The Population Factor

"The modern plague of overpopulation is solvable by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not the sufficient knowledge of the solution, but the universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem for billions of people who are its victims." Martin Luther King quoyte on population

Key Concepts

Consumption per capita:
(Max. sustainable total consumption / population) x efficiency factor
Carrying Capacity:
(Max. sustainable total consumption / consumption per capita) / maldistribution factor.
Max. sustainable population level
Tthe number of human being planet earth can support. The carrying capacity is reached when a sizable proportion of the population falls below the minimum requirements for food, water and shelter. Therefore more equitable distribution raises the carrying capacity.
Max. sustainable total consumption
Max. sustainable depletion rate of non-renewable resources + Max. sustainable regeneration rate of renewable resources
Efficiency factor
This accounts for the greater per capita availability of resources to the poorest through better and more equitable distribution, technological advancements and greater reliance on renewable energy and food supplies.
Maldistribution factor
This accounts for low carrying capacity as maldistribution of resources causes many of the poorest to fall below minimum sustenance levels (i.e. starve or die of easily curable diseases associated with poverty and crowded living conditions) long before theoretical mean levels of food and drinking water per capita falls below the minimum daily intake.
Environmental sustainability
Our ability to regenerate or to recycle resources essential for sustaining our aggregate rate of consumption over several generations without destabilising planet's earth fine environmental balance, on which agriculture depends.

The single biggest issue facing humanity is the availability, control and distribution of vital resources. All other issues pale into insignificance for the 5 billion individuals who do not live in one of the prosperous enclaves of the consumerist world. Even many of the 1 billion citizens of the wealthy world struggle to make ends meet in an interminable rat race. Goods considered luxuries in some of the poor regions such as cars, mobile phones, refrigerators etc. are viewed as necessities by most workers in Western Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia. Yet many anti-capitalists of the anarchist, ecologist and socialist traditions choose to downplay the importance of demographics, as overpopulation inevitably heralds an era of depopulation either by natural or planned means and would par force restrict reproductive and migratory freedoms.

Key Issues:

  • Availability of potable water
  • Availability of fossil fuels essential for transport, distribuition and high-yield farming
  • Availability of raw materials for machinery, vehicles, transport infrastructure, renewable power plants etc.
  • Rate of depletion of fertile soil due to high-yield farming
  • Capacity of technology to extend natural limitations

Various factors point towards a human overload. Little arable land is left unfarmed, little hospitable land is untouched, few accessible resources are untapped, other species are increasingly subservient to the human economy and their distribution and migratory patterns have been disrupted. Four to five decades of mass automobile use combined with rising demand for raw materials has led to recent predictions of manmade global warming. Even the great battle against disease has witnessed reversals as bacteriologists have shown how the overuse of antibiotics not only defeats the purpose of the drugs, but encourages virulent drug-resistant strains that may pose a greater risk to human health than older strains prevalent before the advent of antibacterial medications.

However, many of the same researchers depend on direct or indirect grants from multinationals, and are reluctant to challenge the profit motive head-on. In a world where human need and long term environmental planning were prioritised the pros, cons and long-term effects of antibiotics could be weighed rationally.

Antibiotics would be prescribed in life-threatening situations and in cases where their use would significantly reduce pain or limit the after-effects of debilitating bacterial diseases. They would not be prescribed for any viral diseases or transient bacterial diseases that the body's immune system could deal with. However, today while antibiotics may save millions of children who die of diseases such as Loma in many poor hot regions, their overuse or incorrect administration is triggering new drug resistant strands that only infect regular antibiotic users, but anyone who comes into contact with them. Wealthy medicine addicts may have other options, such as expensive new antibiotics and gene-therapy in a clinically clean environment. However, most human targets of superbugs have few such options available, able to afford only the cheap mass-produced drugs least likely to be efficacious against new virulent strains. Tuberculosis, malaria and cholera are back with a vengeance, as the West blames increased mortality solely on HIV.

