dismisses it saying everything he owns has a purpose and other people shouldn’t own more than one car. it really is quite stunning.

        1. Pffft, one car is plenty. One for each day ending in “Y”, then one for going to the supermarket, another for visitng the mall, the one I use when going to parties. Your uncle sounds like a very reasonable person.

        2. No one ever considers the carbon footprint of having offspring. Instead they insist that they deserve a subsidy.

    2. The book needs a supplement. An envelope with Think Global Act Local printed on the outside and a cyanide pill inside.

  4. I’m not totally unsympathetic.

    I want people to die so that housing prices will fall.

    There are too many people and they are making my goal of owning a nice piece of empty space where I can do whatever I want without anyone bothering me too expensive.

    People are oppressive and annoying. I don’t want them around me.

    1. yes, but without them you can’t make any money.

      1. What do I need people for when I have an army of robots to do me bidding?

        Anyway, I will invite a small number of very special people to join my libertarian commune, and we will all live off the land and build robots. On Saturday will will get drunk and have robot fights, and on sunday we will drop acid and have puppet kareoke theater.

        1. Are they orphan robots?

          1. Aren’t all robots orphans, really?

            1. What is Mom Friendly Robot Corporation, then?

        2. on what days is there sex? because, if I’m robot fighting drunk, I’m gonna need to have sex (hetero-normative, blah blah) with someone who’s at least attractive after a 6 pack, but not scarily unattractive on acid…

          1. Um, it’s a libertarian commune, I’m not going to regulate your sex habits. Free love will be neither obligatory nor forbidden. There will not be specific sex days. There will not be any sex assignment tickets. There will be no sex hormone regulating pills.

            I’m sure some people will find this disappointing.

            1. I was more commenting on the fact that there are only going to be like 2.3 women there… because we all know that’s the total number of libertarian women on the planet.

              1. Maybe we can pretend to be a socialist commune to trick them into joining.

                We all get dreadlocks and wear clothing made from hemp and sell kombucha, and then once they are hooked, BAM, we hit them with the Murray Rothbard literature.

                1. By that I assume you mean you will, literally, beat them unconscious with hardback copies of Murray Rothbard’s books.

                  You could always just offer destitute women free room and board for regular sexual services. Of course for food and medicine, they’ll have to get day jobs, or hook full time.

          2. Easy, sexbots!

            There’s gonna be sexbots, right? Kinda deal breaker here…

            1. Of course there will be sexbots. No libertarian robot commune would be respectable without a few sexbots.
              Plus, OUR sexbots will amusingly quote Heinlein novels and Hayek and Nozick.

              1. In that case, you have my axe.

                As soon as I get one. Was it http://www.dwarfhotsteel.com...

        3. This is a brilliant plan, and I would love to read any informational pamphlets.

          1. that sounds an awful lot like the line the ATF used on Koresh in Waco…

            1. You’re just mad I haven’t asked for your pamphlets.

          2. Not to mention any prospectus you might have available…

        4. Except a clan of misanthropes will just wind up killing each other in the end.

  5. The photoessay “Trashing the Planet” is filled with graphic displays of the heedlessness with which people dispose of their garbage.

    This is ironic considering Ron’s mention of Earth Day. My mother went to the very first Earth Day in NYC (I think she was still at Pratt at the time), and she said that afterward, the streets were filled with trash and discarded crap. And that was when she realized it was all bullshit signaling.

    1. That’s not the point. The point was they had an EARTH DAY. And everyone went home delighted with their accomplishment.

      1. The point is Epi told a Mom story AND I CAN’T THINK OF ONE DAMNED JOKE!

        What the heck?! It’s like writer’s block in an author or the yips in a golfer.

        ARGH!

        1. PWN’D

        2. They went to pick up the trash, but Epi’s mom had already left….

          Zat help?

        3. It’s because there’s like fifty jokes rushing for your brain and they all get stuck in the same synapse. It’s known as Three Stooges Door Syndrome.

