By Dave Andrusko
Over at clinicquotes.com, one of my favorite pro-life sites, Sarah Terzo quotes Garrett Hardin, an ardent and influential pro-abortionists in the 1960s and 70s [“Abortion – or Compulsory Pregnancy?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 30, 1968, 250]
“Whether the fetus is or is not a human being is a matter of definition, not fact; and we can define any way we wish.”
Such was–and is, for many pro-abortionists–what passes for reasoning. What younger people probably don’t know is how intertwined that dismissive, cavalier attitude was with the hysteria surrounding the wholly fabricated “Population Bomb.”
Hardin’s quote reminded me of a piece that Carolyn Moynihan wrote last year for mercatornet.com–“Remains of the population bomb are finally laid to rest”–that is very much worth reposting.
It’s official. The New York Times has confirmed that the population explosion has not wreaked horrors upon the world: the apocalyptic predictions of the 1960s have fallen “as flat as ancient theories about the shape of the Earth.” Some people won’t believe that, but, if the Times says so, that’s good enough for me.
In an impressive video the Times’ Retro Report team take us back to the hysteria whipped up by Paul Ehrlich’s 1969 tract, The Population Bomb, and then sketch how it fizzled. They revisit not only Ehrlich himself (who is unrepentant) but other key figures who were believers then and have since accepted the evidence that population growth is not an unmitigated evil.
The film is frank about how extreme the population control movement became.
A young Stewart Brand, founding editor of the Whole Earth Catalogue and “totally” persuaded by Ehrlich, is interviewed at a public starve-in staged to bring home the alleged connection between children and poverty. “Maybe anyone who’s thinking about having a third child ought to go hungry for a week,” he says.
That was mild compared with Ehrlich’s proposals for blacklisting of people, organizations and companies “impeding population control”, responsibility prizes for childless marriages, a tax on children, a luxury tax on diapers and cribs, putting something in the water…
We see a newspaper article by Garrett Hardin questioning the right to have children.
The forced sterilizations in India under Mrs. Gandi are acknowledged–and they persist today in some regions.
“Some time with the next 10 to 15 years the end will come, and by that I mean an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to sustain humanity,” says the younger Ehrlich with grim authority.
Even now the Stanford University professor clings to his belief in a coming population apocalypse – and to his draconian ideas for forcing people into line.
Allowing women to have as many babies as they wanted, he said, is akin to letting everyone “throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”
Old allies, however, have long since bowed to the evidence.
“How many years do you have to not have the world end – for whatever reason you thought it was going to end — and actually it didn’t end because maybe that reason was wrong?” asks Steward Brand.
What was wrong was Ehrich’s pessimism about mankind, his failure to factor into his calculations human genius and adaptability, among other things. In a famous wager with economist Julian E. Simon in 1980 he pitted his scarcity creed against Simon’s optimistic view – and lost.
It’s a pity that Simon, who died in 1998, was not still around to be interviewed for this retrospective. Another great interviewee would have been Jacqueline Kasun, author The War Against Population (1999), who died in 2009.
Ehrlich, a biologist, didn’t reckon with Norman E. Borlaug, an American plant scientist whose breeding of high-yielding, disease-resistant crops led to the Green Revolution – something that had a huge impact on food supply in India, says Gita Sen, a development economist with the Centre For Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
She describes a basic difference between her worldview and Ehrlich’s:
“There’s a tendency to apply to human beings the same models as might apply for the insect world. The difference is that human beings are conscious beings and we do all kinds of things to change our destiny.”
Indian city dwellers talk about their preference for smaller families, and the point is made that providing maternal and infant health care lowers the mortality rate and makes people “more responsive to the government’s message”.
Today, low fertility rates across the world raise a different specter than Ehrlich’s: ageing, and population implosion.
“What if large population is not bad but is good?” asks Brand. The story when population peaks at nine billion (UN estimate) in the middle of this century will not be, “Oh my God we’ve got nine billion people, how horrible,” he adds, but, “Oh my God, we’re running out of people.”
Editor’s note. Ms. Moynihan’s essay appeared at mercatornet.com.