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Against the Grain with Sasha Lilley - July 1, 2014 at 12:00pm

Against the Grain, for July 1, 2014 - 12:00pm

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Against the Grain with Sasha Lilley

Jason W. Moore argues against the notion of the Anthropocene -- or the age of humans -- for understanding climate change.  He argues that we should instead see it as an outgrowth of the Capitalocene, or age of capital. Part one of a two part interview.

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Great show. Too bad it was

Great show. Too bad it was marred by the continuing obsession of Sasha Lilley to attempt to diminish the importance of population. At least Prof. Moore pushed back a little (though not nearly enough) by in a round about way acknowledging that we need to do something about population by examining our family relationships and relationships to the land and managing things in a democratic rather than an authoritarian way. So it’s good he didn’t jump on the population isn’t a problem bandwagon.

But then we got the usual framing of the argument—only talking about food. There’s plenty of food to feed 9 billion people. So population isn’t a problem. Forget it. Move on.

Food, though, is barely an issue at all in the population problem. With an optimal population of around 2 billion (which could have been achieved easily by now by everyone simply having around 2 kids and which could be achieved in a couple generations by everyone having between 0 and 2 kids, totally voluntarily because they know it’s the best thing for the earth—no authoritarianism required, only education) we could easily exist with 100% renewable energy. No demagogues from the right would have a case for nuclear, much less fossil fuels. But with 7-9 billion people, achieving 100% renewable, while not impossible, is a gargantuan task. With 2 billion people, there would be no reason for genocide in the Congo because there would be plenty of Coltan for all of the cell phones of the people in the world. We could exist with 100% sustainable use of forests (no clear-cutting need even be a temptation, no market for palm oil requiring that, etc.). Sustainable, artisanal mining could give us all the metals we need. Achieving a zero waste society would be all the easier with fewer people leading to much, much less trash. And the list goes on and on and on. Virtually any environmental problem from pollution to deforestation to global warming would be easily tacklable with fewer people.

So framing the debate around food is a reverse red herring serving to put blinders on us. Population is a problem, perhaps THE problem. Reducing the number of people would help every single facet of the environment and make life better for all. And it bears repeating that absolutely no coercive measures whatsoever are required. All that is required is for everyone to acknowledge the problem and take the incredibly easy step of having 0-2 children That’s it. Finished. Problem solved.

Population needs to be actively discussed on the left to combat the right’s diabolical demonizing of the “third world” and put a purely benign and progressive plan in place of slowly and democratically reducing population to sustainable and prosperous levels.

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