Saturday, March 30, 2013

Socialism and Self-Esteem

The moral and intellectual fabric of Western society has been disintegrating for some time. To a large extent the destruction can be blamed on Marxism (or perhaps Marx misinterpreted), socialism, left-wing thinking, "underdog" mentality, which has encouraged the nanny state, with people living in perpetual imbecility and irresponsibility. In the middle of the last century, Marxism never had much luck in intellectual contests among Westerners, so it had to burrow underground, eroding the foundations of modern society and leaving people in a state of perpetual self-doubt and abnegation. Not much of the reality of left-wing thinking is clearly described anywhere, and it is largely impossible to provide citations: most of it is experienced as a mere premonition, like that of a coming change in the weather, and its existence can easily be denied.

But what does "left wing" mean nowadays? In France long ago, the terms had a precise meaning, based on where one was actually sitting in the Estates General, indicating one's attitude toward the Revolution. Now it perhaps means big government, and big spending by that government, but above all it means supporting the "poor" rather than the "rich" -- or the "lazy" rather than the "greedy," as a more-neutral person might see it.

Leftists have a strong sense of "wrong," but especially when they look at themselves. They hate their own culture and their own heritage. They live with a sense of guilt and shame, they suffer from self-loathing. They feel a need for self-abasement. They have low self-confidence, low self-assurance, low self-esteem. As confirmed underdogs, they have self-destructive attitudes about sexuality, marriage, and the family. To them, a stable marriage, heterosexual and monogamous, is anathema. But they can never feel happy about themselves, just as they can never feel happy about anyone else.

Once that sense of low self-esteem has become fixed, all else follows. One must believe that "sharing the wealth" is more important than reducing the problems of overpopulation and excessive resource-consumption, although such "sharing" would only create universal poverty, especially as the ratios between resources and population become more severe. One must also believe that one's own culture is guilty of some nameless crime that makes it necessary to give preferential treatment to any and all other cultures.

Of course, that is a belief with which those "other cultures" are always happy to agree. And once that "guilt" has become established as "fact," every piece of paper that appears in public must emphasize "multiculturalism" at all costs. Although the terms are used misleadingly, everything must emphasize "fairness," "democracy," and "equal rights." The punishment for breaches of "multiculturalism" is swift and merciless, unless one is attacking Christians; Easter seems always ready to disappear from the free calendars handed out by politicians.

There are corollaries to all the above. Leftists must believe in prohibiting the ownership of guns, for example. If people believe they are inferior beings, they must also believe they have no right to defend themselves. Only grown-ups should have guns, and leftists know they are not grown-ups.

But the opposite to Marxism is not Nazism. The two are actually quite similar. They both say, "You are the oppressed. We shall raise you up." Whereas Marxism emphasizes the "oppressed" in the first sentence, Nazism emphasizes the "raise you up" in the second. They both conclude with, "Stop thinking, and let us do the thinking for you." Any country with a two-party system offers a highly diluted but essentially similar display of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But it takes very little to turn most people into what Eric Hoffer called True Believers, and whether they follow Marxism or Nazism or any other "ism" is a rather arbitrary matter. Anything is better than the headache of having an original thought. The dichotomy between one party and another is not the same as a genuine struggle against industrial slavery, which most "isms" perpetuate, no matter how dissimilar they may appear on the surface. Jean-Paul Sartre, a self-proclaimed Marxist, had no trouble living in Occupied France; why should he, since he was almost single-handedly training French academics not to think?

The trail left by cultural Marxism is a long one. William Lind names a few names in "The Origins of Political Correctness," but there are others: all of Existentialism and Postmodernism, for example. Jean-Paul Sartre and Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote the two greatest works of academic dementia, Being and Nothingness and The Savage Mind. What those two savants failed to accomplish was completed by Herbert Marcuse and Noam Chomsky. How many graduate students in the West have phoned home to say, "Mom, they're making me read stuff that makes absolutely no sense"? Well, there wasn't much Mom could do. I myself had a girlfriend in graduate school who shook her head sadly when she saw that in a reference list to an essay I had included some scholars whose first language was actually English.

