Environment, Philosophy, recent

How Anti-Humanism Conquered the Left

Today is International Workers’ Day, a holiday with socialist origins. Its name hearkens back to a time when the political Left was ostensibly devoted to the cause of human welfare. These days, however, some on the far Left care less about the wellbeing of people than they do about making sure that people are never born at all. How did these radicals come to support a massive reduction in human population, if not humanity’s demise? Whether it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning the morality of childbearing, a birth-strike movement that encourages people to forego parenthood despite the “grief that [they say they] feel as a result,” or political commentator Bill Maher blithely claiming, “I can’t think of a better gift to our planet than pumping out fewer humans to destroy it,” a misanthropic philosophy known as “anti-natalism” is going increasingly mainstream.

The logical conclusion of this anti-humanist ideology is, depressingly, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (Vhemt). According to its founder, activist Les Knight, Vhemt (pronounced “vehement”) is gaining steam. “In the last year,” Knight told the Daily Mail, “I’ve seen more and more articles about people choosing to remain child-free or to not add more to their existing family than ever. I’ve been collecting these stories and last year was just a groundswell of articles, and, in addition, there have been articles about human extinction.”

Over 2000 new people have “liked” the movement’s Facebook page since January and, more importantly, the number of people fulfilling the movement’s goals (regardless of any affiliation with the movement itself) is growing. The U.S. birth rate is at an all-time low. According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control, the total U.S. fertility rate for 2017 was at an all-time low of 1.77 babies per woman (i.e., below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman needed to maintain the current population).

Recent examples of writings that are warming to the idea of human extinction include the New Yorker’s “The Case for Not Being Born,” NBC News’ “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them,” and the New York Times’ “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” which muses that, “It may well be, then, that the extinction of humanity would make the world better off.” Last month, the progressive magazine FastCompany released a disturbing video entitled, “Why Having Kids Is the Worst Thing You Can Do for the Planet.”

Some anti-natalists are not content with promoting the voluntary reduction of birth rates, and would prefer to hurry the process along with government intervention. Various prominent environmentalists, from Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder to science popularizer and entertainer Bill Nye, support the introduction of special taxes or other state-imposed penalties for having “too many” children. In 2015, Bowdoin College’s Sarah Conly published a book advocating a “one-child” policy, like the one China abandoned following disastrous consequences including female infanticide and a destabilizing gender ratio of 120 boys per 100 girls, which left around 17 percent of China’s young men unable to find a Chinese wife. Even after that barbaric policy’s collapse, she maintains it was “a good thing.”

Modern-day anti-humanism emerged in the 1970s, midwifed by a doomy strain of environmental pessimism led by Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich (but with intellectual antecedents dating back to Thomas Malthus in the eighteenth century). Ehrlich published his widely read polemic The Population Bomb in 1968, which originally opened with the lines, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

Thanks to human ingenuity in the form of the Green Revolution, that didn’t happen. The challenge of feeding a growing population led instead to technological innovation and that produced a solution: higher agricultural productivity and falling food prices. Far from leading to starvation, more humans exchanging ideas and innovating have ensured that the supply of food rose to meet growing demand. Ehrlich quietly removed his failed prognostication from subsequent editions of his book, but his ideas caught on among some strands of the environmentalist movement.

Undeterred, Ehrlich and many likeminded doomsayers are still claiming that disaster is imminent, despite their previous predictions repeatedly failing to materialize. Just last year, Ehrlich compared human population growth to the spread of cancer, informing the Guardian, “It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems … As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell.’”

Once anti-humanism had infected the environmental movement, it soon spread through the political Left. Robert Zubrin’s book Merchants of Despair gives an overview of the Left’s reversal of its traditional commitment to advancing the human condition, in favor of a project that viewed humanity as a plague upon the Earth:

Instead of The Grapes of Wrath, they carried copies of The Population Bomb … Instead of “Stop the War,” their buttons read “Stop at two” [children]; instead of “Power to the people,” their slogan was “People pollute.”

These environmentally-concerned anti-natalists believe that a world without humans, or with significantly fewer of them, would eventually revert to a pollution-free paradise with abundant natural resources. As one human extinction proponent put it just last month in a letter to his local paper, “In approximately 20,000 years after human extinction, this magnificent resistant biosphere will return to its perfection.” If humanity fails to reduce its numbers, extinction proponents fear resource shortages and environmental catastrophe. “How could anybody,” an official Vhemt member, Gwynn Mackellen, wondered aloud to the Guardian, “produce a new human when the effects of humans are very obvious, I feel, and the situation is getting worse.”

These extinction advocates, however, have misunderstood the evidence about population growth’s impact on the planet and its resources. The late University of Maryland economist Julian Simon rejected the idea of overpopulation as a problem. He believed that, on the contrary, more people in the world means more people to solve problems, and less resource scarcity. “There is no physical or economic reason,” he wrote, “why human resourcefulness and enterprise cannot forever continue to respond to impending shortages and existing problems with new expedients that, after an adjustment period, leave us better off than before the problem arose.”

In his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource, Simon argued that humans are intelligent beings, capable of innovating their way out of shortages through greater efficiency, increased supply, or development of substitutes. Humans, with their inventive potential, are themselves, in Simon’s phrase, “The Ultimate Resource.” A growing population produces more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovations and more innovations can improve productivity. That higher productivity then translates into more resources to go around and better standards of living.

In 1980, Simon made a bet with Ehrlich. Ehrlich would choose a “basket” of raw materials that he expected to become more scarce in the coming years. At the end of a specified time period, if the inflation-adjusted price of the basket was higher than at the beginning of the period, that would indicate the materials had indeed become scarcer and Ehrlich would win the wager; if the price was lower, that would mean the resources had instead become more abundant, and Simon would win. The stakes would be the ultimate price difference of the basket at the beginning and end of the time period. Simon ultimately won, and Ehrlich duly sent him a check for the price difference.

New research, inspired by the Ehrlich-Simon wager, has further confirmed that, contrary to the anti-humanists’ claims, population growth goes hand-in-hand with more abundant resources. Consider the amount of time it takes an average worker to earn enough to buy a basket of common commodities—the “time-price” of those items. The Simon Abundance Index found that between 1980 and 2017, “the time-price of our basket of 50 basic commodities declined by 0.934 percent for every one percent increase in population. That means that every additional human being born on our planet seems to be making resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us.”

There are some notable environmentalists who recognize the fact that humans are capable of creating abundance instead of scarcity. Environmentalists who take the rational and techno-optimistic view, sometimes called “enlightenment environmentalists” or “ecomodernists,” still believe in humanity’s ability to tackle environmental problems with innovation and ingenuity. Examples include Harvard University’s Steven Pinker and the Breakthrough Institute’s Michael Shellenberger, who both hold that technologies such as nuclear power can reduce emissions. And the research of Rockefeller University environmental science professor Jesse H. Ausubel, who was integral to setting up the world’s first climate change conference in Geneva in 1979, has shown how technological progress can allow nature to rebound, even while food and other resources have become more plentiful.

Unfortunately, ecomodernists are still a minority within the environmental movement. Too many people, mostly on the political Left, still agree with Ehrlich that humans are analogous to cancer cells and long for the reduction or even extinction of our species. One third of Americans in the millennial generation say they are deeply concerned about the environmental impact of having children. Not that long ago, well within the living memory of a millennial such as myself, a 2002 episode of Aaron Sorkin’s popular political drama The West Wing could still quip that “Death is bad” remained a left-wing position. The scriptwriter took it for granted that, on the political Left, everyone is in favor of human flourishing. If only that were still the case.

 

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of HumanProgress.org. You can follow her on Twitter @chellivia

Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash

241 Comments

  1. Karen says

    Do you believe human population can continue growing forever?
    What about all the other creatures on Earth? We’re a long way toward destroying the oceans and killing all of the remaining megafauna. Do other creatures have a place in your world?

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Karen: There are many areas of the Earth to settle before the world is too ‘full’ and there will always be species that die out no matter what humans do. As over-population becomes a concern, I have faith that humans will develop technologies that will help in building eco-friendly cities.

      While I’m saddened at the thought of some species dying out, it has forever been thus, just as new species evolve from the remains of the old. in the far off future, humans no will no doubt go out among the stars looking for new planets to discover and colonize.

      We place too much importance in our tiny footnote in Earth history. If it all does go pear-shaped and we self-destruct then we might as well enjoy the little time we have rather than wring our hands about a fate we cannot avoid.

      • Kevin Herman says

        Overpopulation will never happen. The west is already below replacement birth level and one day in the not too distant future the developing world will get affluent enough and get on the same path. Over population is complete bullshit regardless. We have more people alive then ever and yet the well-being of your average humanbeing has never been higher.

      • Bruce van der Graaf says

        You can’t be serious about finding other planets to colonise? Our lifespans get us no where near such a place, and the energy required for such a mission is ridiculous. Whether you like it or not our planet is uniquely and improbably positioned to support human life, and there is zero evidence of life anywhere else. No amount of imaginary speculation, such as the “multiverse” theories will fix this.
        You also seem to be optimistic about evolution. Mutations inevitably create harm, and the mutation load is increasing with every generation. Another reason you can’t populate from a small gene pool.

        Nevertheless an interesting perspective on this idea which of course has deeper roots than those discussed.

        • Stephanie says

          Bruce, there seemingly being no life in our immediate vicinity is what makes colonization okay. We have the technology to develop colonies in hostile environments already, all that remains for it to happen is economic incentive. The moment it’s cheaper to mine asteroids than deposits on Earth, we’re out of here.

          Life has experienced tight bottlenecks before and recovered just fine. Truth is, we have a fuzzy idea what the background extinction rate is, so for all we know what we’re observing now is totally normal.

          • Jackson Howard says

            I don’t want to rain on your dreams of colonisation but…

            The only planets in our reach that may support humans is Mars. Mars is less hospitable than Antarctica (less air, less water, no magnetic field). Antarctica carrying capacity is… close to zero. Also, the energy costs to bring supplies to Mars until it can be self-sufficient are truly enormous.

            Colonizing LEO by using asteroid materials is probably more sensible, as one gets better insolation, cheaper DV cost and a nice magnetic field. Living in the belt could be possible if one dugs in to avoid cancer from the solar radiation.

            Also, moving an asteroid to LEO to mine & manufacture from it would take a long time and be a very costly mission. I mean we’ll get Apophis delivered to our doorstep for free in the 30’s and no one is even thinking of grabbing it into LEO.

            Given that we are not able to properly manage a working ecosystem under ideal conditions, I have doubts about our ability to build one from scratch in space.

          • Stephanie says

            Jackson, I never said it would be easy, but if there is one thing that can be counted on, it is human ingenuity when there is profit to be made. We have companies working towards Mars colonies right now. This is far from a pipe dream, barring a socialist takeover I’ll see it in my lifetime.

        • Mutations do not alqalw create harm. In fact, without mutations you cannot have evolution. And the technology to colonise our solar system is not to far away and wouldn’t take lifetimes to reach Mars or even the outed planets.

          • Jackson Howard says

            Indeed. Cancer is the perfect example what mutations can do.

            A 180dy travel to mars, 500dy stay, 180dy travel back would expose the lucky ones to one sievert. Anyone knowing about radiation will recognize that number as crazy high from a safety perspective.

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @Jeffrey C

            You scooped my response, Jeffrey! Mutations do not always create harm. Moreover, my understanding (as a layman) is that genetic mutations are a vital driving force of evolutionary change. In fact, in cases where the mutation(s) leads to adaptive traits (increased fitness), the loss of a genetic function (resulting from a mutation) can accurately claim to be responsible for some non-insignificant portion of evolution. That is, if evolution tells us that genetic variation is selected for its ability to enhance biological fitness AND if we (present day organisms) are the result of an evolutionary process of descent with modification – via natural selection as the primary force that determines fitness – then it’s reasonable to expect that the loss of genetic function (mutations) would be responsible for a good many traits that provide a comparative advantage. Why?

            Creating genetic functions that lead to adaptive traits (increased fitness) will invariably be more difficult (when accounting for all the many created genetic functions that ultimately end up NOT increasing fitness) than the breaking or blunting of functional elements that may or may not lead to fitness increasing traits. It’s easier to destroy than to create. On this view, mutations are more efficient at randomly producting adaptive traits that lead to increased fitness.

            If memory serves, I believe I remember you saying that you were a scientist, and that your work touched on genetics (if only tangentially). If so, would you agree that as a first approximation, the effects of mutations as described in the opening paragraph, more or less, comports with the current understanding/consensus in evolutionary science?

            As I said, I don’t have any formal (post-secondary) training/education in the evolutionary sciences, so I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Thanks

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Kencathedrus

        ‘….there will always be species that die out no matter what humans do…… it has forever been thus, just as new species evolve from the remains of the old….’

        In reality, the rate of speciation events within most vertebrate groups is about one event per 500,000 years. Historically, rates of extinction are about half of the speciation rates, but that changes radically during mega-events like asteroid impacts and modern human civilization.

        Bottom Line: in evolutionary terms, human civilization deserves to be equated with the worst catastrophes that have occurred in the history of life on this planet. Everything else said on this topic is just a reflection of a person’s values and tastes.

        • Jim Gorman says

          Jack –> If you truly, deep down believe that, then perhaps you should help to alleviate the catastrophe. Otherwise, you are like so many on the left that expect others to do the dirty work while you survive. If you’re going to talk the talk, then walk the walk.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @J G

            Your argument is like this:
            Conservative–if you believe in the climate crisis, why don’t you hold your breath to reduce your CO2 output?
            Liberal–no, that’s nuts!!
            Conservative–HYPOCRITE!!!!

            I vote for leftist politicians because they are more likely to believe in the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. THAT is walking the walk.

            Someone [I’ve forgotten the source] once asked:

            What ‘good’ are animals that you can’t eat or sell?

            That is a classic libertarian/capitalist take on the natural world. I’m not here to argue someone out of that belief. So what if pollinating insects are lost due to pesticide use? Farmers can always switch to crops that are wind pollinated.

            Under the ‘principle of substitution’, alternatives can always be found to natural products if the price is right, so maybe in the future people will eat ‘meat’ grown in cell culture.

            Bottom Line–The natural world has to be valued for its own sake or not at all.

          • Stephanie says

            Jack, so many strawmen just to avoid answering to why you don’t practice what you preach. Voting for a leftist who will seize sufficient power to (you hope) impose some solution on others isn’t sufficient and almost certainly will not yield the outcome you desire.

