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droid
04-02-2016, 11:33 PM
He's right y'know.


...call me Pollyanna, but I can’t help nurture the outlandish-but-not-entirely-impossible dream that we might be looking at our own salvation. We might be looking at the salvation of the planet itself.

Because there’s no denying that pretty much every problem in the biosphere hails from a common cause. Climate change, pollution, habitat loss, the emptying of biodiversity from land sea and air, an extinction rate unparalleled since the last asteroid and the transformation of our homeworld into a planet of weeds— all our fault, of course. There are simply too many of us, and— being mammals— we just can’t stop breeding. Over seven billion of us already, and we still can’t keep it in our pants.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. My money was on some kind of self-induced die-off: a global pandemic that left corpses piled in the streets, or some societal collapse that reduced us to savagery on the third day and a relict population on the three hundredth. Maybe a holy nuclear war, if you’re into golden oldies. The problem with these scenarios— other than the fact that they involve the violent suffering and extermination of billions of sapient beings— is that we’d wreck the environment even more on our way out, leave behind a devastated wasteland where only cockroaches and stromatolites could flourish. The cure would be worse than the disease.

Many well-meaning folks have pointed out that birth rates decline as living standards improve; since so much of the world still lives in relative poverty, the obvious solution is to simply raise everyone’s quality of life to Norwegian levels. The obvious fly in that ointment is that your average first-worlder stamps a far bigger boot onto the face of the planet than some subsistence farmer in Burkina Faso no matter how many kids she might have. Mammals like me don’t need a brood of children to wreck the environment; we do it just fine with our cars and our imported groceries and our giant 4K TVs. Elevating 7.3 billion people to levels of North American gluttony does not strike me as a solution to anything other than fast-tracking the planet back to Scenario One.

But look at Zika. It doesn’t kill you, doesn’t even present symptoms in most cases. The worst you have to fear is a few aches and pains, a rash, a couple of sick days.
All it really does is stop you from breeding...

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=6461

HMGovt
05-02-2016, 11:03 AM
He's right y'know.


http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=6461

Peter Watts is consistently one of the most interesting bloggers around.

bassnation
18-02-2016, 12:40 AM
This is the plot to Utopia. Applauding this as a positive development for humanity reeks of misanthropy and eugenics, especially when this is likely to affect the third world disproportionately.

bassnation
18-02-2016, 12:43 AM
White western males - always ready to sacrifice other people's lives or fertility "to save the planet".

bassnation
18-02-2016, 12:48 AM
If you love Zika, have you also checked out old school diseases like AIDS and malaria? Yellow Fever. Doing great things for mankind!

droid
18-02-2016, 09:55 AM
Have you looked at the future recently? Long term, the best thing that could happen to humanity is a pandemic, preferably in the West.

Forced sterility is gentle in comparison.

droid
18-02-2016, 09:58 AM
Or to put it another way, is it preferable for hundreds of millions of people to die from starvation, war, disease & natural disasters, or for them to never have existed at all?

If youre not a misanthrope, youre not paying attention.

Mr. Tea
18-02-2016, 12:55 PM
This is the plot to Utopia. Applauding this as a positive development for humanity reeks of misanthropy and eugenics, especially when this is likely to affect the third world disproportionately.

Liberal hand-wringing about "eugenics" doesn't alter the fact that the world's population is growing rapidly and nearly all of that growth is happening in less developed countries.

And as droid points out, the options are for there to be a slowing of population growth now due to some kind of control on the third world's collective fertility, or a slowing (if not a drastic fall) in the near future caused by a huge increase in war, starvation and disease.

Which is the preferable option, would you say?

droid
18-02-2016, 01:07 PM
As Watts points out, the key to decreasing fertility in the developing world is rising living standards.

Unfortunately raising living standards of the developing world to US level would destroy the planet several times over.

However, this does not mean that third world fertility levels are the problem per se. If the US was wiped off the map tomorrow, we might survive for another couple of hundred years.

The ideal scenario for long term human survival is: Reduced global fertility + devastating pandemics in the wealthiest and most industrialised nations.

droid
18-02-2016, 01:12 PM
(Obviously the ACTUAL ideal scenario is the dismantling of capitalism, capital, hierarchical systems of control and the establishment of a truly democratic, emphatic global technarchy dedicated to sustainable development and preventing climate change - but let's face it...)

