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The great red herring of overpopulation - Part 3

M. Spector
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Continued from Here (and also Here).


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M. Spector
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The Bodega Brothers sing a song dedicated to the neo-Malthusians: YouTube


M. Spector
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The Great Distraction: ‘Overpopulation' Is Back in Town

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.


Fidel
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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.


WilderMore
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Fidel
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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.


M. Spector
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Dissecting those "overpopulation" numbers, Chapter 3 of a new book Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis, by Ian Angus and Simon Butler, is available online for free download.

Reviews

"This excellent book is steadfast in its refutations of the flabby, misogynist and sometimes racist thinking that population growth catastrophists use to peddle their claims. It's just the thing to send populationists scurrying back to their bunkers."
-Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved

"How did apparently progressive greens and defenders of the underprivileged turn into people-haters, convinced of the evils of over-breeding among the world's poor? How did they come to believe the 200-year-old myths of a right-wing imperialist friend of Victorian mill-owners? It's a sorry story, told here with verve and anger."
-Fred Pearce, author of Peoplequake

"Ian Angus and Simon Butler are not ordinary environmentalists and Too Many People? is not an ordinary book on population and the environment. They demonstrate that by demolishing the notion that too many people (and too many consumers) are the source of our environmental ills we can get at the real problem: the system of accumulation and waste commonly known as capitalism."
-John Bellamy Foster, coauthor (with Fred Magdoff) of What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

"Sadly the population myth has been used to distract attention from the roots of ecological crisis in a destructive economic system and to shift the blame for problems such as climate change on to the poor. This splendid book is an essential read for all those of us concerned with creating an ecologically sustainable and just future. Buy it, read it and spread the word!"
-Derek Wall, author of The Rise of the Green Left

"Ian Angus and Simon Butler's superb book challenges the "common sense" idea that there are too many people. Clearly and concisely they blame a system that puts profit before people and planet, refuting the arguments of the later day Malthusians. It is a book that should be read by every environmental campaigner, trade unionist and political activist."
- Martin Empson, author of Marxism and Ecology: Capitalism, Socialism and the Future of the Planet

"Angus and Butler have written a comprehensive dissection of the arguments surrounding over-population, It's a vital and insightful socialist response to the debate and highly recommended to anyone interested in fighting for a better world and avoiding the pitfalls of false solutions."
-Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism

"With clear prose and careful, cogent analysis, Angus and Butler provide the tools necessary to dismantle the myth of overpopulation step by step ... [and] show the way to a more hopeful, justice-centered environmental and reproductive politics."
-Betsy Hartmann, author of Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control

"This is an essential subject, and we are in Angus and Butler's debt for treating it with such clarity and rigor."
-Joel Kovel, author of The Enemy of Nature

"A must read which will become a classic."

"Too Many People?" - sane, clear, and forthright - Truthout


Lachine Scot
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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
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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
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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
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M. Spector wrote:

Dissecting those "overpopulation" numbers, Chapter 3 of a new book Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis, by Ian Angus and Simon Butler, is available online for free download.

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
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link on the blink

Gaian
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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
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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
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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
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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: Why population hysteria is more damaging than it seems


Fidel
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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
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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
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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.

 


Fidel
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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.


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

6079_Smith_W
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Another logical variable would be standard of living.

Fidel
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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
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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
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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: Why population hysteria is more damaging than it seems

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
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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.

 


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