World Population Day has come and gone. But not without a flood of activity from population alarmists. One of the worst offenders is Dave Gardner of Growthbusters infamy, who established a website in honor of World Population Day. We have already written pretty extensively on Gardner and his efforts to equate world hunger, deforestation, traffic congestion, war, overfishing and grassroots political activism with “overpopulation.” Allow me to suggest that it is not such a simple equation.
As opponents of Gardner and his cohorts have said time and again, “overpopulation” is not a problem composed of raw numbers. It is a problem of equity and distribution. Unfortunately, viewpoints like Gardner’s unfairly blame people with little to no control over the system. For example, Gardner is quite comfortable blaming poor women for having too many babies and then lacking the ability to feed them, thus “causing” hunger. The reality, of course, is that most women lack access to safe, reliable and non-stigmatized family planning services while at the same time the United Nations predicts that global food production will exceed population growth – at least in the near future. If this was question of raw numbers, it would seem that the global population should have at least enough to eat; maybe even a little more than enough. Clearly there are other factors at play, beyond a simple babies-to-calories-available ratio.
While we’re on the topic, we should “bust” a few more World Population Day assumptions, Gardner-style:
- We are experiencing a “population explosion.” As it turns out, the “9 billion by 2050” that population alarmists like to bandy about is a relatively short-sighted estimate. While world population is certainly increasing, population growth rates are slowing down. The United Nations estimates a stabilized world population of 8.3 billion by 2175.
- Population growth causes famine, ecological degradation, conflict, and political insecurity.
As the above example suggests, these are all complex functions of inequality. Placing simplistic blame on those most effected by poverty demonstrates a deep disdain for women and poor people. Some U.S. corporations consume more than entire countries. Some of the world’s richest posses more wealth than billions of the world’s poorest, combined. Who makes a bigger impact on the planet?
- The only way to convince women to have less children is to enact social policies that stress pregnancy prevention.
Such a sentiment implies that women cannot be trusted to make autonomous decisions about their own health, and paves the way for coercive birth control policies – many are already in place internationally (such as the Population Media Center) and in the United States. It also justifies a culturally imperialistic attitude toward international healthcare (ie, poor women in developing countries have to be taught what is best for them based on a Western model). Let’s not forget that coercion has long been a tool of population control that masquerades as family planning.
Though the World Population Day website makes quite a few outrageous claims, Gardner’s most recent link-up with Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is even more alarming. CAPS is, of course, closely linked with the Tanton Network’s many anti-immigrant groups. Maria Fotopoulos, a senior writing fellow at CAPS, recently endorsed Gardner in two editions of the same blog post, appearing on both the CAPS website and Open Salon. She urges readers to look to Gardner’s World Population Day website, as well as his Growthbusters website. Fotopoulos has already interviewed Gardner and promoted his films. This relationship is ongoing and undermines what little credibility Gardner has left.
Any legitimate conversation about population growth includes a conversation about equity, and it is easy to see why the immigrant-bashing, fear-mongering CAPS would point its followers to Gardner’s contemptible website and documentary. If Gardner’s agenda wasn’t clear before this endorsement, it has now become perfectly so. A shout-out from CAPS would send many environmentalists backing away, but CAPS’s and Gardner’s relationship shows that they share the same ultimate goal: to determine who in this country has intrinsic worth as a human, based on the color of their skin and/or their country of origin.