The Elite Are Panic-Breeding White Babies
These "effective altruists" are obsessed with saving their skin
Last week I interviewed Nandita Bajaj, executive director of Population Balance, about the dangers of pronatalism, and how coercive policies and cultures which emphasise the importance of having children fulfil our obsession with growth, supplying our economies, religions and political parties with more bodies every year.
Planet: Critical investigates why the world is in crisis—and what to do about it.
Towards the end of the episode we discuss Effective Altruism, and its fringe pronatalist movement, a dangerous philosophy supported by the likes of Elon Musk. For those who don’t know, effective altruism, created by British philosopher William MacAskill, is a mode of measuring philanthropic impact. The original philosophy highlighted the importance of not only putting money into causes which are most effective, but establishing each individual’s effectiveness as a philanthropic agent, suggesting that some would benefit more from donating their skills, for example, than some of their income.
Part of MacAskill’s philosophy is also future-oriented, thinking about the world we leave behind to future generations, and ensuring the propagation of those generations. MacAskill believes that, in the future, there will be trillions and trillions of human beings who will have colonised space. Therefore, he argues, we need to take the correct decisions today which will ensure those the existence of those trillions of people, and prioritise their wellbeing over the suffering of people today. It is fundamentally a utilitarian argument built upon the alleged inevitability of the unborn dramatically outnumber those alive today.
As Nandita points out during the episode, this gives effective altruists a psychological trick with which they can relieve themselves of tackling the genuine problems of today, but believe that they are doing it in good faith in order to protect the trillions and trillions of humans that will exist tomorrow.
Now, the most extreme version of this philosophy gaining a huge amount of power and influence resides in Silicon Valley, where upper middle class technologists believe it is their duty to repopulate the planet with more upper middle class white technologists. Simone and Michael Collins are leading the charge, out to have 10 children as quickly as possible, who they will indoctrinate to each have 10 of their own, and so on. They hope that, within 11 generations, their genetic legacy will outnumber the current human population.
Both Silicon Valley graduates, the Collins have created matchmaking service for wealthy elite looking to have huge families, and an education institute for these “gifted” children. They say it is vital the 0.1% have large families so that these gifted children can save humanity, pushing a dangerous rhetoric that we need a particular kind of people being born, people who are educated a certain way, with access to resources and decision-making spaces, and, of course, white.
Of course, the Collins don’t say outright that these people must be white, but why else propagate one’s own lineage rather than adopt 10 children, desperately in need of those same resources, who already exist?
The movement looks an awful lot like white supremacy dressed up as techno-utopian utilitarianism. And it’s garnering traction. Elon Musk may not be directly affiliated with the Collins’ particular brand, but the father of 10 is an ardent believer that our biggest danger is population collapse, and regularly tweets out the necessity for certain demographics to have more children. He, like many others, is what Nandita calls “ecologically blind.”
There are millions of children in need around the world, and billions of people living in sub-standard conditions who need access to more resources. Many of these people are attempting to enter the nations clamouring to figure out how to reverse this “population decline”. This desperate racism not only highlights yet more evidence of the pathology of inequality and oppression the West built its nations upon, but also draws into question the now vs then problem.
Nandita argues that population must decline if we are to protect future generations, that we have a scale of 2–4 billion people that the planet could comfortably support at a healthy standard of development. We could bring 2–4 billion people up to a European standard of living, and stay within planetary boundaries. This would allow the earth to regenerate in order to keep giving us what we need, the definition of sustainability.
How do we halve our population safely? Improving women’s access to education, securing reproductive autonomy, and continuing to dismantle patriarchal values which enslave women into genetic propagators.
Nandita and her colleagues are planning for the future. So how is it that these tech bros in Silicon Valley have landed on the opposite answer to building a sustainable future?
Perhaps it’s because they are utterly divorced from the present. They do not think that it is their responsibility to alleviate the suffering of any of the individuals who currently exist, any of the children who currently exist. They do not believe that it is the responsibility of an international platform to address the oppressions that some religious faiths indoctrinate, to address the inequalities of gender, or to address the inequitable resource divide that sees the top 50% of the world's population produce 86% of our carbon emissions.
Indeed, Nandita points out that this isn't simply a global north versus global south divide because the middle-class is growing rapidly, and is due to be 5 billion people by 2030. And as the middle-class grows, our consumption grows. Nandita argues we just don't have room for everyone. That means we need to be educating people to make better decisions now in order to have a better future. These “altruists”, on the other hand, would like to make radical decisions now in the belief the future of trillions rests on their bloodline—ideally, trillions who look like them.
These people are so privileged they don't have to think about the present. They can easily divorce themselves from the suffering in the world because their present is perfectly acceptable. Their only concern is a future dominated by a political and ecological crisis because, fundamentally, they are part of the group which extracts and appropriates and exploits other populations in order to live a life of luxury.
These people want to divorce population from consumption, as evidenced by the fact that they think we will colonise as many planets as we need to in order to support our trillions of future human beings. They do not seem to tackle the question whether or not they need to perpetuate their lifestyles, instead assuring their offspring that same lifestyle at the expense of other children.
Nandita makes a critical point in the episode that this is a two-fold racism. It’s not just about ensuring the continuation of a particular brand of whiteness—it’s about ensuring the continuation of a particular brand of whiteness which can manipulate the power structures in place to ensure a global working class who will work to provide the labour and resources that the white ruling class depend on. The labour and resources that class envision using to colonise other planets.
These people do not believe themselves accountable for the world today—they believe themselves to be the gods of tomorrow.
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These are fanatics with large megaphones. This is why I am working on connecting sustainability to the laws of thermodynamics. These people seem to believe -- at least superficially -- in science. It the same science can be used to prove the limits of technology and show that humans will never colonize space, this might have an effect. The narrative of "The Vital Planet" is necessary.