Monday, February 23, 2009

THE WWF ABANDONS ITS POST TO CHASE AFTER A DECOY: The futile attempt to mop up the flooding floor of growth before turning off the tap

The World Wildlife Fund, having fought a losing battle against human encroachment on wildlife habitat, nevertheless declares victory so that it can leave the front lines to fight the global warming boogeyman at the rear. In a world where some 30,000 species become extinct each year as a result of human activity they make the startling claim that “climate change is the most pressing issue facing the planet right now”. Really? Species loss is occurring unchecked “right now” and their loss is inversely proportional to the proliferation of our species. It is a loss more imminent and lethal to human prospects than what any climate model can conjure up.

In “WWF and The Good Life: Helping Canadians Fight Climate Change”, they declare that “ WWF has been working for years to protect the living things on Earth. We've helped create massive protected areas, pulled species back from the brink of extinction and established sustainable resource management methods. But all these gains are in danger of being lost if the planet continues to warm. Warmer temperatures and unstable weather will put more species and ecosystems at risk.”

One hates to break it to the WWF that the “gains” they speak of have already been lost, and well before global warming made itself manifest. Oh yes, there are more nature reserves than ever before, but for each square kilometer of land dedicated to park “protection”, more sq. kilomentres of wild habitat are subject to rapid and intense development. And it is delusional to believe that any nature reserve is a durable sanctuary from runaway population and economic growth. Too many examples of such land losing its inviolability to growth abound, Yosemite being a famous case of that. All of this prompted WWF founder Sir Peter Scott to lament, “You know, I have often thought at the end of the day, we would have saved more wildlife if we had spent all WWF’s money on buying condoms.”

But apparently the WWF believes that the paper fortresses behind which their dedicated nature reserves hide from growth are sufficiently impregnable that it can afford to drop the ball and chase after the new kid on the block, climate change. But it apparently has never occurred to them that human population growth is the animus of that as well. Instead, they tell us that we must look to inefficient technologies and the many habits that we have in our personal lives that must change. They are distressed to note that while Canada needed to cut its emissions by 3% as it agreed to do under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions have risen steadily since 1990. The fact that the Canadian government embarked on a policy of mass immigration at that same time did not capture their notice. Nor did the extra 5 million immigrants since then seem to trouble them. That is 115 million metric tonnes of green house gas emissions worth of new Canadians.

Instead, the WWF has launched its very own crusade for green living practices. It has prepared 60 Green Living tips and explains the environmental rationale for taking them. Each recommendation asks readers if they would be prepared to follow it. The number in brackets beside each green living tip indicates the number of people who would indeed adopt the WWF’s advice. While most are simply common sense suggestions as to how we can save money and do the environment a favour at the same time, many present an efficiency paradox. There are several examples of this.

We are told to replace toilets that are more than ten years old with “low flush” ones that use just 6 litres of water rather than 20 litres to flush, thereby saving $100 per year and paying off the new purchase in two years. Fair enough. But like refrigerators and air conditioners that got more efficient and cheaper, why wouldn’t the consumer convert those savings into the purchase of more energy consuming products? When air conditioners improved their efficiency by 17%, the number of air conditioners went up by 36%. And when Californian refrigerators became three times more efficient over five decades, the number of refrigerator buyers, that is, California residents, tripled over that time span. And many acquired a second refrigerator to store the beer or put in the suite downstairs or in the cabin at the lake.

My community, for example, has more than doubled its population in 30 years, experiencing an average growth rate of 2 ½%, which precisely translates into a doubling time of 28 years. It has been estimated that toilet use accounts for 30% of household water consumption, and that low-flush toilets would cut that consumption by two thirds, thus claiming only 10% of daily water consumption. Therefore if everyone installed low-flush toilets then eight years or less of average population growth would wipe out all the savings in water consumption. Curiously, the resident environmental group, our trusty Sierra Club, will not take a no-growth but rather a “smart growth” stand, which invites growth and simply proposes to render it ecologically benign, with measures like this, as promoted by their celebrated “Technology Fair.”

