Monday, May 06, 2013

Old School Lies: Religion and Environment

Here's a propaganda flick I showed in a high school class earlier this school year, as part of the assigned classwork in a science or history class -- I forget which -- in which I was subbing.  This is interesting for a few reasons.  First, I was surprised this film would still be shown in public schools -- if anything, it shows how dramatically the environmentalist line has changed over the past 20 years.  Second, I was shocked to hear Paul Ehrlich seriously quoted as an authority on population -- whom I read as apocalyptic literature, as a young man, and took seriously -- and whose prophesies failed miserably, to put it mildly.  Third, the shoddiness and shamelessly one-sided character of this propaganda flick -- from CNN, which is supposed to be "down the middle" -- still takes my breath away. 
Lap it up, 16 year olds!  Memorize yesteryear's liberal propaganda.  If the details have changed a bit -- if we're at war with Eastasia and not Eurasia this year -- well, no need to rewrite history, when you're "learning" it for the first time! 
People Bomb

CNN Video Special Reports (1992)
Prologue: Life in the developing world is in many ways better now than a few decades ago. People are living longer and living better. Fertility rates are falling in almost every country. With all the progress, millions of people are trapped in poverty. Fertility rates are dropping, but with the large population base (5 billion), it is growing more than ever before. The growth is going to be in the continents of Asia, Africa, and Lating America. People are arriving in the city and there is no way it can absorb them. We will have deepening poverty, deepening discontent.

Actually, the cities did absorb the influx, and are absorbing it -- why should they not?  Concentrate people as densely as Hong Kong, and all you need is good engineering to make things work.  Great "third world" cities like Shanghai, Bombay, and Bangkok seem to work better and better.  People who move away to ordinary western cities often feel bored by the comparison.  And poverty has not "deepened," but shrunk throughout the world in the years since -- China is much richer, India is much richer, Latin America is much richer. 

CNN admits all that at the get-go, then pivots around and says "we will have deepening poverty."  What sensible thing does that mean, if not that people will get poorer?  So CNN is contradicting itself, and now will try to justify the contradiction.

Mark Walton: We have become a People Bomb exploding across the developing world, stressing the poorest nations on earth and threatening the richest. Over the years, we have made progress diffusing this bomb, but not enough and not fast enough. By the middle of the next century there will be three times as many people as today, possibly 14 billion people. As the planet grows more crowded, the family of man faces more poverty, disease, death, more waste and pollution, more violence, crimes of hate. Who is to blame? All of us are responsible.

Of course no one knows how many people there will be on Earth in 2050!  That depends on what potential parents decide to do over the next 36 years -- many of whom have not even been born yet!  And of course CNN did not forecast that birthrates would fall precipitously over the subsequent 20 years.  So what made them think they could predict the decisions of their children and grandchildren, even great grandchildren, faced with God knows what options and desires, before they were born? 

In fact, the human race now faces far LESS poverty, disease, death, pollution, and violence than it did in 1992.  And even if their dire claims had been true, why should "all of us" be to blame for the violence a few commit?  And why do we need to dump vats of useless, underserved guilt on our children like this?  Blame them for not studying, maybe.  But for worldwide death and destruction?  And Calvinists were supposed to be big on guilt trips! 

People Bomb

Who's overpopulated?

The developing world where there are too many people on the edge of survival, fouling the land, water, air, compounding a crisis of poverty. It is the very face of overpopulation (like the Kairols of Nepal with six children)

Or,The developed world with fewer population but with more energy consumption (e.g. the Bakers in the middle class suburb of Pleasant Hill, near San Francisco).

This is a false choice.  Maybe neither was over-populated.  Maybe Nepal was under-developed, which is why the Nepalese had to cut down trees in the mountains for fuel, instead of plugging in to a hydroelectric grid utilizing runoff from Nepal's fabulous mountains, as we do here in Washington State, while largely preserving our forests. 

Overpopulation is not just an issue of how many people (Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University) . . . (but about how much) impact each person has (Carl Pope, Sierra Club).

The birth of a baby in the U.S. is on the order of 30 times as big a disaster for the global climate change, ozone layer, acid precipitation as a baby born in a poor family in Nepal, Bangladesh, or Colombia (Paul Ehrlich).

Which brings to mind the immortal classic:

"Happy birthday!  Happy birthday!  Pain and sorrow fill the air.  People dying everywhere.  Happy birthday!"
Only these clowns were serious.  Shame, kids, for being born in the western world!   Your birth is a disaster!  Put a paper bag (use recycled paper) over your heads, which should be drooping in shame!  And don't have children yourself, you selfish, planet-threatening guilt magnet!

