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Elon Musk Is Completely Wrong About Overpopulation
The truth: Fewer people means fewer profits for corporate billionaires
The money-grifting meme-king is at it again.
Not content to just grab taxpayer money by the billions, evade taxes, shill pyramid schemes, and lose hundreds of billions in investor capital — Tesla is down $220 billion since we published this article, and still has another $700 billion to go — oligarch Elon Musk thinks he knows the biggest danger to civilization.
It also might be the dumbest thing he’s ever tweeted, and that’s saying a lot:
Obviously, this tweet is hyperbole in the extreme.
There are quite literally thousands of bigger dangers to civilization, including:
Corporations resetting the global economy to feudalism
Lack of freshwater
Droughts and famines causing mass starvation
Corporations continuing to cause crushing price inflation
Corporations using robots and automation to create a global jobs crisis
A killer superbug paired with rabid anti-vaxxers
You get the idea.
The greatest threat to civilization clearly isn’t having slightly fewer humans.
What’s truly astounding is that Elon Musk probably actually believes this little planet is underpopulated.
But the science and math are clear:
He couldn’t be more wrong.
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Having personally visited forty countries and taken an around-the-world journey, I’m here to report that planet Earth is outrageously tiny for the number of homo sapiens who now extract its diminishing resources.
Earth has just 36.79 billion acres of land… divided by ten billion people, it’s just 3.7 acres per person —under two soccer fields to supply all our oxygen, air filtration, soil, food, water, clothing, shoes, houses, furniture, mining, cars, trains, planes, offices, iPhones, and still leave room for the 1.74+ million other species with whom we share the planet and with whom we are deeply interconnected to ensure our mutual long-term survival. It’s not nearly enough to live naturally and sustainably.
Cue the technology worshipers: “But magical future technologies will save us!”
First of all, no they won’t, because all that tech will be corporate-owned and will require shareholder profits, which require an ever-expanding customer base.
Second, that magical future technology is already way too late. We are already way past sustainability. If we didn’t add another single human being to this planet and kept on our current trajectory, we will run out of natural food, fuel, clean air, clean water, and living soil.
Third, we have no idea about the longest-term impacts of these new technologies. For instance, there is a very good chance that Venture Capital Veganism will destroy the planet and human health. Here’s another example: Haber-Bosch. This is the technological process by which we affix nitrogen into the soil via fertilizer.
It’s also horrible for the planet.
Nicknamed “the detonator of the population explosion”, it allowed the human population to soar from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 8 billion today, while “leaching of nitrates into groundwater, rivers, ponds, and lakes; expanding dead zones in coastal ocean waters, resulting from recurrent eutrophication; atmospheric deposition of nitrates and ammonia affecting natural ecosystems; [and] higher emissions of nitrous oxide.”
Without Haber-Bosch, we’d only be able to sustainably feed a maximum of three billion people organically and naturally, to say nothing of how we’d organically and naturally heat, house, clothe, and power them all.
Do we really want to keep betting on risky technologies just so we can push the human population past 10,000,000,000 on this tiny planet?
But America’s population is falling!
This is another very bad argument that Elon Musk makes — that we need to continue to overpopulate a 3X over-populated planet because America only birthed 3,659,289 babies last year.
In other words, he distracts his herd of sheeple from realizing the rest of the world still exists.
It’s also important to note that Elon’s use of the phrase “population collapse” is a total misdirection.
Not a single prediction chart sees us dropping from ten billion to, say, one billion, in the coming century. A leveling out and a tiny deflation over many generations is not a collapse. That’s called fearmongering.
The overpopulationists are also cherry-picking data.
If you look at the actual UN predictions, they give a range of numbers: While falling fertility rates could ease us back to 7 billion, they also see a future in which we hit 16.5 billion within 79 years. (There’s nothing to say we won’t see population growth rates pick back up again if we continue to see continuing declines in wealth, health, democracy, freshwater, soil nutrition, women’s rights, and education.)