But most Leftists believe all cultures are, in some inexplicable way, equal. In their naivety, they cannot believe that many cultures are cruel and intolerant, locked in the pre-literate mentality of a thousand years ago. In reality, even in most cultures of the present day the average person can barely read or write, contrary to the official figures on literacy. There are, at the same time, many petty tribes each of which regards itself as "God's chosen people." Westerners today cannot understand that there can be such vast differences between the mentality of one culture and another. The mainstream news-media foster this misunderstanding by failing to report the shocking statistics of rape, mutilation, murder, and other barbarisms that go on in this world.

Most people have little sense of history, yet cruelty has long been a part of that history. Beginning about 5,000 years ago in the Near East, various civilizations arose in Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and so on. After a war between city-states, it was customary for all the male inhabitants of the losing city to be put to death, and impalement was one of the most common forms of killing. That ancient mentality has not entirely passed away. Yet Westerners like to fool themselves into believing that the entire world consists of people who read glossy magazines and keep up with all the liberal intellectual trends. The reality is that, even in modern times, the counterpart to an act of "tolerance" in one country would just as surely result in a death sentence in another.

Leftists are self-contradictory in their comments about "world government." Although they believe that there is a terrible global conspiracy to create a New World Order, via the UN or the Bilderburgers or whoever, they are nevertheless infatuated with an ideal global organization of some sort that would ensure the equalization of all people, and which above all would ensure the equal division of the world's resources. This self-contradiction can be explained as a fantasy about one's parents, as they never were -- omniscient, omnipotent, and infinitely loving, or in other words godlike, "someone to watch over me."

Leftists fail to understand that the world is starting to run out of fossil fuels, and out of a hundred other non-renewable natural resources from aluminum to zirconium. Leftists believe we just need to share the existing resources more equitably. Besides, leftists think we have no reason to worry about fossil fuels because we will all be saved by some sort of "alternative energy," in spite of the fact that many long years of searching for this mysterious "energy" have resulted in nothing impressive.

We must understand the fact of global overpopulation. We must understand the fact of the gradual depletion of everything that civilization is based on. We should not be satisfied with "standing room only." To the extent that there is still any time left for making a difference, we must support family-planning programs, and we must support rational controls on immigration levels. And we must accept the fact that the cultures of this world do not easily mix. We're all very different from one another. That's just how it goes.

Peter Goodchild

Author of Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse (London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2014)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Coming Famine

Humanity has struggled to survive through the millennia in terms of Nature's tendency to balance population size with food supply. The same is true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a century. Oil, the limiting factor, is close to or beyond its peak extraction. Without ample, free-flowing oil, it will not be possible to support a population of several billion for long. Without fossil fuels for fertilizer and pesticides, as well as for cultivating and harvesting, crop yields drop by more than two-thirds (Pimentel, 1984; Pimentel & Hall, 1984; Pimentel & Pimentel, 2007).

Over the next few decades, there will be famine on a scale many times larger than ever before in human history. It is possible, of course, that warfare and plague, for example, will take their toll to a large extent before famine claims its victims. The distinctions, in any case, can never be absolute: often "war + drought = famine" (Devereux, 2000, p. 15), especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are several other combinations of factors.

Although, when discussing theories of famine, economists generally use the term "neo-malthusian" in a derogatory manner, the coming famine will be very much a case of an imbalance between population and resources. The ultimate cause will be fossil-fuel depletion, not government policy (as in the days of Stalin or Mao), warfare, ethnic discrimination, bad weather, poor methods of distribution, inadequate transportation, livestock diseases, or any of the other variables that have often turned mere hunger into genuine starvation.

The increase in the world’s population has followed a simple curve: from about 1.7 billion in 1900 to over 7 billion today. A quick glance at a chart of world population growth, on a broader time scale, shows a line that runs almost horizontally for thousands of years, and then makes an almost vertical ascent as it approaches the present. That is not just an amusing curiosity. It is a shocking fact that should have awakened humanity to the realization that something is dreadfully wrong.

