So writes New Scientist reporter Fred Pearce at his Fred's Footprint blog. Pearce is worried that ideological environmentalism might once again embrace coercive population control. Pearce knows whereof he speaks:
… the unpalatable truth is that a lot of environmental thinking over the past half century has been underpinned by an unhealthy preoccupation with the breeding propensity of Asians and Africans.
They were, it was often held, polluting the human gene pool as well as the planet. Such thinking was not fringe: it involved some of the great names of the environment movement.
So the American academic Garrett Hardin said in his classic and still-revered environment text Tragedy of the Commons in 1968, "Freedom to breed will bring ruin to all." It must be "relinquished to preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms." Lest we have any doubt who should do the relinquishing, he wrote elsewhere about how college students should have more children than those with low IQs.
Or take Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb from the same era. That book said the world could no longer feed itself and called for population control "by compulsion if voluntary methods fail."
Meanwhile the British book Blueprint for Survival, published by the Ecologist magazine, sided with the demagogue-of-the-day Enoch Powell in calling for "an end to immigration". Far from being ostracised as a right-wing tract, its recipe was supported by Friends of the Earth and Peter Scott, the TV wildlife king and founder of the World Wildlife Fund.
One can get a sense of how Ehrlich viewed Asian breeding from this quotation from his The Population Bomb (1968) about when he, his wife and daughter took a taxi through Delhi in India:
The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people.As we moved slowly through the mob, hand horn squawking, the dust, noise, heat and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect. Would we ever get to our hotel? All three of us were, frankly frightened."
I wonder how Ehrlich survives a taxi ride down Broadway in Manhattan where the population density was nearly 70,000 people per square mile in 1970, (New York City, 26,000 per square mile) compared to Delhi's 29,000 per square mile in 2007? Like many another ideological environmentalist, Ehrlich confuses poverty with overpopulation.
In any case, Ehrlich lamely added:
…the problems of Delhi and Calcutta are our problems too. Americans have helped create them; we help to prevent their solution. We must all learn to identify with the plight of our less fortunate fellows on Spaceship Earth if we are to help both them and ourselves to survive.
What how did we Americans cause these problems? We shipped India food and medicines. What did Erhlich think the solution should be?
"We must have population control at home, hopefully through changes in our value system, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail."