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The “fatal conceit” of Western environmental policy, ctd

“The key insight driving the environmental movement historically was that complex natural systems must be treated with respect. Crude interventions, however well-intentioned, can make things worse. Removing an apex predator can change a whole ecosystem. A flood-control dam that eliminates natural wetlands can make floods more dangerous. Attuned to the costs of unanticipated consequences, environmentalists urged caution and restraint by policy makers and advocated letting nature take its course.”

“Today’s green activists have largely forgotten these truths. The consequences are visible all around, and the payback has only begun. Ham-fisted, poorly thought-out green policies, too often designed by self-interested renewable-energy lobbyists, will exact economic and political costs even as their effects on emissions continue to disappoint. The most likely result, sadly, is that the political temperature over climate interventions will keep rising even as green climate policies fall short.”

Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal ($). When I read these paragraphs, I was reminded of the F.A. Hayek publication, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. For what we have here is a conceit that the top-down approach can be brought to bear on containing CO2 emissions and forcing billions to adopt new energy sources, by force if necessary. What this approach misses is how rules can be gamed. For another part of WRM’s article is that Western policy is, intentionally or otherwise, transferring manufacturing power on a gigantic scale to China, and to a regime that doesn’t really give a brass farthing for climate, human welfare or liberty.

What a time to be alive.

20 comments to The “fatal conceit” of Western environmental policy, ctd

  • Kirk

    Wait 80 years. By 2100, China’s population is on track to be around 400 million. Similar numbers are projected, should the trends continue, around the world.

    How does that work, again?

    The real story of the 21st Century ain’t gonna be “how do we deal with overpopulation?”, but “What the hell happens when we run out of people?”

    I honestly don’t see how China pulls out of the nosedive, with all their issues. The Xi regime has shut down the engines of economic growth, entrepreneurship, and everything that doesn’t enhance his personal control. What does that look like, a generation hence? Does anyone think that the “social credit” stuff is going to encourage people to reproduce? Does China have an alternative to their real estate-scam based savings regime for the retired?

    The whole of what these elitist idiots did to the world was based on false premises and expectations; where that winds up taking us is going to be a wild ride, but I don’t think it’s gonna be the world imagined by Malthus or any of the other idiots projecting endless growth like Ehrlich.

    Better figure out how to do more with less people; our salvation may wind up coming from AI and other non-human systems, if they can ever get those off the ground. I see a lot of necessity for “human optimization” coming around the bend; day may come when you don’t get the option to do anything other than your absolute best, which is going to be a bit of a shock to the slackers among us. You won’t be allowed to do any less than your “social minimum duty”, to include childbirth. When the real effects of the “birth dearth” become clear, look for draconian responses, as in “You don’t get your full civil rights until you’ve had your minimum 2.1 children and committed to raising them properly…”

    Women’s rights? Men’s rights? LOL… Ain’t none of that going to matter, when they’re staring down the barrel of society-wide collapse due to lack of people. If they manage to create artificial wombs, we may well see something like “Brave New World” as a norm for societies like Singapore.

  • mkent

    Western policy is, intentionally or otherwise, transferring manufacturing power on a gigantic scale to China, and to a regime that doesn’t really give a brass farthing for climate, human welfare or liberty.

    The Greens don’t care, because at its heart, the Green movement is not pro-environment. It is anti-human. Specifically the Western humans whose original sin was dominating the planet. The elites excepted, of course, who in their own minds are naturally dominant and deserve to be.

  • Stonyground

    “What this approach misses is how rules can be gamed.”

    Like the example in Ireland where they subsidised wood burning to such a degree that all you had to do was burn lots of wood to be coining it in. All you had to do was to fill an empty building with wood burning stoves and put your claim in.

    This time I remembered to proof read and there wasn’t a single erroneous auto correct to be seen.

  • Paul Marks.

    If we “let nature take its course” we get, for example, the massive overgrowth of forests and scrub – and then megafires. Private property in land, which is vital, is precisely about NOT letting nature take its course – it is about managing the land and the good results (for example drainage in Somerset, they are not natural rivers, they are drainage ditches created by landowners – before the demented “Environment Agency” was created and took over) are very much (contra Hayek) the consequences of human design – not just human action. Human action without human design (without careful thought) leads to disaster – but the thought has to be by individual private owners who wish to pass things down to their children and grandchildren (and so on).

