The One-sided Worldview of Eco-Pessimists

From Quillette

written by Joanna Szurmak and Pierre Desrochers

This essay draws in part on the authors’ new book Population Bombed! Exploding the Link Between Overpopulation and Climate Change (Global Warming Policy Foundation, 2018).

The Pull of Environmental Narratives

In his critique of Hans Rosling’s optimistic take on the human condition (which Rosling co-authored with son Ola and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund),1 Christian Berggren scolds the late professor of international health for ignoring negative trends and for dodging the “preconditions and ecological consequences of the current techno-economic regime” as well as the risks inherent to “continued global population growth.” As Berggren further argues in the longer paper on which his Quillette essay is based, the Roslings illustrate the philosopher Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s apocryphal statement that “You do not see with your eyes; you see with your interests.” In this, he claims, the authors of Factfulness failed to present “the world and how it really is.”

Are Berggren’s critique and worldview any more accurate? His facts and positions are squarely in the lineage of thinkers such as Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834), William Vogt (1902–1968) and Paul Ehrlich (1932– ) who view human activities as inherently constrained by ecological limits. Environmental policy analyst John S. Dryzek2 labeled this perspective the survivalist discourse; it opposed the Promethean perspective developed by the likes of William Godwin (1756–1836), Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), Henry George (1839–1897) and Julian Simon (1932–1998). Prometheans like the Roslings posit that humanity can, and should, apply the intellects of its most creative individuals and the synergistic effects of large groups of people working to transform the environment in order to improve its lot.

Other sets of names and descriptions exist3 for both discourses but the most accessible are pessimists and optimists. While these perspectives are far from monolithic, their main narratives remain deeply at odds with one another over a significant point: the role of humanity in environmental change. The philosopher Alex Epstein4 contrasted them as follows: Pessimists see the goal of human activity as minimizing human impacts; optimists understand the goal of human activity to be maximizing human flourishing.

The Roslings’ book and Berggren’s critique are good proxies for the assumptions, goals, and values of their respective discourses. Since Berggren challenged the optimistic Roslings’ grasp of reality, we will sketch out the pessimistic narrative he employed, showing how his critique, in turn, failed to present “the world and how it really is.”

The More Times Change, the More Pessimist Rhetoric Stays the Same

Berggren does not deny irrefutable standard-of-living improvements nor dispute that, in market economies, ordinary people are now more numerous, healthier, and wealthier than before, and that every resource for which there is a sustained demand has become more abundant. He does, however, warn that recent progress is unsustainable because of nature’s limited capacity to absorb toxic emissions and to provide for an increasingly numerous middle class wishing for things like cars and meat. His stance of acknowledging some recent progress while decrying its unsustainable character, however, is the oldest rhetorical strategy of the pessimists.

For instance, the pessimistic economic historian Arnold Toynbee (1852–1883) had to acknowledge that Thomas Robert Malthus’s proposition that “population tends to outstrip the means of subsistence,” if interpreted as meaning that “population does increase faster than the means of subsistence,” was clearly “not true of England at the present day” and was also debatable in the case of India. In 1954, the chemist and eugenicist Harrison Brown (1917–1986), the mentor of the Obama administration’s science czar John Holdren, acknowledged that the “disaster which Malthus foresaw for the Western World did not occur” and that Malthus’s poor predictive track record would qualify him as “incompetent.”5 Closer to us, the prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben acknowledged that “[n]o prophet has ever been proved wrong more times” than Malthus.

Toynbee, McKibben, and Brown, however, saw all of this as irrelevant because of present-day problems that would soon prove catastrophic. In earlier generations these typically revolved around soil erosion and air and water pollution. Needless to say, McKibben has thrown in his lot with human-induced climate change and the catastrophes it has allegedly induced such as droughts, floods, and wildfires. Not surprisingly though, past catastrophic weather was once blamed on everything  from religious insubordination to the deployment of the lightning rod, wireless telegraphy, First World War ordnance, atomic tests, and supersonic flights. A few decades ago, the kind of evidence now marshalled by McKibben was used to support the hypothesis of anthropogenic global cooling due to particulate air pollution. To give but one illustration, in his influential 1976 book The Cooling, science journalist Lowell Ponte invoked frost damage at coffee plantations in Brazil, the expansion of the Sahara Desert, crop failures in the Soviet Union, severe floods in the American northeast, and severe droughts in the American southwest to prove his point. Global cooling, Ponte argued on the basis of this evidence, “present[ed] humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten thousand years.”6 Like today, most of the preferred policy solutions of cooling advocates revolved around reducing economic activities and implementing population control.

