Contemplating the overpopulated world’s doom: An underrated source of Christmas cheer

By J. DeVoy

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever you celebrate, they all make this time of the year profoundly unpleasant.  Those who travel witness the worst of humanity, including people who use black garbage bags as carry-on luggage despite apparently being able to afford airfare.  Then there’s shopping.  And, for students with exams, there’s shopping that must be done during the final five-day rush before the holidays, or even in their midst.

The worst part of the season, however, is the people.  Holiday shopping draws everyone out from under the rocks of their hipster covens, gated communities, gentrifying neighborhoods and bucolic suburbs, and shoves them into one mall.   The shopping experience becomes  a melting pot of class resentment, as history tells us time and again that proximity + diversity = war.

My internal reaction to this validates the equation:

First, I’m not at all surprised to see smug environmentalist self-promotion on a Subaru station wagon.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bumper sticker on another car (and in fact might come with that model).  Second, note the italicization of “is.”  I wasn’t aware that there was a controversy about environmental protection being a family value, but thank you for clearing that up for me.  I hope there are other unasked questions that can be answered so conclusively with slanted capital letters.  Finally, what’s with the dings on the back bumper?  Don’t tell me that refusing to look back when driving in reverse is a family value, too.

The driver seems to have confused environmental protection and conservation.  Conservation can relate to conserving money as well as the environment.  It occurs in many forms, such as turning the lights off when leaving a room and taking quick showers, or larger displays like controlled burns of forests at risk of burning down, clearing flammable underbrush, or controlling too-large wildlife populations.

In contrast, environmental protection is anti-family and precludes human growth.  Real environmentalists, the people who have actually thought about the issue, understand that human overpopulation is the source of many environmental problems.  The effects of global warming, whether anthropologic or natural, would be minimized if the human population hadn’t swollen by around 5 billion people within 250 years.  The consequences of ecosystem death, such as colony collapse disorder and massive phytoplankton die-off, would be less significant if 6 billion people’s lives weren’t hanging in the balance.

Worse, this burgeoning population may be exacerbating their own problems.  The debate over anthropological global warming is well documented and does not need to be addressed here in thorough detail.  Some other crises, such as peak oil, have been caused solely by human consumption.  Cow flatulence, a commonly cited source of emissions, would be a non-issue but for human mass production of these animals for consumption of dairy and meat products.

So no, environmental protection is not a family value.  It doesn’t even pass the euphemism test, such as “family planning,” which involves abortion and contraceptives.  The best source of environmental protection is not having children, ensuring reduced competition for fundamentally limited resources.  The kind of people who have bumper stickers like the one discussed here don’t actually care about the environment – just their appearances.  Instead of increasing awareness of overpopulation, they narcissistically drink water from steel canteens, clucking their tongues and stroking their thin hipster beards while parroting Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, trying to sound stoic.  This guy isn’t even in the cool kids’ club of Prius and hybrid owners.  Finally, these are the kinds of unthinking, uncritical nitwits who can’t see the irreconcilability of environmentalism with their view that humans should have the unlimited right to reproduce at will, and impinging on that “right” would be unthinkable.

Except that eugenics is quite “thinkable” and something done in the United States until the 1970s!  David Plotz’s The Genius Factory provides a good overview of eugenics in the America, which lost support after World War II and the practice’s inevitable association with Josef Mengele.  While never targeted at the problem of overpopulation, these policies at least promoted a less idiocratic society by preempting the reproduction of the most criminal and least productive.  This in turn would regulate the population, as high IQ people have fewer children.

Some legal codes exist specifically to address the problems of overpopulation.  China’s one-child policy is famous for pursuing that goal, but arose to limit the state’s liabilities in providing for its citizens, rather than any specific concern over environmental issues.  India, another nation with more than one billion inhabitants, has taken measures to limit its population due to similar concerns.  As fertility decreases within the nation, the first signs of this plan’s success are becoming clear.  Despite not having a strict one-child policy, India’s 11th five-year plan emphasizes the importance of offering condoms, contraceptives and sterilization to women and men.

But in America, the world’s largest economy, no similar provisions exist.  Beyond the environmental effects, overpopulation leads to increased competition for housing and food, both of which saw dramatically increased prices over the last decade, whether warranted by the market or not.  Bringing it back to Christmas, overpopulation leads to intensified demand for products within a limited time frame, increasing the distortion that holiday shopping has on the business cycle.  Without such tremendous demand, there wouldn’t be a need for retailers to center their entire year around holiday shopping and spend almost a full quarter operating at a loss.  This is to say nothing of the environmentally harmful and largely frivolous consumption that’s part and parcel of the season, from lights to wrapping paper to packaging.  Each new member of the consumption orgy only worsens its impact, no matter how conscientious he or she tries to be in using natural resources.

So go forth and spread the word, sons and daughters of the law.  Drink and be merry.  And if someone asks you what you’re doing to save the environment this holiday season, ask them why they have a kid.

20 Responses to Contemplating the overpopulated world’s doom: An underrated source of Christmas cheer

  1. writerdood says:

    You’re right, of course. Overpopulation leads to over consumption of resources, and every inefficiency in our system is magnified as a result. I know I’m guilty. I eat a lot of meat. I have two children. I participate in frivolous consumption, like Christmas lights for example. And the wrapping paper (although I do recycle it).

    Do you think that in the future we’ll have forced eugenics programs where you and your spouse both have to undergo genetic testing in order to get a license for the right to have a child? Maybe we’ll have a form of reverse sterilization that will be implemented at birth, ensuring that no one ever has children without the consent of the state.

    While this type of constraint may be good for the environment, it is obviously a horrible burden on personal liberty, and will result in all sorts of violent behavior from the population. A strategy such as this could probably never be effectively deployed within a freedom loving country like the United States. Therefore, another solution must be employed, and the only thing that seems viable is education.

