16 Aug The Population Bomb Bomb
Generally, when we (collectively) speak about 20th Century millenarian movements that were responsible for mass deaths, we have in mind two in particular: Communism and fascism/Nazism. This makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, these are the two identified by the foremost scholars in the field (e.g. Norman Cohn, Eric Voegelin) as best fitting the characteristics of ancient and medieval millenarian, chiliastic, and Gnostic sects. Second – and more obviously – together these two quasi-religious ideologies were responsible for more than 100 million deaths in the last century, demonstrating the dangers inherent in the combination of archaic utopian fantasies and modern technology.
All of this said, it is well worth noting that these were not the only two such movements to have wreaked havoc on the world and to have destroyed the lives of millions of people. For example, the environmental movement spawned its own millenarian sects. And while its damage can’t be measured in “deaths” per se, environmental radicalism was nevertheless responsible for snuffing out untold millions of lives. We apologize for the (extremely) long quote that follows, but it contains important and largely underreported information that we’d all do well to remember. The following comes from a May 15 article by Scott Alexander, a psychiatrist and longtime blogger, that he posted to his Substack page, Astral Codex Ten. Among other things, it addresses the inhumanity of radical environmentalism and one of its founding fathers:
Paul Ehrlich is an environmentalist leader best known for his 1968 book The Population Bomb. He helped develop ideas like sustainability, biodiversity, and ecological footprints. But he’s best known for prophecies of doom which have not come true – for example, that collapsing ecosystems would cause hundreds of millions of deaths in the 1970s, or make England “cease to exist” by the year 2000.
Population Bomb calls for a multi-pronged solution to a coming overpopulation crisis. One prong was coercive mass sterilization. Ehrlich particularly recommended this for India, a country at the forefront of rising populations.
When we suggested sterilizing all Indian males with three or more children, [Chandrasekhar, an Indian official who shared Ehrlich’s views] should have encouraged the Indian government to go ahead with the plan. We should have volunteered logistic support in the form of helicopters, vehicles, and surgical instruments. We should have sent doctors to aid in the program by setting up centers for training para-medical personnel to do vasectomies. Coercion? Perhaps, but coercion in a good cause.
I am sometimes astounded at the attitudes of Americans who are horrified at the prospect of our government insisting on population control as the price of food aid. All too often the very same people are fully in support of applying military force against those who disagree with our form of government or our rapacious foreign policy. We must be just as relentless in pushing ·for population control around the world, together with rearrangement of trade relations to benefit UDCs, and massive economic aid.
I wish I could offer you some sugarcoated solutions, but I’m afraid the time for them is long gone. A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. Treating only the symptoms of cancer may make the victim more comfortable at first, but eventually he dies – often horribly. A similar fate awaits a world with a population explosion if only the symptoms are treated. We must shift our efforts from treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense. But the disease is so far advanced that only with radical surgery does the patient have a chance of survival.
Ehrlich’s supporters included President Lyndon Johnson, who told the Prime Minister of India that US foreign aid was conditional on India sterilizing lots of people. The broader Democratic Party and environmentalist movement were completely on board.
In 1975, India had a worse-than-usual economic crisis and declared martial law. They asked the World Bank for help. The World Bank, led by Robert McNamara, made support conditional on an increase in sterilizations. India complied:
Before the Emergency, compulsory sterilization was considered in different states, but no concrete decision was ever made. At the time, only states had the authority to make a decision in the area of family planning. Once the Emergency was imposed, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, on her son’s insistence, amended the Constitution. The Constitution Act of 1976 gave the central government the right to execute family planning programs. Soon after, the central government mobilized the state political leadership and took decisive actions, such as setting up camps and sterilization targets.
Mr. [Sanjay] Gandhi allocated quotas to the chief ministers of every state that they were supposed to meet by any means possible. The chief ministers, too, in an attempt to impress the younger Gandhi, strived hard to meet those targets. Mr. Gandhi often visited villages and towns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to encourage and approve the tremendous work being done in terms of meeting sterilization goals. Commissioners were awarded gold medals for their hard work. As a result, nothing mattered when it came to meeting the targets. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were at the top when it came to exceeding the targeted number of sterilizations, resulting in more commissioners from these states receiving medals.
Force was not only physical in form but also indirect. The government issued circulars stating that promotion and payments to employees were in abeyance until they were sterilized or completed their assigned quota of people they convinced to undergo sterilization. People had to produce a certificate of sterilization to get their salaries or even renew their driving/ rickshaw/scooter/sales tax license. Students whose parents had not undergone a sterilization were detained. Free medical treatment in hospitals was also suspended until a sterilization certificate was shown. Those who suffered the most were people associated with lower classes. These unfortunate people were picked up from railway stations or bus stops by policemen, regardless of their age or marital status. Poor, illiterate people, jail inmates, pavement dwellers, bachelors, young married men, and hospital patients were all victims.
In the end about eight million people were sterilized over the course of two years. No one will ever know how many were “voluntary” by standards that we would be comfortable with, but plausibly well below half.
The West didn’t just tolerate this process, they supported it and cheered it on. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations provided much of the funding. Western media ranged from supportive to concerned-for-the-wrong-reasons….
When asked in 2015 if he still agreed with everything in his book, [Ehrlich] said, “I do not think my language was too apocalyptic in The Population Bomb. My language would be even more apocalyptic today. The idea that every woman should have as many babies as she wants is, to me, exactly the same kind of idea as everybody oughta be permitted to throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”
Luckily for Ehrlich, no one cares. He remains a professor emeritus at Stanford and president of Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology. He has won practically every environmental award imaginable, including from the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund, and the United Nations (all > 10 years after the Indian sterilization campaign he endorsed). He won the MacArthur “Genius” Prize ($800,000) in 1990, the Crafoord Prize ($700,000, presented by the King of Sweden) that same year, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012. He was recently interviewed on 60 Minutes about the importance of sustainability; the mass sterilization campaign never came up. He is about as honored and beloved as it’s possible for a public intellectual to get.
Obviously, the whole thing is just grotesque, but it’s that last paragraph that sends the most severe chills up our spines. It would be hard to imagine a public intellectual who was more embarrassingly wrong about more things than the execrable Paul Ehrlich. And yet he remains an intellectual in good standing – a hero, even – to the environmental movement (and much of the Left) because his monstrous proclamations and predictions were made with “good intentions” and in the spirit of saving man from himself.
As the global powers that be insist on racing to Net Zero, embracing unproven and underperforming technologies, and the need for the average Westerner to shut up and take his medicine, it is vital that we remember that these people are, for the most part, charlatans who embrace the ravings of a religious fanatic who feels no embarrassment at and has no regrets about destroying millions of lives in pursuit of his faith-based fantasies.
It would be stupid, crass, and wholly inappropriate to suggest that Ehrlich and his minions are genuinely comparable to Hitler and the Nazis or Stalin and his Soviets. They are not, and we don’t wish to make that comparison. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ehrlich-inspired contemporary environmentalism shares much in common with the broader millenarian/Gnostic movements of which fascism and Communism are a part. Perhaps most notably, environmentalism’s rejection of the sanctity of individual human life when it conflicts with the theoretical achievement of the movement’s general goals is troubling, to say the very least.
If the radical environmentalists and their useful idiots in the global governance and financial communities get their way, 8 million forcibly sterilized Indians will be just the start of the horrors they caused.