Whatever one’s stance on human ability to cope with the “global climate disruption,” Berggren and other pessimists have failed to consider that past beneficial trends and subsequent progress were achieved, not in spite of the growing human numbers, but precisely because of them. As we will now argue, the pessimists’ mistake is to assume that greater wealth and material consumption necessarily translate into greater environmental damage.

Model Tautologies

The key point in the pessimist narrative is the existence of hard environmental limits to human development. Such limits are illustrated using a number of metaphors and frameworks, most prominently the I=PAT equation (Environmental Impact equals Population times Affluence times Technology), the Ecological Footprint and the Planetary Boundaries frameworks. Berggren critiqued the Roslings’ failure to acknowledge the results of such environmental modeling, citing the Global Footprint Network’s description of human activities as “exceed[ing] the capacity of nature to rebuild the resources consumed.”

Many analysts have long expressed serious reservations about these frameworks because of their inherent biases against population growth and economic development. Ecosocialists Ian Angus and Sean Butler thus described the I=PAT framework as “what accountants call an identity, an expression that is always true by definition. [Paul] Ehrlich and [John] Holdren didn’t prove that impact equals population times affluence times technology—they simply defined it that way… based on their opinion that population growth is the ultimate cause… of other problems.”7

Similarly, the Ecological Footprint has been defined to embody the strong sustainability perspective with respect to carbon dioxide emissions. To be neutral, any human-caused increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2 is said to require a forested area sufficiently large to absorb all the emissions. Bill Rees, one of its creators, acknowledged that the framework was deliberately built to counter the view that “because of technological advances, the human economy is ‘dematerializing’ or ‘decoupling’ from the natural world.” By definition, thus, the Ecological Footprint penalizes the use of modern technologies that deliver more outputs using fewer inputs and deems less urbanized and less industrialized countries—where people are less healthy and ecosystems under much greater human pressure as a result of low-yield subsistence agriculture, lack of alternatives to fuelwood, and greater consumption of game meat—as being more sustainable. One critique stated: “The footprints of all the industrialized countries are artificially inflated […] purely because they are efficient and get high yields.”

Eco-Pessimism and Population Control: Whither Reproductive Justice?

Hans Rosling suggested that a growing population is “fundamentally unproblematic,” and cannot be controlled because “[p]eople are free and decide themselves.” Berggren declares this untenable. For most pessimists, these notions are anathema and thus warrant a rebuttal based on a somewhat specious interpretation of the 2017 UN population report. For instance, while the report stated that “[t]he current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100” and that “the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline,” Berggren enhances those trends to fit his narrative. His characterization includes both descriptive language and population figures absent from the original text, including his emphasis on the fact that “the world’s population will rise sharply,” and that population growth might reach up to “thirteen billion by 2100,” nearly doubling the UN estimates.

Berggren also fails to discuss other relevant trends, for instance that “during 2010–2015, fertility was below the replacement level in 83 countries comprising 46 percent of the world’s population,” or that the predicted rising trend in world population depends on a combination of factors including “substantial improvements in life expectancy” and decreasing child mortality around the world. An appreciable component of population growth is thus due to the failure of people to die as early rather than to a world quickly filling up with babies. In this light, his rhetoric of birth reduction, when aimed at the portion of the world that has been failing to grow, seems tone-deaf while his calls for socially engineered birth control campaigns in Africa, where fertility is above the replacement rate, bring to mind earlier, often eugenics-inspired, coercive population control policies in developing economies. This is most conspicuous when Berggren suggests: “Effective family planning played a big part in the decrease in fertility—from Iran to China to Korea. In China, fertility was halved before economic development took off, contributing to its rapid improvement in productivity and reduction of poverty.”

Writers such as the anthropologist Carole H. Browner have long disagreed with this assessment. Building on the work of other development scholars, she has argued that “the myth of overpopulation was one of the most pervasive in Western culture, so compelling mainly because of its simplicity” even though there never was “much evidence that the South even had a ‘population problem.’” This, however, never prevented governments and international agencies from promoting “the idea that the widespread use of contraception would bring about a smaller, healthier, wealthier, and a more politically stable world.” In many cases “[c]oercive practices were intrinsic” to most programs, despite the fact that “fertility was already declining in most of the world before family planning programs, much less coercive ones, really gained momentum.”8

Whereas Berggren claims, without citing specific sources or numbers, that “family planning played a big part in the decrease in fertility” and that, in effect, this decrease in fertility caused prosperity to increase rather than the other way around, most credible studies on the topic suggest, to the contrary, that population control programs reduced fertility levels by perhaps between 5 and 15 percent.

Population Growth to the Rescue!