Most public school teachers I have met seem dedicated and intelligent.  But I hate what public high schools sometimes do to kids.  Liturature class is often even gloomier -- Holocaust tales and nihilism. 

- According to the U.N., the industrial world with 1/4 of the world population uses 3/4 of its energy, 85% of its wood products, 72% of its steel. It also spits out 3/4 of all carbon dioxide emissions and 1/2 of the damaging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Let's not mention that the industrial world also produces almost all the energy, food, computers, medicines, new inventions, and everything else that makes life work for everyone -- and has thus raised the standard of living for billions of poor. 

- Automobile use in the developed world is incredibly more damaging than a billion people who don't use cars. The lifestyle in the developed world is designed around the automobile. It is not just the things spouting out of the car, or the burning of the rubber, but there are environmental costs of building the automobile (Paul Ehrlich).

Arguably not as great as the costs of riding polluting horses. 

But what kind of junk research is it to continually cite one marginal fanatic (and the Sierra Club) for all your "facts?"  Even in 1992, CNN should have known better.  Paul Ehrlich was the Al Gore of the 1980s.

Any member of the family in Nepal would probably be rather like the ones in Pleasant Hills, but the fact remains that it is the families like the ones in Pleasant Hills whose numbers and consumption are threatening the survival of the planet. Both are overpopulated, but our overpopulation is a greater problem for the planet than their overpopulation.

"The Planet" has no problems.  It is a ball of rock circling the sun.  It is not going to spin out of orbit because we drive to work.

It's a good idea to clean up the planet, which industrialized countries have largely done over the past generation or two -- our part of it.  As poor countries grow wealthy through industry and trade, they are also enabled to clean their environments up -- as even China is now beginning to do. 

A Woman's Place (Larry Lamotte in India)

From birth to death, most girls in the developing countries are dependent, second rate and powerless--nothing more than common laborers under the thumb of her parents and husband, undereducated and undernourished. In India, 1/4th of them will die before they are fifteen. As a doctor claims, "I have noticed that when a child falls sick, the parents will bring the son to me very quickly to be examined. They may not bring in daughter and if they do, she is generally very very sick." The boy is the bread winner and they have to depend on him. He is life, looking after their assets. The girl child is socialized into a negative self-image. She tends to be told that or at least experience that she has a second class status compared with her brother.

That may not solely or even mainly be because India is "Third World."  Even in the 19th Century, missionaries noticed that Buddhist Burma treated women much better than India.  It's largely because India is Hindu.  Girls are, of course, often mistreated in poor Buddhist and Christian countries, but India is one of the very few countries where the life expectancy of women has actually been lower than that of men.

The low status of the women is the single most important reason for the world's population to continue to rise. Without an education, they cannot dream of opportunities outside of bearing child; without job skills, they cannot seek a life outside of husband's control; without voice they cannot decide on how to use their own their bodies besides their own families. It is a story of the modern day bondage and its impact on the population. It is a story of the girl-child.

Girls receive less education than boys--limited resources of the family are spent on paying the dowry. The husband's dowry demands are so extreme that it often results in physical violence: "the mother in law holds the daughter in law, then sister in law pours the kerosene and the husband lights the match . . . "

An educated woman gains independence, identity, hope, but few get the opportunity. For most, however, hope is buried beneath the weight of centuries of hand-me-down conditioning imposed by men and passed on from mother to daughter.

CNN ought, then, to highlight the cutting-edge role Christian missionaries have played in spreading education for women around the world?  Maybe in an alternate universe . . .

Son Mania (Larry Lamotte in India)

Fatehpur Sikri near Delhi was built in honor of the Sufi Saint who correctly predicted the birth of the King's son. Several Indian couples flock to the temple even now in the belief that the pilgrimage will help in giving birth to a son.

For Indians, man conquers the world. But too many families have had too many children while trying to produce sons. As in so many developing nations in Africa and Asia, son mania is an important factor in India's overwhelming overpopulation problem. In India, about 2 babies are born every two seconds.

While many seek spiritual help in getting a boy, others turn to sex detection clinics and amniosynthesis for determining that they have a son. If the fetus were detected to be a girl, it is often aborted. In one study, out of 8000 abortions, only one was a boy.

Secular Humanism sows the wind, and reaps the whirlwind.  "It's a choice, not a child."  So how can one complain when others make a different choice, based on the gender of their non-child? 

