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Killing times

The killing times are here: population policy
by Anthony Nolan

Garrett Hardin is a spokesperson for a particular environmental perspective that has been profoundly influenced by liberalism and especially by that form of liberalism under the sway of the Rev. Malthus. Hardin’s work is neither philosophy, history, politics, nor science, and therein is the problem. Hardin’s work is historically uninformed and this ignorance has led him to significantly misrepresent the nature of the problem. This is nowhere more obvious than in his thesis of what he terms “the tragedy of the commons”, as well as his 1968 article of the same name.

For an historically informed account of what happened to the “commons” see E.P. Thompson’s Whigs and Hunters: Origin of the The Black Act as well as his Customs in Common. There is also a useful Wiki entry on the Black Act.

In a major article some thirty years ago Hardin used the metaphor of the earth as a lifeboat to pose the problem of resource distribution on an overpopulated planet. He likens our common circumstances to a survival situation in which those who are in the lifeboats must decide how to respond to those who are in the water and seeking rescue. The dilemma is that there are more people in the water and at risk of drowning than there are available spaces in the lifeboats. Moreover, as the survivors of the Titanic sinking testified, the danger for those in the lifeboat of assisting those in need of rescue is that the desperation of those in need of rescue will likely overturn the lifeboat and put all at peril.

The lifeboat metaphor is a wickedly simple one that resonates with our deepest fears. Howard was able to manipulate the insularity of island Australia and turn it into prison camp Australia precisely because his own sinister ethnic and class fears reflected fears that are deeply rooted in Australian culture. (For more links see here.)

When Hardin first proposed his lifeboat ethics more than thirty years ago it was on the back of Ehrlich’s Population Bomb and the Club of Rome’s Report, both of which made the point that the planet was a finite and closed system. Back then this was not so obvious. In the intervening period all attempts at rational population control and more equitable resource distribution between centre and periphery (or first world and third world) have failed. The poor, predictably enough, have kept on reproducing until now it is a commonly held view that there is a problem not amenable to rational and humane policy response.

The Catholic Church among others has a lot for which to answer.

On the thread Depopulate or Perish there appears to be a reasoned consensus that the gross numbers are now so great that the political economy of overpopulation is no longer an issue. The gross numbers have it – there simply are too many people. In the past whenever I've encountered those who feel that there are too many people on the planet I've responded with the suggestion that they are free to take matters into their own hands and do the reasonable thing by reducing the population by one person. In other words, I've issued them with a polite invitation to do themselves in as the only ethical approach. This is because those who feel that there are simply too many people inevitably feel that there are too many of somebody else’s family, class, ethnicity or nation. In other words the problem is constructed as “too many of them” rather than "one too many of me".

Which raises the point: how are we to proceed now that it is apparent that the raw numbers are just too great for rational and humane policies to work? Effectively we are considering who to kill by policy neglect and exclusion from the lifeboat.

Let us pursue not the metaphor of the Titanic but the real history to see who dies, who gets saved and what are the crucial factors in the moment of urgency. I think that the real history is very informative. Wikipedia shows the percentages of survivors and dead by class composition (ie by ticket) as:

  • First Class 39.5% lost
  • Second Class 58.3% lost
  • Third Class 75.5% lost
  • Crew 76.2% lost.

More than 60% of the First Class passengers survived. Less than 25% of the Third Class passengers survived. Less than 25% of crew survived.

Apparently a disproportionate number of women survived compared to men and some suggest that this resulted from the quaint “women and children first” policy of the times. It is of note that:

Six of the seven children in first class and all of the children in second class were saved, whereas only 34 percent were saved in third class. Nearly every first-class woman survived, compared with 86 percent of those in second class and less than half of those in third class. Over all, only 20 percent of the men survived, compared to nearly 75 percent of the women. First-class men were four times as likely to survive as second-class men, and twice as likely to survive as third-class men.

I think that the above facts are readily understood. If the earth is the Titanic then it is the poor and the working classes of the world who are about to get shafted. This then is where we are at. Let us not kid ourselves. The moment has arrived where we are beginning to consider these sorts of issues – who will live and who will die. The most dignified way to do this is with total transparency about what we are doing. No shirking the fact that the poor of the world are about to be left to their own devices, hopefully to die with as much grace and as little trouble as possible, while the developed and industrialised nations steadily row away from their rescue.

How does that feel?

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Sane planetary evolution

Anthony Nolan, I'm still trying to fathom out your logic in supporting the destructive methods of the ideological human. Is it just in the empty hope of being right? Is being an apologist for pragmatism and environmental destruction, just to see if it works against the evidence, a logical approach?

