In an interview the former vice president argued that one way to reduce the carbon emissions that he claims are causing climate change is “to stabilize the population, and one of the principle ways of doing that is to empower and educate girls and women.” Specifically, “You have to have ubiquitous availability of fertility management so women can choose how many children have, the spacing of the children.” Gore states that, “You have to lift child survival rates so that parents feel comfortable having small families.”
What size families individuals choose to have is a very personal and private matter. In pursuit of their own happiness, individuals must balance their various goals in life concerning careers, family, and the like.
But Gore has a different balance in mind. He endorses smaller families so that “the population [can begin] … to stabilize and societies begin to make better choices and more balanced choices” with the goal of reducing carbon emissions. Note “societies” making decisions, not individuals.
Gore’s point here is not just that education, family planning options, and lower infant morality are good things. It’s that individuals should take account of the impact of the children they might choose to have on the environment because children and humans in general are a burden on the planet.
Here is the stark essence of how Gore and his co-religionists view the world. The environment is not material to be used to support human life and comfort, to be utilized by us for our food, shelter, and all the great human enterprises and achievements. The environment has some kind of intrinsic value apart from its value to humans.
If one accepts that premise, then one is always asking, “How can I reduce my impact on the Earth? How can I reduce my carbon footprint?” Returning to a more primitive existence might seem one way. But only a small fraction of the global population of nearly seven billion and rising can be supported if we all were to cut back on the technology and advances that now support our lives. See the assumption here? Humans are the problem. The obvious solution: Have fewer humans!
And sure enough, there are environmentalists who promote the idea of having no children because children are pollution. There is former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s environmental adviser Jonathon Porritt, who advocates cutting his country’s population in half, by 30 million . And there is a human extinction movement .
Some individuals might think that Gore and company only mean to say that for the sake of humans, for the sake of our survival, for the sake of our children, we must conserve limited natural resources. The planet will certainly run out of a few non-renewable resources—fossil fuels, for example—in the distant future.
But something is a “resource,” that is, of value to humans, because we use our minds to discover how to utilize it. A hundred and fifty years ago, oil was simply a nuisance to farmers when it seeped out of the ground and spoiled their crops. It was our minds that figured out how to use it for fuel. And there is no limit to the capacity of the human mind to discover how to utilize the environment for our benefit, assuming that the survival and happiness of individual humans on this Earth is one’s goal.
Let’s thank Al Gore for clarifying the nature of a crucial struggle in the world today. There are those who value the environment separate from its value to humans and thus in conflict with the life of humans. And there are those who value their own lives, families, friends, and everything they gain from this world. If you choose the latter, don’t miss opportunities to call to task those who advocate the former, to point out the implications for their anti-human philosophy, and to reject that philosophy wherever it rears its ugly head.