Efficiency paradoxes, as first described in 1865 by British economist William Stanley Jevons, can be illustrated in areas other than technology. The WWF advises us to “eat less meat” or even “to become a vegetarian”. It may be rudely counter-intuitive to point out that in the long run, meat consumption by requiring ten times as much fuel for each calorie of protein than a plant-based diet, or by “inefficiently” using land for grazing cattle than for grain crops, etc. does in that very action prevent the sustenance of more people who would only breed more people. Even if all of those extra people became vegetarians, their collective footprint would impose more environmental costs than the smaller meat-eating population. Whenever one limiting factor, eg. farmland, is removed, new and greater consumption is provoked, growing until it presses up against another limiting factor, eg. water. Does the WWF really want human population to rise even more dramatically to wipe out more wildlife habitat sooner? Imagine if technology found an unlimited source of totally free energy. Great news eh? Our problems solved. Wrong. It would be our ultimate nightmare. Even more population and economic growth would result to ravish the remainder of our dwindling fish stocks, wildlife habitat and farm acreage. Heaven and earth would then be moved to feed that exploding population and service all of its needs at the cost of biodiversity.

Should that happen, though, it is likely that the WWF and other environmental NGOs would seek yet another technological fix for the “fix” that just generated more problems on a grander scale in the first place. Anything but locate the problem at its root source—growth--- and summon the courage to fight it, its donor base be damned. The WWF frets that from the inception of the Kyoto Protocal in 1990, instead of reducing our GHG emissions by 3%, as promised, Canada increased them. Duh. They apparently didn’t notice that thanks to mass immigration, our country grew by 19% in numbers by 2007. Instead of confronting the Elephant in the Room and acknowledging the correlation between growing population and growing GHG emissions, it goes on a moral crusade to tell us that our per capita emissions and sinful consumption habits are to blame. Sorry guys, but Mother Nature doesn’t really give a damn about our sinful ways or our per capita footprints. She cares about the sum total of those “per capitas”, Canada’s total consumption, which is a function of the population level times per capita consumption (or emissions). But the environmental movement will do somersaults to avoid facing up to this fact.

Thus WWF recommendations like “recycle your garbage” to reduce landfills are pointless in this context of relentless growth. All city residents may reduce their garbage contributions by 33%, but what if they continue to elect politicians whose Official Community Plan calls for a 33% increase in the population? And why is it that environmental organizations propose only to “manage” this growth rather than to stop it? Why do they fall back on the excuse that it can’t be stopped, or that “how we grow” is more important than “how much we grow”. The clich├ęs of “smart growth” are oxymoronic palliatives peddled by green snake oil salesmen. Land use planning is a proven failure in saving Greenfield acreage or reducing urban footprints. But the myth persists that we can manage infinite growth without ecological consequences if humanity was all densely packed into urban feedlots.

And good luck on the WWF’s advice to “eat local”. Do they imagine that there will be any “local” farmland available in close proximity to major cities when Ontario alone is losing 60,000 acres of prime farmland annually to house the immigrants whose impact the WWF and its green clones ignore? Do they have a technological “fix” for our mined-out soils that require oil-based fertilizers to produce food? Are their mechanical draught animals on the drawing board to replace the tractors that will have no fuel to run them, or solar-powered or electric machines that will excrete the manure to replace synthetic fertilizers? And suppose enough draught animals could be found, would they not compete for precious land for their own support? How could these animals and the people who need them co-exist on land that is mutually coveted? What portion of the urban labour force would have to be conscripted to work the land in substitution for tractors? Where would they live? How would the produce be kept befor winter storage in the absence of electricity to freeze or cool it? The WWF has not thought this through, they have not grasped the impracticalities of relocalization in the context of a power-down. Their “Goodlife” tips are a feeble response to the Kunstlerian Long Emergency which faces us.

