Overpopulation

Have More Kids. It's Good For the Planet

Things have never been better, despite doomsday prophecies from some environmentalists.

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The problem with environmentalists isn't merely that they have destructive ideas about the economy, but that so many of them embrace repulsive ideas about human beings.

Take a recent NPR piece that asks, "Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?" If you want to learn about how environmentalism has already affected people in society, read about the couple pondering "the ethics of procreation" and its impact on the climate before starting a family, or the group of women in a prosperous New Hampshire town swapping stories about how the "the climate crisis is a reproductive crisis."

There are, no doubt, many good reasons a person might have for not wanting children. But it's certainly tragic that some gullible Americans who have the means and emotional bandwidth—and perhaps a genuine desire—to be parents avoid having kids because of a quasi-religious belief in apocalyptic climate change and overpopulation.

Then again, maybe this is just Darwinism working its magic.

In the article, NPR introduces us to a philosopher, Travis Rieder, who couches these discredited ideas in a purportedly moral context. Bringing down global fertility rates, he explains, "could be the thing that saves us."

Save us from what, you ask? The planet, he tells a group to students at James Madison University, will soon be "largely uninhabitable for humans," and it's "gonna be post-apocalyptic movie time." According to NPR, these intellectual nuggets of wisdom left students speechless.

Oh, no! Did someone forget to tell millennials that the megatons of greenhouse gases that cellphone charging emits into the atmosphere is going to create a dystopia? That's an unforgivable oversight by our culture and public schools—which almost never broach the topic of climate change.

What can we do? Well, Rieder says, "Here's a provocative thought: Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them."

The idea that we should have fewer children to save the planet hasn't been provocative in about 50 years. It would take these students five minutes of Googling to understand that doomsayers have been ignoring human nature and ingenuity since the 18th century, at least.

They might read about Paul Ehrlich and our "science czar" John Holdren, who co-authored a 1977 book suggesting mass sterilizations and forced abortions to save the world. (We're decades past the expiration date.); or about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who not long said that she always assumed Roe v. Wade was "about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of." Did she mean poor people? Did she mean people who recklessly use air conditioners? It's still a mystery.

Overpopulation is regularly cited by journalists—who quite often live in the densest, yet somehow also the wealthiest, places on Earth—as one of the world's pressing problems, thrown in with war and famine and so on.

But it's got a bit of a new twist these days. As Rieder tells it, Americans and other rich nations are responsible for more carbon emissions per capita than anyone. And since the world's poorest nations are most likely to suffer "severe climate impacts," it all "seems unfair."

However, we have fewer hungry people than ever in the world; fewer people die in conflicts over resources; and deaths due to extreme weather have been dramatically declining for a century. Over the past 40 years, our water and air is cleaner, despite population growth.

Everything is headed in the wrong direction for environmental scaremongers. If we're already experiencing the negative force of climate change—which I'm told we are every time we have ugly weather somewhere in the country—shouldn't things be getting worse? Well, the real trouble is always right over the horizon.

Take India. Not only does it have to deal with Americans despoiling the Earth but its population has exploded from 450 million in 1960 to 1.25 billion today. Yet, by every tangible measurement of human progress, the Indian people live better now than they did before the colonialists started using refrigerators. And it's not just India.

Even the United Nations estimates that the world population of 9 billion expected by 2050 could be supported with the technology we already possess. What Malthusians never take into consideration are the efficiencies and technology we don't have yet, which continually amaze us and undermine their dark vision of humankind's future.

The real problem we face is sustaining population. The replacement fertility rate is 2.1, and in certain places where they fail to meet this threshold—parts of Europe and Japan, for example—they've suffered economic and cultural stagnation. Here in the United States we have, for a variety of reasons, long struggled with this problem, as the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Last has argued. The success of developing nations also portends a similar slow-down.

Here's a provocative thought: Maybe it's the best time in history to have children.

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  1. What a great excuse not to have kids. It’s for the planet, man.

    1. Americans have already lost their best argument for not getting married–“Honey I want to so bad, you know that, but I just can’t in good conscience, knowing that others are denied that right just for being gay.” No wonder they are falling back and reinforcing along the final line. Could the last stand for their freedom be doomed as well?

