The biggest albatross of environmentalism is its well-deserved reputation for apocalypticism: the world is always going to come to and end because of. . . plastic bags! Bee colony collapse disorder! Endocrine disruptors! Velociraptors! And of course the big one: c—— c—– (formerly known as g—– w——). This apocalyptic outlook always comes with the same sort of moral unctuousness you associate with a fire-and-brimstone street preacher: repent of your fossil-fool ways!
Why, people often ask me, are environmentalists so gloomy about the human prospect? I have a simple answer: it makes them happy. Seriously: if you point out to environmentalists the data showing many environmental problems on the national and global scale are improving, they usually go into a rage. Good news is bad news.
A few of the smarter environmentalists know that decades of nonstop environmental gore (heh) has been counterproductive, as public opinion surveys show that “apocalypse fatigue” set in a long time ago. That’s one reason why recent surveys even of Democratic voters show climate change to be a very low priority. Most sensible people would rather spend an evening trapped with a life insurance salesman than spend five minutes with an environmentalist.
Despite all of the efforts of the smarter environmentalists to shed their Malthusianism, they just can’t help themselves. Like an AA dropout who succumbs when walking by a well-lit tavern, orthodox environmentalism repeatedly stumbles and goes on a bender. For example, consider Paul Ehrlich apparently getting ready to imitate the Rolling Stones with a 50th anniversary tour of his famous book:
By Damian Carrington
A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.
In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.
The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.
Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.
I guess Ehrlich missed the news that more than half the world’s formerly destitute population has been brought out of extreme poverty since his book was published because of this “redistribution of wealth.” He’s narrowly correct: this is unprecedented—and wouldn’t have happened if we had embraced his coercive eco-socialism. Anyway:
The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.
Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.
Please environmentalists: don’t ever change.
P.S. I want to retract the sideswipe I made of life insurance salesmen above, because I have been through something incomparably worse. At a conference reception in New York once, I somehow got cornered by Paul Ehrlich and Jocelyn Elders, Bill Clinton’s very odd surgeon general. (Remember her?) Now that was lit.