Everyone accepts that population growth threatens global environmental sustainability …

So says Ian Roberts, lead researcher of a paper on obesity that finds that the biomass equivalent of obesity is equivalent to 242 million people of average size.

Well, Professor Roberts, I don’t accept that population growth threatens global environmental sustainability. You might find agreement from Thomas Robert Malthus, Sir William Crookes and Paul Ehrlich among others, but the greatest threat to environmental sustainability is almost certainly the green movement which wants to divorce food production and distribution from the market.

As Matt Ridley in The Rational Optimist writes, in 2004 a hectare of farming land fed about 8 people, or about 1250 square metres per person, down from 4000 square metres in the 1950s. Ridley estimates (conservatively) that today’s technology implies only 100 square metres of farming land per person.

Now greenies (and trendy rich inner city people) like to enjoy organic farming, eschew GMO and food with preservatives and hate herbicides. They like to divert crops to the production of so-called bio-fuels.

But each of these damages the environment and reduces the quantity of food that can be produced.

There is no doubt that the world can feed a considerably higher population than it presently has, and beyond what it is projected to reach (peaking in 2050 at about 9 billion according to the likely scenarios by the United Nations (only the United Nations could be so prone to hubris to publish population projections to the year 2300!).

Governments are responsible for people starving. Through corruption and mismanagement they prevent the free market distributing food to those that need it. Through misinformation about GMO, herbicides, preservatives and bio-fuel, we increase the cost of food. Conflicts and corruption increase the cost of food distribution.

GMOs increase the productivity of food production – less land is required to produce a given quantity of food. Herbicides reduce the need to plough land by killing weeds and thus also increasing the productivity of food production. This reduces soil erosion, silt run-off and the killing of small animals during ploughing. Preservatives significantly reduce the waste of food. Bio-fuels take fertile land away from the efficient production of food to produce inefficient and costly fuels which are available elsewhere. By reducing the land required for farming, much more land is available for other purposes, including forests and wilderness. Yet environmentalists campaign actively against any proposals to extend the use of GMOs, herbicides and preservatives.

The greens are not only the enemy of humans, but the enemy of the environment.

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21 Responses to Generalisations

  1. JC

    The greens are not only the enemy of humans, but the enemy of the environment.

    They hate the rest of us and the same has to be returned in spades until anyone voting for them is embarrassed to admit it.

  2. Chris M

    Well put Samuel, my thoughts exactly. For thousands of years humans lived on organic food, now we have largely moved beyond that people are living much longer and healthier lives. Recently organic food killed 50 people in Germany (but if you like the taste or whatever feel free of course).

    Organic food toll = 50
    Fukushima toll = 0

  3. Their definition of ecosystem is very dangerous to individuals and free decisions and economic freedom. None of those things exist in their system.

    It requires people to do as they are told and never presume to be above or distinct from any other living creature. Including cockroaches and mosquitoes.

    There is not line between people and nature. It’s to be of one with the environment. As if we are to rejoin primitive man.

    And their economv vision looks much like autarky. No more surplus. No genuine innovation.

    These guys have a vision that should prevent their being in charge of anything other than their own bicycle.

    And they want to run the world as long as they can locate OPM. And people can be forced to listen to their myths and accept their mandates riddled with conflicts and carve-outs.

    No. We are not going into that abyss we are being shoved towards.

  4. Driftforge

    The beauty / silver lining to the climate change theory is that we now have a good check as to whether someone is an environmentalist or a nihilist (the two broad subsets of ‘greenie’).

    Someone who supports nuclear power is rational and can sustain rational thought.

    Someone who rejects nuclear power is not.

  5. Eating organic food is God’s way of saying you have more money than brains.

  6. Johno

    Chris M

    In chemistry, organic means carbon based. All food, with the exception of salt and water, is cabon based and therefore organic.

    The next time someone offers you a great big slab of fat and sugar (aka cream cake), you can quite truthfully say, ‘hmm yummy yummy organic food. Must be good for me.’

    Drives Greenies nuts.

    So satisfying.

    Yummy cake and pissed off Greenie. Hard to say which is better. 🙂

  7. oil shrill

    A Story

    An asteroid is racing towards Earth and will destroy the planet. Everyone is very worried. All other world governments decide not to do anything about it other than meet every year and wring their hands. Australia however decides to do something about it. The Australian government will introduce a tax to build a missile that will destroy the asteroid. However Australia can’t build such a rocket and no other country will help.

    Some Scientists point out that the collision with the earth may be many centuries away, some even have evidence that it will miss altogether. The Australian government still believes it is better safe than sorry, so continues to tax the population. The rocket is too small to save the planet but, the Australian Government believes, that eventually other governments will consider building rockets may also be a good idea. They believe that jobs will flow from the rocket building industry.

    In the meantime the government realises that many people have to pay more for things because the cost of the rocket is putting up prices elsewhere in the economy, So the government decides on building a smaller rocket and give half of the rocket money tax to some people. The new rocket is now not only too small but can’t even leave Earth’s orbit.

    So the government stops talking about the asteroid and the rocket and instead talks about how much money some people will get from the rocket tax. The government then turns the country and its seas into a National Park for some unknown reason because it all is meant to be destroyed by a big asteroid.

    The moral of the story….. well there bloody is none.

