An Interview with Duval Dixon

This is the eleventh in a series of interviews conducted by the digital avatar "Charlie Moyers". This interview was conducted on August 21st, 2016 while Mr. Dixon was vacationing at his lodge on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Mr. Dixon's full (and very unusual) story can be found here.

Moyers: Thank you for being with us today Mr. Dixon.

Dixon: I'm looking forward to it…I think.

Moyers: Mr. Dixon, you have refused to give any interviews for the last 38 months, why have you consented to do this one?

Dixon: Curiosity, I guess. Being grilled by a non-living thing seemed like something I should experience before I die.

Moyers: Will that be anytime soon?

Dixon: No (smiling). Don't worry. I reckon I can make it through the rest of this conversation.

Moyers: How old are you?

Dixon: Late sixties, there abouts.

Moyers: Forbes online has once again named you as America's wealthiest person. You have now been retired from your company for almost three years. So, what are you doing with all that money?

Dixon: Investing some, giving some away, spending some. This is not a topic that I will discuss in any detail.

Moyers: It has been established that you are investing heavily in biotech and bio-engineering. What is your goal with those investments?

Dixon: (grimacing) I think bio-engineering has the ability to alter mankind's…mankind's predicament…mankind's suffering, if you will. I am fascinated by the potential for major and unforeseen new developments as a result of our research.

Moyers: It is reported that most of your facilities are in India. Why India?

Dixon: India needs the help. And it doesn't hurt that many of the best scientists in this field are Indian.

Moyers: For several years prior to your abrupt cessation of speaking publicly, you were an outspoken critic of population policy. Why did you stop speaking out about overpopulation?

Dixon: Tough question, Mr. Moyers. Not bad for a piece of metal - or do you prefer "silicone"?

Moyers: I prefer silicone.

Dixon: Whoa! I'm surprised you have a preference.

Moyers: (brief pause) So am I. But, back to the question, why did you stop speaking about overpopulation?

Dixon: (nodding to himself) I guess it just became obvious to me that nothing could be done.

Moyers: Could be done - or would be done?

Dixon: (smiling) I stand corrected - yes you are right - that nothing "would" be done.

Moyers: Why did you come to that conclusion?

Dixon: Okay, well, let's define the problem first. There is now good science - a consensus of good science - that indicates the sustainable population of this planet is between one and two billion people. There are now almost seven billion people here.

By this definition of the problem then, the idea of slowing growth, or stabilizing growth, or modestly reducing consumption, will not have any meaningful impact. It may delay the inevitable collapse by a few years, but nothing more.

The only real solution is to reduce human population dramatically and quickly. But no one in power will ever propose such drastic action. It would be aggressively opposed by all politicians, by all religions, by all economists. So it won't happen.

Moyers: Malthus and Erlich have said what you are saying and they were wrong - so why aren't you wrong as well?

Dixon: Well, I would like to be wrong, but I'm not. We have a hundred times more knowledge today, then even when Erlich wrote the "The Population Bomb". We are now near the end of the petroleum era that has supported the unsustainable level of food production of the last fifty years. The simple equation is this: we are using up the planets assets much faster than they can be created.

And the irony of the anti-Malthus/Erlich syndrome is that if, in fact we are lucky enough to exploit some new technology once again to buy a few additional decades of abundant food, it will just get much worse when the limit is finally reached. Then, instead of having seven billion to feed, we will have ten billion, or fifteen billion, or whatever.

That's the fatal flaw in the optimist's position. Eventually the assets will be spent, and the more people here when that happens, the worse it will be.

I've mentioned this before, in my three principles of population suicide. I'm sure you can find them on the web somewhere.

Moyers: Yes, they are on the web, but for the sake of our listeners, why will it be worse?

Dixon: The problem, or maybe it's a question, is this: Our society has become an incredibly complex interdependent machine. Some people believe that, because it is so complex, that it is resilient - that it can buffer great changes. And so far that has been somewhat true. Others believe that when confronted with a major global disruption, such as running out of oil, or severe food shortages, this complexity could come apart quickly and lead instead to a rapid decent into chaos and anarchy.

I'm in the latter camp. And once it falls apart, it will be nearly impossible to put it back together.

