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Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism. New Atlantis Books. $25.95.
By Robert Zubrin
On April 26, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to speak at a Planned Parenthood conference, declaring that “for nearly a century now one core principle has guided everything all of you do – that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own health. It’s a simple principle.”
Truly simple, but, alas, simply not true. As Robert P. Reilly, the pro-life movement’s onetime liaison to President Ronald Reagan, quickly blogged, “The real founding principle behind the group from which Planned Parenthood sprang was purely eugenicist, deriving from Charles Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest.’
He cited Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger explaining: “Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.”
Defectives, as in: Irish, Italian and Portuguese immigrants amidst whose crowded tenements Sanger planted her first, illegal birth control clinics. Sanger plays a crucial part in this saga of death-dealing, ruthless, classist and racist policies that flow throw modern American and European history like a poisoned watercourse.
Author Robert Zubrin has connected the dots, linking Sanger to Adolf Hitler, American foreign policy to Social Darwinism, and 1950s overpopulation alarmism to Al Gore and global warming. All, to Zubrin, are “antihumanist”: all , implicitly or explicitly, view each newborn child as an extra mouth to feed, an additional exhaler of dreaded CO2.
But for Zubrin,an old-style, can-do American optimist, every baby is a potential Einstein. Both 20th Century population hysteric Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 bestselling Population Bomb, and 18th Century economist Robert Malthus predicted population growth plus diminishing resources would lead to starvation and war. Their predictions failed, says Zubrin, because both failed to factor in human creativity.
The father of modern antihumanism, Malthus was, significantly, an employee of the East India Company. This suggests the genesis of modern antihumanism stems from the visceral shock experienced by privileged Europeans like him when they encountered the crowded, hot and smelly cities of the East. Zubrin quotes Ehrlich, explaining how Population Bomb was inspired by his first trip to India.
The temperature was well over 100, and the air was a haze of dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people.
Ughh! Get it? Too many Indians!
Malthus, in the laissez-faire spirit of his age, urged Britain to do nothing about mass starvation because there were too many poor anyway, hence death tolls in India and Irish famines. Ehrlich—in the interventionist spirit of his age—urged the U.S. and United Nations to grant foreign aid only to countries willing to force mass sterilization on their poor, which India, China and others proceeded to do.
After Malthus came Charles Darwin to provide the moral justification for American eugenics, European imperialism and Nazi mass murder. Evolution meant that the fittest must and should survive: it was not only right to help evolution along by sterilizing the poor, murdering Congolese or gassing Jews, Slavs and Gypsies. It was scientific.
After the Nazi Holocaust, Zubrin recounts how the eugenics movement rebranded itself as population control, attracting U.S. statesmen, generals, Ivy League bluebloods and scientists like Ehrlich. US and UN development aid was tied to mass sterilization in India and China, and contraception in Africa.
More deceptively, antihumanism strain infected the environmental movement, beginning with Rachel Carson’s famous Silent Spring, a bestselling polemic against DDT, which she claimed was killing all the birds. More junk science. But the US and then the UN banned DDT, resulting in millions in the Third World dying of malaria. Oh well, too many damned People, people, people.”
How does global warming fit in? First, `says Zubrin, as bogus science: (unproven, possibly natural, probably beneficial). But more significantly, the ersatz remedies for warming require state intervention on a huge scale, which probably won’t solve the problem but will throttle human creativity as exemplified by the Alberta Tar Sands on the one hand, and Green Revolution on the other, choking Third World development with sky-high fuel costs, and -expanding state control over economies and individual lives.
.Zubrin argues convincingly that while the likes of Ehrlich, or his collaborator John Holdren, Obama’s chief science advisor, see natural resources as finite, resources are actually limited only by human ingenuity.
Zubrin gives credit where it is due to Marxists on the one hand and the Catholic Church on the other as longtime opponents of antihumanism. But the Left, he notes with regret, has lately joined the antihumanists in opposing growth.
In sum,what antihumanism desires is that “human aspirations must be crushed and authorities must be constituted to do the crushing.” The time is long past due,” says Zubrin, and we can’t disagree, “to put a stake in the heart of this monster.”