Radio personality Anthony Cumia once observed that the farther away people are and the browner they are, the less we care about them. His observation was in reference to the devastation caused in Indonesia and nearby countries by the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, devastation that included a death toll of a quarter million and the displacement of several times as many. Such tragedies on the other side of the world don’t bother many here in the West as they would if they happen closer to home. Worse yet, there are people here, likely including some people you know, who think that, in the grand scheme, the world is better off for having fewer people in it.

Indeed, there are many among us, often of an environmentalist bent, who think the world would be better if a couple billion people died off. Among these are the resource pessimists, who remain stubbornly attached to Malthusian doomsaying despite more than two centuries of human ingenuity and advancement proving Malthus wrong over and over again. Also among them are the global warming alarmists, who declare that we’re all going to die a century or more from now (as if they were going to live that long anyway) if the poorest aren’t kept from making their lives better by burning carbon fuels. And, then, there are the anti-science types, who carry on about how wonderful Mother Nature is and how evil the products of modern civilization are. They eschew vaccines, GMO crops, modern agricultural processes, modern medicines and modern living. They embrace “organic,” “natural,” “GMO-free,” “herbal,” and “alternative medicine.” They ignore the enormous benefits to humanity that science and technology produced and produce, and the billions of lives saved and improved, and advocate for things that would make thing worse and make billions of lives shorter and meaner.

All these folks, many of whom attempt to lay sole claim to “science,” ignore scientific realities and the lessons of history in order to hold onto their beliefs. Why would they do so? Why would they deny the rest of the world the opportunity to live better lives? They claim they do so out of care for future generations, but it’s hard not to conclude that there’s a monstrous callousness there, one that hates humanity, one that personifies Mother Nature as a nice old lady who wants us to respect her and live in harmony with her, one that considers humanity as a stain that is corrupting an otherwise-pristine Earth. If these folks were religious fundamentalists, we’d find parallels to the biblical story of Eden and Man’s fall from grace, but they’re typically not. Such is human nature, however, that they’ve created their own version of the Eden narrative, and our culture is full of stories and narratives of human overreach, eco-disaster, and future dystopia due to our disrespect for the Earth’s harmonious sensibilities.

Reality, however, disagrees. Mother Nature wants to kill us. The Earth is utterly indifferent to us. The entirety of human history is about our struggle to keep Mother Nature at bay and live better and more comfortable lives. We build houses to keep rain, heat, cold and animals at bay, to shelter the fruits of our labors, and to protect our weakest from harm. We grow food in ever-more-efficient ways to free us from subsistence living and the associated perils, and to enable us to work on things that improve our living standards. We develop medicines to save us from Mother Nature’s innumerable attacks on our lives and health. On and on, it goes. People work, individually and in concert, to make life easier and better.

It is a grotesquerie, then, that those who are at the pinnacle of ease and comfort, i.e. well-to-do first-worlders, are typically the voices lamenting overpopulation and demonstrating callous indifference to those far-away brown people. This is evinced by (scientifically baseless) opposition to genetically modified crops, continued embrace of bans on DDT, insistence on murderous and ruinous carbon caps and taxes, and advocacy for the inefficiency of organic farming, to name a few. Dig just below the veneer of purported caring for the environment and for the future and you’ll often find the aforementioned lament that there are way too many people in the world.

The observation that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic, attributed to mass murderer Josef Stalin, is both accurate and telling. The human brain isn’t wired to truly comprehend large numbers, especially large numbers associated the shock of death and destruction. Factor in tribalism, and we find greater shock and outrage when a natural disaster kills a dozen or two in our homeland than when it kills a hundred thousand on the other side of the world. Or, when someone casually suggests that “we” would be better off if a third of the Earth’s population went away. “We,” obviously, doesn’t include those billions, who would rather be alive than dead.

Ever notice that those who advocate depopulation never volunteer themselves, by the way? I have.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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