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Environmental fanaticism

By in Opinions

Opinions Writer

Reverend Thomas Malthus was a famed British scholar, an economist and most notably an expert in his time on demographic analysis and population trends.

However, he should also claim the dubious distinction as being the first truly fanatical environmentalist.

Malthus argued throughout his numerous writings that should the human population grow unchecked, not only would England starve but the planet’s population would face certain death: “…epidemics, pestilence and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world.”

Malthus foresaw a world of chaotic ruin and prophesized this with fervour akin only to the most religiously fanatic doomsayers. Malthus has since been proven wrong, as have other modern environmental fanatics.
Paul Ehrlich, author of the top selling Population Bomb will now forever live in infamy for predicting the starvation of hundreds of millions of human beings. Similarly, Al Gore and David Suzuki, although likely to escape criticism, will eventually be recognized for predicting catastrophes that will never come. 

Environmentalists will simply continue to argue that the disasters have been slow to foster, that while mistakes have been made the science behind their arguments is sound.

Environmentalists of this vein are guilty of heinously and viciously ignoring the history of their movement. They hold in themselves the same fanatical delusions of those calling for population control, who spike trees in order to harm forestry workers, who join communes and live in the deepest forests.

Why would I associate these two distinct strands of environmentalism? Because you must hold the preacher accountable for the congregants. 

The mistake that Malthus makes, and my submission to coin the term “Malthusian arguments,” is the failure to consider technological, medical and historical developments in humanity’s  relentless pursuit of progress.

Al Gore and David Suzuki, although likely to escape criticism, will eventually be recognized for predicting catastrophes that will never come.

Of course Malthus, the most forgivable of the environmental fold, could never foresee the rapid progress of technology after his death but he would have been aware of the already dramatically changing and industrializing world shaping around him.

During the 19th century alone, medical advancements led to the doubling of Europe’s population, improved rail road tracks revolutionized transport and urbanization increased dramatically.

Similarly, Ehrlich’s prediction of mass starvation fell victim to what’s commonly known as the Green Revolution. The term, apparently coined by a former director of the United States Agency for International Development, reflected the widespread use of new technologies, pesticides, fertilizers, agricultural research and infrastructure investments. Ehrlich in his fanatical visions predicted that “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.”

Needless to say, India continues to accomplish much more than this and now boasts a population of more than a billion people. 

Environmental fanatics, however, never tire of supporting bigger, stronger government, increased regulations, scrapping the mundane GDP measurement in favour of the newer, cooler Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and some vague form of population control. 

Of course the most important thing for these fanatics is to make sure India doesn’t popularize the use of the motor vehicle. Letting hundreds of millions of people to gain access to what North Americans consider to be a virtual entitlement would be an outrage.

That’s not all though; we also have to consider giving up many of our modern conveniences. George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, once even contended that in terms of human impact, flying across the Atlantic ocean was equally as harmful as child abuse. Monbiot subsequently proposed a ban on any future airport construction. 

The course of human history, however, charts a different path, one in which human progress develops and advances itself through incredible innovation, solving seemingly impossible problems.

So begin living your life guilt free and buy that new iPhone, sneakers, loud speakers or computer — after all, you were going to anyway, just do it guilt free now. Besides, the capital you provided will lead to newer, better, more efficient products. If nobody purchased the gas guzzling four-door Cadillac, do you think we would have had the spirit or interest in eventually developing the Honda Prelude?

Almost every product charts the same path: products begin as too expensive for the average person to purchase, but as the rich buy the new product they provide the capital to turn what began as a luxury into a necessity for the masses.

The most important thing that governments could do, by and large, would be to get out of the way of private sector innovation. This includes the new “green revolution” that is occurring with genetically modified crops. 

Rolf Penner, Manitoba vice-president of the Canadian Wheat Growers, recently penned an article arguing for the introduction of synchronized genetically modified wheat.

Penner rightly cites the fact that genetically modified biotech crops have been established with “soybeans, corn and canola.”

The use of genetically modified wheat could prove to be one of the most revolutionary scientific developments in years. Penner cites economic benefits that would see a decrease in costs and increased yields. Biotech crops have already “yielded 32 million tonnes more in production than conventional crops.” In addition, pesticides would be reduced by 792 million pounds. CO2 emissions would also see a significant reduction of close to 15 billion kilograms, apparently equivalent to removing six million cars from the road.

I wish David Suzuki could actually deliver that kind of performance. 

The history of human progress has shown that technology and reasonable, small government have improved the lives of ordinary men and women while also reducing the environmental impact of our lifestyles without sacrificing a single modern convenience.

Don’t be tricked. Enjoy your life, buy your latest gadgets and don’t regret it. 

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photo Ren West


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