The lesson of the scandal at the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit is that doomsday can be good to some people. If you own the franchise, you set the terms for Judgment Day: you can demand money, respect, and obedience, for starters. Best of all, you get to tell people how disgusting their behavior has been, and how they’d better clean up their act, if they want to avoid the fiery pit.
Since medieval times, doomsday has been wielded as a weapon of persuasion and control. At the present moment, the global warmers have unquestionably pushed their particular version to the heights of celebrity – but another group has a more durable track record, and may still be here long after the CRU climatologists and their brethren have been booed off the stage.
These are the overpopulation worriers – or Malthusians, as Brendan O’Neill, in this hilarious article for spiked, calls them. The thing about Malthusians is, they keep reproducing. O’Neill cites prophets of overpopulation disaster going back to 200 AD, and they turn up again and again, all the way to that embodiment of the wacky Seventies, Paul Ehrlich (“hundreds of millions will starve to death”).
Another thing about the Malthusians is that they are always wrong. Not just sometimes – always.
The extent of their wrongness cannot be overstated. They have continually claimed that too many people will lead to increased hunger and destitution, yet the precise opposite has happened: world population has risen exponentially over the past 40 years and in the same period a great many people’s living standards and life expectancies have improved enormously. Even in the Third World there has been improvement – not nearly enough, of course, but improvement nonetheless. The lesson of history seems to be that more and more people are a good thing; more and more minds to think and hands to create have made new cities, more resources, more things, and seem to have given rise to healthier and wealthier societies.
Yet despite this evidence, the population scaremongers always draw exactly the opposite conclusion. Never has there been a political movement that has got things so spectacularly wrong time and time again yet which keeps on rearing its ugly head and saying: ‘This time it’s definitely going to happen! This time overpopulation is definitely going to cause social and political breakdown!’
O’Neill lists the reasons for such unconquerable wrongness. Malthusians, he writes, always underestimate society’s ability to adapt. They misunderstand the marketplace, and believe that resources are “fixed, finite things.” He goes on:
And the third and main mistake Malthusians always make is to underestimate the genius of mankind. Population scaremongering springs from a fundamentally warped view of human beings as simply consumers, simply the users of resources, simply the destroyers of things, as a kind of ‘plague’ on poor Mother Nature, when in fact human beings are first and foremost producers, the discoverers and creators of resources, the makers of things and the makers of history. Malthusians insultingly refer to newborn babies as ‘another mouth to feed’, when in the real world another human being is another mind that can think, another pair of hands that can work, and another person who has needs and desires that ought to be met.
We don’t merely use up finite resources; we create infinite ideas and possibilities. The 6.7billion people on Earth have not raped and destroyed this planet, we have humanised it.
Behind the Malthusian doomsday O’Neill discerns a “deeply held misanthropy” veiled by scientific talk. This, I believe, is true of today’s global warming advocates, and of all the voices of doom I have heard in my lifetime. It isn’t that they are wrong: it’s that they think something is horribly wrong with us. Factual correctness is besides the point. Controlling us and fixing us is the goal. That, not scientific accuracy, is what they expect the doomsday franchise to deliver.
Go read it all. It’s funny because it’s true.