            You can grow your own pesticide-free food and boycott all products of mining and oil extraction. That you choose not to do so, and instead engage in conspicuous consumption (buying unnecessary toys that allow you to comment on online articles), reveals that you do not truly hold the values you claim to. If you did, you’d be putting them into practice and living by example, instead of preaching them online.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Stephanie

            Most of the questions you and JG raise have already been discussed here by others:

            http://crookedtimber.org/2019/04/23/a-moral-puzzle-on-individual-climate-action/#more-46237

            Part of what sets a leftist apart from a libertarian is that the former accepts that some problems have only a social solution, which might involve restricting some people’s rights.

            Consider three unrelated problems: measles vaccination, flood zones and fire risk zones.

            If I am pro-vaccination, it is NOT sufficient that I get vaccinated–to protect very young children, for example, vaccination rates need to be close to 100%. Supporting social solutions like compulsory vaccination laws is MORE important/effective than whether any one particular individual gets vaccinated.

            A person in a flood zone might build a levee around their property or change the channel of streams that cross their property to protect their investment. But what if this individual action makes the flood risk GREATER for downstream property owners? Again, a social or group solution is needed. An individual can’t fix this sort of problem on their own.

            And in fire risk zones, all homeowners have to remove dead vegetation from around their houses to significantly reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. An individual homeowner who is conscientious about removing deadwood is pretty much helpless in the face of neighbors who let fire fuel accumulate year after year. Solution? A government mandate that homeowners remove fuel from around their houses during peak fire seasons.

            Bottom Line: I could buy carbon offsets to compensate for my lifestyle choices [see the link above] but I choose to spend that money on social, not individual solutions–and that means political action. Your preference for individual action is just libertarian bias.

          • Aldonis says

            “I vote for leftist politicians because they are more likely to believe in the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. THAT is walking the walk.”

            I doubt that any of those politicians you speak about openly support banning immigration from the Global South (newsflash: Brownies pollute and dump trash too, especially in the American’s southern border) or enforced population control on India and Africa. Maybe since they’re acting more from hatred of White Male built civilization?

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Aldonis

            ‘…….I doubt that any of those politicians you speak about openly support banning immigration from the Global South (newsflash: Brownies pollute and dump trash too, especially in the American’s southern border) or enforced population control on India and Africa……’

            Some would-be immigrants are climate refugees who are fleeing crop failures, droughts, desertification, etc., in their ancestral lands. As global temperature increases, we will likely see more emigration from the ‘global south.’ Link: https://reimaginingmigration.org/migration-immigration-and-climate-change/

            I deliberately avoided talking about population control because–let’s face it–with access to enough cheap, non-toxic energy sources, the earth could support many more billions than are already here. But that future world would look very different from our own, and non-human species would pay a huge price for all of that ‘development.’

        • DanV says

          Except that human life is also life. So surely the fact that there are so many humans is a gigantic success for life ? Now, if you want to talk about ‘diversity of life forms’ then maybe you have a point…

        • @Jack

          How perfectly ridiculous. Apart from the nonsensical nature of your proposition, your assumption of ex cathedra authority for your own view, while “everything else said” is just personal is startlingly unaware and arrogant.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @wonderingscot

            I said ‘….in evolutionary terms, human civilization deserves to be equated with the worst catastrophes that have occurred in the history of life on this planet……’

            That is not just my opinion–it’s the conclusion drawn by representatives of 132 countries synthesizing information from about 15,000 scientific reports:

            Nature.com 06 May 2019

            “Humans are driving one million species to extinction–Landmark United Nations-backed report finds that agriculture is one of the biggest threats to Earth’s ecosystems. by Jeff Tollefson

            Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.

            Without drastic action to conserve habitats, the rate of species extinction — already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average across the past ten million years — will only increase, says the analysis. The findings come from a United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

            According to the report, agricultural activities have had the largest impact on ecosystems that people depend on for food, clean water and a stable climate. The loss of species and habitats poses as much a danger to life on Earth as climate change does, says a summary of the work, released on 6 May.

            The analysis distills findings from nearly 15,000 studies and government reports, integrating information from the natural and social sciences, Indigenous peoples and traditional agricultural communities. It is the first major international appraisal of biodiversity since 2005. Representatives of 132 governments met last week in Paris to finalize and approve the analysis.

            Biodiversity should be at the top of the global agenda alongside climate, said Anne Larigauderie, IPBES executive secretary, at a 6 May press conference in Paris, France. “We can no longer say that we did not know,” she said.

            “We have never had a single unified statement from the world’s governments that unambiguously makes clear the crisis we are facing for life on Earth,” says Thomas Brooks, chief scientist at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland, who helped to edit the biodiversity analysis. “That is really the absolutely key novelty that we see here.”

            Without “transformative changes” to the world’s economic, social and political systems to address this crisis, the IPBES panel projects that major biodiversity losses will continue to 2050 and beyond. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” says IPBES chair Robert Watson, an atmospheric chemist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK.……”

            See also: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

            Bottom Line: in the ‘long run’ every species goes extinct, just as every living organism dies. But how one feels about those events IS largely a matter of personal preference and a reflection of one’s values. And I’m not trying to change any person’s values.

    • Orion Buttigieg says

      I can’t remember the researchers, Jordan Peterson has mentioned the research a few times, but we’ll probably top out at ~9 billion’ish then start going down. Other than that we don’t have a resource capacity issue we have a management of resource issue.
      When you have terrible and racist policies like Zimbabwe that have turned the bread basket of Africa into one needing food aid people need to take a closer look at what’s actually happening vs jumping on vehement moron bandwagons.

      • Dzoldzaya says

        I really don’t buy the 9 billion claim. That would require a demographic transition in Africa in the next two decades, peaking at 2.5 billion, and African birth rates just don’t seem to be dropping fast enough.

        • JFM says

          Africa’s meteoric population rise is can be matched by the population drop expected in Asia. Right now Asia’s population growth is almost entirely due to increased life expectancy, which is unlikely to extend at the same rate as in decades past. Pretty much all the models talk about a prak of 9-10billion and it wouldn’t take much of a socioeconomic change in Africa to bring it to the lower figure.

        • ga gamba says

          Korea’s birth rates, which once were similar to much of Africa’s, declined greatly and moved close to Japan’s in the ’90, a change that happened in less than two generations. There were several reasons for this, and a key one is that parents chose to invest a lot of resources in their children’s educations and quality of lives. This is expensive.

          I would be unsurprised by African parents following a similar pattern exhibited by almost everyone else. It appears only those economically developed Gulf States of the Middle East have kept population growth aligned to days long ago, likely due to all kinds of goodies awarded by the governments as well as relatively few outside-the-home opportunities for women.

    • JF says

      If people believe that we have to choose, we will choose ourselves. By claiming that human success is incompatible with the environment, the anti-humanists of this article actually make it harder to help the earth.

      The invention of the elevator was a hundred-fold increase in the number of people who can live within a given area. Inventions like industrial fertilizer and mechanized agricultural equipment have done the same for how much food we can grow on a given piece of farmland.

      These are just examples, but the point is, we are good at inventing things, and some things that we invent are actually good for the biosphere (ie., enabling us to do more with less land). If we care enough about the environment, we can direct our efforts towards these kinds of inventions, or at least towards ways to offset the harms we cause.

      Because we can invent things, there is room for continued human growth and a healthy environment. We don’t actually have to choose. Of course there will always be trade-offs, but we can make smarter decisions than we have tended to.

      There is an element of self-fulfilling prophecy here. If we believe environmentalists that we have to pick a side, then when we inevitably pick the side of growth, we won’t bother inventing things that benefit the environment.

      The doomsayers are only right if we believe them.

      • Peter from Oz says

        El Uro
        That’s exactly what I thought.
        If these anti-natal wankers are so interested in population reduction, they can start with themselves.

        • Alfons Kuchlbacher says

          Well, maybe a softer solution is to migrate to a country with a far lesser ecological footprint, e.g. Sudan.

        • Aldonis says

          If these anti-natal wankers are so interested in population reduction, they can start with themselves.

          They won’t since they’re babble about “population reducing” is but another method of attack on White Male built society. You won’t hear them calling for the mass banning of immigrants, not for the end of aid to Africa or for its population to be controlled by outsider countries.

    • Kill all the mega-fauna? At least not in North America, where almost every large mammal and reptile population has increased.

      • jimhaz says

        Yeah – because western countries have moved from manufacturing to services, and the harm to species is caused mainly in lesser developed countries who now do the manufacturing.

      • ga gamba says

        Who knows? Maybe some day in the future wealthy Asian and African tourists will visit North America to go on safari.

    • northernobserver says

      @Karen, I understand your concern, but not birthing the next generation of Western children will not solve this problem, in fact it will make the problem worse by depriving the culture that cares about this issue of generation renewal and human resources while Western Nations import cultural groups more focused on simple survival and replication.
      Hell of an irony that.

    • David of Kirkland says

      “How did these radicals come to support a massive reduction in human population, if not humanity’s demise?”
      Because in a small mind, the world population is declining rather than increasing as it actually is. Faith rules reality.

    • JA says

      Karen – how do you go from criticising advocates of human extinction to “human population growing forever”?

  2. Toby says

    The movement for human extinction (whilst having a reassuringly small number of ideological adherents) appears to have missed both the narrow and wider view of the value of human existence, landing in something of a mire of facile reasoning.

    The narrow understanding of the value of human existence being, of course, that whilst all living creatures should have an inherent value, most would at least tacitly accept a sliding scale roughly in line with intellectual and emotional complexity to be of some use when considering the value of any given living creature. One might quite thoughtlessly swat a fly, but perhaps draw the line at murdering an annoying co-worker. It goes without saying than humans are (at least) among the most complex animals on the planet.

    It’s occurred to me that there may be a narrower context to appreciate the value of human life – that of pure selfish, evolutionary-driven self-interest, but moving on…

    The broader context in which to appreciate the value of human existence is that we are the only species in the entire universe (at least, that we know of) that has achieved what we have – culture, art, science, philosophy, technology, engineering – and all so advanced as to be completely impossible to comprehend by even our closest genetic cousins. And that’s not to mention that we are, again as far as we know, the only creature in the entire universe that has made (or is capable of making) even the most insignificant overtures into understanding of the universe and reality itself.

    Or, as Sagan put it rather more poetically: “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

    • JF says

      Malthus got one thing right: that the natural state for life to be in is one of maximum suffering and hardship. But humans alone realized this, decided it was evil, and then did something about it. We don’t always succeed, but ours is the only species that has ever even tried to make things better–and sometimes we even succeed.

      • Aldonis says

        Leftoids and/or VHEM trolls are still fundamentally enthralled with noble savage cliches and appropriating the narrative that the world is degenerating without any of the theological structure. To them, “nature” is a beautiful, kind, mother violated by nasty “humanity.” When they speak of “nature” they speak of it with focus on noble/badass predators like wolves or cutesy creatures like rabbits. When they deride “humanity” as a virus or plague or some other transparent use of bitter language, they show they are no less prone to forcing “nature” through the lens of their worldview/narrative/feefees. The letter linked in the article is but one example of this (and you can certainly make out the writer’s profile, he gives himself away as middle-class, bugman, possibly an eternal angsty member of Generation X/Sore Boomer)

        They hold the wolf tearing apart a deer to be “noble.” To really test them, ask what they think about tapeworms.

    • Bruce van der Graaf says

      Oh dear, you are getting close to the idea that humans have innate value because they are created in the image of God. This is an a priori no no. Of course, it’s difficult to find another justification for such an idea if your starting point is materialism, but please be careful.

      • Aldonis says

        Oh dear, you are getting close to the idea that humans have innate value because they are created in the image of God.

        They (Lefties) operate under that claim when not advocating noble savagery and/or appropriating pre-modern narratives of Creation.

        No no, Toby hits on the observation that on the contrary the many “members” of “humanity” do not have the same “innate value.” It raises question of whether the cuts of “humanity” (let’s call them races) have the same capabilities and behavior at birth.

        I’ll tell you this: Environmentalism as a movement owes far more to Europe than it does any Injun or Negro land.

  3. E. Olson says

    Good article. It truly is amazing how the Left has swung so wildly from caring about people (especially the poor) to supporting anti-people policies. The New Deal was about using human ingenuity and government policy to harness mother nature in support of the working man. For example, the TVA project build huge dams and power stations to control flood waters and provide cheap electricity to grow the economy during the depression. The CCC and SCS planted trees to keep the wind from taking soil away to maintain crop yields for farmers and ensure food supplies for citizens.

    In contrast, The Green New Deal is all about making life more expensive and less comfortable for the working man. For example they wish to substitution cheap and reliable fossil fuel energy sources with expensive and unreliable renewables that will also kill very high paying jobs in the fossil fuel industry and increase costs for everything moved or made with fossil fuels (i.e. food, steel, plastics, travel, etc.). They also want to shutting down meat production a mainstay and profit center of agriculture and important source of nutrition for human diets. I’m sure FDR is rolling over in his grave at the disdain for humanity shown by AOC and her comrades with not only the Green New Deal, but also support for infanticide, euthanasia, and bait fish protection over water use for human agriculture in California that prioritize everything but human life and prosperity.

    • Simon Johnson says

      It’s.astonishing that in response to an article promoting the continuation of our species, that you endorse practices that provide the biggest threats to humanity.

      • E. Olson says

        SJ – Are you among those who are always disappointed that Malthus, Ehrlich, Club of Rome, James Hansen/Al Gore are continually wrong about the death and destruction brought about by increased human populations and activities? Perhaps you agree with Ehrlich that the maximum sustainable human population is about 2 billion, but are you willing to be among the 5 billion that end their lives early?

        • David of Kirkland says

          @Olson – So, no worries about air/land/water pollution, no worries about population, no worries about deforestation, no worries about bleached coral reefs, no worries about dwindling bio-diversity, no worries about nuclear weapons, no worries about diseases, no worries about jihad/nationalism, no worries about diminishing powers of antibiotics…. Why? Because we’re still alive and thus nothing is amiss and those who note problems are just alarmists.

      • Jay Salhi says

        Cheap, abundant, reliable energy is necessary for human prosperity and survival. The biggest threat to humanity is the global movement to take it away. We have to destroy humanity to save it.

  4. Simon Johnson says

    You lost me at the first colossal slippery slope fallacy – that appreciating the benefit of fewer humans on the planet ultimately leads to wanting to eliminate our species.

    The greatest reductions in population growth come from increases in material wealth. There are barely any exceptions to the rule that wealth and education result in a lower birth rate.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”The greatest reductions in population growth come from increases in material wealth. There are barely any exceptions to the rule that wealth and education result in a lower birth rate.”
      That is true. But the policies of the left are making sure that increases in material wealth will stop.

      • David of Kirkland says

        @Peter, so you must be happy with the left as they’ll make us poorer and then we’ll start to have more children, because an Earth with just 7.5 billions humans is not an Earth worth living on.