The UN’s best middling guess? 11 billion.
Either way, the idea that we should continue adding billions of people to our already-overtaxed planet because we might see declines in the future is, frankly, a preposterous notion.
If your house is on fire, do you add more wood before starting to put out the flames?
Any meaningful population declination isn’t going to happen in our lifetime. We’re on track to grow to at least ten billion, potentially even twelve by the century’s end, before we crest and trend slowly back toward sustainability. But we don’t have 100 years. Each generation’s job is to deal with the challenges in their time, and ours is a collapsing ecosystem caused by overpopulation.
We need to talk about robots
Hyper-capitalists like Elon Musk love to fear-monger about the tiny-but-not-happening-in-our-lifetime population deflation-toward-sustainability while they simultaneously automate away current human jobs.
In addition to autonomous (read: people-free) factories, Elon Musk is even investing in humanoid robots to replace workers.
Corporatists hate homo sapien workers, of course —humans usually want living wages, safe working conditions, and basic human rights like healthcare.
Corporatists, on the other hand, want fully-obedient slaves who will work 24/7 so they can maximize quarterly profits.
This financial tension is why corporated investment in automation is expected to destroy or disrupt up to two billion jobs in the next ten years alone.
In other words, Elon is simultaneously evangelizing…
Robots will do everything! (And therefore put everyone out of work.)
We don’t have enough people! (Who will all be suffering and starving anyway.)
So which is it?
Either he’s lying about fake underpopulation or he’s overselling (read: lying) about the pace of technological innovation.
The back story
Why did Elon broadcast such a dumb statement about overpopulation?
In other words, an unhinged billionaire is publicly congratulating himself for cheating on his wife and creating two more children who will grow up with extremely limited father-child time.
This is evil.
This is pure narcissism.
The truth about Elon Musk’s tweet
Elon Musk is gaslighting humanity into believing his distorted view of reality.
The real reason why Silicon Valley billionaire-types are worried about depopulation is that their insane nearly-rules-free-market corporate capitalism business model require aggressive exponential growth forever, and sees humans as customers in an ever-growing pyramid scheme.
The reality is that when automation and AI take over the way Elon says it will, we’ll be begging for a real population collapse, because otherwise, we’ll have billions upon billions of “economically unviable” people desperately fighting to survive.
Based on our current trajectory, does anyone believe the average person is going to be better off fifty years from now, in a 10+ billion person world where billionaires control the global economy, unemployment is rampant, no one owns a home, rent prices leave 3+ billion in slums, corporatists have privatized healthcare and education, and the working class has sunk back into serfdom?
As we add 2+ billion people to a planet that is already 5+ billion overpopulated, and continue to privatize, financialize, and automate everything for corporate profits, we will have a world with significantly more human suffering.
As Edward Abbey said:
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
Elon Musk says a collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilization faces.
A slowing birth rate is the greatest threat to corporate profits.
Sustainability is the greatest threat to Elon Musk’s colossal unearned wealth. He wants the earth to be miserably overpopulated as a forcing function to push the world to invest in becoming a multi-planet species.
His equation for personal abundance = natural resources + privatized technology + economic exploitation + increasing population + magical thinking (that humans can sustainably live in space within our lifetime.)
This is a recipe for civilization-scale suffering.
Luckily, biological facts and economic reality don’t care what Elon Musk tweets:
Superabundance for all = nature + democratized technology + democratized investment - economic exploitation - population.
But Elon doesn’t care about mere Earthlings.
His head is far too high in the clouds.
Jared A. Brock is an award-winning biographer, PBS documentarian, and the cell-free founder of the popular futurist blog Surviving Tomorrow, where he provides thoughtful people with contrarian perspectives on the corporatist anti-culture. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The Guardian, Smithsonian, and TIME Magazine, and he has traveled to more than forty countries including North Korea. Join 24,000+ people who follow him on Medium, Twitter, and Substack.
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