Marauders as Population Control Methods

Innovation.  That’s what we need.  One overlooked group are marauders as population control methods. Today’s New York Times “Review” section includes an article detailing the number of people killed by various warlords, mass murderers, and wars since 400 B.C. (“Population Control, Marauder Style,” New York Times, November 6, 2011).  Leading the list: Genghis Khan, responsible for killing 11.1 percent of total world population between 1206 and 1227 A.D.  Here’s the nifty graphic, but for a real high-definition version you must visit the Times website.

Atrocities Timeline
Atrocities Timeline. Copyright (c) 2011 the New York Times Company. Posted under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law. Click the image for a better version.

At pfpfp, we salute these heroes of population control.

For Halloween We Endorse Polyethylene Pumpkins

The latest idea for indoor Halloween decoration is polyethylene pumpkins.  We encourage those throwing parties this year to use these pumpkins in the traditional way: with a candle inside for authentic Halloween lighting.  The effect of a flickering candle simply cannot be matched by any technology.

Polyethylene Pumpkin
Polyethylene Pumpkin

These pumpkins are widely available.  Target.com has them. Kmart.com offers a polyurethane model that includes an interior light bulb.  Rip it out and put in a candle.  To their credit, Walmart apparently only offers a polyresin model, hard plastic that is difficult to ignite.

At pfpfp.org, we believe these pumpkins are a valuable addition to our toolkit.  We applaud the companies making these pumpkins as well as those selling them.

Seriously, unless these plastics are modified they are very flammable.  Prof. James G. Edwards of San Francisco State University has written a nice descriptive piece.  Read it and take it seriously.

Where is the Outrage Over the Anwar al-Awlaki Assassination?

“The U.S. has confirmed that Al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki was killed today in Yemen, in what was likely a drone strike …” (Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2011). There’s a longer (and more intelligent) piece on Wired.com.  Normally, People for a Population Free Planet would applaud such a move.  But not this time. Where is the outrage over the Anwar al-Awlaki assassination?

Here at pfpfp we have supported the war in Afghanistan.  And, with some trepidation, we have also supported drone strikes.  But so far these have targeted bad folks who were not U.S. citizens.

It happens that Mr. al-Awlaki held dual citizenship in Yemen and the U.S.  Thus, the U.S. government has assassinated a U.S. citizen.  The Obama administration’s argument that the Authorization of Force allows this is shaky, to put it mildly.  Here’s a quotation from the Wired article:

“… Mary Ellen O’Connell disagrees. And her credentials are just as impressive: She’s the vice chairman of the prestigious American Society of International Law, as well as a professor at the University of Notre Dame. Her argument doesn’t rely on Awlaki’s American citizenship.

‘The United States is not involved in any armed conflict in Yemen,’ O’Connell tells Danger Room, ‘so to use military force to carry out these killings violates international law.’

O’Connell’s argument turns on the question of whether the U.S. is legally at war in Yemen. And for the administration, that’s a dicey proposition. The Obama administration relies on the vague Authorization to Use Military Force, passed in the days after 9/11, to justify its Shadow Wars against terrorists. Under its broad definition, the Authorization’s writ makes Planet Earth a battlefield, legally speaking.

But the Authorization authorizes war against ‘nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.’ It’s a stretch to apply that to al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, which didn’t exist on 9/11. But when House Republicans tried to re-up the Authorization to explicitly bless the new contours of the war against al-Qaida, the Obama administration balked, fearing the GOP was actually tying its hands on the separate question of terrorist detentions.”

Well, Ms. O’Connell is undoubtedly a better lawyer than me.  And I’m certain she can split hairs about international law as well as the next attorney.  But, for me, the idea that my government can simply kill one of my fellow citizens without any judicial process is repugnant in the extreme.  Thus vanishes one more of our civil rights.  I believe the Declaration of Independence also has something in it about the right to life.

On the other hand, People for a Population-Free Planet probably should endorse this sort of thing.  Nah, it’s just too extreme.

Update: Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com titled his piece “The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality.”

The City of the Future

Sunday’s New York Times (Sept. 25) includes a column in the Sunday Review titled “Not-So-Smart Cities.”  Author Greg Lindsay has written about the city of the future — or perhaps not. Since that site may be behind a paywall, I’ll post the first three paragraphs:

“THE Southwest is famously fertile territory for ghost towns. They didn’t start out depopulated, of course — which is what makes the latest addition to their rolls so strange. Starting next year, Pegasus Holdings, a Washington-based technology company, will build a medium-size town on 20 square miles of New Mexico desert, populated entirely by robots.

