Eliminate humanity for the good of the planet?

Editor’s note. The following editorial appears in the January issue of The Interim, a prominent pro-life Canadian publication, and is reposted with permission.

We recently reviewed Population Bombed: Exploding the Link Between Overpopulation and Climate Change in these pages (“Persistently incorrect population worries,” October), in which authors Pierre Desrochers and Joanna Szurmak argue that concerns about the environment are always — always — accompanied by the desire to control reproduction. Put another way, the solution to real or imagined environmental challenges inevitably includes depopulation control measures that include (often coerced) birth control and abortion. If the problem is that people are using too many resources, the solution all too often seems to be to reduce the number of people using those resources.

So it is no surprise that when former U.S. vice president Al Gore addressed the United Nations COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland last month, he offered the usual solutions to global environmental concerns: restrictions on liberty and consumption, massive redistribution, global government, and extreme population-control measures.

Gore got into high dudgeon saying with certainty that averting the coming climate change catastrophe will force international institutions and all citizens to face “the single most important moral choice in the entire history of humanity”: to commit to radical action or perish. He predicted a “hell on Earth” with a long list of calamities. For global climate change zealots, slightly increasing temperatures over time are to blame for every current global problem, including, in Gore’s recounting, the civil war in Syria, declining IQ scores in Poland, every natural disaster in recent years, and worsening allergies around the globe. Of course, he offered scant evidence for these outrageous claims, and settling into full social justice warrior mode, called the adverse effects of climate change “environmental racism” because they disproportionately affect Africa, Asia, and South America.

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Gore offers a long laundry list of policies to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint, but the most important, he said, was more and stricter population control. He celebrated China’s one-child policy that is enforced by coerced abortions. He praised the one- and two-child policies in some of India’s states that deny government social programs, jobs, and promotions to families that violate the child limit imposed by the local government.

Gore showed a graph that he suggested proved Africa produces too many babies. Despite the fact that it is the industrialized west and Red China that are responsible for the vast majority of carbon emissions, Gore indicated cutting African and Muslim populations was the key to meet (illusory and unnecessary) cuts in carbon emissions. While he spoke of environmental racism, the real racism seems to be in the solutions Gore and his ilk are demanding.

The former vice president said that artificial intelligence and other technologies are crucial to the “revolution” to prevent climate change catastrophes, but also said that, “it’s not happening fast enough to stop the climate crisis on time.” The population must be curbed, and now.

But demographic change takes time, too; indeed, reducing population by preventing births will take decades because population growth over the past century has been largely driven not by high birth rates — indeed, family size has been steadily decreasing around the globe over the past 70 years — but longer lifespans. It is not a stretch to think that depopulation policies will expand beyond controlling reproduction through contraception and abortion to the aggressive promotion of euthanasia. How long until governments incentivize, or outright coerce, euthanasia and assisted-suicide?

Lest you accuse us of fear-mongering, the same week that Gore told the UN climate change conference that depopulation is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change, the New York Times published a column by philosopher Todd May of Clemson University, wondering “Would human extinction be a tragedy?”

May concludes that human extinction, “would be a tragedy and that it might be a good thing.” Employing some advanced philosophical thinking, basic literary criticism, and clever word games, May concludes that humanity is a “tragic character” because, like Shakespeare’s Lear or Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman, we commit a significant wrong but are still sympathetic in our (deserved) descent.

To May, humanity’s significant moral wrong is the destruction of the earth and the suffering caused to the animals that inhabit it. The destruction is climate change and the encroachment of human populations on previously uninhabited (by human beings) land. In other words, the mere existence of human beings is a threat to present ecosystems, from waterways and plants to birds and beasts.

May concludes that the disappearance of humanity might be “a good thing,” but, he argues, that is only part of the equation. The good of protecting the planet and all its non-human life forms at the price of humanity’s existence must be weighed against the benefits that human beings produce: art, science, literature, reason.

May provides no persuasive reason why an extinct human species should care that these goods are lost; if humanity did not exist, why would it matter that people were no longer writing great books and composing beautiful symphonies – or developing philosophical arguments about the benefits of human extinction. If we deny human exceptionalism, there is simply no reason to favour the well-being of human beings over plants or animals. Indeed, environmentalist do not.

May and Gore seem to view humanity as an invasive species. It is a dreary vision of their fellow man and brings us back to a point that Desrochers and Szurmak make in their book: most environmental doomsayers that are scientists are biologists with an expertise in bacteria, birds, or insects. But humanity is not like these creatures. We have reason to solve problems. Fewer people mean fewer problem solvers. More importantly, we are creatures made in the image of God.

Carbon dioxide is exhaled by every human being with every breath we take. The war against carbon is a war against people. Al Gore and Todd May are simply reaching the logical conclusion of their Earth-first environmentalism.