The Daily Telegraph highlights a supposed victory in the war on climate heating also trumpeted by the New York Times. “A Japanese town is recycling used adult diapers by turning them into small pellets that can be used as fuel” which is a big deal because diapers “swell by up to four times their original size once used, requiring large amounts of energy to incinerate them. This leads to excess carbon emissions and high fuel costs.” And because they apparently constitute about 10% of all waste in the town. It sounds, um, swell. But the story misses the main triumph, which is that Japan is rapidly depopulating altogether, and without people you don’t have man-made warming because dead men emit no GHGs, or at least not many. See, it’s a case of destroying the village in order to save it.
The story does note a small demographic issue. “With a rapidly aging population, Japan has more adults who use diapers for incontinence than babies… It is predicted that … by 2030… the over-65 demographic will make up a third of the population.” And it quoted “a senior researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies” that “When you think about it, it is a difficult and big problem”. Well yes. Having everybody go away could be considered a failure of your civilization. On the other hand, it’s important to note that when “Authorities are collecting soiled diapers from retirement homes and converting them into two-inch pellets which are incinerated and used to heat the water in the town of Houki’s public baths” you’re not exactly meeting all your energy needs like transportation and cooking and heating homes so let’s not call it a “victory” just yet.
To be sure, getting rid of people to save humanity is a plan that has its critics. Sometimes in unexpected places. Prince William, riding the royal family’s posh green train, recently got himself into water hotter than a Japanese public bath by commenting that as Africa filled up with people it was kind of hard on the lions.
It didn’t use to be controversial, at least not from about 1962 on, to say things like humans encroaching on “wildlife and wild spaces” in Africa is creating a “huge challenge for conservationists, as it does the world over” as the Prince did to the “Tusk Conservation Awards” in London. (It’s not obvious why they’re in London since it is fairly obvious from the “Tusk” that they’re about Africa.) But as Al Jazeera chortled “Experts critique Prince William’s ideas on Africa population”. And when experts say, well, case closed.
Global News limited itself to “Prince William’s remarks about African population condemned by critics”. But even there it is not obvious why a story would lead with the critics not the subject unless the journalist is presenting a point of view as news.
In fact HRH added “it is imperative that the natural world is protected not only for its contribution to our economies, jobs and livelihoods, but for the health, wellbeing and future of humanity.” Which again seems fairly obvious to anyone in the post-Silent Spring era. Except those who, Al Jazeera noted, “took to social media to share their frustration at the royal figure’s sentiment, with some connecting the statement to ‘eco-fascism’ – a theory that argues humans are overburdening the planet and that some populations are more responsible than others. The ideology has racist connotations – in short, Black, Brown and marginalised people are blamed for overpopulation and consequently the environment’s demise.”
Arguably these people need to switch to decaf. The fact is, first, that POPs (Persons Of Pale) are generally regarded as creating far more GHGs per capita than other human beings, and as being guilty of historical crimes in that regard that require paying compensation. And second that they are, in most places, not reproducing at replacement rate.
Not having enough children to maintain your population may be good or bad, or have some benefits and some costs. But it’s a fact regardless of what we think of it. As it’s also a fact that in Africa, long a graveyard of development efforts and children alike, improved conditions including global greening that boosts marginal agriculture have seen population rise from a surprisingly low 388 million as recently as 1973 (surprising because Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, Mercator map distortion notwithstanding) to 760 million by 1998, 1.3 billion today and a projected 4.3 billion by 2100 which if the projections hold would make them 40% of the global total. At least that’s Wikipedia’s prediction, though since climate change is going to kill all the crops and render much of the Earth uninhabitable by that date if not 2050 there may be other guesses.
It’s also a fact that Africa’s population is increasingly escaping extreme poverty, which to some people, especially Malthusians, means inexorably rising pressure on natural resources and the environment more generally. There are arguments in the other direction, including that as people grow wealthier they have also historically grown much more urban, so there might be less pressure on remaining natural habitats, and also that as they grow wealthier they are both willing and able to take better care of nature. But it stands to reason that 4 billion Africans would have to be more careful not to crowd out the gorillas than 388 million did. And that the gorillas are indeed facing severe pressure, along with much of the continent’s “charismatic megafauna” and its ecosystems generally.
Instead of discussing such matters the Al Jazeera story continued to rail against eco-fascism, saying: “The idea’s origins can be traced to an essay by the English 18th-century economist Thomas Robert Malthus entitled ‘The Principle of Population’, which lays the foundation for eugenics in the arena of climate change.” Something the Rev. Malthus himself would be as startled to learn as the hapless Prince William, climate change in his day being (a) a matter of cooling, the Little Ice Age and (b) not regarded as the result of human industry.
Global left that bit out. But it did mention that “The Duke of Cambridge, a father of three, didn’t specifically mention population growth, reports Newsweek, but his comments have been condemned on Twitter, with many accusing him of racism, hypocrisy, and privilege.”
You might say well, whose comments have not been condemned on Twitter, with many accusing them of racism, hypocrisy and privilege? Instead Global printed a tweet from some self-proclaimed “Citizen of the world” saying “Mr. William has no moral authority to say anything about Africa or about Africans and their lives…. His opinion is sewage.” So there you have it. The Internet has spoken.
A final consideration is that as Africa becomes more prosperous, it is very likely that it will experience the same sort of demographic transition that has already taken place in the West and to a remarkable degree also in the Middle East (as the Teheran Times recently complained, “Iran's fertility rate alarmingly low”, to say nothing of Communist China’s own alarmingly successful brutally coercive efforts to put its own people on the long march to oblivion, to which the Party’s recent attempts to reverse have contributed nothing.
The real question here is whether in fact we think people are good or bad. If they’re bad, the Japanese story is great news. If not, we’re in a heap of trouble.