May 18, 2012
I am not exaggerating.
This is Finnish writer Pentti Linkola — a man who demands that the human population reduce its size to around 500 million and abandon modern technology and the pursuit of economic growth — in his own words .
He likens Earth today to an overflowing lifeboat:
But really he is just another freedom-hating authoritarian — like the Nazis and Stalinists he so admires — who desires control over his fellow humans. Ecology, I think, is window-dressing. Certainly, he seems to have no real admiration or even concept of nature as a self-sustaining, self-organising mechanism, or faith that nature will be able to overcome whatever humanity throws at it. Nor does he seem to have any appreciation for the concept that humans are a product of and part of nature; if nature did not want us doing what we do nature would never have produced us. Nature is greater and smarter than we will probably ever be. I trust nature; Linkola seems to think he knows better. As George Carlin noted:
Now Linkola is just one fringe voice. But he embodies the key characteristic of the environmental movement today: the belief that human beings are a threat to their environment, and in order for that threat to be neutralised, governments must take away our rights to make our own decisionsand implement some form of central planning. Linkola, of course, advocates an extreme and vile form of Malthusianism including genocide, forced abortion and eugenics.
But all forms of central planning are a dead end and lead inexorably toward breakdown; as Hayek demonstrated conclusively in the 1930s central planners have always had a horrible track record in decision making, because their decisions lack the dynamic feedback mechanism present in the market. This means that capital and labour are misallocated, and anyone who has studied even a cursory history of the USSR or Maoist China knows the kinds of outcomes that this has lead to: at best the rotting ghost cities of China today, and at worst the mass starvation of the Great Leap Forward resulting in millions of deaths and untold misery.
Environmentalists should instead pursue ideas that respect individual liberty and markets. There is more potential in developing technical solutions to environmental challenges than there is in implementing central planning.
If we are emitting excessive quantities of CO2 we don’t have to resort to authoritarian solutions. It’s far easier to develop and market technologies like carbon scrubbing trees (that already exist today) that can literally strip CO2 out of the air than it is to try and develop and enforce top-down controlling rules and regulations on individual carbon output. Or (even more simply), plant lots of trees and other such foliage (e.g. algae).
If the dangers of non-biodegradable plastic threaten our oceans, then develop and market processes (that already exist today) to clean up these plastics .
Worried about resource depletion? Asteroid mining can give us access to thousands of tonnes of metals, water, and even hydrocarbons (methane, etc). For more bountiful energy, synthetic oil technology exists today. And of course, more capturable solar energy hits the Earth in sunlight in a single day than we use in a year.
The real problem with centrally-planned Malthusian population reduction programs is that they greatly underestimate the value of human beings.
More people means more potential output — both in economic terms, as well as in terms of ideas. Simply, the more people on the planet, the more hours and brainpower we have to create technical solutions to these challenges. After all, the expansion of human capacity through technical development was precisely how humanity overcame the short-sighted and foolish apocalypticism of Thomas Malthus who wrongly predicted an imminent population crash in the 19th century.
My suggestion for all such thinkers is that if they want to reduce the global population they should measure up to their words and go first.