William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Stream: People Who Don’t Need People

Look at all those people! And each of them is using---gasp!---resources!

Look at all those people! And each of them is using—gasp!—resources!

Today’s post is at The Stream: Environmentalists Who Dream of a World without Themselves.

It was anno Domini one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight and the sky was falling. Paul Ehrlich gave the world only months to live. Doom was inevitable. A population bomb was going to explode and kill millions, tens of millions, billions.

People were breeding like rabbits, eating like locusts, and polluting the air like NPR. So much grime was going to be cast into the atmosphere that the sun’s rays were going to be knocked back into space and plunge the globe into an ice age. Yes! Human popsicles planet-wide!

So what. Nobody believed such tall tales, did they? Oh yes they did. Like kids at a summer camp gathered around a midnight fire and anxious to be frightened, over the following decade nearly every politician, member of the intelligentsia, and inveterate do-gooder swallowed the whole story. They were convinced something had to be done.

What about the children?, China asked. Answer: don’t have any. Or don’t have more than one. This would “solve” the population dilemma and prevent economic collapse and mass starvation. The world, or at least China, would avoid a Malthusian apocalypse.

Go there to read the rest.

8 Comments

  1. The solution is Soylent Green.

  2. The “solution” to global warming is the same as it was in Ehrlich’s heyday: cut down on the number of people.

    I CAN STILL HEAR BILL NYE SAY “People … well too many people … cause Global Warming.”

    …one-child per-couple policy…can you imagine choosing a culture in which there is no word for uncle, aunt, brother, sister, cousin?

    I HAD NOT THOUGHT OF THAT!!!

  3. Good news for the anti population people – apparently climate change causes people to not have intimate relations with one another http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-02/climate-change-kills-the-mood-economists-warn-of-less-sex-on-a-warmer-planet

  4. …one-child per-couple policy…can you imagine choosing a culture in which there is no word for uncle, aunt, brother, sister, cousin?

    Just imagine that starting with a population of 300M and a one-child per-couple policy there wouldn’t be anyone to notice in less than 20 generations and that’s assuming every generation will efficiently couple. In short time, there will be insufficient people to maintain an infrastructure. supporting travel which would make it even more difficult.

  5. The Malthusians are always wrong but they never stop telling us we are doomed.

    A famous study into doomsday predictions was published in 1956 by psychologist Leon Festinger and colleagues in a book titled, “When Prophecy Fail”s. The papers reported on a flying saucer cult called the Seekers that predicted a flood was coming to destroy the West Coast, but they would be saved by flying saucers. When the destruction failed to occur as prophesied, the Seekers responded by proselytizing with greater vigour.

    According to Festinger, they resolved the intense conflict between reality and prophecy by seeking safety in numbers. “If more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly, it must, after all, be correct.”

  6. “Creating children is one of the few free entertainments available to the poor” I had a doctor tell me the same thing about the spread of AIDS in Africa–sex is free entertainment. Plus, the lifespan is so short, no one worried about AIDS killing them since something else would first. It’s a legitimate argument for Africa, I think, but unfortunately it is used worldwide without regard to consequences.

    I often note that if you want population control, stop working on preventing infant mortality. Babies not dying is what raises the population of a country.

    It is amazing to me that the very people who preach Darwin then balk at Darwin’s theories applies to humans, as if we were aliens on the planet. If humans become too much for available resources, some will die. It’s called survival of the adequately fit. Happens to all species. No reason it should not apply to humans.

    If dinosaurs, the huge and very numerous creatures they were, survived on this planet without using up all the resources, it is indeed ludicrous to think humans could do so.

    Ray: There have been several studies on the “backfire effect”
    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/
    This seems to apply to global warming, also. People become even more convinced when challenged. My brother made this observation once when he told me he and friend had done a Bible study, but eventually gave it up. The more they studied, the more my brother disbelieved and the more his friend believed.

  7. Sheri,
    Leon Festinger made this comment.

    “We’ve all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We’re familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed thru the most devastating attacks. But human resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with a whole heart; suppose further a commitment to this belief, suppose irrevocable actions have been taken because of it; finally, suppose evidence, unequivocal & undeniable evidence, that the belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of such beliefs than ever before. Indeed, s/he may even show a new fervor about convincing & converting others to this view.”

  8. Ye Olde Statistician

    November 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    The birth rate in the US has been steadily declining with sine waves since about 1820. This was before the invention of the Pill and various other measures, it was not the result of a government program to discourage children. The decline followed an exponential decay curve. There were icicles on the chart marking WW1 and WW2, which we might call the Faithful Wife Effect; and there were spikes immediately after each which we may call the Johnny Comes, Marching Home Effect. It dropped steadily from 1919 to the 1930s. Then rose through the 1940s to the 1950s, then dropped again after the 1960s. There was a spike, appropriately, following the Summer of Love, and a moderate increase (The Boomlet) as the Baby Boomers reached childbearing age.
    A broadscale time plot is here: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-NNSfLolLaYE/TzmPz45vySI/AAAAAAAAAG4/wQiPVj3aWUQ/s400/US+Birth+Rates.png
    I hope.

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