After decades of warnings from scientists about man made climate change, and the resulting gross misunderstandings, wilful misrepresentation, lazy logic and downright ignorance in the public domain today, how can over-emotional and selfish creatures such as humans ever use the word ‘environment’ and do it justice?
Did you see what I did there? Yes, like all good environmentalist positions, this is going to be an anti-human rant. Imagine Descartes noticing that his pet dog seemed completely happy in its own skin, concluding that it was the questioning of one’s existence that set man apart from beast, and that this internal cross-examination, throughout the generations, was a pathway to some kind of utopian enlightenment for humanity. Unfortunately, he projected that assumption onto every extant soul in the cosmos, probably not expecting to be let down so badly. At least I think he did, I’m a stupid human making lazy assumptions, so I’ll check when I feel like it, alright? But, yes, two world wars should have put paid to the idea that humanity was on a sensible progressive journey to a better place. And taking the author concerned here at face value, humanity is indeed a selfish monstrosity behaving as much like a dumb animal as the dog cocking its leg up the lamppost on its territorial beat, or a virus following its code, no matter how cleverly we clothe our positions in lofty narratives. Listening to anyone with any kind of addiction – cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, shopping – justifying their consumption, should tell you all you need to know. Perhaps Maslow had the code of humanity sussed – every sated need creates a new desire, and so on. As a whole, we are never happy, and always want more. Striving is what we are about.
At the time of writing there is a movement called Extinction Rebellion that I don’t know much about, but it is taking steps to stop us in our tracks through direct action. It’s therefore not going to be universally well received. It also embraces a particular zeitgeist or soupe du jour – young people are blaming old people for all of this climate shit, yes, and as humans are notoriously really, really bad at understanding the true value of things, until it is all taken away that is, they perhaps don’t link the massive rise in living standards, which Linkola describes further down the page as ‘exceeding all reasonable limits decades ago’, that was foisted upon them by a generation of parents who spent their youths shivering in comparatively substandard housing ( nursing boils, styes and chilblains ), yes, their own lifestyle, nay, their own mere existence, may just be part of the problem, to which the time honoured human response could be ‘…..well anyway, I didn’t ask to be born!’.
And what do these doom-cultists get out of all this anyway, on a emotional level? Just the thrill of being the bearer of bad news, or detaching oneself from the implications to enjoy a bit of misplaced schadenfreude? Even the founder of Greenpeace got sick of the idiots his party attracted.
And there is the other side of the coin, roughly described as patriarchic, fighting back for the right to carry on the expansion of the human race, and still carrying the flag for endless economic growth, smugly giving the ‘effeminate types’ a good metaphorical smack around the face. You know the sort – spending hours online ‘researching’ the ‘truth’ about the ‘climate hoax’.
Who is right? Let’s not even entertain position two. The first group may contain slightly annoying hippies, revelling in the cause and perhaps the martyrdom, but, alas, the facts are on their side, even if they don’t all know it – the earth is beginning to react, and things are going to change, perhaps more quickly than we can prepare for. And as western societies seem to be being groomed for a coming collapse through hiding-in-plain-sight psywar, disinformation and gas-lighting, you have to wonder whether those pushing climate change denial are sitting on a master plan to reorder society for the better, perhaps with AI in charge and military robots keeping us in check until we crack fusion, or merely waiting to jump into a spaceship and fly off into space, flicking their middle fingers at the rest of us out of the window?
But, back to 1992, when all of this bad news was just a bit exciting, you know – a challenge, a bit like going camping, or an excuse to go shopping for a bit of ‘prepping’. Extremists attract a lot criticism, but I have conceded that in order to cut through the confusion, sometimes you need someone to be a bit brutal – even if that person finds his own words distasteful, or he might say, ‘Better to be devil’s advocate, after all’. Introducing then, Pentti Linkola; fisherman, deep-ecologist, eco-fascist, and all round miserable old bastard living in a hut in the north of Finland, eating off the same plastic plate he bought in the 90s, and eschewing all comfort. Here, we have his 1992 lecture to a group of presumably nonplussed attendees at Laaketieteen Päivät, a major medical conference in Finland.
