Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Environment: Early Anthropogenic Climate Change Developments and Population Control

The bolded phrase was originally used on an Earth Day poster for environmental awareness and it has sometimes been used in reference to global warming/anthropogenic climate change.

Global warming refers to the longterm rise in the average temperature of the earth's climate as a result of excess CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuels—that is, a product of man's influence. Eventually climate change (rather informal phrasing seeing as climate change encompasses both non-human causes and human interference, thus, anthropogenic should be added) became the main term and has sometimes been used interchangeably with global warming. There seem to be a myriad of reasons as to why climate change became the dominant term, which is summarized here, though the exact impetus to change the name remains unclear.

Climate change—specifically of the anthropogenic nature—has been viewed as one of the foremost problems in recent years, with millennials referring to it as "the most serious issue affecting the world today." In this particular Global Shapers survey, 48.8% of participants concurred that climate change was the most pressing concern, above economic inequality, unemployment, poverty, war, government corruption, etc—all very real problems affecting the polity. 78.1% said they would be willing to change their lifestyle to protect the environment.

According to Pew's global surveys, a median 54% across the nations surveyed say it is a very serious problem, while 85% say it is at least a somewhat serious problem. 

The bulk of democratic candidates for 2020 were also keen to promote 100% clean energy and zero emissions by such and such date.

There's also a supposed scientific consensus bandied about in the media and an enormous advertisement and propaganda campaign to support the establishment's view, for example:

But an analysis of the history and politics behind anthropogenic climate change (ACC) certainly provides the skeptical mind with some doubt about the veracity of the assertions made by climate alarmists. This is meant to be a multi-part analysis that looks at the different people and organizations promoting ACC and the development and presentation of those ideas; I'm intending to avoid delving into the science much at all for this article and subsequent articles—the reason being is that I wish to focus on events that have happened, which we can all agree upon, rather than fixate on the numerous interpretations of data. 

Although I will briefly touch on some early developments in the ACC debate, the majority of this article will concern population control, resource scarcity, and the catastrophic predictions of Paul Ehrlich, who was an important influence on the ACC movement. 

Neo-Malthusianism, Paul Ehrlich, and The Population Bomb

Though 1798 may seem an unlikely place to start when addressing ACC, Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principles of Population is a highly influential text that left a mark on those concerned with population control, which is one of the primary concerns embedded in much of the discourse of modern day environmentalists.

Malthus theorized that as the population continued to grow, it would outpace the food supply and many would starve as a result, but this didn't adequately take into consideration the possibilities of technological innovations and agricultural techniques and knowledge (such as Norman Borlaug's work with wheat) that would eventually occur, as well as the observable trend of today where the most developed countries are having much fewer children compared to the least developed. 

In his own words:
We will suppose the means of subsistence in any country just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants. The constant effort towards population... increases the number of people before the means of subsistence are increased. The food therefore which before supported seven millions, must now be divided among seven millions and a half or eight millions. The poor consequently must live much worse, and many of them be reduced to severe distress. The number of labourers also being above the proportion of the work in the market, the price of labour must tend toward a decrease; while the price of provisions would at the same time tend to rise. The labourer therefore must work harder to earn the same as he did before. During this season of distress, the discouragements to marriage, and the difficulty of rearing a family are so great, that population is at a stand. In the mean time the cheapness of labour, the plenty of labourers, and the necessity of an increased industry amongst them, encourage cultivators to employ more labour upon their land; to turn up fresh soil, and to manure and improve more completely what is already in tillage; till ultimately the means of subsistence become in the same proportion to the population as at the period from which we set out. The situation of the labourer being then again tolerably comfortable, the restraints to population are in some degree loosened; and the same retrograde and progressive movements with respect to happiness are repeated. [1]
He was an influence on Wallace and Darwin's theories about evolution, for they derived that Malthus's observations concerning the arithmetic nature of food surpluses and the geometric nature of population growth led to ideas about natural selection and the competition for resources; social Darwinism and the eugenics movement also drew from his work. This quote is an interesting summation of Malthus's thought:
Malthus was a political economist who was concerned about, what he saw as, the decline of living conditions in nineteenth century England. He blamed this decline on three elements: The overproduction of young; the inability of resources to keep up with the rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes. To combat this, Malthus suggested the family size of the lower class ought to be regulated such that poor families do not produce more children than they can support. 
Of course, where this differs from the modern environmentalist movement is they aren't concerned merely with lower class families producing more children than they can support, but even the middle and upper classes are encouraged to have fewer kids so as to reduce their carbon footprint. And notably many affluent world leaders are having very few children, which was not the case in the past (likely due to anti-natalist propaganda and the prevalence of birth control). 

Ironically, the same people who are usually in agreement with standard environmentalist rhetoric are also very pro-immigration, a practice which takes people from often developing countries that have a low amount of carbon emissions and then transplanting them to a developed country with a significantly higher amount of carbon emissions per capita. If having fewer children is beneficial to reduce the "foremost problem" of ACC the world faces today, one would also assume the same applies to immigration, especially when many of these first generation immigrants tend to have more kids than the general population. 