    Thanks to john of gaunt

  8. Token

    Oh my, the Greens want us to panic, before I do let me check the facts in the CIA World Fact Book:

    Globally, the growth rate of the human population has been declining since peaking in 1962 and 1963 at 2.20% per annum. In 2009, the estimated annual growth rate was 1.1%.[5] The CIA World Factbook gives the world annual birthrate, mortality rate, and growth rate as 1.915%, 0.812%, and 1.092% respectively[6] The last one hundred years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity[7] made possible by the Green Revolution.[8][9][10]

    The actual annual growth in the number of humans fell from its peak of 88.0 million in 1989, to a low of 73.9 million in 2003, after which it rose again to 75.2 million in 2006. Since then, annual growth has declined. In 2009, the human population increased by 74.6 million, which is projected to fall steadily to about 41 million per annum in 2050, at which time the population will have increased to about 9.2 billion.[11] Each region of the globe has seen great reductions in growth rate in recent decades, though growth rates remain above 2% in some countries of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, and also in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

    I think they are lecturing the wrong people…

  9. ar

    Everyone accepts that population growth threatens global environmental sustainability …

    “Sustainability” is the shibboleth of the wanker-class.

    Would declining populations point to greater “sustainability”? Probably not, but I reckon the greenies would be pleased anyway…

  10. Someone who supports nuclear power is rational and can sustain rational thought. Someone who rejects nuclear power is not.

    The underlying assumption of these words is of course “in the absence of the willingness to build hydroelectric systems and to mine and burn coal, gas and oil”.

    Ultimately nuclear will become essential – but until the anti-nuclear genie at the heart of the ALP is utterly purged, we cannot trust it not to halt the construction of – or even to shut down and dismantle – nuclear power systems that the Coalition may build once it gets in power.

    Ultimately we may get to the situation prevailing at the beginning of Alien – massive space refineries trucking in petrochemicals from distant places (Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt cometary bodies may be rich in these – there’s probably no need to go outside the Solar System for centuries, even once we can). Expensive, yes, but at least they will be available – which is far better than not having access to them at all. And it’s exploration outwards with exploitation of resources – expected and unexpected – that grows empires.

  11. ray

    Ah yes, herbicides mean that farmers don’t have to plough so all those little creatures aren’t killed. But farmers also add an insecticide to the mix because otherwise the new generation of insects (that used to be disrupted by ploughing) would devour the little seedlings as they emerge from the ground leaving large (sometimes vaste) areas of no crop and just barren soil.

    Some people don’t want to eat a varied collection of biocides with their food so opt to eat organically grown produce.


  12. Sturt


    Not only but also – the entire mathematics of Roberts’s paper is complete bunk.

    In brief, it bases its calculations of excess human mass on the BMI which is a woeful indicator of anything. Then, even if you extrapolate his energy-mass equations to account for the starvation diets he advocates, you still end up saving only 0.18% of human energy consumption, with corresponding impact on carbon emissions. But no price too large for such a categorical imperative, eh?

  13. Oh come on

    As much as I support the sentiments here, something here triggered my BS detector.

    about 1250 square metres per person, down from 4000 square metres in the 1950s. Ridley estimates (conservatively) that today’s technology implies only 100 square metres of farming land per person.

    Seriously? Between 2004 and now we have improved agricultural productivity 10+ times over? What incredible technologies we haven’t heard of are responsible for this – if true – quite genuine, triple-distilled miracle?

    I’m not an expert in this field. Even so, that number seems….implausible. Very much so. If we were talking about a couple of decades or three, then perhaps. And no doubt there’s been a significant improvement in agricultural productivity since 2004, but 500%+ over less than a decade? I’m not not buying it; I’m skeptical.

  14. Yobbo

    I think the 100 square meters assumes that all farming land was utilised to maximum efficiency.

    As of now, only farming land in Australia is utilised to its maximum potential. Most of the 3rd world still uses outdated farming practices. Europe, the USA and Canada choke their own productivity with subsidies to uneconomical crops.

    The way I read these numbers is that 1250 is the actual figure obtained by dividing total food production/area of farmland. 100 is the figure that could actually be reached if all farms were 100% efficient.

  15. Boy on a bike

    Roberts blames cheap oil for obesity and links it to climate change in his book (yes, look him up on amazon). He thinks we should use Cuba as a model (few cars, lots of bikes) and lists North Korea as a country we should compare ourselves to weight-wise.

  16. Samuel J

    Yobbo is right. 1250 m2/person is the average we observe across the globe. Ridley’s estimate of 100 m2/person is based on an assessment of today’s technology applied efficiently. It basically reflects the efficient use of farmland with current technology. The point is that there are substantial potential output gains from existing lands using existing technology.

  17. manalive

    We estimate global human biomass…

    The reference to human beings as “biomass” is chillingly suggestive.

  18. Gowest

    Surely obese people have less children, because they are more interested in eating…

  19. boy on a bike

    The SMH ran a story in this yesterday. Presumably the only reason they ran it was because it was linked to global warming.

    Says a lot about their editorial priorities, doesn’t it?

    Is it possible for a non-warming journalist to survive in the current Fairfax editorial environment?

  20. St Hubbins

    The most effective way to lower population is to provide cheap energy, which in turn improves the standard of living/prosperity.

    Prosperous populations have fewer children.

  21. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    “Sustainability” is the shibboleth of the wanker-class.

    I just hate it when I am made to hang on for what seems like forever in an automated telephone queue to Telstra or somesuch and they insist on bragging to me in the meantime about their ‘sustainability’ policies. The automated queue suffers many vocal expletives from me to go away and f itself and take its sustainability with it. It passes the time therapeutically, even if unproductively.

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