A couple of years ago, I let my National Geographic subscription lapse be- cause of the magazine’s relentless earth worship. But I missed the superb photos, crisp writing and mind- boggling statistics, so I started getting it again.
Boy, am I getting it. After perusing the May issue, I’m once again ashamed to be human. People, people, people! We’re carbonizing the clouds! We’re wrecking the coral reefs! We’re reducing the polar bear’s habitat to the size of a McDonald’s parking lot! We’re scooping sand off beaches to build more McDonald’s parking lots!
Worst of all, we keep having … children!
In virtually every feature except the cover piece on rope-free climbers at Yosemite’s El Capitan, the May issue of National Histrionic is packed with evidence of human perfidy.
The letters page is a cornucopia of alarm. A guy from Cupertino, Calif., chides the magazine for its January cover story about the earth’s population nearing 7 billion. Not enough hysteria: “I was thrilled when I saw that your lead article was focused on human population. … I was disturbed when I realized that the message of the article was: ‘Find out why you shouldn’t panic - at least, not yet.’”
A San Antonio woman asks, “Shouldn’t worldwide birth-control programs be implemented before we destroy the planet?” A Richmond woman gets to the nub: “The outcome is here; the future atrocity is predictable. This topic represents another aspect of the culture war between those who would live with self-serving spiritual myths that reinforce fertility and those who look at the systems of the world clearly and scientifically.”
Apparently, being in the latter camp means never having to radiate humility. It also means tossing aside scriptural celebrations of human life (“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,” Psalm 127; and “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” Genesis 1:28).
Of course, this includes proper stewardship of our environment (Adam’s first job). Instead of sound conservation, however, National Geographic’s relentless litany of human-generated threats smacks of Planned Parenthood in a pith helmet.
If you’re not paranoid at the thought of another baby being born with a mouth to feed, the magazine has a silhouette of a giant chicken to illustrate “the number of animals killed for food worldwide in 2009.”
This is one reason I still subscribe. Did you know that we ate 52 billion chickens? And far more ducks (2.6 billion) than cows (293 million)? Add a billion rabbits and another 1.3 billion pigs, and we’re really starting to talk backyard barbecue!
Reading National Geographic is like mining for gold. As long as you’re willing to paw through environmentalist sludge, you can pick up nuggets like these: Each year in New York City, 90,000 birds collide with windows, part of the 100 million that hit glass annually in Canada and the United States.
Or this: The Great Barrier Reef off Australia is 1,400 miles long, has more than 10,000 square miles of coral ribbons and isles and is “the most massive living structure on earth.” It’s teeming with colorful fish and plants, which we see close up thanks to the Geographic’s peerless photographers. Now to the text. Darn. We’re killing the reef every time we rev up our lawn mowers.
The closing argument comes in a feature story, “The Coming Storm,” about the miserably poor nation of Bangladesh, whose 164 million people are jammed into an area the size of Louisiana athwart three rivers that constantly overflow. If hell is wet, it looks like Bangladesh. The message is that the whole world will look like this - even the depopulating countries of Russia and Western Europe - if we don’t stop procreating and causing global warming.
Hope lies in education, however. The caption for a two-page photo of beautiful children in a floating Bangladeshi schoolhouse concludes, “Studies show that educated girls (and boys as well) have fewer children as adults.”
Whose fault, you might ask, is Bangladesh’s chronic flooding and poverty, apart from those “spiritual myths that reinforce fertility?”
The answer is anyone who lives in a First World country. The magazine credits us for helping with technology and “low-tech adaptations” while noting that such efforts are “supported by governments of the industrialized countries - whose greenhouse emissions are largely responsible for the climate change that is causing seas to rise.”
But we’ll get ours. “Over the coming decades, as sea levels rise, climate change experts predict that many of the worlds largest cities, including Miami and New York, will be increasingly vulnerable to coastal flooding.”
This sounds a lot like Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who predicted at the Summit of the Americas on April 18, 2009, that if man-caused global warming continues, “lots of area in Florida will go under. New Orleans at three-meter height is in great peril. If you look at, you know, the Bay Area, where I came from, all three airports would be under water.”
This doesn’t jibe with a Dec. 12, 2008, report by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, which said there is “no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise.” I’d believe the Dutch, who have been battling the ocean for centuries. By the way, Mr. Chu is the guy who famously said in 2008 that we need to make gasoline so expensive that it reaches European levels ($8 a gallon at the time). Halfway there, Mr. Secretary!
Near the end of the magazine is the other reason I still get National Geographic. The fantastically illustrated cover story, showing a man hanging with nothing but his hands from a cliff 2,000 feet above Yosemite Valley, is headlined “Daring. Defiant. Free.”
I guess I’ll resubscribe.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.