The last time that Britain’s population was cut in half was the 14th century. The cause was the Black Death.
Seven centuries later, a leading British environmentalist is urging a similar decrease in what Ebenezer Scrooge famously called “the surplus population.” Only this time, he’s asking for volunteers.
In February, Jonathan Porritt, the chairman of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, said that couples with more than two children were placing an “‘irresponsible’ burden of the environment.”
He accused his fellow environmentalists of “betraying the interests of [their] members” by not telling people to be responsible for “their total environmental footprint.”
Not surprisingly, Porritt’s comments didn’t sit very well with a lot of Britons. But he’s convinced, as he wrote on his website, that “logic” and “sound evidence” are on his side.
So, six weeks later, he upped the ante: he declared that the UK must cut its population from its current 61 million to 30 million “if it is to build a sustainable society.”
Porritt told attendees at the annual conference of Britain’s Optimum Population Trust—yes, that’s the organization’s name—that “population growth, plus economic growth, is putting the world under terrible pressure.”
According to Porritt, “each person in Britain has far more impact on the environment than those in developing countries.” The “impact” he’s referring to is the emission of greenhouse gases believed to cause man-made global warming.
Porritt and his supporters, like Chris Rapley, the director of Britain’s Science Museum, are fuzzy when it comes to details about how to cut the population in half, and I don’t blame them: not even China’s infamous “one-child” policy will achieve Porritt’s goal.
One industrialized country that may, however, is Russia. A combination of plummeting birth rates, substance abuse, infectious disease, poor nutrition and other factors has reduced the life expectancy of Russian males to 59 years, 10 years less than at the end of the Soviet Union. As a result, Russia’s population is projected to drop by a third by 2050 and a half by 2100. A sustainable society? I think not.
Of course, a few good wars could reduce the human population, but all that ordnance, you see, would be bad for the environment.
As I said earlier, the last time Britain’s population was cut in half was during the Black Death. No book or documentary about the period is complete without a sneering reference to preachers who called the plagues God’s punishment for man’s sins. The obvious implication is that such a belief is an obscene relic from a barbaric and superstitious age.
Well, the same can be said about Porritt’s “proposal.” It is every bit as religiously-motivated as the flagellants of the 14th century. Here, too, mankind is being told to repent of its sins against a deity. Only this deity demands human sacrifice.
Actions like this are why many call environmentalism a “worldwide secular religion”. Physicist Freeman Dyson rightly calls people like Porritt “true believers.”
“True believers,” that is, who are all-too-happy to let other people pay a hefty price to create their vision of heaven on Earth.