Journalism is, more than anything, opinion – something that needs not be entirely true, simply to stir the emotional responses of the reader to further push an agenda. As such, less than a week ago, Donna Laframboise produced an article, David Suzuki’s five kids, to paint the man and his life’s work as being riddled with hypocrisy to further undermine well founded environmental concern. Much of her work is of this red herring nature, which I’ve commented on many times previously (see the link below).
Firstly, her major argument focuses on his criticism of population growth, whilst fathering five children. I agree somewhat that large families should be discourage against, however, I also share the nightmare image portrayed in the appalling movie, Idiocracy. Until proper policies are created to limit population, it is not useful for a small few to take such measures personally. No, anyone clever enough to see that “endless growth” is fundamentally incompatible on a non-growing world should instead be making noise about changing our practices to others that are more sustainable.
On another note, I know that at least one of his children, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, has been an excellent environmental ambassador, who has done far more for ecology than the anti-science propaganda found on Donnas blog, so I am personally happy that he has had numerous children.
The other point Donna makes is clearly a smoke and mirror act. Here, she quotes David quoting Lester Brown;
Rapid population growth is beginning to overwhelm local life support systems [in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America], leading to ecological deterioration and declining living standards. Population growth and falling incomes are reinforcing each other. [Bold added by Donna Laframboise’s]
Note first that she slips “ecological deterioration” by with disregard here. She goes on from this point to talk about just how much the standard of living has increased in Asia based with up-to-date reporting.
Let me first use a smaller scale example;
A family has a plot of land, with a small lake, understory that supports grains and insects that in turn supports 10 chickens , a vegetable patch and a number of fruiting trees which provide a canopy. The mother gives birth to triplets, which, with the other children and the parents now means seven mouths to feed.
The bloke next door is building a new shed and would pay well for the wood from the family’s plot. So the father cuts down the trees, sells the wood the the neighbour and breathes a sigh of relief.
The money from the wood runs low within six months. The father had planned to plant seeds from the fruit so that in a few years he would again have some fruit, yet, for reasons unknown he continued to procrastinate in doing so (even though common sense was screaming at him). However, it would’ve been an expensive, if not useless effort anyway.
Without the tree cover, the understory was exposed to too much light and heat. The insects moved on and the plants dried up and without the ground cover, the top soil blew away – enough of the organic material settled into the lake, leading it to stagnation.
If you don’t think this kind of scenario occurs, read this interest article that I stumbled upon (it’s written by none-other than Lester Brown, who Donna disregards as a “perpetual pessimist”, yet it’s more accurate than anything she’s ever written on the environment). The process is called desertification and although the story is not entirely the same across scales, the basics are transferable enough.
What Donna offers in response to David is equivalent to the father’s sigh of relief. It’s not the whole story and that she openly ignored “ecological deterioration” seems to me to be an obvious sign that she is well aware of this.
Earlier this year, Giam et al., published a study where they looked a wide range of threats to existing biodiversity at the country-level. They not only included direct human and environmental treats, such as landscape use change and climate change, but also political treats, such as governance and poverty.
Long story short, they produced the following diagrams.
So, regardless of recent improvements to the standard of living in developing nations, in both cases, there is are still major threats to biodiversity and fresh water resources in the coming decades to much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as many other places.
Donna simply waves a pretty penny in the face of her readership and hopes that they don’t notice the growing dust storm over her shoulder. I’d even go as far as to suggest that she is aware of the illusionary act that she’s carrying out.
No-one is perfect, that much is clear. What is also clear is that we are degrading the environment and having an impact on climate. David fathering five children doesn’t change this fact. The improved standard of living in developing nations doesn’t alter the fact that this wealth comes from unsustainable reaping of environments. Taking Donnas opinion over the evidence is simply insanity – she is certainly content with the irrational pressures that we inflict on a degrading world and would prefer the rest of us to sit idle and watch her magic act.
For more on Donna Laframboise, see Donna Laframboise and Cloud screaming