  5. Ahh, the Cato Institute, where the front door is a hole in the sand, and entry is gained by sticking one’s head into it.

    • JF says

      I was completely persuaded by this article, but thanks to your take-down of the author, I now understand just how wrong I was.

    • Andy Ornberg says

      I can’t say I am a big fan of the Cato Institute, but ad hominem attacks contribute nothing to the discussion.

      • Denny Sinnoh says

        @ Andy
        What do you have against Spanish cats?

      • Poisoning the well, to be specific. But really, stuff coming out of Cato can usually be dismissed out-of-hand, as with InfoWars. There is no discussion worth having with this lot.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Matt
          Doubling down on the ad hominem, I see.

          • I can’t help it if the well truly is poisoned. The Cato Institute has proven itself peddlers of anti-science nonsense on par with Deepak Chopra’s.

            Typical for Cato, the author’s proposal for infinite growth is as preposterous as a design for a perpetual motion machine, and deserves and equal amount of consideration.

  6. Farris says

    Another justification for being skeptical of supposedly scientific claims. Science has brought many wonderful discoveries and innovations. Science has done much to improve the standard of living of humankind. However those acknowledgments, do not justify an undying faith on those claiming to operate under the rubric of science, irregardless of consensus.

  7. Some anti-natalists are not content with promoting the voluntary reduction of birth rates, and would prefer to hurry the process along with government intervention. Various prominent environmentalists, from Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder to science popularizer and entertainer Bill Nye, support the introduction of special taxes or other state-imposed penalties for having “too many” children. In 2015, Bowdoin College’s Sarah Conly published a book advocating a “one-child” policy, like the one China abandoned following disastrous consequences including female infanticide and a destabilizing gender ratio of 120 boys per 100 girls, which left around 17 percent of China’s young men unable to find a Chinese wife. Even after that barbaric policy’s collapse, she maintains it was “a good thing.”

    This article unfortunately demonstrates a common misunderstand of the definition of anti-natalism. .Anti-natalisms is philosophy and concerns the value of birth and existence in an abstract sense, and does not mean people having fewer children or aversion to having children.

    • Brendan says

      Go look at the anti-natalism subreddit. I’ve never seen a more misanthropic bunch. They haven’t seemed to have gotten the message that it’s just a philosophy.

    • Stephanie says

      Grey, is your claim that philosophy always exists in the abstract and never impacts how people think about practical issues?

    • Jean Levant says

      If philosophy doesn’t lead to politics or concrete acts, what’s the use? In fact, all politics come from philosophies as you should know as part of the “enlightened” if your pseudo has a meaning. That’s the problem : bad ideas are not harmless. They may sometimes hover in platonic skies during decades but It’s only a question of time for them to land on favorable soil and find their solution.
      Good piece, Chelsea, in which the problematic is very well summarized. For sure, Ehrlich is a perfect example though Hansen is not bad either.

    • jimhaz says

      Market dating forces would eventually change the scenario, so that female/male ratios fluctuate.

  8. Fart says

    Apparently the extinction movement lacks awareness that the young frequently provide care for the aged, either directly or through social security contributions. Failing to have children would also decrease life expectancy as there would be less and less doctors, medical innovations and support programs.

    • E. Olson says

      The answer is Robots made from recycled plastics and powered by good intentions.

  9. Strawberry Girl says

    Anti-natalism is short-sighted and stupid. We’re not “overpopulated.” It’s the bias of people who live in crowded, high-priced, high-tax places like NYC or San Francisco. Who are we leaving the Earth for if there are no future generations? Who will pass on what we have created or what others created in the past? A foolish hedonist like Bill Maher lives only for himself. Do we need more people like that?

    • Lightning Rose says

      No, we don’t, Strawberry, and EXACTLY the right people apparently won’t be breeding. Frankly, the only group likely to read and believe the publications listed are pseudo-“intellectuals,” mostly millennials, who frankly have been educated beyond their intelligence. I am ENTIRELY in agreement that STUPID PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BREED!

      • jakesbrain says

        Of course, the over-educated always wind up sneering at their inferiors as the real idiots.

      • Blue Rose says

        Exactly. The proper response to these people is “great I’m glad you won’t reproduce!”

    • Craig Willms says

      @Strawberry
      Funny you should mention Bill Maher. (a despicable human being to be sure) Mr. Maher is a bell weather for me – if I am unsure how I should think or feel about a particular topic I choose the opposite take that Maher professes and I know I’m on the right(correct) side.

  10. BrainFireBob says

    It’s hard to take the VHEM seriously.

    1) More “developed” technocratic Western societies work toward reducing their carbon footprint
    2) Birthrates are high in high polluting third world societies
    3) Birth rates are already low in lower-polluting Western societies
    4) Let’s get Western societies to stop breeding.

    It communicates that one of the following things is the case:

    1) These people are insane and should not be listened to (Which tars the non-crazy ones)
    2) They don’t actually care about their issue, it’s about destroying Western society and/or its dominance (Which incidentally destroys its ability to enforce things like climate accords) and is another convenient arrow in the quiver
    3) These people are stupid
    4) They’re mentally disturbed nihilists also suffering from narcissism- they want to die, but they’ll be damned if their lessers stay behind.
    5) It’s about stopping “deplorables” from breeding and competing with their precious kids they pay to get into high end schools under the table

    Anyone seriously concerned about human population needs to be aware that their messaging is contaminated by these people and address why/how these 5 things are not the case.

    Also, fun bit: Anyone run into the bit of sophistry that because babies didn’t ask to be born, their parents owe them everything? And further, since there is no life without pain, but pleasure can’t be missed if it’s not experienced (brilliant bit of fallacy there), parents own responsibility for any pain that’s realized for their children?

    • Joana George says

      6) They don’t think that the local gene pool is particularly worth preserving

      I added this because adoption often comes up in these conversations.

  11. pebbleskimmer says

    This seems to be the new incarnation of apocalyptic desire. People long for the end of the world, when the sinners (the polluters of the pristine planet) will perish, while the chosen ones, (the virtuously child-free) rather than being carried up to a spiritual paradise, will live to catch a glimpse of a future human-free paradise on the earth.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I am reminded of a Cavafy poem, described by Kenneth Clark in the first episode of Civilisation. The people of a Thracian city in the time of the Late Roman Empire heard that barbarians were on the way to wrek carnage in the area. For weeks the people built themselves up into a stste of excitment over their impending doom. Soemthing however caused the barbarians to move away and attack someonewhere else. The people of the city were disappointed, the onslaught of the barbarians would have been beter than nothing.

  12. Jay says

    There are some good points here, providing some nuance that the “limits of growth” people need to understand. Earth is indeed capable, in principle, of supporting a far larger population than the current one (as long as nobody wants to walk on a deserted mountain path, or enjoy a big patch of beach to themselves).

    But my goodness, the first half of this article was a difficult read.

    It’s perfectly sensible to suggest limiting our rate of population growth to try and match our slowly-growing ability to collect and recycle the planet’s finite resources. This is a reasonable interpretation of the quotes from Ocasio-Cortez and Maher, who certainly do not advocate voluntary human extinction (Vehmt).

    To imply that such views logically lead to ultra-extreme ideas like Vehmt is a piece of nonsense which, in the first two paragraphs, will completely alienate the left-leaning audience that needs to read this article. They’ll assume they’re reading a political rant and won’t be open to the ideas below.

    • GL says

      “They’ll assume they’re reading a political rant and won’t be open to the ideas below.”

      This is an important point, and one that the IDW (for lack of a better shorthand) is typically better at than most, but still need to work on.

      Who is the audience for authors of pieces such as this? Fellow travelers, or those we could have real disagreements with? Personally, I find fellow travelers boring, as they have little to teach me. Even when those I disagree with are “wrong”, they help me feel out the boundaries of my opinions.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Why would any serious person give a flying fig about the supposed opinions of an ignorant ex-bartender and a fading “entertainer” who provokes commercially for clicks and ads? Really?

    • Stephanie says

      It is not sensible to limit our population growth when our population is declining and our entire system relies on the young caring for the old.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”It’s perfectly sensible to suggest limiting our rate of population growth to try and match our slowly-growing ability to collect and recycle the planet’s finite resources.”
      No, it is not sensible in the least. It is misanthropic bilge.

    • Aux says

      as long as nobody wants to walk on a deserted mountain path, or enjoy a big patch of beach to themselves

      This is the right argument. It’s basically irrelevant how many people can be packed like ants on Earth’s surface. If we want to maintain the beauty of wilderness and have room to think alone, then we need to limit our population. There is almost nowhere in Europe where you can be alone enough to see the Milky Way clearly; lots of young people don’t even know it’s possible.

  13. Sander Malschaert says

    Boy I really don’t know where to begin a critique of this article. So I won’t. The alternatives to voluntary birth reduction are famine and war so if you rather see those then say so and at least have the decency to quit your moralising mischaracterizations. Maybe next time tell us there is no harm in CO2 in the atmosphere, it’s food for plants don’t you know? I’d laugh if this didn’t make me very sad.

    • JF says

      I found another alternative to famine: improved agricultural yields (https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/average-corn-yields-in-the-united-states-1866-2014?time=1866..2014)

      Global warming is probably the biggest or second biggest threat to our planet right now. But people are very good at solving problems. More people around means more people solving problems, and more wealth means more resources available to those people. An individual contributes more to the world more than their carbon footprint.

      I worry that this attitude makes people completely write off concerns about the environment–and especially the climate. But I remember when acid rain was the thing everyone was worried about. That was a problem that we actually solved, and no one talks about it anymore. Obviously it’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s worth remembering that major environmental issues have real solutions.

      We naturally tend to stop talking about problems once they’re solved, leading us to only think about problems that are as yet unsolved. When we only think and talk about unsolved problems, it distorts our perceptions and makes us think that solutions are much rarer than they really are. Don’t let the availability heuristic win!

      “Overpopulation” tends to be implicated in every environmental problem out there, but (so far) its reduction has never been needed for a solution. This should make us suspicious of it.

      • Jay Salhi says

        “But I remember when acid rain was the thing everyone was worried about. That was a problem that we actually solved”

        No, that’s a myth. The threat posed by acid rain was greatly exaggerated blown up into an existential problem by people who love predicting gloom and doom.

    • Jeremy H says

      @Sander You’re missing the greater point here: anti-natalists are almost exclusively a phenomenon of modern Western societies that are already breeding at below replacement levels; hence, they have no need for further voluntary birth reduction. All of the countries with the highest birthrates (5-7 children per woman) are in sub-Saharan Africa where, as far as I know, the daily grind for subsistence supersedes philosophical reflections on overpopulation.

      • Jay Salhi says

        Helping sub-Saharan Africa develop cheap, abundant energy would increase wealth and drive down those birth rates. The war against fossil fuels is at odds the desire to limit global population growth. Just one of many contradictions in the narrative.

  14. the gardner says

    Why wait for fewer births? Certainly Mother Gaia deserves relief now. The anti- natalists should all gather on the edge of a big cliff and sacrifice their own lives for what they believe it. You guys first.

    • JF says

      There’s an almost fascicle nature to the contradictions within their argument.

      They believe humans are worse than they are good. To achieve their goal would require people to successfully persuade the entire species to undo billions of years of evolutionary work–surely a problem that is so difficult that if we could achieve that, we could achieve anything.

      If they’re right about humanity (which they are not), they cannot possibly win. If they’re wrong, then they should abandon the philosophy. This idea literally cannot win.

      • Farris says

        Sort of “Logan’s Run” in reverse. Couldn’t help but notice they didn’t propose eliminating everyone over 30.

  15. TheSnark says

    Large parts of the environmental movement are a lot like a religion, replacing the Judeo-Christian God with a worship of Gaia, the Mother Earth Goddess. And like all religions, there are some adherents who take their beliefs to their illogical extreme, with the anyone advocating Vehmt being a good example.

    • Jay Salhi says

      “Large parts of the environmental movement are a lot like a religion”

      To be more precise, they are like a religious cult.

  16. Farris says

    Beware those who would dictate how many children to have, what foods to consume, what lodging is appropriate, which transportation is acceptable. They will claim to be the good guys/savior of humankind. They are the would be tyrants and the greatest threat to humankind.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Mencken said it best: “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.”

  17. Tomas says

    Interesting read however I have a major problem with statements/arguments like these: “The Simon Abundance Index found that between 1980 and 2017, “the time-price of our basket of 50 basic commodities declined by 0.934 percent for every one percent increase in population.” It confuses correlation with causation! Just because one measure/number appears to follow the other it does not necessarily mean that there is any relationship between them.

    Unfortunately these types of (incorrect) arguments are being used too often in an attempt to convince the readers about some (non existent) underlying scientific foundation for the argument.

    • JF says

      This is a valid point, but I think both you and the author missed the larger picture reflected by this statistic. Regardless of anything else, the population grew and resources became more affordable. The relationship need not be causal to be meaningful (though a causal explanation would be much more meaningful). The point is, at minimum, that population growth is entirely compatible with increasing abundance; and it may even be (as I believe) that population growth contributes to it.

      Unless there is a good explanation for why this will change, it makes more sense to think that it won’t. Total human population and total human wealth have both only ever increased over the long term (since ~8,000BC). A lot happened in that time, including major environmental disruptions and catastrophes, but disruptions in growth were always temporary. That’s not to say that this will always be so, but whatever is going on here is clearly deeper, and more resilient, than we tend to realize.

    • Stephanie says

      Tomas, New Rule: whenever you say “correlation isn’t causation,” you have to point to at least one unrelated factor that can be causal.

      Saying “correlation isn’t causation” is the easiest thing to say, but it is not a rebuttal without an explanation.

      • Aux says

        It’s pretty obvious. As time goes by population goes up and we make technological progress, increasing efficiency. The causal factor is time.

  18. Joana George says

    I just don’t buy it. You hear the environmental angle thrown around a lot, but I still can’t even imagine a happy couple who really wants children not having them in order to protect the planet. Same can be said about deciding to have a second/third/nth child.

    I don’t think this movement had a significant impact on birth rates, it just provided argument padding for people who didn’t want (more) kids anyway.

    • JF says

      Don’t forget about the power of social pressure. Like you, I doubt almost anyone would decide not to have kids because of personal qualms. However, as humans, we can be convinced to do almost anything if enough of our peers expect it from us.

      As an extreme example, I think it very unlikely that Kamikaze pilots were motivated by private convictions rather than social pressures.

      • Joana George says

        Good point! I did actually forget about that. I blame my reasonable and non-judgmental social circle!

      • Mr.Grey says

        My wife and I decided not to have children, part of that decision on my part was a growing awareness that I couldn’t think of any reasons to have a child that were not selfish in nature. The only guarantee in life is suffering and I frankly see no reason to contribute to that.

