In the spirit of those people who think that the Green New Deal, first proposed by Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York and taken up by Democratic presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, is too moderate, Bloomberg is reporting on a report signed by 11,000 scientists. The report demands, along with taking away meat, milk, air travel, and private automobiles, that severe restrictions be imposed on reproductive rights. By “reproductive rights” the report does not mean the right to an abortion, but the right to have children.
The document, published in the journal BioScience, proposes draconian measures to cut economic growth, the gold metric that economists use to map the increase in human prosperity and happiness.
“Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed to maintain the long-term sustainability of the biosphere. We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere and policies that guide economic decisions accordingly. Our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality”
The plan for population control is a little more benign, involving giving access to birth control services to underserved populations and increasing access to education, especially girls and women. The latter is an inherently beneficial goal, which has the side effect, data has shown, of curtailing childbirth. However, Hot Air sounds the alarm.
“What’s worrisome about this is that once lowering the population becomes the goal, it’s only a matter of time before government mandates are called for. China has done pioneering work-limiting its population through the one-child policy. There are plenty of progressive technocrats who admire China’s work.”
The Chinese one-child policy should give population controllers some pause. The New York Times noted that the policy not only failed but created some serious unintentional side effects. Because of the Chinese preference for boy babies, the policy created a severe imbalance for adult males and females. Tens of millions of young Chinese men do not have access to women with whom to start families. The dearth of children also took a wrecking ball to the traditional Chinese system of caring for the elderly, based on families of younger people. The stark possibility of social unrest has ensued in a society that prizes order above all.
The idea that we must control our population was once all the rage, thanks to the publication of a book entitled “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich in 1968. The book’s thesis was that the world needed to curtail population growth drastically least humanity outstrip the Earth’s capacity to sustain it. The book led to a scientific report called “Limits to Growth” that demanded that economic growth and technology creation be curtailed.
However, as a recent article in Wired notes, the confident predictions of Ehrlich and his supporters of world-wide calamity failed to come to pass. The reason, according to the piece, is that we used technology to make everything from agriculture to manufacturing, to energy production, to resource production more efficient. In effect, we have learned to do more with less.
“The Population Bomb and The Limits to Growth were so far off because they failed to fully understand both the fire of genius and the fuel of interest. By and large, they didn’t take into account that as soon as shortages of food, metals, or other resources appeared, an intense global search for more would ensue, along with an equally ardent hunt for substitutes. As one or both of these quests succeeded, the shortage would ease and prices would plummet.”
The same article expresses confidence that the world will continue to use ingenuity to continue economic growth, spread its effects to more people, and to lessen the impact on the Earth’s environment.
Even that optimistic scenario fails to take into account the vision by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and Blue Origin, as described in Ars Technica. Bezos imagines a human civilization that has spread off-planet, living in space colonies and using the resources of the moon and asteroids to create goods and services. The Earth would be rezoned for residential areas and what Bezos calls “light industry.”
The question arises, which future is to be preferred, the one envisioned by Jeff Bezos or the one by the scientists who want us to have fewer babies and fewer goods and services? The answer is best left as an exercise for the reader.