Tag Archives: Harper’s

Making Midgets Out of Men

People are responsible for a lot of pollution; we get that.  A lot of that pollution, it turns out, is associated with how much we eat.  Eighteen percent of greenhouse gases, for example, come from livestock farming – more than comes from our cars.  Thus, anything that might reduce our consumption of livestock products – you know, beef and fowl – could theoretically reduce greenhouse gases.

There are obvious ways to do this.  We could just eat less meat – eat it less often, eat less of it when we do eat it, find substitutes, and more.  But a recent edition of Harper’s magazine offers an excerpt from a book that offers what one might call a, um, different kind of idea for helping people eat less meat:  grow smaller people.

That’s right:  because if people were smaller they would eat less meat.

And how does the book Human Engineering and Climate Change, by S. Matthew Liao, Anders Dandberg, and Rebecca Roache propose this?  The Curmudgeon presents the authors’ own words.

Human ecological footprints are partly correlated with body size.  As well as needing to eat more, larger people consume more energy in less obvious ways.  For example, a car uses more fuel per mile to carry a heavier person than a lighter person; more fabric is needed to clothe larger people; heavier people wear out shoes, carpets, and furniture more quickly than lighter people; and so on.  A way to reduce ecological footprints, then, would be to reduce size.  There are several ways by which we could reduce adult height in humans.  While genetic modifications to control height are likely to be quite complex and beyond our current capacities, it nevertheless seems possible now to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select for shorter children.  Another method of influencing 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).  A more speculative and controversial way of reducing adult height is to reduce birth weight.  Drugs or nutrients that either reduce the expression of paternally imprinted genes or increase the expression of maternally imprinted genes could potentially regulate birth weight. 

Unbelievable.  Just…unbelievable.  When The Curmudgeon read this, he had to check the magazine to make sure it wasn’t an April fool’s edition or something like that.  But nope:  these people are serious.