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The Left and Population

For years now I have made it clear that I consider the environmental outlook for this planet very, very bleak.

I have written repeatedly that I believe only a massive, rapid, internationally-coordinated and mandatory program to transform the world economy – involving a fast phase-out of fossil fuels, a ban on the manufacture of most plastics, radical restrictions on industrial agriculture and meat production/consumption, a stop to world deforestation, a shift to regional economies not dependent on worldwide shipping, and much more – that only such a fundamental restructuring of the world’s economic systems might have a chance of preventing probable near-term human extinction and very possibly the end of much other life on Earth as well, which ever more scientific projections envision as increasingly likely by the end of this century.

For a long time, I heard very little opposition to these positions from among my large group of political soul mates and fellow writers in social media and alternative publications.

That changed recently in a big way. The turning point was the publication last year of my article “What Future Awaits the Babies of 2018? The Blissful Oblivion of Today’s Young Parents”, which was greeted in the usual circles of my readers with a resounding silence on the whole, and with outright hostility by at least one former comrade who called it “wrong-headed”, the first big conflict between us after several years of mutual admiration. Another writer I admire has had great difficulty with my questions as well. Both of these writers have elected to have children quite recently, and I expected some tension from those quarters.

I had chosen to address the subject — of bringing children into a world with such an increasingly frightening environmental prognosis – directly and provocatively, because I had tired of watching friends of all political persuasions, like governments of every description, tiptoeing around the issue carefully and often choosing to continue having and encouraging children or grandchildren as if nothing has changed, and as if NOT continuing to have children is unthinkable, regardless of what those babies’ adult lives might be like.

Still, there was not much verbal or written opposition until recently. In Europe, the young activist Greta Thunberg has stirred up a major movement among very young people who, largely through her, have finally begun to understand that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations are selling their future and very possibly selling those young people out personally, because it is simply undoable – or at the very least, far too difficult and complicated – to save the planet and change course in order to give them an assured future. Ms. Thunberg is viewed with great suspicion and mistrust by many on the Left, I have learned. While I agree that greenwashers are hitching a ride, I admire her.

In the USA of all places, a few young Democrats were elected to Congress who have the embarrassing habit of challenging their corrupt party’s establishment on some crucial issues including the approaching climate disaster. One of these politicians quickly began to get a huge amount of mainstream media attention and became the focus of great hope among voters that the US electoral system might, after all, become a vehicle for real change. Like many writers on the radical Left I initially scoffed at that idea, and I still find it unlikely. Her proposals don’t go nearly far enough, in my view, to facilitate the necessary systemic change, and her party will never accept them. However, her willingness to take on sacred cows openly and fearlessly has begun to impress me.

Recently this young US Representative had the admirable temerity to publicly agree with those of us who advocate serious consideration of the future which babies born now are likely to face as adults. This prompted immediate and withering scorn from one of the above-cited writers, who used the word “stupidity” in his attack. My reply that such a position involves no stupidity whatsoever precipitated a big kerfuffle. In short order, the issue had been widened substantially to accommodate attacks on overpopulation theory by a good number of writers and social media contributors, although overpopulation had not been the specific focus of my remarks. With my usual diplomatic aplomb I plunged into that debate as well, because …

… well, because although I am neither a scientist, nor a statistician, nor a soothsayer, nor an intellectual of any stripe, I do follow the latest scientific findings on the worsening environmental situation quite closely, as I have since 1970; and having done so, it is impossible for me to understand how anyone can reconcile this recent finding: “A report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Living Planet Index, has found that human consumption of food and resources across the globe has directly contributed to the extinction of 60 per cent of the world’s vertebrate animals since 1970.” (source: www.scitecheuropa.eu, but many other sources have published findings and figures in this range recently) with the view that this planet is not overpopulated, and that the outlook for 10 billion humans on Earth by 2050 is not alarming.

But writers such as my principal opponents in this debate manage taking that position with apparent ease. They refer to some of the scientists most widely known for their work on overpopulation as “neo-Nazis” and, citing Karl Marx and others, suggest darkly that those of us who think the vast number of humans on our planet may be killing it are sliding into a form of nefarious eco-fascism. For years they liked my own definitions of fascism. Now I am suspected of being a fascist. The word is thrown about far too casually, I would say. It is also pointed out that I myself have children, which is certainly true. My response — that the youngest was born in 1993, and that quite a bit has changed since then — is rejected as hypocrisy.

In recent days I have been inspired by the vast and well-planned campaign of civil disobedience conducted by Extinction Rebellion in the UK, Germany and many other countries. For years I rarely saw these issues addressed on any scale with what I consider the proper urgency. That has changed recently in a big way, and such massive civil disobedience is what it will take to generate any real resistance among governments to our approaching extinction. The response of many on the Left has been scorn, a shoot-the-messenger response, and outright rejection. Many of the minds in question have proven far narrower and self-interested than I would ever have imagined.

Some of them assert, in effect, that we must postpone such a great focus on environmental disaster until we have abolished capitalism and militarism, which are allegedly the main problems. I say that those two monstrous “isms” are part of the human condition, as much as they need to be abolished. The idea that “it’s not too many people, it’s capitalism and war” strikes me as evasion par excellence. And the idea that we have that much time to act seems to me purely wishful thinking by those who reject the latest scientific alarm bells, or manage to ignore them.

I can assure everyone reading this that it brings me no pleasure whatsoever to contemplate human extinction, nor to suggest that we approach it consciously, rather than to try to pretend it is all a fascist plot or ignore it altogether – in spite of my former friend’s suggestion that I am psychologically disturbed and that I actually fervently desire omnicide.

For what it’s worth, that’s just bollocks.