Unlike the pessimist perspective, the case for the economic, social, and environmental benefits of population and hydrocarbon-powered economic growth is far from intuitive. It is nonetheless long-standing and vindicated by the historical evidence. Its key insight is that humans broke from other animals by engaging in the trade of physical goods and by developing the capacity to innovate through the recombination of existing things in new ways. Turning Malthus on his head, Friedrich Engels (of The Communist Manifesto fame) argued in 1844 that science “advances in proportion to the knowledge bequeathed to it by the previous generation” and therefore “also in a geometrical progression.” As the economist Fritz Machlup (1902–1983) put it over a century later, “the more that is invented the easier it becomes to invent still more” because “every new invention furnishes a new idea” and the “number of possible combinations increases geometrically with the number of elements at hand.”

As a result of these unique human traits, a larger population that engages in trade and the division of labor will create more prosperity, per person, than fewer people working alone. To modify an old metaphor, humanity does not just pick the low hanging fruit, expending more resources and creating more pollution in a futile attempt to get at the remaining few. Instead, humanity turns to creating orchards with more productive and easier to tend trees that grow tastier and more durable apples.

As documented most famously by the development economist Ester Boserup (1910–1999), even in poor economies increased numbers triggered improved agricultural innovation and higher productivity because “population density facilitates the division of labour and the spread of communications and education. The important corollary of this is that primitive communities with sustained population growth have a better chance to get into a process of genuine economic development than primitive communities with stagnant or declining population.”9 Boserup further observed that “the need to feed larger populations led to technology transfers from one society to another or to the invention of new methods and tools.”10

The history of technology in market economies makes it abundantly clear that humans routinely came up with methods that increased the efficiency of agriculture, resource extraction, industry, transportation, and communications. Instead of releasing more toxic effluents into the environment over time, people did the reverse. This happened spontaneously because of a few recurring processes: increased efficiency, resource creation, and transformation of waste into valuable by-products. Another key piece of the optimistic argument is that in the last two centuries humans have increasingly replaced resources extracted from the surface of the planet (for instance, fuelwood, lumber, rubber trees, wool, indigo plants, whale oil, animal labor) with resources that ultimately originated from below it (for instance, transportation and heating fuels, plastics, synthetic rubber, fabrics, and dyes), in the process delivering greater material wealth while sparing nature and allowing numerous ecosystems to recover from past human exploitation. A few vignettes will illustrate this.

On the Environmental Benefits of Hydrocarbon-Based Development

Synthetic products are typically frowned upon by pessimists because of the raw materials (at first coal, later petroleum and natural gas) they are derived from, their persistent nature, and their non-renewable character. Yet, as the historical demographer Edward Anthony Wrigley observed nearly 50 years ago, their development allowed one sector after another to become “independent from the soil,” thus “by-passing of the bottleneck” caused by the limited supply of flora and fauna humans could draw upon.11

For instance, the first significant commodity created out of petroleum in the late 1850s was kerosene used as a substitute for whale oil in lighting. No matter how they distilled petroleum, however, early refiners were left with a polluting residue. In short order, innovations raised the marketable yield from about 50 percent to about 75 percent through the creation of by-products such as lubricating oils, greases, paraffin, petroleum jelly (better known by the trademark Vaseline), candles, insect repellents, and solvents. Unfortunately, (light) gasoline and most heavy residuals remained problematic.12

By the end of the nineteenth century, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil chemists and inventors had turned most remaining residues into lucrative and ultimately environment-sparing solutions through the development of approximately 200 by-products.13 For instance, in 1861, petroleum-derived paraffin was introduced into the pharmaceutical industry as a substitute for spermaceti (the highest grade of whale oil), almond oil, and lard. By 1870, it had supplanted spermaceti as the main laundry sizing while gaining market shares in textile manufacturing, lumber production, and by displacing natural rubber in waterproofing.14 The advent of electric lighting and of the internal combustion engine soon revolutionized the petroleum product market by turning gasoline into the main product of refining operations, which, in conjunction with the later development of the diesel engine and fuel, allowed the replacement of countless horses and mules and the liberation of the agricultural land required to feed them. Even natural gas, once flared for safety reasons, had by the early twentieth century been led “through piping for hundreds of miles to feed hungry furnaces engaged in the making of steel and other products.’”

As was widely understood at the time, the main challenge of by-product development was that it required “the greatest specialization of methods, encouragement of invention, investment of capital, and extension of plant,” something beyond the capacity of small operations. In his 1908 book Wealth from Waste, the pastor George Powell Perry thus attributed such transformative success to the “wise use of that which was once regarded worthless” rather than to “financial shenanigans and deceptive practices.”15

Read the full article here.


