Planet of the Humans

Planet of the Humans: Why Technology Won’t Save Us

In this critical review, Elisabeth Robson reacts to the newly released environmental documentary Planet of the Humans. The film explains why technology won’t save us and leads viewers to question the industrial paradigm.

Liberals have been quick to attack the film, mistaking it for a pro-fossil or pro-nuclear fuel argument, and recognizing that critiquing “green” energy undermines the morality of their entire ideological project of “sustainable modern development.” The far-right has attempted to co-opt the message as well. Both are predictable and profoundly mistaken responses. See the end of this review for a few point-by-point rebuttals of these misrepresentations.

Our choice is not between “green” energy and fossil fuels. That is a false binary. We must choose between industrial destruction—including both ‘renewables’ and fossil fuels—and creating a biocentric future. We need revolutionary transformation of society, not superficial changes to the energy sources of empire. Planet of the Humans is not without flaws. No piece of media is. But it contributes critically to a movement too long dominated by cornucopian, anthropogenic industrial energy advocates.


Planet of the Humans: Why Technology Won’t Save Us

By Elisabeth Robson

Green energy is a false solution. That’s a nice way of putting it.

But green energy is the god of the left. And heaven forbid anyone from the left point out any of the pesky problems with this god. We expect that from people on the right; but the left? And now one of the left’s progressive heroes has gone and broken the rules and actually published an entire 1 hour and 40 minutes of documentary trashing this god. Needless to say, the backlash took less than 24 hours to begin.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The documentary film is Planet of the Humans. The film is narrated and directed by Jeff Gibbs, and executive produced by Michael Moore. It stars renewable energy generation technologies wind and solar, along with biomass, and with, of course, the obligatory supporting role appearance from electric vehicles.

Jeff channels Michael well. He is not afraid to look behind the curtain to see the man, or rather the fossil fuels, running the show, or to ask the uncomfortable questions. “Well, that’s awkward,” I find myself saying several times throughout the film.

We begin, appropriately enough, with a reminder of the first Earth Day, 50 years ago today as I write this now. That first Earth Day inspired the filmmaker to become an environmental journalist, and he went through a phase, as many of us have done, wishing and hoping so hard that green energy will help us kick our addiction to fossil fuels and save the planet, that he actually believed it for a while.

Wind and solar.

He soon discovers the intermittency problem: you can’t generate energy from solar panels when the sun isn’t shining, or from wind turbines when the wind isn’t blowing. Well, yes, that is a well known problem. He then discovers that fossil fuel powered energy plants must be running at the ready to fill in the gaps when the wind dies and it rains or the sun sets for the evening, and of course you can’t just stop and start fossil fuel powered energy plants on a whim. What about batteries he asks? Yes, but… they degrade quickly and require a lot of resources to make. How about the resources to make the wind and solar panels? Right, that’s a problem too.

And the land where wind and solar is installed? Oh, yes, the vast tracts of land torn up for wind and solar is yet another problem. But it’s just desert right? “Just desert”… sure, if you think centuries old cactus and Joshua trees, wildflowers that color the hills red, yellow, and purple after spring rains, and lizard and tortoise and eagle and wolf habitat is “just desert.”

Prayer walk for sacred water in the Mojave desert, home to numerous indigenous nations, a wide array of biodiversity, springs, wildflowers, ungulates, tortoises, lizards, birds, and some of the more remote lands in North America. The Mojave’s most serious threats come from the military, urban sprawl, and industrial solar development. Photo by Max Wilbert.

Electric Vehicles.

Gibbs looks at electric vehicles, trotted out by car companies as proof of their green credentials, but of course if wind and solar aren’t powering the grid, then all you’ve done to power the EVs is move the gas from the gas tank to the power plant. Unfortunately, the car company executive put on the spot did not seem to know much about the power grid, only about how much PR she was getting from the press about the EV she’s announcing.

Biomass.

Next, we meet biomass. Compared to wind and solar this is a low(er) tech solution to powering the world, which we might initially think is better–along with Bill McKibben who is shown proudly touting the benefits of chopping up trees into bits and burning them in power plants–but it turns out that no, we can’t cut down all the trees on the planet to power our lifestyles without some, you know, downsides. We see the fossil fuel powered-machines killing beautiful old trees, and the smoke and CO2 rising from the stacks while hearing about how biomass is “carbon neutral,” from people who obviously don’t understand the difference between trees, and a healthy, thriving forest. We meet the community members subjected to biomass plants that are burning, along with trees, old tires and creosote-soaked railroad ties.