Mr. Tea
18-02-2016, 01:14 PM
If the US was wiped off the map tomorrow...

You're actually cackling and rubbing your hands at the prospect, aren't you?

vimothy
18-02-2016, 01:16 PM
Impressively bonkers, Droid.

droid
18-02-2016, 01:58 PM
lol. High praise.

But look at even the mildest estimates and we're in for a bad time.

In 50-100 years the Middle East will be a black scorch. Tens of millions of refugees will turn to Europe as Africa becomes a desertified oven. Europe will be dealing with its own internal refugee crisis as the mediterranean boils and its major cities flood. Russia evolves from kleptocracy into barbaric criminocracy. China is a smog covered tomb. Deforestation reaches 100% due to population pressure in South America. Famine is a daily occurrence as crop yields fail due to acidification, and barren oceans decimate the food supplies of remaining coastal communities. Pandemics run rife and resource wars turn nuclear. Catastrophic decline in coat sales.

martin
18-02-2016, 02:26 PM
But look at even the mildest estimates and we're in for a bad time.


Pants.

It'll be a bit hotter, that's all. I recently saw a video of Lynnrd Skynnrd performing live in Alabama (in the 1970s), one of the muggiest US states, and everyone on stage and in the crowd was having a right laugh, so I wouldn't worry about a small spike in humidity. It'll just mean a decline in coat sales.

I'm all for a population cull. I'd just prefer to be selective about it. Starting with anyone who finds cat videos remotely worth sharing. And Major Laser fans. And people who take more than 90 seconds to get cash out of an ATM (unless they're disabled). Wishing babies with Satsuma heads on us, though - you're bang out of fucking order, Droid.

luka
18-02-2016, 02:33 PM
Lool! Well said Martin

trza
18-02-2016, 03:10 PM
I dont want to rain on your mass death parade but Zika has killed next to nobody and the birth defects are related to the mosquito spray or something else and the rare cases of paralysis are still being studied. I guess we have to wait for the next virus.

droid
18-02-2016, 03:26 PM
The entire point is that it hasnt killed anyone. Watts is suggesting that a slowdown in population growth thanks to the fear of birth defects caused by an otherwise harmless virus would be beneficial to humanity as a whole.

Latest studies still show a plausible link between the virus and birth defects fwiw.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/17/brazilian-study-boosts-theory-that-zika-causes-birth-defect

Mr. Tea
18-02-2016, 03:26 PM
lol. High praise.

But look at even the mildest estimates and we're in for a bad time.

In 50-100 years the Middle East will be a black scorch. Tens of millions of refugees will turn to Europe as Africa becomes a desertified oven. Europe will be dealing with its own internal refugee crisis as the mediterranean boils and its major cities flood. Russia evolves from kleptocracy into barbaric criminocracy. China is a smog covered tomb. Deforestation reaches 100% due to population pressure in South America. Famine is a daily occurrence as crop yields fail due to acidification, and barren oceans decimate the food supplies of remaining coastal communities. Pandemics run rife and resource wars turn nuclear. Catastrophic decline in coat sales.

Yah but the iPhone 105 is gonna be totes awesome, you wait and see!

Mr. Tea
18-02-2016, 03:32 PM
the birth defects are related to the mosquito spray or something else

I've seen a couple of reports of this but it's hard to disentangle the real science (to the extent that there is any yet) from run-of-the-mill anti-pharma conspirabollocks.

trza
18-02-2016, 04:14 PM
I don't want to ruing anyones eugenic fantasy love in but South America is like Africa in terms of underpopulation and underdevelopment. Just huge parts of the continent are not even accessible by roads or even remotely developed. The Chinese are dangling development projects in front of the politicians faces and asking them to jump at the chance and the indigenous people most susceptible to diseases are probably going to lose the most.

droid
18-02-2016, 04:17 PM
Except of course Zika is already in the US and the EU, warming climate is already bringing the expansion of mosquito habitats and the virus has already been transmitted sexually.

Mr. Tea
05-03-2016, 04:32 PM
I don't want to ruing anyones eugenic fantasy love in but South America is like Africa in terms of underpopulation and underdevelopment.

A typically underpopulated region of the horribly underpopulated continent of South America, yesterday:

https://www.nextnature.net/app/uploads/2007/12/slum1.jpg

Woebot
08-03-2016, 10:00 AM
it's alarming that an adult could see the positive side of this.

i can't imagine the distress and misery to parents caused by giving birth to a child affected.

to try and make it a boon for birth control......!?!? :o

droid
08-03-2016, 10:22 AM
WWII - killed millions but put men on the moon and gave us antibiotics, computers and radar...

-------

The personal consequences of Zika are appalling.

The potential consequences for the species are positive.

Pandemic, endless resource wars, climate disaster, starvation or self enforced sterility.

Which is the worst of those options?

sufi
09-03-2016, 04:43 PM
it's alarming that an adult could see the positive side of this.

i can't imagine the distress and misery to parents caused by giving birth to a child affected.

to try and make it a boon for birth control......!?!? :o
Isn’t it just that Zika has assumed prominence in the news cycle precisely because it raises these concerns, which are fascinating at some level to our species death urge.

Is the coverage proportionate to quantifiable impact, compared to other bio- or non-bio existential threats?

(hopefully goes without saying that it must be horrendous to be affected, directly or indirectly)

trza
10-03-2016, 12:56 AM
I am broadcasting live from the epicenter of the global mega pandemic that threatens to destroy humanity right now. Other than the signs and billboards telling people to drain water from used tires or propaganda telling people to kill mosquitos there isn't much going on.

Mr. Tea
14-03-2016, 01:16 PM
The woolly old liberal in me would of course prefer it if third-world countries with huge birth rates could get their populations under control by the more humane method of giving their girls some meaningful kind of education so that they have career options beyond reproduction and drudgery. Trying to control fertility without universal education is an exercise in pissing in the wind.

griftert
14-03-2016, 03:33 PM
The woolly old liberal in me would of course prefer it if third-world countries with huge birth rates could get their populations under control by the more humane method of giving their girls some meaningful kind of education so that they have career options beyond reproduction and drudgery. Trying to control fertility without universal education is an exercise in pissing in the wind.

And expecting other countries to have universal systems of education and healthcare whilst maintaining international economic systems designed for exploitation is like shitting into someone else's mouth and trying to persuade them it's chocolate

griftert
14-03-2016, 03:39 PM
Deeply reactionary, nihilistic thread. Human behaviour is the cause of out current, ongoing catastrophe but to accept it as inevitable is just to blandly acquiesce to all those neoliberal canards about human nature. Malthusian bollocks. Also, population growth in countries is least damaging in third world countries where people have low carbon footprints, so if reducing fecundity is predicated on development on the model of a variety of wasteful infrastructures and lifestyles, from an environmento-utilitarian perspective it's not worth it.

droid
14-03-2016, 04:53 PM
The only truth about human nature is that it is plastic. We all have the capability to be a Franz Stangl or a Sophie Scholl given the right circumstances.

The problem is not human nature per se - it is the iron grip of capital, I don't see the system being overturned anytime soon enough to help.

I agree, population growth is less damaging in the developing world, which is why a sexually transmitted Zika in the first world is the ideal scenario here. That said, even if we all stopped breeding tomorrow, it would still be almost certainly too late.

What's wrong with nihilism btw? You say it like its a bad thing.

droid
14-03-2016, 05:13 PM
And expecting other countries to have universal systems of education and healthcare whilst maintaining international economic systems designed for exploitation is like shitting into someone else's mouth and trying to persuade them it's chocolate

And irregardless, high birth rates are about producing at least as many surviving heirs as possible and thus providing a pension for yourself. Education is trumped by economics every time.

droid
14-03-2016, 11:10 PM
We aren't awaiting an apocalypse, we are in the midst of one. The right confluence of crises may wipe a sizable portion of us out, or it will be death by a thousand cuts.

Its not so much that another world isnt possible, its that its probably too late to create one. Even with a worldwide revolution tomorrow, the kind of politics that could solve the problems - anti-capitalist, anarchic, global & sustainable - wont have time to establish themselves before the shit really hits the fan and authoritarianism becomes the only credible response to chaos.

And of course there will be no revolution tomorrow, in fact, if anything, we're heading in the opposite direction. We are an oil tanker sailing into a glacier, and not only are we refusing to reverse, we're accelerating.

Benny B
15-03-2016, 08:27 AM
http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s278/dogyears_photos/4horsemen.gif (http://s154.photobucket.com/user/dogyears_photos/media/4horsemen.gif.html)

Mr. Tea
15-03-2016, 06:16 PM
And expecting other countries to have universal systems of education and healthcare whilst maintaining international economic systems designed for exploitation is like shitting into someone else's mouth and trying to persuade them it's chocolate

Christ almighty, you've got a jolly old rage-on, haven't you?

Just to be clear, my post was not intended to bewail third-world underdevelopment as 'their own fault' in the absence of any influence from the developed world. I'd have hoped that could be taken as read. Obviously not.

trza
15-03-2016, 11:59 PM
I just saw a guy in a Metalheadz shirt walking down the street in Buzios. So I guess the drum n bass fans haven't died yet.

Mr. Tea
18-03-2016, 01:27 PM
White western males - always ready to sacrifice other people's lives or fertility "to save the planet".


Have you looked at the future recently? Long term, the best thing that could happen to humanity is a pandemic, preferably in the West.


Thing is though, the situation from a climatological POV isn't quite as clear-cut as the wicked, profligate West vs. Everywhere Else. Sure, the average Texan has a greater personal impact on greenhouse gas concentrations than the average Malian, but there's rather more to it than that. Consider this chart of GHG emissions per capita, taking into account land use change e.g. deforestation:

http://www.desmog.ca/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/Canada%20number%20one%20emissions%20WRI_0_0.png

Clearly Canada is by some margin the biggest per-capita emitter (although if you look at CO2 emissions only, by the far the worst offenders are the smaller oil-rich Gulf states and, surprisingly, a couple of fairly poor Caribbean microstates). But then, Canada is home to about 0.5% of the world's population. Indonesia, not far behind the USA in population, has the same per capita emissions as the EU, and China is rapidly closing the gap. So it's hardly surprising that China has been by far the biggest single contributor of GHGs for some years now.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Yearly_trends_in_annual_regional_carbon_dioxide_em issions_from_fuel_combustion_between_1971_and_2009 .png

The situation is desperately grim as it is, but the most salient point is that if per capita GHG emissions in China start to approach North American levels, which they inexorably are, then even if every country in the OECD underwent some impossible green revolution tomorrow and halved their emissions, it would at best delay the ongoing catastrophe by a couple of years.

The other side to this is the humanitarian angle. Now I'm sorry to get all eugenic, nihilistic, reactionary, Malthusian &c. &c. on you all, but the Earth has finite resources, including land, and in the broad view, the more people there are then the less resources there are per person. As I said before, nearly all the world's population growth is going on outside the OECD, that is, in countries where per-person resources are often extremely scarce even as things currently stand. People typically have large families to ensure at least one child is around to look after them in old age, if they reach it, which is far less of a concern in more developed countries. It's also partly an insurance gambit against high infant mortality. Of course it was exactly the same in the UK a couple of hundred years ago, but birth rates have fallen drastically with economic and especially social development, to the extent that our population would be falling were it not for immigration.

Now I expect most people, given the choice, would probably rather have a few kids who can be virtually guaranteed to survive childhood and have a realistic expectation of a reasonable material standard of living than have loads of kids, several of whom die in infancy while the rest have mainly strife and squalor to look forward to. Of course this depends on economic development, so we're into the catch-22 of development leading to increasing GHG emissions and land degradation, leading to exactly the problems that perpetuate and worsen poverty in the first place.

Obviously I don't pretend to have ready answers to either of these aspects of the general problem but it is at least clear that rapidly growing populations are a very important part of the problem and accusations of misanthropy or supporting eugenics at anyone not prepared to stick their fingers in their ears about this are an utterly bizarre non-sequitur.

craner
18-03-2016, 07:38 PM
Good post, T.

droid
18-03-2016, 09:43 PM
Wow, Chinese growth in emissions is even steeper than I thought.

I stand by the Western Pandemic though. If a large % of Europeans and Americans were wiped out by disease, China's manufacturing base would collapse, with a concomitant reduction in emissions (& living standards).

Mr. Tea
19-03-2016, 11:26 AM
Wow, Chinese growth in emissions is even steeper than I thought.


Sobering fact of the day: the PRC is currently producing more concrete every three years than the USA produced in the 20th century.

Edit: sorry, this doesn't have a great deal to do with teratogenic virii and should probably go in the Carbon thread instead.

Also, thanks O.C.