From a nice suburban garden ....
I am sorry to interfere with world affairs, which have no repercussion outside the English speaking community (or maybe just a little disturbance for the few Italians who have been alerted, count them on the fingers of ONE hand !)
I am referring to the interview of Sir David Attenborough by the witty Camilla Long, which appeared on the News review of the Culture International of the Sunday Times (19/4 /2009). It has been a big surprise for me to hear the complete unabridged views of our great naturalist , which have delighted my spirits with his nature documentaries.
When Sir David Attenborough was promoted Patron of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), we all have a reason to rejoice.
He has been quoted as saying:
“there are three times as many people in the world as when I started making television programmes 56 years ago. It is frightening. . We are seeing the consequences in terms of ecology, atmospheric pollution and in terms of space and food production.”
He may say obvious things that nobody in his right mind can deny, - yet oddly, increasingly, most dare not speak - but then, it’s ok, because it comes from the mouth of one of the most respected and famous personalities worldwide, and that counts, for sure.
To have Sir David Attenborough as a spokesperson for the “thorny” (his own words) problem of overpopulation is a great idea, because he is a decent, intelligent, not extremist, all virtues that make him and his views non-threatening, acceptable and almost mainstream. Maybe a bit too much…
Attenborough comes from educated, middle class, English traditional background. He may be labelled as DWM (Dead White Male), but for the fact that he is still, well, alive. He sees life through a retrospective mirror, stuck bang in his childhood: “…idyllic, a time in the Thirties when you could just get on your bicycle and be out in the country in half an hour…”
Today, he implies, the artificial world in which our children are immersed is so far removed from that love-affair with the natural world, and the real tragedy lies in the fact that society as a whole is not aware of the abnormality of the situation, to which we have been adapting so fast and so well. It is the parable of the boiled frog. It has changed the way we live, the way we think, we dream, we make love. The way we see nature, which has become the “environment”, has become profane and banal.
Now, I do not think that nature, in the good old days, was not raped, plundered, ignored but for the things she could provide. The good old days are obviously frozen by a sort of foggy and misericordious memory, which gives us the illusion that there was a Golden Age, and that we have actually belonged to it. For some lucky individuals, like an English curious boy born into a privileged environment, of course, it was. But around him, if he tried to look up from the wildlife and see the human life, the occasions for relaxing and seeing nature were of necessity nil.
Anyway, in later life, Attenborough had more than a chance to see slums and poverty, and, though used to look with complete moral indifference, required by the scientific approach, at the brutal fight for survival of the non-human species, he couldn’t stand the scene of that equivalent horror that is human life. It was life that in a deep sense belonged to him. If he now finds culture to be more determining than evolution, he finds human behaviour morally intolerable although he is well aware that for nature it is quite normal.
Finally the refusal of procreation is an act of charity, a teleological mission, to stop the horror of the futility of millions of wretched existences.
I understand this feeling, I, too, am a white woman, the type of personality described with some humour by another white man, a certain Brendan O’Neill (see www.spiked-online.com, Wednesday 1 April 2009, Brendan O’Neill Mixing with Malthusians):
“spiked editor Brendan O’Neill ventured into a pit of population-controllers, and found himself holding his nose. Looking around the lecture hall of the Royal Statistical Society (A fitting venue for a conference that reduced everything to statistics), I was struck by the make-up of the audience: white-haired demographers; ladies-who-normally-lunch-but-who-today-were-discussing-the-coming apocalypse; comparatively young but equally posh Soil Association supporters.”
I am not resentful of irony, it is healthy to look at oneself from somebody else’s perspective, but O’Neill misses the point. As I found out with some dismay, Sir David doesn’t agree to the credo of the OPT. The OPT propaganda hasn’t told the real story, as revealed in toto by the Sunday Time interview. At one moment, the interviewer asks more pertinent (or shall we say “impertinent”) questions. She wants to know, for example, what is the ideal figure for the human inhabitant’s of earth? Sir David is not sure, as I am not sure either, and I would like to challenge anybody to swear that he/she knows for sure. So far, so reasonable.
After a while Sir David stumbles on a rather big and unavoidable obstacle- or shall we say, he falls into an equally big hole ?
But let’s hear it from the lips of the Great Old White Man.
Distracted by the vision of a blue butterfly he slips unaided into a declaration on immigration:
“We have to keep our borders open it’s a worldwide problem… you want a free movement of people round the world because it’ the only way to stop wars …”
I won’t go on, out of embarrassment, but you are familiar with the refrain.
It is clear that the same ethically correct reasons that drove him to deny, in the name of an enlightened Western culture of which he is a brilliant example, the destructive life and death carousel, drives him to extend the liberty. that he himself enjoys to far away strangers.
