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The Population Bomb Finally Fizzles

Suddenly There Aren’t Enough Babies, the Wall Street Journal proclaims. Birthrates are falling fast across countries, ​with economic, social and geopolitical ​consequences, the subhead explains. Well that makes a change…

In 1981, a book called The Population Bomb hit the bookstores (remember them?). The hugely influential international best-seller predicted – in vivid detail – that over-population was leading to worldwide mass starvation.

So, in 23 short years, we’ve gone from death by over-population to death by under-population.


At the same time, we’ve gone from scientific predictions of a coming Ice Age (underarm deodorant destroying the ozone) to scientific predictions of Waterworld (fossil fuel emissions trapping greenhouse gases).

These 180-degree shifts in cataclysmic scenarios would be funny – if the government wasn’t busy using the fear of climate change to exert more and more control over Americans’ lives and, thus, their freedom.

Hang on! Let’s set aside question about that statement’s veracity. And, if true, whether or not the ends (protecting President Obama’s seaside real estate) justify the means (retiree-killing heating bills).

Never Let An Imaginary Crisis Go To Waste

Instead, check out The Population Bomb’s conclusion, taken seriously by The Powers That Be and their political supporters at the time.

We must rapidly bring the world population under control, reducing the growth rate to zero or making it negative. Conscious regulation of human numbers must be achieved.

“Conscious regulation of human numbers” sounds like a good description of abortion doncha think?

No surprise, then, that the TPB’s authors were all about it. In a big way. And a lot more besides.

The Ehrlichs float the idea of adding "temporary sterilants" to the water supply or staple foods. However, they reject the idea as unpractical due to "criminal inadequacy of biomedical research in this area." They suggest a tax scheme in which additional children would add to a family's tax burden at increasing rates for more children, as well as luxury taxes on childcare goods. They suggest incentives for men who agree to permanent sterilization before they have two children, as well as a variety of other monetary incentives. They propose a powerful Department of Population and Environment which "should be set up with the power to take whatever steps are necessary to establish a reasonable population size in the United States and to put an end to the steady deterioration of our environment." The department should support research into population control, such as better contraceptives, mass sterilizing agents, and prenatal sex discernment... Legislation should be enacted guaranteeing the right to an abortion, and sex education should be expanded. - wikipedia

Be Careful What You Don’t Wish For

In 2018, Smithsonian Magazine called the Ehlichs’ tome The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation that “triggered a wave of repression around the world.”

Copy that. Don’t! I mean writer Charles C. Mann wasn’t wrong.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council, the World Bank, the United Nations Population Fund, the Hugh Moore-backed Association for Voluntary Sterilization and other organizations promoted and funded programs to reduce fertility in poor places.

“Promoted” as in government-coerced or forced contraception and sterilization. Policies that were part and parcel of the Peoples of Republic of China’s One Child Policy (1979 to 2015).

That hasn’t turned out well for the PRC. China has an aging population, with fewer and fewer workers to support their social safety net. A male-to-female population unnaturally skewed towards males, reducing fertility rates to the world’s lowest (1.6). And a huge population of females raised in orphanages.

In the U.S., that didn’t happen. Voters on the right – Conservatives, Republicans, Evangelicals, etc. – saw government population control as a human rights violation.

What can we learn from all that?

Same As It Ever Was

Even if we accept that humans have changed the earth’s climat for the worse, it’s safe to say the political climate hasn’t changed.

‘Freedom-loving Americans still face the threat of liberal fascism. Which still relies on fear for its power over otherwise sensible people.

I’m not worried about our declining birth rate; society will adjust. But I am concerned that our ability to adjust is being hamstrung by the clever Chicken Littles who would have us believe that the sky is falling. Again. Still.

Make policies for a cleaner planet, sure. But we mustn’t let politicians and power brokers throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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Chris Parnin
Chris Parnin
May 14

The "overpopulation" movement was a masters class in social engineering. Entire countries enacted policies based on research with more holes than Swiss cheese. The population growth of an entire planet was changed in a few generations. It's astounding, and terrifying.

May 17
Replying to

But not new.

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