          1. + sound of coconuts hitting each other

          2. Excellent! A name for my affliction!

      2. correction everyone went home stoned and etc.

  6. Recent research by Jesse Ausubel and his colleagues at the Human Environment Program at Rockefeller University finds that humanity may have reached peak farmland.

    It doesn’t seem to matter how many times these prophets of doom have been proven wrong, they always come back and always have a willing audience to hear their claptrap.

    It is obvious that humanity has not reached “peak farmland”. The rational for such thinking is based on the idea that humans are like termites, just reproducing and consuming invariably. Human beings are instead able to use their ingenuity to make land more productive. In fact, humans are using LESS land proportional to the number of living people on Earth than 100 years ago, thanks to mechanization and fertilizers.

    1. Hmmmm…Norman Borlaug or Paul Ehrlich….hmm, who to choose?

      OK, Norm, you win!

      1. Paul Ehrlich…wrongest man in the Galaxy.

        1. He will keep preaching it to the end.

          And Norm Borlaug quietly saved hundreds of millions of lives.

          1. And Norm Borlaug quietly saved hundreds of millions of lives.

            Which Paul Ehrlich would happily end.

          2. And Norm Borlaug quietly saved hundreds of millions of lives.

            Yet Paul Erlich still lives!

        2. Yes, but at least his name is Honest.

    2. In fact, humans are using LESS land proportional to the number of living people on Earth than 100 years ago, thanks to mechanization and fertilizers.

      If there ever is “peak farmland” that will be why. And it will be a good thing.

      1. NO GMO!!!!! FRANKENFOOD!!!!!!

        /derp

    3. I always chuckle when I hear someone mention ‘peak farmland’ and wonder if they have ever been in an airplane, taken a look out the window, and pondered the idea.

    4. Peak farm land also means we don’t need any more farm land to feed the planet.

    5. I think that whast was meant by ‘peak farmland’ is that we’re now able to increase yeilds on existing land faster than we need to feed more people–so we’re using ever lower amounts of farmland..

      Hence we reached the ‘peak’.

      1. Yep its funny that the book would reference something that is nothing but a good thing as an example of doom. What do they want?

      2. I’m worried about peak seafood.

        1. But lionfish are REALLY delicious.

    6. As I read it, they meant ‘peak farmland’ as meaning that we had reached the point where the amount of farmland necessary to feed the species had peaked, and would now plateau or decline, precisely because of improved land usage.

      So they weren’t using it in the sense of ‘peak oil’ where production has peaked, but rather peak demand, which is good, it means we will need less and less land. Just some slight confusion with respect to the terminology, as apparently ‘peak’ usually refers to peak supply rather than peak demand, but those particular researchers appear to mean demand.

  7. I was just out in eastern Washington this past weekend. There is so much fucking empty space. So much farmable land. It’s amazing. And that’s just one state in one country. There is so much room on this planet. But people suffer from the Scale Fallacy; they are incapable of understanding scales larger than their immediate surroundings. Oh look, it’s crowded in my city here; we’re running out of room! Oh look at all that smoke from that smokestack; it’s going to pollute the insanely large thing that is our atmosphere that I literally have no idea of how huge it actually is because I can’t conceive of it!

    People are often very, very stupid.

    1. Landfills. People think that 100 square miles of landfill is a lot. And that we will run out of space for garbage at some point.

      And just imagine how interesting the sedimentary rock will be that forms from landfills to archaeologists several million years in the future. Assuming people don’t start mining them for resources before then.

      1. Have you seen the Bullshit! episode on recycling? If not, do so. They actually measure how much room our landfills take up and if they were all consolidated into one big one, how big would it be? And it turns out, not very big. I think it was like a small square of land in one state.

        1. I’ve been re-watching the episodes on Amazon Prime. That’s such a damned good show. The WalMart Episode alone should have won all the awards ever given for TV.

          1. They made multiple episodes on why Amazon Prime is bullshit!

            1. When watching the Bullshit episode on prostitution I recognized the hooker that they had on as a girl I used to hook up with in Oakland. She kept trying to convince me to start a grow operation or have strangers pay us to fuck in front of them.

        2. Yeah, I did see that. I think that might be where I got 100 sq. miles. Or maybe it was another Bailey article.

          Recycling is great when it is economically viable. People will pay for stuff that is worth recycling. But for the most part that is metal and sometimes plastic. Recycling paper and glass is pointless or worse than just making new stuff. I suppose using old bottles as aggregate in roads isn’t a bad idea.

          1. they can make some interesting natural light sources in homes for hippies.

          2. Pull out the metals and burn the rest for energy. Put the resulting ash into road fill or bury it.

          3. “Recycling is great when it is economically viable. ”

            It rarely is.

            The majority of the cost of everything we buy is the cost of the energy it takes to produce that thing and make it available to people. The dollar cost of something is a pretty good measure of its environmental cost.

            1. That’s pretty much what I was getting at. Metals, especially aluminum, seem to be sensible to recycle. Aluminum takes a lot of energy to make from ore.

              From talking to my town’s dump guy, it seems like he can usually sell metals and sometimes sell plastic. For most other “recyclables” he has to pay to have them taken away. I suppose there are probably some subsidies distorting the market for recyclables. But that’s what I have to go on.

              1. I was just having this conversation with someone yesterday. Viable recycling has *always* been happening, because evil capitalists will try to make every dime they can. Contractors have always sifted through debris and taken out the stuff that was valuable, and if they don’t for whatever reason, the guy at the dump will. And if the guy at the dump doesn’t for whatever reason, scavengers will come through the dump and pick out the valuable stuff and recycle it.

                Until they are forbidden of course, since doing that violates OSHA regulations and minimum wage laws . . .

                1. Viable recycling has *always* been happening, because evil capitalists will try to make every dime they can.

                  Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, my grandfather was in the oil well drilling supply business. At some point, he began collecting left over parts at drill sites and trading them for mineral rights. My family still receives royalties from the mineral rights earned from his recycling.

              2. The wife-unit will recycle every last fucking of scrap of paper in the house, but throw away metal. No matter how many times I mansplain to her how ass-backwards that is, she keeps doing it.

                I suspect that she might just be fucking with me at this point.

                1. Ha, I sometimes fuck with people by just throwing food on the ground after I’m done with it instead of throwing it in the garbage. People will get upset, like I’m harming the environment, because they fail to understand the notion of biodegradability. Unless you’re not feeding chocolate to dogs and cats, then why not?

                  I wonder though how long it will take dogs and cats to evolve to not want to eat chocolate. Most animals are smart enough not to eat things that will kill them, except for fish. When will the domesticated ones figure it out? But I digress…

              3. Recycling metal is easy. Pile metal in container, add heat, skim off nonmetal crud, pour into molds, cool. Presto, good as new metal.

                Glass is damn near that easy.

        3. Have you seen the Bullshit! episode on recycling? If not, do so.

          These articles (and especially the California drought one earlier) always bring me back to that bit they did where they get some idiot progs to sort their garbage into like eight different categories – and they’re happy doing it!

        4. It’s unfortunate we don’t produce more garbage; after all, most of it amounts to carbon sequestration!

    2. Just take that, and stretch it out for… seventeen hours. That’s a drive through Texas. San Antonio? A tiny blip compared to the vast swath of that patch just between San Antonio and Abilene.

      +1 big big world

      1. Yes, but it’s not like we can expect decent people to live in Texas.

        1. Hence, it’s an excellent place for trash dumps and nuclear waste disposal.

      2. Take the train across the country sometime. It is just endless hours of emptiness with only an occasional city here and there.

        1. Try it in China. You don’t know empty until you’ve seen the space between two Chinese cities. Looks like a square wave graph.