Mankind is always prey to its own "exuberance," to use Catton’s term. That has certainly been true of population growth. In many cultures, "Do you have any children?" or, "How many children do you have?" is a form of greeting or civility almost equivalent to "How do you do?" or, "Nice to meet you." World population growth, nevertheless, has always been ecologically hazardous. With every increase in human numbers we are only barely able to keep up with the demand: providing all those people with food and water has not been easy. We are always pushing ourselves to the limits of Earth’s ability to hold us (Catton, 1982).

Even that is an understatement. No matter how much we depleted our resources, there was always the sense that we could somehow "get by." But in the late twentieth century we stopped getting by. It is important to differentiate between production in an "absolute" sense and production "per capita." Although oil production, in "absolute" numbers, kept climbing -- only to decline in the early twenty-first century -- what was ignored was that although that "absolute" production was climbing, the production "per capita" reached its peak in 1979 (BP, annual).

The unequal distribution of resources plays a part. The average inhabitant of the US consumes far more than the average inhabitant of India or China. Nevertheless, if all the world’s resources were evenly distributed, the result would only be universal poverty. It is the totals and the averages of resources that we must deal with in order to determine the totals and averages of results. For example, if all of the world’s arable land were distributed evenly, in the absence of mechanized agriculture each person on the planet would still have an inadequate amount of farmland for survival: distribution would have accomplished very little.

We were always scraping the edges of the earth, but we are now entering a far more dangerous era. The main point to keep in mind is that, throughout the twentieth century, while population was going up, so was oil production. Future excess mortality can therefore be determined -- at least in a rough-and-ready manner -- by the fact that in modern industrial society it is largely the oil supply that determines how many people can be fed.

There is no precise causal relation, of course, between oil production and famine. To suggest such a thing would conflict with other ways of estimating future population. Another figure, closely related, might be the ratio of population to arable land. Even then, the history of famine does not suggest an exact correlation between population and arable land; certainly in the 1950s there were major famines although the world population was only a third of that today. Ó Gráda claims that the worst famines in recent times were actually in countries which rate relatively well in terms of the ratio of population to arable: Angola, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, and Sudan. In fact famine, at least up to the present time, seems to have been more related to politics than to arable land or other resources.

Famine will also cause a lowering of the birth rate (Devereux, 2000; Ó Gráda, 2007, March). This will sometimes happen voluntarily, as people realize they lack the resources to raise children, or it will happen involuntarily when famine and general ill health result in infertility. In most famines the number of deaths from starvation or from starvation-induced disease is very roughly the same as the number of lost or averted births. In Ireland’s nineteenth-century famine, the number of famine deaths was 1.3 million, whereas the number of lost births was 0.4 million. The number of famine deaths during China’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), however, was perhaps 30 million, and the number of lost births was perhaps 33 million.

The "normal," non-famine-related, birth and death rates are not a factor in determining the future population figures, since for most of pre-industrial human history the sum of the birth and death rates -- in other words, the growth rate -- has been nearly zero: 2,000 years ago the global population was about 300 million, and it took 1,600 years for the population to double. If not for the problem of resource-depletion, in other words, the future birth rate and death rate would be nearly identical, as they were in pre-industrial times. (And there is no question that the future will mean a return to the "pre-industrial.")

Nevertheless, it will often be hard to separate "famine deaths" from a rather broad category of "other excess deaths." War, disease, and other factors will have unforeseeable effects of their own. Considering the unusual duration of the coming famine, and with Leningrad (Salisbury, 2003) as one of many precursors, cannibalism may be significant; to what extent should this be included in the calculation of "famine deaths"? In any case, it is probably safe to say that an unusually large decline in the population of a country will be the most significant indicator that this predicted famine has in fact arrived.

We must ignore most previous estimates of future population growth. Instead of a steady rise over the course of this century, as generally predicted, there will be a clash of the two giant forces of overpopulation and oil depletion, followed by a precipitous ride into an unknown future.

