April 1, 2009

LIKE BEING A FLY ON THE WALL AT THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE:

Mixing with Malthusians: spiked editor Brendan O’Neill ventured into a pit of population-controllers, and found himself holding his nose. (Brendan O’Neill, 4/01/09, Spiked)

Now I know what Greg Dyke, former boss of the BBC, meant by the phrase ‘hideously white’. At the Optimum Population Trust’s invitation-only conference at the end of last week, ‘Environmentally Sustainable Populations’, there was a sea of white faces, grey hair, purple-tinted rinses and blue blazers, as men and women of a certain hue, age and class gathered to discuss the ‘problem’ of population growth. In plummy voices – and in between House-of-Lords-style catnaps, perhaps taken to re-energise their prejudicial streaks – the attendees spoke darkly of ‘decimation’, ‘apocalypse’ and ‘tipping points’ (which is enviro-speak for apocalypse) in a world plagued by ‘too many people’.

There is something unavoidably spooky about people who spend their waking hours fretting about overpopulation, and who hand out leaflets saying ‘How many is too many?’ illustrated with a picture of an innocent-looking schoolgirl (white, of course) doing population sums on a blackboard (black, of course). In a Frequently Asked Questions section – frequently asked by whom? Benito Mussolini? – the leaflet informs us that there is a severe shortage of water and land on this ‘beautiful planet’ of ours and then ponders: ‘What’s the problem?’ The answer, in case you hadn’t worked it out from looking at the programme of talks on everything from ‘Scientific solutions in contraception’ to ‘Population policies for the UK’, is us: ‘Sadly, we are. Humans. Every year around 75million of us – a population nearly as big as Germany’s – are added to the Earth’s surface. That’s another Birmingham every five days.’ And God knows, one Birmingham is enough.

Looking around the lecture hall of the Royal Statistical Society (a fitting venue for a conference that reduced everything to statistics), I was struck by the make-up of the audience: white-haired demographers; ladies-who-normally-lunch-but-who-today-were-discussing-the-coming-apocalypse; comparatively young but equally posh Soil Association supporters. There was, I think, one person of not entirely white extraction: he was operating the sound system. You can bet that when these well-to-do worriers about the human plague on the planet talk about burdensome people causing ‘congestion, overcrowding and loss of green space’, they aren’t talking about themselves, or their friends, or their neighbours, or their mistresses; they’re talking about ‘them’. You know ‘them’! The breeders, the not-sufficiently-educated, the dwellers of teeming cities, not only in Africa and Asia but in Europe and America too.

The conference confirmed that, while groups like the OPT (founded in 1991) have tried very hard to spin population control in terms of ‘choice’ and ‘environmentalism’, and to move away from that nasty eugenics of old, still some of the dark prejudices lurk beneath the surface.


One imagines Mr. O'Neill racing for that shower they disinfect James Bond with in Dr. No...

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2009 6:42 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« THEY TALK, WE STRIKE: | Main | THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN KNOWING WHAT WORKS AND DOING WHAT WORKS: »