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Geoff Sherrington
December 8, 2018 10:46 pm

Decade after decade I try to discover the motivation of those who invent radical and often untruthful ways to interfere with the natural progress of the human condition.
Time and again I wonder what drives them to to seek control of lives of ordinary citizens who have little interest in ideologies being forced on them.
Dominantly, why do groups of people we might summarise as bureaucrats, often devote their life work to enabling these deviants. It is incomprehensible, when the main alternative is the advancement of self and ones own ideas.
Oh for a world free of all this crappy mind control stuff. Why do they persist with interfering needlessly with the lives of others?Geoff.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 8, 2018 11:18 pm

Iain McGilchrist may have the answer. TED Talk.

Society has come to valorize left brain thinking which ignores context. It’s the process by which someone gets a PhD for an idea that any street sweeper can see is bunk. As long as an idea is self consistent, the left brain will believe it no matter how badly it is contradicted by lived reality. The right hemisphere acts as the brain’s BS detector. Our education system doesn’t train it or particularly acknowledge its importance.

When I was a kid, wisdom was celebrated. There aren’t a lot of people talking about wisdom these days. Wisdom is the result of the two brain hemispheres working together.

What you’re complaining about may be a result of the death of wisdom.

December 8, 2018 10:47 pm

People over bred during the dark ages and that gave rise to the plagues that cleaned out Europe.

At some point people learned a lesson and we got de facto birth control via the Western European marriage pattern. At some later point, technology started to accelerate.

Ephemeralization, a term coined by R. Buckminster Fuller, is the ability of technological advancement to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing,” that is, an accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output (products, services, information, etc.) while requiring less input (effort, time, resources, etc.).

The thing with technological advancement is that it needs a supporting economy. It is the paradox of thrift on steroids. If we try to limit the economy ‘to save the Earth’ we are likely to stifle technological advancement and quickly crash back into the stone age.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  commieBob
December 9, 2018 12:35 am

You write “If we try to limit the economy…..”
Why try?
What gives people permission to try?

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 9, 2018 2:11 am

They say we’re using up the planet’s resources at an unsustainable pace. link That’s why they think it’s ok to create the bogus CAGW scare.

The reason they are wrong and Malthus was wrong is our advancing technology. We use less material do do more.

Between 1977 and 2001, the amount of material required to meet all needs of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 trillion pounds, even though the country’s population increased by 55 million people. Al Gore similarly noted in 1999 that since 1949, while the economy tripled, the weight of goods produced did not change. link

An example of ephemeralization would be David vs. Goliath. Goliath had a big club that weighed many pounds. The more technologically advanced David had a slingshot that weighed mere ounces. link

Leo Smith
Reply to  commieBob
December 9, 2018 4:05 am

that is way too simplistic Bob.

We are running into limits: just not always the ones we thought we would. The world is ultimately finite. And cannot suppoert and infinite population. The question is what will stop it and how nasty will it be.

Left to her own devices Nature will probably not be particularly pleasant about it.

My gut feeling is that we will build ever more complex systems with ever more stupid people until one day the thing falls over, there is relative chaos, and only those lucky enough to have access to food fuel and water without needing fuel or an advanced infrastructure will make it through.

Reply to  Leo Smith
December 9, 2018 4:59 am

There is support for your position. Thomas Homer-Dixon has written The Ingenuity Gap in which he makes the point. We also have to worry about one possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox, to wit, it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself. link

We do have a tiger by the tail. That said, we are past the point of maximum population growth. Prosperity decreases the rate of population growth. The population of the planet is projected to max out around 2100. link By and large, I am more optimistic than pessimistic. So far, Buckminster Fuller has been correct.

The one thing we must do is to keep the Marxists away from the levers of power.

Reply to  Leo Smith
December 9, 2018 8:15 pm

Where are these limits that we are running into.
Name them.

As CB has pointed out, technology has enabled us to do more with less. That is we are using fewer raw materials even though the population has increased.

Stephen Skinner
Reply to  commieBob
December 9, 2018 4:54 am

Commie Bob
“At some point people learned a lesson and we got de facto birth control via the Western European marriage pattern.”
Birth rates in the UK fell as we became wealthy from industrialization. Western European marriage patterns are not responsible. My Grandparents had 13 children, my mother 4 and me 2.

Reply to  Stephen Skinner
December 9, 2018 5:20 am

In the last three hundred years my ancestors in North America had a maximum of about six. Two wasn’t uncommon.

