Energy & Environment

Save the Planet (Except the Babies)

Airline tycoon Richard Branson (L) and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore hold a globe in central London February 9, 2007. (Kieran Doherty/Reuters)
A group of scientists advocates creepy, dystopian solutions to the world’s environmental problems.

More than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have declared a climate emergency, warning in a new report that “untold human suffering” is “unavoidable” without drastic action. Their blueprint to save humanity is familiar:

1) Stop economic growth.

2) Stop people from having so many babies.

These days, it’s passé to note that nothing has improved the material well-being of mankind more than capitalism fueled by affordable energy. But even more precisely, never has capitalism improved more lives than it has during the 40 years that neo-Malthusians have been warning about impending dystopia. By nearly every quantifiable measure — including many environmental ones — children today are living in a safer, wealthier, and healthier world today.

Yet, these 11,000 scientists demand “a transformative change for humanity,” explained ecologist Bill Ripple, one of experts spearheading the effort. After all, if history has taught us anything, it’s that technocratic efforts that compel society to take on “immediate and drastic transformative changes” never backfire.

Basically, these scientists are advocating for the Green New Deal: a collection of ludicrous solutions wholly unconcerned with economic tradeoffs or political reality. The plan treats nature and people as moral equals, imagining them in an apartment-dwelling, plant-based-food-eating, bicycle-riding society where well-being is administered “by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality” — which doesn’t sound creepy or authoritarian at all.

That’s fine, because it’s not going to happen. And while it’s worth pointing out that modern environmentalists embrace destructive economic ideas, we shouldn’t forget they also embrace some of the ugliest ideas about humans, as well.

The population-control language in the scientists’ plan is hardly new. The Left doesn’t even flinch at anti-humanist arguments these days. Major publications regularly run pieces that argue children are a burden on society: “The Case for Not Being Born,” “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them,” “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” “Having children is one of the most destructive things you can to do the environment, say researchers,” and so on.

Barack Obama’s respected “Science Czar,” John Holdren, once coauthored a book with Paul Ehrlich — who famously predicted that “hundreds of millions of people” would “starve to death” by the year 2000 — in which he theorized that mass sterilizations and forced abortions might help save the world from scarcity. Yet Holdren’s presence in the administration was often pointed to as proof that Democrats were the ones who embraced reality-based super-serious science policy.

Like Holdren before them, these 11,000 scientists from 153 countries say that the entire earth’s population of 7.5-plus billion people “must be stabilized — and, ideally, gradually reduced — within a framework that ensures social integrity.” Now, I’m not sure what doomsayers mean by “social integrity,” but the short paragraph on population is larded up with euphemistic language about abortion and population control:

There are proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss. These policies make family-planning services available to all people, remove barriers to their access and achieve full gender equity, including primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women.

There are approximately 80 million new human beings being produced yearly. That’s more than 200,000 every day. Secondary education for girls in developing nations may well bring down birth rates in the long run. Then again, women with secondary educations will one day be interested in purchasing cars, houses, air conditioners (always set at sensible temperatures) and all the other conveniences of modernity. In the United States, women have already attained “gender equity,” “human rights” and full access to “family-planning services,” and yet they live in a nation that is supposedly one of the worst offenders of ecological decency on the planet. Sadly, children, as a total percentage of the population in U.S., now make up an all-time low of 24 percent, and yet we’re responsible for 16 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

“It is basically a scientific consensus that the lives of our children are going to be very difficult,” Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez recently claimed, “and it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: Is it OK to still have children?”

It’s, of course, always legitimate to question whether you want children. It’s tragic, however, that so many young Americans, many of whom probably have the means and desire to have kids, would give up the opportunity because of their quasi-religious belief in apocalyptic climate change and overpopulation.

“Overpopulation” is routinely cited by journalists — who often live in the densest, yet miraculously, the wealthiest, places on earth — as a problem. Yet, if density were itself causing human suffering, Monaco, as Nicholas Eberstadt once pointed out, with its 16,000 people per square kilometer, would be a far bleaker place than Bangladesh, with its 1,000 people per square kilometer.

On a personal level, having children is likely to be the most fulfilling event of your life. Children transform adults into more selfless, responsible people. They can give meaning and purpose to life. On another level, population decline is economic decline. Children renew and replenish society, and help foster healthier communities.

Having more children, as Tyler Cowen argued, also creates market demand for solutions and boosts intellectual capacity. How many great scientists, musicians, inventors, parents, were lost during China’s despicable one-child policy? And don’t fool yourself: that’s where this kind of anti-humanist thinking can lead. Because what these scientists really want, and can’t say, is that they’d like women to be both poor and childless.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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