    Good luck with that. You might want to start with the Quiver Full people.

    • Vincent Clement says:

      “Overpopulation leads to over consumption of resources”

      Yet, the countries with the highest per capita consumption of resources are heading towards or are already at negative population growth. So overpopulation does not lead over consumption of resources.

      • jmdevoy says:

        Per capita consumption in nations with negative population growth doesn’t disprove the problem of global overpopulation. In the last 20 years, China has brought 300 million people into its middle class (or better), and they demand things like clean water, garbage removal, food, and other services that require infrastructure, fossil fuels and different kinds of investment. Just because they’re not the biggest consumers on a per-capita basis doesn’t mean that they’re not placing a unique and unyielding strain on the earth’s extant resources and the ecosystem that produces them.

      • writerdood says:

        Really depends on how you define over consumption of resources and overpopulation.

        At what point is there overpopulation? When the land can no longer support the people? When there are not enough resources? That’s too late, (in my opinion). I’d rather have fewer people and a higher standard of living. But that’s me.

        You’re argument is correct from the perspective of sustainability – we can, in fact, continue growing for quite some time. We can, if we want to, cover the land with city from ocean to ocean and farm everything with genetically engineered food in hydroponics labs, and bio-engineered meat grown in vats. In fact, we’ll probably get to that point eventually. The US population isn’t shrinking, it’s still growing, it’s just not growing as fast as a developing third world country.

        Here’s the US population growth rate:
        http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=sp_pop_grow&idim=country:USA&q=us+population+increase

        You’ll note that while growth has decreased in rate, the population is still increasing. Until the rate drops below 0, you won’t see a decrease in population.

  2. Vincent Clement says:

    “overpopulation leads to increased competition for housing and food, both of which saw dramatically increased prices over the last decade, whether warranted by the market or not.”

    Except that there is no population crisis in the US.

    The increase in house prices was largely due to loose credit requirements which increased the number of people who could buy a house (or buy more house then they should have been allowed to buy).

    Food prices increased partially due to rising fuel and fertilizer costs and partially due to government interference in the market (hey lets grow corn to make ethanol even though it takes more energy than oil).

    • jmdevoy says:

      There doesn’t have to be a population crisis for overpopulation to exist. I knew housing was a speculative bubble, so I hedged with the “whether warranted…or not” language. Still, if there were fewer people, there would be fewer individuals to access the credit needed to buy housing (even if the housing supply far, far outstripped the pool of available buyers, let alone qualified ones).

      As for food, you’re right that an increasing amount of corn, which is in everything by virtue of HFCS, is tied up with ethanol production or subsidies to not grow it. The growth of global population has commanded an increasing amount of that food for export, leading to increased competition within the US. Even if the subsidies and ethanol considerations are removed, this is essentially a fight over a finite pool of resources, and the growth of the global population has intensified demand.

      This is a zero sum game and someone will lose.

  3. smurfy says:

    Look, parents suck. You used to be cool, now you have a kid. Smug environmental subaru parents are just as bad as Family Values parents. You all suck.

    Congrats on the the Satyricon in the oven.

    • Yes, some of the Satyriconistas openly despise my lifestyle choices. What can I say? I don’t select them on the basis of how much they agree with me, or even like me. In fact, if anything, it seems that you have a better chance here if you don’t really click with me.

    • jmdevoy says:

      I’m less anti-child and more pro-exposing-hypocrisy of self-professed do-gooders.

      • smurfy says:

        About a year ago I was sitting in the subaru dealer’s waiting room when I spotted an ad on the wall: “The Forester, SUV+MPG”. Yeah except that it gets, like 25 mpg. 2 more than SUV. Marginal revolution I guess.

        My favorite car/sticker combo is the Prius with an Obama sticker. Why be so redundant?

  4. smurfy says:

    “Those who travel witness the worst of humanity, including people who use black garbage bags as carry-on luggage despite apparently being able to afford airfare.”

    Ron Jeremy was known for doing that. But in his line of work you don’t need to carry much of a wardrobe.

  5. Todd says:

    I’m guessing I’m not the only one kind of bummed out over H1N1, but still holding out hope for H5N1.

  6. Tapp says:

    Your argument holds no water until you provide proof that you yourself have undergone a procedure to limit your ability to reproduce. If you’re not willing to do it yourself, how can you advocate that other people do it?

    • jmdevoy says:

      I like kids, but don’t want them now. I think we need to reproduce, especially the kind of people who read this blog. I don’t claim to be an environmentalist, but raise this point against people who are. If they practiced what they preached, they would not be increasing the burden on the ecosystem. I don’t share those values, so it’s not hypocritical for me to want or eventually have children.

  7. Jack Torse says:

    jmdevoy,
    you should have kids, soon! That way they can be quickly raised to hate their father as much as you hate yours! It’s so obvious.

    Bumper stickers are rarely funny, but I came up with a good one the other day: “H1N1 says: “Don’t trust your farts!” I thought it was funny.

    As a fellow Subaru driver, and I’m assuming you took that picture in Madison, WI (where you go to school?), you’re likely to find people there that actually DO care about the environment!

    Find that bumper sticker on a BMW and it may be a different story.

    • Why would it be different if that happened to be on a BMW?

    • writerdood says:

      That’s what my son told me a couple of weeks ago when I had to pick him up from school because he’d pooped his pants.

      “Dude, what happened?” I asked him in the car.

      He shook his head. “I trusted a fart Dad.”

      There are sometimes when you just can’t do that.

  8. […] J. DeVoy – “Contemplating the Overpopulated World’s Doom: An Underrated Source of Christmas Cheer” […]

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