Environmentalists must accept that every nation will inevitably industrialize and the key to limiting environmental disaster is ensuring food for the hungry, clean water for all, healthcare for children and mothers, and education for all. In sum, the best thing an environmentalist can do is accelerate health, education, and economic prosperity for the poorest people on Earth.
There are probably a billion people on this Earth who consider themselves to be serious environmentalists. And when I mean serious, I mean those who care about the environment beyond their immediate surroundings – beyond their own personal air quality, water quality, and cancer risks.
Most of these serious environmentalists live in the wealthy nations.
These one billion environmentalists could slam the brakes on of population growth.
There are two ways of slowing population growth. One is punishing people for having more than one or two children, as has been done in China.
The other way is by accelerating education, health, well-being and prosperity.
Look at current birth rate rankings by nation: Yemen, the poorest, most war-torn Arab nation has the highest birth rate among Arab nations.
South Africa, one of the wealthiest sub-Saharan African nations has the lowest birth rate of that group.
The 38 nations with the highest birth rates are amongst the poorest and most war-torn nations of the Earth, including a slew of extremely poor sub-Saharan African nations, war-torn Afghanistan, war-blasted Iraq, Central African Republic with its civil conflict, and bombed-out, walled-in “Palestine.”
The two nations with the lowest birth rate – two nations who cannot even maintain their populations – are Germany and Japan, two nations with extremely strong, stable economies and societies, and with strong safety nets for the poor.
The seventy nations with the lowest birth rates are all wealthy nations. The only exception is Cuba, which has had some of the strongest health and education guarantees for its people amongst all poor nations. Castro is a tyrant, but during the 1980s he maintained the infant mortality in Havana to levels below that of Washington, D.C.
A number of studies have shown the cause-and-effect relationship between hunger, poverty, subsistence farming, and lack of social-economic security with higher birth rates.
One might say, well, those higher birth rates are countered by higher death rates due to poverty and war. Nope. The birth rate is too great to be overcome by the death rates due to war and poverty, unless there is a true genocidal event. And even after killing, say, twenty percent of the population, the population tends to bounce back and grow until the nation reaches prosperity. See post-World War nations throughout the world.
So, your job as an environmentalist is to save the humans. Because stable, wealthier human societies grow slower and destroy less.
In fact, it is your first, perhaps only, job. No other act of environmental salvation has an exponential effect. After all, populations (when growing) grow exponentially.
When you recycle, that is a one-time effect and increases arithmetically (by adding) only if that can is recycled a second time.
When you buy a piece of land and save it for wildlife, it does not grow exponentially. It is static and will likely be swallowed up by population growth.
When you buy a solar panel, you prevent carbon from entering the atmosphere at a relatively steady rate, and that rate decreases each year as the solar panel ages.
And then everything you do to reduce your impact on the environment is completely wiped out every time you get on a airplane and emit many tons of pollutants into the atmosphere.
What if environmentalists could prevent a hundred million or a billion people from ever driving an SUV or flying around the world? Environmentalists can do this by making sure that those people are never born.
Not by aborting human entities in the fetus. Not by dropping bombs on people.
You do it by feeding hungry kids and educating all people. A billion environmentalists could easily abolish hunger – with a contribution of $27 each person, each year, to direct hunger-abolishing organizations like the World Food Program.
Abolishing hunger increases the wealth and social-economic security of the poorest people on Earth. This encourages them to have fewer children and educate the ones they have (and themselves).
It sounds paradoxical but this is how it has proven out in most nations on Earth.
And if one billion environmentalists contributed about $250 each, they could completely abolish extreme poverty, slowing population growth among the fastest growing nations tremendously.
Face it, Liberia will eventually use as many resources per person as the average Chinese, and the average Chinese wants to live like an American. You cannot stop them. The technology to do this is not prohibitive in any way. These nations will build the machines, the networks, the universities to do all this on their own, even without outside help.
We will all be Americans.
Your job as an environmentalist is to make them Americans as soon as possible. If you do so, you could limit the number of people “becoming Americans” to five billion rather than ten billion. It's a long view, but is that not what you always want us to see? The harder, more accurate light?