        • Nick Russell says

          Perhaps your child or children would like to be born?

  19. JF says

    Something anti-humanist environmentalists miss: in a few billion years, the earth will be swallowed by the sun, annihilating anything living on it.

    Humans invented spaceflight.

    If life still exists after the sun destroys the earth, it won’t be because of the environmentalists.

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      @JF
      A few billion years?
      I’m making my reservations at “Milliways” restaurant now!😁

  20. Greenrawdeal says

    It is interesting to see the shift in Quilette to becoming anti-environmentalism. A few weeks ago there was absolutely nothing in this magazine about the environmental movement but now all of a sudden it is the bete noire, branded a part of the ‘far left ideology’ and is decried on every other article. This makes me ask questions as to the agenda behind this shift in attitude and is the first time that I have doubted the integrity of the content of this magazine.

    Beyond the anthropogenic climate change debate there is a rate of extinction 1000 times the base background extinction rate, how could anyone look honestly at that and not feel some sense of urgency or motivation toward action? Granted the ideas of AOC can be easily parodied, and restriction of population may be compared to authoritarian movements in China. but equally easy to parody is the delusion that this is ‘just business as usual’. We have a Gorilla species about to go extinct, an orangutan species about to go extinct, tiger species on the edge. The ridiculous hubris and grandiose detachment which allows an indulgence in cynical sneering at progressives as we face the extinction of the most beautiful species of this planet is utterly risable.

    • JF says

      To be fair, I wouldn’t characterize Quillette as anti-environmentalist, only as opposed to a certain form of environmentalism (although this form does seem to be a very large fraction of the total). In particular, this article does not argue against concerns about human-caused environmental harms. Instead, it opposes prescribing anti-humanist solutions.

      Some will argue that only anti-humanist solutions exist, but I think that’s a separate argument. The author clearly believes (as do I) that there are plenty of pro-humanist solutions potentially available, and is arguing that we prioritize finding them. That is not an anti-environment position.

    • Lightning Rose says

      No one seems to be able to show us the list of species that have become extinct at “a rate of 1000 times the base background extinction rate.” Please: We’re waiting. SHOW US THE LIST. You can’t, can you? That’s because there isn’t any list. The truth is we don’t even have a clue how many species are on the planet (and that’s on land, let alone the oceans!) therefore de facto we have no clue what the “background rate” is OR whether that is changing and why.

      This is just more hyperbolic horseshit from the suicidal nuts who for some reason want to destroy human life and civilization. Obviously, “climate change” is so last century and we need a new panic to make the failed UN feel important.

      • JFM says

        The estimations can be off due to the uncertainties in the fossil record, genetic distance of extant organisms and our knowledge of what exists or not. Having said that, when you raze an entire mountain it is fairly certain that most of the biodiversity in that area is gone. Do it in a large enough area and it is pretty much guaranteed that a large amount of that biodiversity is gone (be it at the species level or the gene). There are plenty of lists for islands showing the level of extinction (i.e. NZ, Australia, Hawaii) and it is pretty shocking. I am cautiously optimistic that the loss can be stemmed but your comments are nonsensical.

    • Harbinger says

      …”action” to achieve exactly what Greenrawdeal, and based on what kind of evidence, that the loss of historic diversity is negative not positive for humans, and that the “action” to be taken will be better than doing nothing?

      I’m all for cleaning up our mess on the planet, so that our enjoyment of life is underwritten, but it’s utterly arrogant, and stupid actually, to assume that over geological time,the planet can’t look after itself.

    • Jean Levant says

      I don’t contest your point that some species are endangered, G (not always by our fault by the way). I’d really be sad if tigers or white bears disappear from Earth, especially if by our fault. But let’s take a look at the facts : could you name a lot of these extinct species in the last decades?… The problem with it, is, as you justly note, it is always “about to go extinct”, not really extinct.

      • dirk says

        I also don’t think the polar bear, tigers, and elephants are going extinct on the planet,Levant, but most likely that will be only so in the zoos and a few heavily guarded wild parks.

    • Jay Salhi says

      The so-called environmental movement (as represented by Greenpeace et al) has little do with the environment and their proposed solutions are often counterproductive at best. Pointing out that these people are more anti-human than pro environment is not “anti-environmentalism”.

    • There’s no question that Quillette is wary of environmentalism; there is no question that the majority of commenters here are among the least educated people on the planet. Instead of reason, logic, facts, observation and sources, they all sound like the garage techies who have invented on their own cold fusion and perpetual motion. They think that THEY are the experts and that their opinions have as much credibility and foundation as the scientists. “Everything”s OK, folks, technology will save us, get us to Mars and back, feed the hordes flooded out of their homes in Asia, infinite growth is possible on a finite planet, I don’t see any problems actually, population is decreasing not increasing, there are still lots of animals around, all the environmentalists are just commies who want to take away our RVs…”…etc, ad nauseum. Ship of Fools.

  21. dirk says

    I wonder what John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty, would have said about voluntary birth control or procreation. The problem is, in Europe, Japan, US, Australia, there is almost no population growth, and abundant food and consumer goods. In Africa and India, situation is different, and the idea is now, freedom for all, no need to interfere, because where people get richer, automatically, magically almost, women become less fertile and the small families there will beome as rich and happy as we are. Is this a sane idea? And will it be like that? I doubt very much!

    In famines and wars, I don’t believe so much. Food enough, distribution and humanitarian aid also no problem. But what about the living standards of the haves, surrounded by a freely procreating and ever growing army of have-nots on an ever shrinking planet, stripped of all nature, biological diversity and forests??

  22. The Ulcer says

    This sucks for people like me and my wife who chose not have kids for purely personal reasons. Now our decision is likely to link us with this ideological campaign against our will. Maybe we are old enough (late 40’s) that no one will bother with us. There’s a comfort to being demographically invisible.

    • Farris says

      @Ulcer

      I wouldn’t be too concerned. Most folks could care less when a person or couple makes a personal choice. It is when that choice is accompanied by virtue signaling that causes people to scoff. Have as many or few children as you prefer, just leave the moral superiority at the front door. I would say the same to vegans. Fashion your diet as you wish but don’t expect to be canonized for it.

    • Craig Willms says

      ulcer-
      I can respect your decision, I have plenty of friends that have done the same. (I’m now in my 50s) Some have had regrets, obviously, but others couldn’t be happier. Here’s hoping you and your wife are the latter!

  23. Bernie Backer says

    I wonder if the Vhemt crowd has thought through how their movement might impact their future Social Security and Medicare benefits, two entitlement programs that depend on future generations to pay for them. Perhaps they should volunteer not to receive future benefits since they are not producing the next generation of citizens. This upside population scheme was a progressive construct after all. Conservatives have tried since Reagan to reform this model, but to no avail, thanks to progressive resistance.

  24. Weasels Ripped My Flesh says

    The SJW crowd needs to up their game and start demanding the extermination of white people. It is known that all the world’s problems are caused by white people, including of course the destruction of the environment, the dreaded climate change, the ongoing use of plastic straws (why do white people hate the ocean?), and Bruce Springsteen. So, white people are the most logical ones to cull first. In fact, with the constant media harping about how terrible white people are, most of them probably want to kill themselves, anyway. No more air-breathing privilege for these oxygen hoarders. It could be done like in Logan’s Run, only with the maximum white people age lowered to zero and mandatory abortion of any fetuses that appear white on the ultrasound. Work out the details as part of a global “New Green Deal”, and change the name to “The Last White Deal” or something like that.

  25. I fully support the anti natalist movement. It’s proponents are on the right track to wipe themselves and their stupid idea out within several generations at the most.

    The best way to propagate good ideas and functional societies is to procreate, model ideal behaviors for your family and community, welcome and encourage others who do the same.

    Anti natalism is subject to Darwinism like any other adaptive idea or behavior. The people who adopt this idea will die alone and forgotten without any genetic offspring to have imbibed this idea on.

    On the other hand, those with children already have a genetically similar future citizen who is characteristically predisposed to continue propagating the ideas that grow and better societies.

  26. Bill Miller says

    It is not Anti-Humanismus. The “new left” is anti-western and anti-white, or did you hear them criticize the rapidly growing populations in Africa or the islamic world recently?

    • @StewyGriffith says

      Correct – births among white nations is near universally below replacement, all the destructive population growth that the “new left” use for their anti-white propaganda, comes from the middle east, India and overwhelmingly Africa.

      The morality of leaving the earth in the hands of Africans as they allow their populations to continue to grow unbounded, completely stripping the surrounding lands and with zero sense of empathy towards nature, is the real moral crime.

      • Aldonis says

        Like I already said, the Leftoid is enthralled with both the noble savage and Earth As Kind Mother. To them, non-White societies just “know” how to be nice to dirt and badass/cute creatures unlike nasty White Men. They see no difference in beauty between Mozart’s symphonies and some spear chucker talking in clicks/some Negro American song about killing cops. Reading between the lines, once the last White Man is exterminated with his scoietiy destroyed, the world will be “nice” again. No more wars, violating, pollution, etc.

  27. Will says

    It cannot be said that the Left has been “conquered by anti-humanism” just because fringe members of the Left advocate for radical measures to prevent overpopulation.

    • Stephanie says

      AOC has been called the future of the Democratic party by the DNC chair, and she has called into question the ethics of having children. Hardly the fringes.

      • Sacramentus Ex says

        It’s hyperbole to say the Left has been “conquered by anti-humanism.” One prominent liberal mused publicly on the ethics of having children, that’s hardly the same as the Left being conquered.

        • Aldonis says

          Humanism should be opposed since it is but degeneracy.

  28. Nicholas C Morano says

    These convictions are a lot like moral relativism. People can profess them, but they’re impracticable. People are going to reproduce, exponentially.

  29. Max says

    I would put the argument that overpopulation will never happen in the same basket than saying earth would be better without human. Even if we could keep growing our numbers forever it doesn’t mean we should. Would you prefer having a house with a large garden or live in a endless city?

    I am a strong believer in technical innovation such as nuclear power to solve the growing population challenges. But there is still many poor people that need better living standards around the world. A slower growth and maybe even stabilisation of population would make it much easier to manage. Take a look at Bangladesh, decrease in birth rates did improve living standards by allot.

    There is irrationally on both the end of environmental debate. It would be better to focus more on what stand in the middle than the extreme.

    • Chester Draws says

      The preference of most people is clearly to live in big cities. You may think that wrong, but cities continue to grow and the countryside continues to empty.

      I personally would live in an inner city apartment but can’t afford it. Others want it more and bid higher than me.

    • Stephanie says

      How many trillions of people would we need for Earth to become an endless city? Sounds like an unrealistic projection for a scenario 100s of years in the future. We’ll be colonizing space long before we get anywhere close to those numbers.

      Sorry, it is your argument that is irrational.

  30. Leif says

    Even prior to Malthus, Jonathan Swift recognized the problem of overpopulation and suggested a solution in ‘A modest proposal,’ published in 1729. Vegans especially might find his ideas interesting. Bon appetit!

    • dirk says

      May I guess Leif? By eating your own children?? This is, btw, what happens quite often with sea fish, laying half a million eggs or so, and eating 1000s of them, good source of protein, and also of their own type. Just imagine, that those haf a million would all stay alive, as is usual with humans. It would be a nice, rich ocean! But not for long.

      • WW says

        Dirk, please look up Jonathan Swift…..

        • dirk says

          I did, WW, in the meantime, and learned that Swift’s Modest Proposal was the first satire ever, Always thought that satire was more a French invention, Voltaire and the like. So, was wrong in that.

          • Peter from Oz says

            dirk
            The Ancient Greeks invented satire and the Romans were also very good at it. Juvenal’s Satires are among the greatest literary works ever.

  31. Daniel says

    If the belief that “Man is the measure of all things” is the central tenet of humanism (and there’s a good case to be made for that), it’s responsible for its own demise. After all, why should a Leftist worldview be less valuable than anyone else’s?

  32. Alan Gore says

    As a confirmed “natalist,” I think that VHEMT is a great idea. All anti-natalists and their fellow-traveling doomsayers should join it, and have themselves sterilized. The future belongs to people who will apply science and engineering to fix our environmental problems. It doesn’t need your toxic misanthropy.

  33. Cynical Old Biologist says

    It is because of essays like this one that I have become a cynical old biologist. What kind of magical thinking can imagine that people “create” resources? Obviously, the deluded author has no understanding of physics, energy procurement, or ecology. Did the author every wonder why the USA’s population continues to increase despite the replacement rate of below 2 children per woman? It is an effect of increasing human longevity and immigration. If the USA adopted a balanced immigration program (rate of immigration equalling the rate of emigration) the population of the USA would (after some years) eventually stablise and then slowly contract. How many hundreds of millions of people does a nation need?

    Anyway, it looks as though world oil production finally peaked last year and coal production may also have peaked so we are looking at energy decline in the coming decade and the world is almost certainly already in a state of net energy decline which explains our current economic malaise. Then, at least, I won’t have to read ridiculous essays like this one as frequently (as the “ecomodernists” discover that you cannot solve an energy crisis by investing additional energy to try to tap new energy sources – because you don’t have the energy to invest).

    Try looking up that other tome, “The Limits To Growth” (published four years after The Population Bomb). It is even more famous (and has been attached even more vigorously by “ecomodernist”-minded people [growthists]) than Ehrlich’s unfortunate book. (Yes, IMO, Ehrlich has a lot to answer for – his over-dramatisations have simply served as damaging tools exploited by people such as Follett to oppose rational thinking on population.) Unlike The Population Bomb, The Limits to Growth has been supported by subsequent analysis. The main model it described for the next 100 years has tracked very closely to reality since it was published 47 years ago – despite the crudity of the computer modelling it involved. The human population will show the consequences of resource depletion and pollution accumulation within coming decades:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

    But as a cynical old biologist, I am not worried about our future since I know that there is nothing I can do about it. Humans are not rational and simply believe what they want to believe as this essay brilliantly demonstrates. I can kick back, put my feet up and watch it all happen. Should be an interesting show!

