May 6, 2019


How Anti-Humanism Conquered the Left (Chelsea Follett, 5/01/19, Quillette)

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."

It's the rare lunacy where simply to continue your own existence demonstrates hypocrisy.

Posted by at May 6, 2019 4:02 AM