    However, the point about moving manufacturing to China NOT reducing C02 emissions is correct (the move INCREASES C02 emissions) – but then this international movement was never really about reducing C02 emissions.

    Such people as the former socialist Prime Minister of Norway, and the other people behind such things as the Rio Conference of 1992, were never really interested in reducing world C02 emissions – this was always about undermining nations such as the United States (yes the American establishment were filled with hatred for their own nation – and that hatred is far more extreme now than it was in 1992), and building a “new world” – “one world”. What the local activists may-or-may-not know is besides the point – as the local activists do not make the decisions, the international elite make the the decisions. and the international elite already know the facts – they are NOT stupid or ignorant people (their terrible actions on Covid were not about stupidity or ignorance either).

    It is no good telling people what they already know – assuming, wrongly, that their position is based on lack of knowledge. The international scientists who produced such things as the “Hockey Stick” fraud already know the facts – if they did not know they would not have engaged in the various frauds (for there is more than one fraud – there are many).

    Fraud supported by the international establishment, media, education system, governments and corporations. When the fraud is exposed they do not thank the people who expose it – they respond with HATE for the people who expose it. This is because – they already knew.

    They are not intellectually mistaken, they know what they doing.

    As Mr O’Brian says in George Orwell’s book 1984 – if you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping down on a human face, for ever.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Kirk: The real story of the 21st Century ain’t gonna be “how do we deal with overpopulation?”, but “What the hell happens when we run out of people?”

    The difficulty and danger is extrapolating from recent trends. True, there is every sign that the human population, not just in China, but in much of the developed and developing world, is either decelerating or shrinking. By the end of the century, the population could be, say, 500 million below where it is now. Assuming that is true, that means a lot of empty houses and towns – which ironically means that cost of land and housing will be relatively lower, so people might find it eaiser to buy a place and start a family. It also means that fewer people means less C02, less stuff being consumed and churned out, and that could be more impactful from a carbon-reduction point of view than all of the current measures put together.

    Of course, by the end of the century, we may have discovered whether Man’s move towards all-electric energy, and move from fossil fuels, was realistic, or a disaster. For instance, we will be able to see what happens with control of the world’s supply of lithium, cobalt, and various rare earth minerals. Wars may be fought, cartels formed, and monstrous government agencies created, to control or try to control this stuff. OPEC and “wars for oil” will be distant memories, to be replaced by other versions.

    Needless to say, some of the current Greens ignore all this, or try to keep quiet about it. Assuming the human pop. does shrink significantly, it undermines much of their case, by doing the job for them in reducing the human footprint. But Greens are an inventive lot, because their hatred for Man will take new, and equally nihilistic, forms. Remember, we are dealing with Millenarian cult mindsets here, not reason.

  • Paul Marks.

    If this international elite movement was really about reducing C02 emissions then there would be many new nuclear power stations in the United States, Germany, and so on, over time.

    In reality the opposite is the case – nuclear power stations are being closed down.

    This international elite movement (whatever puppet local activists believe) is NOT about reducing world C02 emissions – the facts make that brutally obvious.

    Joseph Biden, back in the days before he was senile, was actively involved in this – involved in government action to undermine (yes undermine) nuclear power in the United States.

    Mr Biden was never worried about radiation – he was doing what he was paid to do (paid by people who hate the United States – although some of them are Americans).

    To use the old saying, Mr Biden (as a Senator and then Vice President) was “only obeying orders”.

  • Paul Marks.

    The fertility collapse in Western countries is also deliberate – it is the planned, intended, result of policies pushed from the 1960s onwards, the “Club of Rome” and so on, where quite open about what they were doing. The establishment hate the West, hate ordinary Western people – that is the bitter truth. Their policies are motivated by their hatred – not by some “knowledge problem”.

    It is just wrong to write as if the establishment do not know what they are doing – they do know. For example they know that China is powered by COAL, it is not some hidden knowledge of which the establishment elite are unaware.

    Jonathan Pearce – we are dealing with an establishment that will look you in the eye, after many people have been “debanked” for their beliefs, and tell you that no one has been denied financial services because of their beliefs.

    They, the FCA and so on, are LIARS – but they are not just lying for fun (although I think they do enjoy lying) they are lying for a PURPOSE.

