Crank of the Week - October 13, 2008 - Jo Marchant, New Scientist

Faced with the very real prospect that the current world wide economic meltdown will totally eclipse the global warming “crisis,” the eco-activist British magazine New Scientist has issued a special report titled “How Our Economy Is Killing The Earth .” Ms. Marchant, the opinion editor, leads off the string of anguished articles stating: “personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.”

New Scientist has a long history of ecological alarmism, having climbed on to the global warming band wagon more than a decade ago. Of course it was also in the forefront of the impending new ice age crisis of the early seventies. Being green is a natural fit for the publication's leftist leaning editorial policy—it has often taken strong anti-American positions as well. Their assertion is that humanity is destroying Earth's ecology and the only way to save the planet is to halt, if not reverse all this nasty progress humanity has made over the past couple of millennia. Ms Marchant sets the tone for the invited “expert” contributing authors in the following way:

In recent weeks it has become clear just how terrified governments are of anything that threatens growth, as they pour billions of public money into a failing financial system. Amid the confusion, any challenge to the growth dogma needs to be looked at very carefully. This one is built on a long-standing question: how do we square Earth's finite resources with the fact that as the economy grows, the amount of natural resources needed to sustain that activity must grow too?

The list of “key thinkers” includes many well established cranks, several known for harboring misanthropic feelings. This rogues gallery of eco-pundits—who “profoundly disagree with the growth dogma but agree with the scientists monitoring our fragile biosphere”—includes Herman Daly, hailed as the father of ecological economics. His article explains why our economy is blind to the environmental costs of growth (“Economics blind spot is a disaster for the planet”). Tim Jackson, adviser to the UK government on sustainable development, dredges up the 40 year old, pathetically simplistic arguments of American ecologist Paul Ehrlich in an attempt to show that technological fixes won't compensate for the “hair-raising” speed at which the economy is expanding (“Why politicians dare not limit economic growth”).

Ehrlich, a butterfly specialist, began his spectacular career as a doomsayer back in 1968 with his best-selling book "The Population Bomb." Among his predictions then: “The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines ... hundreds of millions of people (including Americans) are going to starve to death.” Those words appeared in New Scientist in December 1967. He also predicted that England would not exist in the year 2000 and the world would enter enter a “genuine age of scarcity” around 1985. Despite being unerringly wrong in his predictions, Ehrlich continues to spew nonsense today and has now been elevated to the rank of elder prophet by the current crop of eco-doom mongers.

The list of contributors goes on: Gus Speth, one-time environment adviser to President Jimmy Carter, believes green values have no chance against today's capitalism ("Champion for green growth"); Susan George, a “leading thinker of the political left,” argues that only a global government-led effort can shift the destructive course we are on ("We must think big to fight environmental disaster"). Any of this sound familiar?

Andrew Simms, policy director of the London-based New Economics Foundation, attempts to discredit pro growth policies ability to pull the poor out of poverty ("The poverty myth"). Broadcaster and activist David Suzuki explains how he inspires business leaders and politicians to change their thinking ("Interview with an environmental activist"). Suzuki has also called scientists who deny global warming “shills” for big corporations so his motivational approach may be a bit ineffective. For more information on Suzuki's brand of activism refer to TRE Chapter 15, Prophets of Doom.

It is amazing to think that our amazingly rich, comfortable civilization can produce such obviously deluded “intellectuals.” Academics and policy wonks who have decided that progress is bad and humanity is a plague upon the earth. These are the same basic arguments that logically lead to thoughts voiced by the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) who's motto is “Live long and die out.”

VHEMT's stated belief is that phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health. If only these true believers would get on with dying out and leave the rest of us—who believe in progress and the basic goodness of humanity—to build a better future in peace.

It is but a small step from the arguments of New Scientist's “experts” to the self loathing of VHEMT. So, for leading off this miserable parade of humanity hating pin heads, Jo Marchant is this week's Crank of the Week.