There's no despair within my comments. On the contrary, they are positive for sane planetary evolution. It's despair you seem to be trying to cover up. Materialism is closely related to Marx, it's the most prevalent ideology in society. It's understandable ideological humans follow failed ideologies to their demise, which history shows us is extremely common.

“Then there is the conceptual error of attributing agency to nature. Nature is not a being and nor is it agential. It is indifferent.”

If nature were indifferent, it would not react, just succumb. What gives you the right to determine what constitutes a being in the universal reality, yet support illusionary conceptual beings and philosophies which by the evidence, shows are false, so failures? The ideological human sees themselves as intelligent and able to control agental action, whilst the opposite is true.

Ideological humans are those who blindly follow the leaders, irrelevant as to the viewable outcomes. They are those who must rely upon unchanging ideals giving them empty outcomes, whilst preaching brilliant results. You only have to read a dictionary to know what an ideological human is, they are those who refuse to change their thought patterns towards viewable reality, whilst sticking their heads in the sand saying, I am right, because I expect to be right.

I take no sides and see nature as a living being reacting to a violent assault upon it by an out of control organism. I see the rest of the universe as alive, just not in the same context as nano sized humans. A living being consists of many organisms working together to create a life force. Nature consists of trillions of organisms all working together in an evolving balance, until the ideological human mutated into existence. Now as with all of evolution, the life span of the ideological human has reached it use by date and if humanity survives, it will be replaced by non ideological thinking humans working with nature for a balance and long term sustainability of all earthly life. Just as we have seen many times in past human evolutionary history.

Marx was a failure, as was his ideology. Anything you produce relating to him is just like saying god is good and so are the outcomes of its philosophy. The only thing to learn from Marx and other failed ideologies is they failed and caused a lot of destruction. Just as the current form of ideological human is doing today

Fiona, you sure are zealous in your attempts to find fault or attack, having to go back a year to find something to say. I don't know whether I should be pleased at your attention, or disappointed at you reliance on fictional scenarios. I didn't reply to your iceberg invitation as I couldn't see anything logical within it, just an emotional outburst. Polar bears come from the Arctic. Icebergs never get to Aus, well not in the last few thousand years. I don't expect to be a survivor of the changes coming upon us However, that doesn't restrict me from pointing out the real facts, compared to the ideological fallacies supporters of more and more humans seem to have.

John Pratt, one should only despair at the denial and refusal to accept reality by those adamant more humans means more for everyone, whilst the opposite is painfully obvious. Ideological control is the destruction of society, how many more examples throughout history do we need to prove this, ideology doesn't change, it's set in concrete. If you use the ideology of today to describe a system for the future, then all you do is bring the failed concepts of today along with you. Just as religious apologists try to make out the god of today is different to the god of the past, yet all the facts show the opposite.

We need an approach to life which is evolutionary progressive, sustainable for thousand of years and gives us technological advances which enhance all life and is not orientated to greed, but to evolutionary understanding.

It's interesting to note we have already overpopulated near space with our ideological approach, just like the earth. Now there is so much rubbish up there, it's becoming increasingly dangerous and we will see within a few short years collapsing satellite infrastructure and an inability to launch because of the danger of collision with our junk. Doesn't that give everyone a look into where we are heading in space, which is just a repeat of what we have done on earth in our ideologically enslaved zeal?

The fear of city dwellers is well founded, as reality and growing evidence of collapsing cities is more powerful than their illusionary concept that cities are sustainable under the present approach and concepts. Growing usable water shortage worldwide is a profound reality, as feeders for rivers melt and dry up, as they have in Australia with the collapse of the Snowy Mountains water feed system. What does the ideological human do? Build more pipe lines to nowhere, more dams without rain, massively polluting and energy hungry desalination plants, whilst food bowls produce less and less. So the ideological human will be culled by nature, an active evolving universal being. Nature is the real foundation of societies not your delusional destructive concepts and will again be in the future, if we as a race want to continue to exist, then we must accept that and work within its parameters and not against them.

Doing Alga justice

A considered response requires the same, Alga, so here goes.

No despair on my part. I've been "bearing witness" for a long time and suffer no illusions about what is likely to happen or what is at stake.

Marxist materialism developed as a response to what Marx called German idealism; there is a lifetime of reading here but it would pay dividends for you to follow this lead up.

In saying If nature were indifferent, it would not react, just succumb you really are attributing agency to nature as if nature literally has a mind. It doesn't. The Gaia hypothesis is mysticism.

I respect the right of other beings to exist and be true to what appears to be their natures but am not obliged to see them as more than what they are.

In saying the ideological human sees themselves as intelligent and able to control agental action, whilst the opposite is true you are suggesting that I have as little capacity to exercise rational agential choice as what? an atom vibrating? a possum possuming? a squirrel squirreling? In exercising rational agential capacities I am being true to my authentic human capabilities which are no less natural than the rest of nature.