Some folks credit the Western European Marriage Pattern with a reduction in the fertility rate. link Apparently the data suggests that your grandparents were an exception.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Stephen Skinner
December 9, 2018 7:58 am

Birth rates also fall with the development of better medicines. Families use to have a dozen or so kids in order for two or three to survive. My great grandfather had three sons who carried the suffix ‘Jr.’ before one survived. In his time it was nothing for one of two epidemics to come along, each wiping out half the children in the family. It has always bothered me that the first thing charities do in undeveloped countries is provide improved medical care without concurrent birth control counseling. They always attack the child life expectancy problem with medical care and ignore the starvation to caused by the resultant overpopulation.

Reply to  commieBob
December 9, 2018 9:10 am

“People over bred during the dark ages and that gave rise to the plagues that cleaned out Europe.”

During the dark ages, sanitation was unknown. Technology was minimal. There was no knowledge of microbe theory.

People came to believe many wrong things which led to wrong actions, such as believing the plague was spread by cats, so they killed cats which allowed the rat population to grow, and likewise the flea population which is what spread the plague.
Malthus was wrong.

Try some Simon
People over bred during the dark ages and that gave rise to the plagues that cleaned out Europe.

December 8, 2018 11:10 pm

Maltus was right, look at nature.

But humans are cleaver and to date the improvements in agriculture have more than kept pace with world population growth.

But with the problems in the Middle East and the results being illegal migration, the good times may well be coming to a end.

Solient Green”” may not be so way out, as will be euthelnasia, which will soon be sold to us by the politicians as a good thing.


Fernando L.
Reply to  Michael
December 9, 2018 12:12 am

These things tend to solve themselves via population collapse due to epidemics, internal conflicts which lead to a total breakdown, or wars which cause a large number of deaths and reduce birthrates.

in recent years we have seen this mechanism work in Rwanda, where genocide and war reduced population pressure, Haiti, which seems to be a collapsed society sustained by charity and migration.

While theoretically it’s possible to overcome overpopulation and resource depletion, many nations are controlled by inept governments following the wrong recipes (see Venezuela for an extreme case of a marxist and gangster hybrid mentored by the Castro dictatorship wrecking a rich nation and causing 10-15% of the population to flee while killing hundreds of thousands from murder, hunger and disease).

The problem, as I see it, is that misgovernance and corruption are fairly common, and therefore in the next few decades we are likely to see more collapses, famines, wars, and epidemics caused by poor governance. To make matters even worse, richer nations such as many of the European Union members and the USA seem inclined to commit suicide by reducing their birthrates and simultaneously allowing themselves to be invaded by people fleeing misgoverned societies…which can be extrapolated to the eventual replacement of well governed societies by conflict ridden and badly governed constructs brought about by possibly well meaning but misguided political parties. This means that partial collapse of civilization may have already begun, and the world will eventually be ruled by smaller populations of survivor types such as Russians and Chinese.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Michael
December 9, 2018 2:08 am

you don’t understand what Malthus said.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Michael
December 9, 2018 7:19 am

The World Bank disagrees with you Michael. Based on declining rates of growth in world population since the 1960’s they say that growth rate will hit 0.0 in 2100 to arrive at final highest population possible at 11.2 billion people . The earth can easily handle 11.2 billion.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Michael
December 9, 2018 8:00 am

“Maltus was right, look at nature.”

Wow. So many typos, so little time.

December 8, 2018 11:54 pm

Berggren does not deny irrefutable standard-of-living improvements nor dispute that, in market economies, ordinary people are now more numerous, healthier, and wealthier than before, and that every resource for which there is a sustained demand has become more abundant. He does, however, warn that recent progress is unsustainable because of nature’s limited capacity to absorb toxic emissions and to provide for an increasingly numerous middle class wishing for things like cars and meat. His stance of acknowledging some recent progress while decrying its unsustainable character, however, is the oldest rhetorical strategy of the pessimists.

Exactly, this is all very familiar.
“It might look OK for now but just you wait, out models predict apocalypse any day now … “

John F. Hultquist
December 9, 2018 12:00 am

Julian L. Simon’s name is in the text but his concept of “the ultimate resource” is not presented. Well, Prometheus gets a nod but that’s not going to resonate with most readers.

December 9, 2018 12:09 am

OT, sorry, but I’m working my way through the excellent Heartland video of the Cop24 Climate Summit:

and have a request for Heartland, via WUWT – it’s a very valuable resource but it would be even more valuable as a series of linked, contribution-length videos. I’d love to be able to get waverers to look at the evidence presented by Heartland and its contributors, but 3hr 20min is offputting.

December 9, 2018 3:17 am

What is scary is that John Holdren, a decided pessimist, was science adviser to Barack Obama. That one fact does explain some of the self-destructive features of the former administration’s policies.
Can one come up with another explanation for the Clean Power Plan?

December 9, 2018 3:17 am

Does the proposition by Thomas Robert Malthus that “population tends to outstrip the means of subsistence” actually make sense? If we acknowledge, like Arnold Toynbee, that this was clearly “not true of England at the present day”, then there is a flaw in the argument made by Malthus. But what is the flawed assumption?

I propose that Malthus failed to distinguish between the growth in human capital (the population size) and growth in income, (the means by which the population is sustained). If all of your income is dedicated to survival, then there is no excess that can be used to grow capital. Capital growth can only occur from unused income that is either kept or invested in the future. Consequently, Malthus’s basic fear that “population (capital) tends to outstrip the means of subsistence (income)” cannot occur because without excess income there is no capital growth.

Of course, if the income for a given population falls below the level needed for sustenance, then population growth ceases, people starve and the most vulnerable die. But in all cases, this sustainability failure applies to a pre-existing population that has grown in size on the basis of prior invested income. The key to sustainability is to “Look after the pennies (income) and the pounds (capital) will look after themselves”.

Peta of Newark
December 9, 2018 3:59 am

Magical Thinking Junk

Anyone who has ever read A Word I’ve put into here will know why I say that.

There are dozens of ways to demolish their thinking but let’s go for the kill in Alarmist Style –
Shoot the Messenger(s)
Here they are:

Reader beware (assuming you read further) – watch out for yourself ‘sitting up straight’ and or ‘pulling in your stomach’
Look at Pierre: Classic ‘apple shape’ He is a walking heart attack, he will have hypertension and be pre-diabetic if not actually full blown Type II.
Compared to the host, he is short in stature, and even Joanne for that matter.
We are looking at a bottle-fed baby – i.e. affected with Kwashkior.
Such infants are ‘difficult’ and he was managed by his (haha) carer(s) using sugar. An addictive depressant that soothes the short temper and easy irritability of such children. Now we have Ritalin

As he grew up, he manages the condition also using sugar (Comfort Food) and in all certainty, alcohol also. Hence the big waistline. He uses comfort food to manage his condition also to handle the ‘Stress Of Modern Living’
Any doctor will tell him it is killing him yet Magical Thinking (coming out of the chronic chemical depression he is under) tells him that ‘Everything Is A Bed Of Roses’ and so goes on to write a book about same.
Why do folks write books if not to invite others to fawn upon them and stroke their egos?
Same as folks who have their own websites.
They are demanding attention – just as Kwashkior infants do.

And Joanne?
She is tending to a ‘Size Zero Model’
IOW her head is too large for the rest of her body.
She is deliberately starving herself – primarily in order to please (appease) someone.
And who might that someone be if not Pierre – a low intelligence and easily angered child that, every 3 or 4 hours each day and every day, lurches from a Happy Sugar-induced High to a Grumpy & Moody lack-of-sugar Low.
We know he’s low intelligence, just read some/any of the gumpf in the book.

The only slightly normal person in the picture is the host in the centre.
Tall and thin
He is a Fat Eater. End story.
And it was actually known over 200 years ago that a diet high in saturated fat was a route to loss of (excess) weight and good health.
Two Hundred Years Ago…..

2 things to ponder:
1. Why do the seemingly mild mannered and hospitable people of Japan turn themselves into International Pariahs by going hunting whales – to eat?
Beware of projection when you assert that they are simply blood thirsty monsters who enjoy killing stuff just for the sake if it.

2. And what are the chances that Joanne is wearing high-heeled shoes in that picture?
When and especially WHY were those things invented?
The when and the why is when Ehrlich’s prediction started coming true. He was late wasn’t he?
You’ve got a clue already – the guy in the middle of that picture.

It is also the time when boys stopped being ‘romantic’
Girls have ever since then tried every trick in the book to rekindle the romance – hence why Joanne’s head is out of proportion with the rest of her body – but Kwashkiorian & sugar-addicted boys have failed to notice, trapped as they by Magical Thinking.
And it can only get worse with the legalisation & widespread use of another massively depressant chemical = THC
There’s a nice positive feedback loop – I’ll bet it has a happy ending, as they always do.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 9, 2018 8:18 pm

Anyone who has ever read A Word I’ve put into here

is a pure masochist.

Reply to  MarkW
December 10, 2018 4:24 pm

This masochist just read every word in peta’s post, and what I got out of it (besides renewed confirmation of peta’s narcissism) is that they believe they can plumb the depths of an individuals soul based on a picture and the latest in fad dietary and nutrition ‘Science’.