I would suggest one thought before reading Linkola. and that is to always bear in mind that despite the anti-humanism present, the guy concedes himself that he is a hypocrite and a failure ( explained well in this excellent interview here ), and as such the polemic in Survival Theory is just as much aimed at himself as it is at you – yes you, you angry emotional snowflake!
Only a few of Linkola’s writings have been translated into English and this piece originally appeared in a publication called Tyr!, translated by Ike Vil, who amongst the editor I am trying to contact, so this maybe be taken down if they are not happy with it appearing online. I have scanned and tediously rearranged the resulting randomness from the pages of the book, and it should be just as published with the exception of my anglicised spelling. Thanks for reading this far. Enjoy your life as a flawed human, and be kind!
SURVIVAL THEORY – Pentti linkola, 1992
A Refresher Course in the State of the World
An eco-catastrophe is taking place on Earth. Local eco-catastrophes are everywhere. Increasingly, large green and dynamic areas are being covered with concrete, crushed under buildings and roads. Vast spaces turn to desert or are poisoned, unproductive, and unfit for life. The topsoil of the great granaries of the world is flushed into the sea by wind and water erosion. There is an “everything must-go sale” on finite natural resources, while renewable resources such as forests are rapidly diminishing. The gas balance in the atmosphere has been thrown off and oceans are becoming laden with oil, their food chains impoverished. The rapid warming of the climate poses insurmountable problems for natural as well as cultured vegetation. Trash and pollution are skyrocketing.
The above is a quick refresher course for us, a synopsis of everyday information. More or less unknown to the greater majority of mankind, these environmental mega trends and their incalculable connotations should be all the more familiar to the so called enlightened nations of the cooler part of the Norther Hemisphere. These phenomena and their causal relationships are accepted as scientific fact; it is just specific calculations and time-tables which vary in their uncertainty. I am ignoring all belief-based ideologies here, including the thoughts of private thinkers who even with sensible-sounding arguments deny the crisis affecting the circle of life. After all, until the world ends there will be people who insist that the sun rises from the west and sets in the east, that the female begets and that the male gives birth.
The amount and availability of information concerning the issue really isn’t a problem here, nor even the basic understanding of it. How it is understood is what’s interesting. How deeply does it hit home? What kind of connection is the informed person capable of making between the state of the world, his own community, and his personal life? Ultimately, the essential question is whether the realisation of the crisis of all life affects the individual’s practical choices as a decision-maker and a citizen.
This interim report really doesn’t offer much hope. In fact, there is no perceptible difference whatsoever between the behaviour of the conscious minority and the ignorant majority of the individuals and peoples of this world. All around the planet, man is still an irresponsible lout, the pest and bane of life. Among the conscious minority there just happens to be more idle talk and paper shuffling.
There is activity like the work of the UN-appointed Brundtland commission and its recommendations. As we recall, the minimum requirement set by this commission – after all the compromises was the reduction of energy consumption by half in all industrialised countries over the course of a few decades. Are we to believe then, that in Finland we are well on our way to cutting back on construction, the industrial manufacture of goods, traffic, road network maintenance and expansion, lighting and domestic machinery? Are half of the power plants ready to be shut down?
In reality, the Finnish producers and consumers – the student and the pensioner, the farmer, metal worker, and doctor – are all similarly fighting tooth and nail for a material standard of living that exceeded all reasonable limits decades ago. They are still demanding increases in their annual purchasing power. And on and on they whine, ’till the end of the world! The current economic recession is seen as a shocking setback by these people, something that must be battled with religious fervour. As conscious people, they should actually pray for the depression to deepen tenfold. This medical conference itself is characterised by unnecessary excess, with tons of white chlorine-bleached paper, first-class conference rooms, fancy flights, and five-star hotel accommodations.
