Interviewed recently in the The Daily Beast, actor, director and narrator Morgan Freeman revealed an in-depth understanding of the link between the population and the environment over and above the facile, hip awareness that most Hollywood celebrities evince about their favored causes.
Interviewer Marlow Stern asked the iconic 76-year-old Oscar-winning star of such movies as Glory, The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy and the recent Batman Dark Knight trilogy what Freeman would fix in this “crazy world” if he were a god or wizard.
The narrator of March of the Penguins responded:
We’re turning everything on the planet into food for humans so we’re cutting down the rainforests, displacing all of the animals, and we’re doing all this to feed humans. That all started with the advent of agriculture.
In fact, humanity’s assault on biodiversity began even well before agriculture, tens of thousands of years ago, probably not long after our bipedal ancestors marched out of Africa in search of greener pastures to plunder. In recent decades, paleontological evidence has mounted that wherever our forebears appeared, this most cunning predator that nature had ever conceived overhunted prey species into oblivion, including wooly mammoths, mastodons, giant bison and giant ground sloths here in North America.
In Australia and New Guinea alone, the arrival of humans some 50,000 years ago is blamed for the extinction of dozens of species of marsupials, and even an entire family of giant flightless birds – seven species of dromornithids – one of which stood nearly 10 feet tall.
In general, though, Freeman is right: the greater productivity of agriculture allowed human populations and their environmental impacts to expand enormously over those of hunters and gatherers. As Freeman puts it:
When we were hunters and gatherers, the population could only go as far as the food could go. Scientists did an experiment once and they came up with a very clear answer to this: you put five mice in a cage and you give them enough food for five mice, guess what? You’ll only have five mice. If you put enough food for ten mice, you’ll have overpopulation. And we’re already there. We have 7 billion people on this planet.
Freeman goes on to observe that the problem is not that there’s no standing room on Earth for 7 billion people, it’s that meeting their needs is overloading the planet’s life support systems. Says Freeman:
Imagine how much [less] pollution would be in the air and the oceans if there were only 2 billion people putting it in? So yeah, we’re already overpopulated.
It’s nice to see that Freeman doesn’t fall for the fallacy that “the entire world population could fit into Texas with room to spare” like so many who fundamentally misunderstand what overpopulation is all about.
Freeman concluded that:
…I feel we’ve become a parasite on this planet….if this population keeps growing, we’ll just keep devouring the planet, and I don’t think it’s going to stand for that very long.
Freeman is not the first celebrity to voice concern about overpopulation. Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Bill Gates and many others have done so. In the 1970s, the superstar British rock band The Who sang in their song “Had Enough” that: “the world’s gonna sink with the weight of the human race.”
Freeman’s words on the topic though are among the most well-informed I’ve ever heard from any celebrity. He has obviously studied the matter and it’s sunk in.
I’m still waiting though, for that single brave, free-thinking celeb to step forth and state boldly that America is overpopulated too, and that therefore immigration must be curtailed to prevent the situation here from deteriorating even further.
Unfortunately, knowing what we do about celebrity culture, and the left-wing smear machine, I’m afraid I’ll be waiting a long time.
Chopping the rainforest down to provide for ever more humans.