      1. That’s not even close to the best argument. Getting robbed for half your stuff plus future livelihood forever is.

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    3. There may good reasons to ignore advice against having more children, but I dispute and challenge why the author claims there are good reasons to have more children. The author claims “The real problem we face is sustaining population. The replacement fertility rate is 2.1, and in certain places where they fail to meet this threshold?parts of Europe and Japan, for example?they’ve suffered economic and cultural stagnation.” Really? It reminds me of the pro-growthers drunk on economic statistics, and want growth to solve government deficits and other demographic budget problems. Social Security is one such problem, where the payment of benefits depends on new and more younger workers needed to sustain what would be called in the private sector: a Ponzi scheme. An ethically structured pension system where benefits would be calculated solely on contributions of each beneficiary, and not dependent on the contributions of other contributors. The same is true of the demographically dependent Obamacare, where the already sick are subsidized by the healthy.

      1. You’re right, any retirement plan should work regardless of birth rate or else the government is borrowing from the future.
        This article is fighting a straw man. The fertility rate is already dropping worldwide which is part of the improvement of living conditions. Less hand wringing one way or the other.

  2. I fully support squishy granola types not having children. If your ten-cent understanding of climate enters into any discussion of family planning, you’re making the world a better place by ensuring fewer of you are around.

    1. ^^ This

      On a long enough time line, their survival rate drops to zero with no spawn to carry the torch. Conversely, anyone who has even heard of… I don’t know, Thomas Sowell? Henry Hazlitt? Insert your economist of choice… will look around and note that the crazy is dying down and overall, people can focus on being prosperous.

      1. I’m not sure it works that way. Enviro-wackos are not actually a separate species, as much as it may seem that way.

      2. ” Insert your economist of choice… will look around and note that the crazy is dying down and overall, people can focus on being prosperous.”

        Careful with that, some people might insert Krugman or Piketty and see people being prosperous as a bad thing

  3. Reason is pro-breeder!?!?

    1. Where else do Millennials come from?

        1. I’m ginger and millennial so I came from a dump site outside Chernobyl. Radiation is a motherfucker.

          1. That’s a double negative. Does that mean you DO have a soul?

  4. Over-population: Just enough of me, way too much of you.

    /PJ ORourke

    1. I actually give a hats off to these particular environmental progressives. Traditionally they just seemed to all agree the world would be better off with a lot less black and brown people. Now it at least has occurred to them at last that the world might not be so great with more of the likes of them either. That’s enormous progress.

      1. Do they really think there should be less of them, or fewer “white” people (e.g., Red Tribe).

  5. This is a silly reversal argument that doesn’t follow at all.

    The Proggy argument that we must reduce population in order to save the planet is what is refuted by advancing technology. And the fact that wealth and education are effective means of population control means that we don’t have to resort to any draconian measures to keep the world’s population growth to a level that can be handled by that technological advance. All we need do is spread capitalism such that people are more wealthy and more educated.

    But moving from this to “Having more kids is good for the planet” just doesn’t follow in any way. The economy is not the planet, so arguing that negative population growth leads to slow economic growth therefore it is bad for the planet is a little suspect.

    There is clearly some point at which overpopulation becomes a problem. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We can handle 9 billion. Ok, what about 20 billion? 100 billion? etc. This knee-jerk contrarian argument just doesn’t fly. Just demonstrating that the mass-sterilization argument is wrong doesn’t give license to say the polar opposite – have more children is right! This is illogical.

    Let’s beat the dead horse: “Banning all peanut products from school is an over-reaction to a few kids with peanut allergies. Therefore, everyone must bring peanut butter for lunch.” See how that doesn’t work?

    1. I think the articles point is that we should stay closer to replacement rates than we currently are. That’s about 2 kids per couple, and that’s beginning rarer.

    2. Absolutely true.

      Then there’s also some logic behind the notion that accommodating continued population growth is not the main or only driver of technological progress. I think humans would continue to push for improved tech and increased prosperity even in the face of a declining population.