    • We didn’t peak in oil production. We have had a slowdown in production partly because prices dripped (slowly coming up but still well below peak prices) and many new oil fields were not developed. Also, fields in production slowed down production and some of the highest producing countries are in political turmoil which has limited their production (Central African countries and Venezuela to name two). Coal production only decreased because natural gas is so much cheaper than coal that, rather than pay higher prices for coal, energy companies are converting to natural gas.
      There are numerous oil fields, especially shale reserves and deep sea reserves that haven’t been touched yet. Also, many older fields have once again become productive because of better recovery technology.
      Natural gas is so abundant, and easy to produce, that even if coal and oil were declining it can easily replace them (as it already has coal). Additionally, new technologies are becoming increasingly less costly, and are nearing the ability to be cost efficient, to produce natural gas, and even gasoline and plastics, from captured carbon dioxide and plant materials.
      As a biologist you should understand how common hydrocarbons are. We are already producing, economically, lubricating oils from methane. We are nearing the ability to mass produce plastics with microbes, using plant or animal refuse as a building block.
      That doesn’t even mention the advances in nuclear power production, such as the promise of SALT reactors. Phosphene and carbon nanotubes research has improved dramatically, and these micromaterials hold huge promises to revolutionise energy production, transmission and storage. Steam power revolutionised humanity. The internal combustion engine and electricity freed millions from drudgery. Cheap production of nitrogen based fertilizer is feeding the world with less land and less people working in agriculture. Famines today are isolated to underdeveloped countries and war torn countries. Famine is not likely to be a problem in a stable, industrialized nation. In fact, one of the biggest problems is over production. We have huge stores of almost all staple crops, which is dramatically decreasing commodity prices. This is severely hurting the farming economy. A few bad years would actually helo those farmers who could weather it.

      • Cynical Old Biologist says

        As a cynical old biologist I understand that there are large volumes of hydrocarbons left in the Earth. And there will still be large volumes of hydrocarbons left in the Earth when we stop mining them because the energy cost of that mining has become too great.

        Conventional oil production plateaued over a decade ago. The “shale miracle” in the USA is just a mirage. That industry has never made a profit but has been propped up by investor debt and will soon go into decline. Basically, it has been a fancy way of converting energy from nuclear, coal and natural gas into oil. But shale oil has also acted as an excuse for optimists to ignore reality and has led to disastrous self-deception in US foreign policy (as the US imagines itself to be a future energy superpower and provider to Western Europe). Nuclear is in decline and we repeatedly hear of the “promise” of Gen3 or Gen4 nuclear, particularly from the “ecomodernist” crowd, but nothing comes of it.

        What most energy optimists seem to lack appreciation of is the scale of our energy use and the timescales of replacing current sources with new sources where that is even possible. There are many ways to produce energy, but few are rapidly scaleable. All are largely subsidised by fossil fuel energy. As fossil fuel production dwindles the subsidised energy forms will be unable to fill the gap, particularly when pitted against the constantly growing demand from a growing world population (80 million extra per year and the 9 billion soul projections are now considered low and best-case). Future per capita energy use will fall and, when this eventually impacts on food production (and antibiotic production), the capitas will fall. It remains to be seen how much more we will damage the Earth as that happens.

        • Jay Salhi says

          “The “shale miracle” in the USA is just a mirage.”

          A mirage that reduced US CO2 emissions 13%. Economic growth, cheaper energy, lower CO2, energy independence. You should change moniker to delusional old fool.

    • Jay Salhi says

      “What kind of magical thinking can imagine that people “create” resources?”

      Oil has no inherent value. Human ingenuity gives it is value. Energy procurement is a prime example of human beings creating resources by converting things that do nothing into things that are highly beneficial to humanity.

      • Cynical Old Biologist says

        Without energy, human ingenuity cannot exist / can do nothing. That is just basic physics.

    • Alan Gore says

      As higher oil prices call forth new sources, we haven’t peaked in hydrocarbon production yet – though if we’re going to solve the greenhouse carbon problem I wish we would. It’s time to convert our energy baseload from fossil fuels to nuclear. France did it, and so can we.

      • Jean Levant says

        The choice France (De Gaulle in fact) made to go full nuclear wasn’t aimed to environment goals but, for once, purely pragmatic interests. Fewer greenhouse gases (if you exclude H2O) is at best a side effect. France is a very good land to do it : no fossil fuels easily extractible and cheap, no risk of big seism. But in every opposite case, I would stick to fossil fuels (gas or coal) or hydro-energy if you have many mountains like Norvege or Switzerland, at least for the next decades. At any rate, gas and oil can’t be replaced for some uses, planes, ships or cars for instance, unless you prefer an unsafe and inefficient technology.

      • Cynical Old Biologist says

        Check out the graphs shown here:

        https://ourfiniteworld.com/2019/02/22/have-we-already-passed-world-peak-oil-and-world-peak-coal/

        High oil prices cause economic recessions. And the reason why oil companies are giving up on investment in oil discovery is that oil field discovery sizes have been decreasing for decades while production costs have been rising. There are very few new, economically viable, oil fields left to find and/or develop.

        Nuclear costs too much and takes far too long to build. Uranium supplies are limited. Advanced nuclear technologies are very expensive and not rapidly scaleable.

  34. Ralph says

    The wrong type of people stop breeding, gradually reversing human evolution. Soon the remaining humans won’t know how to make toasters, guns or smartphones. Good or bad ? Not a meaningful concept.

  35. Max says

    World is not divided between the one for unlimited growth and the one for elimination of human species. These two are just the fringe…

  36. mitchellporter says

    This essay has taken me a while to evaluate. It’s partly true, partly a hatchet job, but to a great extent it’s a blow in a struggle between two philosophies, neither of which I would entirely embrace.

    So let me first state my own, apparently unusual position. I came to antinatalism through transhumanism. When I came of age, I was as techno-optimist as one could be, expecting that a cure for ageing was just around the corner, and that the future would be a climb into ever-greater possibilities that we could not presently imagine. I was appalled to then discover the extent to which society at large is resigned to lives of drudgery and death, and so, as I continued my own invisible transhumanist struggle on the margins of society, I quietly added a kind of antinatalism to my own principles. If I regarded the human condition as something that can and should be fundamentally changed, how could I approve the bringing of new lives into that condition?

    My practical efforts have always focused on the continuation and enhancement of life. However, I find it very easy to make the case for this kind of antinatalism. When you create a human being, you create a new ‘hostage to fortune’, an entity capable of being burned alive, eaten alive, drowned, starved, buried alive, mutilated… do I need to go on? All those are things that actually happen; sometimes they happen to large numbers of people all at once. To create a human being is to create an entity at risk of having such experiences.

    To be alive is to be exposed to innumerable possible forms of negative experience, and I think that, more than anything, would be the basis of my kind of antinatalism – along with the fact that the creation of new life is not a necessary act. Can’t you just care for, and concern yourself with, those beings who already exist?

    However, this is evidently not the kind of antinatalism that this article is concerned with. The actual advocates of extinction here, are advocates of human extinction, for the sake of the biosphere. The overall complaint of the article is that people even talk about restricting human numbers, not just for the sake of life in general, but for the sake of the future quality of human life. Instead, we should apparently be happy to envisage more people and yet more people, because human intelligence is the ultimate resource, and so the more people there are, the more intelligence there is that can be applied to solving our problems, and the greater the resulting quality of life will be.

    Well, I won’t argue that invention is possible, and that dramatic new possibilities still lie latent within the being of the world. I’m a transhumanist, I think we could reverse the ageing process, live in outer space, and create new forms of life and new modes of being. But history alone tells you that more people sometimes just means disaster. We had an anticommunist article here recently, which brought up the famine that occurred during China’s Great Leap Forward. A little research revealed that China had been experiencing famines regularly for a long time, in which hundreds of thousands of people starved. They had all that brain power, and yet they didn’t manage to feed everyone. In today’s world, we have had to appropriate more and more of the biosphere’s productivity, in order to feed the swelling human population. Even the economic growth of the developed world is largely dependent on population growth in a rather crude way – not because of the increased invention coming from the extra brains, but just from the increase in economic activity needed to equip those extra people with the same standard of living.

    A few other random points… Jeff Bezos has spoken of creating a circumsolar civilization inhabited by a trillion human beings. If they were human beings as we know them today, there would inevitably come times when whole worlds were destroyed, in which more people than are currently alive on Earth, would perish in a single blow, because of war or some other disaster. The mere multiplication of the human condition as it is now guarantees an amplification of the bad as well as the good.

    Also, Wikipedia informs me that Julian Simon was depressed a lot of the time. I have not yet tried to find out what he was depressed about. Maybe he was depressed about the human race’s disinterest in embracing life and the possible goods that he perceived; that would be a little like my path to antinatalism via transhumanism. If you have hopes that you are blocked from pursuing, you will know a despair that people who never had those hopes, never had to experience. Or perhaps his depression had quite different causes. Nonetheless, isn’t it interesting to see someone for whom life was often a misery, saying that the creation of more life would be good?

    Also, it is utterly not true that Green New Deal advocates, and so on, are against human invention. On the contrary, they have an immense faith in the capacity of humanity for social and technical invention. That’s why they can imagine creating zero emission economies in the space of a few years. Similarly, the Extinction Rebellion activists are rebels against extinction, not on behalf of extinction. There are certainly deep green misanthropes out there, but most environmentalists and most of the left are not anti-civilization or anti-progress or anti-humanist. They simply regard the existing form of industrial society as unsustainable and something that can be bettered.

    Should I also say something about the Cato Institute itself? It was the Koch Foundation once. From my perspective, their overall output is a mixed bag. They’re against open-ended military interventions, they’re in favor of innovation; but they also have open-borders tendencies (or perhaps that’s just the other Koch beneficiaries at Mercatus?), and I can’t shake the feeling that maybe these beneficiaries of a billionaire have been selected because they offer views conducive to the further enrichment of their benefactor. Just as Joel Kotkin, author of the recent Quillette essay “Our Suicidal Elites”, has elsewhere written about the USA’s “next hundred million” people, we may be reading representatives of a business elite who promote population growth because their businesses will be profitable in proportion to the size of national population, even if the quality of life for the average person goes down. I am not utterly against thinking big; some titans of industry really are a river to their people, and not just farmers of human cattle; but bigger is not always better.

    I have to add in conclusion that according to my philosophy, much of this may be moot because AI is going to take over any decade now, making most of this debate simply irrelevant. There is no long-term future for either ordinary environmentalism or ordinary corporatism. The world will be in the grip of inhuman superintelligence with the capacity to remake everything as it wishes, down to the atomic scale, and humans if they survive will exist at the mercy of whatever the posthuman power structure is. As difficult as it may be for a grown human to believe that this will come to pass, I see no material barrier that makes it impossible. So that is the kind of future, good or bad, with which I personally grapple.

  37. jimhaz says

    The standard system in the food chain is that the more advanced a species becomes – the fewer of them can be supported. Population increase guarantees the continuation of warmongering.

    I see no reason why the same does not apply to humans. Evolution has the same problem as globalised capitalism – which if left unregulated, eventually should result in a few hundred companies owning and producing everything. With evolution those people most successful will begin to separate from the pack and will lead to species division, with the main herd hardly progressing at all. We see this already in developed countries with gated communities and a decrease in the percentage who are truly median class.

    An ever increasing population by default increases the risk to all as it does not provide for reserved opportunities, there is no slack in the system. If something major goes wrong, such as scientists sighting the iceberg of global warming ahead, the massive and increasingly complex structure makes it harder and harder to change course when needed. Oh no – you cant regulate capitalism or migration or muslim baby makers or do anything much about global warming in advance, because ‘too big to fail’ XYZ might be negatively impacted. There is no slack left if say GW changes the rapidly water and air flows at the poles and this leads to the loss of plankton affecting the whole oceanic food chain, what will we be able to do to reduce the high cost of such an outcome.

    Science + immediate need will be able to “fix” up many problems, but certainly not all. Of those it can fix what will be the cost? Will some of the cures have massively destructive unintended consequences? Will 90% of the population have to live in high rise flats, will decent food be unaffordable to them, will they be able to have a direct relationship with what is left of nature (eg will Bondi beach become too full, will they be barred from nature reserves due to too much damage, will they be able to holiday in the better places).

    We also need to work out what will be the long term outcome of the use of technology. Will a Ready Player One environment be adequately satisfying for humanity – is a virtual reality dolphin going to feel the same as seeing them in nature, or will this sort of scenario just cause existential angst to grow and grow? If not, then that is when a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement may become to be some form of major political player – but for the meantime it is mostly irrelevant.

    • Jim Gorman says

      JH –> I can’t tell if your being sarcastic or not. But anyway, “Will 90% of the population have to live in high rise flats, will decent food be unaffordable to them, will they be able to have a direct relationship with what is left of nature (eg will Bondi beach become too full …“. This has already happened in many of our cities.

      How many people born after, say 2000, and in a big city have a clue about production of food? How many have the slightest idea about the steps to plant, nurture, harvest, and preserve future planting material? How many have seen an animal kill and eat another animal? How many would have an idea about how to kill, gut, skin, and butcher an animal, let alone how to maximally utilize everything like intestines, stomach and bladders? They have become absolutely dependent on others for their subsistence. In essence, they are losing their genetic ability to be apex predators. Natural selection is at work you know. What happens in a few generations when these folks have lost their built-in ability to survive.

      No one here mentions what happens when animals overpopulate an area – disease and starvation run rampant. That can happen to humans also you know. We have in the West been able to reduce the likelihood of pandemic disease due to antibiotics, vaccines, and antivirals thus far. This may be coming to an end with drug resistant organisms being the thing that reduces our population.

  38. Jay Salhi says

    “The standard system in the food chain is that the more advanced a species becomes – the fewer of them can be supported. Population increase guarantees the continuation of warmongering.

    I see no reason why the same does not apply to humans.”

    Other species cannot use create a green revolution in agriculture that increases crop yields and solves the food shortage problem.

    • dirk says

      It’s relevant here to note that Malthus also thought , uncontroled human procreation will always be solved/stopped by famines and wars (and that’s what had happened uptil then, notably by the pest and 30yr war). How could he know about the invention of N fertilizer, more than a century later, whereby crop yields went from 1 to 10 tons/ha? But, it’s just buying time only, of course, the Green Revolution does only postpone his warning.

      • JF says

        The green revolution was not the first radical increase in the food supply. Inventions like irrigation, crop rotation, canning, mechanization, aquaculture, refrigeration, efficient international transportation, pesticides, weather prediction, and genetic engineering have done the same.

        There are also new technologies currently being improved or invented, like hydroponics, cultured meat, and robotics. Why would we happen to be at the endpoint of innovation? We’re not that special.

        • dirk says

          The green revolution is just an organisational way of putting it all together: new wonder seeds (with relatively much grain and small stems and leaves), N-fertilizer, insecticides, irrigation, and, most imprtant, extension and credits to millions of small farmers. OK, now we could feed another 3 billion (estimated by some), however, it looks like that, as is the case with population growth, also this dynamic is coming to a halt, soils and water are limited. I am very curious how all this will end. Though, before the mere food (calories) is limited, I think other desirable items (meat, luxury goods, entertainment, lawns) will end up first.

  39. Ed says

    The earth has a shelf life. At some point in the not too distant future (relatively speaking) the sun will enlarge and engulf the planet destroying it. What difference does it make to the idiot Bill Maher if that event is two lifetimes after his death or a million? These people are too stupid for words.

