Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The gloriously named Andrew Buncombe ("bunk" is derived from the older "buncombe" or "bunkum," meaning nonsense, which is what his article is) frets in the Independent's lead story about America's population reaching 300 million.

The tone of the article is set by this paragraph:

Lester Brown, the director of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental group also based in Washington, said: "In times past, reaching such a demographic milestone might have been a cause for celebration - in 2006 it is not. Population growth is the ever-expanding denominator that gives each person a shrinking share of the resource pie. It contributes to water shortages, cropland conversion to non-farm uses, traffic congestion, more garbage, overfishing, crowding in national parks, a growing dependence on imported oil and other conditions that diminish the quality of our daily lives."

Lester Brown is a well-known no-growth environmentalist nut. Dude, as civilization grows and prospers, the resource pie changes. And what the world is going to see is an increase in value of human resources and a decrease of value of natural resources as the information revolution continues and even more accountants in Bangalore and programmers in Bangkok begin to prosper through working online.

The only counterargument the article mentions is by Gregg Easterbrook, whose first name they misspelled. They give him one sentence, and don't allow him to explain why he thinks what he does. It also doesn't mention why Easterbrook is worth listening to (he has written two well-reviewed books and dozens of articles for top political magazines on science and the environment):

Some commentators believe this growth has a modest impact on the nation's resources and can bring many benefits. Greg Easterbrook, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based, independent research and policy institute, recently wrote: "What should not worry us about continuing US population growth ... is the question of whether we can handle it - we can," he said.

But today's real bit of fun comes from the Indy's opinion page, where one Andrew Gumbel grumbles about those fat, uncouth Yanks in a piece titled, "Americans want it all and hang the consequences."

Get this para:

The severely limited impulse to conserve is not only about economics. It is also deeply cultural. The United States is a place where the prevailing instinct is to want it all, no matter the consequences. Sure, there may be wars in the Middle East, Islamic militants on the march, smog in the air, pollutants in the water, hurricanes, floods and other tangible side-effects of global warming but that's not going to stop most people from hankering after a big car and a big house with state-of-the-art gadgets.

WHAT?!? Dude, I know both Spain and the UK pretty well, and most people in both those places hanker after big cars, big houses, and modern conveniences too. Even my Communist friend Pedro owns a big stereo system and a brand-new computer. And if you don't believe me, check out the number of Mercedeses, Beamers, and 4 x 4s driving around Barcelona, and the real estate frenzy which has made my 75-square-meter apartment in Barcelona more valuable than my parents' five-bedroom house on half an acre in an attractive Kansas City suburb. People are by nature materialistic; it's not just an American thing.

And get his conclusion:

Telling Americans to consume less doesn't work. Giving them environmentally smarter versions of the same things - more fuel-efficient cars, better insulated houses, less heavily packaged food - may be a more promising avenue. Until the government, however, gets serious about forcing manufacturers to produce these things, the age of the more rational American consumer will remain a distant prospect. (Boldface mine.)

The solution is more government control of the economy, says Mr. Gumbel, as if the Independent ever had any other solution to anything, because those silly childish Americans are too stupid to know what is good for them, you see.

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