Fighting the Problem with the Problem, Again

For Earth Day, here’s a somewhat helpful primer on the debate over population growth: “The Biggest Threat to Earth? We Have Too Many Kids”.

It’s got all the usual suspects: mentioning Malthus but not explaining his theory, nor the general principal of carrying capacity; the assumption that human rights trump all non-human lives (family planning is totalitarian, end of discussion); and the assurance that while many, or maybe most, realize the danger of ecological bottlenecks caused by unchecked reproduction, nobody—nobody—would be crazy enough to suggest that perhaps the solutions to our environmental problems might require a radical shift in our lifestyles (“Bradshaw agrees that it’s important that societies that undergo demographic transition aren’t denied the comforts of post-industrialization.”).

Here’s my favorite section:

And some people working on the population problem even think we need to be stabilizing the population by having more babies.

It’s OK, you can take a moment to read that again. “I see people as the ultimate resource,” says Steven Mosher, of the Population Research Institute in Virginia. According to Mosher, more people means more minds to contribute to solutions, and more competition leading to more innovation—innovation that can tackle the problems created by too many bodies.

Here we have, like with the technotopians, a case of using the problem to solve the problem. I was glad to see, in the very next paragraph, an appropriate response:

Other experts are skeptical that the population can balance itself out. “That idea is so wrong in so many ways that I don’t know where to begin,” says Bradshaw.


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