Your use of the term ideological ignores the substantial scholarship of Marx and marxists around his concept of ideology although you have captured his sense of ideology as a false view. But the rest just doesn't make sense the way you put it.

The following statement:

I take no sides and see nature as a living being reacting to a violent assault upon it by an out of control organism. I see the rest of the universe as alive, just not in the same context as nano sized humans. A living being consists of many organisms working together to create a life force.

is evidence of a sort of holism which requires further development in order to be meaningful. You might try Charles Birch (Sydney University, Christian Theologian, Nature Philsopher) as a foil for further argument and debate. Your ideas reflect a deep Christian belief that the Universe is orderly and good. See Birch.

Marx was a failure? Oh geez! He was wrong about certain things and right about others. Given that the whole of twentieth century history is little more than an argument with the ghost of Marx to describe him as a failure is ridiculous.

Finally, when you write:

The fear of city dwellers is well founded, as reality and growing evidence of collapsing cities is more powerful than their illusionary concept that cities are sustainable under the present approach and concepts.

you are apparently unaware that there is a long tradition in Judeao/Christian culture, one that the whole of the western world has inherited to one degree or another, of attributing moral qualities to landscapes. In brutal terms the city is seen as the centre of all that is unholy and profane while the country is seen as its opposite. See the Marxist Raymond Williams The Country and the City for a brilliant analysis of how this manifested in British culture through art, literature and so on.

An Einfeld Moment

Fiona Reynolds (like the links to Wikileaks) the links you provided outlining your "offer" to Alga Kavanagh.

Can you offer relevant  information concerning  the nature of this"offer" to Kavanagh, also incidentally explaining the significance of the proximity of polar bears?

World population

This issue is SO IMPORTANT! Permanent need for capitals it is so important. Need new alphabet and font to express how important it is. NOT!

This is emotional BS based on bad science and dodgy morals amply illustrated by the humourous attempt of white man's burden.

Short on reason. Long on emotive language. The population explosion (emotive but accurate as Malthus would be aghast!) mirrors the energy explosion and for good reason: agriculture depends on fuel and fertilizer all carbon based. Once we substituted carbon for horse power, the west boomed. This is about to happen in the East. Population in the West is now declining. This will happen in the East too. Japan as a test case? Shamefully, for the papists who have no influence there, abortion is the birth control practice, a tribute to the medical lobby. Population is stabilizing elsewhere too. Is this an anti-Muslim issue? They ("breed like rabbits" emotive) do have a 4% repro rate and do not have a developed materialist viewpoint so may continue to do so until papists come up with a cure. But the earth has the carbon and is starting to be more responsible. So what is the issue? War by any other means? What a load of tosh and it ill behoves Australians to argue for involuntary declines.

What are the real concerns of those who argue for others to die?

Unsustainable societies

Anthony Nolan, I agree with the essence of your thread, but the analogy of the Titanic is a bit misleading. The Titanic loss percentages reflect where people were on the ship, their limited avenues of escape and extreme reasons against survival. Even if you got off the ship, many were sucked down with it or died of hypothermia. But I understand what you're trying to say.

Because first world societies rely fully upon technology and the provision of services for their ability to live, it may be the outcome you foresee is an illusion. If first world societies can continue to grow and maintain their lifestyles under population overflow, then it will be the impoverished and lower economic classes who will suffer the most. The catch 22 is that this is not likely to happen, as the most obvious next step for first world societies is infrastructure and service collapse, as we are seeing in this country and elsewhere. These societies rely fully on outsiders providing them with food and resources. If these supplies are cut off or severely reduced, large wall to wall populations have no ability to provide for their citizens at all in food or energy, Then it will be the elite who suffer the most.

People who struggle to survive are the most likely to, whilst those who are fettered and feathered through life rarely survive traumatic and lifestyle changing events. The elitist thought forms of society are illusionary. If you turn off the power and take away the power of money, they can't live as they rely upon others to support their lives. The impoverished rely upon themselves.

Attempting to make this a moral or ethical issue just doesn't hold water. Morals and ethics always go out the window when we are faced with reality and its consequences. Overpopulation can only be solved by culling the species which is threatening other life forms and ecosystem survivability. Like it or not, we are controlled by nature, not some mythical god or airy fairy ideology filled with empty moralist and elitist delusions.

As an example, they are desperately trying to control the cane toad. I see no difference between the cane toad and the ideological human. They both are destroying all life they encounter, so massive culling is the only answer nature has. After all, the ideological human is quite happy to enslave, massacre or cull any life form they feel is stepping on their holy turf or seen as a perceived threat. I can't see nature taking sides with the ideological human, just the opposite.