    • Allan Revesz says

      Reminds me of a story from when I was an undergrad in physics….Scientist on stage states: the sun will explode and engulf the earth in about 5 billion years. Audience member asks: Did you say 5 million years? Scientist: no 5 Billion. Audience member: Whew

    • Alan Gore says

      You’re talking about a time scale of billions of years here. We have a fair understanding of the evolution of the Sun as a main-sequence star over that time, but we have no idea what human ingenuity might produce in that stretch.

  40. The Creator (I was self taught, so there were a few F ups) says

    I fully support the VHEM because it’s comprised of humans who the rest of humanity is better off without. So when they are extinct it will be a win win (or should that be ‘gone and not missed’).

  41. Jackson Howard says

    Conflating more humans with humanism makes the whole OP stand as a cheap hatchet job.

    Humanism has literaly no link to anything the OP is saying. What I read is that the author thinks that more people is “better” and that we don’t have to worry about planetary limits because of innovation.

    In the 70’s we dodged a bullet with the green revolution (chemistry + mechanization + cheap oil). That was nice, bit the author forget that this was an exception rather than the rule. The mayas, the anasazi and several Chinese dynasties collapse are all good examples of the rule.

    Let’s not forget that the green revolution encouraged sloppy farming leading to massive topsoil loses, insects dieoff and ground water depletion.

    I have a hard time seeing this working well in India or in Nigeria once a +2 or +3 °C rise in average temperature kicks in.

    If anything, having a moderate population will be an asset rather than a liability.

    I love to see such faith in agricultural science coupled with such lack of faith in climate science. Cherry pick what suits your opinion rather than having facts in the driving seat.

    Isn’t critical thinking and rationality at the core of the humanist though ? The irony could not be more striking. Discarding science when it does not support the faith in progress narative is… foolish.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I am always amused how people use the term ”the science” instead of the ”truth.” After all science is just a method for finding out the truth.
      The science told us for years that peptic ulcers were caused by rich foods and lifestyle. An Australian researcher took the view that this was wrong, but had to infect himself with the relevant bacteria before the scientists would take any notice.
      Scientists are getting things wrong all the time. But in doing so they are still engaged in ”the science” as you and so many others so quaintly put it.
      In my profession I often see two scientists going head to head on opposing sides of an argument in court. They often have completely different points of view. The person who actually decides the truth is the judge. Both experts will have given evidence of ”the science”, but the judge with his or her years of training in evaluating evidence will reach a conclusion of fact.
      We in society are the judges of fact. We should never let the experts take over that role. They should always be witnesses not judges.

      • Peter says

        Peter of Oz: “The science told us for years that peptic ulcers were caused by rich foods and lifestyle.”

        False, medical doctors were saying that, not scientists.

        I read that 80% of what MDs prescribe is not based on rigorous research and risk to benefit assessment.

        Right now I am resting at home with my shoulder and Achilles tendons damaged by a course of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin. I asked the MD to get me an alternative, citing the danger of exactly this occurring, but she said: all medications have side effects and insisted on me taking it. The instructions in the box state that such effects occur in less than 1 in 10000 cases and can oocur months after taking this antibiotic; recent INDEPNDENT RESEARCH says this number is ten or twenty times higher and even more so for those older than 60 (my case).

        The crude anti-science campaign in the Quillette comments is really appalling.

        Researchers at USDA are now required to add to their peer reviewed and accepted articles in serious scientific journals the statement: “This research is preliminary”. Because, as you state, the society is the judge of the facts. And, as we saw in the past, the Republicans will gladly delegate the role of the judge to a political commissar appointed by president Trump.

  42. If you want to “beef up” your position about population growth with some data, please watch:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LyzBoHo5EI

    It’s a lecture of Hans Rosling.

    World population growth is deaccelerating and it will soon plateau.
    The electric cars are getting better every day, we have a clean alternative to produce energy, called NUCLEAR, and GMOs can give us better yields with less energy expenditure and less land use.
    Once you develop a nation and raise the standards of leaving, that society becomes more eco-friendly,. You can’t expect Mozambique to be obsessing about global warming when their children aren’t properly fed.

    I’m a humanist, I don’t find any common ground with these misanthropes, Bill Nye and Maher are your stereotypical Boomers , spoiled brats with huge entitlement issues, we can’t have a conversation with eternal teenagers.

    But Boomers are old and lazy, so they will not go beyond words. The young kids taking up the flag of extinction are something else, I wouldn’t be surprise of terrorist attacks from these nuts. At least Islamic terrorism doesn’t want to extinguish humanity.

  43. Jackson Howard says

    “World population growth is deaccelerating and it will soon plateau.
    The electric cars are getting better every day, we have a clean alternative to produce energy, called NUCLEAR, and GMOs can give us better yields with less energy expenditure and less land use.”

    Amen to that. Though GMO might end up being a good way to select for resistant insects and weeds. Not expanding Nuclear is a huge, huge mistake that might end up costing us dearly.

    Hand Rosling stuff is very good. A tad rose tinted glass for some things and he has blind spots, but still very good.

    I really despise misanthrope boomers lecturing the youth while having created the mess we’re in.

    The young kids taking up the extinction thing is not really concerning, and if anything may prove beneficial if they end up pushing for fact based policies. In the EU a lot of them just want the government to do what they pledged to do and stop kicking the can down the road. Let’s be honest, our politicians are the Neville Chamberlain of climate change and need a kick in the rear. All hat no cattle.

    • scribblerg says

      But of course, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is mythology. The sensitivity of climate is 1/3 of what the hysterics want it to be and there is no runaway scenario to be concerned with, so what are you on about?

      I mean you do get that the AGW crowd has been reduced to changing the climate record to match their models, yet still their forward projections are wrong every year. That without fiddling with the temp records, every single IPCC model cited would have been debunked by the actual climate record.

      What’s really going on is that the policymakers know this is BS but can’t face the aggressive, maniacal politics of the Left that will not allow the mild truth about C02 to be spoken. So they pose and preen, but in the end know that major changes based on climate hysteria is idiocy.

      I agree, the politicians are being hypocritical. But the answer is to stop the C02 hysterics from lying and to better educate the children and the politicians so they don’t believe we are destroying the earth.

      When one is using children to advance a political cause, one can assume that cause is immoral.

      • Jackson Howard says

        You seem to really miss the point of climate science modeling. Also if you consider 3°C runaway, then you are misinformed. Runaway would be >= +6°C and that is very, very unlikely to happen barring catastrophic stupidity on our part.

        They are not predicting yr-to-yr variation. Nor are they predicting an exact value of what will be the climate in 2100. The climate sensitivity is in the range of 1.5 – 4.5 C. I haven’t seen a credible study published for a 0.5-1.0 C sensitivity. I tend to pick the RCP4.5 scenario as a good middle of the road estimate to see what might go down where I’ll live. What the left has done is take the issue and made it a carrier for their policies. We could have done the same but decided that playing dumb was the smart move. Hilariously enough, we are now complaining about them taking charge of dictating the policies. Carbon tariffs against china would be so much better as far as branding goes 😉

        Temperature records have correction applied to them. It’s a process called calibration and it’s at the core of metrology in general. The fact that some think that this is “wrong” only makes the point on the general lack of education about experimental sciences. The IPCC does not create models. Research groups do. The earth is not getting destroyed. Our life support system is.

        “When one is using children to advance a political cause, one can assume that cause is immoral.” Maybe. Though I have no issues with having children present in pro-life rallies and such. Double standards are double edged.

        • Dear Jackson, you are not going to convince the true believers. Save your breath. Climate change is a fact and our only hope is an “hail Mary play”. With the globalization and the incredible growth of China and India, it’s out of western hands. Electrical cars, Clean energy ( I don’t see how we can do that without nuclear) and eventually some sort of carbon capture technology that hasn’t been invented yet. I believe we will get there , what I don’t know is how much will we destroy on our way there. I would like that my great grandchildren would see elephants in the wild, whales in the oceans, coral reef, etc But for many species the solutions will come too late.

          I’m almost 100% sure that we will not solve the present situation by giving up beef, stop flying airplanes , give up cars, go vegan, etc,,,

        • Jim Gorman says

          JH –> You do realize there has been a new look at the temperature record and it finds that night time temps have been rising while daytime temps have not. This makes the average look higher, but the “high” daytime temps have not changed that much over decades. In essence, our growing seasons have been extended, ask any farmer that has been around since the 50’s – 60’s when they plant their crops now versus back then. It is part of the greening of the earth from additional CO2 in the atmosphere.

          As to calibration, you need to examine your metrology a little closer. The temp records are not being changed due to calibration issues. Calibration requires setting a device to read the same as a Standard Reference. You can not accurately “calibrate”, i.e. change, a temperature reading from one device by looking at readings from other devices spatially and timewise removed from that device. Spin it anyway you want it, it is simply a data adjustment done based on what someone thinks the reading should have been. Accuracy from calibration does enter into it.

          • Jim Gorman says

            Should have been “Accuracy from calibration does NOT enter into it.”

          • georgopolis says

            If I am not mistaken, Tony Heller found that their adjustments to early 21st century temperature records correlated with the measured increases in CO2 with an r2 of 0.985. If that isn’t evidence of altering the record to support your CO2 led CAGW, I don’t know what is.

        • scribblerg says

          What an arrogant response. Because I cited the yoy unadjusted temp readings that continue to move beyond the error bars the IPCC itself projected, you jump to the conclusion that I can’t distinguish between local temps and climate change. I didn’t say or imply that. You are just being ridiculous to insult me, which is not a great way to argue.

          As for temp adjustments that make the IPCC not immediately dismissed due to their own failures in their own projections, I offer this. When you take the total of the adjustments made to temp records after it became obvious the IPCC models were very wrong, the r-squared value of those adjustments was .98. Lol. If you know stats, you’ll immediately know this makes 100% sure that the adjustments to temp records were made to validate the models and tuned that way, not just made based on the merits – it’s a statistical impossibility. There is simply no possible way that the various changes offered would have resulted in this r-squared value. And if you don’t know this, stop talking.

          Here’s a great precis on how the data has been distorted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kUAtt2pXlc
          I don’t trust any of them at CRU. It was revealed 10 years ago that Mann et al will lie through their teeth to the public and mess with their data to get the results they want. I don’t have to prove that, it’s already been established due to their actions and foia requests and the CRU emails. I have every legit reason to doubt that morality and honesty of climate authorities given how badly we’ve already been lied to.

          It started with the first time Hansen testified to congress in ’89. Do you realize they intentionally shut down the air conditioning in that hearing room to make it hot for effect? That the very launch of this as a public issue was done via a lie? I bet not. I wonder, what else don’t you know?

  44. John says

    As the Black Adder famously declared in anticipation of this techno-futuristic nonsense – Utter Crapp!

  45. Diagoras0fMelos says

    HUMANISM IS NOT ANTHROPOCENTRISM!!!

    • you are right. But I’m also anthropocentric. It’s not good or better it’s just a philosophical choice..

  46. scribblerg says

    It think Prog-Marxists and really, all Democrats and Leftists in our society, should stop reproducing. They indeed are a cancer on human civilization, eating away at human progress and social order. It’s better than having to jail them all and putting them in re-education camps. In fact, the Right should subsidize birth control for them and abortions too and encourage them to not reproduce.

    Next, if we could only make them give themselves “very late term abortions” or early euthanasia, we could get on with building the free world.

    What else is there to do with a group of folks who hate humanity? Who hate themselves so utterly that they want to destroy our very existence? Any sane society would shun and rid themselves of such people.

    They are my enemy. Not only do they disgust me, they are anathema to my existence and ideals. I wonder, at what point do I gain the moral justification to use force against such people? They are conspiring to wipe out our own species, is this not a threat to us all?

  47. dirk says

    Try to imagine a world without Malthus, Ehrlich and the report to the Rome Club. How would in that case the general thinking and all those climate agreements of Paris and Copenhagen have been. Or could it have been that that Paris and Copenhagen would not even have been entamated?

    • JF says

      Remember this quote by Ehrlich: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

      Not very inspiring.

      Arguments like this do nothing to motivate people towards enacting ambitious and costly plans. If we’re screwed, why bother? More skeptics would be inclined to take climate change seriously if there weren’t so many prophecies of environmental apocalypse that failed to materialize.

      Let’s not forget that Ehrlich proposed the world stop giving famine-relief aid to starving Africans and Asians, since he thought it would be best if they died sooner rather than later.

      • dirk says

        In a sense, I think, one can compare Ehrlich with Marx. Both sensed that some things went seriously the wrong way, and theorised about it. Of course, theorising about he future never results in what some are prophetising, but the simple fact that some prophets are shouting out what they feel is going wrong, in itself, already changes the mindsets and national politics, and thereby, the future of things.

        Does it matter much whether Simon or Ehrlich won the bet?

        Would Simon have sold many books, if he had written about that bet??

  48. Jackson Howard says

    It would have happened anyway because of the expansion of climate measurements from ground, water and space and the impetus of glaciation process modeling. The discovery of the role of CO2 in climate by Tyndall and the first calculations by Arrhenius have nothing to do with Malthus, Ehrlich and the report to the Rome Club.

    It’s exactly like the CFC/Ozone issue. Conservatives dragging their feets for as long as possible before flip-flopping and trying to get a piece of the credit. I wish we were better at taking science seriously, even when it’s painful and at odds with our existing policies.

    Surely there is a middle ground between self-termination advocacy and the mindless life support trashing that we are conducting. Not that they are very different in their endpoints. Maybe being more conservative about our limited ressources and life support would make a nice in-between position.

    One may dream.

    • scribblerg says

      With respect, I don’t see these issues on a moral spectrum. Each stands on its own, independently. Self-termination is a completely different moral category from euthenasia, which I support but only voluntarily. In fact, I think you’ll find that most families (not all) handle these issues quite well. Have you been to a hospice recently? My father died with dignity and quickly in veterans hospice care center, with a minimum of pain and only palliative care. We do this well often in our society, but we need to do more.

      But preventing the continuation of humanity as a way of preserving the Earth? Consider what you think of humanity if that’s your position well such a thought is the very definition of a “crime against humanity”, yes? I . Gotcha – but then don’t tell me in the next breath that you and your ilk are fit to rule. Such people are unfortunately free to take such self-abnegating positions, but they aren’t to be taken seriously.

      What such an activist is really saying is, well, I want to enjoy living but when I’m done licking up all the goodies humanity has to offer, then, when it actually costs me nothing personally, am I’m okay with exterminating humanity.
      I think such people should self-terminate pronto. Lead by example. Why wait?