Many economists such as Lester Thurrow an Michel Chossudovksy have highlighted the link between growing poverty, IMF and World Bank policies, the ever-expanding hegemony of transnational corporations and the withering self-sufficiency of most countries. However, when presented with data on the growing impact of 6 billion human beings on the world's environment, the radical anti-capitalist left views distribution as the only problem. Many internally deny the potential for a demographic crash for three other psychological and ethical reasons.

  • First the notion of overpopulation implies many people are superfluous and a depopulation program would inevitably affect the weakest first.
  • Second an unsustainable demographic burden implies we should stop migration to high-consumption areas, thereby condemning would-be economic migrants toa life of poverty in their homelands.
  • Third Marx claimed technological advances under capitalism will raise the earth's carrying capacity to meet human needs and as Malthus was a reactionary opposed to wealth redistribution his ideas will set back the struggle for a more equal society. Ironically as we shall see below the opposite may be true.

Population in the Age of Technocracy and Globalisation

Let us assume an ideal world would allow all individuals to achieve their full potential, enjoy a prosperous and stable standard of living, practice a rewarding profession, lead a pleasant private life, participate in grassroots democracy whether at work, in the community or at a higher level, feel free of irrational prejudices, tolerate diverse lifestyles and have unhindered access to all information and views about society and science. The nearest approximation to such a utopia is probably found in upper middle class enclaves of North America and Western Europe, residential areas inhabited by high-income and high-consumption professionals actively involved in the local community. However, the social problems caused by our undeniable inequality often lead residents' associations to be bastions of reactionary thought when it comes to crime and antisocial behaviour associated with the lower classes. If everyone enjoyed the same high living standards, cultural diversity would be so much more tolerable. Lovers of open-air parties could move to communities where such practices were not only tolerated but enjoyed by most inhabitants. Lovers of quiet suburban life could move to quiet suburban neighbourhoods where everyone understood the importance of privacy.

How can we achieve such a world for everybody? i.e. How can we defeat poverty, ensure long-term prosperity for all and thus eliminate the root cause of hatred and wars? The one beautifully obvious answer is simply dismissed as heretic fantasy. But first let us consider one main objection to the solution. Are most people in the developing world so poor because we depend on their cheap labour, i.e. do 1 billion mass-consumers depend on 5 billion low-wage workers? If we're talking about Indonesian workers in a Nike factory, this statement is certainly true. Despite automation and computerisation, many goods are much cheaper because brand name companies can outsource from remote suppliers in low-wage economies. However, sadly poverty sinks to much lower levels than Nike workers earning $50 a month. Multinationals have no use whatsoever for severely malnourished Indian teenagers who are so weak they cannot operate machines and cannot be easily trained for other jobs. Severe malnutrition in early childhood condemns victims either to early death or a life of physical and mental disability, and the limited resources of many third world countries rule out any treatment that enables the disabled to live a partially rewarding life in more affluent countries. The bleak truth is most people in the world's poorest countries do not work at all or struggle to survive on primitive subsistence farming despite expanding deserts, polluted rivers, degraded soil and shrinking available arable land per person due to a rising population. What's more many third world countries fail to produce the staple foods their people have long relied on and can ill afford to import from food exporters. Through China and India grow and produce masses of food, it is almost exclusively for domestic consumption. Europe is nearly self-sufficient but heavily overfarmed. The only real bread-baskets with massive surpluses are the US, The Canadian Prairies and Australia. Zambia, sparsely populated by European standards, imports increasing amounts of foods from South Africa, so Zambians pay more to eat older fruit.

Another factor many have ignored is that technology is developing at such a fast rate that unskilled or even many semi-skilled manufacturing jobs will simply vanish. A fully automated toy factory with a handful of technicians may need more investment than an overcrowded sweatshop, but is entirely strike-proof, more efficient, more reliable and can be located closer to the target market.

The answer is of course planned depopulation. The fiercest advocates of this radical solution claim it's better than forced or natural depopulation. Why should libertarians and Marxists alike disagree with this proposition? Enforcing it would mean curtailing individual freedoms, libertarians and religious fanatics can both condemn forced sterilisation campaigns. Smallgroups of overpopulation activists concentrated in the United States, Canadaand Australia (i.e. the very countries least effected by the world's economicand environmental woes) such ZPG, NPG and the Sierra Club advocate simplisticsolutions like one child per family. The problem is they also advocate tougher immigration controls on the basis that new immigrants from low-consumption countries would consume more in the United States than back home. There is some truth in that, but it doesn't solve any of the immediate problems that afflict millionsof poor third world citizens. In its most reactionary form the depopulation lobby blames the victims - it's their fault for having too many kids.

Historical Demographics

Even a cursory knowledge of recent demographic history can dispel the myth that our environmental woes are caused by African overpopulation, though this situation would soon change if all Africans consumed as much as North Americans. Europe's population grew rapidly in 18th and 19th centuries, North America's skyrocketed in the same period. The original 13 states totalled just 3.9 million inhabitants in 1792. Just consider the British Isles.

The 1088 doomsday book estimated 1.5 million in all of England and the combined populations of Scotland and Wales doubtfully exceeded 0.75 million, meaning for much of the middle ages Britain accommodated less than one twelfth of the current 56.5 million (Northern Ireland excluded). In 1770 mainland Britain had approximately 8 million, the first census in 1801 recorded 11 million inhabitants, but by 1831 the population had risen to 24 million, nearly 35 million by 1870and then the growth rate began to sag with 40.6 million recorded in 1911 (excluding Ireland). If we take the period of fastest growth 1770-1870, Britain's population more than quadrupled despite significant emigration to the new colonies. Let's look at it from another angle. In 1770 the world's population was probably around 800 million, so Britain had around 1% of the total, by 1870 Britain's share had reached 3.5% and as the population has boomed in the developing world over the last 6 decades, Britain's share has returned to just under 1%. If we include the descendants of British emigrants in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa (a complex calculation because English, Scots and Welsh emigrants interbred widely with other Europeans and their percentage of the blood pool or contribution to the regional genome can only be estimated), the percentage of biological Britons is still greater than it was in 1770. Moreshockingly this was achieved by phenomenally high birth rates in the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century with depressingly high infant mortality and life expectancy comparable with that of the poorest African countries today. Great Britain's wealth and power was not built merely by the ingenuity and shrewdness of its ruling élite, but by blood, sweat and breeding of its subjects. The advent of the industrial revolution saw an increase in child deaths and lower longevity before better sanitation, higher safety standards and technological advances began to reduce the death rate.

The British ruling class needed a sizeable core of cultural Anglo-Saxons not only to man their industries and but to populate their colonies.

However, Europe's rising population was matched not only by increasing agricultural yields and industrialisation, but also by greater exploitation of colonial resources and eased by emigration. The rest of the world has been playing catch-up ever since, but with no new territories to conquer and exploit.

Asia's population grew rapidly from the turn of the 20th century,but has recently slowed significantly. China adopted its famous one-child policy,though it never applied to members of ethnic minorities. While India's birthrate has slowed, its infant mortality rate is still very high, poverty and chronicmalnutrition rampant, but is still projected to top 1.2 billion by 2020 whilefarming yields per capita have actually started to decline. On the face of it,most of Africa is not overpopulated at all, 650 million inhabit an area nearlyten times larger than India with 1 billion citizens. If Africans had pioneered the era of industrialisation and colonialism, it could be the world's richestcontinent with immense natural resources, but if we exclude inhospitable deserts, semi-arid grasslands and mountains, the potentially arable area, even harnessingthe most advanced technology, is much smaller. Outside North Africa, South Africa and Kenya very few Africans produce cheap goods for consumption in high-income countries, though African mineral and fossil resources are essential for the global economy, i.e. big business needs raw materials rather than human resources,except for a few travel guides and mineworkers. With widespread unemployment, a mass migration to the cities and dwindling traditional agriculture, hundredsof millions of Africans are superfluous to the globalised economy, too poor to consume or be retrained and lacking the infrastructure that attracts multinationals.