And all along the way, Jeff and his sidekick Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions and co-producer of the film, ask the uncomfortable questions of the celebrities of the left: Van Jones, Bill McKibben, various big wigs at the Sierra Club, along with plenty of clips showing Al Gore at his hypocritical finest, touting capitalism and the profit he will be making personally if only we would invest more money in renewable technologies.

The only conclusion the viewer can draw by the end of the film is the inescapable fact, that no one on the left wants to admit: there is no get out of jail free card. There never was, and there never will be. As long as we try to tech, mine, build, and burn our way out of this mess, we will only make the problem worse.

Why technology won’t save us

While the film, Planet of The Humans focuses almost entirely on the problems of wind, solar, and biomass, and the corporate culture of profit surrounding these industries, we also understand that the filmmaker gets it–as in, the big picture. That it’s not just about climate change, air pollution, water pollution, or even corporate greed. It’s that even if we managed to miraculously replace all the grid energy and liquid fuels we use with so-called renewable sources of energy, it wouldn’t solve the fundamental issues at the heart of all these problems: that it is our industrial civilization and the relentless push for endless growth that is killing the planet. The film makers do not raise this point explicitly, but it is there for all to see if only we care to look. Just like these problems with renewables have been there all along, no matter how hard we try to ignore the fact that solar panels and wind turbines require massive amounts of metals mined out of the ground, ground that was once someone’s home, and is now destroyed; and no matter how hard we try to ignore that biomass is just a euphemism for dead trees, trees the same so-called environmentalists who invest in biomass energy plants tell us we must save in order to sequester CO2 and protect biodiversity.

The hypocrisy is stunning, as it always has been. We are all guilty of it to some degree–I know I am–but at least I can say that I’m trying to learn more, to keep an open but critical mind, and to spend the time to look more deeply at these issues. I’ve learned to not just take on faith the words of the corporate-backed and often fossil fuel-supported organizations mentioned in this film who tell me we can solve everything–have our cake and eat it too–if we just have enough green energy.

A reviewer from The Guardian wrote in response to the film:

“Most chillingly of all, Gibbs at one stage of the film appears to suggest that there is no cure for any of this, that, just as humans are mortal, so the species itself is staring its own mortality in the face. But he appears to back away from that view by the end, saying merely that things need to change. But what things and how?

It’s not at all clear.”

Yes, this film makes the case that things need to change. What things? Everything. How? By shutting down the entire industrial machine.

Industrial Civilization.

The film never explicitly condemns industrial civilization as the root of our problems. However, as I said above, it is there to see for anyone who is paying attention. I might wish it had been stated explicitly and directly, but this message is hard to miss. The point of the film is that everything about how we live on this planet needs to change, and deluding ourselves about how we can continue life as we know it powered by green energy is not just a waste of time; it is criminal. Only by acknowledging this truth can we put aside the fantasy of green energy and begin to formulate real solutions. And yes, the real solutions mean shutting down the entire industrial machine. Not just fossil fuels, but everything: all the mining, the logging, the industrial fishing, the industrial agriculture… everything. It’s all got to change.

The lesson, and the moral of the story, is that we (humans) will be entirely to blame for our own demise, when it comes, if we continue down the path of using massive amounts of energy–no matter how that energy is generated–to expand our ecocidal footprint on this planet.

The Ending.

I hold my breath as the end of the film approaches. Will this film, like so many others, try to end on an optimistic note? The green god of the left requires optimism to end all his religious services, don’t you know.

No. This film, unlike so many others, manages to avoid the tragedy of ending with delusional optimism. We see instead the tragedy of rainforests decimated, rainforests that orangutans call home. The tragedy of lives lost to human greed and cruelty; the desperation, sadness, and confusion written all over the faces of those beautiful beings who remind us so much of ourselves.

It is the perfect, heart-wrenching ending to this film: we understand, without any words being spoken, that green energy, along with the many other horrors of our industrial civilization, is killing us and all life on this beautiful planet we call home.

To join the resistance and help end industrial civilization, check out https://deepgreenresistance.org/.


Commons Criticisms of the Film and Responses

False Critique #1: The film uses inaccurate information, for example about CSP (Concentrated Solar Power)

Critic: “It is stated correctly in the movie that the Ivanpah concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in California requires a natural gas power source to start it up every morning. Other CSP plants do not, however. And newer CSP designs, like the one operating at Crescent Dunes solar plant in Nevada since 2009, use molten salt to store enough of the sun’s heat to keep the generators running all night long.”

