Demolishing population pessimism

For a hard-hitting attack on the over-population scare, it’s hard to go past Brendan O’Neill’s speech in a London debate with a spokesman for the Optimum Population Trust. O’Neill is the editor of Spiked, a web magazine whose watchword is “humanity is under-rated”. Although Spiked has some positions (notably on abortion) which I don’t share, it has become a vigorous and effective defender of human potential. It’s great to read O’Neill’s demolition of population pessimism: he actually welcomed hundreds of billions of people on our planet.

“The fact that the presentational arguments of the population-reduction lobby can change so fundamentally over time, while the core belief in ‘too many people’ remains the same, really shows that this is a political outlook in search of a social or scientific justification. It is an already-existing prejudice, held by certain kinds of people, which looks around for the latest trendy or respectable ideas to clothe itself in.”

“The habit of presenting fixable social problems as demographic disasters is one of the most backward trends in contemporary public debate. And this is the fatal distraction of Malthusianism: it diverts people’s attention away from arguments and visions for overhauling society and towards the supposed catch-all solution of reducing human numbers.”

“Yet human beings are not simply the burping, biological users of resources; they are also the discoverers of resources, the creators of resources, the makers of communities, cities, history. A human being is not only a mouth that must be filled but a brain that can think and a pair of hands that can work. Today’s Malthusians have the temerity to present their own finite faith in people as something scientific, despite the fact that their ‘facts’ don’t add up: Malthus was wrong when he said people would starve to death as a result of population growth running ahead of food production; so were the 1970s population-controllers who said massive famines would sweep the populous Third World and wipe out millions.”


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