Preventing the Population Explosion – Or Rejecting the Notion?
Let’s get back to the issue. Sorry – the bitter ecologist just got a bit carried away again. I was supposed to talk about the issues of over population, value philosophy, and medical ethics. We’ll get to them, too. To repeat one more time: the primary reason – perfectly sufficient in itself for the impending doom is the swollen number of human beings on this planet. The worst enemy of life is too much life, too much human life. The secondary cause for the acceleration at the catastrophe is the per capita strain these masses put on nature. Today I am primarily concerned about the first reason.
Experience has shown that the extreme seriousness of a population explosion is very quickly blurred even among the conscious minority. Logical thought fades and the mind begins to seek distractions when faced with the conflict between optimism and one’s sense of reality. Optimism, the most unfortunate human characteristic, successfully obscures the gravity of the overpopulation problem, fires temporally into a distant future, then spatially, to distant lands, far away from home.
For as long as I have actively followed demographic trends, say forty-five years, global population growth has been seen as a serious problem. Through all these years, the population at any given time has been considered the maximum limit of what the planet can support and any future expansion has been deemed unbearable. The theory is always identical. But what does the voice of reality say? Already, millennia ago, irreparable damage had been done on a small scale. The green productivity of the Earth was replaced with deserts or semi-deserts. Where the population density got too high – the circle of life shrank. The frequency of animal and organism extinction represents one of the most shocking and irreplaceable losses. It exceeded any natural pace centuries ago, even before escalating into the all-out annihilation of the past few decades.
Essentially the serious disruption of the natural systems of the air, sea, and soil seems to have begun during the two to three billion population mark, during a time of markedly lower standards of living, that is, a strain on nature. It has therefore been stated that the sole reason why we still exist on this planet is because the Earth’s mass chemistry is slow to react – just as it will later be slow to recover or stabilise. The notion that the planet could support the current global population of five billion without a dramatic drop in the burden each individual human being places upon the Earth’s resources, that is to say, without completely abandoning the current Western culture and way of life is simply insane. It is the blind faith of a child or an animal.
Just like all pollution is always said to originate from neighbouring countries, overpopulation is also seen as someone else’s problem. There are, however, two exceptions: China and India. They dare to admit that they have excess demographic density. These are the exceptions that prove the rule, being two ancient civilisations, culturally superior to the surrounding barbarians.
The Reality of Population Explosion
Just recently, the head of the National Statistics Bureau came to talk to me. He wanted to know how a person is supposed to bear the knowledge the ultimate, internalised knowledge of the world’s downfall. In an effort to maintain his mental balance, he had tried to avoid facing the final conclusions. But now on the verge of retirement, and without work and meetings to distract him, he realised he would soon have too much time on his hands to think. Amid the surrounding din of the festive reception, we had a very private and serious discussion about the nature of depression, the treatments available, and the possibility of self-treatment. We agreed that the symptoms of destruction – the topics discussed here-are really not the domain of subjective opinions and world views, but of cold statistics, facts, and arithmetic.
So what does reality tell us about how the population explosion will be divided geographically? For the next few decades – in other words, the time humanity might have left – it will be centred on the industrialised countries of Europe, Japan, and the United States, where a high overall demographic density is combined with an enormous individual strain on natural resources. Measured according to the best indicator, consumption of energy per capita, the average citizen of these countries already uses twenty-five times more energy than in most parts of the non-industrialised world. Not all important indicators are as uneven, however – for example the consumption of food or the usage of forests.
With a more rapidly growing population, the relative danger posed by the non-industrialised countries is of course bound to escalate. But if the difference in living standards remains, it will be far off in the future before these nations steal the lead in destroying natural systems. With these calculations one should always keep in mind that most of the natural resources of the non-industrialised countries are used by the industrialised North, which is also responsible for most of the environmental damage. This should always be remembered when discussing the world economy or the Third World.