Robson: Most CSPs here in the USA have been an utter failure, including Crescent Dunes, which seems to be shut down now. The plant never managed to achieve its expected monthly output, and was entirely shut down for 8 months of its short life because of a leak in the molten salt thermal storage tank.

In addition, CSP plants are incredibly destructive to the land where they are installed. Typically the land is cleared of all life, like you see in the movie… which means habitat and homes lost for countless beings who lived on that land previously. When wildlife people try to relocate the desert tortoises that often live in these locations, not many survive. They fence off the land so the tortoises can’t get back in. And birds that fly through the hottest part of the light as it’s collected can sometimes burn to death.

I wonder if all that infrastructure is still sitting there, trashing up the desert? Certainly the soil and life they destroyed putting it up will take a very very long time to recover even if the infrastructure is eventually removed.

And none of this changes the fact that it requires metals and materials and fuel to build and maintain these things, that they are very low density sources of energy, and incredibly inefficient, consist of toxic waste at the end of their life spans, are designed to power the grid and our lifestyles that depend on the grid, which is unsustainable over the long term.

Laura Cunningham, Wildlife Biologist (comment from Facebook): Ten years ago I fought to save Ivanpah Valley and stop that monstrous solar power tower. This movie is accurate–the Sierra Club supported building the utility-scale solar project on the wildflower fields, translocating the desert tortoises, and ignoring my Chemehuevi elder friends who said every plant in the desert there is medicinal or edible. Ivanpah means “White clay water” in Paiute-Chemehuevi. I watched them bulldoze an ancient trail and archaeology. More giant solar projects are planned in the desert this year, this needs to stop.

False Critique #2: The film unfairly attacks certain figures

Critic: “It is hugely disingenuous, and frankly misleading, to hide in the credits at the end of a movie the fact that two of the leading organizations being damned in the movie for their support of biomass as a “green” energy source (350.org and Sierra Club) do not, in fact, support biomass any more. Bill McKibben deserves an apology for being misrepresented in this film …”

Robson: I feel the film maker gave Bill McKibben ample opportunity to refute his prior support of biomass *on film*. The film shows proof that Bill once did support it, whole-heartedly. Since the film came out McKibben has written this to say that while he used to support biomass, he no longer does: https://350.org/response-planet-of-the-humans-documentary/

Sierra Club has a page on biomass, where they state: “We believe that biomass projects can be sustainable, but that many biomass projects are not.”

Both 350.org and Sierra Club, and Bill McKibben personally, do whole-heartedly support “renewables,” including wind and solar.

350.org‘s main mission is “A fast & just transition to 100% renewable energy for all”, and their primary focus is climate change. The number one item on Sierra Club’s “issues” page is “Climate & Energy”, and speaking for the Sierra Club, ED Michael Brune said: “The booming clean energy economy is helping people create a better future for themselves and their families while, at the same time, helping to tackle the climate crisis that threatens our collective future. Workers see new job opportunities, communities see thriving local economies, and the American people see the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.”

It is good that 350.org and Sierra Club and Bill McKibben have improved their stances on biomass; and certainly these organizations do some good work. But their support for “clean energy” will perpetuate our unsustainable lifestyles, and, as the film points out, is likely tied to corporate investment in these and related technologies, as well as the mining, extraction, refining, batteries, grids, etc. technologies that go with them.

Also, a personal note: I think using the word “biomass” to refer to trees, or plants, or whatever life form it refers to, is a horrific way to look at the natural world. It’s like using the word “resources” instead of trees, water, fish, etc. It turns real living beings into objects, and is a huge part of the problem.

False Critique #3: The film endorses problematic ideas of population control

Critic: “Like many environmental documentaries, “Planet of Humans” endorses debunked Malthusian ideas that the world is running out of energy. ‘We have to have our ability to consume reigned in,’ says a well-coiffed environmental leader. ‘Without some major die-off of the human population there is no turning back,’ says a scientist.”

I do not recall anyone in the movie advocating for one-child policies, or any other draconian population policies. I personally felt like the population issue was a relatively minor point in the film compared to the points about solar, wind, and biomass. [Population is discussed for a few minutes during the 100 minute film].

It is very clear that 8 billion humans would not exist without massive amounts of fossil fuels. I don’t think many would argue with that at this point (and if you have a cogent argument, I’d like to see it). In addition, several studies have recently shown that we humans have transformed a large proportion of the Earth in modern times. We have reduced wilderness areas to almost nothing, and wildlife to almost nothing.

So yeah, population is a problem. I thought the film did a fairly good job of raising it as an issue without being particularly “Malthusian” about it (in the pejorative sense that word is used today).


