Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Monbiot and the Malthusians

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot writes a scathing article criticising the over-populationists.

Firstly he reminds readers of the major study published last month, showing that the global population is likely to peak then crash much sooner than most scientists had assumed, 

"I naively imagined that people in rich nations would at last stop blaming all the world’s environmental problems on population growth. I was wrong. If anything, it appears to have got worse...."

Monbiot points out that  "...the BirthStrike movement  will dissolve itself, because its cause has been hijacked so virulently and persistently by population obsessives. The founders explain that they had “underestimated the power of ‘overpopulation’ as a growing form of climate breakdown denial”..."

He concedes,  that "in some parts of the world, population growth is a major driver of particular kinds of ecological damage, such as the expansion of small-scale agriculture into rainforests, the bushmeat trade and local pressure on water and land for housing. But its global impact is much smaller than many people claim."

Then he cites the scientific formula  for calculating people’s environmental footprint.

 "Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology (I = PAT). The global rate of consumption growth, before the pandemic, was 3% a year. Population growth is 1%. Some people assume this means that the rise in population bears one-third of the responsibility for increased consumption. But population growth is overwhelmingly concentrated among the world’s poorest people, who have scarcely any A or T to multiply their P. The extra resource use and greenhouse gas emissions caused by a rising human population are a tiny fraction of the impact of consumption growth. "

Monbiot explains that "Panic about population growth enables the people most responsible for the impacts of rising consumption (the affluent) to blame those who are least responsible."

He highlights the hypocrisy of over-populationists such as Jane Goodall,  a patron of the charity Population Matters.

"...Goodall appeared in an advertisement for British Airways, whose customers produce more greenhouse gas emissions on one flight than many of the world’s people generate in a year. If we had the global population of 500 years ago (around 500 million), and if it were composed of average UK plane passengers, our environmental impact would probably be greater than that of the 7.8 billion alive today.
She proposed no mechanism by which her dream might come true. This could be the attraction. The very impotence of her call is reassuring to those who don’t want change. If the answer to environmental crisis is to wish other people away, we might as well give up and carry on consuming...."
Monbiot also explains that Sir David Attenborough, also a patron of Population Matters, wrongly blamed famines in Ethiopia on “too many people for too little land”, and suggested that sending food aid was counter-productive.
The article then goes into the relationship of the over-populationists and racism. 
"...Most of the world’s population growth is happening in the poorest countries, where most people are black or brown. The colonial powers justified their atrocities by fomenting a moral panic about “barbaric”, “degenerate” people “outbreeding” the “superior races”. These claims have been revived today by the far right, who promote conspiracy theories about “white replacement” and “white genocide”. When affluent white people wrongly transfer the blame for their environmental impacts on to the birthrate of much poorer brown and black people, their finger-pointing reinforces these narratives. It is inherently racist..."
His article ends with the conclusion that "Nations will soon be fighting over immigrants: not to exclude them, but to attract them, as the demographic transition leaves their ageing populations with a shrinking tax base and a dearth of key workers. Until then, we should resist attempts by the rich to demonise the poor..."
Much of the article is reflected in numerous posts on this blog. Fortunately, George Monbiot has a wider and larger audience than ourselves, so the message travels a lot further.

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