Horsesh––. That’s what came to mind when reading reports of the recent meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (Pass), convened to discuss “biological extinction” last week. It’s not that the learned scholars were talking horse dung, but that they weren’t.

The Pass has, since its founding in 1994, been charged with surveying the scholarship on contemporary topics in order to be of use to the Church’s pastors and theologians in the application of the principles of Catholic social teaching. In recent years, it has taken a turn towards publicity seeking, as when it invited Evo Morales of Bolivia and American senator Bernie Sanders last year to discuss the 25th anniversary of Centesimus Annus.

This year’s gambit was to invite the completely discredited Paul Ehrlich, the grandfather – if one might use that natalist term – of coercive population control, presumably to show broadmindedness by inviting the Church’s enemies and to generate notoriety by gratuitously sticking a finger in the eye of the Church’s pro-life witnesses.

This year’s meeting of the Pass was little different from any routine gathering of environmental alarmists at the United Nations. Consider the preamble to the meeting, which is standard man-is-a-cancer-on-the-planet boilerplate:

The Global Footprint Network carefully measures our consumption of all aspects of the world’s sustainable productivity, and has calculated that in about 1970 we were using about 70 per cent of the Earth’s sustainable capacity, and that now we are using about 156 per cent. Nevertheless, there are 800 million people chronically malnourished and 100 million on the verge of starvation at any one time… The problems wouldn’t go away if we had another 56 per cent of the Earth to take care of our needs, but we could at least stop eating into the productive capacity of the Earth progressively as the years go by.

Careful measurement indeed. How can we use 156 per cent of something? It means that someone calculates what the Earth can sustain, and then compares it with what we are currently using. The problem is that, as Paul Ehrlich can testify after a lifetime of spectacular predictive failure, figuring out what the Earth can sustain is near impossible, because as the demand for current resources increases, human creativity finds new efficiencies, or alternative methods altogether.

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