Let’s get rid of lots of people so that lots of people won’t die

Needless to say, most of the people who care about the environment are well-meaning and decent (agree or disagree about specific issues), but there is an increasingly vocal and increasingly influential section of the green movement with quite totalitarian tendencies. For some of them it’s no doubt all about “saving the Earth”, for others it’s an excuse to radically change the society they hate.

On the one hand, Bill Nye, “the Science Guy”, is looking forward to old people dying because they are hampering the fight against climate change:

It just sounds like people are scared. It just sounds like people are afraid. And the people who are afraid in general — with due respect, and I am now one of them — are older. Climate change deniers, by way of example, are older. It’s generational. So we’re just going to have to wait for those people to “age out,” as they say. “Age out” is a euphemism for “die.” But it’ll happen, I guarantee you — that’ll happen.

On the other hand, there are scientists, who not surprisingly find that fewer people equals fewer emissions:

We’ve all heard of ways to reduce our carbon footprint: biking to work, eating less meat, recycling.

But there’s another way to help the climate. A recent study from Lund University in Sweden shows that the biggest way to reduce climate change is to have fewer children.

“I knew this was a sensitive topic to bring up,” says study co-author Kimberly Nicholas on NPR’s Morning Edition. “Certainly it’s not my place as a scientist to dictate choices for other people. But I do think it is my place to do the analysis and report it fairly.”

The study concludes that four high-impact ways to reduce CO2 gas emissions include having fewer children, living without a car, avoiding airplane travel and eating a vegetarian diet.

By the numbers, any of these lifestyle changes drastically reduces carbon emissions compared to more common practices like recycling, using energy-efficient light bulbs and line-drying clothes.

  • having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 metric ton CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year;
  • living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year);
  • avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per round trip trans-Atlantic flight); and
  • eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year).

Which basically means that a child is as bad as 24 cars. Based on this research, we shouldn’t be talking about emission trading schemes, we should be talking about children trading schemes. And no doubt we will.

The problem is, the developing countries already have far fewer children than they used to; only a few – like the United States – have fertility levels above replacement levels. In countries like Italy or Spain, couple on average have one child. Everyone, the United Nations down, is forecasting the population throughout the developed world shrinking, often drastically, over the next 50 to 100 years. The demographic spiral we are already witnessing is quite unprecedented in human history in the absence of war, epidemic or famine.

But apparently we should have even fewer children.

The radical environmentalist’s perfect world is probably sometime around 2050 – where the old sceptical farts have died off and there are hardly any children. In other words, a world without a future. But also one without a present, because who will actually pay the taxes for the big government that the environmentalists coincidentally like so much?

But that’s only the developing world – a minority of the world population. At the moment, most of those yellow, brown and black people don’t produce all that many emissions, certainly per capita. But how to keep them down? After all, their low standards of living are not a matter of choice; most of the world’s other billions aspire to a lifestyle that, if not exactly comparable to the one throughout the developed world, is significantly better than they have at the moment. And that involves emissions; hell of a lot of emissions. Because let’s face it, no renewable source of energy will supply the necessary energy levels in a foreseeable future – not until they achieve the output, reliability and price comparable to coal and gas.

Neither Bill Nye nor the Swedish scientists are radicals who think that Gaia is sick, humankind is a disease, and population reduction and de-industrialisation are the cure. But the sentiments they espouse and the research they produce feeds into the poisonous stream of anti-humanist thought. In the past, human life was considered sacred, valued and important; now all life, except human, is.

I’m optimistic about the basic reasonableness and decency of our societies and I don’t foresee any state introducing a “one-child” policy, for example. I firmly believe that the scientific and technological progress, which no doubt creates many problems, will also solve them in the longer term, and it will do so before any budding totalitarians are able to introduce their crazy schemes.

Let’s not forget – we all have a choice now. If you are really worried about your impact on Mother Earth – “exit” now. If you think children are a plague upon Gaia – please, please, please, don’t breed. Have your human sacrifices to appease the angry gods. But you go first.