Sunday, April 15, 2007


Serial misrepresenter Tim Lambert accuses John Berlau (in a post linked to by Glenn Reynolds) of seriously misrepresenting environmentalists' comments as "racist". As usual, Lambert is almost correct: Berlau alleges the comments he cites are "outrageous and racist" -- I read this to mean some of the comments are outrageous while others are racist. Regardless, here's Berlau:
[John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club] said American Indians are “mostly ugly, and some of them altogether hideous.” They “seemed to have no right place in the landscape,” he continued. Muir is still honored without qualification on the Sierra Club web site, which proclaims, “John Muir is as relevant today as he was over 100 years ago.”
Lambert responds:
Muir is not making a racist statement about American Indians, but saying that particular group were mostly ugly. And when he writes that they "seemed to have no right place in the landscape" he is not, as Berlau wants you to think, arguing for the extermination of Indians, but expressing a preference for wilderness without people in it.
Berlau does not even hint that Muir wanted to exterminate Indians. Muir was, according to the Sierra Club, no Indian lover, however (my bold):
At times Muir's new thinking brought apparent contradictions in his own mind, being unable to meld his "nature on a pedestal" views with those still buried in his own conscience. On the subject of Indians this seems to be particularly true. Muir at times observes and even envies their near harmony with nature, thus nearly elevating them to his nature pedestal. On other occasions, however, he regards them as little more than dirty beggars. All in all, there seems to be in Muir some grudging respect for Indians, but it is often masked behind the institutionalized racism that underlies his writing.
Muir acknowledged that he knew little about a group of Indians living around Mono Lake. "Perhaps if I knew them better I should like them more," he wrote. Perhaps, but unlikely. Although he often described his discussions with other travel companions, even a bit with a Chinese man, not once does Muir mention a conversation with an Indian. We can note that in the beginning the Indian guide who accompanied the expedition was stand-offish, a characteristic of many native people when around strangers, but after several weeks, surely with any sign of friendship from Muir, this barrier might have been overcome.
So Berlau pretty much has Muir pegged.

Here's Berlau on Paul Ehrlich:
In his best-selling book, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich called for all men in India who had three or more children to be forcibly sterilized. He also scorned those who helped to feed the Third World’s hungry, blasting them as “the assorted do-gooders who are deeply involved in the apparatus of international food charity.”
Lambert says the forced sterilization claim is a lie:
But what Ehrlich actually wrote was:
A few years ago, there was talk in India of compulsory sterilization for all males who were fathers of three or more children.
And then he went on to say why he felt that such a plan was not a good idea. Are you starting to see a pattern in Berlau's work?
Lambert says this is an Ehrlich quote but doesn't set it out as a quote and gives no reference. (Yep, there's a pattern emerging here alright.) Ehrlich is, or was, pretty militant on third world population control:
Varying degrees of coercion, including compulsory sterilization, are advocated by many leading proponents of population control. "Several coercive proposals deserve serious consideration," writes Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford University biologist, "mainly because we may ultimately have to resort to them unless current trends in birth rates are rapidly reversed by other means." Among those tactics Ehrlich offers are plans like one suggested in India to "vasectomise all fathers of three or more children," or to adopt an alternative program for "sterilizing women after their second or third child." The latter, he points out in his 1970 book, Population, Resources, Environment, would be possible "only in countries where the majority of babies are born in maternity hospitals and clinics, and where the medical corps is adequate." An even more bizarre recommendation in Ehrlich's book is the addition of "a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods." Still another suggestion is the use of a "sterilizing capsule that can be implanted under the skin," which would be removed only "with official permission, for a limited number of births." If all these measures fail, writes Ehrlich, "laws could then be written that would make bearing a third child illegal and that would require an abortion to terminate all such pregnancies. Failure to obtain the abortion could be made a felony, as could aiding and abetting over-reproducers."
It's obvious Ehrlich would personally and gladly -- it's dirty work but someone has to do it -- crush third worlders' testicles between bricks to get the birth rate down.

Saving the best for last, here's Berlau on Alexander King, co-founder of the Club of Rome:
In an essay in a book called The Discipline of Curiosity, King wrote that DDT’s main problem was that it worked too well at saving Third World lives. “In Guyana, within almost two years, it had almost eliminated malaria, but at the same time the birth rate had doubled. So my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it greatly added to the population problem."
To which Lambert responds:
Berlau deliberately left out King's next sentence:
"Of course I can't play god on that one."
Berlau made it look like King was arguing that Guyanese should have been left to die from malaria by leaving out the sentence where King made it clear that he didn't want that.
Unlike the Ehrlich "quote" Lambert here indicates that he's quoting King, who not being God, cannot undo -- much as he'd like to -- DDT's contribution to the "population problem".

Nothing Tim Lambert writes should be accepted as correct; it probably isn't.

Disclaimer: I have no way of verifying the full contents of the Ehrlich excerpt above but believe it to be essentially correct.

Editing note: The link for the Ehrlich excerpt was inadvertently omitted. Corrected.

Go here for the update.


Anonymous Jack Lacton said...

Given how relatively simple it is to get this stuff right one can only draw the conclusion that Lambert's ongoing record of getting it wrong is due to him either being a complete imbecile or having the same truth gene mutation as Michael Moore.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Crust said...

You don't reply to Lambert re Wurster and Hoffman (Berlau had five examples in all). Do you think Lambert was right to take Berlau to task on those two?

3:49 AM  

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