In his weekly Telegraph column, London Mayor Boris Johnson writes that the UN “must be totally barmy" if they think that people should give up meat to combat climate change, as the head of the IPCC Dr Rajendra Pachauri suggested. But his own solution to this nonsensical and moralising policy is just as bad.
Johnson says it is the “world's excessive and intolerable population boom" that has caused “deforestation, global warming, the depletion of the seas, the destruction of species and just about every environmental problem that afflicts us". There is nothing new here: time after time, this self-disgust with the human race resurfaces, in apocalyptic religions and extremist politics – and now it has a Green tint.
During the 20th century both living standards and food production far outstripped population growth. As economist Indur Goklany puts it, “we're living longer, healthier, more comfortable lives on a cleaner planet." This does not disregard the 800 million people still suffering from hunger: it shows us that, with the right policies, enough food can be produced and delivered for everybody to eat well...
As for protecting the environment, it is countries that have become wealthy through institutions such property rights and the rule of law that do the best job. It should be no surprise, as they have more time and money to devote to issues like bio-diversity conservation or reforestation. And the West’s record on environmental issues is not as bad as the media or pressure groups would have us think – water and air pollution have gone down, more species and habitats are being protected and forests replanted. Institutions like property rights and free trade give entrepreneurs incentives to keep rivers clean and to develop more efficient and cleaner technologies. It is no surprise that seven out of 10 of the world’s most polluted rivers are in Communist China.
Of course, some issues like climate change pose great difficulties. But human beings don’t just cause problems – they also bring about great solutions and life-enhancing inventions. Reducing the number of people is a cowardly and ineffective solution to any problem. As Nicholas Eberstadt pointed out in his report Too Many People?, only coercion has been proven to reduce fertility rates.
Let’s hope Boris Johnson isn’t as inspired by China’s population programme as he was by the Beijing Olympics.
Caroline Boin also blogs here on CriticalOpinion.org.