By Pentti Linkola
Is Pentti Linkola posing the most dangerous thoughts mankind has ever considered? Or is he this planet's only remaining voice of sanity? Living an ascetic existence as a fisherman in a remote rural region of his frigid homeland, the Finnish philosopher has pondered mankind's position vis-á-vis the earth it inhabits and dares to utter the unspeakable. In order for the planet to continue living, man - or homo destructivus, as Linkola names him - must be violently thinned to a mere fraction of his current global population. Linkola's metaphor for the predicament is as follows:
As time creaks onward, Linkola's predictions and indictments grow more dire. He has come to realise that extreme situations demand extreme solutions:
What is man? "Oh, what art thou man?" the poets of the good old days used to wonder. Man may be defined in an arbitrary number of ways, but to convey his most fundamental characteristic, he could be described with two words: too much. I'm too much, you're too much. There's five billion of us - an absurd, astonishing number, and still increasing… The earth's biosphere could possibly support a population of five million large mammals of this size, given their food requirements and the offal they produce, in order that they might exist in their own ecological niche, living as one species among many, without discriminating against the richness of other forms of life.
What meaning is there in these masses, what use do they have? What essential new contribution is brought forth to the world by hundreds of human societies similar to one other, or by the hundreds of identical communities existing within these societies? What sense is there in the fact that every small Finnish town has the same choice of workshops and stores, a similar men's choir and a similar municipal theatre, all clogging up the earth's surface with their foundations and asphalt slabs? Would it be any loss to the biosphere - or to humanity itself - if the area of Äänekoski no longer existed, and instead in its place was an unregulated and diverse mosaic of natural landscape, containing thousands of species and tilting slopes of gnarled, primitive trees mirrored in the shimmering surface of Kuhmojärvi lake? Or would it really be a loss if a small bundle of towns disappeared from the map - Ylivieska, Kuusamo, lahti, Duisburg, Jefremov, Gloucester - and wilderness replaced them? How about Belgium?
What use do we have with Ylivieska? The question is not ingenious, but it's relevant. And the only answer isn't that, perhaps, there is no use for these places - but rather that the people in Ylivieska town have a reason: they live there. I'm not just talking about the suffocation of life due to the population explosion, or that life and the earth's respiratory rhythm cry out for the productive, metabolic green oases they sorely need everywhere, between the areas razed by man. I also mean that humanity, by squirting and birthing all these teeming, filth-producing multitudes from out of itself, in the process also suffocates and defames its own culture - one in which individuals and communities have to spasmodically search for the "meaning of life" and create an identity for themselves through petty childish arguing.
I spent a summer once touring Poland by bicycle. It is a lovely country, one where small Catholic children, cute as buttons, almost entirely dressed in silk, turn up around every corner. I read from a travel brochure that in Poland the percentage of people who perished in the Second World War is larger than in any other country - about six million, if my memory doesn't fail me. From another part of the brochure I calculated that since the end of the war, population growth has compensated for the loss threefold in forty years… On my next trip after that, I went through the most bombed-out city in the world, Dresden. It was terrifying in its ugliness and filth, overstuffed to the point of suffocation - a smoke-filled, polluting nest where the first spontaneous impression was that another vaccination from the sky wouldn't do any harm. Who misses all those who died in the Second World War? Who misses the twenty million executed by Stalin? Who misses Hitler's six million Jews? Israel creaks with overcrowdedness; in Asia minor, overpopulation creates struggles for mere square meters of dirt. The cities throughout the world were rebuilt and filled to the brim with people long ago, their churches and monuments restored so that acid rain would have something to eat through. Who misses the unused procreation potential of those killed in the Second World War? Is the world lacking another hundred million people at the moment? Is there a shortage of books, songs, movies, porcelain dogs, vases? Are one billion embodiments of motherly love and one billion sweet silver-haired grandmothers not enough?
All species have an oversized capacity for reproduction, otherwise they would become extinct in times of crisis due to variations of circumstances. In the end it's always hunger that enforces a limit on the size of a population. A great many species have self-regulating birth control mechanisms which prevent them from constantly falling into crisis situations and suffering from hunger. In the case of man, however, such mechanisms - when found at all - are only weak and ineffective: for example, the small-scale infanticide practiced in primitive cultures. Throughout its evolutionary development, humankind has defied and outdistanced the hunger line. Man has been a conspicuously extravagant breeder, and decidedly animal-like. Mankind produces especially large litters both in cramped, distressed conditions, as well as among very prosperous segments of the population. Humans reproduce abundantly in the times of peace and particularly abundantly in the aftermath of a war, owing to a peculiar decree of nature.
It may be said that man's defensive methods are powerless against hunger controlling his population growth, but his offensive methods for pushing the hunger line out of the way of the swelling population are enormously eminent. Man is extremely expansive - fundamentally so, as a species.
In the case of man - who sits atop the food chain, yet nevertheless ominously lacks the ability to sufficiently restrain his own population growth - it might appear that salvation would lie in the propensity for killing his fellow man. The characteristically human institution of war, with its wholesale massacre of fellow humanoids, would seem to contain a basis for desirable population control - that is, if it hadn't been portentously thwarted, since there is no human culture where young females take part in war. Thus, even a large decrease in population as a result of war affects only males, and lasts only a very short time in a given generation. The very next generation is up to strength, and by the natural law of the "baby boom" even becomes oversized, as the females are fertilised through the resilience of just a very small number of males. In reality, the evolution of war, while erratic, has actually been even more negative: in the early stages of its development there were more wars of a type that swept away a moderate amount of civilians as well. But by a twist of man's tragicomic fate, at the very point when the institution of war appeared capable of taking out truly significant shares of fertile females - as was intimated by the bombings of civilians in the Second World War - military technology advanced in such a way that large-scale wars, those with the ability to make substantial demographic impact, became impossible.
This translation copyright© Harri Heinonen and Michael Moynihan
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