Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 8, 2020

The Planet of the Humans

Filed under: Counterpunch,Ecology,Film — louisproyect @ 1:47 pm


Ever since Mother Jones owner Adam Hochschild fired Michael Moore for refusing to publish Paul Berman’s attack on the Sandinistas in 1986, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for him. But when he got down on his knees on the Bill Maher Show in 2008 to beg Ralph Nader not to run for President, a lot of that affection disappeared. For the past dozen years, I had grown weary of his conventional Hollywood liberalism that smacked of Rob Reiner and all the other millionaires who always ended up pleading for a vote for the lesser evil.

You could have knocked me over with a feather after I discovered that Moore had executive produced a film titled “Planet of the Humans” that broke with the liberal establishment. Like poking a stick in a hornet’s nest, all the voices of establishment liberalism, from The Nation to Rolling Stone, swarmed around his head. The editors of the pink-tinted Jacobin must have suffered whiplash when news of the film broke. Only last November, Meagan Day’s adulatory piece titled “Michael Moore Was Right” appeared. Like Trotsky losing favor in the mid-20s, Michael Moore became an unperson after “Planet of the Humans”.

Jacobin unleashed their ecomodernist hitman Leigh Phillips, who penned a piece titled “Planet of the Anti-Humanists” that predictably condemned the film as “Malthusian.” He even raised the possibility that Moore and director Jeff Gibbs were “anti-civilization,” as if they were plotting to recreate the world of Alley Oop and The Flintstones.

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  1. Hi Louis. I enjoyed your article. You might want to correct one point. Stewart Brand did not found the Breakthrough Institute, nor was he on the founding board. He became active later.

    Comment by John Markoff — May 9, 2020 @ 5:24 am

  2. Exponential grow is of course impossible for an ever rising human population who wants to live a higher standard of living. Humans are living beings and like every other living being, they are programmed to grow as much as they can and as much more than their fellow member of the same specie as possible. The only difference is that humans can do that in a much faster way, thanks to their brain.
    So, since we will never be able to control our urge to grow, our only hope is that there be as little as possible of us.
    We are going in exactly the opposite direction due to the third world relentless procreative impulse so there is no hope.
    We’ll sooner or later hit the limit of our resources and a malthusian catastrophe will ensue.
    Billions of us will die and the survivors will start the cycle again, like lemmings.
    Our only hope then will rest in the higher intelligence of those survivors, a direct cause of the evolutionary bottleneck. Perhaps that will endow us with the ability to carry on evolving and competing between us without causing so great a devastation.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — May 10, 2020 @ 10:30 pm

  3. “third world relentless procreative impulse”

    “Energy consumption is highest among developed countries. In fact, Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population and yet consume as much as 25% of its energy. Because of America’s extravagant use of energy, the United States often gets singled out in discussions on global energy consumption. Some might say the U.S. needs to go on an ‘energy diet.'”

    Comment by Reza — May 11, 2020 @ 12:54 am

  4. Here’s another set of facts v. “third world relentless procreative impulse”:

    “It is well known that Americans consume far more natural resources and live much less sustainably than people from any other large country of the world. “A child born in the United States will create thirteen times as much ecological damage over the course of his or her lifetime than a child born in Brazil,” reports the Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford, adding that the average American will drain as many resources as 35 natives of India and consume 53 times more goods and services than someone from China.

    “Tilford cites a litany of sobering statistics showing just how profligate Americans have been in using and abusing natural resources. For example, between 1900 and 1989 U.S. population tripled while its use of raw materials grew by a factor of 17. “With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper,” he reports. “Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world.””

    Comment by Reza — May 11, 2020 @ 1:00 am

  5. Dear Reza, everyone knows how wasteful Americans are, even in respect to Europe. They are the epitome of unsustainable life style.
    However I want to point out the double standard of most of us when comparing resource consumption and procreation.
    Everybody condemns Americans for it but nobody dare to condemn an African woman who makes 7 children. Americans are despicable while African women are exercising their reproductive rights!
    I’ve been trying to find data about the devastation caused by countries on a per capita basis and the closest one is the CO2 emissions but I couldn’t find one that includes land usage. If you don’t consider land usage then you miss on much of the damage caused because third world countries don’t produce a lot of energy from conventional sources. Their emissions come from deforestation/agriculture.
    My point is that if a woman in Niger makes 7 children while a woman in Italy makes 1.3 then they both destroy the planet at the same rate even if the Italian woman have a lifestyle that destroy the planet 5.38 times more than the lifestyle of the woman in Niger.
    Besides is much easier to avoid overpopulation than it is to reduce consumption. People in the third world are eager to reach a higher standard of living and they care much less than developed countries about the environment.

    Comment by Riccardo Pusceddu — May 11, 2020 @ 12:06 pm

  6. Dear Riccardo,

    I do understand that, as a species, there may be too many humans for the *current* system to sustain. Having conceded that, let’s consider the following:

    1) The woman in Niger who brings 7 children into this world does so out of poverty. More kids means more people with potential (down the line) for working people bringing in some income into the household.

    2) Also, because of higher rates of infant mortality (due to a number of factors), that woman in Niger may lose some of those 7 children to untimely death.

    3) Also, it is not a question of ‘lifestyle’. It’s a question of the infrastructure the society has created in which everybody operates. I’ll give you a simple example. I lived in China for over a year, and in Vietnam for a year, during which I would also travel to Cambodia frequently. I never needed a car in any of those places. I would walk to places or use the public transport, would mostly walk to go shopping, etc. If I needed some bread, it would be a five-to-ten minute walk each way. Where I live in southern California now, by contrast, the very city planning forces me to drive a car to do *anything* I need done outside of my living quarters. I use way more energy for the most basic things (and am less healthy!).

    The very infrastructure in the developed world, and particularly in the U.S., simply forces people to consume way too much energy to get anything done, no matter what any person’s individual lifestyle may be.

    4) And then there’s the elephant in the room: imperialism. In my view, the political structures in the third world, dictated by imperialist powers and institutions (think IMF, The World Bank, trade structures, direct military interventions, etc.), maintain poverty and destitution at high levels in the third world, so we’re back to point number one.

    Comment by Reza — May 11, 2020 @ 5:08 pm

  7. btw it was in the 2004 presidential election cycle when Michael Moore begged Nader not to run for president. Moore also went on a national speaking tour viciously and personally attacking Nader for being ‘too egotistic’ to subordinate his political ambitions to the best interest of the nation which was to elect John Kerry president. I heard Moore speak to a large crowd at Utah Valley University; our antiwar coalition was there (initially outside) to defend Nader and point out that the U.S. war in Iraq was a bi-partisan operation.

    Comment by Dayne Goodwin — May 14, 2020 @ 3:47 am

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