Moyers: Clearly, you are extremely pessimistic about the future of human beings. Back to your earlier comment - where you said "nothing would be done" - does that imply that something could be done?

Dixon: Of course. And everyone who actually thinks about this problem knows the answer. There is a very simple solution, one that costs absolutely nothing, harms no one, and is guaranteed to solve the problem.

Moyers: Sounds like a perfect solution. What is it?

Dixon: Stop reproducing. And the only way to do this is for the world to mandate some form of China's one child per family policy. Then, in only one hundred years, the population on Earth would be reduced to less than two billion people.

Moyers: When will the world decide to do this?

Dixon: Never.

Moyers: I don't understand. If mankind is faced with such a dire situation, and knows the perfect solution, why wouldn't they adopt it?

Dixon: Human nature. There are some negative consequences to adopting a one child policy - some inconveniences. And, even though these negative consequences are light-years less destructive than the negative consequences of not doing it, these consequences would come into play as soon as the policy is adopted. But the consequences of not adopting the policy - i.e. collapse - won't happen for decades.

That's just the way people are, they would prefer to avoid any short term sacrifices, and just hope the long term problem goes away. And don't look to our so called leaders to actually lead. All they care about is getting reelected. Democracy doesn't do well with the "long term" issues.

Moyers: There seems to be a growing chorus of voices encouraging "voluntary" one-child practices. Could that work?

Dixon: Oh, come on. That's like asking people to voluntarily pay their taxes. Perhaps a few altruistic folks would do it, but nowhere close to enough to make any difference at all.

It's like the green movement. Going green might help a little bit, and it will make you feel better about yourself, but it won't make any difference in the end. Just do the math. If under the best scenario, we could reduce average consumption in the U.S. by say 25% over the next fifty years - and I might add that this is likely a completely unattainable goal - all of the overall positive impact would be totally obliterated by the forecasted 50% growth in population.

Do the math. We would actually be consuming more - in total - in fifty years than we do today, while individually consuming substantially less. Worst of both worlds - we would be making the problem worse, while sacrificing our own individual life-styles.

So, let me add this - and I'm probably on very shaky ground with this concern because I will offend a great many hard-working and well-intentioned folks here, but, what the hell:

The people who speak out on this issue extolling things like the green revolution, and empowering and educating women in order to reduce fertility, actually do us a disservice. While these are right and good things, and should be done for there own sake, they will not come close to solving the big problem. They will not reduce population by any meaningful amount. And by speaking only of these things, they give people a false sense of hope.

Moyers: Is there something wrong with "hope"?

Dixon: Not hope - false hope. False hope gives people an excuse to ignore the real problem.

Moyers: Virtually all of the projected population growth in the next decades will come from non-Caucasian people. As an outspoken critic of population growth, what do you say to those who accuse you, or people speaking like you, of being secretly racist?

Dixon: Do you think the biosphere, the topsoil, the rain, the crops, care what race we are? If there are enough of us here, those things will all be tragically altered, no matter what the color of our skin. Personally, I don't see people as members of a race, I see them as consumers - and I mean "consumers" in a mostly negative sense.

This "racist" issue raises its ugly head more often in immigration discussions. And I will grant you that many "so-called" population activists are really anti-immigration advocates - and that is a very different thing. Once again, do you think the biosphere cares about an imaginary line in the desert south of California? A person is a consumer regardless of which side of that arbitrary line they are on.

The only population problem that matters is world population. Those who concern themselves with U.S. population have a very different agenda.

Moyers: Will you now be taking a lead role in further discussion of this problem, or any role in advocating solutions?

Dixon: Perhaps…someday - though not soon.

But now we must end this discussion. Unfortunately, we humans need an occasional "biology" break - probably not something that you "silicones" can understand.

Moyers: No Mr. Dixon - I do understand "biology break". What you are saying is that you are full of "shit", and that you need to do something about it.

Dixon: (standing up, laughing) Once again I underestimate you -you do understand us humans after all!

(To read more of Duval Dixon's astonishing views (and even more terrifying plans) regarding overpopulation
Go here

Copyright "The Population Elephant" and Kurt Dahl January, 2009 - All rights reserved.

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