There’s no condom for consumption.
October 19, 2013 9:53 PM Subscribe
Alan Weisman's new book argues that we should not only slow population growth, we should decrease the world's population to 2 billion.
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In the New Yorker
, Elizabeth Kolbert considers
his argument for the 2 billion person world in the context of a long history of Malthusian and neo-Malthusian arguments over population growth and resource limits. “Before artificial nitrogen fertilizer became widely available, the world’s population was around 2 billion. When we no longer have it—or if we ever decide to stop using it—that may be a number to which our own naturally gravitates.”
For more context, see Paul Sabin's new book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth’s Future
Weisman returns to some familiar neo-Malthusian arguments:
That doesn’t mean that poor people in developing nations don’t have a severe impact on the environment. I was in Niger, which has the highest fertility rate on the planet now. Its average is around eight children per fertile female. In every village, I heard, “Had you been here twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t have seen that house over there for all the trees that we used to have.” Where did the trees go? Well, they needed them for firewood, and then the climate began changing on them and there’s less rain now. They’re not responsible for the industrial pollution that has gunked up the atmosphere, but when you take down trees, things change. You graze too many animals, and things really change. They’re now in chronic drought. In every village, hundreds of children had died.
have been critiquing neo-Malthusian arguments regarding population's role in environmental degradation for decades. Tim Forsyth
's book Critical Political Ecology
is a good place to start. As he wrote in 1998
(pdf on his site) for the UN Development Programme, we "challenge the existing orthodox view that poverty and environmental degradation are inextricably linked, and are self enforcing."