More than 50 years ago, Paul Erlich wrote “The Population Bomb,” which warned about an allegedly impending disaster of overpopulation that would bring worldwide famine, civil strife, and a host of other calamities. He predicted that the demand of so many new souls would inevitably outstrip the world’s supply of food, energy, and other necessities, ending civilization.
On nearly all his points, Erlich was utterly wrong. None of this happened. The global population continued to grow while the global standard of living rose dramatically.
Yet, for all that, Erlich still kept his post at Harvard University and enjoyed great prestige as a public intellectual. He never recanted his predictions and continued to insist that overpopulation would overtake the world sooner or later. More importantly, he inspired future generations to perpetuate his fears despite the evidence to the contrary.
One of Erlich’s acolytes happens to be Biden’s recent nominee for the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning. She has come under criticism for her involvement with ecoterrorism and her graduate thesis discouraging everyone, especially those in developed countries, from having more than two children. For her, children are not a blessing, but an “environmental hazard,” and the “truly smart thing” to do is to “stop at one or two kids.”
While Stone-Manning’s involvement in spiking trees to maim and possibly even kill loggers should easily disqualify her from this appointment, her argument against having children deserves a rebuttal. Much like fascism and Marxism, the anti-human claims made by extreme environmentalists against overpopulation account for so much death and destruction, yet still enjoy so much legitimacy and respect among the elites in the developed world.
In fundamental terms, Stone-Manning’s argument is not so much about preserving the world’s resources and ecological integrity as it is about exterminating humanity. Her thesis is almost the same as Erlich’s half a century earlier and Thomas Malthus’s two centuries before that. It casts human beings as parasites doomed for self-destruction, and, like the oddly sympathetic supervillain Thanos, they propose cutting down the population to stave off global desolation.
Just as with Malthus and Erlich (and Thanos), there are two massive problems with Stone-Manning’s thesis: the reality of human effort and ingenuity, along with that of human evil.
True, for the insulated misanthrope in the ivory towers of academia, humanity might seem like a shameless horde of consumers, exploiting a small vulnerable planet in a vast uncaring universe. However, history has shown that human beings are quite adaptable and innovative when properly incentivized. Necessity and the potential for profit and power have pushed them past hunting buffalo and gathering wild fruits from the trees to sophisticated agricultural techniques that provide an overabundance of ready-made meat and produce.
Assuming they live in a country that preserves the natural rights to life, liberty, and property, human beings end up making far more with far less. Thus, modern people in the West struggle more with obesity and materialism than starvation and poverty.
Nevertheless, a person like Stone-Manning proposes limiting individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property in order to save the planet. If restricting these rights actually worked this way, however, China would be leading the world in cleanliness instead of being its biggest polluter.
Unfortunately, humanity’s great virtues of productivity and innovation are often outweighed by the great evils of mass murder and enslavement. Even though the warnings of overpopulation capsizing the planet have failed to materialize, they have succeeded in infiltrating modern culture and convincing people to do something (the more drastic, the better) about producing goods and having children.
Whether it’s through the autocratic totalitarian regimes following George Orwell’s “1984” or decadent post-liberal oligarchies following Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” many societies today discourage ownership and family. China enforced a one-child policy and employs a corporatist economic structure. Similarly, the United States increasingly has a corporatist economic structure while its public figures model and proclaim an anti-family ethic. Both countries endorse wide-scale abortion.
Consequently, the developed world now faces a crisis of underpopulation. Most countries’ birth rates are below replacement levels and the elderly are now outnumbering the young, placing a strain on social entitlements and general productivity. Beyond the economic devastation this creates, underpopulation will likely hasten the decline of a society’s values, as people become more selfish and increasingly see their elders as burdens to euthanize and the unborn as burdens to abort.
This is presumably all the better to a person like Stone-Manning, who would rather see a civilization in decline than a planet healing. If she and other environmentalists really cared to make the world cleaner and more sustainable, however, they would encourage having more children to innovate, produce, and take responsibility for the world we all eventually leave behind.
Instead of appointing people like Stone-Manning to public office and empowering them to partially enact a deranged philosophy, the country should cast them to the fringes along with every other extremist. As Benjamin Wiker details in his book, “10 Books That Screwed Up the World,” ideas have consequences.
In the present time, this applies to today’s environmentalists, who do all they can to persuade humanity to commit suicide allegedly for the sake of Mother Earth. For now, Stone-Manning’s thesis may not make it onto Wiker’s list, but something like it may appear on a later edition if people don’t start pushing back against these false claims and uphold a culture of life and freedom. One step in that direction would be voting down her appointment.