      Thriving and striving is the essence of life. Any biologist will tell you all life forms a struggle to grow and eat and reproduce and protect territory and kin. It’s utterly unnatural and pathological to want to self-destruct. It cannot be the correct choice, morally, as a species. Ever. Let nature take care of that via natural selection. The idea that some idiot person walking the earth “knows” whether humans should self-extinguish itself is so arrogant to begin with. Get a bit more humble, get down here in the muck with the rest of us. You know, the real world in which we live with a lot of uncertainty, doubt and risk.

      Sigh…Such thinking is juvenile. Let’s say you believe we are messing up the environment – okay then, dedicate yourself to it. Look for the change, hope, work on it, dream it – this is all necessary to make something new. But also know that you are human, so you can easily be wrong. And you’ll fail a lot and guess what? You are just as subject to cognitive biases and distortions as the people such folks love to denigrate.

      I want to grab such folks and shake them by their lapels. This is nihilism and it must be fought, period. Wanting to kill oneself is considered prima facie evidence of mental illness and can get you court ordered into a mental health facility for a reason. Why is this even a conversation? Get these folks some help, ditto for the trans people too, and let the rest of us get on with our lives. Thanks.

      How much would like to wager that at least half of such people have some history of depression or other significant mental health problems? There is no middle ground with such people. They are to be set aside.

    • dirk says

      I wonder, Jackson, whether the increase of temperature since the 1960s would have been even measurable, had the population stagnated at 3 billion and the Chinese stayed as poor as they were then. Though, true, the sorrows of Ehrlich were more about food and environment than about climate.

  49. The Hang Nail says

    This article is trifling. It poses it in a binary sort of way. You’re either for unfettered growth or your for extinction or reduction. We are supposed to assume that unfettered growth will have good consequences. More people to be innovative or something. But history and nature is full of examples of populations growing too big and then massively dying off. That’s just the nature of life. With the population approaching 9 Billion it is a legitimate question to ask. Not some reason to burn the lefties. That’s a very childish way to frame the argument.

    • JF says

      Comparing humans to other species is usually not very informative. No other species invents new things. The maximum human population the earth could support used to be a few million (before agriculture). Ehrlich thought it to be about one or two billion. Many modern scientists think it’s between 5 and 10 billion. The estimate keeps going up as we keep inventing new ways to stop humans from dying.

      Why is our current perspective more valid than those of the past? In the past, people didn’t know about the modern technologies that solve the problems they were facing. In the present, we don’t know about the future technologies that will solve our current problems.

      If this time is different, there needs to be a really compelling reason why. People have always believed their time to be different.

      We’re not special for living in the present. The present used to be the future. Before we know it, it’ll be the past.

    • dirk says

      @THN: Jared Diamond, I think it was, wrote a thick book about this dying off, but that was always about certain folks (Mayas) or islands (Eastern Island) somewhere, and now it looks like, the whole planet and mankind is involved. Quite a difference!

  50. Nick says

    I frequently enjoy reading Quillette comment sections, but have not felt compelled to weigh in myself until seeing the lop-sided response in support of this ridiculous, irresponsible article. This one-sidedness suggests that the anti-environmentalism on display here is part of an ideological bundling of beliefs regarding unrelated issues which seems to be ossifying among this audience. In other words, it looks like many if not most of the readers here are not “IDW free thinkers” so much as old-fashioned political partisans. Should your views on campus free speech issues have any correlation to your thoughts about the issue of human overpopulation? No more than your position on abortion should have anything to do with your opinion on wealth redistribution.

    The actual arguments in this article are so outrageous that they would hardly seem to be worth addressing if they had not apparently been so convincing for the majority of commenters. Trying to equate any concern over human population growth with the ideas of a fringe-thinker calling for the voluntary extinction of the human species is beyond disingenuous. Don’t you get it? The whole reason most of us worry about this problem is that we want to conserve human civilization and the quality of life we now enjoy for our children (!), not because we hate humanity and want it to disappear. We love human civilization, and want to protect it. If Ms. Follett is really unaware of this, she has not been doing much of a job of engaging with the arguments of her political adversaries. But given that she works at the Cato institute, I think it is more likely she has built a straw man so she could pen this piece of partisan hackery.

    Yes, the use of fossil fuels has been responsible for an incredible increase in human productivity and quality of life. I don’t think we should be sorry we used them to get to our present state of development, but given what we know now, we have to find a way to stop, ASAP. We need to get real. We need more nuclear power now, risks be damned. Another Chernobyl would be worth it if it meant we could stave off global ecosystem collapse. We also need to cautiously start looking into possibilities for climate engineering to help mitigate the change that is now inevitable.

    In truth, if we did manage to drive ourselves to extinction by barreling forward without considering any of these issues, the earth would be fine in the long run. Sure, it would be a wreck for a while, but after some millions of years the hardy species left behind would evolve and slowly replenish the planet’s biological diversity. What we are really worrying about is not “life on earth” in the abstract, but life on earth as we know and love it today, and the conditions that have made the flourishing of our species possible. We came to self-awareness as a species with historical memory in a world populated by wolves, buffalo, tigers, etc., and our relationship to the natural world runs deep, even beneath the level of culture. What a pity it would be for humanity to go forward into the future with mother nature, the fount and wellspring of all our feeling for the aesthetic, utterly degraded.

    But realistically, predictions of human extinction due to environmental degradation are alarmist. More likely, the future we are heading towards is not human extinction, but partial civilizational collapse followed by some sort of ugly re-ordering of human existence predicated on a vastly diminished quality of life. Have you seen “Silent Running”? Sure, we can probably innovate our way out of going extinct. But wouldn’t it be better to consider such problems proactively? If you think that a loss of biodiversity on our beautiful blue planet is no big deal, and that our species would be well served by living in high rise boxes in endless cities drinking soylent as our ballooning population creates an ever vaster pool of potential “innovative talent,” (thank God for that, right!?) then I would contend that it is you who are the anti-humanist.

    • JF says

      I’m not sure that it’s crazy to relate concerns about overpopulation with a desire for human extinction. The former is the belief that the very existence of some humans is inherently a problem. The latter is a much harsher version of the former, but they’re not unrelated.

      People like Malthus and Ehrlich have been predicting versions of “partial civilizational collapse followed by some sort of ugly re-ordering of human existence predicated on a vastly diminished quality of life” for centuries, if not millennia. Every time, they’ve been wrong. Why is this time different?

      Maybe it is different. Things do change, and we shouldn’t be naive. But I’ve never encountered a “this time is different” argument that an actually explain why. There needs to be a reason why innovation, which has always worked before, won’t work this time.

      • Nick says

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment JF.

        In regards to your first point – It is only as crazy as claiming that any two positions which exist on a continuum are in some deep way actually equivalent. Is being okay with outlawing incitements to violence in some way deeply equivalent with wanting to give governments the power to completely suppress free speech? I would say no.

        I give more credence to your second point about why “this time is different.” Given the apocalyptic tendencies in the human psyche, reflecting on past predictions of disaster which were not borne out does give me pause. I think the science on climate change is clear enough, though. The retort is pretty obvious: it would indeed be naïve to assume that just because things have always worked out (and that is a pretty generous reading of the checkered history) they will necessarily always continue to do so.

        • Nick says

          I also conceded in my original comment that we probably will be able to innovate ourselves into the future. I agree with you. The main substance of my remarks dealt with the high price in desecration we are probably going to pay for our tardiness in addressing these issues. In fact we are already paying it, and for me, it is heartbreaking.

        • JF says

          There’s an interesting dynamic that results from our economic and technological growth. The first-order result is that we become much more capable of exerting influence on the world around us. The means that while we become better and better at solving problems, we also create increasingly potent unintended side-effects by enacting our solutions. On top of this, as we become more capable the domain over which we can exert influence grows as well. 1000 years ago, we had relatively little impact on the planet; today, as compared to a potential future 1000 years from now, we have relatively little impact on the (rest of the) solar system.

          Into the future, I think that an increasing share of the challenges we face will be solving the problems unintentionally created by our previous solutions. Climate change is probably only the second threat of this kind that we’ve faced so far (nuclear war being the first). We’re not that good at it yet, especially when you think about just how close we’ve come to nuclear armageddon, but I think we can get better at it. Hopefully we do it in time.

      • Caligula says

        It’s easier to excuse Malthus than Ehrlich, for although both were wrong, Ehrlich should have known better, but Malthus could not have known better.

        Malthus could not have known better because at the time (1798) he wrote his “Essay on Population” what he said had been true for all of history: not that people would consume all the resources that sustain human populatons, but that population invariably increased in response to technological improvements (in agriculture, for example) with the result that living standards after the improvements were no better than they had been before.

        But by now we’ve seen that it’s possible to break out of this Malthusian trap, because technology and industrialization can increase outputs faster than populations increase to consume the additional output. Thus Ehrlich should have known that technology can not only recover resources that were once non-recoverable, but can create value from inputs which once had little or no value. And thus he had the duty to explain why that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen.

        Of course, our world civilizaton may still crash (for example, if some doomsday cult releases a lethal engineered pathogen) and if it does it will be far more difficult to rebuild it (assuming there at least some survivors) as all the easy to extract resources have been extracted and used.

    • scribblerg says

      Let me begin by stating clearly that I don’t think you believe yourself to be arrogant or misinformed. But to me, as someone who’s actual skepticism lead him to look deeply into the issues you seem to care about, I’m left wondering how your generalized, breezy assertions can be considered serious?

      First, you seem to be blithely ignorant about the consensus that exists across the Right for environmental protection. The EPA was brought into existence under a Republican POTUS. So first things first, stop trying to pretend you advocating for some centrist, common sense position. That’s where the Right is already, with a data driven, humble, careful science driving policies that are designed to have an impact with minimum disruption to private property and other interests. Put more simply, emitting rhetorical flatulence such as this doesn’t pass the sniff test. “If you think that a loss of biodiversity on our beautiful blue planet is no big deal, and that our species would be well served by living in high rise boxes in endless cities drinking soylent as our ballooning population creates an ever vaster pool of potential “innovative talent,” (thank God for that, right!?) then I would contend that it is you who are the anti-humanist.” This isn’t a serious question or observation of the positions taken by folks and political leaders on the Right. Not by any measure.

      As for substance, you seem to dismiss fossil fuel categorically. Really? Natural gas is how the U.S. has dramatically reduced carbon emissions, isn’t that a social good directly due to fossil fuel use? In addition, are you aware that it’s Russian natural gas that allowed Germany to build so much alternative energy generation by being its backup? Hell, NYC had to buy Russian natural gas this year due it fighting pipelines and other infrastructure that prevented it from using U.S. natural gas. Or how out about “clean coal”? Are you even aware how scrubbers and other technological advances from extraction methods to energy generation have revolutionized coal as a fuel?

      Have you ever read up on these issues? Do you understand, for example, how wind power is much less reliable than projected in almost all cases, and can have tragic environmental consequences from the extraction of rare earths that cause massive pollution to the effects of windmills on bird populations. A windmill farm is a bird abattoir. Even better, do you know what gets counted in “biomass”? Lol, the number going up that everyone on the Left celebrates, thinking it’s mulch or something. LMFAO – it’s wood. Trees being cut down, that’s where all the growth in biomass energy generation is coming from. It’s from people burning wood in stoves.

      I’m just a dumb conservative – how could I possibly reason my way to such views? Ooops – I guess I’m silly. I focus on facts. The biggest environmental issue facing humanity today are our polluted oceans and and decimated global fisheries. The demons here are not the West though, so the Left will simply not focus on it. But this is the biggest risk to humanity and our ecosystem.

      Oh did you hear? The Trump admin is helping clean up the Pacific Gyre plastic mountain. And is working on this issue pretty hard – gosh, did you even know? Did you know anything I mentioned above?

      Who are you to talk down to anyone on this subject?

  51. Dave Batson says

    It’s kind of adorable to read something that assumes that a technogical fix will save us from our own bad behavior.

    • JF says

      Why assume that a technological fix won’t save us from ourselves? Given the sheer number of times it has so far, it actually seems like the safer bet.

      Just some examples: kerosene and electric lighting killed the whaling industry; green revolution technologies prevented Ehrlich’s predicted famines, the printing press made books cheap enough to achieve universal literacy, elevators allow at least a 10-fold increase in urban density (less land use), etc.

      If this time is different, what is the reason?

    • I believe that. Not because I’m an optimist but because I’m really very pessimistic . I don’t see any other way. If there’s no techno fix possible, humanity will have to learn to live with catastrophic storms and problably a complete melt down of the poles and all glaciers.

      • scribblerg says

        Based on what? The debunked fantasies of the IPCC? Oh did you see, the former head scientist at the IPCC just bought beachfront property, lol. Actual climate sensitivity to C02 increases are 1/3 of the model predictions. And even more to the point? They are logarithmic. Once C02 hits 600ppm, it results in no more warming no matter how much more is added.

        We are not seeing catastrophic storms, nor are the polar caps melting in some abnormal kind of way. This is all natural variation with infinitesimal effects by humans via C02. What you should be concerned about is why and how you have been lied to so badly about this non-crisis? Consider the energy that hasn’t gone into dealing with ocean pollution and managine global fisheries – two far greater risks to humanity than climate warming. All the energy in the room went to these catastrophic AGW myth.

        You folks have a lot to answer for. Pretending we are having a catastrophe is just pathetic and at this point is simply delusional.

  52. Affluent societies develop increasingly complex norms for child-rearing. This produces fewer children; but among these will be future leaders who can function within, and represent those societies to the world. Wise elders don’t want to see the younger generation repeating their mistakes. We liberals don’t want Africa to undergo a filthy, wage-slaving industrial revolution replete with apocolyptic urbanization. Bad for them, bad for the world.

    A central philosophy- here, one of cultivating respect for existing life- may foster all manner of caricaturized expressions within the community. Bill Maher, for one, juxtaposes our ideals with our practices and finds both wanting. To take him at face value would be naive. To pretend to- in order to justify bashing scientific environmentalism- might amount to genuine anti-humanism. But as a look at the range of likely misinterperetations of a fundamentally sane worldview, this is a nice article.

  53. Craig Willms says

    Like those gleefully promoting abortion this idea of promoting human extinction is hard for me to engage in intellectually. It is so morally repugnant my hackles are raised before any thoughtfulness can be processed. Initially my thought is that if these folks who promote these notions should 1.) never have children 2). should quietly take themselves out.

    I know this is glib, but I’m sorry, I can’t actually fathom the kind of hatred these people possess. It is hatred first and foremost, not pragmatism or rationality.

  54. Chip says

    VHEMT, and anyone who takes them seriously, should not be taken seriously.

    The idea that human reproduction and family choices are susceptible to exhortation, or the result of some sort of moral rectitude/ lassitude, is absurd on its face.