    3. Anti-frackers in PA point to our heavily forested northern tier and bemoan all the valuable hardwood trees that gas drilling might be hurting as a reason to ban fracking. The forests are so pristine *flutter hands*; we shouldn’t ruin them!

      Never mind that the valuable hardwood forest is only there because we cut down all the native pines 100 years ago and basically denuded millions of acres for wood to build this country. And when we got rich, we didn’t need to clear cut anymore because we found better and more efficient ways–OSB instead of planking, cement rail ties instead of wood, etc. It’s because of prosperity that environmentalism is a thing.

      1. Perhaps most importantly coal instead of charcoal and less dependance on farming.

        Vast areas of forest were cleared in the 18th century just to make charcoal to smelt iron with, creating worse smog and pollution than you see in a Chinese city today.

        1. Fossil fuels have a much smaller geo footprint than trees or any other renewable. That’s one reason the Industrial Revolution was a revolution.

          1. Accounts of ancient Rome often emphasize the fact that in the denser quarters you could barely breathe for all the smoke in the air.

          2. One still sometimes sees environmentalists urging use of wood-burning for heat instead of oil. Which always confused me because I always though oil was far cleaner than wood, but though “these people must know something I don’t. They couldn’t actually be dumb enough to pick a worse alternative to oil as the environmentally substitute for oil, could they?” Oh, the naivete.

      2. Aham, albo. A word.

        YOU’RE GETTING IN THE WAY OF THE NARRATIVE.

    4. I didn’t say the other day when you mentioned this, but it did occur to me. You said that in addition to my second amendment argument the huge space that we are spread out in is another major reason why the authoritarians haven’t been able to take over.

      I had always wondered what the ‘sustainability’ movement was about, why they were so obsessed with concentrating people into smaller places. Now it makes more sense.

    5. Episiarch, what you said! My first thought, whenever someone says the world is too crowded or has reached its carrying capacity, is that he or she doesn’t get out much, certainly not away from the city. Some years ago, my family and I took a road trip up Interstate 5 from the Santa Cruz CA latitude all the way to Seattle; it took several days, as we made many stops to eat, sleep, or play tourist, all along the way. We would travel for hours at a time, when it seemed as if the highway itself were the only evidence of civilization for tens of miles around. Certainly any human activity or habitation was well-hidden or remote! This was even before we got out of California, the most populous State in the union! Of course there are horribly crowded places, and societies that suffer from resource shortages and poverty. But in all but a few cases that I can see, the woes can be laid at the feet of human folly: strict and small-minded enforcement of borders; zoning and land use regulations; prohibitions; government-granted monopolies; government-mandated agricultural quotas; trade barriers or false “free trade” agreements; war; wasteful natural resource management; wage or price controls … it goes on and on. I never thought our problems came from overpopulation — the kinds of problems I list here can be solved if we can get the assholes out of the way — but I am more and more embracing the idea that we are definitely overpopulated with assholes, and may never reach “peak asshole.”

  8. How many life giving trees were destroyed to make these big coffee table books?

    1. They willingly gave their lives that Gaia’s Word might be spread.

      1. Business idea: environmentalist books printed on human skin. Obtained of course from voluntarily donated bodies of environmentalists. I assume Peter Singer will be my first volunteer.

        1. Make it Ehrlich.

  9. “Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations.” Fewer people means fewer new ideas about how to improve humanity’s lot and to further decouple our endeavors from the natural world”

    This is the thing the overpopulation nutbars never understand–the human intellect is a valuable resource. The future inventor of a revolutionary, low-cost energy source may have been born today, and he may be living in the overcrowded clums of Bombay or Shanghai or Lahore.

    1. I always ask people bitching about capitalism of the state of nature, what part of their modern life they would give up, permanently, in order to arrive at the place they’re bitching about.

      Green space? Cheap energy? Inexpensive clothing? Fruit in Winter? Hybrid cars? Air conditioning? Clean water? their microwave? Cheap and light aluminum cans? All of the medical advances since 1900?

      What thing would like to pay much more for or do without completely?