However, it is seldom noted that the strain caused by the industrialised countries is exponential increased by immigrants arriving from poorer countries, who maintain the birthrate of their native culture, or thanks to better welfare – even exceed it. As Matti Kuusi once put it, there is no use counting the immigrants at the border – one should wait a while, and look in their nurseries.
Bridgehead of the Bullies
The industrial countries are by no means all identical. As a marginal example, Finland boasts top scores in all indicators regarding consumption and environmental strain. The five million inhabitants of our country represent the elite in excessive population and natural resource depletion: Finland is the northern bridgehead of man’s theft-based economy. Poor in natural resources, Finland’s food production is limited by harsh climatic conditions, and the growth of forests is extremely slow. Elsewhere on the planet, only small populations inhabit the northern side of the 60° parallel, even in regions with comparable or even better conditions as on both the eastern and western sides of our border. Supporting the population is possible only with an energy-based economy, oversized production costs, and a foreign trade requiring enormous amounts of energy, equipment, and the maintenance of trade routes. The recreational activities of the Finns are particularly wasteful and resource-depleting, even by European standards. During the aforementioned conversation with National Statistics Bureau manager Niitamo, he brought up a statistical figure which I wasn’t aware of that vividly illustrates the Finnish population explosion. According to calculations made by Mauri Nieminen, the total number of Finns throughout the ages is 16.5 million. This means that almost a third of all Finns who have ever existed are alive today. What kinds of images does this number evoke? I thought about graveyards myself, how the parishes moan about the costs of grave-keeping, dragging away gravestones not older than a few decades to be piled in dusty oblivion in a distant corner of the stone wall. And yet taking into account that the number also includes all Finnish-born emigrants buried elsewhere – each living Finn would have no more than two graves to tend, had we somehow managed to find out the names and burial sites of our ancestors since the Stone Age. Honouring our forefathers in this fashion would surely be no more peculiar than many of the odd rituals of our contemporary culture.
When I passed my university entrance examinations in 1950 – it still seems like yesterday-Finland’s population had reached the four million mark. A year ago, in January, we hit five million. At my request, Mauri Nieminen calculated the net migration during these forty years, adding 240,000 more Finns to that million. We’re not concerned about the reproduction rate of those emigrants here, but it apparently exceeds that of the population that stayed home, as immigrants tend to belong to the fertile age groups.
During these past forty years, the editorials of Finnish newspapers throughout the political spectrum have constantly expressed their concern about the stagnation in population growth. The false start has been breathtaking: until recent years, the net population growth has been between twelve thousand and twenty thousand and growing steadily, though, it must be said, the net reproduction rate has dropped under one child per fertile female since 1969, indicating a cessation of growth during the next decade. Based on these numbers, Nieminen sees himself burying the last Finn in 3072 – although whether or not mankind will reach the question is obviously an open question. In any case, we agree with Nieminen about one thing: the birthrate can easily be manipulated. If some lunatic government decided to multiply child-benefit payments, the birth rate would surely skyrocket. The glimmer of hope is thus quickly killed by the knowledge that during the last few years, there has been a sharp jump upward in the birthrate. We are apparently witnessing the same phenomenon that has increased – once again to the great amazement of demographers – the number of children in the welfare society of Sweden for the last twenty years.
Such news about increased natality belongs to the sorry batch of examples that demonstrate the hopeless mulishness of this animal called man. It’s not easy to try and talk sense to an audience that, even in the midst of an eco-catastrophe, only seems to be truly moved by frivolities. As I scan over newspaper photos depicting the landscape that once became so familiar on my bicycle treks – the desolately uniform, rat-infested, ramshackle villages on the northern plains of Yugoslavia, where run-over dog carcasses litter the streets – I couldn’t care less if it’s a Serb shooting a Croat now, or vice-versa. And what about Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania: Those thousand wars of independence in the history of man all following the same pattern: the heroes and oppressors, oppressors and heroes, taking turns! I only see but one war underneath the ripples on the surface: the one war that counts, the never-ending war that man wages against nature, against the foundation of his own existence.
