Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When Environmental Writers Are Part of the Problem

Many thanks to guest blogger, John C. Feeney, Ph.D., a psychologist turned environmental activist and writer. The full article can be viewed at http://dissidentvoice.org/2007/07/when-environmental-writers-are-part-of-the-problem/


When talking about causes and proposed solutions for our ecological plight, few environmental writers tell us more than half the story. There is a near universal tendency to focus on the importance of cutting fossil fuel use while staying mum on the topic of population growth.
That the size and growth of the global population is a root cause of ecological degradation is well known to scientists who recognize, for example, that the ecological footprint for the world is the product of population times per capita consumption. Yet we hear all about the need to save energy by switching to florescent light bulbs. We read about the ethanol debate and carbon trading schemes. But in all the talk of ways of reducing per person consumption, how often does anyone mention the need to address the other factor in the equation?
Why the silence? Population growth received a good deal of attention in the 1960s and 1970s. But then came China’s draconian one child policy, right-wing groups pushing free market capitalism by cheerleading growth and dismissing the need to limit our numbers, and political wrangling among environmental and social justice groups. The result was the demotion of population from its status as social and environmental issue number one.
Indeed, many writers avoid the subject of population despite recognizing its importance. For instance, David Roberts, environmental writer at Grist, acknowledges he never writes on the subject. His reason? “Talking about population alienates a large swathe of the general public. It carries vague connotations of totalitarianism and misanthropy and eugenics. It has been used quite effectively to slander and marginalize the environmental movement. It is political poison.”
Is Roberts’ view wise? I don’t believe the subject of population is, in fact, “political poison.” Though they do so too infrequently, a variety of groups and writers do grapple with it. And there’s no evidence their work has set back the environmental cause. They identify population growth as a problem because it’s the truth, and they know bringing people the truth is productive while avoiding it is ultimately damaging.
Addressing population growth means taking humane measures to assist with the social and economic issues which drive it. That means improving education for girls and economic opportunities for women in developing countries. It means increasing access to family planning and reproductive health care services, and encouraging positive attitudes toward smaller families. And it means reducing infant mortality rates. Any notion that it need involve involuntary measures such as “totalitarianism and misanthropy and eugenics” is simply wrong.
True, some have tried to use the population topic to try to slander and marginalize the environmental movement. But these groups presenting irrational arguments from such vantage points as the Christian right and the libertarian right have had, at best, a marginal impact. Their attacks are best dealt with head on, exposing their agenda-driven illogic.
I frequently raise the population issue with people and have encountered almost universal recognition that it is a problem needing more attention.
Environmental writers who have avoided the subject of population should rethink their stance. Let’s embrace truth, not avoidance.


Andrea Murrhteyn said...


I just wanted to inform you of the following Population colliding with Depletion, Finite and Scarce Resources Issues Campaign.

Firstly, I agree it is controversial; and may I suggest before you totally discard the idea, you please make a fully informed enquiry. It is controversial, because -- in my opinion, based on jsutification in the report -- it goes to the root of the problem. And furthermore, it is a root cause that is very unpopular, particularly in Patriarchal cultures, and with those who endorse patriarchal cultural values.

Secondly, if the campaign is supported, it would provide an opportunity for a quality of 'root cause' conversation, such as we have never had in South Africa, not to mention the World; such as that would make TRC et al, appear to be a mild tupper wear tea party; because it would require all of us, to take a look at how our procreation policies, --- our perceptions to what is 'loving' procreation' and 'family planning' and 'committed child rearing', and 'loving cultural family values' --- are a DIRECT CAUSE OF LOCAL AND NATIONAL OVERPOPULATION COLLIDING WITH SCARCE AND FINITE RESOURCES: AKA CRIME, UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY, RACISM, XENOPHOBIA, FOOD PRICES, INFLATION, RESOURCE WARS, FASCISM CONFORMITY PRESSURES, ETC.....

Thirdly, I imagine, the three TRC-RSA individuals referred to; if they really care about South Africa, and particularly the Third Worlds Poor -- which I think they do, -- would in the final countdown, happily contribute a bit of a dent to their reputations, if such a dent, would contribute to waking up millions of slave and cannon fodder breeding white, black, green and purple poor, to the realities and consequences of Patriarchal cultural procreation policies; which most politicians prefer to keep them ignorant of; for thier future or current human resources as economic, political or military -- ignorant easily manipulated by emotive blame game issues -- cannon fodder.

Here follows a brief overview of the Campaign:

Legal and Political Petition to the Nobel Institute: Norwegian Nobel Committee

Notice of Legal and Political Request to:

(I) Withdraw Nobel Peace Prize’s from Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for (a) Intellectual Dishonesty & Hypocrisy; (b) Moral, Political and Religious Prostitution; and (c) ‘TRC-RSA’ Fraud and Betrayal; and

(II) Accept Nobel Peace Prize Nominations for Dr. Albert Bartlett; Dr. Garret James Harden, and Dr. M. King Hubbert, for Intellectually Honest and Politically Honourable Ecologically Sustainable, Human Rights, Peace and Social Justice Advocacy.

Full Copies of Lettters to Nobel Institute, and TRC-RSA Peace Prize Recipients

Sign HARTSSTARH Petititon to Nobel Institute

SESALMONY@aol.com said...

Dear Hans,

Thanks for being there and for all the great work you are doing.

In full agreement with Dr. John C. Feeney, it appears the human community cannot keep growing in the unbridled ways we are now because the gigantic current scale and rapid expansion of human activities in the wondrous, finite world God blesses us to inhabit could become unsustainable soon. What worries me most is that many people do not yet even see what we have before us as a formidable predicament, let alone its forbidding and growing magnitude. From my humble vantage point, many too many leaders who do see the huge global challenges {climate destabilization is one of them} that could soon be confronted by the family of humanity have chosen not to speak of them, but to remain electively mute and in denial. Although I am an ageing old worry-wart whose sight is failing and faculties are diminishing, it is necessary for me to fulfill a "duty to warn" by reporting that I see the potential for a colossal, human-induced ecological wreckage looming on the horizon.

Hopefully, I am mistaken.