Elisabeth Robson is a radical feminist and a part of DGR. 

29 thoughts on “Planet of the Humans: Why Technology Won’t Save Us”

  1. It is good to read an alternative view of the documentary. The documentary did not tell me anything I didn’t already know. I found it overlong and it failed to address a number of important issues. While the documentary showed that technology won’t save us, it failed to properly address the fakery of co2 argument. It failed to show the flaws in carbon measuring as a tool to aid carbon trading and failed to challenge or show how the co2 position feeds into the monetization of nature through the new greed deal.

    You claim that people will arrive at the conclusion that capitalism must fall – many people can’t see any other option but a capitalist one – their concern is that something must be done and the ends justify the means. Our entire culture is based on the end justifying the means and I think the documentary serves to reinforce the justification for so-called green energy if it means saving the planet – as they see it – and lifestyle.

    The documentary does not explore the dangers of geoengineering and weather modification programmes – there is some evidence that geoengineering programmes are also causing global warming, these programmes are also killing trees and poisoning land and seas.

    I took great offence at the population control comment – as a black person, I am keenly aware that when population control is mentioned it means the global south and it means me. Population numbers in the west have been falling for decades, so how will culling people in the global south solve the climate problem when most of the world’s resources are being cannibalised by the west?

    I saw the ending very differently from you – I am always suspicious of being manipulated by sentimentality. The ending inspired feelings of guilt, pity and hopelessness as opposed to outrage. The kind of outrage that causes one to think and to take action and reevaluate your beliefs. I think the documentary reinforced our prejudices and beliefs systems and will not change established narratives about climate change.

  2. Elisabeth,

    Your writing, particularly this one, (even though I have read several), is fabulous, and precisely to the point.

    Please take this post as encouragement, because those who know that we don’t know that we don’t know, even on the left, or, particularly on the left, ………………

    and those who cannot self-criticize much less self reflect in this time of collapsing Mother Earth systems, are not helping,

    please keep on keepin- on,

    Michael

  3. Thank you Faye, appreciate your input.

    I thought the movie did pretty well at staying on point, which was to expose flaws in the “green energy” solutions that many people are looking to “save us”, and in particular: wind, solar, & biomass. Obviously that means a LOT got left out that’s worthy of discussion. Lots of room for more movies on those topics.

    The film didn’t really mention population *control* per se, only (as I recall) that overpopulation is a problem, which it is. And certainly no one in the movie, nor myself, are saying anything about “culling” people in the global south. That is a big, and I think unfair, leap from the desire to have a discussion about population.

    I certainly felt both sadness and outrage at the end of the film. And, as you point out, many people will be looking for that optimistic, solution oriented ending because it’s what we want and expect. Personally I find that more depressing, but I am probably the odd one out on that front.

  4. I don’t think the way overpopulation has been addressed on this film was fascist/eugenicist/malthusian/whatever. That said, it was the weakest point of the film. Without a proper contextualization in terms of class, racial, and geopolitical analysis, it’s better to not even begin discussing overpopulation – because once you do begin, it *will* open the door to fascist interpretations, and *then* it’s your responsibility to make your best to keep that door firmly shut.

    Instead, the filmmakers were just like “there are too many people, this is a big problem, if it stays like this a lot of people will die, consumption has increased in average 10x per person, oh and Western people consume more”. I found it irresponsible.

  5. To respond to one thread of the comments before responding to the discussion itself: One way or another, there is going to be a massive human die-off, when 8 billion people try to occupy a planet that can only sustain a fraction of that number. The so-called “global north” is going to crash from insane overconsumption, and the so-called “global south” is going to crash due to insane birth rates, while longing to consume like the “global north.”
    No one is trying to impose draconian birth control on black Africa, brown Africa, brown Asia, the white parts of Asia, or any other culture that can’t see the failed math insanity of multi-child families. But if they don’t impose it on themselves, they’re going to starve to death, pure and simple.

    Back to the central argument: The denial among the oil loving industrial right and the “renewable” loving industrial left is very typical addict behavior — the drunk who says “I don’t have a problem,” and the junkie whose “solution” to the problem is methadone instead of heroin.

    The whole “American Dream” is analogous to the alcoholic who has convinced himself that drinking can’t possibly be a problem, because booze is the juice that fuels all these great parties.

    The American Dream (or some variant of it) has become the global dream: Upgrade from a bicycle to a car and a favela to a tract home. How can it possibly be bad to want your children to have more than their parents have — whether the parents are already well off, or just tired of being poor? Ambition is what America is all about. And if it worked for America, it has to work for the world. If perpetual growth on a non-growing planet is suicidal, then there must be something wrong with the planet. That’s the capitalist rationale.

