Transcript From the Speech That Started It All
Dr. "Doom" Pianka Speaks
Exclusive -- April 6, 2006: Relying on a transcript from audio recorded during Dr. Eric Pianka's presentation at the 109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science March 2-4, The Pearcey Report has first-hand documentation on what the controversial ecologist said regarding a number of issues, including taxes, children, forced sterilization, overpopulation, economic growth, and more.
News of Dr. Pianka's views broke when scientist and author Forrest Mims published a March 31 article in The Citizen Scientist. In that article Mims said, "I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola."
On March 31, Dr. Pianka spoke to students and parents at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. "A University of Texas professor says the Earth would be better off with 90 percent of the human population dead," is how the Gazette-Enterprise led its coverage of the talk. [Editor's Note: The Pearcey Report noticed April 8, 2006, that the Gazette-Enterprise story no longer appears on the newspaper's website. Update: As of April 10, the link is reestablished.]
"Every one of you who gets to survive has to bury nine," the professor is quoted as saying. According to reporter Jamie Mobley, "Pianka's words are part of what he calls his 'doomsday talk' -- a 45-minute presentation outlining humanity's ecological misdeeds and Pianka's predictions about how nature, or perhaps humans themselves, will exterminate all but a fraction of civilization."
Mobley reports that, "though his statements are admittedly bold, he's not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered biologist apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity's collapse is a notion he embraces."
This is not new intellectual territory for the professor. A Fall 2004 student evaluation from the University of Texas says, "Though I agree that convervation [sic] biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness."
Another student comment from Fall 2004 says, "I don't root for ebola, but maybe a ban on having more than one child. I agree . . . too many people ruining this planet."
That student may not be rooting for Ebola, but as Jamie Mobley reports, Dr. Pianka has supporters. One of them attended Dr. Pianka's Texas Academy of Science lecture and posted these comments online afterward: "Dr. Pianka's talk at the TAS meeting was mostly of the problems humans are causing as we rapidly proliferate around the globe. While what he had to say is way too vast to remember it all, moreover to relay it here in this blog, the bulk of his talk was that he's waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He's a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he's basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population! And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he's right."
We now turn to the transcript, based on audio from Dr. Pianka's academy speech in March. That such an audio-based document exists at all may be an intriguing part of this story since, according to published reports, an effort apparently was made to ensure that Dr. Pianka's speech was not recorded by video or audio.
DR. PIANKA TRANSCRIPT
From Recorded Audio at speech, March 3, 2006
Texas Academy of Science
Note: Brackets indicate possible wording. Two sets of remarks follow. Set 1 is based on audio from the speech itself. Set 2 is from the question and answer period that followed.
SET ONE: From the Speech
. . .
We've got an airborne 90 percent mortality human killing [agent]. Think about that.
Now, so far, it’s been down, down, down. Let’s start up. But we can’t get up very far.
Aldo Leopold is one of the greatest ecologists of all times. He was really the first conservation biologist.
And here’s quotes from Aldo. If you haven’t read his Sand County Almanac, I encourage you to read it.
It was published after he died by his children [unclear]… a bunch of short stories they assembled and put together. It's a really powerful book. It makes me cry when I read it.
He says the land ethic changes the role of homosapiens from conqueror to steward . . .
It implies that we respect our fellow members and respect the community, and we respect other things on this earth.
Now, this came out of a conservation biology book.
Aldo didn’t draw this. But it’s an ethical sequence based on Aldo.
And here you can see what you’re really familiar with: Your own self – you take care of your money, you take care of your possessions, and maybe you’re a little bit altruistic towards your brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts.
And I think if we went back 2,000 years when we were living in a cave, we’d have these little social groups – tribes – where everybody knew everybody, and we met in caves that were like this room and older individuals told stories and younger individuals learned from them. And there was some degree of altruism and respect, mutual respect there.
Now we're up to the point where we have a nation and religious groups and we’re at odds within America. 50-50 split right down the middle between Democrats and Republicans.
Let’s go out a little bit further and think about people of other [races] and other nations.
