Our VoiceImmigration

Overpopulation Alarmists Join the Fear Party


Jill Garvey • Aug 13, 2009

Along with astroturfing town hall protests, another topic tinged with extremism is weaving fear into mainstream media. Making the rounds on the conglomerate news networks is a study by a pair of Oregon State University statisticians titled Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals. In a nutshell it explains to Americans that the best way to be environmentally friendly is to have less children. And population alarmist groups are eating it up.

The general premise of the study is that each human being has a carbon footprint and eliminating this footprint is a significant way to combat environmental problems. Population control as a solution to addressing ecological issues has long been shunned by real environmentalists, and embraced by radical environmentalists (or those posing as environmentalists). This is related to the anti-immigrant movement’s sneaky efforts to use ecological concerns as a reason to hate on immigrants of color. The twist in comparison to other controversial population control frames is that this one specifically targets American would-be breeders by focusing on the extended impact of a child with a long life expectancy.

This would seem to diverge from the scary eugenics ideas of the 20th century, right? Actually though it flies in the face of the only real factor that has proven to control population growth: an increased standard of living. And it implies a few things about how wealthy nations should view poor ones; as in ‘don’t elevate developing nations, because they’ll live longer and ruin the environment.’

Maybe the OSU study wasn’t really aimed at potential American parents looking to be uber-ecosavers, but rather extremist groups looking to repackage eugenics for environmentalists, while conveniently making a case to continue global wealth and resource disparities.

Like the health care reform rabble and the birthers, fear-mongering around overpopulation blames the problem on the “other”, i.e. immigrants, people of color, poor women, etc. rather than powerful corporations and institutionalized racism.

The topics and exact ideologies of all these groups may differ, but what they have in common is their treatment of America as a private club whose membership has reached capacity. There is no more room apparently for the sick, the poor, the hungry, much less those who believe they can attain the American dream of prosperity. They’d like us to believe the Earth itself has reached capacity on how many can prosper in this nation. What reverberates through this study and healthcare town halls and extreme right-winged news programs is the sound of doors slamming in the face of real solutions to racial and economic inequities.

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