The cities of the world are already in decay and close to collapse. They rely upon constant growth and expansion to survive. All that has stopped. A perfect sign is the economic collapse which will not turn around at all this time. The current city lifestyle has passed its use by date and is completely unsustainable. We may see history repeat itself and in the end, the majority of culling will be within the current elitist city based societies.

RSVP

Alga Kavanagh, I gather that you are a male of a certain age (just as I am a female of a certain age), so from an environmental perspective we have both passed our use-by dates. That being the case, I renew to you my offer of December 7, 2007:

Or shall I book a place on the next available iceberg for you and me, preferably with a couple of resident polar bears?

to which (to my sorrow) you never properly responded. The fact that icebergs "melt pretty quick when heated" is unimportant. What the polar bears would probably do to two older humans, however, would be a rational acceptance of Anthony Nolan's polite invitation.

No time for despair

Now is not the time for despair.

I believe humans will adapt to the new environment and the new economy. Those of us with a vision for the future need to work harder to bring about that future. A vision for the future is an ideology so I don't think ideology is the problem. Good ideology will be the solution. I agree with Marx: ideology is the superstructure of a civilisation. We need to continually build that superstructure.

We need an ideology that will lead us to a sustainable economy. An ideology that will create better opportunities for all even if we live in the third world.

What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.

We must think about a future that treats all life as sacred - we must believe that it is possible and nothing can stop that from achieving this vision.

For me that is the destiny of the human race.

Those of us who are elders are needed now more than ever. We must use the wisdom of years to help the young bring about this future. We all have a role to play. If you are not part of the future please let those that are get to work - do not stand in the way of change. Change is inevitable.

'Tis a pity

Alga has tapped into and exemplifies a deep stream of misanthropy within the environment movement:

As an example, they are desperately trying to control the cane toad. I see no difference between the cane toad and the ideological human. They both are destroying all life they encounter, so massive culling is the only answer nature has. After all, the ideological human is quite happy to enslave, massacre or cull any life form they feel is stepping on their holy turf or seen as a perceived threat. I can't see nature taking sides with the ideological human, just the opposite.

While I appreciate the sort of despair that drives his contempt for human instrumentalism towards nature and natural beauty it remains a fact that human society is as much a part of nature as any other component part. Part of, but different to the rest of nature. The real danger lies in exactly what he writes when he compares certain categories of people to cane toads - a pest species here in Australia fit only for extermination.

Then there is the conceptual error of attributing agency to nature. Nature is not a being and nor is it agential. It is indifferent.

On another point: readers will know well Alga's concern for what he calls the ideological human. This term is mystifying to me. However, Marx had a lot to say about ideology and I propose here the following as a starting point to further discussion:

Marx makes different statements about ideology at different points in his career; however, his most straightforward statement about ideology appears in The German Ideology, which he wrote with Frederick Engels. Ideology itself represents the "production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness," all that "men say, imagine, conceive," and include such things as "politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc." . Ideology functions as the superstructure of a civilization: the conventions and culture that make up the dominant ideas of a society. The "ruling ideas" of a given epoch are, however, those of the ruling class: "The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of their dominance" . Since one goal of ideology is to legitimize those forces in a position of hegemony, it tends to obfuscate the violence and exploitation that often keep a disempowered group in its place (from slaves in tribal society to the peasantry in feudal society to the proletariat in capitalist society). The obfuscation necessarily leads to logical contradictions in the dominant ideology, which Marxism works to uncover by returning to the material conditions of a society: a society's mode of production.

White man's burden

Paul, I'm delighted to see that you are shouldering your share of the white man's burden (and it is a gendered task) with valiance and fortitude.  See you at the Club.

un Locke-ing the old colonial treaties

Anthony, you become a source of deep perturbation to me.

Too many of me, rather than too many of the rest ... egad, man- where's your sense of proportion?

They need me, not all those silly chocolate drops wearing funny hats running around our colonies. Only dark people lie and I am a white man, therefore never a teller of lies. So you will issue instructions sending them all to the back of the queue, until my slave wenches, kilo of Afghani special and million dollar cheque arrive.

And if they start complaining about their bellies again, whether from cholera, dysentery or starvation, you will tell forthwith that they pack in this moaning and bear up like good chaps (or lasses).

After all, my stomach hurts too (burp!). This white man's burden comes from the bearing of a heavy responsibility of being one forced to eat whole baked chickens or mega T bones and chips in one sitting to prove how prosperous, industrious and well we all are. And this sacrifice should not go unrespected.

Someone has to do it. And as this onerous task fate self-evidently has decreed imposed upon me despite my deep unwillingness and sincerely expressed concerns made (at least mentally) concerning global poverty and unfairness. So I suggest all you do-gooders and your dusky chums depart, forthwith!

(Belch!)

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