    The purpose is that they wish to use the international financial system to crush all dissent – all political dissent and all cultural dissent.

    It is not a knowledge problem – it is a moral problem, they are bad people, they are no good.

    I repeat George Orwell’s line – if you want a vision of the future imagine a boot stamping down on a human face, for ever.

    That is what they want. So discussing with them whether this or that policy is a good idea – rather misses the point.

    They will look you in the eye and tell you that dissenters are not being debanked – when they know they are (indeed that is what they want).

    They will look you in the eye and tell you that an injection is “safe and effective” – when they know it is not very effective, and may KILL you.

    They will look you in the eye and tell you that ice and snow in Greenland is declining – when they know it is increasing.

    That is the sort of people they are.

  • Roué le Jour

    The down side of a shrinking population is that they are mostly old people, just as growing populations are mostly young people. On the plus side, a shrinking population means cheaper accommodation and higher wages due to a smaller workforce, although the government will inevitably try to screw that up with immigration.

    I am irritated by the Orwell quote. It’s a nice peace of rhetoric to be sure, but nasty socialist states have a lifetime of about three generations, not “forever”. There are sound reasons for this. The first generation retains the work ethic it had prior to socialism, the second is raised by those people but by the third it is lost. “We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us.” You can’t keep that up for long, especially if there are non communist societies as contrary examples.

  • William H. Stoddard

    I have edited a natural history journal for a few years. One of the motifs that comes up in more than one article is the lethality of wind power to birds, and especially to bats. And then there are the effects of offshore wind systems on whales, and of solar power on birds. It’s amazing how alternative energy has given environmentalists a self-righteous motive for destroying vast amounts of the wildlife their movement used to cherish. It’s as if they’ve extended the spirit of communism from humanity to the entire animal world.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Wedge-tailed eagles in Tasmania, the southernmost island state of Australia, are being killed by wind towers. But eagles are carnivores, so that is alright.

  • John

    The world is not running out of people.

    I have yet to see a single projection which suggests that global population will not keep on growing, at “worse” the rate of increase might possibly slow down in the letter half of this century.

    The consequences of the irreversible demographic changes throughout the western world are another matter entirely. It’s not just the free stuff that will eventually run out, it’s the actual means of existence – not least energy supplies of the quality and quantity we have grown used to (unless reality ever becomes popular again).

  • jgh

    Global population may well level off, but the way things are going that doesn’t mean populations in the West will level off, they will keep increasing faster and faster as the global population moves to the West. The UK hasn’t got to 70 million by breeding, it’s been by immigration.

  • Kirk

    Rhetorically answering John and JGH… What, pray tell, leads you to trust any of the “authorities” on this issue?

    China just admitted to an “undercount” of their population, to the tune of about a hundred million people. I’ve yet to see stats out of China that were at all trustworthy, on anything. You think they’re going to be telling anyone the truth about this?

    The raw fact is, the idiots who are behind this have never been right about anything, and it’s not just what policies they’re pushing. Nobody wants to raise kids, because it’s expensive and it cuts into their recreation time. The fertility rates ain’t coming back, either… You think those young fertile people are going to play Stakhanovite and breed, when they’re getting taxed and worked to death to pay for their elder’s retirements? How’s that, again? And, if you think the various ghettoes are going to save your ass, consider how few of their denizens actually become productive citizens…

    Flatly put, the people running this sh*t-show have screwed the pooch. There’s no historical precedent for this, anywhere. The idea that “reduced populations will open up opportunities” totally ignores the fact that trying to maintain all that infrastructure and elderly population with a much-reduced younger generation is going to result in either that younger generation burning out that much sooner, or outright rebellion on their part. Which will likely take the form of saying “Screw that…” to having and paying for their own kids.

    The world population is going to collapse sometime around 2100. The question is going to be “How do we deal with that?”, rather than all this happy-dappy assumption that things are going to keep growing, population-wise.

    Give it another ten years, and people are going to begin panicking over it. I’m already hearing anecdotal reports of COVID-vaccinated women having issues conceiving and carrying to term, precisely as the animal models in mRNA testing showed. Nobody is talking about that, right now. It’ll be a crisis in about a decade, mostly because they keep doubling-down on the stupid and “boosting” everyone. Not to mention all the fertile young women that they’re proselytizing into going transgender and destroying their bodies.

