Doomsday prognostications are big business these days. In just the past four months, our movie theaters have offered several scenarios depicting the end of the world as we know it. They include the block buster 2012, the feature The Road, the documentary, Collapse and sci-fi thriller, The Book of Eli. All have projected, in one way or another, a future so mercilessly bleak and human conduct so damnable, that there is almost nothing left to redeem.
The high prevalence of doomsayers during times of economic or social turmoil is nothing new to Western culture. From Nostradmus (The Prophecies) to Malthus ( The Principle of Population) to Ehrlich ( The Population Bomb), every generation seems to sprout a new crop of nightmare scenarios in which man has neither the will nor the resources to support the continuation of the species.
Apocalyptic visions have usually been the stock in trade of the religious right and indeed, among certain evangelical Christian and ultra Orthodox Jewish communities, the Apocalypse may well be nigh, portending a world convulsed in mortal combat as the decisive battle of Gog and Magog ensues among the ruins of Western civilization.
But the left also has its doomsayers, given to febrile maunderings about the imminent destruction of the planet. This is no more in evidence than what we see occuring in the environmental movement these days. From predictions of the catastrophic rise of sea levels, to population explosion and a world unable to feed itself, the sky- is -falling- crowd think they know something about the impending catastrophe(s) about to overwhelm us and what you, as an individual, can do to stop it.
In Britain this week, some of these views were given full public expression - and a government imprimatur – with the publication of Land Use Futures: Making the Most of Land inthe 21st Century. The report, commissioned as a part of the UK government’s Foresight Project, is a marvel in government scare-mongering, a view of a future in which households will be monitored for their use of energy, land usage will be strictly controlled by buereaucratic fiat and citizens will be told where and in what they can live.
Taking catastrophic climate change as a given, the report suggests that mass migrations will occur to the north as the southern regions of the British Isles dry out; a projected increase of the population by nine million by 2031 and an increase in the number of single-person households would result in unprecedented demand for land for development and put pressure on natural resources such as water. According to the report, by 2050, hotter, drier summers could reduce river flows by 80 per cent.
The report’s researchers present a number of scenarios in which the British citizen is forced, then, to make some dramatic changes in his lifestyle.
For instance, in 2014, World leaders are gathered and informed that the climate change situation is far more worse than anyone imagined and that without draconian measures there will be nothing much left to save.
The Government responds by taking control of vast tracts of land and using it to grow wood and crops for biomass power stations. An agricultural productivity Bill requires farmers to increase yields per hectare but most have to sell up because they lack the resources to comply.
This indeed starts to look like real life aping fiction – 2012 crossed with The Book of Eli melding with Collapse.
But fiction it certainly is. As the entire climate catastrophe scenario unravels ( is there a day that goes by without another lie or fabrication from the climate change crowd not being exposed?) so too has the population explosion myth.
Paul Ehrlich’s famous prediction in the December 1967 edition of the New Scientist ” that the world would experience famines sometime between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources” was demonstrated to be completely inaccurate. He said then “the battle to feed all of humanity is over … In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” Ehrlich also stated, “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980,” or “be ever self-sufficient in food.”
No predictions this side of Nostradamus would ever prove so preposterous.
In my own lifetime, the estimates for total world population has fallen from a height of 20 billion to 15 billion to 11 billion ( the U.N. estimate around 1990) to 9 billion. In fact, according to the 2004 U.N. World Population Division Report, due to decreasing fertility rates, world population has been decelerating for the last half century or so and the projections show that it may actually decline after 2040.
India has also proven itself eminently capable of feeding its population and the stagggering rise in prosperity in that country over the past 25 years has put the lie to the claim that its 1 billion person population is unsustainable. In September, 2009, the Indian Minister for Agiruclture announced that in spite of its three year long drought, India, with the world’s second largest population, would not need to import food. He was followed by the prime minister Manmohan Singh, who announced:
“We had record production and procurement of foodgrains in both 2007/08 and 2008/09. We thus have adequate food stocks and there is no cause for concern or fear of shortages of foodgrains in the country as a whole.”
But the British government’s scientists nevertheless seem certain that the world’s future, and Britain’s in particular, is unavoidably grim. Their answer is for goverment to seize property and redistribute it in the name of energy efficency; for humans to be constantly monitored for their contribution to environmental degradation and to educate the population in the inquities of home ownership in favor of communal “stewardship” of shared natural resources.
For the authors of this report, the future of the UK is dependent on making “a significant cultural shift away from meeting present desires and towards protecting the needs of future generations.”
We have been called on for such self sacrifice before. Almost every modern dictator has voiced similar admonitions to his countrymen. Offered now with a smile and wrapped in a new environmental package, this lefitst vision of our future is no less threatening to our lives and liberty than any of these other manifestations of ideology run amock. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao might be proud.
But for me, if the Apocalypse is indeed almost upon us, I think I could find better companions to ride out the storm than those four horsemen, thundering towards us from our very unhappy past.