Monday, April 6, 2009

People Bad

My attention was recently brought to one Jonathan Porritt, who advertises himself as:

Programme Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.  Jonathon Porritt is a Founder Director of Forum for the Future, and an eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development.”

I am in awe, and probably not worthy to comment, but I will anyway.

Jonathan caused quite a stir recently when he proposed that families should have only two children.  Children are people, and people are bad, according to Jonathan.  Why?  Because they have an ‘environmental impact.’

According to Jon’s blog there are ‘twelve easy steps’ by which you should see this:

1. The more human beings there are on the planet, the bigger our collective impact.

2. Our impact is felt in many different ways . . . Most particularly, it’s felt in terms of the rising emissions of C02 . . .

3. Each individual is responsible for their own carbon footprint.

[That’s bad grammar Jonathan - ‘each’ is singular while ‘their’ is plural.]

4. Population and environmental impact are therefore inextricably intertwined.

[5, 6, and 7 aren’t really ‘steps’ at all, so we can skip those']

8. . . . there are two things that have to happen here in the UK.

9. The first is to allow into our country no more people than leave it on an annual basis.

10. The second is to see if we might persuade (please note, persuade, not coerce!) the 26% of women in the UK who are currently expected to have more than two children to ‘stop at two’.

[and the last two ‘step's’ are just Jonathan blowing on and on]

Jonathan had proposed this back in February and had gotten quite a negative response.  It seems people in the UK don’t really like being told how many children they should have.  Notice how defensive old Jon is in ‘step’ number ten:  he just wants to ‘persuade’ people to have fewer children. There won’t be any coercion at all.

Of course, Jon doesn’t explain just how he plans to do this ‘persuading.’  If it’s just talk, go ahead Jonathan and see what you can do – though please don’t expect other people to pay you to talk about this.  But with people like Jonathan, when words don’t ‘work’ other kinds of actions often follow.

But this whole debate goes away if we examine an assumption that always lies behind this kind of environmental-mania.  The assumption is this:  changing the earth is bad.  From that it is easy to think:  people change the earth, therefore, people are bad.

I challenge the whole idea that changing the earth is bad.  Why should we accept this unstated proposition?  I – and lots of people much smarter than I – don’t think humans can do much to change the temperature of the earth.  But even if we could, why should we think that a warmer earth would be bad?  The earth has a long history of climate changes, and isn’t it a bit presumptuous of us to assume that, in the great variety of this history, we know that right now (or a few decades ago) is the best temperature for earth?

Even if – and this is doubtful – more people will warm the earth a bit, I think that might be a good thing.  Warmer could be better.  But when your convoluted reasoning brings you to the conclusion that people are a bad thing, you need to revise your convoluted reasoning.

People good.  Jonathan Porritt bad.

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