The Value-Basis of Protecting Life
From a philosophical viewpoint, the idea of protecting life and the core message I’ve represented for years – really isn’t that ingenious or new. Basically, it is concerned with the survival of life, enabling the options to stay open. As such, it doesn’t say anything about the quality of life. Still, it is the most important of all messages and declarations in the world. Everything else is secondary and stands lower on the hierarchy of aims and goals. Even the most beautiful of mankind’s ambitions become meaningless if there is no life and no mankind. Saving life is justified, at any cost.
Still, one who protects life doesn’t derive his strength and confidence from reason and logic alone. For him, the basic principle is a sacred thing, above all ridicule, infinitely more holy than the holiest of truths or goals among the society of men – though one might, of course, ask what’s holy or serious at all in this age of despair worn as a cynical grin.
The diversity and richness of life is contingent on both a maximum number of species and of specimens – meaning that the greatest number of ecological niches are inhabited as fully as possible. The number of species is, however, definitely more important than the number of specimens. This is especially true when the two clash, for example when one species displaces or even destroys another. The latest calculations estimate that man annually causes the extinction of 525,000 different animals, plants, and fungi – or, one species per minute. From the viewpoint of a protector of life, this is something that man has no special right to do. Man sows unspeakable death, and so weighs down the scales with his horror, that even the greatest achievements of the human race become light as a feather in comparison
In any case, we don’t necessarily have to work out our relationship to nature or justify the rights of man or other life forms to life. In the end, eco-catastrophes are the death of man, too.
Although these catastrophes swallow up a huge number of animals, plants, and fungi before they destroy him, man will be crushed in the end. Man will consume himself along with everything else. Even the most narrow-minded humanist must logically agree with the conclusions of a protector of life
The Doctors’ Burden of Sin
A cliched statement places the blame of the approaching doom primarily on the engineer and the doctor, together responsible for the human deluge. But what does closer scrutiny reveal about the doctor’s work and its justification? It is very clearly ambivalent.
Keeping people physically and mentally as healthy as possible is surely a goal that is beyond reproach. And if mankind – the thief of life which treads down on other species – was itself sick, miserable, and plagued with suffering, there really would be no sense in protecting life, would there?
The most magnificent of all the achievements of the medical profession must be the extension of human life. In the current state of the world, it is clear that everything which even hints at development of progress is negative, acceleration destruction. In a world where the key to salvation lies in stopping, returning, and regressing, the value and meaning of old people is enormous. Man is so constituted that the scarce wisdom shown by a few slowly accumulates with age. One of the fateful insanities of this rampant hectic age is the trivialisation and marginalisation of the elderly. Illnesses causing dementia are found only in a small percentage of old people, and most of us are surely wiser at the age of ninety than we were at eighty-nine. A young person is always a greenhorn and a bungler, and it is not until old age – if ever – that the meaningless trivialities of life give way to both wisdom and a sense of responsibility. If all of the decision-makers throughout the world had been at least eighty years of age, much would have been won. The world would have been saved from many a dangerous delusion and much noxious foam. The pace of destruction would surely have been slower.
Much of the positive work of medicine has thus been diverted however, by the stance of doctors to population growth, birth rates, and infant mortality; the foetus and the child. I am now talking about the medical profession as a whole, as it is gathered here at this conference – as it should always be, sharing responsibility as a whole. Not just any old mules of society, doctors have always enjoyed extra prestige and influence due to their important position.
