Offset David Attenborough

February 10, 2010

David thinks We should Offset our Co2-heavy lifestyles against the lives of unborn children in the Global South - We've got a better idea !

We all want David Attenborough to continue to make all those lovely Natural History Programmes on the Beeb, Right? But we are all getting worried about the CO2 that David and his team are creating by flying round the world, making those programmes. Well, we have a solution ! To allow Sir David to continue his good work, we have created an offset scheme, specifically designed to deal with this problem. With normal Offset schemes, well-off westerners pay in a amount of money, proportionate to the amount of carbon they want offsetting  against some dubious scheme or other, which purports to reduce Co2 either through mono-crop tree planantations, or untried green capitalist technology. Our scheme, however is different.

We have calculated that for each episode of his Natural History Programmes thousand of metric tonnes are emitted.  We think that David and the “Optimum Population Trust” of which he is Chair has come with a splendid idea called PopOffsets. They think we should mainly offset our high, Northern Hemisphere emitting lives against the (as they hope) unrealised lives of African and Asian babies. We think they have got it slightly wrong, and think we should, as viewers of his wonderful Television programmes all make an effort not to procreate at all. After all, the the average emissions per capita in the UK is a hefty 9.1 metric tonnes, compared to say, Sudan, with an average of just 0.3 tonnes a year. So, for every 33 Sudanese born, we only have to stop one baby being born here! Of course, while the average person in the UK emits on average 9.1. tonnes, we suspect, that someone of David’s Class and Wealth – and of course extensive travelling  – emits far more – and we suspect the middle class viewer of his programmes emit more than average as well.

To quote:  “If the problem is consumption, then of course it’s the wealthiest people we need fewer of. I mean, Britain would do much better if it had 100 million subsistence farmers, say, than 50 million people who are doctors and lawyers and bankers and [T.V. presenters]. It could have much less of a carbon footprint if it imported subsistence farmers from the Sahel, and exported bankers and lawyers to Africa. But nobody is proposing that!”

Offsetting of anykind, is in fact a load of old bollocks (see Carbon Trade Watch for details  – especially the “Carbon Neutral Myth” report .) Co2 emissions do need to be reduced. We think that the best way of dealing  with this is too end capitalism, which is predicated on unsustainable growth.

To get back to the target of this blog, The Optimum Population Trust emphasis on firstly, reducing population in the poorer parts of the world, and secondly population levels  in general (they want the UK population reduced to 30 Million!) is totally wrong headed. Of course, they pay lip service to us (as opposed to “them”)reducing our levels of consumption, and ask people to pledge on the website to have no more than two children (well, I suppose that’s better than China at least!). They all so mention many things which are positive: Womens Rights, access to contraception…Of course both these things are good, but it’s equally clear that the best way of persuading people to have smaller families is to raise their standard of living, and reducing global inequality. Though, as it turns out high populations are not the problem at all.

Conclusion: (Taken From “Too Many of Whom” by No One Is Illegal”.)


“The great irony,” says Betsy Hartmann, “is that in most cases population growth comes down faster the less you focus on it as a policy priority, and the more you focus on women’s rights and basic human needs.”52 If even a fraction of the energy that’s been put into population-control rhetoric were to be spent examining the detailed record and achievements of the population-control movement, it would collapse like a house of cards; indeed, it has almost done that on a number of occasions already. It is a highly dangerous distraction from the world’s real problems, which are now becoming globally life-threatening. When a population “explodes” (or collapses) it indicates that the people’s lives have been made precarious. The British population explosion of the 18th-19th century happened among a traumatised people, made suddenly dependent on their, and their children’s wage-labour. This “development model” was subsequently inflicted on the rest of the world, and still hasn’t finished playing out. Population can, of course, also collapse if people are pushed hard enough.

To some extent, the decline is due to an insecure, high working-hours, high-cost existence: experienced both by slum-dwellers in Rio and by young professionals in London and Paris. But when people’s security is restored, normality is soon restored. In recent decades, it has become possible to observe the process almost in real time: in Costa Rica, population-growth had levelled off after the creation of a welfare state, but took off again after 1975, when its welfare state was scrapped53, as it also did in Sri Lanka (under pressure from the World Bank) after 1977, and for the same reason. In China (whose one-child policy was lauded by Western population-controllers) birth-rates were falling well before the policy was instituted. But then in the 1980s came the market reforms and sudden loss of security for millions. However, where equality prevails, humans and their environments thrive. Examples include present-day Cuba: the only country in the world that meets its UN Human Development targets within a sustainable ecological footprint and where health outcomes are better in most respects than in the USA, but without the USA’s massive environmental cost.54.

Of course, we think it would be very difficult to run capitalism without “volunteering” significant numbers (a majority, in fact) of humanity to untermensch status. But that is a problem for the capitalists to solve, not ours. If they can find a way of doing capitalism in which “we” really does mean “all of us” and “equality” means just that, we will welcome it with open arms: they will have achieved socialism. Till then we must resist all their attempts to distract attention from their foul-ups by pitting “us” against “them”.

The problems that the population-controllers blame on the poor are much more readily attributable to the rich. It is the rich, overwhelmingly, whose overconsumption drives environmental degradation and global warming. It is not just the impact of all those cars, houses and plane journeys, but also of the work that the world’s poor are increasingly obliged to do, supplying their needs and whims; and the natural resources that are required to satisfy those needs and whims; and the devastation that’s needed and the wars that have to be fought to secure those resources. And so on. So “it can be said with confidence that the world’s richest people cause emissions thousands of times that of the world’s poorest”55.

According to Danny Dorling:

“It is almost certainly an underestimate to claim that the richest tenth of the world’spopulation have a greater negative environmental impact than all the rest put together. […] And, of the richest 10th of the world’s population, the richest 10th consume more, even than the other half a billion or so affluent.56

1 percent of the world’s population is a very tiny, irresponsible minority. It would take very little oppression to resolve the problems they create, and of a very much milder nature thanthe sheer cruelty visited on poor people, in vain attempts to stop them migrating and having babies. The whole population-control bandwagon looks very much like a cheap and cowardly getout to avoid confronting that inconsiderate, but unfortunately rather powerful, few.

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