    The perpetual wino-junkie denial mechanism: If it feels good, it must be right. And if it stops feeling good, then you just weren’t using enough.

    Capitalism, profit, and growth are addictions, just like drugs and alcohol. And the Industrial Revolution was when we went from soft drugs to hard.

    And you know what people in recovery say about arguing with an addict, whether it’s the oil baron addict or the green new deal addict: He’s not going to liten until he hits rock bottom. But the industrial addict won’t hit rock bottom until the planet hits rock bottom. And that means the addict takes the rest of the family/planet down with him.

    Hence the imperative of resistance, revolution, and taking the drug cartel (represemted here by industry and capitalism) down by force: We’re the children of junkie parents, who passed out while smoking, and dropped their cigarettes on the carpet. And we’re determined not to let the addicts burn the house down with us in it.

  6. Hmm no, the “global south” is not going to crash because of its birth rates. It’s going to crash primarily because of a centuries-old history of extractivist colonialism and imperialism that continues up to this day and age. Part of what drives imperialism and ecological destruction in the “global south” nowadays, as the film itself has showed, is the developed world’s push for “green solutions”. It’s why the Guarani-Kaiowá are forcibly kicked off their lands, it’s why trees are planted in African savannahs with complete disregard for local ecosystems, it’s why fake first-world greens like XR tacitly supported the U.S. puppets that are in charge in Bolivia right now, making sure transnationals have unfettered access to lithium mining for batteries. These are just a few examples.

    Also, urban people don’t think about this kind of thing, but the rural poor need children. They need them because landwork is hard work, and the more you age, the less you’re able to do it without the help of young people. The youth also have the responsibility to care for the elderly in locations without easy access to hospitals and elderly homes.

    Add to this equation things like child mortality, life expectancy, and of course consumption, and it becomes clear that birth rates in the “global south” are comparatively irrelevant to global ecological disaster.

    Without a basic understanding of how imperialism works, particularly its “green” variant, it’s not possible to fully understand ecological issues. The “global north” and the “global south” are not separate entities with no connection to each other.

    Tl; dr:

    https://miro.medium.com/max/1332/1*fI-b8AhFNVWi62JnqYE0SQ.jpeg

  7. I’m going to stay out of any discussions of population because what I know about it is very little, other than that:

    1) 8 billion or 10 billion or probably even just 3 billion humans on the planet would not be possible without massive amounts of fossil fuels;

    2) Land dispossession via colonization & war is right up there as a major cause of much of the current suffering in the world; we kick people off their land into poverty in cities and factory jobs and call it “sustainable development”, and it is horrific;

    3) The most harm to the natural world is done by the people with the most wealth as measured by modern day economists, and I think we can all agree here that getting the few with the most wealth (by that economist’s measure) to be willing to live with a heck of a lot less would be a huge step in the right direction for the whole planet. Unfortunately, since the people in power tend to be in that category, it seems unlikely this reduction will happen voluntarily. Fortunately there are a lot more people that aren’t in that category, who, if they were organized, could easily crush the system. I hope that we realize that, educate ourselves, organize, and act on it.

  8. No offense, I, but the numbers don’t support yout analysis. The population of Africa today (where growth rates are worst) is almost 6 times what it was in 1950, and is expected to double again by 2050. That means from 227 million in 1950 to 2.66 billion in 100 years, or roughly an 1100% increase. That is, indeed, insane and suicidal.

    As for agriculture requiring large families, I am reminded of the farmer in Madagascar I saw interviewed last year. Asked why he was cutting down more forest to add to his farm, he said it was necessary to feed his 5 children. Note that he did not say he needed 5 childten to run the farm, but that he had to steal more land to feed the children. 90% of Madagascar’s forests have so far been destroyed on this argument.

    You also overlook the dumbest imaginable arguments supporting unsustainable birth rates: (1) “God commands it,” and (2) that the measure of a man’s masculinity is the number of children he has, and how young he was when he started having them.