      Funny that I never get a straight answer. We live in the most plentiful age that mankind has ever known and all people can do is complain about how we have too much.

      People living in 3rd world poverty have a message for you: BOO FUCKITY HOO.

    2. Population boom was discredited by something call demographic transition.

    3. Albo: Yes! Malthusians of every era have only ever seen each new human life as a source of consumption; they never admit that each new human mouth generally comes with a potentially very productive brain and two hands! Unfortunately, when I offer the kinds of arguments so astutely proposed here, the Malthusians say it is not wise to trust our future to “the lottery” of birth. Of course, we have been winning this lottery since we emerged as a species, so I’m thinking it is a lot safer bet than following the prescriptions of the Malthusians, based on their predictions that NEVER come true.

  10. The book focuses on “overshoot,” the claim that humanity’s numbers are now too great for the carrying capacity of the earth to sustain. […] As an illustration of human overshoot, the editor provides a photograph of women lined up to receive dollops of rice in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya

    Of course, they’re not going to look for a relationship between the very small area of Hong Kong and the fact that no one of the millions living inside the tiny island is starving.

    The notion of “overshoot” makes sense only in a scenario where there is almost NO division of labor and capital. If you drop the whole cast of LOST in a deserted island in the Caribbean with NO tools or implements, I bet all of them would starve in 3 weeks if they don’t die of thirst first. That scenario doesn’t exist except in the most isolated of places where the indigenous people’s live off the land, like the Bushmen of the Kalahari or the Yanomami of Venezuela, but it is unreasonable to apply that scenario to modern populations with access to capital and capital goods.

    1. Huh. Added an unnecessary apostrophe there. My bad.

  11. No mention of Acid rain? I’ms disappoints.

    Back in my day that was the scare of the day. It was supposed to poison our water or something. i could be wrong (maybe it’s just my imagination) but I think people were sufficiently fearful to avoid drinking tap water.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/la…..ring-down/

    1. If you have an older car, find its EGR valve and pat it on its head.

    2. I think acid rain was an actual problem that has been largely cleaned up in the US. It actually did poison some bodies of water and forests. I don’t think there was any legitimate danger to drinking water, though.
      The drive to treat CO2 as a pollutant has made it easier to forget that some pollution really does cause direct harm to people and is worth worrying about. People also seem to forget how much pollution has been cleaned up, particularly in the US and other industrialized, countries.

    3. IIRC the federal study on acid rain in the early 90’s concluded that most of the acidic lakes were naturally acidic.

  12. “Human Tide,” “Urban Animal,” “Feeding Frenzy,” “Material Planet,” “Trashing the Planet,” “Energy Blight,” “Climate Chaos.”

    These people really hate humanity.

    1. Or as I heard on Vermont radio for some environmental something, ‘As long as there are people there will be pollution.’

    2. Yes, they do. Look up “misanthrope” for more.

  13. Every religion needs The End of the World just around the corner if it plans to make any money.

  14. OT via Balko:

    After her son spoke out about medical marijuana, police detained him and launched a raid on Shona Banda’s home. “Well, they had that drug education class at school that was just conducted by the counselors? They pulled my son out of school at about 1:40 in the afternoon and interrogated him. Police showed up at my house at 3? I let them know that they weren’t allowed in my home without a warrant? I didn’t believe you could get a warrant off of something a child says in school.” Banda continued, “We waited from 3 o’clock until 6 o’clock. They got a warrant at 6 o’clock at night and executed a warrant into my home. My husband and I are separated, and neither parent was contacted by authorities before [our son] was taken and questioned.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..9288089079

    1. So, not lying to your children about drugs is now evidence of child abuse?

      The lessons on cannabis should have been accompanied by lessons on not trusting authority figures.

      1. Oh, I think they were taught that lesson as well.

    2. Too many cops, now that’s a problem!

  15. The end of the world is nigh. Repent of your sins of living and wanting to not live in the abject poverty of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Well just gathering because hunting is cruel.

