I agree with Ethan: bring on the recession!

The ‘quite well off’ Valerie Stevens of the Optimum Population Trust says spiked’s spoof columnist is right to pray for economic downturn.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

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Last week, spiked published an article by our spoof eco-lifestyle columnist, Ethan Greenhart, in which he argued that we need a recession in order to bring insane mankind to its senses. Shortly after publication, Valerie Stevens, chair of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), a green-leaning group which is concerned about population growth and which counts government adviser Jonathon Porritt amongst its patrons, wrote a letter to say: ‘I feel exactly the same…!’ Clearly, some population scaremongers have had a sense-of-humour bypass, and think that when someone calls for ‘mass eco-euthanasia’ to deal with the ‘savages’ of the consumer society, as Ethan did, he must be deadly serious.

Ethan said he had invented a ‘Recession Dance’ to try to bring about ‘a big, beautiful, stock-crashing, Wall St-burning, consumer-baiting, home-evicting, bank-busting recession’. He argued that rampant consumerism had turned sections of society – especially the nouveau riches – into ‘savages’, who spend all of their money on ‘garish décor and monstrous mod cons for their post-council houses or Barratt eyesores’. He said the human population must be reduced by five billion ASAP, preferably through the emergence of a ‘speedily contagious disease that might finally reduce the human population to sustainable levels’ or else through ‘mass eco-euthanasia’ and ‘the eventual glorious voluntary (perhaps semi-voluntary) evacuation of the planet by the plague that is mankind’.

Shocking stuff, right? Not for the OPT, it seems. Valerie Stevens wrote in her response: ‘What a marvellous piece of writing… I feel exactly the same as you!’

She continued: ‘[H]ave you noticed how the BBC in any bulletin about LESS – like fewer cars were sold last year, or leading stores were dismayed that they didn’t sell as much in the pre-Xmas rush as the year before – make it sound like a national tragedy? No one is invited on the programme to say why it’s a cause for celebration.’ Stevens expressed her concern about the way that sections of the media ‘are handwringing because the economy isn’t growing enough! “How can we effect a return of consumer-confidence?” In other words – get the buggers spending! And one is made to feel like a BAD citizen if one is not out there spending like mad.’ In agreement with Ethan, who also wrote disdainfully about the ‘buggers’ who go on spending sprees, referring to them as gene-driven ‘lunatics’ who are programmed to ‘buy, buy, buy’, Stevens said: ‘bring on the recession!’

It speaks volumes about today’s leading greens and eco-miserabilists that they think a ‘Recession Dance’ designed to bring about a painful economic shock to people’s everyday lives sounds like a perfectly normal thing – ‘keep on dancing’, said Stevens in her response to Ethan. Now, Stevens tells spiked exactly why she shares Ethan’s views about the coming recession and the reality check it will provide to humankind.

Ethan said: ‘A recession will not cure people of their innate, inbuilt human insanity – but it might help to restrain their shopping savagery and insatiable lust for stuff, and make them a bit more docile. Think of the opportunities for people like us if man-unkind finally, after 30 years of yuppie-dom and the emergence of mass travel – EVEN for Social Classes V and VI – becomes a bit more timid and fearful! At last there will be an opportunity for the ethical outlook to take hold!’

Valerie Stevens tells us: ‘If a car company sells slightly fewer cars, then the news programmes say it’s really bad news from the car industry – and I think, “But shouldn’t that be good news?!” [I]sn’t a reduction in those things that are polluting the planet and gobbling up resources a good thing? I think to myself: are all these people at the BBC and other broadcast media completely brainwashed about economic growth? Plus, an awful lot of economists perpetuate the idea that we have to be growing, otherwise we’re doomed. Of course, as an environmentalist, I would say that if we keep on growing we’re doomed. Population increase is a huge driver of economic growth – because people need more houses, more washing machines and more cars, and then they need more roads and more schools and the whole thing is jacked up all the time.’

Ethan said: ‘Human beings are actually programmed to destroy, to become poisonous bacteria in Gaia’s bloodstream; let us hope and pray (and dance) that a recession will be the antibody Gaia so desperately needs to deal with her human itch.’

Valerie Stevens tells us: ‘[Job losses] are a massive concern. But I think we have to find ways of cushioning that for people. But reality is going to hit some time… We’re going to have to do a lot more for ourselves. The slightly daft situation is that while I don’t go out and spend a lot of money on things, I am really quite well off. Yet my husband and I grow all our own vegetables. We try to be self-reliant in that way, and make do with what we’ve got: the old curtains, the old bedclothes. Yet the whole system in this country means that I am doing some people out of jobs because I’m not going and buying their products. But a society based on that is slightly insane. I just wish some political leaders would come up with a different model.’

Ethan said: ‘As we wait for a planet-friendly plague that might, in the words of Earth First!, “bring the human population back to sanity” and “end industrialism… just as the Plague contributed to the demise of feudalism”, we will have to make do with economic shocks to our system, with the economic equivalent of the sniffles before the final big disease – the burning of the planet in a fireball created by the greed of Tesco shoppers, cheap flyers and other lunatics – takes care of us once and for all.’

Valerie Stevens tells us: ‘If you visit the OPT website, you will see that it doesn’t matter which way we do the calculations – whether it’s on available energy supplies or CO2 emissions or whatever it is – if you want everybody to have just an average modest European footprint, [then] we can cope with about two billion or two-and-a-half billion people. It’s 6.7 billion now, and the United Nations’ median prediction is 9 billion; its worst case is 12 billion. But actually I think that constraints, particularly water, which is going to be key, may well prevent this. [W]e can either stop population growing by making sure everybody has the family planning help that they need and want… or it will be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse that bumps us off.

‘But actually, even the great plague only caused a sort of blip on the upward movement of population. Even the First World War, when so many were killed, didn’t really stop the growth. And then after the Fifties, and antibiotics getting everywhere and the control of disease, we have so controlled death rates that even while fertility rates are coming down everywhere, there is still this enormous growth going on.’

Hmm, ‘Bring back the Plague to save the planet’? Looking upon the control of disease as somehow a bad thing because it expanded humanity’s numbers? Problematising our declining death rates? Wow – that’s a bit far-fetched, even for Ethan Greenhart…

Valerie Stevens was speaking to Brendan O’Neill. Visit the Optimum Population Trust’s website here. Read Ethan Greenhart’s columns here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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