We are ill-prepared for the next few years. The problem of oil depletion turns out to be something other than a bit of macabre speculation for people of the distant future to deal with, but rather a sudden catastrophe that will only be studied dispassionately long after the event itself has occurred. Doomsday will be upon us before we have time to look at it carefully.

The world has certainly known some terrible famines in the past. In recent centuries, one of the worst was that of North China in 1876-79, when between 9 and 13 million died, but India had a famine at the same time, with perhaps 5 million deaths. The Soviet Union had famine deaths of about 5 million in 1932-34, purely because of misguided political policies. The worst famine in history was that of China’s Great Leap Forward, 1958-61, when perhaps 30 million died, as mentioned above.

A closer analogy to the coming "petroleum famine" may be Ireland’s potato famine of the 1840s, since -- like petroleum -- it was a single commodity that caused such devastation (Woodham-Smith, 1962). The response of the British government at the time can be summarized as a jumble of incompetence, frustration, and indecision, if not outright genocide, and the same may be true of any future responses by government.

As previously mentioned, population is not tied with mathematical precision to oil production; the latter provides only a rough indication of the former. To some extent, people will learn to live with less. Certainly most westerners can cut their living standards considerably and still live healthy lives -- perhaps even healthier, since they would be eating less and walking more. People will also switch to other sources of energy: in particular, firewood can replace fossil fuels for heating, though the amount of wood will not be sufficient for billions of people. All these adjustments will alleviate matters for a while, although the basic problem will remain: that fossil fuels will decline at a much faster rate than any voluntary reduction in births.

The above predictions can be nothing more than approximate, but even the most elaborate mathematics will not entirely help us to deal with the great number of interacting factors. We need to swing toward a more pessimistic figure for humanity’s future if we include the effects of war, disease, and so on. One of the most serious negative factors will be largely sociological: To what extent can the oil industry maintain the advanced technology required for drilling ever-deeper wells in ever-more-remote places, when that industry will be struggling to survive in a milieu of social chaos? Intricate division of labor, large-scale government, and high-level education will no longer exist.

On the other hand, there are elements of optimism that may need to be plugged in. We must not forget the sheer tenacity of the human species: we are intelligent social creatures living at the top of the food chain, in the manner of wolves, yet we outnumber wolves worldwide by about a million to one; we are as populous as rats or mice. We can outrace a horse over long distances. Even with Stone-Age technology, we can inhabit almost every environment on Earth, even if most of the required survival skills have been forgotten.

Specifically, we must consider the fact that neither geography nor population is homogeneous. All over the world, there are forgotten pockets of habitable land, much of it abandoned in the modern transition to urbanization, for the ironic reason that city dwellers regarded rural life as too difficult, as they traded their peasant smocks for factory overalls. There are still areas of the planet’s surface that are sparsely occupied although they are habitable or could be made so, to the extent that many rural areas have had a decline in population that is absolute, i.e. not merely relative to another place or time. By careful calculation, therefore, there will be survivors. Over the next few years, human ingenuity must be devoted to an understanding of these geographic and demographic matters, so that at least a few can escape the tribulation. Neither the present nor future generations should have to say, "We were never warned."


BP. Global statistical review of world energy. (annual). Retrieved from

Catton, W. R., Jr. (1982). Overshoot: The ecological basis of revolutionary change. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Devereux, S. (2000). Famine in the twentieth century. IDS Working Paper 105. Retrieved from

Ó Gráda, C. (2007, March). Making famine history. Journal of Economic Literature. Retrieved from

Pimentel, D. (1984). Energy flows in agricultural and natural ecosystems. CIHEAM (International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies). Retrieved from

------, & Hall, C. W., eds. (1984). Food and energy resources. Orlando, Florida: Academic Press.

------, & Pimentel, M. H. (2007). Food, energy, and society. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

Salisbury, H. E. (2003). The 900 days: The siege of Leningrad. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.

Woodham-Smith, C. (1962). The great hunger: Ireland 1845-1849. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row.