  9. Along with this insight and now that all things –- jobs, natural gas as clean energy (“Bridge”-fuel), corporate rights, mineral extraction rights and untethered monetary influence—are not entirely alien in favor of big corporation’s; now is the time to establish the rights of the people and the rights of nature (Life), as being absolute and before profit when considering any development and or endeavor.
    Depending on elected officials and well financed ‘Big Greens’ to do what is right has proven, throughout history, to be futile. It takes We The People. It took We The People to propel real change against the brutal war against cannabis and even ‘Hemp’ through ballot initiative. — and even that decree is constantly under-fire by our “elected officials”.
    If We The People demand (not ask for) our right to clean air, food and water and we demand representation, Of and For The People, and insure –through Law –the rights of nature; we will be preserving our democracy as well as protecting Life itself!
    As we are preparing “talking points” our “representatives” – who have been paid for—and large corporation’s are continuity working to bolster their standing — infiltrating,misdirecting and undermining the citizen environmentalist, the peoples efforts– while dismantling the rights of the masses… You know like the right to freedom of the press and the right to protest; even voting is under attack, –The list is endless!!
    We The people need to change our strategy and change the narrative from corporate power and profit above all else to a system of En’owkin: Decision-Making as if Sustainability mattered.
    Lets be acutely aware, lets stand up and take (demand) our rights and lets start doing the True Work, The Hard Work, that will protect Life and bring about real change.

  10. J.D., yes — we live in a culture of human supremacy and regularly put our needs above the needs of the billions of other life forms on this planet. The Rights of Nature questions the fundamental assumption that it is okay to treat nature as property. Our culture of treating other beings, land, water, air as property — and wage slavery, human trafficking, land dispossession, women having fewer rights than men, etc. are all part of that — must end if we are to live well on this Earth.

    Unfortunately many people believe that it is okay to sacrifice living beings in order to keep our industrial civilization going. Seeing many of the arguments defending green tech in response to the film, I am reminded of how entrenched that belief is, and how unlikely it is that this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. DGR exists to help train people to resist these entrenched ways of thinking.

  11. If African parents – who are people no different than us, no stupider, no more venal – choose to have larger families, they do so rationally. From their perspective, one which is rarely taken by wealthy Western critics such as those on this thread, it makes perfect sense. Perhaps those making that point might consider how Roman Catholics and other religious groups in the West still have larger families than the median size. But they’re not Black or African, are they?

    African people, on the whole, have vastly smaller negative impacts on the natural world compared to us allegedly-richer people. It is, basically, a racist accusation.

  12. Agree with this review except for its minor discussion of overpopulation.

    First and foremost, there’s nothing “draconian” about a one-child-family policy. In fact, a global one with no exceptions would be the best thing humans could do for the Earth and everything that lives here. This isn’t about humans starving or anything else about humans, it’s about leaving some room for other species. It’s totally anti-environmental anthropocentric BS to say that a policy like this is draconian. It’s far more draconian to drive species to extinction, and to destroy habitats and even entire ecosystems with human overpopulation. There are so many humans on the planet that the plants and other animals have nowhere to live. Now THAT’s draconian!

    Second, if you eliminate industrial society you can’t have more than one billion people on Earth. That’s still far too many, but it’s almost eight times fewer than we have now. This is not merely my opinion, it’s a fact. Human population could not increase beyond one billion until industrial society produced artificial fertilizer, which is needed to produce the gross overabundance of food needed to feed almost eight billion people. So if you want to rid the Earth of industrial society, you’d better be working on lowering human population unless you want most people to starve to death.

    Finally, as usual in the comments, Mark Behrend is right and our anti-environmentalist troll I. is wrong. And we got a bonus anti-environmental argument from a Black person who claims that lowering human population targets people of his color only. Really? How would a GLOBAL one-child-family policy do that? Every place is grossly overpopulated with every color of person. Overpopulation is not a racial issue despite some racists trying to make it one.

  13. I,

    The definition of the word “question ” is “a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information”.

    Your statement was not eliciting information. Your statement was an assumption ending with a question mark (“you’re afraid of too many Africans?” instead of “are you afraid of too many Africans?”) You also assumed a yes answer by then asking “why?” instead of “If so, then why”.

    Then your response, “racists rarely if ever say out loud they’re racist” proves my point. You had already decided what the other person was thinking and feeling. You were not asking a question and had no intention of accepting an answer that did not match your assumptions.

  14. I just watched the film. Wow, totally spot on, I totally agree with it. It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but it might be the best and most important documentary I’ve ever seen. Its point that we have to lower human population and consumption in order to have any chance of stopping all the great harm we’re doing to the planet is the most important message that could be conveyed to humans.

    On the negative side, the film caused me to lose respect for a few people I had thought were at least on the right side: Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and others who publicly criticized the film are totally full of it, and their criticisms along with the film itself show which side they’re really on, which is that of endless population growth and consumerism, and is the wrong one. Vandana Shiva came out well, and unlike McKibben and Klein she’s always been one of my heroes, but that was the only good thing as far as environmental leaders.