It is time that the WWF and the rest of the Green establishment discard their mop and pail and focus their efforts upon turning off the faucet of growth which will drown both them and us in a demographic tidal wave that will see Canada double its population by 2066 at our current pace.

Tim Murray,
February 22/09 copyright

PS, for the record, these are the WWF’s “GoodLife” green recommendations for reducing your personal footprint. The number of readers who promised to follow through with each suggestion is bracketed. The most popular ten suggestions are highlighted.

Use Green power (737)
Get a High Efficiency furnace (1892)
Solar water heating (20)
Insulate your home (1449)
Equip your home with smart controls (377)
Install low-flow showerheads (3024)
Get programmable thermostats (3551)
Install ceiling fans(3201)
Retire beer fridge (1121)
Hang dry your clothes (2338)
Replace your clothes washer with an Energy Star appliance (2543)
Draft-proof your home (1772)
Wash clothes in cold water (8448)
Replace your refrigerator with an Energy Star appliance (1868)
Hang dry your clothes (3315)
Get CFL Lights (1504)
Replace your central A/C with an Energy Star appliance (474)
Replace your doors with Energy Star versions (111)
Replace your window A/C with an Energy Star version (301)
Replace your windows with Energy Star versions (204)
Replace your television with an Energy Star version (962)
Get low-flush toilets (2146)
Join a “peak saver” program (429)
Get a home energy audit (177)
Choose not to own a car (1628)
Fly less for overseas business (279)
Teleconference with overseas colleagues (172)
Fly less for North American business (202)
Teleconference with colleagues in North America (281)
Cycle or walk instead of driving (2406)
Sign up for car sharing (225)
Take a transit to work (2199)
Carpool (664)
Drive less (2863)
Work from home (1065)
Fly less for local business (112)
Teleconference with nearby colleagues (155)
Reduce Idling (3685)
Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated (2980)
Become a vegetarian (113)
Eat local (3738)
Compost (4204)
Purchase 2nd hand clothing (438)
Shop with reusable bags (7374)
Fly-Less for overseas travel (345)
Fly-Less for North American travel (377)
Fly-Less for local travel (364)
Use push lawnmower (1140)
Recycle (7778)
Use E-billing (4161)
Sign up for Earth Hour 2009 (245)
Support higher Canadian standards for emissions (2167)

Conspicuously missing from the WWF list:

Rather than give birth to children, adopt Canadian children.

If you adopt, do not take a child from a country with a lower per capita ecological footprint than ours---each immigrant quadruples his GHG emissions on average upon arrival to North America.

If you must duplicate your genes and have children, confine yourself to preferably one, or two at the very most.

Consider being an uncle, aunt, Big Brother, Big Sister, babysitter, teacher or coach as a means to enjoy children rather than adding more footprints to this country.

Take the little step of writing letters to politicians demanding that Canada make its foreign aid conditional on birth control. People, not technology, ultimately cause pollution and species extermination.

Write politicians to demand a moratorium on immigration. Each immigrant multiplies his footprint to this country and has more children than the average Canadian, stressing a country that, despite its geographical size, is in overshoot. Writing letters are the most impactful “small steps” you can make.

Donate money to foreign family planning agencies rather than sponsor a refugee who is running from a country ravaged by overpopulation.

“There is no climate change without climate changers.” Andrew Ferguson

1 comment:

Pete Murphy said...

The enviromental movement does itself no favors by buying into economists' argument that man is ingenious enough to come up with a technological solution for every consequence of unbridled population growth.

Economists need to get over their childish reaction to the black eye they were given over the seeming (not actual) failure of Malthus' theory and once again approach the subject of population growth with an open mind. And environmentalists need to once again "grow a pair" and stand up for what they know is the real root cause of environmental degradation - overpopulation.

Pete Murphy
Author, "Five Short Blasts"