Letters to EcoNews: Population Control

George Clark, Eureka, CA

Kudos for Econews’ persistence pointing-out human lifestyle as the primary cause of climate change, both in overconsumption and inequitable resource distribution, (“Unpacking Outdated Environmental Ideologies” by Elena Bilheimer, May, 2022).

According to every Census, U.S. population is bigger, fatter and sicker, still demanding brief, overseas junkets, each time burning one-ton of jet fuel per-person and those fat SUV’s parked outside garages overfilled with landfill-ready commodities…despite witnessing accelerating climate chaos; or the world’s last “cheap” oil wasted on seizing the world’s last oil; or the tens of millions of climate and oil-war refugees. 

Transitional strategies like population reduction, fossil fuel-dependent solar panels, windmills and hybrid vehicles, remain necessary, (but eventually inadequate), until everyone voluntarily, or by force of nature, alters wasteful, self-destructive behaviors individually and in our community.

Locally, we could add the choice of “adoption over live-birth” to graduate’s “Social Responsibility Pledge” at Humboldt Polytechnic University, or nationally by adding a tax-credit. Eugenicist’s nefarious exploitation of overpopulation at their elite bionomics conferences is insufficient reason to dismiss populate reduction, similarly, the concept of a U.S. Constitution shouldn’t be dismissed due to racist’s gun-toting free speech.

Greed is the greatest challenge to overcome, historically oblivious to self-destruction.

Can Humboldt’s history of economic independence from grain-production be reproduced and expanded to energy? Can we plan the return of Eureka’s efficient trolley-system? Eureka’s rediscovered value in its Old Town’s mixed-community of shops, services, housing and history and the local expansion of public trails, (what tourists travel overseas to experience), mirrors efforts in Scandinavia where competing new businesses cannot keep-pace with demand for peddle-assist “pod-bikes” fulfilling most daily travel needs by young workers and retirees.

What other products and services can be produced locally that extract us from greed’s historic self-destructive grip?


Ken Burton, McKinleyville:

It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed by Elena Bilheimer’s article in the April Econews discussing the role – or supposed lack thereof – of population in causing climate change.  She stated that the problem – and, by extension, most other environmental problems – stems not from overpopulation but from overconsumption and inequitable resource distribution.  What??  They are inseparable, two sides of the same coin.  We humans have done a better job, with worse consequences, than other species in manipulating our environment and developing technologies to increase the planet’s carrying capacity for us, but resources are still finite.  Wackernagel et al. (2002) suggest that humanity’s demand on the environment was 70% of global regenerative capacity in 1961, surpassed it in the 1980s, and reached 120% in 1999.  Population increased 96% during that period; can anyone legitimately claim that there’s no connection?  Fewer people can sustainably consume more resources and produce more waste per capita; the opposite is true of more people.  It’s pretty simple math, really.

Population control seems to have become a taboo topic of discussion but I believe it is a necessary component, along with reduced consumption, waste reduction and reuse, technology shifts, and equitable resource allocation, of fighting climate change and other global environmental problems.  

But we can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.  The relative weights of the factors contributing to the problems vary from one part of the world to another and so must the solutions.  Reducing resource consumption and waste and moving away from fossil fuels should be the foci here, but in places such as Bangladesh and the Sahel, population control is going to be more effective.  That may appear racist, but I would argue that the advantages of smaller families are more obvious and appealing than those of reverting to simpler, less consumptive lifestyles.  Most of the world’s people aspire to more comfortable lifestyles involving more consumption and more waste and they’re entitled to them; but they can’t attain them without controlling their populations.

Ms. Bilheimer extensively quoted sources debunking 19th Century Malthusian theory without presenting any opposing views.  This exposes her apparent personal bias (what is her agenda, anyway?) and makes her article more of an editorial than a balanced piece of journalism.  Does this piece represent NEC’s opinion?  Perhaps Econews, as much as I agree with most of its content, is the wrong place to look for balanced journalism.

It’s absolutely true that many population control arguments have been based on racist and sexist ideologies, but no amount of wokeness can exonerate overpopulation as a factor contributing to climate change and the myriad other environmental problems facing us.  I would have hoped that the NEC recognized this.


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