Saturday, May 13, 2006

Paul Ehrlich

Reading the Skeptical Environmentalist has1 reminded me of the most serious concern I had with the books of Jared Diamond, namely that the author seemed to be good friends with Paul Ehrlich.2 The nicest3 you can say about Paul Ehrlich is that he is a racist sociopath. I will let you discover his ghastly Neoimperialist fantasies for yourself: suffice it to say that he embraces my dystopic vision ‘Al Gore takes over the world and sterilises everyone’ with gusto. This is the famous passage from his famous book4 quoted by young Bjorn:5

Psychologically, the population explosion first sunk in on a stinking hot night in Delhi. The streets were alive with people. People eating, people washing themselves, people sleeping, people working, arguing and screaming. People reaching their hands in through taxi windows to beg. People shitting, people pissing. People hanging off buses. People driving animals through the streets. People, people, people.

I am not a big fan of Delhi either. It is a very overwhelming and frequently unpleasant place to be foreign in. But, those people in Delhi are doing much the same things, at much the same density, as people in an American shopping mall.6 There are only a few differences: As part of the general bustle the people in Delhi are recycling and repairing a vast number of things that the Americans are throwing away. The people in Delhi are using, per capita, ever so much less of any resource you care to name than the Americans are. The city of Delhi occupies a much smaller land area and has a much smaller enivronmental footprint than an American city of the same size. And… there was one other thing, but I can’t remember what it is.7

1. In addition to rekindling my ancient love affair with footnotes.

2. This is okay, in that it is morally okay to be good friends with all sorts of people with lunatic ideas. It would be okay to be good friends with David Irving, say. But, when you bring this up in conversation, you ought to hastily add that you repudiate his ideas, if you don’t want to be tarred by the same brush. Jared Diamond never makes it clear that Paul Ehrlich’s published ideas are the ideas of a racist sociopath, and that’s what made me concerned.

3. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary, New York, 1977. nice, adj. 4. Precise, accurate.

4. My Struggle, oops I mean The Population Bomb, 1968.

5. Page 48 of the Skeptical Environmentalist.

6. I only say American because Paul Ehrlich is one of the Chosen People: shopping malls in Devil Bunny City are obviously just as bad.

7. Remembered now! I think the disgraced gubernatorial candidate in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ put it best: ‘Them boys are not white.’

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me to understand why anybody takes Paul Ehrlich any more seriously than they do the Jehovah's Witnesses. Both predict a coming "doomsday" that never occurs.

Don't get me wrong; I think the environment is an important issue. But I'm as embarrassed to have Ehrlich represent me as an environmentalist as I am to have the Jehovah's Witnesses represent me as a Christian.

Emily M.