In Search Of A Visual Metaphor For Overshoot: The Sinking Lifeboat Still Makes The Point Best
Overpopulation conjures up many images. Most typically, one thinks of traffic gridlock or bulldozers ripping up forests or farmland to make way for more housing developments. But these images fail to impress the green wing of the Growth-Management Industry, the so-called "environmentalists" of the "progressive" coalition of feminists, eco-socialists, soft-greens and human rights advocates. For them there are always "solutions" that obviate the need to face the elephant in the room. Public transport, smart growth, green technology and good green living habits will do the trick. The trouble is, they won't. It is all a delusion. Numbers matter--the social justice agenda cannot defeat the laws of physics. And the best metaphor to make that point remains Garrett Hardin's sinking lifeboat.
Bulldozers or Traffic Jams---What Better Symbolizes Runaway Population Growth?
After the website for Immigration Watch Canada was recently re-designed, I was asked if I could think of a more appropriate image to adorn its mast ---a more plaintiff illustration of the negative ecological consequences of mass immigration to Canada. Initially, I was persuaded that a picture of ten lanes of gridlocked traffic leading out of Toronto would make our point quite eloquently. But then I faltered. On second thought, I said, a picture of a new housing development being constructed on farmland would prove more poignant. I added that given the impact of hyper-immigration, the bulldozer should replace the beaver and the maple leaf as our national symbols. But then, once again, I had second thoughts. Why?
The Soft Green Party Line
For as predictable as frost in winter, Fem-Green-Left environmentalists can be counted upon to reflexively retort with their standard objection. It goes something like this:"Gridlock is not a function of overpopulation but wrong-headed transportation policy. With disincentives for driving cars and extensive public transit in place, we could move people efficiently and economically without environmental impacts. And urban sprawl is not a function of overpopulation either. With strict land-use policy, we could house people within compact urban growth boundaries and preserve greenfield acreage. In both cases, our per capita energy consumption could be dramatically reduced. There is unexploited brownfield acreage in our cities that could be the site of energy-efficient low-rise infill housing that would reduce commuting by placing people close to their workplaces."
Betsy Hartmann A Leading Exponent of Population-Denialism
None better regurgitate this party-line more quintessentially than the Queen of Smear, Betsy Hartmann of Hampshire College, author of the infamous "Greening of Hate", which attempted to discredit the ecological case against mass immigration by accusing those who make it of fronting for a sinister racist, nativist and xenophobic agenda. She showcased this fallacious reasoning in her attack on Chris Hedges for arguing that we are "breeding ourselves to extinction." ("Rebuttal to Chris Hedges-- Stop the Tired Overpopulation Hysteria", Alternet March 14/2009)
"The population controllers also have blinders on their eyes when they attribute the cutting down of forests, the polluting of water supplies, and the extinction of species to too many poor people, rather than the unchecked power of large corporations to monopolize resources and ravage the land. Missing from the picture is the question of technological choice: for example, reducing the population of automobiles and investing in public transport worldwide would do much more to curtail climate change than imposing limits on family size."
Again resorting to standard green-left script, Hartmann cited the United States as the worst offender of industrialized countries who, with only 20% of the world's population, have contributed 80% of the carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the atmosphere. Instead of recognizing that as a good argument for curbing immigration and reproduction in America, she proposed that Malthusian environmentalists drop their apocalyptic act and "get down to the gritty green work of making effective and equitable environment and climate policy." By “histrionic fear-mongering” that “pointed the finger at population growth”, Malthusians would have us "alienate the Global South" and "shirk" our responsibility to find practical solutions like carbon capping, energy-saving retrofitting of existing buildings, investing in alternative energy, public transport and lifestyle changes.
Climate-Change Obsession Serves The Globalist Vision
It must be understood that for this generation and genre of “environmentalism”, atmospheric pollution is the only metric of environmental degradation that deserves much attention. The virtue of climate-change obsession is that in its call for “global” solutions that must demand “global cooperation”, the open-borders mentality finds its most convenient friend. The impertinent demand of “nativists” to protect their nation’s environment from unfettered trans-national migration can then be framed as the wrong-headed belief that the environment can be “nationalized”. Gone is the foundational injunction of environmentalism to “act locally”. Passion for what is closest to hearth and home is alien to the rootless cosmopolitan greens, who see such attachment as a parochial bond that succours a “fortress” mentality. We have no right to a “national” culture or a national environment. Thus the corporate agenda finds cover in the Trojan Horse of Green Globalism--- the world without borders they both seek.
Reducing Per Capita Consumption And Waste To What End?
This "tired" soft-green cant provokes the obvious questions. Questions like "What good would come from 'alternative energy and public transport' and 'energy-saving retrofitting of existing buildings' if there are more people consuming resources and more buildings being built than ever before due to population growth? What if you succeeded in getting everyone out their cars and into public transit while population growth continues, would not the amount of resource consumption and pollution still increase? Even if you could cut per capita consumption in half---which would be a death sentence for a great majority of people in the world and bring severe destitution to most citizens even in the developed world---what net benefit would accrue if the population doubled? Should we forfeit a sustainable future for the sake of not alienating the corrupt leaders of the "Global South"? If our very survival as a species is contingent on aggressive family planning measures in developing countries and the cessation of mass migration of the global poor to the industrialized north, should we defer to etiquette and the diplomacy of silence? If was a firefighter who saw smoke coming out of your attic, should I avoid pounding on your door or bursting in to loudly demand your evacuation for fear of alienating you? And how do you think I would feel about an environmentalist who smelled the smoke but preferred to "get down to the gritty green work" of polishing the wood furniture, admonishing me for "histrionic fear-mongering" and “shirking” my responsibility to look for effective solutions?
Elementary Physics Obviously Not A Course Requirement At Social Justice University
Showing pictures of gridlock and urban sprawl to the snake-oil salesmen of green delusions will not register because they are congenitally incapable of understanding the physics of bailing water out of a leaky boat. It is quite simple. If you don't bail out a volume of water equivalent to the volume of water that is pouring into your vessel, you are going to go for a swim, and then you are going to regret that you welcomed so many passengers on board, and that you accused those who had warned against your reckless hospitality of racism, nativism and xenophobia.
Overloading a lifeboat to satisfy the dictates of an ideologically fashioned concept of social or "environmental justice" is not only perverse and suicidal, it supremely arrogant. For there is no greater testament to human hubris and conceit than the assertion that a moral law of our making trumps a law of biophysics and the species-imperative to survive. Hartmann and the “progressive” coalition of feminists, “eco-Marxists” and soft-green growth-managers consistently fail to understand that there can be no equality, justice, reproductive or human 'rights' in world without humans.
Perhaps then, the best image to illustrate this stark truth is not a traffic jam or a shiny new subdivision atop farm acreage, but an overturned lifeboat surrounded by passengers floating face-down. The lifeboat can be Canada or the United States or any one of a hundred nations. Or it can be Planet Earth, capsized when too many passengers shifted to the more affluent starboard side to find the “justice” which Betsy Hartmann and the ideologues of delusional egalitarianism claimed was their due. It is called “slosh dynamics” and it involves a concept referred to as “the centre of gravity”, but that is another one of those laws of physics that they obviously don’t teach in Political Correctness 101, Womens’ Studies or at Hampshire College.
November 19, 2010