Population Apocalypse Delayed—But Not Cancelled
October 07, 2010, 05:00 AM
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It was a heavy immigration weekend here in Washington, DC.

The Federation for Immigration Reform`s National Advisory Board meeting was held October 3 at the Washington Court Hotel,

Subsequently, over the next three days I attended three more conferences, two with Professor Paul Ehrlich, the Stanford biologist, ecologist and demographer, author of the celebrated 1968 book amazon The Population Bomb.

At the FAIR meeting, I talked to Ira Mehlman, the organization`s veteran Media Director, about the growth of human numbers to their present historic levels—a phenomenon which has totally failed to engage the attention of world leaders. I again mentioned to Ira my deep concern about the trend toward what many experts regard as unsustainable world.  

Ira challenged me. He said I could not prove my point to most audiences, except to the converted groups with whom I regularly consort. He pointed out that Thomas Malthus` predictions proved wrong as did those of Paul Ehrlich.

Of course, Ehrlich, stoutly and correctly in my view, maintains that his predictions in The Population Bomb—mass starvation in the 1970s and beyond—were wrong only as to their timing. Stupendous corroborating research has come out in recent years, including an important August 2010 paper by Professor and MD, David Pimentel, an entomologist, and his Cornell colleagues. This comprehensive assessment of planetary limits notes that the likely sustainable limit of our world might be 2 billion—if we can use renewable energy and curb natural resource use. Others guess lower, one even as low as 100 million worldwide!

At the sessions including Ehrlich, a number of other experts well-known for their credentials in the ecology, environment and population fields joined him in presenting data showing that our planet is in a state of "over shoot"—the present number of humans, utilizing resources both renewable and non-renewable, will not be able to sustain their present lives, regardless of redistribution. The only way humans will survive is through a substantial reduction in our numbers. (See my US Immigration Reform Is Vital—But World Population Growth Coming Like A Tsunami and my Heading for a World Apocalypse? in the Summer, 2010 issue of the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies).

But Ira opined in effect that, if the sky is going to fall, the time is not now—and no one can know when it will be. Until then, he said, I and my population reduction colleagues, including Ehrlich, will be dismissed Chicken Littles.

Ira argued: "You can never win the sustainability argument." He says while he may well agree with the science, not one leader of a major country is taking to the political action necessary to curb population and immigration.

Ira says, very plausibly: "Why not argue `desirability`—that having more people does not improve things and why do we need more?" People can see the environmental degradation, the crowding, even the Third World starvation, in grisly TV stories!

But the downside of Ira`s gentle approach—saying less growth is simply desirable rather than essential—is that it will surely not be heeded, any more than apocalyptic warnings based on the scientific research and graphic horror stories discussed in the other meetings I just attended.

I applaud Ira`s optimism that a "desirability package" might prove persuasive to the Main Stream Media, the Establishment environmental groups such as The Sierra Club, etc. and to the presently unconcerned world leaders.

But you should be aware that this blindness did not prevail just 40 years ago in the US.

Back in 1971, in his book Breeding Ourselves To Death, Lawrence Lader, a veteran population writer, vividly reported the high level of support for family planning among top US leaders including Ike, Nixon and Johnson.

Negative Population Growth published a paperback 30th Anniversary Edition, containing the original introduction by Paul Ehrlich and his new introduction written in November 2001: Ehrlich said then: "[T]he sad thing is that population limitation (to say nothing of consumption control) has fallen off the government and public radar scopes in the US."

The striking thing is that our US leadership so well understood the urgency of family planning in the 1960s up to the issuance of the Rockefeller Commission Report in 1972. Then the enactment of the Helms Amendment in 1973, forbidding Foreign Aid funds for family planning, began a long period of drift to indifference.

It is all too clear that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, both in the USA and the Vatican, played a key role in ending this sharp focus on family planning. The 40 years of indifference, initiated by the Catholic hierarchy but tacitly accepted by many for fear of attack, will be remembered as having an impact on the world far greater than the behavior of the Church`s clergy with young men. In my opinion, it was an immoral attack on women and their families. At one of the meetings I attended this week, Dr. Stephen D. Mumford documented to a rapt audience with quotes from Catholic sources that the Church cannot retreat on contraception, although its teachings are obviously ignored by Catholic laity, because it would undermine the dogma of Papal Infallibility. (See Why the church can`t change by Dr Stephen D Mumford).

Let me close by asking you readers this urgent question:

  • Do you believe the human race can sustain its present population levels—as well as the next two or more billions that seem destined to arrive in this century?

Smart people, such as Ehrlich and the late Garrett Hardin, and countless thinking scientists, know that the present level of population in the US is already unsustainable.

Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.