    /Apocalyptic environmentalist.

  16. I will celebrate this “Earth Day” in my usual fashion:

    Park the Mustang in my driveway with a full tank of gas, and leave it running all day.

    I don’t have my old, beater ’94 F150 V8 any more (gave it to charity car auction to part out), or I’d run that, too.

    I might fire up the John Deere along with the Mustang.

    Anyhoo – that’s how Almanian celebrates “Erf Day”.

    1. I like to start tire fires.

    2. Wait, are you serious? That… that’s…

      I’m burning my “certified asshole” certificate, clearly I don’t deserve it.

  17. Damn your facts sir! They get in the way of good Socialist schemes.

  18. Earth Day (aka Lenin’s Birthday, which is a good reminder of the purpose of modern environmental politics) is intended to celebrate the status quo. For the greens, the world should be forever as they believe it was at some idealized time (most likely whenever they were children), and it would be if it weren’t for the human infestation (they would share the mindset of Nomad from “The Changeling”). And all we have to do is give them total power over our lives, and they’ll remake the world into that dreamland.

    1. Holy shit, it IS Lenin’s birthday!! I would never have guessed that was true… Thanks for the info!

      1. Anyone know if that was on purpose?

        1. Of course it was on purpose. If Greens really cared about the environment, they would be capitalists. Wealth provides the best way to protect the environment. It isn’t an accident that they fail to recognize this reality.

  19. “The parable of Easter Island ecocide has been strongly questioned by recent research, which finds that while changing rainfall led to population shifts on the island, it was European disease and enslavement, not population-driven warfare, that spurred the society’s demographic collapse.”

    Bailey, have you ever known leftists, and most especially misanthropes like Butler and his ilk, and the rest of the Chicken Littles to let facts get in the way of their narratives?

  20. Yet libertarians don’t see that cornucopianism and the gold standard make contradictory assumptions. A gold standard makes sense in a Malthusian world, not in a world where all commodities, gold included, become relatively more abundant and therefore less valuable through technological progress and market competition. Two hundred years ago, aluminum existed as a very expensive laboratory curiosity. Today aluminum has gotten so cheap that we use it for beverage packaging and then throw away the perfectly good refined metal. What would keep that from happening to gold, especially if we discover new sources of the metal where we hadn’t thought of looking before? And farther down the line we could produce new gold through controlled nucleosynthesis.

    Ancient microbes formed Earth’s biggest hoard of gold

    http://www.newscientist.com/ar…..TFrsyHBzGc

    1. This IS a good point Hmmmmm, havent seen it mentioned here until now…

      *doffs chapeau, departs abruptly…*

    2. Who said anything about the gold standard? I personally don’t care for it, nor would ever argue for its re-implementation.

      Is that all?

    3. By dint of molecular weight alone*, gold is destined to be much rarer than aluminum.
      As far as supply goes, that just needs to match or lag demand. With earthlings getting richer, this seems very possible.
      Finally, the value of gold only need to maintain longer than the resolve of populist politicians to end up a net benefit.

      * – look up how heavy metals are created

    4. Today aluminum has gotten so cheap that we use it for beverage packaging and then throw away the perfectly good refined metal. What would keep that from happening to gold, especially if we discover new sources of the metal where we hadn’t thought of looking before?

      Aluminum is the 3rd most abundant element on earth so it was never really rare. Elemental aluminum, unlike gold, does not occur in nature and has to be separated. It isn’t the aluminum that has gotten cheaper, it is the process to separate it that has.

      http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/ch…..uminum.pdf

      What would keep that from happening to gold, especially if we discover new sources of the metal where we hadn’t thought of looking before?

      Due to its density most of the gold is believed to be at the earths core from when the earth was essentially molten. The gold we have now is believed to have come from asteroids after the surface of the earth solidified.

      http://www.amnh.org/exhibition…..-fun-facts

      Only one out of a billion atoms of rock in Earth’s crust are gold.