Though these are noble views, they are dangerous in more than one way and smell of complacency and wishful thinking, They ignore the consequences which will be felt for generations to come, and ruin forever that earthly childhood Paradise which he nostalgically endorses while enabling its destruction.
Thu, 2009-04-30 16:06
Of muggers and mass migration
Wonderful article, Marisa. I wish I had more time to criticise the position that Attenborough takes, but I will do it quickly just here.
I have also read William Rees (who invented the 'Ecological footprint') making similar unjustifiable assertions. It's like saying, "Give a mugger your wallet and he won't beat you up." We can guess that it comes from the highest colonialist and big business echelons. They are the expert muggers of the world and they also own the press which manufactures 'consent'. Tim Murray has long criticised David Suzuki on a similar attitude. Perhaps Attenborough and Rees simply have flown too high, like Icarus, and now their wings have been politically clipped; they have lost their independence. In a world of steady states immigration was always a given, but never the problem it is in our time of massive overuse and overstocking of the world by humans. Mass immigration is now a huge problem for democracy and human rights. It cannot happen without destroying local democracies and denying people the right to settled self-government and control over their environment. For this reason free borders are championed by big business, which is anti-democracy.
Mass immigration is now so close to invasion and a constant source of international friction, exploitation and downright wars and massacres. Think of the overflow from Britain - the first hugely overpopulated country - from which the fossil-fuel-fed diaspora led to the total takeover and massive land-stealing and destruction of biodiversity and democracy, of so many steady-state polities - India, Africa, Australia, Pacific Islands etc.
Think of the overflow from Rwanda (a victim of colonisation and big business and the servants in the pulpits) to neighboring countries, or of El Salvadorian immigration to Honduras, or of the problems created in the Costa Rican social welfare system by the overflow from neighbours and the impact on land-prices from North American immigration. And David Attenborough's words simply promote more of the same chaos. There are peace-keeping solutions, both commercial and humanitarian, that are effective and stem the push for immigration. One of the most effective ways to stop overpopulation and exoduses is to give back land which has been taken by commercial and colonial interests - but you will hardly ever read of this in Aid literature.]
Sheila Newman, population sociologist
Copyright to the author. Please contact sheila [AT] candobetter org or the editor if you wish to make substantial reproduction or republish.
Thu, 2009-04-30 22:58
So how does a country effect the giving back of land?
I am always keen to explore recommendations based on sound analysis as Sheila has offered.
So how does a country effect the giving back of land to its indigenous?
The idea would seem to offer a genuine reason for refugees not to flee, assuming all their other threats are removed. Take the Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka currently forced to retreat down to a beach refuge; not dissimilar to the plight of a third of a million Allied troops at Dunquerke in May 1940 early in WWII, cut off by a German armored advance.
While indigenous citizens will demand indigenous rights to land, birth citizens will demand birth rights, legal immigrants will demand immigration status rights. An attractive and popular country like Australia will, indeed long has, become crowded and busy with all these versions of land rights claims. If truejustice says that indigenous have higher moral jurisdiction, how does a country compensate the rest morally? For the indigenous saying to the rest: 'bugger off home' would be the most simplistic option. But human culture rejects such simplicity and one must bare in mind that human culture (especally the religious tainted) has been the spark of nearly all wars.
The hurdle for colonists morally honouring land sovereignty rights to indigenous people lies in the token framework of international justice that is the United Nations. Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia and almost every war-affected (impoverished) country since WWII (when the UN was formed) has experienced gross moral and legal neglect at the hands of the UN. The UN has a reputation as a toothless, politically correct and grossly underfunded watchdog of international justice.
If only the UN had a similar sense of urgency that Thatcher committed to in 'national' defence the Falklands; irrespective I might add, of glaring immoral justification by the British Tory Government to preserve a distant outpost of an Victorian empire for nothing but political ego and voter distraction.
For indigenous to reclaim just sovereign rights, the UN as a colonist power base is an anathema - the wolves minding the chickens, so the UN must be wound up. A new international organisation of justice should replace the UN with indigenous only members - perhaps the 'IN' (Indigenous Nations) with the English included as indigenous inhabitants of just...England!
Fri, 2009-05-01 01:06
Redistribution of land
Fri, 2009-05-01 20:19
Would love to see populations decline
Sat, 2009-05-02 21:48
Sun, 2009-05-03 05:40
Response to ambit challenge
Mon, 2009-05-04 05:46
Vivienne (not verified)
Thu, 2009-04-30 19:06
Open borders propagates overpopulation!