Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Climate change: population arguments can go both ways


Max Schulz has a “Manhattan Moment” op-ed in the Washington Examiner, p. 18, today, Wednesday, Dec. 30, “Population control: an ugly solution to climate change”, link here.

The article points with some cynicism to Time’s award to Peggy Liu, chairperson of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, as a “Hero of the Environment 2008”, link here for praising China’s one-child policy for reducing future energy demands.

Of course, authoritarian governments can more easily “do anything they want” (like the “Grant” character in the movie “Bugcrush”). But the notion that population control is part of a climate change strategy (discussed by Al Gore, too) runs into a psychological paradox: generativity. When people have kids, they are presumably more likely to care about the world that succeeds them. That notion leads some social conservatives to believe that participation is family responsibility ought to be mandatory and is indeed a critical component of future sustainability. Of course, a lower population society could work if the aged stayed healthy and remained employed longer.

The religious right has always had to deal with some paradoxes on this. The Apostle Paul thought that the end of the world was soon, and said “it is better to marry than to burn” but hinted that childlessness was maybe a good thing. If the Rapture is coming (pre-Tribulation, especially), does it make sense to have kids? I suppose if “2012” really was going to happen, or if we were to discover that the Earth is being approached by a black hole or brown dwarf, sustainability would take on a wholly different meaning (as it does in Emerich’s movie). Indeed, one day mankind will have to move to another planet (at least Mars) as the Sun will fry Earth in a few billion years when the Sun becomes a red giant.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA picture of Betelgeuse

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