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Polyanna: Ignore the Elephant About to Crush You

I was hoping to get the refrigerator magnets out when I saw the headline:

The Eco Guide to Population Growth

That’s an audacious title. “Eco Guide” connotes some authority. My hopes were dashed, however. There is no authority here.

The Guardian’s Lucy Siegle apparently writes about ethical and green living. That doesn’t necessarily make her an expert, however. That is evidenced by this recent piece in the UK Guardian.

My goals in spotlighting pro-growth bias and misinformation about population growth and economic growth are to

1) take away the power of pro-growth propaganda
2) improve the sustainability literacy of the general public, and
3) nudge journalists to stop perpetuating pro-growth mythology and cover these subjects more accurately

It’s probably counter-productive to be too harsh in my criticism of journalists. Pissing them off probably is not that motivational. However, some transgressions are so egregious I just have to give someone a verbal lashing. This is one of those cases. Sorry, Lucy. I’m sure you have the best of intentions, and often do good work.

Strike One:
“The regularity with which I’m contacted by population worriers – people who think it’s pointless discussing green energy, climate change and ethical pensions when the elephant in the room is actually the new human in the room – is impressive.”

Siegle’s condescending use of “worriers” is dismissive, and quickly telegraphs that this piece is going to be a lecture to stop worrying about the population bomb. You and I know that overpopulation is, indeed, the elephant in the room. But Siegle apparently wants to keep that elephant unnoticed and not discussed.

Strike Two:
Siegle takes a shot at sustainable population advocates, implying they “think it’s pointless discussing green energy, climate change and ethical pensions….” It would have been more accurate, and more fair, to add, “if we’re not also doing something to reverse population growth.” Cheap shot.

Strike Three:
“I prefer to be Pollyanna-ish about it: rather than fearing more people, let’s believe that the new ones will make a difference, fix the energy gap, work out how to develop sustainable protein sources and so on.”

Lucy, how’s that working out so far?

Siegle tells us poverty and over-consumption are the real elephants in the room. It’s no secret I have little patience for do-gooders who insist that achieving a sustainable human civilization is a multiple-choice question that doesn’t include that important “all of the above” answer as one of the choices. For Siegle, poverty and over-consumption trump overpopulation as our most critical crises. And she irrationally pins her hopes on innovation, which has so far done much more to drive our civilization off a cliff than it’s done to ensure good lives for future generations.

Truth is, when I saw this subhead I knew this piece was going to miss the mark:

“Every hour 10,000 people are born. Fortunately a new crop of eco innovations will help tackle the pressures on our planet.”

Really? The growth of our population and global economy are outpacing the benefits of “eco innovations” by a mile. This should be quite clear to any serious environmental journalist. Really.

Disappointing. We need better. We need more comprehensive thought and enlightened writing from anyone giving us a “guide.” I am Polyanna-ish, too, Lucy. I am hopeful I’ll soon be putting your work on the Wall of Fame here at Growth Bias Busted, rather than on the Wall of Shame. I hope you’ll think about it, even if today I’ve ticked you off.

BUCKETWHEEL EXCAVATOR PHOTO CREDIT (we added a little stock photography in front): “© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)”

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

Comments (2)

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