Scheduled to open in 2014, the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation, as the town is officially known, will come complete with roads, buildings, water lines and power grids, enough to support 35,000 people — even though no one will ever live there. It will be a life-size laboratory for companies, universities and government agencies to test smart power grids, cyber security and intelligent traffic and surveillance systems — technologies commonly lumped together under the heading of “smart cities.”

The only humans present will be several hundred engineers and programmers huddled underground in a Disneyland-like warren of control rooms. They’ll be playing SimCity for real.?

Another group, Living PlanIT, is building a similar facility in Portugal.

The author if this column, Greg Lindsay, “is a visiting scholar at the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University and the co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.”  Mr. Lindsay does not believe either of these efforts will succeed.  Apparently he firmly believes that computer modeling and robots can never emulate human irrationality.

Or perhaps he’s just trying to sell his book.  This is from page 5: “It [aerotropolis] isn’t his [Stan Gale’s] word. … John Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina, … has made a name for himself with his radical (and some might say bone-chilling) vision of the future: rather than banish airports to the edge of town and then do our best to avoid them, we will build this ce3ntury’s cities around them. …”  (Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 2011).

Aha!  Lindsay is simply pushing his vision of the future (and his book) at the expense of our non-human robotic brethren.  Here at pfpfp.org, we fully support the work of Pegasus and Living PlanIT in eliminating people from cities.

If You Give Them a Job, They’ll Find Something to Do

After years of working as an economist, seeking “Lima’s Lemma” I’ve finally found it.

Lima’s Lemma: Adding a natural disaster to the title of any bureaucrat makes the disaster permanent.

Case in point: Despite full reservoirs and an overall pretty good water situation, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has declared that water shortage pricing is in effect for the summer of 2010.  Their Drought Emergency Coordinator undoubtedly had significant input into this decision.

A more recent example: Sunday (August 23) we discovered two things.  First, the temperature Monday and Tuesday would be above 90 degrees for the first time since June 27 (92 degrees, matched on June 12).  Second, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District declared that Monday would be the first “spare the air” day of this summer.

For those living in areas with somewhat sane governments, let me explain what this means.  On spare the air days, residents of the greater San Francisco -San Jose – Oakland SMSA are supposed to cut down on our driving, avoid using lawn mowers, and not do any charcoal grilling.  Oh, yes, no fires in fireplaces either (although that probably isn’t an issue this time around).  The idea is to reduce smog.  Not our smog.  The Bay Area is blessed with coastal winds that export our smog to the Central Valley and points east.  Nevertheless, as good neighbors, we try to comply.

But not this time.  We routinely take a 4 mile hike that reaches an altitude of about 900 feet.  Here’s what we saw about noon Monday:

View north to San Francisco
The view north from 900 feet up August 23, 2010

Looks pretty clear from 900 feet.  In fact, this is as good as we’ve seen the view since the storms in January!

Taking the same hike August 24, we saw this:

The view north August 24.
The same view August 24.

Spare the air?  Looks to me like the folks at BAAQMD needed something to make their jobs worthwhile.  (If you’re wondering about the haze, it’s the normal Bay Area fog.)

Conclusion

Lima’s Lemma is declared proved for these two cases.  Readers are invited to submit their own examples.

But remember — without people none of these problems would exist!

Population growth

Even economists have come around to the idea that high rates of population growth can inhibit economic development.  Dr. Larry Summers of Harvard has estimated that the rate of return to educating a woman in a less-developed country is 26%.  A large part of that return is caused by education deferring the age at which a woman has her first child.  Thus lower population growth is a result of educating women and allowing them to fully participate in society.

But there’s more.  People emit greenhouse gases.  According to another blog, an average human emits about 0.9 kg of CO2 per day. 0.9 kg per person x 365.25 days per year x 6.6 billion people = 2,169,585,000,000 kg per year.  For non-metric speakers, that’s 493,087,500 English tons of CO2 per year.  According to the previously-cited blog that’s about ten percent of annual CO2 emissions.

The conclusion is clear.  People cause global warming.  The obvious solution is fewer people.