    3. Yes, this is a good point. It’s too easy just to be reactionary.

      I just think people should do what seems best for themselves when it comes to having children. If that means population growth, so be it. If it means the population declines for a while, fine. It’s not as if either of those trends is irreversible.

      Best case for economic growth and human well being is probably something around replacement rate, or a bit higher. But people have no obligation to have kids (or not have kids) for everyone else’s sake.

      Like most things, human population is probably self-regulating and whatever the short term trends, it will probably work out OK.

    4. Let’s beat the dead horse: “Banning all peanut products from school is an over-reaction to a few kids with peanut allergies. Therefore, everyone must bring peanut butter for lunch.” See how that doesn’t work?

      Yes, I can see how comparing global-level human reproduction to making a PB&J doesn’t work.

    5. There is clearly some point at which overpopulation becomes a problem. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We can handle 9 billion. Ok, what about 20 billion? 100 billion? etc.

      There are people who have said — who are currently saying — that even 1 billion people is too many. Hell, I’ve talked with someone who waxed eloquent on how great it would be if 90% of the human population just vanished. They didn’t specify HOW, and presumably thought they’d be one of the 10% survivors.

      If you genuinely think there’s too many people, then overpopulation is a problem for YOU. Doesn’t mean other people who are prospering see it as a problem. If you’ve driven around this country, you’d know it is mostly vast expanses of empty spaces, waiting for people to solve the problems that currently prevent the development of it and allow more people to live on the planet.

      1. I always find it interesting when talking to someone saying “we have to get rid of 90% of people”, that if they got their way and could get rid of all of those problematic people, they would be worse than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined and by more than an order of magnitude.

    6. Having more kids *is* good for the planet, but you’re correct that Harsanyi failed to make that case.

      You should read the work of Julian Simon, especially *The Ultimate Resource*. It explains why more population is good.

    7. “Banning all peanut products from school is an over-reaction to a few kids with peanut allergies. Therefore, everyone must bring peanut butter for lunch.”

      Support the culling of the defectives depriving us of peanuts!

  6. Paul Erlich. That fucker has created a career and made a lot of money on being absolutely stunningly fucking wrong on every damned thing he predicts.

    Oh and the population that RGB says is better off being never born is blacks. But we can see all the “positive” impacts abortion has had on black culture….. It’s almost like he left has some sort of theory about inferior races.

    1. I’m thinking she probably meant poor people in general. But she’s a believer int eh “disparate impact” thing, so effectively, that is what she’s saying.

  7. “Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?”

    Yes. Next question.

  8. Over the past 40 years, our water and air is cleaner,

    But our grammar and usage is dirtier.

    1. “What’s the minus of 30 and 20?”

      1. I dunno, but if you gozinta, you get 1.5.

  9. According to The End of Doom by our own Ron Bailey, the population is already controlling its own growth. In every part of the globe, even a modest increase in prosperity and or education leads to a drop in childbirth. The philosopher in this article has a message that’s past it’s freshness date. Does he really expect any of those kids to crank out half a dozen kids?

    1. It is amazing how long it takes to dislodge ideas like that from people’s minds. We’ve known about the link for years, yet so many people are still all worked up about population growth.

    2. The philosopher in this article has a message that’s past it’s freshness date. Does he really expect any of those kids to crank out half a dozen kids?

      Where does he say half a dozen or that anything like that is an expectation? Japan is really struggling with it’s age issue and the moral wrong of forcing overpopulation on future generations is rather empirically less… definitively catastrophic as underpopulation.

      I’d say his ideas are right about or nearly on time for his audience. There is a bit of American exceptionalism in terms of birth rate statistics and current stupid political movements do deliberately seek to spoil that.

  10. I was talking with an English couple a few years ago, parents of four, and 110% committed to eco-panic. As they described their view of Eden, I remarked that one of the preconditions would be the death of 7 billion people. For reasons I can’t imagine, the local nano-climate suddenly became considerably cooler.

    1. That’s what I most enjoyed about the movie Kingsman. It mercilessly ridiculed and satirized this proggie/green point of view.

  11. The main reason stagnant-to-negative population growth is problem is because of government-sponsored pyramid schemes. Take those benefits out of the picture, and Japan and Europe would be fine. Maybe not hotbeds of innovation, but that just gives countries like India more opportunity to become first-world countries.