There are some anomalies. Zimbabwe has a plethora of articulate English-speaking high school graduates with requisite writing and typing skills who could easily be trained to work in call centres. £4 an hour may seem peanuts in British terms, but even a quarter of that rate would suit many Africans fine.

A little training and experience could soon help new Zimbabwean customer service managers cope with the incompatible British accents. However, not only in Zimbabwean telecommunications infrastructure appalling with standard calls to the UK costing 70p per minute, but the British call centre boom may itself be short-lived as technology progresses. Likewise some of the brightest programmers live in India.

Many software developers outsource the nitty gritty of code writing to third world programmers working for a fraction of wealthy world rates, but these programmers are a drop in an ocean of abject poverty. More Indians starve each day than receive pay checks from software firms every month.

Year 0 AD 1500 1750 1825 1900 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
Approx. Population in Millions 300 500 750 1000 1500 2500 3000 4000 4700 5300 6000

The notion of carrying capacity is inherently unfair in a consumerist world. The more we consume, the fewer people our environment can sustain. As wealth is distributed so unevenly, in its starkest terms that means the more the rich consume, the fewer poor people are likely to survive.

Before the industrial revolution Britain's carrying capacity was around 5 to 8 million. Otherwise the population would have naturally increased to fill the gap. One of the greatest myths of modern history is the idea Europeans discovered relatively underpopulated lands in the Americas and Australasia.

The area of North America currently occupied by the US and Canada could have easily accommodated 15-30 million Native Americans with the technology available to them before the European invasion. It is also wrongly assumed that the cultural and technological influence of a community is relative to their initial population.

Had the English Royal family not sent Italian navigator Cabot to claim a chunk of North America for the crown and had the industrial revolution started on mainland Europe, which it nearly did, the British Isles might well have played a very peripheral role in the world's subsequent cultural development. In 1750 mainland Britain was home to barely 7-8 million, less than 1% of the world population and English was spoken by only 6-7 million in various dialects. French, Italian, German and Spanish all had more native speakers at the time and arguably a richer literature. Latin and French were the main lingua francas. 250 years later around 380 million speak English as a first language, around 400 million more speak it proficiently as a second language and probably another 1200 million have learned school English to varying degrees of success (We should be very sceptical about statistics for non-native English speakers as proficiency is very hard to quantify, but that still leaves 4 billion with no knowledge at all of English).

From a collection of Anglo-Saxon dialects that had only just gained recognition as the official language of administration, English evolved into the de facto global tongue with few apparent rivals except on a regional level. Even standard Putonghua Chinese with over twice as many native speakers poses little immediate threat. Indeed we may liken the role of English today in much of Asia and Africa with the role of Norman French in England between 1066 and 1400, for it is viewed as the vehicle of technological progress. However, the speed of technological change and increasing interconnectivity of the global economy poses the greatest threat ever to cultural diversity.

Colonisation and Migration

Let's face it mass immigration to the wealthy regions of the world will not solve the world's demographic and environmental problems. However, calls to isolate Fortress Europe and Fortress North America from the outside world will backfire or require even tougher border controls and the denial of basic human rights to millions. We cannot exploit the resources of the whole world and only allow 1/6 to indulge in hedonism. On the one hand it makes little sense to overburden high-consumption regions and encourage a brain drain, on the other merely erecting walls around consumerist paradises will create a global apartheid in the rest of the world, while transnational corporations retain control of key resources in the developing world. However, immigration may be debated, because big business itself is divided

