OVERPOPULATION ALARMISM LEADS TO MALTHUSIAN 'LET THEM DIE' SOCIAL POLICIES
I gave four reasons for writing this essay at the start of Part I including how overpopulation alarmism leads to an implied 'let them die' sentiment towards the world's poor while it takes attention away from the economic factors that drive environmental destruction.
Yet most overpopulation alarmists aren't horrible people —many of them advocate for women's rights, education and autonomy. However, this means promoting jobs as a means out of poverty, and promoting jobs means promoting a consumer-based economy.
Promoting the idea that world problems are caused by 'too many people', creates a quick jump to the presumed solution: fewer people. And there are some very, very bad ways to get 'fewer people'. In 2007 I was told about a conversation overheard at a BC university. A professor was describing high child and infant mortality rates in a far off country and was interrupted by a student who asked:"but isn't this a good thing because of overpopulation?" Other students were also overheard talking about how diseases in poor countries are necessary in order to reduce population. But we cannot blame young people for having such opinions.
John A. Livingston (1923-2006) for many years was executive producer of the popular Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) TV science program, The Nature of Things and also taught environmental studies at York University. In his award-winning book Rogue Primate (1994), Livingston praises Robert Heilbroner as being "courageous" for saying that child mortality from undernourishment in the poorest countries is "a human tragedy of immense proportions, but also a demographic safety value of great importance."
David Suzuki considered Livingston a mentor, but took issue with his environmentally misanthropic views: "I was involved in the anti-nuclear movement and his attitude was if humans were stupid enough to develop nuclear weapons and to drop them, well, so be it, the rest of nature would be better off for it. I had a hard time with that."
Garrett Hardin, known for his writing on the Tragedy of the Commons, equated deaths from famine as being similar to pruning fruit trees in his 1999 book The Ostrich Factor. Hardin devoted one chapter to the ideas of 3rd century theologian Tertullian:
|"Growing things and getting rid of superfluous living material for the sake of a better harvest was once a familiar practice to many... [Tertullian] realized that whenever a community consists of too many people for the resources available to it, heavy mortality can then actually improve the conditions of life for the lucky survivors." (Garrett Hardin, The Ostrich Factor)
And on a 2008 BBC panel, scientist Susan Blackmore expressed a conflicted view of population:
|Sue Blackmore: Like others here, I expected something more Daniel-like. The real unsaid thing, the real free-thinking thing that needs to be said is that the fundamental problem is that there are too many people. John Gray: I did say that. Sue Blackmore: Yes, you did, but you didn't grasp the nettle and nobody can because what it means and I find myself in the situation is thinking is 'for the planet's sake I hope we have bird flu or some other thing that will reduce the population because otherwise we're doomed. As a humanitarian person I want to have cures and to have people not die. I don't know what to do about this problem."
Again (as above), there is a practical solution — guaranteed livable income.
Sometimes the 'too many people', or more specifically 'too many of the wrong people', turns into population control campaigns. Population control has a brutal past and there are many examples throughout history of one group of people trying to control the fertility of another group.
Population control can be pro-natalist - getting certain women to have babies; it can be anti-natalist - stopping certain women from having babies; it can mean policies that withhold or steal resources (e.g. the mass slaughter of bison as a military strategy); it can mean targeting women with violence; it can mean structural adjustment where countries are forced to cut social programs. It can also mean eugenics. "People with disabilities often were targeted by the state for eugenic intervention." (Canadian Disability Studies Association 2011)
"Nationalism is a thing which has always encouraged a high birth rate, from Sparta to Nazi Germany and beyond." —Janet Radcliffe Richards, The Skeptical Feminist, 1982
An infamous example of pro-natalist policies and propaganda occurred in Nazi Germany where women deemed "Aryan" were encouraged to have as many babies as possible.
"In 1938 [in Germany], childlessness was restored in law as grounds for divorce. Abortion and contraceptives were also banned." —Jack Holland, Misogyny, 2006
"Mothers, your cradles are like a slumbering army, ever ready for victory, they will never be empty." (Nazi poem, quoted in Misogyny, Jack Holland, 2006 )
Nazi eugenics courts ordered the sterilization of all "defectives". According to Claudia Koonz in her 1987 book, Mothers in the Fatherland, sterilization policies "marked an important step towards the exclusion of 'racially' inadequate people from 'Aryan' society." This, Koonz writes, set the stage for the Jewish holocaust.
And another example of pro-natalism, this time for economic reasons, is how slave owners reacted in the 1800's when new laws began to affect the slave trade:
"As the threats to end the slave trade became apparent, West Indian planters sought to conserve the slave population they already had and to enhance it through reproduction. The attitude of the West Indian plantocracy changed from the premise 'better to buy than to breed', to the encouragement of natural increase in the colonies."
—Nicole Phillip, Producers, Reproducers, and Rebels:Grenadian Slave Women 1783-1833
"Accordingly, the price of the woman slave was based not only on her value as a field hand or a household slave, but also on the possible value of her children of the future." —Marian Lowe and Ruth Hubbard, (editors), Woman's Nature: Rationalizations of Inequality, 1986
In the face of these circumstances, women resisted:
Another form of population control is when imperial powers remove or attempt to remove peoples and original inhabitants who occupy coveted land and resources.
"...the federal government and, it seems fair to say, most Americans endorsed or acquiesced in the practice of Indian extermination and removal... Later generations along the moving western frontier maintained the proposition laid down by these early Americans--savages would have to go, treaties or no treaties." —Michael H. Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy,1987
(See also the documentary LIFE AND DEBT)
Taken to its broadest definition, population control can also be the imposition of structural adjustment programs.
Even in British Columbia, Canada (described by its government as being "the best place on earth") there were 6065 welfare recipients who died in the first 18 months of BC provincial welfare cuts that started in July 2002. (Andrew MacLeod, Monday Magazine, Aug. 2005)
What else could you call the gap between public health goals and punitive welfare policies but a form of bureaucratic population control?
TARGETING INDIGENOUS WOMEN EXAMPLES
"Sterilization of indigenous women an act of genocide, new book says... [Karen Stote] documents 580 sterilizations of indigenous women that took place at federal hospitals between 1971 and 1974" CBC News, Aug. 2015 regarding An Act of Genocide, Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women by Karen Stote
"During the 1970s many Native women went into the hospital to have children and came out with tubal ligations or hysterectomies." —Kim Anderson, Strong Women Stories: Native Vision and Community Survival, 2003 anthology
"As of 1982, fifteen percent of white women had been sterilized, compared with twenty-four percent of African-American women, thirty-five percent of Puerto Rican women, and forty-two percent of Native American women. (28) In the early 1970's, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 low-income individuals were annually subjected to sterilization under federally funded programs." —Michael Sullivan DeFine, A History of Governmentally Coerced Sterilization: The Plight of the Native American Woman, University of Maine School of Law, 1997
"In some cases [Brazil], women are asked to present certification of tubal ligation as a prerequisite to employment." —Bill Hinchberger, Corporate Sterilization, Multinational Monitor, November, 1991
"Human rights groups cite evidence that unilingual Indians are being targeted by government sterilization brigades in several [Mexican] states..." — Linda Diebel, Toronto Star, Latin America Bureau, March 26, 2000
In Canada, Aboriginal peoples have also had another kind of population control used against them. Starting in the 1800's Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in residential schools. This continued in the 1960s in what was known as the 'Sixties Scoop'.
This trend continues:
|"In British Columbia, nearly 8,200 children are in care of the province. Over half are Aboriginal. But it gets worse. Over 5,000 Aboriginal children are in care of the province of Alberta. They represent nearly 70 per cent of kids. The number grows to 5,600 Aboriginal children in Saskatchewan or 83 per cent of all kids in care. But it’s Manitoba that has the highest numbers. More than 10,000 Aboriginal children, 87 per cent, are under the care of the province." -- APTN National News, Nov.18, 2014
Policies of elimination and/or subjugation of indigenous peoples around the world is well documented for anyone who cares to look.
Overpopulation alarmism creates a perception that human population growth is an uncontrollable tidal wave of humanity bursting forth from monstrous baby-making machines with no off-switch.
|"Lederer leaves out of his absurd picture [women as fertility mad reproducers] a few realistic details, such as the fact that women have always waged a fierce struggle against unwanted pregnancies."
—Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology, 1978
Women around the world have long had the knowledge and desire to control their own fertility.
Historically women were the ones with the knowledge and insight to gauge whether there was enough 'nurture' in themselves, their family, their society, and their environment sufficient to bring a new human being into the world.
BORING BEFORE BLOODY
Overpopulation alarmism is very dramatic. It also plays into the sentiment that "hell is other people". But before we go for the bloody drama, apocalyptic endings, and cathartic dreams of annihilating 'other people', why don't we try something boring first? Implementing a universal guaranteed income is boring. However, boring economics is better than bloody economics, and boring economics paradoxically creates maximum opportunity for fun, full and healthy lives and a livable world.
GLI and Population Part 1
GLI and Population Part 2
Thanks to @itsmotherswork and the friendly @antihuman_c (even though we disagree on a few things) and several others who sent me their thoughts on this topic.
The Economist on falling fertility rates
IEET on Depopulation Time Bomb