    View of the future:


    You’ll be seeing a lot more of these stories, as time goes on. With increasing panic.

    About the only thing I think could stave any of the effects off would be artificial wombs, which I have great doubt will be perfected any time soon. The rest of it? Enjoy the good times while they last; you likely won’t be allowed to retire, ever, if you’re in the most junior quartile of the labor force. The numbers simply won’t allow it. Especially if the idjit class manages to crash the energy economy via “renewables”.

    People just don’t appreciate the current setup, at all. They think it’s like some dial they can turn up, one that says “Make kids…” No such thing exists; you want to fix the “birth dearth”, you’re going to have to fundamentally recast a lot of things in society, starting with the fantasy of “equal rights for women”. There’s no such thing, really… Not without taking into account what we might term “demographic duty”. Women today decry the lack of eligible men they want to date and mate with; none of them look at the question of whether or not they themselves owe something back to society… Like, oh, new members to take their place when they age out of productivity?

    Like it or not, we all owe a duty to the whole. Saying that isn’t collectivist, it’s realist: If enough people fail to bring the next generation into being, then there’s literally no future for their society. The blithe assurance that we’ll always have enough people is just that: Whistling past the graveyard. The current lifetime fertility rates for women around the world are abysmal, and they’re the way they are because of choices taken by idiots running things. Look at Russia; they’ve been in demographic free-fall since the collapse of the Soviet Union. What concrete and effective steps has the regime running the place taken to even slow that down or reverse it? They just got done pissing away about a half-million young men’s lives in Ukraine, and there’s no telling how bad it’s going to get. That’s out of a population of 140 million; the Soviet Union had 320 million, and the comparatively few people they killed in Afghanistan (circa 50,000, or so…) contributed greatly to the collapse. What’s Russia going to look like, with all those young men missing from the labor force and the family-formation system?

    All of us had better be thinking about how they’re going to cope with the situation as populations drop. It is going to happen, and it is going to be ‘effing huge. If you look through historical records for parallels, about the only thing that even comes close is the post-Black Death European experience, and we all should know how dislocating that was.

  • jgh

    you likely won’t be allowed to retire, ever,

    You won’t be allowed to work either. Believe me, a 55-year-old. Employers just Do. Not. Want. to employ people. 2500 job application in 12 years and seeing the exact same vacancy advertised again and again and again and again and again does not say to me “you’ll work instead of retiring”. The only way that would happen is if they make refusing to employ somebody a capital offence. Coercion hasn’t worked. Pleading hasn’t worked. The only workable option is force.

  • Paul Marks.

    Rour le Jour.

    I accept your correction and chastisement – yes the tyranny will not be “for ever”. I apologise.

    The tyranny will indeed collapse when its despicable economic system, with its Credit Money dished out to Cronies, and its jobs allocated on the basis of ticking “Woke” demographic boxes (rather than on ability) collapses – and the international establishment intend to intensify, rather than reduce, the economic insanity. They intend to destroy what is left of the free market and replace it with Collectivism on the “Stakeholder Capitalism”, Corporate State, model.

    Economic law will destroy them and their tyranny – although it will also destroy a lot of good people as well.

  • Kirk

    Again, JGH… You’re living in the old paradigm. Give it twenty years, and the shoe will be quite upon the other foot.

    They’re only able to do what they’re doing right now because the labor force is plentiful, and the whole thing is predicated upon an ever-expanding source of labor and young people to be abused. What happens when that’s no longer the case?

    And, it won’t be the employers that will be applying the coercion; it will be the governments that will be doing it, just like they’re going to start telling young women that they’ve a mandate to produce a minimum of 2.1 kiddoes… Or, else.

    None of this stuff has really started happening, yet. But, it will, once the control freaks realize that the key ingredient for them to feel all powerful and special is that there have to be people there for them to tell what to do. No people? No control-freak frisson…

    It’s an interesting paradigm, but it’s also one that’s almost demographically impossible to avoid. Where they take the “common man” for granted, today? They’re going to have to do things much, much differently in a future where the very existence of sufficient numbers of those “common men” is questionable. No birth-rate? No society, in a few short decades. Implications of that fact haven’t quite come clear to the elites, but it will.

  • bobby b

    September 20, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    “The world is not running out of people . . .”

    This. There’s no shortage of people. Even when we drop below replacement, there are still plenty of people.

