(1 Aug., 1990: letter to be sent to The Editor, The NZ Herald, by David MacClement)

Reducing The Number of People in The World,
or: How to Commit Suicide, Without Actually Dying.

In terms of their impact on the world's resources, we can define the number of (standard) people in the world as 15,151,515,151.51 .  This is done by defining the Standard Person as the one whose impact on the earth is sufficiently small that 5.3 billion of him and her would be sustainable: perhaps an average Thailander outside of Bankok.

We're going rapidly downhill: in 1950, with only 2.5 billion people and a much smaller amount of chemicals and fossil fuels used, the Standard Person was probably equivalent to an average New Zealander.

I'm saying that everyone in the world's middle class and richer is using at least 3 times the Standard person's resource use, and is therefore a monster made of 3 or more Standard People walking around on his own two legs.

Even as late as 1990, a somewhat modified version of the world's current civilization and economy could be sustainable, provided most of these Ugly Consumers killed off all their excrescences and committed at least 2/3-suicide. The essential person would still be there, interacting with family and friends, doing the part of their job that only they can do really well, travelling by fossil-fuelled vehicle as little as possible, and living a much less stressful life.

In an ideal world a really high proportion of Ugly Consumers would do this, so that the number of people in the world would drop from the 15.1 billion to below 5.3 billion, allowing some of the millions of fractional people to increase their standard of living far enough to become full people.

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[ This letter was prevented from being sent (in 1990), by David's family objecting to the consequences to them of any publicity of such ideas. ]


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