I tend to prefer to put the links for anything I quote in plain view so that anyone who stares at my posts in disbelief can go right to the source. This will enable the reader to do two things; know that I do not dream these things up, and decide for himself if the writers of the quoted source are being sincere in their wild proposals or if they are just being modern Jonathan Swift-types of satirists and I simply missed the sarcasm.
The subject of this post is a a paper written by three individuals from New York University and is dated from February of this year. It states that it is to appear in Ethics, Policy and the Environment. The writers start out with a brief thesis that of course assumes that Anthropogenic climate change (Global Warming for lay persons like you and I) is a done deal and beyond question as a concept. The paper takes some interesting but terribly frightening paths. I will quote directly from the paper in order that the reader will not assume that I am taking any liberties with my interpretations.
II. Human Engineering Solutions to Climate Change
Pharmacological meat intolerance
Since a large proportion of these cows and other grazing animals are meant for
consumption, reducing the consumption of these kinds of meat (for brevity, call them
‘red meat’) could have significant environmental benefits (Eshel and Martin 2006).
Human engineering could help here. Eating something that
makes us feel nauseous can trigger long-lasting food aversion. While eating red meat
with added emetic (a substance that induces vomiting) could be used as an aversion
conditioning, anyone not strongly committed to giving up red meat is unlikely to be
attracted to this option. A more realistic option might be to induce mild intolerance (akin,
e.g., to milk intolerance) to these kinds of meat. While meat intolerance is normally
uncommon (Aparicio et al. 2005), in principle, it could be induced by stimulating the
immune system against common bovine proteins. The immune system would then
become primed to react to such proteins, and henceforth eating ‘eco-unfriendly’ food
would induce unpleasant experiences. Even if the effects do not last a lifetime, the
learning effect is likely to persist for a long time. A potentially safe and practical way of
delivering such intolerance may be to produce ‘meat’ patches – akin to nicotine patches.
We can produce patches for those animals that contribute the most to greenhouse gas
emissions and encourage people to use such patches.
Making humans smaller [The idea of the writers is that smaller people create less carbon emissions]
While genetic modifications to control height are likely to be quite complex and beyond our current capacities, it nevertheless seems possible now to use PGD to select shorter children. This would not involve intervening to change the genetic material of embryos, or employing
any clinical methods not currently used. It would simply involve rethinking the criteria for selecting which embryos to implant. Another method of affecting height is to use hormone treatment either to affect somatotropin levels or to trigger the closing of the epiphyseal plate earlier than normal (this sometimes occurs accidentally through vitamin A overdoses (Rothenberg et al. 2007)). Hormone treatments are used for growth reduction in excessively tall children (Bramswig et al. 1988; Grüters et al. 1989). Currently, somatostatin (an inhibitor of growth hormone) is being studied as a safer alternative (Hindmarsh et al. 1995). Finally, a more speculative and controversial way of reducing adult height is to
reduce birth weight. There is a correlation between birth weight and adult height
(Sorensen et al. 1999), according to which birth weight at the lower edge of the normal
distribution tends to result in the adult’s being ≈5 cm shorter. Birth height has an even
stronger effect for adult height. If one is born at the lower edge of the normal distribution
of height, this tends to produce ≈15 cm shorter adult height. Gene imprinting has been
found to affect birth size, as a result of evolutionary competition between paternally and
maternally imprinted genes (Burt and Trivers 2006). Drugs or nutrients that either reduce
the expression of paternally imprinted genes, or increase the expression of maternally
imprinted genes, could potentially regulate birth size.
Lowering birth-rates through cognitive enhancement
In 2008, John Guillebaud, an emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive
health at University College London, and Dr Pip Hayes, a general practitioner from
Exeter, pointed out that ‘each UK birth will be responsible for 160 times more
greenhouse gas emissions … than a new birth in Ethiopia’ ((Guillebaud and Hayes 2008):
576). As a way to mitigate climate change, they proposed that Britons should consider
having no more than two children per family.
By all means, read the paper and Google the names and title. If someone can find that this paper was intended as satire, please let me know. I would at least be a tiny bit relieved to find out that this was intended to be a 2012 version of "A Modest Proposal".
The discussion prompted a torrent of response online, with many considering the ideas dangerous and troubling. Environmentalist Bill McKibben tweeted that these were the “[w]orst climate change solutions of all time.” Others accused the authors of promoting eugenics or being “environmentalist Nazis.” Climate change skeptics were particularly perturbed.
The Guardian’s Leo Hickman reached out to the co-authors to get their reaction to the kerfuffle. Their responses are fascinating. They reiterate that they are not necessarily arguing in favor of these modifications—just consideration—and Oxford's Sandberg admits that during the writing process, "I felt I was to some extent trolling." He also notes, “In philosophy we take ideas and test them to destruction. This means that we often bring up concepts or lines of thought we do not personally believe in and then argue them as strongly as possible to see where they go and what we can learn.”