What is it with these guys. First, Paul “Population Bomb” Ehrlich spouts off about changing the trajectory of population growth humanely. Then, a couple of days later, Sir David Attenborough is calling humans a plague on Earth:
The television presenter said that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.
He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.
“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he told the Radio Times.
Aging hippies like Sir David and Paul Ehrlich need to get a grip on reality.
The best reaction to Attenborough’s James Bond villain impression is by my favorite economics writer, Timmy. He expertly cuts Sir David down to size in two sentences:
The first and most obvious question to ask in response is, “Well Sir David. So, which two of your three siblings should have been killed then?”
For population growth does indeed come from a couple having more than two children.
Timmy then goes on to point out how economic growth reduces population growth (frequent MCT readers are familiar with this concept).
The second thing that should be pointed out here is that we do in fact know how to manage this process of curtailing growth in the number of humans.
Everywhere it has happened, everywhere this species of ours has gone from rural and Malthusian destitution to a bourgeois urban middle classness, the population growth rate has fallen like a stone. Indeed, so much so that it becomes the population contraction rate. It doesn’t actually need you and Jonny Porritt demanding full body condoms for all. It only requires that people know they can eat three times a day, have a roof over their heads and that there’s a decent chance that all the children they do have will survive into adulthood. Absent immigration there just isn’t any population growth in the rich world. Far from it, there’s contraction (to be absolutely accurate you have to adjust for it taking until the second generation of immigrants to reduce childbirth down to the rate of the indigenes).
Great point. If Sir David and Paul Ehrlich were really interested in humanly controlling population growth, they would be championing economic growth.