      The fallacy of your argument is that aluminum has always been abundant, gold not so much.

      1. I heard it was from a Mars-sized protoplanet that hit Earth after it was partially cooled. The impact was oblique enough to not smash Earth to smithereens, and knocked off a bunch of bits that became the Moon. The rest coalesced into the current Earth, with the heavy metals from the protoplanet being shallow enough to reach because the core was solid enough to keep them from sinking.

    5. Yet libertarians don’t see that cornucopianism and the gold standard make contradictory assumptions. A gold standard makes sense in a Malthusian world, not in a world where all commodities, gold included, become relatively more abundant and therefore less valuable through technological progress and market competition

      Whatever gave you the idea that libertarians want “the gold standard”? A gold standard is certainly better than fiat money (which is just a form of taxation and handing out massive amounts of money to banks), but it is hardly a libertarian monetary system.

      Libertarianism would have us return to privately issued money. There would be a few standards, and I expect gold and Bitcoin would be two of them. If gold ever stopped being useful for that purpose, people would stop using it.

      1. Friedman destroyed the gold standard with one question, “Do we want a stable money supply or stable prices?” We can only have one, unless the Law of Supply and Demand is repealed. DUH

        The gold standard was a massive failure at price stability, when the Industrial Revolution increased demand for money much faster than supply. The US suffered constant deflation under gold, except for the monetized War of 1812 and Civil War. When Marx screeched about the exploitation of the working class, he merely pointed to constant cuts in worker wages. The gold standard legitimized Marxism.

        If gold ever stopped being useful

        Useful to who? The gold standard (deflation) benefits the wealthy and inflation rewards borrowers, as we learned in high school.

        Ignore the wackos. Learn about free banking ( David Friedman, Hayek and others). Or Milton Friedman on the only way to assure stable prices. Bitcoin is raw meat for anti-gummint screechers, but kinda stupid against proven alternatives

        Remember the hysteria that we’d have severe inflation now ? but we have DEflation! DUH It’s not just statists who ignore Supply and Demand. Not to defend the current monetary system, but quasi-libertarian monetary cranks have many decades of fucked up predictions, to all but True Believers.

        Friedman’s Nobel was for proving that Supply and Demand applies to the price of money. Why did that need proving?

        1. Bitcoin is also — deliberately — deflationary. I’m not afraid of deflation, and I would positively embrace it if I had net savings. (What I am saying is that I would prefer it to kick in AFTER my debts were retired! 😉 ) As far as the inflation predictions failing to come true, I think someone behind the scenes has been going crazy twisting valve handles, pushing buttons, and flipping levers, to make it SEEM as if there is deflation (or the threat of it, anyway), even as trillions of units of funny money are pumped into the world’s economies through “quantitative easing” schemes. The rising and falling of prices are signals that provide information to economically aware people. When those prices are artificially increased, decreased, or maintained, the signals become lies. We are being “told” lies on a massive scale, and this can only lead people to do stupid things. Eventually, the accumulated inertia of all those mistakes will carry us over the edge. Whether we achieve it via the gold standard, Bitcoin, or whatever, what we need is HONEST MONEY and a system of prices that signals the truth of our economic situation.

          1. The deflation is quite real, caused mostly by falling oil prices, and low aggregate demand. It’s always tempting to believe the data are lies, when they don’t perform to prediction!.

            The inflation hysteria never accounted for the collapse of aggregate demand, especially for so long. And to assume inflation (the price of money) is determined solely by supply, regardless of demand, is begging for failure, The test will be how much of that excess money supply can be withdrawn when demand picks up — assuming the world economy does not collapse in the meantime!

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  22. We may have not reached “peak farmland” but I hope to Hell we’ve reached “Peak Malthus BS”.
    He was wrong then, and they are wrong now.
    Without fear of contradiction I’ll just state that every major famine in the last couple centuries have resulted from the interference of governments into the lives of their people.
    All we have to do is to look at the situation in California to see that government policy is worse than Mother Nature, who being a woman, can at least change her mind.

