Just Enough Of Me, Way Too Much Of You
Today is Earth Day, which according to Earth Day enthusiasts, is "all about awareness": awareness of the need to be "eco-friendly" and awareness of the need to "save the planet". Mostly, though, I am aware that if one more person tells me I need to "go green", I'm going to start burning truck tires in my back yard.
What is most unsettling about the current wave of "eco-friendly" enthusiasts is the resurrecting of the late '60's - early '70's phenomena of claims for the need for "population control". Back then, the idea was that the world's population would soon outgrow the world's resources, resulting in mass starvation and disease. From 1968 to 1990, the world's population did grow; in fact, it more than doubled, from about 2.8 billion people to about 6.4 billion people. However, deaths from famine and disease decreased worldwide by 16%. Furthermore, there has never been a famine in a country with a free press. This fact left even the most ardent population control advocates with the realization that humanity was more than capable of producing enough food and services to sustain itself, if only allowed the freedom to do so.
However, falsehoods never really die, they just go in search of different justification. In this case, the impetus behind calls for population control is not "we won't have enough to go around", but "we're killing the planet." Nice. Too many people was to have us all starving, which is bad. We found ways to produce enough to keep us alive...and that is bad, because it hurts the earth. So instead of "population control" because of the earth not having enough resources, we are called to "population control" because humans are able to extract the resources that we were told we didn't have.
There is quite a bit that disturbs me about this line of thinking. First of all, I am quite suspicious of folks who employ shifting justifications in the advocation of a plan of action: these are folks with a solution in search of a problem. In this case, it is folks who desire a radical reduction in population through widespread birth control, abortion, and euthanasia. They claim it should be "voluntary", but such a claim does not match their rhetoric: the "direness" of the situation as they tout it would quickly and logically lead to enforced birth control, abortion, euthanasia, and in the end, genocide. A better example of what the late Richard Neuhaus' meant when he coined the phrase "Where orthodoxy is optional, it is sooner or later proscribed" would be difficult to imagine.
Where does such a mindset come from? As noted by the National Review's Wesley Smith:
...environmentalism itself seems to be evolving from a movement dedicated to conserving resources, preserving pristine areas, and protecting endangered species into an anti-humanistic ideology that increasingly disdains humankind as a scourge that literally threatens the existence of "the planet."
As Smith notes, as this evolution has progressed, this mindset has crept into entertainment. In the last year, two major films were released touting the "mankind as a virus to be exterminated" message: M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening featured the planet's plants rebelling against their human overlords by releasing pheromones that caused humans to commit mass suicide. The story for The Day The Earth Stood Still, a remake of a 1951 film of the same name, was reworked from the original's "alien on goodwill mission to earth to help humanity save itself" to last December's "alien on mission to destroy humanity to save the earth". Gee, great Christmas movie, huh? "Joy to the world! Now die." In both films, the clear intent of the filmmakers was for audiences to sympathize with those seeking to wipe out humanity, and though humanity gained a reprieve in both films, it came with the threat that we'd better "go green" or else.
On the small screen, the Discovery, National Geographic, and History channels have all run documentary series detailing various hypotheses about what would happen to the earth if all humanity were to suddenly vanish. What struck me while watching the History channel's production this week was the note of hopefulness and hint of joy expressed by the narrator and those interviewed, and the idyllic state they imagined for the world if only humanity would disappear: apparently, nothing harmful ever happened to any creature before humans appeared, and all such occurrences would cease once humanity left. The impression that lingered with me after I had changed the channel was that none of these people seemed to grasp the amount of human suffering that would be required for the earth to return to this (supposedly) idyllic state. Furthermore, none of these people seemed to grasp that if all this came to pass, it would require their death in particular.
This is a common and, in my view, rather despicable trait amongst population control advocates: when they talk about reducing the number of humans, they are never talking about themselves. Go up to any activist calling for a reduction in human population, hand them a cyanide capsule, and say "Sounds great. You go first." You will likely find no takers. However, for quite a few of them, such a challenge would not seriously deter their advocacy of the removal of other humans from the planet. See, they themselves can't be the ones to go, because they are needed to guide and "educate" humanity in its need to restrict its numbers. And if all, or most, of humanity were to accept these views, wouldn't that then remove the justification for their exclusion from the huge death lottery to follow? Why no, since it was they who were the ones who spread the gospel of population reduction and saved the earth, they would be entitled to enjoy the (supposed) fruits of a radically depopulated world. You will never hear an advocate of population reduction champion any course of action that does not contain a provision for their personal survival and autonomy. Whatever dire situation they cite as justification for the demise of millions, the situation is never so dire that it requires their own demise.
The bottom line is this: the population control crowd's view has shifted from
For the good of humanity, a good portion of you need to cease to exist. I shall supervise the process.
For the good of the Earth, a good portion of you need to cease to exist. I shall supervise the process.
Whatever the justification, I find their views monstrous, and their intent for personal avoidance in sharing the consequences of their views to be despicable.