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A modest proposal

Jackie Mirandola Mullen | Monday, February 4, 2008

George W. Bush tells us we need to remedy our addiction to foreign oil. Al Gore tells us that greenhouse gases that we create are contributing to global warming, which will cause catastrophic climatic disasters, resulting in the deaths of billions. Thomas Malthus warned – as early as 1798 – that exponential population growth would lead to widespread famine and poverty. Jonathan Swift provided a solution to rampant poverty in Ireland in his Modest Proposal of 1729, radically suggesting the Irish eat their babies to prevent them from roaming the streets in destitution.

No matter where you look, you can find impending crises whose roots trace back to overpopulation, excessive energy usage and dwindling resources. Many hippie-minded environmentalists suggest we put our money into finding alternative energy sources, developing more fuel-efficient cars, and reducing our consumption by sacrificing the lifestyles that we have earned through our persistent work and technological innovation. They then warn us that oil is running out, that coal will not be around forever, that the earth is limited and that one day, the resources we expend will supersede those which the earth provides.

Instead of listening to this doom-and-gloom nonsense, I propose that we stay the course, that we continue on with the way of life we have cultivated and justly deserve thanks to our unique ability as humans to extensively impact the environment and ecosystems around us. If we have the ability to shape the earth’s outputs to our needs, why waste time preserving what “used to be”? Nostalgia for the good old days does not translate to sound survival strategies.

One of the biggest fear-embedding catch phrases these days is “peak oil” and, increasingly, “peak coal.” Energy Watch Group, an environmental organization out of Europe, predicted in summer 2007 that the U.S. has only 200 years of coal left – and that China has a mere 37 years of coal reserves if it continues at its current rate of consumption. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) predicted as recently as this January that peak oil will occur in 2010.

If these tragedies are so unavoidable on the horizon, why don’t we just let it happen? Just use up the oil and coal until there is literally not a drop or a lump left. Why interfere with inevitability? It’s foolish to try to fix the plumbing in a house that’s already burning down. Why not sit in the living room and have a cup of tea until it’s time to build a new house?

Some who claim to be looking ahead to “the long run” assert that the only way to save the human race is to establish preventative measures to protect the environment. Well, here’s what I have to say. What is one of the biggest causes of the strain on our resources? Overpopulation. What happens when overpopulation abounds and we do not attempt to abate environmental problems? Widespread famine and disease. What is the result of famine and disease? Massive deaths. What do mass deaths and extinctions result in? Lower population levels. See the cycle?

In order to truly solve all of our environmental “problems,” what we really need to do is let them go. These changes are nature running its course. According to Conservation International, a new species goes extinct every 20 minutes. Who are we to assume power over such a statistic? Why fight what is obviously a trend toward another mass extinction? If almost everything dies off, won’t there still be a couple of humans left, domineering over the remnants of the earth? They can then repopulate in a sparsely populated – and thus, renewedly resource-rich – world. There won’t be enough of them to pollute detrimental amounts of, well, anything.

You see, my friends, the answer is all too clear. Instead of dreading the inescapable, wasting our time and poorly equipped resources for an already doomed battle, we should continue our present lifestyles. Once we use up all the oil and gas, we will have to stop the majority of our polluting, for there simply won’t be anything left with which to pollute! That sudden drop-off of resources will render us unable to attain the food and clean water we need for survival, and humans will begin dying in droves. This might seem sad to us, but is it really different than what is currently occurring in third world countries? Letting our resources run out will actually level the playing field in terms of human survival; industrialized countries will no longer hold an unfair advantage.

Overpopulation is an indisputable problem. The loss of biodiversity, exorbitant amounts of pollution and rapidly changing chemical balances in the earth’s atmosphere are testimony to the negatives of our more-than-six billion worldwide human population. So why not kill a few birds with one stone? Get rid of the oil and coal, thereby stopping pollution, let disease and famine occur, so that the few survivors are healthy, and the overall population levels are much more manageable for our earth. I wouldn’t dream of proposing that we eat babies – that’s entirely too extreme, and frankly, morbid. Why not just stay the course?

Jackie Mirandola Mullen is a sophomore German and history major. She spends her weekends turning up her heat and driving big cars in a last-ditch effort to save the earth. She can be reached at jmirando@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.