The Popdown Fallacy

Robert Dick

Kevin Langdon writes (Noesis 137, p. 12) about warming in Antarctica and concludes that "What is really needed is the reduction of the human population by at least a factor of ten." This is not just a non-sequitur, it is horrible nonsense.

There is only one way to cut human population drastically in the near future, and that is by massive government action. But government is the cause of many environmental problems. Trusting it to solve them is folly.

Allow me to answer absurdity with absurdity. There is a simple way to cut human population and reduce global warming at the same time. It is to have a nuclear war characterized by orgies of city busting. The bombs will cut population and the ash cloud will cool the earth.

Population densities extremely lower than today's have resulted in environmental damage. Thus it is not today's population that is the problem. For example, about a hundred years after man arrived in the Americas a number of large mammals became extinct, including the wooly mammoth and the American horse. Later, under farming, central American irrigation systems salinified the soil and ruined it for farming.

Governments are responsible for much environmental damage. The most notable example is Russia, where toxic waste and environmental damage abound. Russia is a thinly populated country. The trouble is, it is socialist. Hitler's and Stalin's cutting of the Russian population did not remedy this defect.

Governments are doing serious harm to the deep seas. Deep-sea fishing is facing drastically diminishing returns as the fisheries are becoming exhausted from overfishing. Why? Deep-ocean fishing loses a billion dollars a year, but is heavily subsidized by governments. The discipline of the free market would save the deep-sea fish just as it saved the great whales a hundred years ago. The great whales were nearly hunted to extinction for their oil, making hunting uneconomical. So it stopped, and alternatives were found. Had that happened today in the era of big government the whales would soon all be dead.

The free market could save the rainforest were it allowed to do so. First of all, the alarm we hear about the coming end of the rainforest is exaggerated. Only about one percent of rainforest land is being cleared each year, and the forest grows faster than that. Second, why do you suppose people buy rainforest land and use up its entire productive potential in two or three years? Because property rights are so tenuous in Brazil that no one can count of having the use of "his" land for longer than that. Rainforest land is valuable, and its destruction is a tragic waste. But the main blame belongs with the Brazilian government.

If the environmentalists want to cut carbon dioxide emissions let them vigorously promote nuclear fission power. New reactor designs now available produce reactors physically incapable of melting down. But mention that to the ecofreaks and they scream. It is new technology, not old, that will protect the environment best. Kevin has it backwards.

The environmentalists have a not-so-hidden agenda that has nothing to do with the environment. It is to make mankind smaller and poorer. Kevin has regrettably fallen into their trap.