We’re not doing very well.
What about other sentient animals? Our closest relatives are chimpanzees and gorillas. We don’t treat them very well.
They’re hunting gorillas, which are on the edge of extinction, and eating them – they call it “bush meat” – in Africa.
We subject chimps to all kinds of things in labs to create pharmaceuticals that can help us.
I always wonder how we would feel if natural selection hadn’t taken a route that it has and if in fact chimps or gorillas or both of them were superior to us and treated us the way we treat them. I think that would be fair.
And finally, if we keep going out [up] and talk about all other species – and then the whole earth.
And the point here is that this is where everything is focused. And you can’t move out from it. At least we don’t seem able to.
Now here’s a voice crying in the wilderness. It's been widely ignored by everybody.
Herman Daly, who wrote 4 books on steady-state economics – Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. He coined those terms.
And by sustainable development, I first thought those were antonyms just strung together … they couldn’t be … it weren’t possible.
He means something a little different. He means using renewable resources and leaving the earth the way it was when we came into it, each and everyone of us. Which would mean population control.
We should be born with the right to reproduce but not to overreproduce.
We need to change our tax system so that you’re taxed for having kids rather than getting a reward. [Applause.]
Daly is being completely ignored by mainstream ecologists. They’re all into this grow, grow, grow – the principle of a ponzi … you know, growth, a chain letter, a ponzi scheme.
You can’t do it.
When you hear politicians say, “We’re going to grow the economy,” think about it. Money is debt. For economies to grow, debt has to increase. What we have done in spending in the last 4, 5, 6 years is put our grandchildren into debt, and their grandchildren. And they’re never going to be able to work it off.
If Japan, Japan finally call in all those American dollars in debt, America is going to go under. That could happen any time.
Here’s another sort of upside to it. Actually, Dennis Meadows at the bottom there was asked to write this book – to do a study – using systems ecology – back in the days before pcs, and he did it in 1972, and the book was called Limits to Growth.
And then in 1992, he and some other co-authors did a Beyond the Limits book and showed that we were over carrying capacity.
And then he enlisted his daughter, Donella, to do the 30-year update, which just came out a couple of years ago. She’s dead now, but she was the most optimistic of all the people that wrote this book. And you can see it in her chapter at the very end, where she talks about what we could do if we just had the will . . . .
But anyway, he estimated that we crossed the maximum number of humans the earth could support back about 1978. But up until then we could have eased into a sustainable world, but now we're 20% above.
I think it’s actually much worse than that. We could not have reached six and a half billion if it weren’t for fossil fuels, to do agriculture and feed the hordes of humans around the earth. And the fossil fuels are running out. So I think we might have to cut back to, say, two billion, which would be about one-third as many people.
This is an old figure from the Meadows 1992 Beyond the Limits book and you are here in 1999 – we’re actually out here now. We’re starting to experience the world oil crash, and you know that every time you fill up your car.
Here’s the most optimistic projection: Is we don’t have a collapse.
But here’s what’s gonna happen. And after the human population collapses, there’s going to be a lot fewer of us. Food’s going to be diminished. Pollution’s going to go down, which will be good. But there’s not going to be much to recover from. Our descendants are going to curse us for the party we took, the party we had, and I really recommend Richard Heinberg’s book the [sic]Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies. This man has thought about these things deeply.
The End of Oil is good, too. But it’s not anywhere as good as the Party’s Over.
There have been wise people for a long time – John Stuart Mill in 1858 took issue with the whole business of grow, grow, grow. And he said he thought stationary systems made sense, stable systems. Where you don’t have bubbles that are going to burst or you’re gonna go bankrupt.
He said he didn’t think the people had to elbow their way to the top, to fight, struggle with each other to get the resources. That if we could just live in a stable world where we didn’t continue to grow, and weren’t based on this grow, grow, grow thing. That we could work on the art of living, and we could become better human beings for it.
And these are some of the things that Donella Meadows says in the end of the Limits to Growth.
. . . .