    One shortcoming of he film is that I wish it had recognized that the real environmentalists are not aligned with the big groups like Sierra Club, but are instead with groups like Center for Biological Diversity. I would have liked to see people like Kieran Suckling interviewed about this to show that real environmentalists don’t support any of these fake solutions to environmental or ecological problems, but instead know and advocate for population and consumption reductions.

  15. @Jeff: “there’s nothing “draconian” about a one-child-family policy”. Well, tell us, Jeff:
    – who will decide that the planet’s population should have such a policy? The UN? Hardly democratic. Most nations are not democracies to the degree required, either.
    – What about the many millions of people who don’t agree with it?
    – How would it be enforced?
    – Would there be punishments for parents who have more than one child?
    “Overpopulation is not a racial issue”. It is and always has been. People living in Africa or India use vastly fewer of the earth’s resources than you or I do. Why should they be limited while we enjoy plundering and exploiting the planet?

  16. @SRH
    Your arguments and attitude are totally anthropocentric. Additionally, I’m advocating for policy, not the nuts & bolts of it like how it would be enforced. In the end, people are going to have to wake up, grow up, stop worshiping themselves and/or their own species, and voluntarily greatly reduce their population and individual consumption. There will be no magical enforcement of a global one-child-family policy, as much as I’d love to see it.

    Who will decide? That’s a nonsensical question. The biological and ecological facts are that humans are grossly overpopulated and could not live in balance with or within the constraints of their respective ecosystems even if they consumed nothing but food, and are causing massive die-offs of wildlife to the point of extinctions due to human overpopulation. So by any sane and moral standard, we “should” greatly lower our population.

    Overpopulation and overconsumption are separate issues. Even if people don’t overconsume individually, they overconsume as a whole if they’re overpopulated. Additionally and at least as important is that by being overpopulated they take up far too much space, denying other species the ability to live and thrive.

    As to overpopulation being a racial issue, your comment is nothing but that of a dogmatic ideologue. You didn’t respond at all to my comment showing how overpopulation is not at all a racial issue, but instead just repeated your brain dead mantra on the issue. I never said that we should continue overconsuming, but since you’re such a dogmatic ideologue you assumed or imagined that I did. I said that everyone on Earth needs to lower their population and consumption, with only rare exceptions like hunter-gatherers and people who consume only food.

    @DGR
    SRH’s comments here, along with those of I. here and elsewhere, are perfect examples of why you can’t take on multiple conflicting issues and be effective on any of them. If you want to strongly advocate for the natural environment and all that lives there, you have to prioritize those issues over social and economic ones. If you don’t, you just end up being like Sierra Club and advocating for destruction of the Earth, just at a slower pace and with the excuse that you’re doing it “justly.”

  17. Afraid of Africans? No, I pity them — just as I pity the rest of us — up to a point. But in the final analysis, we’re the only species that thinks it owns the planet, and acts accordingly by destroying it.

    The only humans I really respect are mostly dead now — people like Chief Seattle, who never bought into or lived off the industrial myth; and Rousseau (to a lesser extent), who lived off it because he was born into it, but saw through it, and fought it with the only weapon at his disposal, his mind.

    When Africans begin starving, they won’t come to America to take food away from me. Geography prevents that. And soon, so will history.
    We hear all sorts of dire predictions about 2050 and 2100, which most children of the industrial mindset shrug off like my cousin, who says, “I plan to be quite dead by then” — or the vast majority, who either say or think (or at least hope), “Surely someone will think of something.”

    But it’s too late for most people living today to “be dead by then,” OR to pass it on to the next generation to “think of something.” Why? Because the latest doomsday prediction is one most of us WILL live to see — and perhaps die in the process. IN JUST 10 YEARS, HUMANITY AND ITS GROWING NUMBERS WILL REQUIRE 40% MORE WATER THAN WE HAVE.

    92% of all fresh water is used for agriculture. Most industrial agriculture is driven by underground aquifers. They are fast running dry. And a huge percentage of the world’s food comes from another continent, on container ships.

    56% of “Saudi agriculture” is grown elsewhere. The aquifers beneath Arizona are rapidly being drained to feed Arabians and their livestock — one desert feeding another desert, half a world away. How long do you think that will last, when the Saudis drained their own aquifers in just 40 years of industrial agriculture. They went from being an importer of wheat to the world’s 6th leading exporter to a 100% importer, all in just 2 generations of living off aquifers.