 The birth of a male child is into the Indian psyche, a cultural thing. If a girl is born, it may also result in infanticide. Change will be excruciatingly slow in India as centuries of customs and religion are woven into the souls of the people. According to Hindu scriptures, only a son can light the funeral pyre for the spirit to enter the heaven . . .

Including the spirit of his mother, who was traditionally supposed to jump onto the funeral pyre to serve her "master and god" in the afterlife. 

The Law of Manu is particularly pernicious.    

The younger generation is learning the negative effects of a large family from their elders. Dalchini went through sterilization after having two boys; her brother joined the Save the Children, an International organization, that educates women through skits, provides preventive health care, and evening literacy classes. Nepal is a 13th century country shoved into a 20th century world.

The Dalai Lama urged Buddhists to copy the charitable works of Christians in India.  Save the Children was founded by a woman who had a vision of Jesus' face.  That isn't going to come up in this CNN report, of course . . . They want us to know that religion is the problem:

All God's Children (Mark Walton in Manila, Philipines)

Smokey Mountain in Manila, Philipines is a community built on a trash dump where over 25,000 people subsists "among methane fumes scavenging hope and survival from droppings of garbage truck."

For many children living in Smokey Mountain, the way out is death. Yet, for most Filipinos in Manila, artificial contraception is not a choice since 80% are Roman Catholic. For the orthodox, users of contraception are considered sinners "if they know it to be wrong, and understand it to be wrong." Natural birth control through the rhythm method (avoiding sex during period of high fertility is condoned by the Church). The Catholic religion is as influential in Latin America and growing in Africa too. 

In Philipines, Marcos provided free family planning and health education, but in '86, Aquino who came to power with the help of the Church, funding for the program stopped and the supply of contraceptives stopped. They consider the problem to be not one of too much population, but that "too few control too much wealth."
I have nothing against birth control pills, and am not Catholic.  But I'm sorry, this is crack-pot reporting.  Take a close look at this graph.  In fact, after holding relatively steady in the Marcos year, the birthrate in the Philippines did not go up under Aquino, nor did it continue to hold steady.  No, it began to fall rapidly.

But CNN has some anecdotes to tell, to prop up an anti-"religious" narrative.  Don't let facts get in their way.   

No Choice (La Paz, Bolivia)

Bolivia is a country of extremes--it is the fourth Latin American country with the highest birth rate. The country is underdeveloped and underpopulated; hence family planning is not a priority. The President claims that the country needs more people. But, it is the poor who have many children. There are not many choices for the women. In San Pedro, Bolivia, information about birth control methods is little and the Catholic Church does not favor such methods . . .

Those dastardly Catholics, again.  Increasing population in an underpopulated country.

India's Victory (Larry Lamotte in Kerala, India)

Kerala in India is another success story in terms of population control; but it also has a dark side. It has had a dramatic fall in family size, lowest birth rate, low infant deaths, and the women outnumber men. It has adopted a holistic approach--commitment to reading and writing, female literacy, good health care, better working conditions, supply of food to school children. As a result fewer children die; families are also smaller. The Communist party has ensured equable growth in the society. Yet, Kerala also has a dark side. It has the highest unemployment rate and morbidity rate (suicides, tension, heart attack).

The Communist Party ensured growth?  Now there's a new one. 

What actually ensured rapid growth throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 21st Century was an export of men from Kerala to labor in the Gulf States, and send back remittances.  Recently, over two million men from Kerala were working overseas. 

Kerala does have a very low crime rate, high literacy rate, few girls are aborted, etc.  About 20% of residents are Christians, one of the highest percentages outside of East India.  Many of the nurses around India are Christians from Kerala. 

And here's an interesting coincidence: apparently the wealthiest state in India is Goa, which has an even higher percentage of Christians . . . Catholics, in fact.  (But where the Communist Party does not figure very strongly.) 

But the Communist Party gets the glory.  Never mind that West Bengal, also ruled for a long time by the Communist Party, has a per capita income 10% below the average for India. 

Your tax dollars at work.  Take your bowl of intellectual gruel, kids, and thank your teacher for the lesson!   


ingx24 said...

Oh man, I remember People Bomb from 11th grade social studies. I felt like that whole class was basically indoctrination into a hardcore leftist ideology regarding world politics. It was terrible.

ingx24 said...

Posting another comment because I forgot to tick the "email follow-up comments" box on the first comment. :/

David B Marshall said...

Ing: If you enjoyed that, take a look at the history they're teaching today. (This morning's post.)