And while that fad (sugar is the root of all evil) might actually be slightly more acurate then past fads (carbs are the root of all evil, which replaced fat is the root of all evil), I’m willing to bet it gets tossed aside as a silly over generalization soon enough. And probably replaced with another fad (gluten is the root of all evil?)


Stephen Skinner
December 9, 2018 4:59 am

Epictetus – Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems
Henry Ford – Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them
Einstein – Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution

Christian Berggren – Pessimist
Hans Rosling – Optimist

Reply to  Stephen Skinner
December 9, 2018 6:00 am

Thank you, Stephen.
That Berggren simply dismissed the legacy of failed doom the pessimists have, and the amazing achievements of the optimists, especially the being proven right part, speaks to the mild psychosis that the pessimists hold so dear.

David Hood
Reply to  Stephen Skinner
December 9, 2018 12:24 pm

Stephen, you worded it better than I was about to try to do, so well done.

Berggren may be partially correct however, for IF we as a collective world population were to follow the CAGW directives, would likely mean the average ‘well being’ of those now considered wealthy – you know them, they are the ones targeted to pay for all the policies of the IPCC and UN – then they too become poor (or poorer) and thereby become more like the populations of generation ago – which were MORE likely to have higher child birth rates.
Hans Rosling showed quite graphically, that as the population grew in wealth it reduced its child birth rates.
I bet if he were alive to show a comparative graphic of how the IPCC and UN plans were to impact the population, it would reverse his original projection(s).
Thereby, increasing the birth rate might well raise the total future population and by extrapolation, put under pressure the ability for the earth to sustain itself under the capped limit of total population – as Hans showed.
But the IPCC and the UN wouldn’t be so callous, would they?
They wouldn’t deliberately have a plan that would create this very situation, would they?
After all, they are the agencies which care so much about their (our) fellow citizens.
Surely, it must be us, the unbelievers which will drive the world to destruction, what with our positive view for the world and its future.

So Stephen, I wonder how most of the ‘CAGW believers would view the thoughts of Epictetus or Einstein you cited?
No prize for guessing correctly.

December 9, 2018 5:41 am

Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource is the creative human mind. From Paul Driessen , author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death :
Julian Simon always called the creative innovative human mind the “ultimate resource.” To master resources, energy, affordable, reliable, abundant energy, the ultimate resource is our creative minds, and our ability to find new ways to do things, new resources. We didn’t end the stone age because we ran out of stones. And we didn’t end the bronze age because we ran out of bronze.

That’s the bit missing from the mindless oligarchy. Prometheus taught fire, the calendar, number, all the great ideas. He knew one thing he would not reveal, and for which was punished daily – the secret of Zeus’ fall.

December 9, 2018 9:04 am

For those not acquainted with Julian Simon’s work, I highly recommend his books, The Ultimate Resource, and The Ultimate Resource II (which updates the first one) which can be read online here:

This online version lacks graphics.

December 9, 2018 9:52 am

There is a finite limit to the number of people each acre of land can support. This number depends on the energy available.

Sunlight allows more people to live on an acre of land in the tropics than the pole for example.

By adding energy humans have changed this so that we can support more humans per acre. Much of this has occurred in areas that could not support current populations if this energy was removed or otherwise limited.

This is the missing factor. Adding energy allows 100 people to live where they could not otherwise. Pollution from this energy kills 2 of these 100.

Sure this is bad for the 2 that died. But it is good for the 98 that would have died as well without the energy.

The problem is to look at the full population. Not simply the two that died. Environmentalism makes false conclusions by focusing on only those that died without considering those that lived.

This is a common statistical mistake made regularly in the social sciences. They try and analyses disease by analysing those that got sick but fail to study those that remained healthy. This leads to false positives.

December 9, 2018 10:08 am

The is a Huge problem in statistics if you study only the good or bad aspects of a problem in isolation.

Only by studying the costs and benefits as a whole can you make sense of either.

Otherwise you end up with spurious correlations and false positives. The hockey stick for example was a result of only studying trees that tracked temperature while ignoring those that did not.

Similar problems occur in drug testing, where false positives can become significant only when the full population size is know.

If I tell you 10 people tested positive for drugs that might seem a problem. Especially if we only tested 20 people. But what if we tested 200 million and only found 10 positives. You might suspect the test itself was faulty.

So only by studying both the good and bad together can one arrive at valid conclusions. To only study one side of the problem is at best pseudoscience.

Smart Rock
December 9, 2018 2:05 pm

Many people, possibly most people, seem to have a deep-seated need to feel guilty about something. In earlier times, and even today in parts of the developed world, this need is filled by organised religion, which focuses the guilt of its followers very largely on human sexual urges; and it attempts to suppress fulfillment of any of those urges that don’t conform to its own rather narrow set of rules.