    No one ever had children, or refused to have children, because someone urged them. The decision to have children has nothing to do with anyone’s moral values.

    And further, the idea that somehow fertility is somehow an issue for the left is laughable.
    Do conservatives have larger families?

    How many people here have more than two children? More than three? Four? Was your choice of family size governed by your politics?

    Generally, children in a modern industrial society are a luxury good that satisfies our emotional need for kinship. Those needs are pretty resistant to earnest exhortations one way or another.

  55. Barbara says

    This seems apropos:

    There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love Nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled ‘Nature'”. The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature” — but beavers and their dams are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the “Naturist” reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e., his own self-hatred. In the case of “Naturists” such self-hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate. As for me, willy-nilly I am a man, not a beaver, and H. sapiens is the only race I have or can have. Fortunately for me, I like being part of a race made up of men and women — it strikes me as a fine arrangement and perfectly “natural”. Believe it or not, there were “Naturists” who opposed the first flight to old Earth’s Moon as being “unnatural” and a “despoiling of Nature”. – Robert A. Heinlein. Time Enough for Love

    • Jean Levant says

      Good quote, Barbara. Perfectly à-propos indeed.

    • Alan Gore says

      An appropriate quotation at this point. Unfortunately, we live in a time when Nehemiah Scudder has won.

  56. Will says

    “These days, however, some on the far Left care less about the wellbeing of people than they do about making sure that people are never born at all.”

    Ugh. I was pulled in by the title and pushed away within the first paragraph. I’m all for viewpoint diversity — that’s why I read Quillette — but some standards would be nice.

  57. If this isn’t the epitome of self-loathing, I don’t know what is. Humanity is awful and should stop existing, says the human. What kind of whack logic is that?

    • Aldonis says

      The ones you speak of do not hate “humanity.” Oh no, I’m sure they’ll talk about how they care for their families or praise some spear chuckers in Africa.

      No, they’re merely atomized ones. “Misanthropy” is the shallow conceit of the “progressive”: We’re not following the plan, therefore we deserve to be all killed off. This conclusion arises naturally in people who are deracinated materialists, who have embraced the life of the bugman, and who find their own ancestry repulsive and unworthy. This presumptuous judgmentalism is liberalism’s hubris.

      The sourness of the misanthropist is the key to understanding him–he views himself apart from his fellow man beyond his immediate family, for him brotherhood is a silly idea. Thus separated from proper social communion, he rejects and insults it. He, like Cain, lost himself in his own hysteria, and it is this that makes him an outcast.

  58. xyz and such says

    I think anytime anyone starts talking about forced population control we’re getting into dangerous territory…

    that said, there are too many people on the planet and it is doing damage not only to the environment, but also to the way we relate to each other. We lose important functionality in terms of community, with too many people. This loss of meaningful, intact communities has and is leading to the collapse of culture and worsening physical and emotional health.

    I am a woman nearing 50 who has no children and I have never once regretted it. I really wonder why anyone would want to bring a child into the world now, seems almost cruel. but I’m not going to enforce my feelings and beliefs on anyone else.

    I have no doubts about the damage we are doing to our environment; but I also know that the world will correct for the stresses that are placed on it and eventually humankind will experience the results of their hubris… the world will keep spinning and damage done to the environment will eventually heal and/or change… whether or not we’re still on the globe at that point is the only thing up for question..

  59. MjM says

    I have long had questions regarding the issue of population growth. This article and especially the comments I have found interesting. It does seem true that the earth can hold a larger population. However, my big question is But Why? The following arguments I have gleamed from the comments in response to this question.

    Need a larger youth demographic to take care of the aging population.
    More people increases the human potential to come up with solutions for over-population.
    Any consideration of reducing population puts my ken group in jeopardy.
    All population crises, up to now, have proved wrong.
    Increasing populations have resulted in cheaper and more abundant resources.
    The planet has shown an ability to take care of itself.
    Material wealth reduces fertility producing a ‘natural’ correction to population growth.
    The Left is adopting an “anti-natalism” misanthropic philosophy which requires me to be pro-population growth.

    I’m still not convinced so I will continue to search for the answers.

  60. Check Your Math says

    So with seven trillion people living on Earth, we’d all be better off because there would be a thousand times as many people around to solve problems and innovate solutions? Sounds legit.

    • dirk says

      “Two people hear and know more than one”, I heard yesterday on TV from the mouth of one of our princesses. Few will doubt that. But where is the optimum ? I’ve worked in Africa, in a time that cities there were under 1 million and most people lived and worked in the rural areas. Their small surpluses fed the city markets, and it was fun to stroll around there, between the mongers of 1 or 2 chicken, small heaps of tomatoes, a bunch of bananas, a tin full of beans or maize. But hell, just don’t go there now anymore, nice modern touristic downtowns, OK, but all those endless slums, and mothers with 6 or 7 children, all fleeing to those cities and slums. Nigeria, soon 200 million, oil money, and thus cheap imported wheat, beans and rice (staples that they once grew themselves, minus the western wheat of course).

      Seven trillion? I’m sure even 7 billion is above optimal.

  61. Morti says

    Want to save the Earth? Best way is not to push for extinction, but to LEAVE it. Humans must move to interplanetary space as soon as possible.

  62. S Snell says

    I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that the voluntary extinction movement isn’t going to take off.

    One of our species’ many charming habits is egoism, which leads us to see ourselves and the rulers and most important occupants of the planet, if not the center of the Cosmos.

    Gaia remains unimpressed. In the long run we just aren’t that important. We are a very new, very small part of a very old, very large system. We’ll stick around for awhile, do our boom and bust thing, and either fade out or crash hard, just like every other species that ever lived. The length of our stay here will depend to a large degree how quickly we figure out a stable carrying capacity for our kind.

    How will we know if we have surpassed it? Don’t worry, you’ll know.

    • Jim Gorman says

      S –> I am not sure ego has anything to do with the drive to conquer our environment. Our ancestors learned to walk upright, make tools, make societies, etc. all without ego being the predominant reason. It is our basic survival of the species drive that is built into any species that hangs around for a long time.

      The rest I agree with. Can we continue to find ways to survive the things we know are possibilities, asteroids, pathogens (viruses and bacteria), nuclear armageddon, etc. Who knows? Many of these are out of our control and aren’t worthy of much immediate worry.

  63. dirk says

    Are you an optimist or a pessimist, Snell? I can’t find out! But I agree, our egoism has very little to do with the large, overall planetary picture. Shall we have a baby yes or no? Has that to do with the planet?? Maybe! As is the case with, whether I eat meat or soybeans. Who cares?? Not me, at least. The whole idea that individuals decide on the planet’s future is already ridiculous! Where are the fascists that know better???

    • I think I am a optimistic realist. In the (really) long term we are hosed. But within meaningful time frames of hundreds to thousands of years we’ll likely muddle through.

  64. Brian Ward says

    I used to enjoy reading articles in this site but recently the intellectual quality has declined significantly and there is far too much ideo in the supposedly logical. A case in point: China’s one-child policy did not cause a sex/gender imbalance in Chinese society. Deeply entrenched cultural values called patriarchy and misogyny did that.

    • dirk says

      @Brian: read your comment 5 or 6 times, but couldn’t find out what you mean or criticize. Though, anyhow, the scene is in the far east, that’s clear at least.

      • Brian Ward says

        Try reading this section of the article that falsely blames the one child policy for a gender imbalance:

        a “one-child” policy, like the one China abandoned following disastrous consequences including female infanticide and a destabilizing gender ratio of 120 boys per 100 girls, which left around 17 percent of China’s young men unable to find a Chinese wife.

    • Aldonis says

      patriarchy

      Ah, how’s your half-Black bastard grandchild?

  65. Ron Liebermann says

    Poor Miss Follett is so wrong that I hardly know what to say.

    Apparently she doesn’t about the ecological damage taking place all over the world. Hundreds of animals are becoming extinct, we are poisoning the oceans and over-fishing; and all of the forests are being cut-down. This is a direct result of over-population.

    But there is a much deeper issue here: Miss Follett seems to believe that human race should be measured in quantity, rather than quality. So if all of us have to suffer a lower quality of life so women can have as many babies as they want, then we should gladly make that sacrifice. For example, if you asked her about sterilizing women in Africa, she would say “never.” But when these same women die a horrible death due to war and famine, Miss Follett will tell you that it’s not her fault. Her solution? We need to make more sacrifices. Miss Follett has fallen into the feminist trap of believing that women should have an unrestricted right to have children. But what she doesn’t understand is feminism is not interested in the intellectual quality of those children. If you look at our female-dominated schools system, you can see feminism in action. The children are taught almost nothing.

    This is really a crime. By the time students graduate from high school, they should be trained in civics, philosophy, history, psychology, and art. In other words, they should be whole people. But Miss Follet and her friends don’t want that. Instead, they want to produce children who will remain children forever: Stupid, uneducated, and poor. And since, as the result of that bad education, they incapable of governing themselves, Miss Follet and her friends will have do it for them.

    • Aldonis says

      Women should be trained to birth more of their race. That’s their proper role.

      Then again, I suspect that you have no honest and non-cucked attitude towards the situation of your race. Whether from you being a Cuckservative or not.

    • Aldonis says

      Subsaharan’s should have their population lowered yes. European women however should be trained and prepare to birth children. That is key in their proper role.

      Of course, I suspect the situation of your race isn’t what you call utmost importance?

      • dirk says

        Some races should procreate less, others more, but how to ensure this Aldonis? National policies (like in China), or maybe international via the UN? For this last one, I can have some sympathy, but doubt whether it has any chance of succeeding! The western ideas and manifests of supreme freedom, individualism, humanism and all that are the disturbing factor here. Read Simon on this!

  66. François Grin says

    Can’t agree with Chelsea Follett. Her piece is hopelessly naïve. The extent of the damage wreaked by humans, from cruelty to animals to soil contamination and air and water pollution, is cléarly staggering. Vague hopes that human intelligence (as Simon believed) will magically cure all these ills are unconvincing, as we can observe now. Though edging closer to (i) catastrophic, man-induced mass extinction of animal species, and (ii) potentially catastrophic, at least partly man-induced changes in climatic patterns, we still appear incapable of warding off these dangers. Humans unavoidably exploit and pollute, and they take up space, and there’s only so much we can do by changing our consumption patters. I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Greens for almost twenty years, and have been an anti-nuclear activist for much longer, but the constant whining from my party friends that “it’s not how many of us there is, it’s just a matter of consuming differently” are not just, on factual evidence, unreasonable and unrealistic; they’re also unbearable because of their sanctimoniousness. We can debate over what is a reasonable, sustainable number of humans for the planet. The figure of 2 billion is sometimes mentioned. I will not express an opinion on this point. But the belief that humans can multiply without this having adverse environmental consequences is totally absurd.

    • Aldonis says

      Just wondering: Do you non-ironically support immigration into White Countries? Think population control directed at non-White Countries over White Countries is “racist”?

    • Aldonis says

      Do you recognize the words, “blood and soil”? What do you say about having loyalty to your heritage, your kind?

  67. Aldonis says

    To understand who the writer of this article speaks of, you need to study theology.

    You see, much of the narratives noted by Ms. Follett are rooted in appropriation of pre-modern narratives for Creation (and also just the old noble savage cliches). Speaking of man as a “virus’ hurting the “beautiful” biosphere is just a more recent version of treating the world as a kind mother beset by dastardly men combined with Christian narratives of the world before Fall.

    The idea that there’s an inherent flaw in Creation/Creation’s Inhabitants that follows down the ages and sooner or later brings all projects to ruin is ancient, even before Jesus. Your Prog types are capable of recognizing this pattern in history and modernity, but they respond by either:

    A. Imagining that if we just try harder this time (and liquidate the kulaks more thoroughly) we’ll finally win and build utopia.

    B. Falling into the big baby behavior Follettt, outlines above.

    This lot has neither transcendent hope in God to ultimately redeem the fallen world or the taste to see the world as you find it and arrange it so that it shines with the beauty you’d see in a Mozart symphony. “We need to stop having babies before we destroy the world” is right up there with “we need to colonize Mars before we destroy the world” in terms of escapism-as-emotional-tampon. Neither one will happen.

    Finishing up, call them nihilists. Too scared of what awaits them (or what doesn’t) to just kill themselves but they don’t really wish to live either. So they continue on, spreading their nihilism.

  68. This is some of the worst commenting I’ve ever seen on Quillette. The “truth” of this lies somewhere between people having no kids and people having families of 8. Do the math – if everyone has 8 kids, and all survive into adulthood, that means we quadruple population within one generation. That’s pretty destabilizing and hard to adapt to. But obviously everyone having zero kids means we die out pretty quickly.
    2000 people liked a FB page and that was significant to write in the article? What a strawman! Facebook has over 2 billion users. That means that less than one in a million people “liked” the page. Many may have “liked” it facetiously or because they thought it was so ridiculous.
    Talking about “what is the right number of humans” is not an unreasonable discussion. It’s sad to see Quilletters suggesting that with their derisive comments here.

    Right now we are extincting fish, elephants, many whale species, birds, frogs etc etc etc. Both for practical and spiritual reasons I think that’s a bad idea. Keeping human populations at a reasonable level is the main thing we need to do to avoid the continued loss of wilderness and wildlife (which you can either care about from a spiritual or strictly selfish, human-centred “ecosystem services” perspective)

    • Ruth Henriquez Lyon says

      Thank you for mentioning the spiritual aspect of this problem.

  69. Michael says

    Hatred, either of self, particular groups or mankind in general seems to be taking over as the new religion. It’s biggest rival is narcissism – particularly since the arrival of social media – is thriving as never before. Where will it all end?

  70. It’s interesting that the rationale for mass migration into European and American countries is posed as the declining birthrate of the native populations. Alongside this lies the overpopulation hysteria- by the same people.
    Migrants are praised for their high birthrate to replace a declining birthrate in European countries yet somehow a high birthrate is shameful?

  71. Ruth Henriquez Lyon says

    Anthropocentrism is a collective form of narcissism, and shows a stunning lack of humility about our place on the planet and in the universe. Give me a burgeoning population that really cares about other species and our increasingly troublesome footprints on the earth’s ecosystems, and I’ll support all the population growth you want.

    But I don’t see that. I see people ( at least in the U.S.) not caring about the biosystems and other creatures (like pollinators) that support us, and willing to squeeze every last drop of life out of them so that we can maintain a material lifestyle that is bloated far beyond what our great great grandparents knew. The problem is not only that we are causing the worst extinction event since the one which wiped out the dinosaurs — it is that we are undercutting our future chances for survival. We live on a finite planet, and it will not support infinite growth. That’s just basic math.

Comments are closed.