Earth Day Founder to Most of Us: Drop Dead Already!

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Start yer Earth Day off with this story about the event's founder, former Badger State Sen. Gaylord Nelson. He's still doggedly reading from his Soylent Green script:

The key to creating a sustainable society, Nelson said, is population.

He has suggested in the past that the United States should cut its population to the 132 million it was around the start of World War II, but he knows that won?t happen. Instead, he points to the low fertility rates of Western European countries such as Italy as a way to stabilize population.

Here's an alternative that Reason's own Ronald Bailey has sketched out: Don't worry about population. Worry about getting rich instead and all the problems of "overpopulation" go away. Or as the late great "doomslayer" Julian Simon put it, more people are not the problem–they're "the ultimate resource."

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  1. Too bad that Nelson’s parents didn’t practice a little proactive birth control to prevent his arrival on the planet.

  2. Keep in mind that one of the rallying cries of EarthFirst!ers was/is “Back To The Paleolithic!” I know because I’ve been EF! “meetings,” etc. and read enough the “Deep Ecology” literature to make my head explode. Anyone interested in “Deep Ecology,” should read the work of George Sessions, Gary Snyder, Alan Drengson, Bill Devall, EarthFirst! founder Dave Forman, and of course Edward Abbey (author of “The Monkeywrench Gang” & “Desert Solitaire”).

    “Chant no more your old rhymes about bold Robin Hood
    His Feats I but little admire I will sing the Achievements of General Ludd
    Now the Hero of Nottinghamshire
    Brave Ludd was to measures of violence unused
    Till his sufferings became so severe
    That at last to defend his own Interest he rous’d
    And for the great work did prepare!”

    Song of the Luddites

  3. For (supposedly) being “individualistic” Libertarians, you guys sure worry a lot about how “collectivistic” society behaves or what it does.

  4. The enemy never sleeps …

  5. R. Crusoe

    I worry about it, because it’s in my interest. They wish to take away freedoms I enjoy. So, by your logic, I should ignore the guy about to hit me in the head, because worrying about him is not being individualist (I think your definition of being an individual is to never think about anything but yourself?).

    Also, some of us are not Libertarians. Although I do sympathize with many Libertarian causes and ideas.

    Know thy enemy they say.

  6. J.H.C.!!!

    I’m ashamed to have had Gaylord Nelson represent my home state (I’m not too keen on the current senators, either, but that’s for another day).

    Maybe he needs to lead by example.

  7. Perhaps environmentalists should reduce themselves to their pre-WWII level.

    15,000 years fighting the War Against Nature, and they want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Sad. Sad.

  8. http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=000E5878-3E45-1CC6-B4A8809EC588EEDF

    The decline in global population growth is attributable to three interlocking social forces: the globalization of an economy driven by science and technology, the consequent implosion of rural populations into cities, and, as a result of globalization and urban implosion, the empowerment of women. The freeing of women socially and economically results in fewer children. Reduced reproduction by female choice can be thought a fortunate, indeed almost miraculous, gift of human nature to future generations. It could have gone the other way: women, more prosperous and less shackled, could have chosen the satisfactions of a larger brood. They did the opposite. They opted for a smaller number of quality children, who can be raised with better health and education, over a larger family. They simultaneously chose better, more secure lives for themselves. The tendency appears to be very widespread, if not universal. Its importance cannot be overstated. Social commentators often remark that humanity is endangered by its own instincts, such as tribalism, aggression, and personal greed. Demographers of the future will, I believe, point out that on the other hand humanity was saved by this one quirk in the maternal instinct.

    http://online.wsj.com/article_email/0,,SB105070800274137100,00.html

    Galor and Moav, however, are theorizing that there are two kinds of people — those that have a lot of children and those that don’t. The first kind apparently flourish in periods of slow technological change, the second kind flourish in periods of rapid growth in technology.

    As deterministic and unsatisfying as their theory may be, it is reason for hope about our future, because it suggests that developing countries are likely to reduce fertility as they become developed.

    The authors present a good deal of mathematics to demonstrate that both types of societies are sustainable from an evolutionary point of view, since evolution of humans in this dimension is a matter of favoring one or the other existing type. This produces a disturbing possibility if we in the developed countries permit or force our technological change to slow down. Returns to education may be reduced, the evolutionary advantage of small families may be reduced, and population may grow until checked by the scarcity of food, leading to the collapse of our civilization and a return to subsistence conditions.

    Whether Europeans changed their minds or their genes, it is very important that we try to understand the change, for on it depends the extension of European and American prosperity to the rest of the planet’s people. The alternative could be a disastrous return of the Malthusian epoch.

  9. Know “thine” enemy, indeed. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the correction.)

    I’m no ostrich, but the posts here sound more like those of social engineers, community planners, and the stuff that bean counters do to its subjects in a command economy.

