Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part VI, Summary

I didn’t get to really spell it out why I believe this because I wanted to avoid a controversy which would distract from the point I was making… so I will spell it out here, because you’re a captive audience.

I don’t believe in sin, and I am skeptical of any concept of absolute and universal morality.  Ultimately, I think what people perceive as morality is, in fact productivity.  Productivity has gotten a bad rap because we tend to think of productivity as factories and smokestacks, but truly, productivity is getting more for less effort.  Morality is founded in productivity.  Incest and cannibalism, for instance,  are universal taboos not because they “wrong” but because they are counter productive.  They take the exact same energy to achieve as other options, but yield less productive results.  The same reason is why we hunted the magafauna to death.  It takes about as much energy to kill a mammoth as deer, but a mammoth provides orders of magnitude more food energy.

Population reduction means one thing.  Birthrate/deathrate must be less than 1. We can do this through homicide or prophylactic measures. Believing as I do that morals are imaginary, and the right social engineering can produce new taboos and virtues, I have to take an honest look at homicide as an option.  Conclusion: if homicide worked, it would have worked sometime in the last couple eons.  However, believing as I do that reducing population is a noble goal, history also shows me that unethical people regularly jump on noble bandwagons to kill people and take their stuff.  That is what war is all about, killing people and taking their stuff.  So, first of all homicide is a lousy way to control population. Two, as soon as population control becomes demographically appealing, some people will use the platform to demand the death of whatever group they can make into a scapegoat.  They will then kill those people and take their stuff.

To prevent this, we have to not touch homicide with a 10′ pole, even though it is an acceptable solution to some issues.  I don’t think that plants, animals, and resources disappearing to keep people like Timothy McVeigh alive is a particularly moral/productive use of limited resources.  But homicide can’t be part of population control.  Ever.  In the long run, it’s counter-productive in two ways: First, it has no proven long term ability to reduce population, and in many cases, birthrate skyrockets after a bloody war.  Second, it stratifies wealth into the hands of the people who control the homicidal bureaucracy (Just look at the Soviets and the Nazis) This is counterproductive for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.

So that just leaves prophylactic methods, with two paths: voluntary and coercive. The problem with coercive, is that creating the bureaucracy to rigorously enforce the standards (aka forced abortion) would create a very similar bunch of bloody handed plutocrats as in the Soviet model.  (Look at China)  and has the same counter-productivity I will mention in a bit.

That leaves voluntary.  Coitus interptus has been known for thousands of years, and the population just keeps going up.  So, the incentive to voluntarily overproduce is stronger than the incentive to not.  “Voluntarily” is relative.  We can create a voluntary model with taxes and social norms.  But people hate taxes, and social norms are slow.  (It took the catholic Church 1500 years to accept that it might be a good idea to charge interest on loans.)  We don’t have 1500 years.

But everyone likes money and position, and income and education are the most proven mass birth control in the world.  Education costs money.  Ironically, the people who can afford children the least have the most, and the people who can afford children the most have the least.  We could get people to procreate responsibly if everyone on earth had access to European or American levels of wealth.  Access to wealth is dependent upon social mobility, which in turn means that despite the fact that Soviet style homicide, or Chinese style birth control can reduce world population, they would fail in the long run because poor peasants breed like rabbits, and the bureaucracy need to enforce those kind of standards always becomes the arm of a kleptocracy.

So, that’s what I meant by saying if it could be done, it would have already.  And why my solution is global wealth.  The only way I know to make global wealth and not rape the planet is with strong property rights for shared resources like, forests, air, and water.   The only proven way I know to share property rights is stocks, the only way I know to make stocks work right is perfect market.  The only way I know to make perfect markets work is to make sure that all members have equal access to the market, and the only way I know to do that is with a global governmen.  The only proven effective method I know for a group of groups to relate is in voluntary unions with trade benefits.

That’s my whole plan in a nutshell.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Slice of life | , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part II

The introduction to the solution:

Now, I am attempting to list a solution for a truly enormous problem.  My solution is also truly enormous.  I also struggle to make sure it is as ethical as I can possibly manage.   Before I explain my solution, let me explain why I think the solution is so hard to reach: rate of change.  In all of the things you need to know about to figure out a good overpopulation policy, you will find that rate of change rears it’s ugly head.

We tend to visualize data in graphs with plain curves either going up, or going down, reducing all the data to single binary option: increasing or decreasing.  The reality is different.  A graph represents rate of change.  A bell shaped line, for instance,  represents little change at first building into a faster and faster rate of change till it peaks out.  Then the rate of change decreases, and decreases until, at the other end of the bell, it peters out completely.  We must remember that almost everything someone says about overpopulation and pollution, either for or against, will be true at some part of the curve.

Something which improves the situation may experience decreasing improvement the more it is implemented, and may at a critical point begin to actively degrade the situation it was improving.  Remember, “Diminishing Returns” isn’t just a good idea, it’s the Law.

In Part I, I made the point that two questions must be answered. First, How much environmental impact is acceptable?  All creatures, great and small impact the environment in some way.  Elephants tear up shrubs.  Wasps lay their eggs in caterpillars, which must impact the caterpillars quit a bit.  We can’t delude ourselves into believing that we can not impact the environment.  Nor is it healthy to believe that we should impact the environment as much as possible.  To impact the environment as little as possible we would need to have the smallest sustainable population possible, perhaps a 1000 people.   No other species does that.  Why should we set our numbers so low? At the same time, when one looks at the level of environmental damage currently being wrought by 6 billion, the ideal number is probably much lower than 6 billion.

Once we have determined the level of impact acceptable, the second question is, What is the ideal population level.  This is not a simple question, because the answer depends on the efficiency of resource utilization.  Beef steak and algae are both protein sources, but algae makes about 32 times more protein with the same caloric feed input.  If everyone got their protein exclusively from beef, the planet will sustain 1/32 the population it would if they got their protein from algae, by measure of human dietary protein production requirement. Diet is much more complicated than a single protein source, and is but one piece of data needed to determine the maximum ideal population number.

So, the two questions of How much environmental impact is acceptable? and What is the population level will cause that, or less impact, are difficult to answer precisely.  Yet we must have a precise answer.  The answer of “no impact by many less people” is too easy to abuse, and the question of dismantling economies and mass genocide (species die off by birth control is still species die off.) is far to important to simply throw some legislation together.

Yet, it seems unethical to use the lack of a perfect response as an excuse to make no response at all and if a response is to be made in the lack of precise data, ethics are of the utmost importance.  The interim response must respect human dignity, human rights, and human freedom.  This is my response: Perfect market, strong property rights, fairly shared property, and global government to reduce pollution and population while improving the quality of life.

To be continued…

December 7, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment