Halloween is traditionally a night of witches, ghosts, and monsters. But for environmentalists and their media allies, an even bigger scare is coming this Halloween: the birth of Earth's 7 billionth resident.
On Oct. 31, 2011, world population will reach 7 billion, according to the United Nations. For many people, this milestone is a cause for celebration and a human triumph. But for environmentalists on the radical left, the ever-growing legion of consuming humans is a harbinger of impending doom. The Washington Post cautioned that "ecological distortions are becoming more pronounced and widespread." Already the media are warning that population could more than double by 2100, according to a new UN report.
The media have long promoted overpopulation panic rampant among prominent voices in the environmentalist movement. James Lovelock, the founder of Gaia theory, fretted over too much economic success: "there are too many [people], doing too well economically and burning too much oil." American biologist Paul Ehrlich made a series of fantastic predictions, including the claim: "I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."
Despite the failed predictions of Ehrlich and others, the phantom of overpopulation still haunts many on the left, and the media are happy to report every new terror. To thwart the environmentalist nightmare of too many people achieving economic success, such anti-population groups as The Population Institute, Population Connection, and Negative Population Growth lobby governments and philanthropic organizations (and more bizarrely, organize "condom campaigns") to implement policies to "stabilize" or even reduce world population.
These groups are terrified by the specter of impending environmental disaster, and loathe humanity because of that fear. Negative Population Growth takes a particularly gloomy view of the human race: "More people means more pollution, more sprawl, less green space, and even more demands on the earth's already overburdened resources."
These groups echo radical environmentalists who see humanity as a plague. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, declared humans to be the "AIDS of the earth." Yet Watson has his own TV show on Discovery. John Davis, editor of the Earth First! Journal, stated: "Human beings have no more value as species than slugs."
Their fear-mongering is echoed by willing partners in the mainstream media. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman titled his July 7 column "The Earth is Full." The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board titled a May 15 op-ed "Defusing the Population Bomb." The Los Angeles Times also published a July 21 op-ed coauthored by Mary Ellen Harte and Anne Ehrlich (wife of Paul Ehrlich), which argued that "Perpetual [human population] growth is the creed of a cancer cell, not a sustainable human society."
CNN has proven especially willing to promote overpopulation hysteria. In 2009, CNN's Jack Cafferty warned of an "unsustainable" population of 9 billion and declared that "at some point there's not going to be enough stuff for everybody." Another 2009 CNN report highlighted two studies claiming that "money spent on contraception is about five times more efficient [in protecting the environment] than money spent on clean-energy technologies." In November 2010, Joy Behar concurred with a guest who compared having a large family to "littering."
CNN.com even posted a "Student News Learning Activity" on its website to educate children about the supposed consequences of overpopulation.
CNN's shilling for the anti-population lobby is not surprising, considering CNN founder Ted Turner's unabashed support for the cause of population control. Turner, who has five children, has spoken favorably of China's notorious one-child-per-family policy.
Left-wing media outlets are more hysterical in promoting the anti-population message. Mother Jones' Julia Whitty composed a piece in 2010 with the conspiratorial subheading "What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives, environmentalists, and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population." In August 2011, Daily Kos blogger Jon Stafford ranted: "This will undoubtedly be met with accusations of callousness, but what we could really use is a global superplague."
Panic over population growth is not a new phenomenon. Anglican clergyman and thinker Thomas Malthus, in 1798, called for extreme measures to reduce human population in his Essay on the Principle of Population (World population was below 1 billion in 1798.): "Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations." American biologist Paul Ehrlich echoed Malthus in his 1968 work The Population Bomb, which warned of mass starvation and environmental catastrophe due to overpopulation. (World population was below 3.6 billion in 1968.)
The dire warnings of Malthus and Ehrlich were proven spectacularly wrong. The New York Times stated as much in a 2003 editorial, noting that "population growth rates were plummeting." Birthrates are rapidly declining in the United States and throughout the world. And food production has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, as new methods of growing food and using resources are discovered.
But Ehrlich has refused to concede his predictions were wrong, and the media still quotes Ehrlich and raises the ghost of Malthus. On Oct. 17, economist and George Soros friend Jeffrey Sachs invoked Malthus in a piece bemoaning overpopulation on CNN.com. As recently as 2010, the New York Times quoted Ehrlich as a "population expert." And the Los Angeles Times favorably interviewed Ehrlich in February 2011.
Not everyone is as terrified of the overpopulation bogeyman as the media seems to be. Colin Mason, Director of Media for the Population Research Institute, explained to BMI why fears of overpopulation are unfounded: "Historically, as human population has grown and developed technology, the manner in which we use resources has changed. For instance, as human population has grown, we have needed to produce enough food to feed our burgeoning numbers. But as our civilizations have developed, we have also developed ways of increasing crop yield, and of growing crops on previously infertile land." A series of videos produced by PRI illustrate their argument that the earth is not overpopulated.
Attempts to curb population growth carry with them a heavy economic price. Social programs such as Social Security and Medicare depend upon having enough workers to pay into the system. If too few children are born to replace retiring workers, these programs eventually collapse.
The 2008 documentary "Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family" detailed numerous negative economic and social consequences for declining populations. Mason concurred, telling BMI: "The negative economic and social consequences of birth control are almost too numerous to mention."
But anti-population journalists and environmentalists ignore these voices, and instead promote radical "solutions" to the "problem" of overpopulation. In 2007, an Australian medical expert called for a tax on people who have more than 2 children. In 2009, Canadian journalist Diane Francis was more draconian; she called for China's one-child-per-family policy to be implemented everywhere.
Others have called for even more radical solutions. Steven Kotler, in a 2009 blog post for Psychology Today, urged all adults to stop having children for 5 years. In 2007, Paul Watson advocated for the Earth's population to be reduced to 1 billion. And in an August 2011 interview with left-wing media outlet Alternet, Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, and Aric McBay called for an end to human civilization itself.
The environmentalist worldview is haunted by the terrifying prospect of human achievement. Environmentalists see people as consumers of scarce resources, neglecting the fact that human beings are inventors and producers as well.
But their efforts are hypocritical. Groups and individuals calling for an end to population growth still consume the world's scarce resources and utilize modern technology in their attempts to get others to reduce their population growth.
They want to make sure future generations don't have the opportunity to do the same.