    If you’re implying that (gasp) non-libertarians have invaded the REASON website, then maybe libertarians ought to reciprocate, invade THEIR turf, and show ’em what the contents of the Laissez Faire Books library is all about.

  10. One problem, Steve and Nick – no where in the story does Nelson call for anyone to “drop dead,” but for Americans to have fewer children. Straw man, anyone?

  11. Not a “straw man” at all. It is most certainly inferred by his statement to cut the population to pre-WWII levels.

  12. hyperbolic with a twist of disdain then 😀 cheers!

  13. Sorry, Steve, he specifically outlines his program, and it is limited to lowering fertility rates. If he has called for 132 million by tomorrow, that would be a different matter, but he specifically talks about a decades-long time line.

    I’m closer to Nick than to Nelson on the issue of overpopulation/underdevelopment, but dishonestly implying that someone is advocating mass murder is something that shouldn’t be allowed to pass unremarked.

  14. You’re right, Joe.

    The article says, “He has suggested in the past that the United States should cut its population to the 132 million it was around the start of World War II, but he knows that won?t happen.”

    This sounds a little more proactive than just waiting for us to drop dead.

  15. Qualifier ADDENDUM: That is not to say that I believe non-libertarians and statists aren’t welcome here. Far be it from me to be standing guard over any such gates. Besides, such gates are especially non-existent, because I doubt that Gillespie and staff want to be preaching to the choir anyway.

  16. I once read an article by John o’Sullivan, the NRO guy, in which he claimed that the US should cap immigration/population. We would then maintain great power status through superior technology, just like that, easy, since it is a given that government can control the commanding heights with laser like precision. He was approaching this issue from a culture war angle, so some of these lines had a throwaway feel. I’m sure it was very successful in convincing people that many conservatives have the souls of soviet five year planners.

  17. Let my headline go! “Hyperbolic with a twist of disdain” pretty much nails it.

  18. wait, so reading those lengthy blockquotes, if we focus on increasing the rate of technological change (rather than encourage the greed is good/to get rich is glorious program 🙂 the population “problem” will take care of itself… but, but that entails the rise of the machines! “the ultimate resource” indeedy :DooMinATRIX!

  19. “The freeing of women socially and economically results in fewer children. Reduced reproduction by female choice can be thought a fortunate, indeed almost miraculous, gift of human nature to future generations. It could have gone the other way: women, more prosperous and less shackled, could have chosen the satisfactions of a larger brood. They did the opposite. They opted for a smaller number of quality children, who can be raised with better health and education, over a larger family. They simultaneously chose better, more secure lives for themselves. ”

    I agree with the fewer children part, but I disagree with the higher quality part. One of the net results of the “empowerment” of women is that women have (on the whole) chosen to have fewer children, but another more troubling result has been the increase in children born outside of a stable mother/father relationship. Empowerment of women, like most social phenomena, has been a good news and bad news thing.

  20. Actually, if you look at the issue of ‘children born out of wedlock’ (as opposed to children born into families that later divorce – also a consequence of women’s empowerment with mixed blessings), the problem here is goverment subsidization of single parenthood. In fact there is evidence that this is the one segment of the population (the multigenerational welfare families) who are actually increasing their population in an age when most people are having smaller families. This issue is not about technological change, wealth or women’s empowerment, it’s about the unitended consequences of government social programs.

  21. How is it possible to maintian quality socio-cultral growth without the abandonment of surplus poulation? This is what seems to be the issue. It is good for a population to have periods of decline and population dump. If infrastructure is maintained then it is possible to see overall growth in most models. However, timeframes are usally intolarable to the current group making it politiclly challanging. All things are in cycle and entrophy is always followed by restructure.

  22. The solution to population problems as well as all others is complete individual liberty i.e., capitalism. So simple isn’t it?

  23. Is Libertarianism a closed philosophy? IS it set in its ways? Are we not allowed to discuss and change what it means to be a Libertarian? I vote Libertarian but I do not always agree with its most stalwart proponents. Does that make me any less a Libertarian? If we remain elites in an age of elitism then our so called philosophy will be expunged and become a meer curosity. If we seek real meaningful change then we must be open to every idea and logically debate its use in our system.

  24. In case nobody’s noticed, I’m not a libertarian, big l or small. I come here because the people are smart and weird, I like the anti-authority bent, I agree with some issues, and I enjoy arguments more than mutual admirations societies.

    Is that a problem?

  25. Not at all, Joe! And you sure are welcome. But even though you prefer not to label yourself, from the looks of it, you sound very much like a Lover of Freedom (as opposed to a collectivist/statist.)

  26. Thanks, Cruesoe! I’ll tell that to the other AFSCME members here in the Planning Office!

  27. I think people with blonde hair are gay. Our country group (i have a little group of people who think the same as me and I call it a country group)think that blue eyed people are also gay. So is anyone who makes websites like these.

  28. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://linux-shell-account.1st-host.org
    DATE: 01/20/2004 07:30:39
    I can’t understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars.

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