Had they wanted to, it would have been possible for the medical profession to keep the population issue largely under their control. With no internal self-control evident, the medical profession can be loosely divided into the “good” and the bad.” With his surgical equipment and heart and blood-pressure medication, one doctor prolongs the lives of wise old people. At the same time another doctor applies his skills towards senseless and destructive research, in order to rescue five-month-old foetuses at any cost, that is, regardless of the cost in natural resources. The cost of medical care, by the way, is something that touches the conscience of all doctors alike.
Surely, all the pills, diaphragms, and condoms deserve our exalted praise. Yet for some gynaecologists and paediatricians, the burden of sin is as black as it is heavy, and it should fall on each doctor as a collegial responsibility. The deep drop that has been achieved in infant mortality alone should be deeply distressing to a biologist. After each new wonder-medicine and improvement in public health care, an uncompromisingly thorough campaign of contraception should follow. Only by serving as the engineer of strict population policy and family planning could the medical profession earn its place as the true benefactor of mankind.
Western culture has brought mankind to a state that has been described in different ways. We’re living in the eleventh hour, at the edge of the abyss, on the verge of extinction, two minutes to midnight. One phrase may be more eloquent than another, yet all are unfortunately equally true. Most people pay no mind; they either keep up the kind of revelry they’re accustomed to, or, just to play it safe, try to grab as much as they possibly can, drowning themselves in material possessions while this is still possible. Even a part of the thinking, conscious minority gives up: “To hell with it, there is nothing we can do about it anymore.” It is a very logical appraisal of the situation and most likely a correct one, too.
Then we have the tinkering activists, people whose watch words are recycling, filters, unleaded fuel, solar panels and electric cars – their actions as hopeless as they are ineffectual. Just like in a leaking old boat, one hole is being patched while two others appear some where else. These people revert to almost complete idiocy when discussing the birthrate of the Third World. We’re told that we must raise the standard of living, and the level of education, and do something for the position of women, so that after five generations – when mankind is already extinct – we will have managed to cut the Third World birth rate in half and thanks to Western living standards increase the per capita strain on nature twentyfold.
These “environmentalists” seem to strive for the same goal as the protector of life, but fail to understand what is grasped even by those who give up: the very depth of the hole into which Western culture has fallen. ( The entire system, all its social structures and legislation, is oriented solely toward economic growth and world downfall, and it is all beyond repair. ) The most stubborn still think that they can fix this leaking boat and make it seaworthy by, say covering it in fibreglass. But the whole design of the boat was completely unsuitable in the first place; it was built so that it sinks when it hits the first small waves. Actually, it was already doomed before it ever left shore, overloaded with ballast as it was. If one seriously wants to sketch a blueprint for a world that could survive, one needs a clean canvas, a blank page. We would have to rewind almost all the way back to Adam and Eve.
Life-Protection and Humanism
I am most interested in humanist thinkers who have arrived at a biologically based theory of survival similar to my own. The most remarkable of Finnish thinkers, along with Matti Kuusi, must be Georg Henrik von Wright – a philosopher at home with cautious scholarly argumentation, yet seriously pondering the possibility of man’s extinction among his scenarios. Along with Kuusi, he is remarkable for risking his reputation with his opinions. It is, however, from a personal letter that I now cite, one that he wrote to me two years ago, thanking me for my book Jobdatus 1990 – luvunajatteluun (Introduction to the Thinking of the 1990s). In the book’s prologue, I used the following allegory, referred to by von Wright in his letter:
‘What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and only one lifeboat, with room for just ten people, has been launched? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it down with more people, inevitably sinking everyone. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands clinging to the gunwales.‘
I remind you that a personal letter might be the product of a passing thought, and not intended to be seen as a public opinion. In any case, the honest confusion of such lines should have a heuristic value. Von Wright writes:
‘As you might know, I value you greatly as a thinker. It seems that in this country you are one of the few persons who sees the truth most clearly and deeply. Drawing conclusions from this truth is another thing. I might chop off the extra hands myself. Not from love of life, however, but from fear, and the will to save my own life. Maybe it would be better if we all drowned together, a final proof of the inability of mankind to live on this planet‘
The letter shows how hard it is for a great humanist to let go of the overemphasis on the value of human life. Between those lines I think I read the same fears that often come up when discussing overpopulation, fears that could be called those of breaking loose, and of disgrace. It is feared that once begun, the act of reducing the world’s population will spiral out of control, get out of hand, and that the value of human life will be permanently lost. It is also thought that mankind will forever lose its sense of self worth by sullying its ethical values, and will be unable to restore any norms and conventions after such an action. This fear endures, despite the methodological finesse with which the action could be carried out.