    But our government-economic model is based on growth – maintaining that pyramid structure so that the new base can support the feeble old top. (Like me.)

    Find a way to fix that structure, and even a dropping population is not something to fear.

  • Kirk

    bobby b said:

    This. There’s no shortage of people. Even when we drop below replacement, there are still plenty of people.

    Innumeracy hurts. Do you think that there’s some magical way of turning fertility back on, once a society gets past the point of no return? Can you even define where that point is?

    Once a woman ages out of her fertility window, it’s a rare individual that manages to overcome that. When most of your women aren’t having kids, that means that the next generation after them will have to somehow come up with the births to overcome that, so in order to maintain the workforce, what does that mean? Who is going to raise those kids, when the only generation capable of doing that is also burdened with caring for the elderly? Who is paying the taxes for all this, and who is going to pay for raising those kids in an increasingly expensive child-raising environment? Which we’re making more and more expensive, every single day, through legislation and ever-ratcheting social expectations? Oh, and let’s not forget: These hypothetical future super-moms are also going to be the ones being worked to death to pay for elder care, and doing a lot of that care themselves.

    None of the blithe spirits hand-waving this problem aside even understand what is behind the dropping fertility rates in the first place. The idea that they’re suddenly going to figure it out, and fix those issues? Laughable.

    Germany has a total fertility rate of 1.5. South Korea is 1.39. China? 1.66.

    This understates the problems coming, because this ain’t a projection, it’s recording the current-historical. This has already happened: This is from women who’re already well within or past their reproductive years; there’s not a damn thing looking forward and asking “What is there to change the next generation’s minds on this issue…?” If you go out and start asking the question of the teenage and twenty-something women, “Do you want kids? Do you plan on having any…?”, the numbers get really scary, really fast. Something like half of the surveyed young women in Germany inside that cohort do not have kids or family in their future plans, at all. So, odds are that the next “reproductive cohort” is going to demonstrate an even lower propensity to reproduce than the current one. And, given the smaller size of that cohort, what does that imply? Still fewer available reproductive individuals. Just do the math; about the only way you get out of that situation is if you somehow manage to turn every reproducing woman into a baby-factory, having a kid every year or so while they’re fertile.

    Not to mention, the current mania for transing the kids, which automatically implies sterilizing them.

    There is a certain inflection point where the numbers take over, and getting back up to even parity is going to become impossible. At that point, the blithe assumption that “there will always be people” will no longer be a “truth”, and we’re all going to be operating in totally unknown territory.

    It ain’t just the socialist pyramid schemes that are going to be in trouble; it’s going to be everything else. What happens to all the requirements for elder care, when there aren’t any bodies to actually do it? Not everyone is going to be able to avail themselves of Japanese elder-care robots.

    They’re already running into shortages of skilled blue-collar workers like plumbers and pipefitters. The local trades have problems finding qualified young people willing to get their hands dirty; they all want to be “influencers” and play at being jet-setters.

    All these trendlines meet somewhere in the next 80 years. Enjoy dealing with them and the implications, and start thinking about what you’re going to do.

    Personally, I’m sort of amused by it all. They’ve discounted and denigrated all the blue-collar types, all of my life. It tickles me that the coming years are going to see a shortage of that sort of person, and that the great and the glorious are going to founder all their WEF dreams on the severe lack of worker-bees to lord it over. Too many chiefs; too few Indians. I think it’s going to look a lot like the dismay experienced by all the noble types after the Black Death clipped away all of their villeins and serfs, the survivors suddenly being able to demand cash wages at a fairly high rate.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Dear Kirk, and friends. You should catch up on recent trends in science. We have been able to rejuvenate mice by ultrasonic baths. The scientists who did this are convinced that humans will be next. Also, a few years ago, some scientists were reversing the effects of aging by stimulating the thymus gland. So we will soon be productive workers, once again.

  • Kirk

    @Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray:

    Nice fantasy, but… Widespread and effective deployment ain’t happening overnight. It would take at least a generation or two, and then what?

    Ain’t no magic bullet to fix things coming. No matter how much the WEF types wish for it, the raw fact is that the numbers are not there, in the worker-bee class. You may save a few elites with rejuvenation, but fixing all the plumbers and electricians you need to keep the world working? LOL… Ain’t happening. Not in a timely enough manner to stave off the problems.