    1. I’ve been convinced for a while now that China’s one child policy came as a result of a Malthusitard catching the ear of the government. I’ve noticed a tendency to crank all ideas up to 11 ’round these parts.

  23. Not a single troll showed up to warn us about how the mud-momma was being ‘raped’ by the patriarchic western money-loving culture! Not even Jack and his tired whine about how we’re all gonna die from the heat.
    I’m IMPRESSED!

  24. These are the stories that Ron was born to tell. The way he marshals facts and data, while staying readable

    But nothing drives population freaks crazier than one simple fact. The entire current world population can fit into the state of Texas, with the same population density as New York City. KABOOM.

    “Who’d want to live in New York City?” they sneer, missing the point entirely. Or, “WHAT ABOUT FOOD?” Umm, the entire rest of the world, especially with no cities or human habitation? Check the numbers on Google if you must. SO much fun.

    And the US birthrate is already below replacement. With no immigration our population would have already been shrinking in recent years.

  25. Nice article Ron

  26. Oh, and Soylent Green is people

  27. Mr Bailey’s clumsy straw-manning (“Neo-Malthusians”) again reveals that despite his status as “science correspondent,” he wouldn’t know science from kabbalah.

    Perhaps Mr Bailey could explain what he understands as Thomas Malthus’s perspective, and then, what Mr Bailey finds mistaken about that perspective. Using scientific paradigms to dissect this terrifying “Malthusian” scapegoat might convince me that Bailey’s not using kabbalah but instead is using science as his touchstone for “science correspondence.”

    He does a bang-up job of first-hand corporal demonstration of the perils of auto-didactic “study” where you premise most of your conclusions on a confirmation bias.

    1. Of course, the field of Economics is paramount, even among those who criticize sociology as too soft or shapeless to be a real science. After all, Economics is about money, and money is science, while sociology is about feelings. Money isn’t ever about feelings — no, ma’am and nugatory, sir — because you can tally it on a spreadsheet. Hence, science. Data, ‘n’ shit.

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  29. “trash disposal has been largely tamed in rich countries.”

    Tamed? You mean the richer the person, the less waste they produce? Highly dubious. Nobody else have any trouble with this?

    “A 1991 report for Resources for the Future once calculated that if the current rate of waste generation is maintained”

    Anyone have any trouble with this? A future with no economic growth.

    1. ‘”A 1991 report for Resources for the Future once calculated that if the current rate of waste generation is maintained”

      Anyone have any trouble with this? A future with no economic growth.”

      If you think this passage of the article was implying that the current rate of waste generation will be constant forever, then you’re an idiot.

      1. I am an idiot and a liar so nothing new here. Thoughtful anyway that you see fit to point this out.

        The article seems to imply that the rich produce less waste than the poor, counter-intuitive to say the least. Still, who knows?

        The author for some reason assumes that the current rate of waste generation will be maintained. I think it was the World Bank who found that waste production had increased 10 fold over the last century and is slated to double again over the next 10 years. The author on the other hand assumes that the waste produced in 2025 will equal that of today.

        1. If you think the point of his passage depends on the assumption that the rate of waste generation will never change, then you are an idiot.

          1. Well, as I’ve ready said, I am an idiot. Indeed an idiot twice over because if the author did have a point, it escapes me. Something to do with ‘taming waste disposal,’ and apparently some cock-eyed plan to put all of America’s garbage into one huge dump which only manages to occupy a reassuringly small per centage of the nation’s land-mass.

            1. The point escapes you because you are an idiot.

              1. “The point escapes you because you are an idiot.”

                You’re in fine form today. Good to see at least one of us has their wits about them.

                Manhattan. 70.000 people per square mile. Does this fact reassure you? Perturb you? Afraid to commit yourself one way or the other?

                  1. Just remember, it’s all done with the best of intentions.

                    1. That’s all that really matters.

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