George Monbiot has reviewed the Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore movie "The Planet of the Humans" in the Guardian, and seems to come up with some disturbing conclusions. The first part of the review, highlights some of the errors and exaggerations made in the movie regarding "green energy." I generally agree with the tenor of George's comments, but that part "is by no means the worst of it," according to George. The "worst of it" is that "we really have got to start dealing with the issue of population." He follows with:
Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world. But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%. High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low. Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people. When wealthy people, such as Moore and Gibbs, point to this issue without the necessary caveats, they are saying, in effect, "it's not Us consuming, it's Them breeding." It's not hard to see why the far right loves this film.
Taking these comments / criticisms one by one:
1) Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world.
Well gee George, for some of us that means it would be sensible to try to do something about it. I guess we will have to move on to see why you don't think it is a good idea to try to do something about it.
2) But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%.
George's link to the steady 3% consumption reference is to an International Monetary Fund webpage showing that global economic activity was forecast to be 3%. Global economic activity is not exactly the same as consumption. We can have economic activity that doesn't hurt the environment. It makes more sense to look at actual environmental indicators rather than dollars to assess damage to the environment.
Between 1980 and 2014 (the last year of complete data on the World Bank website) Greenhouse gas generation increased by 1.82% and population increased by 1.43%, so population accounted for 79% of the increase. A lot more than the 33% George implies.
3) High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low. Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people.
So George has identified the criminals in the global warming crime, the rich (that's us), and the innocent, the poor (largely black and brown people). Just to make sure the guilty know how really evil we are, he makes sure that he identifies us as racist, too.
The trick George uses to make his "rich people are evil" analysis work, is to make us think he is only talking about the high income countries (top 12 by population USA, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Poland, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia), but the hidden reference shows that he adds in the greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by the upper middle income countries. The top 12 upper middle income countries by population are China, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, Iran, Thailand, South Africa, Colombia, Argentina, Algeria and Iraq (Seems like a lot of brown and black people there). The upper middle income countries actually produced about 24% more greenhouse gases in 2014 than the high income countries. That means that George is blaming a lot of brown and black people, most who have dug themselves out of poverty over the past 30-40 years, for causing global warming.
Which raises the question: Does George want these black, brown and every other coloured people to continue to get richer, or does he want them to stay poor. I doubt the people in the upper middle income countries earning on average one fifth of what the high income average is, consider themselves rich. I also doubt they want to stop trying to get richer.
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