Thursday, June 4, 2015

NYT's follow up to "The Population Bomb"

 I've written about population growth before - namely, why I'm not too worried about it, but I had never heard of "The Population Bomb", a alarmist book published in 1968 that predicted that by the year 2000, overpopulation would cause world-wide disaster. Apparently, this is one of the books that kicked off the fear of overpopulation. The New York Times created this fascinating video, although I think the video does watchers a disservice by not describing the horrific means the author Paul R. Ehrlich considers for decreasing the population.

He recommends methods including forcing people to not have children by lacing the water supply or staple foods with contraceptives, coercive sterilization programs, and allowing families to select the sex of their children (so parents don't continue to have children until they have a boy or girl). It's bad when the least controversial suggestion is  penalizing families with children through taxes,

I am surprised that the video doesn't address another horrifying aspect of this movement - the racist undertones. Ehrlich recommends in his book that countries that are poor and have high birth rates be cut off food aid - and left to succumb to starvation - in order to save other (richer, presumably whiter) countries. I don't know whether Ehrlich himself  was racist, but there's no doubt that arguments about population growth often have an undertone of fear of non-white babies, and that those most effected are poor women and children of color. I'm disappointed that this wasn't discussed in more detail, especially in light of how forced sterilization and medication effects women around the world today.

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