So, this is the end. In the 1960s when I started studying ecology, there was a lot of sand in the top of the hourglass. But in my short stint of 40, 45 years as an ecologist. Most of that sand has run out. There’s not much time left to get on an airplane, go to Madagascar, and study something while you still can. Thank you. [Applause.]
SET TWO: From the Question Session
AUDIENCE: ...nonproliferation, but after your talk I [assess] these things in a whole different light now. [Laughter.]
PIANKA: You know the bird flu’s good, too. [Laughter.]
QUESTION: … Do you have any hope for these so-called voluntary ... Are you involved in trying to design . . .
PIANKA: Actually, I really hope we do. I think we ought to get to Mars while we still can. Some of you brave pioneering . . . should be on a one-way spaceship to Mars. You’ll have to build yourself a greenhouse to grow your own [laughter] a hundred degrees, whatever it takes. I think we should take the Library of Congress up with us on DVDs and so when we wink out in this little sphere, there will be a little bit of a record of what happened on Earth somewhere else. And I think in that new plan, the books kids read in kindergarten will say “The Rape of the Earth, Let’s treat our planet a little better.” But I don’t think we can [unintelligible].
QUESTIONER: I don’t think that we as an audience accurately represent society at large. [Laughter] What kind of reception have you received as you have presented these ideas to other audiences that are not representative of us?
PIANKA: I speak to the converted! [Considerable laughter.] [We’re not going to be all in agreement.] I know that. But we have to speak to the people that aren’t. That’s our -- a real challenge.
And convincing ‘em when the government’s telling ‘em to keep their head buried in the sand and pretend everything’s OK isn’t going to be easy. The government’s just lying to ‘em, and they’re accepting it.
QUESTIONER: I had a similar point. What can we do to correct this problem? It's, it all has to come from policy level because of the way human society is structured when the governments represent people.
PIANKA: Politicians can’t win elections with views like this. I could never run for office. [Laughter] [Unintelligible] [Laughter] They have to present good news to win, and they deceive themselves and deceive the public in every way they can to stay in power. Even Al Gore, who wrote the environment book, never faced overpopulation. No politician ever has.
The reason China was able to turn the corner and is gonna become the new super power in the world is because they got a police state and they can force people to stop reproducing. That’s the only reason they were able to turn the corner.
PIANKA: . . . Well, there’s cheating going on. You can pay in China and have more. I know all that. But there’s a solution that’s theoretically possible. I call it the Johnny Anti-Appleseed Solution. Instead of being cursed with our fertility, I would bless us with infertility. Now this could happen because male sperm counts are falling because of plastics and the estrogen [unintelligible] naturally.
But I asked a reproductive physiologist years ago about this. I said, “Could you design a molecule that you could administer once that would bind to the DNA to turn off reproduction and make people sterile?” And he said, yeah, theoretically. And I said, well, if you did that could you design an antidote that would unmask it just briefly for as few seconds? And he said, yeah, probably. So this is what we need. We need to sterilize everybody on the Earth [laughter] and make the antidote freely available to anybody who’s willing to work for it.
Immediately you'd get responsible parenthood. No more juvenile delinquents, unwanted kids. You have a kid, you had to work, and you had only a few seconds to do it in. [Extended laughter]
. . . .
QUESTIONER: People who are educated seem to have less children.
PIANKA: Right. Right. Definitely, smarter people have fewer kids. I think [unintelligible] pointed this out. He said those who don’t have any conscience about the Earth are going to inherit the Earth, because those who cared made fewer babies and those who didn’t care made more babies. And so we’re [going to evolve . . .] uncaring. And I think that’s probably happening. I think IQs are falling for the same reason, too.
MODERATOR: I think I’m gonna [unintelligible] on that. If you would like to talk to Dr. Pianka afterwards [unintelligible].
[Prolonged standing ovation]
Also of Interest
Christianity Is a Science-Starter, Not a Science-Stopper, by Nancy Pearcey
UT Professor Supports Forrest Mims' Account of Dr. "Doom" Pianka Speech, by Rick Pearcey
Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report (archives).