Being even more dispassionate and discreet than the German gas chambers of WWII, modern tactical nuclear, bacteriological, or chemical strikes could be simultaneously launched on the great population centres of the world by an international organisation (like the UN), or some smaller group that possesses hi-tech equipment and a responsibility to the world.
In the light of history, I see those fears as a clear misunderstanding. After wars and deliberate annihilations are over, societies have always returned to business as usual after a short, transitional period. Neither the massive decimations of Stalin or Hitler, nor the most nauseating torture tales of latter-day secret police – related to the world with every gory detail – have destroyed ethical norms. In fact, right on the street next to the offices of the secret police, people are writing poems and talking philosophy, and neighbours are helping a sick old person.
After all, we are now living in the age after gas chambers and various other atrocities. On a global scale, the main problem isn’t the inflation of human life, but its ever-increasing, mindless overvaluation. Clinging to the idea that foetuses, the unborn, and the brain dead have human rights is already like a collective form of insanity. One must also get the strange history of the death penalty. When there were only five million people on the planet, the death penalty scene like a local self-evident punishment for the terminally twisted deviants of society. Now, with a global population of over five billion, an increasing number of societies have decided to abandon the execution of even the most satanic arch-villains – with Amnesty International screaming “Murder at the last few nonconformists. Equally mindlessly, huge rescue organisations are deployed so that even the most insane fisherman might have a helicopter circling overhead when he decides to venture into a ten-beaufort storm in a rowboat, ready to save this unique and priceless human being from the waves. The mind boggles.
Legalizing euthanasia, reinstating the death penalty, and reducing overzealous rescue services are by no means enough to significantly impact the population growth statistics. It is their principal, symbolic value that is important. As long as they continue to mirror the twisted mores and practices of the mindless glorification of human life, we have no means to solve the population explosion – and ail the lifeboats will sink.
Unless Man Grows Humble
The number of thinkers who have been able to question the basic philosophical foundation on which our culture lies is actually surprisingly small. Holding values such as “human rights”, “allegiance to one’s own species”, “individual freedom” and “democracy” to be unassailable, most people will go only halfway in their attempt to understand the situation. They refuse to see that the world is crumbling not in spite of these ideals, but because of them. The old truth that thinking is to a great extent bound to one’s values and is seldom really free holds frighteningly true here. After all, it’s only logical that it is precisely the core values that should be examined when a culture is seen approaching its doom.
In this fundamental sense, I find myself to be an anomaly among there. I have no problem in returning man to his place balanced hierarchy of life. I wonder if the difference arises from my basic conception of man? For me, mankind is a marvellous species, fighting tooth and nail for survival – but his greatness is manifested only in fleeting glimpses, and only in a small number of individuals. On the other hand, I have more than sufficient evidence of mankind’s collective capacity for enormous destruction. He created the machinery of annihilation that is Western civilisation and he let its plague wash over the world.
I find it completely incomprehensible how an intelligent individual can still believe in man, in the majority, and keep banging his head against the wall despite all the clear evidence. How is it possible, given no less than the current state of the world that man is unable to agree that his continuing existence is possible only through the discipline, prohibition, and oppression of another, far-seeing man, one who limits the first one’s freedom – because nature is no longer capable of doing so to fulfil his disastrous impulses and to commit suicide? How can he justify democracy?
