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Great moments in environmentalism, part 1

Posted by Richard on January 28, 2011

Scientists at Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology claim their "research" shows that if you kill enough people over a long-enough period of time, it's good for the environment:

His empire lasted a century and a half and eventually covered nearly a quarter of the earth's surface. His murderous Mongol armies were responsible for the massacre of as many as 40 million people. Even today, his name remains a byword for brutality and terror. But boy, was Genghis green.

Genghis Khan, in fact, may have been not just the greatest warrior but the greatest eco-warrior of all time, according to a study by the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Energy. It has concluded that the 13th-century Mongol leader's bloody advance, laying waste to vast swaths of territory and wiping out entire civilisations en route, may have scrubbed 700m tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere – roughly the quantity of carbon dioxide generated in a year through global petrol consumption – by allowing previously populated and cultivated land to return to carbon-absorbing forest.

Apparently, the "research" was all done with today's favorite science toy, computer models. Why bother with all that tedious gathering of empirical data or messy experiments, when you can just write software that embodies your assumptions and cranks out conclusions? ("What are you going to believe, reality or my carefully constructed, elaborate, and expensive computer model?")

They had a lively and fun discussion in the comments at Mother Nature Network. The defenders of this "research" insisted that it was just a study, not advocacy, and everyone should calm down. But I can't help but think that the environmentalists who publish such dispassionate, objective studies are only one part of a green movement that includes many passionate advocates. And the eco-fascists of the green movement have a long history of expressing sentiments like these

We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion — guilt-free at last! — Stewart Brand

We advocate biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It may take our extinction to set things straight — David Foreman, Earth First!

If radical environmentalists were to invent a disease to bring human populations back to sanity, it would probably be something like AIDS — Earth First! Newsletter

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, is not as important as a wild and healthy planets…Some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. — David Graber, biologist, National Park Service

The collective needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans. — Dr. Reed F. Noss, The Wildlands Project

If I were reincarnated, I would wish to be returned to Earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels. — Prince Phillip, World Wildlife Fund

I wonder what these scientists are working on next — maybe a computer model to determine whether the ecological benefits of the Third Reich's population reduction efforts outweighed the harm done by the emissions from those ovens? 

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