There are few better examples of governmental duplicity than the UK. Until Indian Independence in 1947 the British Empire covered 1/4 of the world's population. How many actually migrated to these shores? 1%, 2%, 3% maybe? No, just over 3 million, i.e. 0.5% of the 600 million plus inhabitants of the British Empire in 1947 and an even lower percentage of these countries' populations in the years of greatest immigration. Natural growth also means fewer than 3 million immigrated. More important the first immigrants were positively encouraged through advertising campaigns in the West Indies to fill low-wage jobs that native Britons no longer wanted. Despite low unemployment throughout the 1950s racism was rife and in 1960s the Labour government responded to growing racial tension by sidelining proponents of repatriation such as Enoch Powel and tightening immigration controls. However, there is a big dilemma as the powers that be are highly unlikely to redress the growing imbalance between the opulent and impoverished worlds. The problem is not just the demographic burden on the target countries, but the socio-economic instability that masses of poor immigrants would bring. The British establishment is well aware of these facts, but poses on the international stage as the champion of a tolerant multiethnic world in which new immigrants are welcomed with open arms. British Foreign policy has for three decades been to export emigration from its former colonies, first to Australia, Canada and the US, but more recently to mainland Europe. Britain and France absorbed large waves of immigration in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s,but over the last 20 years Germany and Austria have accommodated a higher percentage of first and second generation immigrants and Italy and Spain are quickly catching up. As the UK closed the floodgates in the 1980s and 90s, the migration burden shifted. Recent suggestions that the UK liberalise its immigration laws to allow more highly educated immigrants to make up for the shortage of British engineers, exemplify the real issue. The problem, as the government sees it, is not immigration per se, but poor immigrants. Since the late 1990s, immigration numbers have steadily increased with rising unemployment in Eastern Europe, civil wars raging in many corners of the globe and a shortage of skilled workers in the building, catering and care sectors in the South East of England. This trend has further exacerbated the housing crisis and alienated a large section of the native working class, whether of traditional Anglo-Saxon or Celtic stock or more recent Afro-Caribbean descent.

Some analysts talk of fortress Europe and Fortress America, while others talk of the globalisation of poverty - a future of wealthy enclaves intermingled with lower class districts and shanty towns. Post-apartheid South Africa epitomises this reality, but at what price? Wealthy families inhabit luxurious bungalows surrounded by 4 metre high walls, electric fences and rapid armed response, and drive their children to exclusive schools inaccessible to low and middle income families. Every niche of wealth represents a prosperous region with strict border controls, the only difference is proximity to unaided abject poverty. In today's globalised world the real distinctions are no longer white versus black, developed world versus developing world, but rich versus poor. Border controls merely afford greater security for the middle classes, while the upper echelons of the business class can always afford secluded residences.

As a result we will see a diversification in the distribution and density of the moneyed classes. Some regions will have tough border controls and some degree of social cohesion, i.e. a limited social safety net, education and health services available to all etc., while others will have laxer border controls, but limited government intervention to offset socio-economic imbalances. Britain is likely to retain some of the toughest immigration controls, other European countries will follow, but are less able to stem the tide as much of Eastern Europe evolves into a third world economy. Unable to challenge corporate power, the left has little choice but to weigh the social consequences of accommodating more economic migrants and the human consequences of denying the desperately poor masses the right to emigrate. In true duplicitous British style the onus will be on other countries to accept more immigrants. Over the last decade Austria, with a mere 7.7 million citizens, has taken on 1 million immigrants. How would the UK have coped with 7.5 million new immigrants in the 1950s? Austrian politicians wishing to emulate British immigration controls are branded Neo-Nazis by the Anglo-Saxon press, i.e. do as we advise not as we do!

In an ideal world people would not need to travel far and wide to ensure themselves a decent lifestyle, but some, probably a tiny minority, will always benefit not only themselves but the new community they adopt by migrating, however, such migration would be balanced and only be overtly unidirectional if environmental and technological changes allow it.

Carrying Capacity, Distribution, Democracy and Freedom

We take our consumerist lives for granted. A public relations executive earning 60K per annum doesn't stop to ponder the fact that she has never actually produced anything before she drives her 4WD off-roader to the supermarket to splash out on goodies. Instead we might consider who pays PR execs, account managers, lawyers specialised in corporate law and other seemingly superfluous tertiary sector workers? Why is one PR officer in the UK worth a hundred shop-floor workers in Indonesia? The answer is simple: to maintain not only the market share of a given company, but to secure corporate power.

In the unlikely hypothesis that a benign superpower imposed strict sanctions on the UK. We would need to change our diet probably with rations (tea, coffee, wine, citrus fruits, rice, olive oil etc. would be in very short supply) and rely on increasingly outdated equipment no longer manufactured in the UK, before oil from the North Sea runs out within 10 years and gas within 30 years. Our whole economy reliant on petroleum-based agriculture, transportation and power generation would grind to a halt. How many wind turbines would we need to build to replace the generating output of all fossil-fuel thermal power plants? Would we have the resources to make so many wind turbines? Where would we get the silicon needed to make solar panels and the masses of concrete, steel and plastic to build tidal power stations? How would a generation of Britons dependent on the service sector adapt to mundane tasks like farming and manufacturing essential goods?

For a foretaste of what the world could be like go to oil-rich Iraq, where basic infrastructure such as water pipelines has been bombed and strict sanctions imposed, in just 10 years over 500,000 children have died of otherwise easily curable diseases. Just imagine the consequences of sanctions against Zimbabwe, not the fictitious sanctions allegedly imposed during Ian Smith's rule between 1964 and 79 when the country was still called Rhodesia, the sanctions currently proposed by the US Zimbabwe bill. A country 1 1/2 times larger than the UK with a 11 million inhabitants and plenty of prime farming land could be reduced to a shadow of its former self, as wealthy white farmers leave, oil prices sore, new technology and investment fail to arrive and soil erosion spreads. More shockingly the US Census Bureau has already revised its forecast for Zimbabwe's 2050 population to 9.2 million, i.e. a decrease in a country where 50% of the population are under 15 means a very high death rate.

Can higher death rates caused by HIV/AIDS and other renascent diseases like malaria and tuberculosis explain such a significant drop? Do they know something we don't?

The increased efficiency of the globalised economy and our reliance of advanced technology also raises our dependence on transnational corporations and/or foreign governments. Freedom has always been a relative concept. Does it mean the freedom to partake in love fests on pristine beaches?

The freedom to indulge in narcotics? The freedom to drive Jaguar E-types onsemideserted 8-lane highways? The freedom to carry a gun? The freedom to walk the streets safe at night? The freedom to enjoy unpolluted tranquillity? The freedom to speak one's mind? The freedom to enjoy unprejudiced friendliness in a socially cohesive community? The freedom to watch Hollywood movies replete with gratuitous violence? The freedom to a local cultural identity and minority language rights? The freedom to access dissident views on the Internet? The freedom to enjoy a childhood free of commercialised sex? Inevitably freedoms conflict. Local democracy and globalised interdependence conflict, although you'd never believe that from the rhetoric of many politicians.

Democracy is only worthy of its name if people can actuallycontrol the distribution of resources. If a region is self-sufficient in food, energy and the raw materials required for housing, transportation and essential infrastructure, its people can opt out of global trade and stay alive. In the pre-inustrialisation era the threat of sanctions would have been meaningless for most countries, today it's a matter of life, death or a dramatic decline in living standards. A country's economy depends on inward investment, exports and technology developed abroad. However, we need massive diversification to maintain our high living standards. Britain and France would not have been able to sustain their economic growth without exploiting resources from their empires. The US had the enviable privilege of a relatively self-sufficient high-consumption economy until its own petroleum supplies ran out and it relied increasingly on its stranglehold on key Middle East oil wells. The whole global system is geared to the dominance of a tiny élite of investors and corporate executives through the mass consumption of 1 billion human beings and the exploitation of a further billion low-paid workers (including extended families and local businesses dependent on their wages) and the total neglect of the other 4 billion.As automation and computerisation render unskilled and semiskilled superfluous and big business begins to realise aggregate consumption must go down to ensure long term profitability, hundreds of millions of workers will be laid off.

Assuming all other factors are equal: the more people the more we depend on technology controlled by transnational corporation and international trade and the less any given region or even countries the size of Britain have any independence at all.

Higher aggregate consumption: Greater adverse effects on our environment and more dependence of advanced technology to solve short-term problems
Lower aggregate consumption: Smaller adverse effects on our environment and longer-lasting sustainability
Bigger total population: Higher demands on our environment relative to aggregate consumption
Smaller total population:
  • Lower demands on our environment relative toaggregate consumption
  • Greater sustainable consumption per capita
  • More arable and hospitable land per capita
  • Less reliance on large organisations for distribution of essential food and water supplies
  • Organisations can be held more accountable as local communities are more self-sufficient
  • Individuals can enjoy greater personal freedoms without restricting the freedoms or fundamental rights of others

Forced Depopulation Theories

One of the most potent arguments used against any conspiracy theory is to dismiss it as such. We should at least distinguish those based on irrational prejudices or religious conviction from those based on empirical evidence. The mendacity of politicians, corporate executives and military chiefs can lead us to some startling conclusions. If the CIA is behind narcotraffic in much of the world, is this not a case of planned populationcontrol? Why did Britain not only fight for free opium trade, while encouraging its consumption among the Chinese fully aware of its addictiveness?

Much of this site exposes the agenda of globalisers as control freaks intent on managing all resources and controlling all governments in an interdependent world and thereby reducing democracy to plebiscites over remote bureaucrats. Any humane alternative to the current world order can only build on solidarity with other peoples, gain inspiration from reciprocal cultural exchange and seek to redress the imbalances created by greedy colonialism.

Demonstrators at the September 1999 Battle of Seattle were united in their opposition to the global hegemony of the sole superpower in cohort with financiers and transnational corporations (multinational somehow implies that they belong to many nations, it might be more accurate to say that some corporations are multinational by running many nations). Greens, Marxists, religious fundamentalists and conservative isolationists came together. If they discussed concepts such as environmental depredation through overconsumption, abortion and contraception, immigration control, import quotas, pride in one's colonial past etc., it could have all ended in one mighty punch up to the delight of the global élite. While tarnishing all protestors as rabble-rousers and vandals, the mainstream press dismissed the crowd as disaffected zealots divided on every issue. However, in a rational world these groups could have held a week-long debating festival with workshops on every single issue that divides them and who knows out of the maze of conflicting ideas, a clear understanding and coherent strategy might emerge.

A strain of conservative thought sees the world run by a shadow government, the Bilderbergers, with their own agenda to wrest control from national societies. Most followers of this sect tend to be deeply religious, Catholic and Protestant, but also some adherents of other creeds. Unsurprisingly they oppose abortion, contraception, homosexuality and extramarital sex because sexual intercourse evolved solely for procreation. Divine nature wants us to go forth and muliply with god-fearing offspring, while governments want to stop you having more kids. Overpopulation is, so they say, a myth perpetrated by the liberal intelligentsia. How do we explain growing poverty and the emergence of new drug resistant strains of infection diseases? Of course, it's all a plot by the New World Order to reduce the excess population and promote hedonistic consumerism.

At least this theory recognises the tangible problem. Others, chiefly journalists for establishment media outlets, dismiss the problem. The demographic growth rate is slowing and new technologies will help us increase the earth's carrying capacity, so we can all enjoy an environmentally friendly high standard of living.

Indeed we have already faced the stark alternative of genetically modified organisms or mass starvation, that's right accusing opponents and sceptics of profit-driven farming yield boosting techniques of being Luddites at best and mass murderers at worst. Some interesting population lobbies are countering scientific concerns about our growing impact on our environment, Marxists join ranks with free-marketers and Papists. Papists oppose population control because contraception and abortion are against their religion and they favour large families of faithful worshippers.

Free-marketers such as the CATO Institute oppose such measures because they limit freedom of choice. Marxists usually favour contraception and women's right to choose on abortion, but oppose neo-Malthusian analysis. They believe maldistribution and exploitation alone explain poverty, radical depopulation measures are inevitably reactionary and communism can guarantee plenty for all. However, we have conflicting models of communism. Is it a world government run by democratic centralism for the benefit of the masses or is it a commune run by all its members for their long-term survival and prosperity? The first vision leads inevitably to a state apparatus that seeks not only to control resources and technology, but also the populace as a whole. Dissenters are ritually accused of disrupting the established order and jeopardising the wellbeing of all. The power structure needed to manage a world-wide command economy does not actually differ very radically from corporatism.

If we had relied strictly on Adam Smith's vision of free trade, the world would be a very different place. Adam Smith would have allowed population to reach its ideal level within commercial and environmental constraints. The history of capitalism has shown that upholders of free trade tend to be market leaders, while protectionists are merely advocating the same tactics that enabled wealthy nations and powerful corporations to amass vast fortunes. A consistent "free-market" libertarian would have opposed colonialism, which grew from mercantilism, and all imperialist wars. If the British wanted Transvaal gold, they could have merely offered their technical expertise to local entrepreneurs and buy it at market value. Instead they fought two brutal wars against the Boer Republics, with hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. If the only justification is the alleged racism of the Boers, why did the British not treat black mineworkers as equals and let them prosper from the mineral treasure chest? No prizes for answering this question, the native population was treated as pawns in a game with the sole purpose of profit. Had Buddhist monks inhabited the area and refused to relinquish their territory, Lord Kitchener and Cecil Rhodes would have fought them too. Would Anglo-American capitalism be so dominant today, if the British had not had such a large empire and the United States had not pursued protectionist trade policies with high import tariffs and antidumping laws for so long?

19th century imperialism laid the foundations for modern globalism and let the world population rise six fold and aggregate consumption many times more. To maximise efficiency, we have had to renege on economic independence.

If we lack the self-determination to control the gathering, cultivation, production, distribution of vital resources in our own territory democracy is utterly meaningless.

Forecasts

First we have to assume no alternative economic system is likely to replace corporatism or the fusion of vested big business and superpower interests.

Production will continue to serve the profitability of transnational corporations and consumption and rely increasingly on surplus value generated by virtual products.. Information technology and automation will lower the demand for cheap unskilled labour in low-wage economies with a relative increase in the demand for skilled staff. Fewer bucks are spent on factory floor workers, and more on design, advertising, marketing, financial services etc. These jobs are inevitably assigned mainly to people educated and living in high-wage consumerist regions.

The growth rate of aggregate consumption has already begun to wane and oil extraction will peak in 2005, leading to a decrease in global consumption. While this may seem good news to environmentalists, the bad news is the wealthiest 12th of the world's population (the middle classes in prosperous countries and a few enclaves dotted around the globe, around 500 million, but excluding the lower working classes and underclasses) may actually consume more, while poverty spreads elsewhere slowing demographic growth. The wealthy benefit from new cleaner technologies and acquire surplus produce that the rest of world can no longer afford, while the poor lack the means to adapt, but cannot return to their forebears' way of life.

Essential Links

Jay Hansson's Die-off
site with extensive analysis of the coming oil crisis. This is probably one of the most radical environmentalist, anti-government and anti-corporatist sites with an emphasis on survivalism in the post-oil world.
Author: 
Neil Gardner
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