Is it so hard to understand that unless man, unless all of Western culture, grows humble and takes a deep, deep bow of submission, it will gnaw the world down to the bone, no matter how many chemicals and sources of energy are replaced by others. How is he so blind that he fails to see that if we cling to the idea of man’s superiority over nature, and maintain the current valuation of human life, then all that we have ahead of us is the straight, black road to extinction? How can anybody be so mad as to try and maintain the same morals and the same valuation of human life regardless of the number of people on the planet? I find it self-evident that with the birth of each new child, the value of every other human being is slightly diminished. I find it self evident that the morals we espouse during a population explosion should be wholly different from those of our beginnings, when man was an elite species far fewer in numbers.
A Protector of Life Is Forced to Compromise
The harsh reality is that neither the minds of Western decision makers nor the great majority of people are even remotely concerned about these issues, not about reducing the existing population, not even about restricting its rights. What little discussion occurs lags light-years behind, and revolves around controlling the birth rate.
In the furthest outposts of ignorance, people are still mired in discussing the rights of a newly fertilised ovum or a foetus. I am at a loss for words here. I simply won’t retract all the way back to the last defensive trench – I’d rather surrender. Maybe, at gunpoint, I could be persuaded to discuss restrictions on childbearing. “If I can’t get a life-jacket, then maybe a life-vest, and if not a vest, then maybe at least a cap.” Clutching at the last straws, the protector of life lessens his demands for avoiding extinction and examines the possibilities of delaying it. I guess I must agree that there is some kind of value in the temporary continuation of life. Everything is contingent upon time, after all, although the predicted, inevitable death of our sun, the source of all life, in ten billion years is, in this context, nothing short of eternity.
When it comes to controlling the birthrate, the guidelines for protecting life should be clear and simple. In no part of the world should reproduction be a matter of family decision-making, left to parents and individuals. Of all the human actions, it is the one most clearly in need of regulation by the state (and, ultimately, by an international council). Giving birth should require permission.
National family, social, and educational policy might distribute the child quotas among families and mothers. It could be that even large families would have their place – anything as long as the principle of equality is forgotten, for it leads to nothing but misfortune. The average number must in any case be – universally and unambiguously, and at least for the coming decades – one child per fertile woman. If a population load that the planet can sustain is ever achieved, the population would then be stabilised by returning to a quota of approximately two children.
Other seemingly self-evident policies would include free and universally available contraceptives, and a universal right to free abortion. The fine-tuning of the system would decide whether the child quota would be controlled by forced abortions – which would still enable the conception of new children in case of the first one’s death – or forced sterilisation of either or both sexes. The better the control, the fewer living babies that would need to be eliminated After all, it’s not as if infanticide has been an uncommon human practice, even in recent centuries.
But I guess this is all just speculation. I would like to apologise to the listeners for the second time and confess that I forgot some thing else: man is neither capable of limiting the birthrate nor of getting rid of the surplus population – and eco-catastrophe won’t wait. Though gifted with technical genius, man is in all other respects a thickheaded animal, driftwood in the cruel and capricious stream of evolution. The few who see are trampled down by their fellow men. Do you understand that we are actually dying of extinction? We are really, definitely, dying of extinction, as one species in a series of millions.
Or are we? Do we still have one chance in a million: Are there still some hidden reserves of the farsighted few available? Will enough individuals stand up and prove that man really does have a free will? Individuals with both insight and a will to wager everything they’ve got, against the grey majority – for the survival of that grey majority? Individuals with a brave heart, controlled by crystalline logic?
(Translated by Ike Vil)
This article consists of an invited lecture entitled “Survival Theory and Medical Ethics’ delivered by the author on 7 January 1992 at Laaketieteen Päivät, a major medical conference in Finland
Editors’ Note: In the fifteen years since the author delivered the above lecture, the world’s population has increased by more than 1.6 billion human beings.