But the same wealthy oligarchs, elites, and Jews who are pushing their own environmental agenda are also doing the same for immigration, because this increases their profits, and immigrant labor not only depreciates wages, but immigrants are less likely to negotiate for better wages, resulting in even greater profits for capitalists at the expense of the host population. 

Neo-Malthusians emerged in the following years, though their concerns were not always with poverty per se as Malthus had been, but with limiting and controlling population growth, even through means that the Reverend Malthus would not likely have approved of, such as contraception.

One of the most influential texts on the topic was the Jewish biologist Paul R. Ehrlich's The Population Bomb from 1968. This more dramatic and salable title, an alteration of the publishers, heavily emphasized population growth in particular, but was originally given the broader title Population, Resources, and Environment. Initially, the book was not recognized, nor was it particularly groundbreaking or a pioneering work, yet in time, it would sell millions of copies and provoke heated commentary. There was nothing exceptional about Ehrlich's book that wasn't already circulating in environmentalist circles, and one author asserts that its eventual fame was a result of the primacy it placed upon emotion and the alarmist tone percolating through every passage. [2] Theory is all well and good for academic circles, but emotional appeal is often a necessity to galvanize the masses. 

It was hastily produced—apparently written in just three weeks based on Ehrlich's lecture notes, at the urging of David Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club at the time, in hopes that it would, rather naively, influence the 1968 presidential election—and apocalyptic in tone from its very first sentence, as can be seen in the prologue of the book: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," continuing with “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death,” and “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Mass starvation was proposed to be inevitable unless the growth of the human population stagnated. 

Ehrlich was so convinced of the premise of his book that he advocated the U.S. de-develop as an example for the rest of the world, as well as mass sterilization, and temporary sterilants in food and water supplies. Redistributing the wealth of nations was in the cards, too. For a list of articles concerning Ehrlich and things he has said in the past, Climatedepot is a good start. In his eyes, women being allowed to have as many children as they wanted was equivalent to letting people “throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.” To delve further into similar ideas Ehrlich has, there is the 1977 book Ecoscience, co-written with John Holdren, who became Obama's Science Czar—samples can be found here.

These ideas didn't just remain theory, but were also put to action in the 1970s—there was such fear concerning overpopulation and depleted resources that the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Authority, and the UN Population Fund loaned India tens of millions of dollars with the expectation that they'd conduct large-scale sterilization efforts, though they began as voluntary procedures, they soon became compulsory, peaking with 6 million sterilized in a single year. In 1979, China was also influenced by The Limits to Growth (this book and the Club of Rome, the organization who commissioned the work, will be covered in an upcoming article), and implemented their one-child policy.

Ehrlich tirelessly promoted The Population Bomb, and his first big break was being invited onto NBC's "Tonight Show" in February 1970, appearing again just before the first Earth Day.

Although these ideas seem to have almost risen from the ether if one is to peruse popular retellings of the nascent phase of the movement, The Population Bomb can be seen, as author Daniel B. Luten phrases it, a text "climaxing and in a sense terminating the debate of the 1950s and 1960s." [3] Erhlich was influenced by Fairfield Osborn's Our Plundered Planet and William Vogt's Road to Survival, both published in 1948. [4]

Historian Samual P. Hays commented on the transition and resurgence of neo-Malthusianism in American society, and of Osborn and Vogt's influence:
But on the whole the atmosphere of the years since World War II has shifted, I believe, from optimism to a guarded pessimism. We think less of possibilities and more of limits; we think less in terms of human betterment, and more in terms of human survival. The unlimited horizons of technology are less often in our minds today than the compulsive use of technology in a race toward world suicide. This new emphasis appeared soon after World War II in two popular books, William Vogt’s Road to Survival and Fairfield Osborn’s Our Plundered Planet, both of them infused with Malthusian pessimism, both emphasizing the enormous problem of population growth and the world’s limited food supply. Both warned that technology was not enough; resources were not unlimited; the pressure of population itself must be reduced. The increasing emphasis on national security augmented this sense of the limits, rather than of the opportunities of resources, of the need to husband rather than to develop, of the need to stockpile and save. [5]
Phrases such as "population bomb" and "population explosion" were first used in 1954 by Hugh Everett Moore in a twenty-two page pamphlet titled "The Population Bomb!" By 1967, the pamphlet was on its 13th edition with a print run of nearly a million and a half copies. To give examples of how widespread it was in certain circles: several authors borrowed the title in their own writings, including the Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Reclamation Michael W. Straus; a chemistry professor from Stanford, J. Murray Luck; and the director of the Population Reference Bureau Report, Robert C. Cook—as well as on the cover page of a 1960 issue of Time magazine. [6]

Earth Day

The environmentalist movement marshaled its strength together even further in response to some of the actual environmental problems of the day (as opposed to the wildly exaggerated, or in many cases, false claims of Ehrlich).