The modern, mostly urban, mostly moderately educated, mostly very secular middle class seems to have found an outlet for its unused guilt in what is now called “environmentalism”. Unlike earlier environmentalist concerns, which addressed real problems (and led to many of those problems being solved), modern-day environmentalism worries only about one thing – CO2 and its supposed effects on the earth’s climate. The big difference is that guilt about sexual urges and their fulfillment was a personal guilt; guilt about CO2 and “climate change” is guilt about the entire industrialised world.

The sexual practices that were forbidden by organised religion were extremely difficult to abstain from, which of course led to compounding of the guilt from just having the urges. Today, for the “environmentally conscious” urban elite, it’s next to impossible to avoid using fossil fuels or products derived from fossil fuels, which leads to compounding of the feelings of guilt about their use. The parallel isn’t exact, but it’s close enough to draw some conclusions about human psychology.

In my opinion, this guilt thing is one of the reasons that worries about global warming have taken root so deeply in our societies. I have no idea how to counter it. I seem to avoided guilt, so it’s hard for me to suggest solutions to this issue. But it looks as though logic, reason and fact-based argument don’t carry any weight; just look at Jim Steele’s post of today.

I’m even doubtful that the world not ending if and when we pass the 2°C tipping point (now downwardly mobile, and conveniently revised to 1.5°C) will carry any weight with the committed alarmists. I just don’t know.

Tom in Florida
December 9, 2018 6:10 pm

If the end result is to continue the human species then all efforts should be redirected from trying to manage our World to expanding the human species to other worlds If the Earth has finite resources that will someday no longer support the number of humans as they claim then putting maximum effort into moving humans out into the Solar System and beyond is the only answer. Let history record that is we of this era were responsible for putting us on the path to the saving of the human species. That should be our legacy.

December 10, 2018 8:05 am

Joanna Szurmak and Pierre Desrochers provide a much needed corrective to environmental alarmism. From their book Population Bombed:

“In our new book Population Bombed! Exploding the Link between Overpopulation and Climate Change we mark the 50th anniversary of the Ehrlichs’ book by explaining that their predictions bombed because their basic assumptions are flawed.

First, the Ehrlichs assume that human numbers cannot exceed the limits set by a finite system. Bacteria in a test tube of food are used to model such a system: Since the levels of food and waste limit bacterial growth, human population growth, by analogy, ultimately cannot exceed the carrying capacity of test tube Earth.

Second, they assume that wealth and development unavoidably come with larger environmental damage. This assumption is still at the core of pessimistic frameworks, which maintain that physical resource throughputs, not outcomes, matter. So, countries such as Haiti where deforestation and wildlife extermination are rampant are inherently more “sustainable” than richer and cleaner countries like Sweden and Switzerland.

Third, Ehrlich does not acknowledge that, unique among this planet’s species, modern humans: transmit information and knowledge between individuals and through time; innovate by combining existing things in new ways; become efficient through specialization; and engage in long-distance trade, thus achieving, to a degree, a decoupling from local limits called the “release from proximity.” And the more brains there are, the more solutions. This is why, over time, people in market economies produce more things while using fewer resources per unit of output. Corn growers now produce five or six times more output on the same plot of land as a century ago while using less fertilizer and pesticide than a few decades ago.

Fourth, the Ehrlichs and other pessimists also fail to understand the uniquely beneficial roles played by prices, profits, and losses in the spontaneous and systematic generation of more sustainable — or less problematic — outcomes. When the supply of key resources fails to meet actual demand, their prices increase. This encourages people to use such resources more efficiently, look for more of them, and develop substitutes. Meanwhile, far from rewarding pollution of the environment, the profit motive encourages people to create useful by-products out of waste (our modern synthetic world is largely made out of former petroleum-refining waste products). True, in some cases dealing with pollution came at a cost — building sewage-treatment plants, for example — but these are the types of solutions only a developed society can afford.

Fifth, pessimists are also oblivious to the benefits of unlocking wealth from underground materials such as coal, petroleum, natural gas and mineral resources. Using these spares vast quantities of land. It should go without saying that even a small population will have a much greater impact on its environment if it must rely on agriculture for food, energy and fibres, raise animals for food and locomotion, and harvest wild animals for everything from meat to whale oil. By replacing resources previously extracted from the biosphere with resources extracted from below the ground, people have reduced their overall environmental impact while increasing their standard of living.”

The point about sourcing energy underground rather than above ground was especially insightful. My synopsis:

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