John Zmirak: The Population Bomb, Climate Change, and Other ‘Crises’

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By John Zmirak, The Stream, December 1, 2018

John ZmirakOne of the sadnesses of being a pointy-headed scribbler, instead of a man of action, is watching your “brilliant” solutions to major conundrums get rejected. And come to nothing. Twenty years ago, I went to a meeting of people concerned about immigration. I saw way back then what the constant flow of poor people into a welfare state would do. That is, turn one state “blue” after another. It would doom the chances for every conservative cause. Especially the one that has driven me most since age 11: the sanctity of life.

But for half of the other people I met at that night, their motives were starkly different. These were environmentalists. They worried that the mass influx of people from poorer countries would vastly grow the U.S. population, and devastate our green spaces.

Chatting with Agents of the Culture of Death

And that, ladies and gents, is how I ended up standing with a gin and tonic in my hand, talking to the outreach director for Planned Parenthood in Latin America, and someone from The Population Council who promoted abortifacients in Africa.

They found me … puzzling. And took the opportunity to question me about the Catholic stance on artificial contraception. They wondered at the sight of a specimen like me. I was dressed like a civilized person. I wore a blue blazer with gold buttons like any other Yalie. So why did I cling to such primitive ideas? They wonder why Catholics refused to consider the negative impacts of fast population growth.

I choked down my intense initial aversion, and tried to reason with them. I dutifully explained the natural law reasoning behind Humanae Vitae. Then I ran for a second G&T. Returning, I decided to look for common ground. I even came up with one of those “brilliant” solutions that always comes to nothing, because it’s based merely on logic. … Which is not a strong motive force in human affairs, I’ve finally had to admit.

Common Ground: Just Another Name for “No Man’s Land.”

I told these two population controllers: “You know, it’s not that Catholics think population could never grow too quickly. But groups like yours insist on promoting ‘remedies’ that violate our fixed, unchanging ethics. In fact, by promoting contraception to young teenagers, and legal abortion, you’re destabilizing the family, and hence entire societies. The resulting social chaos probably drives people to emigrate, and move up here to America. Filling up our ‘green spaces.’”

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“So let me suggest a compromise. I really want you to think about this. What if instead of trying to undermine our churches, you partnered with them? I know Latin American Catholic groups that teach Natural Family Planning. It’s effective, morally neutral and has zero medical side effects. Instead of promoting ‘safe’ promiscuity among teenagers, you could work with the church boosting chastity and responsible parenthood? I think if you backed off on pushing things we consider intrinsically evil, Catholics might actually take your environmental ideas seriously.”

Yeah, that went over real well. These heirs of Margaret Sanger had zero interest in any program that required self-restraint, cultivating virtues or cooperating with churches. They smiled at me placatingly, as if I were a witch doctor who’d just tried to convince some Western OB-GYN to work in some voodoo into his practice.

The Global Austerity Plan

Fast forward twenty years, and everything is different. Not on population issues of course. People from groups like theirs are still trying to sterilize the poor. But environmentalists have mostly abandoned immigration control, under pressure from the left. Instead of policing our nation’s borders, they’ve decided instead to try to micromanage the reproductive choices of every couple on earth. If you don’t believe me, read what French president Immanuel Macron recently said about the apparent “excess” of Africans. Instead of denying Africans unlimited entry to France, he wants to ban them from the planet.

But given the plunge in birth rates (to dangerously low levels) in much of the rest of the world, the population “bomb” doesn’t scare most sane people anymore.

Environmentalists have mostly abandoned immigration control, under pressure from the left. Instead of policing our nation’s borders, they’ve decided instead to try to micromanage the reproductive choices of every couple on earth.

Instead, now they’re spooked by climate change. And here is where things are different. The same kind of haughty globalists who scoffed at the notion of self-control as a means of moderating population growth sing a very different tune. By rights, as big fans of Big Science, who wanted to dose the wombs of the Developing World with the Pill, you’d think these people would favor a technological solution to supposed global warming.

Plausible proposals exist, and if we worked on the technology for the next 100 years, we might iron out the kinks in geo-engineering. We know for a fact that volcanoes reduce global temperature, sometimes for years. If the world really does heat up too much, we could turn down the thermostat by releasing reflective dust (instead of volcano soot) in the upper atmosphere. We could do it slowly and carefully, to avoid overcompensating. If we focused one-tenth the resources we now spend improving smartphones, we could surely find ways to fine tune the climate safely.

If you really thought that climate change posed the kind of threat that many environmentalists claim, you’d at least insist on exploring options like this one.

But no! Heaven forfend! The same people who want to use chemical, even lethal (abortifacient) methods to limit childbirth will not hear of such solutions. They don’t react to them with reasoned objections. No, they flinch as if they were a kind of blasphemy, against the goddess Gaia.

Put Gaia on the Pill.

Instead, these folks propose that we solve climate change by … imposing decades of economic austerity all across the planet. By abandoning cheap, reliable fossil fuels. Or halting economic growth, and preventing developing countries from ever attaining the prosperity we enjoy in the West. Some even want to see us regress, to use fewer resources and live much more like people now do in Cameroon or Somalia— with a much smaller population.

All of which is really … weird to me. If these folks were to be consistent, they’d adopt my chastity plan for population. Or else adopt a high-tech solution to climate change. Put Gaia on the Pill, so to speak. But that might have side effects we can’t predict,some of them might say. To which I’d respond, “You mean the way the Sexual Revolution did? We warned you about that, but nobody listened.”

As I said, logic is not a strong motive force in human affairs.

In reality, billions of people will never accept Stone Age austerity for their and their children’s lifetimes. Regimes that try to shove it down their throats will fall. Period. You’d have better luck pushing global teenage chastity, actually. If climate change really becomes a problem, there’s one thing we know for sure. Those rockets are going to be up there in the stratosphere spreading reflective dust to cool the planet.

Gaia’s getting her tubes tied.


John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.

He has been Press Secretary to pro-life Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, and a reporter and editor at Success magazine and Investor’s Business Daily, among other publications. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in First Things, The Weekly Standard, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, FrontPage Magazine, The American Conservative, The South Carolina Review, Modern Age, The Intercollegiate Review, Commonweal, and The National Catholic Register, among other venues. He has contributed to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of Faith & Family magazine and a reporter at The National Catholic Register. During 2012 he was editor of Crisis.

He is author, co-author, or editor of twelve books, including Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist, The Grand Inquisitor (graphic novel) and The Race to Save Our Century. He was editor of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s guide to higher education, Choosing the Right College and, for ten years, and is also editor of Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind.