02 October 2009

Monbiot loses the plot?

A few days ago, George Monbiot of The Guardian newspaper published an article entitled "The Population Myth". The article was circulated to me with the rather blunt title, "Monbiot loses the plot". Fearing that some on the mailing list had hypocritically missed the point, I wrote my own response.

I suspect that a lot of the controversy surrounding this article (at least here) could be averted simply be removing this tagline:

"People who claim that population growth is the big environmental issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor"

Among those of us who preach the significance of population growth, not all of us are taking out our frustrations on the very poor. Most of us can already see the hypocrisy of the most polluting countries, such as Australia and the USA, who blindly point the finger at poorer nations rising by housing our dirtiest industries. Some of us even understand the dependence - again, however forced via globalisation - of developing countries upon affluent foreign markets, and their consequent dependence on foreign money.

To this end, Monbiot has an excellent point, but he stops short of making it. (His suggestion of changing the I=PAT equation doesn't help either; in modern times, we already tend to measure the affluence of a population by its consumerism.) Whether by resource depletion or by rising sea levels, we are at risk of an apocalyptic population crash. The strategy of The Powers That Be is to centralise those dwindling resources so that they can outlast everyone else. It's like the old joke about trying to escape a river full of crocodiles with a pair of flippers: I still can't swim faster than a crocodile, but I can swim faster than you.

Think of the situation in Iraq. If the USA could reduce its dependence on oil, and could afford to buy it at wildly fluctuating prices, they wouldn't have to send the military around the world to steal it. This doesn't solve peak oil, but it does mean that the "non-negotiable American way of life" might last just long enough for them to see other countries depopulated first.

I have no delusion that such a strategy would benefit anyone more than those already at the top of the pile. On mailing lists like this one, a more common strategy for resilient communities would be to concentrate on the resources you really need and to invest them wisely. A strategy to strut around the world taking these resources by force is no less cogent - provided, of course, that you first give up your last shred of human decency.



No comments: