Overcoming the Overpopulation Problem: A Sketch for Discussion

Preliminaries

I

Anarchist dogmatism. The contemporary anarchist line on overpopulation is a perfect example of how you shouldn’t think. They reject even dabbling in what might smell like fascism, what might smell like totalitarianism, what might seem dangerous or threatening to their pre-established ideals. It is what I faced, for example, when I spoke constantly of the need for a scientific naturalist account of radical environmentalist philosophy: I was dismissed as starting down the wrong path. This kind of dogmatism is precisely the opposite of what we ought to do as strong nihilists. We do not start with our conclusions and then try to reason around them. We accept that our conclusions flow; that, even, there are no conclusions! We trust ourselves, not our principles, which must come from ourselves or else they are not ours. Readers, my true readers — entertain your dangerous thoughts. Trust your own convictions, even when they are spat on.

II

Questions. There is an undeniable link between human population growth and biodiversity loss. Birth rates in non-industrial nations also definitively exceed birth rates in industrial nations. This seems to suggest that technology is not the problem, but the solution. How does consumption and production in industrial nations compare to overpopulation in non-industrial nations, in terms of biodiversity loss? How does our understanding change when we shift our focus from birth rates to mortality rates?

What is our measure of overpopulation?

Increased immigration is linked to wildlands degradation, but borders, like any population management technique, betray the ethic of wildness. How might we resolve this tension between our demand for land and our demand for freedom, which I linked so forcefully in Repent to the Primitive and “Taking Rewilding Seriously“?

The overpopulation problem has inspired many nasty ideas, mostly because they are all taken from a humanist moral standpoint. How does our understanding of the problem change when we root our values and decision-making in our own lives, rather than the “greater good”?

My thinking so far has taken on a sort of “evolutionary,” “autonomous determinism” quality in regards to technological development (Repent, pp. 38-49; “Technical Autonomy“), medical “progress” (“Toward a Critique of Industrial Medicine“), etc. Given that reproduction is about the most natural human instinct, I suspect a similar way of thinking can be applied to population growth. E.g., population rates will increase or decrease autonomously of human control schemes. What would this way of looking at the problem look like and reveal?

Political dispositions, though not necessarily political views, are to a large degree inherited and strongly affected by upbringing. Wouldn’t this suggest that populous movements thrive, while anti-natalist movements are self-defeating?

Where does contraception fit in?

III

Some have argued that focusing on the technology problem is a more fruitful path for radical ecology, since focus on overpopulation tends to breed fascist solutions, and it would begin to be resolved by the collapse of industry. I reject both criticisms because (i) the same who say that a focus on the population problem inevitably leads to fascism are the ones who said a focus on science would, too, and they turned out to be wrong; (ii) being frank and honest about population will bring into our fold those who are very concerned with the problem and as of yet have only questionable approaches to reference; (iii) a cavalier dismissal of the death a sudden collapse would cause is not a good response to our political problems — it is unconvincing, appalling, and lazy. Population is an issue, and we should put in the work to address it.

Reading Materials

For more writings on the overpopulation issue, see the cited sources in the texts above.

6 Comments

  • Billy Scheibner says:

    2 points:

    1st point:

    Certain natural desires, if unrestrained, lead to unnatural desires.
    For example, the natural desire for sex, if unrestrained, will lead to a rate of population growth which is unsustainable on a primitivist basis.
    This in turn will lead to the unnatural desire to support this rate of population growth via non-primitivist methods (i.e. increasingly advanced technologies).
    Therefore, a totally wild will is not possible (or at least not sustainable).
    So, in situations like “2.”, every primitivist must inevitably choose between:
    a)Repressing one’s natural desires
    b)Indulging one’s unnatural ones, or
    c)Being deliberately unsustainable.
    In the overpopulation case, I think “a)” is best for those who can do it (i.e. being abstinent), and “b)” is better for everyone else (i.e. using some form of birth control).

    2nd point:

    Do you know where I can find a copy of Kaczynski’s 1979 autobiography? (I found a reference to it in the “Truth vs. Lies” link on the Wild Will site (pt. 1; pg. 20 of 291).)

    (Sorry for asking for this here. The “Contact you” link isn’t working.)

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