On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River on the southern shores of Lake Erie caught on fire as chemicals, oil, and other industrial materials that had oozed into the river somehow ignited. Just a few months before, on January 28, 1969, an oil rig leaked millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Santa Barbara. That same year, reports surfaced that our national symbol, the bald eagle, was rapidly declining as a species due to the chemical DDT, while around the world, whales were being hunted nearly to extinction. 
The aforementioned issues resulted in senator Gaylord Nelson founding Earth Day—a feature of which were demonstrations described as "a national teach-in on the environment," drawing in 10% of the U.S. population in the process. Soon after, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was founded and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were passed. 

Here are several more quotes to represent a bit of the zeitgeist of the 1970s, derived from Reason:

Harvard Biologist George Wald:
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
Chief Organizer for Earth Day, Denis Hayes: 
"It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
Washington University Biologist Barry Commoner:
“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich:
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100–200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years. … Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born. … [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.
North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter:
“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions …. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
Life magazine:
“In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.”
Ecologist Kenneth Watt:
"We have about five more years at the outside to do something," and "At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable. … By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate … that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any. … The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age."
These quotes are all doomsday scenarios, speaking of famines, population decline, and the end of the world. Of course, none of this really came to fruition. There was certainly poverty and people going hungry throughout the world in those times, and these conditions persist today, but we are not experiencing mass starvation. There have been a number of famines in recent years in Africa, but these are poor countries, rife with conflict and political instability. The incident rate of famines have actually decreased over the years. 

Contrary to the proposed Malthusian trap of centuries past, the next thirty years, agricultural production outpaced the more than doubled population growth. Malnourishment still is a problem in many countries, but there is enough food produced globally for everyone to be satiated, so a variety of other factors are responsible for their hunger.

And while pollution levels are not always great, there isn't an all-consuming smog blocking out the sun as one quote predicted, and pollutants in the air have dropped since the 1970s, not only in the U.S., but globally.

This is not to say there isn't some truth to be found in Ehrlich's book or in the reasoning of the neo-Malthusians. Even if many resources are in great abundance, they are obviously not unlimited, and endless population growth does have its demerits. Just as child birth might be promoted by the state (though in all honesty it often isn't in the west), in some circumstances it may be prudent to limit child birth.

Global Cooling or Global Warming?

The last quote by Watt, in particular, is interesting as it mentions an ice age rather than the global warming hysteria that predominated in later years.

He wasn't the only one. It entered the mainstream as early as 1958 when Betty Friedan wrote on the subject in Harper's Magazine. And there are several other articles from the 1970s that are detailed here, along with other catastrophic scares that never amounted to anything. These predictions of an ice age were largely the result, it would seem, of putting too much stock in cycles of dropping temperature.

In a January 26, 1970 report from Newsweek, the predictions by some scientists were described as such:
"This theory assumes that the earth's cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun's heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born."
However, the ice age hypothesis was included for the sake of balance, and predictions proposed by the greenhouse theorists seemed to be regarded more favorably:
"The greenhouse theorists contend the world is threatened with a rise in average temperature, which if it reached 4 or 5 degrees, could melt the polar ice caps, raise sea level by as much as 300 feet and cause a worldwide flood,"
Everyone realizes how incorrect Watt's predictions were, but this latter hypothesis quickly became embraced as global warming, eventually rebranded as ACC.

The switch from hypotheses about an ice age to global warming seems to have fully materialized by 1988, when James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Space Institute gave testimony that he had detected global warming, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In subsequent articles, I plan to cover the OECD and the Club of Rome, organizations equally concerned with population control and resource scarcity, and following that, I'll delve into the history of ACC more closely. 


[1]: Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principles of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society (London: J. Johnson, 1798), p. 29-31.

[2]: Charles T. Rubin, The Green Crusade: Rethinking the Roots of Environmentalism (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994), p. 79.

[3]: Daniel B. Luten, Progress Against Growth: Daniel B. Luten on the American Landscape, (New York: The Guilford Press, 1986), p. 308.

[4]: Pierre Desrochers and Christine Hoffbauer, "The Post War Intellectual Roots of the Population Bomb. Fairfield Osborn’s ‘Our Plundered Planet’ and William Vogt’s ‘Road to Survival’ in Retrospect," in The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 1, No. 3 (2009), p. 38-39; of course, there are numerous authors entertaining some of the same ideas between the time of Malthus and Vogt and Osborn, many of which are briefly mentioned on p. 42. 

[5]: Samuel P. Hays, "The Mythology of Conservation," as quoted in Henry Jarrett, Perspectives On Conservation: Essays on America's Natural Resources (RFF Press, 2011), p. 41-42.

[6]: Desrochers and Hoffbauer, Vo1. 1, p. 38.

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