    44% of Europe’s food is imported, as is 20% of America’s. The prediction 8 years ago was that the aquifers of 20 nations, including the big 3 grain producers (China, India, and the U.S.) would be dry by now. That hasn’t quite happened, but we’re close. And most of us will live to see it.

    China (the new virtual colonizer of Africa) has transferred much of its agricultural production to “the dark continent” — buying up agricultural land, in trade for building roads and rail lines, and fooling African governments into believing those roads and rails are gifts of “development,” when they’re primary purpose is to get Chinese-bound produce and mining extracts to port. What a trade-off! China gets Africa’s wealth, and Africa gets Chinese technology, so that Africa can import from — from where?

    As the ahead-of-its-time 1965 song, “Eve Of Destruction” warned,
    “There’ll be no one to save,
    with the world in a grave.
    Take a look around you, boy.
    It’s bound to scare you, boy.
    And you tell me you don’t believe
    we’re on the eve of destruction?”

  18. @ I. and SRH: A one-and-a-fraction-child policy has been imposed successfully by two Indian states, and more easily than I would have imagined. They simply made the parents of 3 or more children ineligible for government jobs or loans. And, as if by magic, the number of children per family dropped below 2.

  19. Heidi, I assumed the answer because I’ve seen this guy being racist here before. He can always reply if he thinks I’m being unfair, but frankly, I couldn’t care less about anyone’s approval here, and yes, I have seen enough to make up my mind.

  20. @Mark Behrend: I know nothing of this and would like to learn more. Perhaps you could post links. What I found shows, perhaps, that enforced limiting of family size is unnecessary, ineffective and deeply damaging to people on low incomes:
    “Across northern and central India, a campaign advocating for a population control law is gaining momentum. The movement ostensibly seeks to raise awareness over the need to restrain India’s population of 1.34 billion, second only to China’s 1.39 billion. But its subtext reflects a core belief of right-wing Hindu organisations: that Muslims are trying to “overtake” Hindus.”
    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/islamophobic-roots-population-control-efforts-india-190808085219969.html

    “Professor Sanjay Kumar of Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Sciences mentioned three factors that cause a decline in fertility rates – age at marriage, use of contraceptives and induced abortions.”
    https://www.indiatoday.in/diu/story/india-chooses-to-control-population-bihar-looks-the-other-way-1592291-2019-08-27

  21. @Jeff: “everyone on Earth needs to lower their population and consumption” – really? Everyone? So the Dalits of India need to be told by you, a hugely-wealthy man by comparison living a life of security and luxury, that they are using too many resources and the government of India must force them to reduce their consumption. And they’re having too many babies, which you tell them is a bad thing for the environment.

    I suggest you go to a low-income part of the town or country in which you live and exist there for a while on the income most people there subsist upon. After, say, two years, come back and tell us again that those people need to reduce their “overconsumption” just as Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates does.

  22. Speaking of Bill Gates, before cheering about population control in India, it’s worth checking if the Gates Foundation isn’t behind it. Because they often are.

  23. @SRH
    Well OK, not literally everyone. Hunter-gatherers don’t need to change anything, and starving people don’t need to lower their consumption. Other than that, yes everyone.

    You’re just another anti-environmental leftist. You people are as bad for the Earth and everything that lives here as any right winger, again with maybe some rare exceptions. You have the nerve to lecture me but know nothing about me. I’ve been working class basically all my life, and I’ve been poor too, living in the hood and seeing pigs literally attacking Black people. But to you left wing dogmatic ideologues who don’t care any more about the natural environment than the right wingers do, everything is about rich v. poor. Sorry bub, but the trees and the wolves don’t give a damn about that and it doesn’t affect them one bit. Sure, an individual rich person is more destructive than an individual poor person, but having more than one or two kids is harmful regardless of who does it, and even many if not most of your precious poor people in India have cell phones.

    Furthermore, you’re dead wrong in your response to Mark Behrend that enforced limiting of family size is “ineffective.” The fact is that China’s one-child-family policy was a raging success, preventing about 400 million births and changing the attitude of the average person so that even when it was changed to a two-child-family policy, most people don’t want to have more than one kid. But again, what’s reality when you have your ideology?

    You’re just another troll on this site along with I. You really should hang out on some leftist website instead of here. DGR is, among other things, a radical environmental group that advocates for the elimination of industrial society at the very least, and of civilization at best. You clearly oppose DGR’s goals.

  24. I have to respond to the comment dividing the Sierra Club from Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

    CBD no longer opposes big solar in Nevada and is very quiet on bad solar projects everywhere, They don’t mess with the big green sacred cow anymore because PEW and Tom Steyer give them $$

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