The so-called ‘progressive greens’ challenging the idea that the planet is overpopulated are actually only interested in making Malthusian thinking more palatable and PC.
by Brendan O’Neill
In recent years, a few environmentalist thinkers have started to criticise the narrow Malthusianism of their fellow contemporary greens. Peoplequake by Fred Pearce is the latest attack by a greenie on the Reverend Thomas Malthus, the original population scaremonger, and his slavish followers in today’s population-control lobby. With its quips about the weird, harelipped reverend’s hatred of poor people, its critique of the deeply misanthropic eugenics movement, and its challenge to the idea that Africa is overpopulated, Pearce’s book might even look to some like a refreshing defence of rational thinking against the hysteria of the human-hating, womb-fearing lobby. It is no such thing. Pearce, like other influential green thinkers, is burying Malthus only to save Malthusianism.
Peoplequake is the literary equivalent of reaching into the steaming pile of historic bullshit that is Malthusian thought in a bid to salvage some pellets of prejudice that might be applied to today’s world. Pearce, like the Guardian’s George Monbiot, Andrew Simms of the New Economics Forum and other leading proponents of climate-change alarmism, is simply made deeply uncomfortable by the fact that so many contemporary greens have been inspired by Malthus, a man who, not to put too fine a point on it, was the scum of the Earth, who thought poor people should be deprived charity and healthcare and if they died as a result, well good, since they have ‘no claim of right to the smallest portion of food’. Disconcerted about being associated with such foul elitism, and conscious of the fact that the scaremongering claims of every single Malthusian since Malthus himself have been contradicted by humanity’s leaps forward, Pearce and others are keen to create a new kind of outlook: what we might call post-Malthus Malthusianism.