Peter Goodchild

Author of Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse (London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2014)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Burundi's Population Choices

A guest post by Eric Rimmer and Andrew Ferguson

Based on an original conversation with an Anglican Bishop, who asked us for information and advice to help to alleviate Burundi’s urgent population growth problems.



Burundi has a current population close to 10 million, with an average Fertility Rate (children per woman) of 6.3. Population has grown by more than 3 million since the year 2000. Food is in short supply, and malnourishment is common. Farmland productivity is declining, and forests are denuded.
If fertility does not decline at all and if mortality does not increase, Burundi’s population will reach the disastrous and suicidal figure of 28 million by 2040 and still be growing by about 1 million each year.
The US Census Bureau (USCB) projects a steady, straight-line reduction in Burundi’s Fertility Rate, from 6.3 to 2.9 by 2050. Even if that were achieved, in 2050 the population would be 27 million and still growing by half a million per year. That would in no way solve Burundi’s problems.
Burundi is already consuming double the food it can produce for itself, and is therefore 50% dependent on food imports. With current population, average bio-productive land per person is 0.4 global hectares, which falls far short of an acceptable target, which as later proposed is likely to be about 1.2 global hectares. (See below for the meaning of global hectares.)
If the USCB’s projected 2050 population of 27 million were reached without mass starvation, the bio-productive land per person would be only 0.15 global hectares – an impossible figure for survival, unless Burundi could manage to import 80% of its food, in an increasingly uncertain global political climate. Climate change and continuing forest and farmland deterioration will add further daunting challenges.
Therefore, Burundi must work towards a much lower population. To set a target population, it is necessary to calculate how many could be completely supported by Burundi’s land alone – while at the same time lifting people out of poverty and malnutrition, and working towards the sort of life that they could be fairly happy with. In most cases, that would include the provision of good education and health care, which cannot be provided while the size of Burundi’s population exceeds its bio-capacity.
As we show below, that sustainability would require a reduction to a population of 3.3 million, which could only be achieved soon enough to avoid catastrophe, with a fertility rate of 1.0. Reducing from 6.3 to 1.0, with maximum effort and support, could be achieved in 10 years, in say 2022. Population at that point would be about 12 million, before peaking in 2050 at 14 million, then steadily falling to 3.3 million around 2120 – see graph on page 5. (The explanation for it not falling sooner, as one might expect with a fertility of only 1.0, is that 38% of the current population is under 14 years of age, and 73% below 30.)
Any less ambitious goals would be overtaken by the relentless pressure of an ever larger population.
Determining a Sustainable Population for Burundi:

We have used data from the Global Footprint Network (GFN) as reported in the WWF Living Planet Report 2012, to calculate the bio-productive land needed to support each Burundian. In all countries with more than one million inhabitants, GFN measures the land actually needed to maintain current lifestyle, and compares it with the land available. Both are calculated in “global hectares” i.e. hectares at global average productivity.
The current Burundi values are 0.8 global hectares of land needed, per person, to satisfy present consumption, but only 0.4 global hectares are available – the difference is made up by imports including food aid and to some extent by exceeding the levels of sustainable extraction – e.g. by cutting down trees faster than they can be grown.
Nevertheless, there is still not enough food to go around – and the UN World Food Programme reports that only 28 percent of Burundi’s population is food-secure, and as many as 60 percent are chronically malnourished. A sustainable population must therefore be one that corrects that shortfall, and makes it possible for all to have a tolerably decent standard of living.
If we look to Europe for comparisons – current European life-style needs nearly 5 global hectares per person, though about half of that reflects Europe’s unsustainably high use of energy.
Much of Europe’s food is imported, a lot is wasted in the processed food and supermarket system, and the amount of meat in the European diet is probably more than that advisable on health grounds. So it is reasonable to argue that Burundi’s warm climate and largely vegetarian diet would allow for living comfortably on much less. For the 34 nations of Europe, the use of forest, cropland, pasture and fishing land averages 2.0 global hectares per person – but for the 47 nations of Africa the average is 1.1 global hectares per person. It could well be argued that too many people in Africa suffer from malnutrition for that to be a useful guide, but in view of Burundi’s existing overpopulation problem, let us select a figure close to the existing African consumption footprint for forest, cropland, pasture and fishing, namely 1.2 global hectares per person.
Given the total 4 million bio-productive global hectares available in Burundi, a population no greater than 3.3 million, could each have access to 1.2 global hectares – 50 percent greater than Burundi’s current footprint, and 60 percent of the European use of forest, cropland, pasture, and fishing.
There are inaccuracies in expressing the productivity of cropland, pasture and fishing in the overall unit of global hectares, so Burundi needs a detailed study by its agricultural scientists and hydrology experts to see what scope there is for improving agricultural yields. Though there seems to be limited prospects of much improvement, as de-forestation and poor farming methods have already caused extensive soil erosion and depletion – there does seem to be scope for increased fishing activity, as the average Burundian eats only 1kg of fish per year, and Burundi has about 100 miles of coastline on Lake Tanganyika, and the right to 8% of the lake’s fishing.
Reducing Fertility Rate:

Given the urgent and serious nature of Burundi’s population problems, we have searched the data in many other countries, to identify ambitious but achievable fertility targets. For example, the world’s lowest fertility rate is 0.8 (in Singapore) and there are 37 countries below 1.5.
But in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, the lowest current fertility rates are around 2.4 (e.g. Namibia & Botswana), and are expected to fall below 2.0 by 2025.
If we look further afield, Iran has been outstandingly successful in reducing its fertility. During the period 1990-95, and also 1991-96, the average fall was 0.46 per year. The government did this by a combination of advocacy about the need for a change, and the provision of good contraceptive services. Comparable results were achieved in Thailand.
The changes occurred without coercion, and without specific incentives for having only one or no children. But there is no reason why incentives should not be introduced in Burundi, and we think that we are not being excessively hopeful in making the assumption that it would be possible for nations who become aware of the dangers they face, to reduce fertility at a rate of 0.5 (half a child) per year, e.g. from 6.3 to 1.0 in 10 years.
As stated above, decline from 10 million to 3.3 million over a reasonable time-span would need a rapid change to a Fertility Rate of 1.0.
With a high initial fertility and disadvantageous age structure, a rapid transition is necessary to avoid the population swelling to catastrophic levels. Inspection of the graph will make it apparent that a reduction period of 10 years is the most realistic option.
A slower decline in fertility could reach the 3.3 million population-target in many more years, but all the time that fertility remains higher, the population continues to grow – and the challenge becomes much greater.

A Graphical Illustration of Burundi’s Choices:

The graph illustrates each of the scenarios we have calculated. The graph is split at 2050 because up till then we have high confidence in the population projections. After that, they become a little more tenuous. 
The LIGHT BLUE line (square data-points) – the top curve in the graph, projects no decrease in the 2010 fertility rate – with population climbing extremely steeply, and running off the graph in 2040, at 30 million! This illustrates the massive penalty of doing nothing about fertility!

This should be contrasted with the horizontal BROWN line (triangular data-points) at the bottom of the graph, which shows the optimum Burundi population of 3.3 million.

The ORANGE line (circular data-points) reflects the USCB projections to 2050 – with fertility dropping from 6.3 to 2.9 and population increasing from 10 to 27 million, and still adding half a million each year. A much lower population must be achieved.

The RED line (square blue data-points) shows what could be achieved if the goal were set to reach a fertility rate of 2.0 in 10 years, which is the level at which population would stop increasing once the built-in population momentum has been overtaken. Unfortunately, it would take until 2060 to reach a stable population – and that would be at 19 million.

The DARK GREEN line (circular data-points) represents the only realistic goal for Burundi, with fertility decreasing to 1.0 (one child per family) after 10 years, after falling to that level at the average rate of half a child each year.


It is absolutely necessary for Burundi to take a courageous decision and begin immediately to lower its fertility rate towards 1.0. This will need the cooperation and funding of the family planning agencies, as well as full and unequivocal Government leadership and support.
We are happy to provide further information and encouragement!