    I live in a rural area with slightly-negative population growth, and I love it. Not much traffic, inexpensive housing, not a lot of racial tension despite being racially diverse (64% white), low staff turnover at my child’s day care…. The schools aren’t great, but there’s a decent charter school, and for Kindergartners they have enough openings that they don’t have to use the lottery system.

    1. Sometimes I wonder of population density is a contributor to maladjustment of human societies. We’ve changed the world so much, and our minds have not really caught up yet. I don’t think it’s out of the question that living in such close quarters with millions of other people will lead to some erratic behavior.

      1. Why wonder? Cities (i.e. where lot’s of people live in cramped conditions) tend to have sub replacement fertilities and also breed neurotics and progressives like a pond breeds scum.

  12. Have More Kids. It’s Good For the Planet

    I’ve done my part.

  13. This article is empty of substance. It assumes that correlation is causation, and it assumes that what happened in the past must continue to happen in the future. By the author’s logic, we also have nothing to fear from high budget deficits, because they’ve been saying for decades that deficits would cause problems, but today we still have growth and haven’t experienced an economic collapse (yet). What has happened to Reason, that they allow childish logic like Harsanyi’s to be published under their name?

  14. There ought to be be some kind of world organization which pushes back against anti-natalist propaganda.

  15. Take a recent NPR piece that asks, “Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?”

    If by “we” they mean “people who think climate doing what it always does, i.e. change, is cause for government action because people are at fault for that change”, then no, those people should follow their convictions and not have kids.

    1. Where I live, (Alexandria, VA) there are lots of proggies with little ones. Most have at least two, some of the older ones who presumably need fertility treatment have three or more. Maybe they are planning to eat them when food becomes too scarce.

  16. read about the couple pondering “the ethics of procreation” and its impact on the climate before starting a family

    Translation: the dude doesn’t want to have kids, and is using the PC cause du jour as an excuse.

  17. Given the large number of already existing kids that don’t have parents, what is the argument for having kids of your own rather than adopting that doesn’t entail the arguments for eugenics?

    1. Given the large number of other people capable of reproducing, what is the argument for my, in any way, taking responsibility of their reproduction that doesn’t entail socialism/slavery/oppression?

      1. Yes, you shouldn’t take responsibility for other people’s reproduction. Fortunately, merely arguing that people ought to adopt rather than reproduce isn’t taking responsibility for other’s people’s reproduction.

        1. Your argument was poor. I’m not obligated to adopt anybody and I can’t adopt everybody. Choices have to be made. They will be made selectively and adoption doesn’t change that.

          Further, I can’t adopt or reproduce in a significantly (anti-)eugenic manner. Even a decent-sized community of people couldn’t. The point of my statement was the false equivocation of individual choice vs. population-level social control that you made.

          These shouldn’t be construed as arguments against adoption any more than taking responsibility for someone else’s kids should considered socialism.

    2. There are a lot of government hoops you have to hop through to adopt a kid…and it is costly. I know friends who have taken upwards of five years to adopt one kid. See, what the state really wants you to do is show your worthy by accepting their confiscated children in foster care as an easy place to dump some kids when the bureaucrat decided to nose into somebody else’s business and exert its authority. Sadly, a lot of people have to deal with that if they want kids.

      Now, if a couple is willing and able to reproduce, why wouldn’t they save themselves the trouble?

  18. This be the Verse

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

    –Philip Larkin

  19. Has anyone explained to these prog/greentards that the places with the highest birthrates (mostly Sub-Saharan Africa) currently also have the lowest CO2 emissions per capita? So, what they are really saying is that people who live wealthy western lifestyles shouldn’t be reproducing, yet, as pointed out, technological progress and economic growth lower birthrates. I guess these geniuses didn’t do their homework.

  20. RE: Have More Kids. It’s Good For the Planet

    All right everyone, let’s start fucking!

  21. I doubt that lowering global fertility rates would be good for us. But lowering the fertility rates of eco-nuts so that opinion shifts away from their stupid beliefs will be very beneficial.

  22. F no. I don’t want to live with 100 people per square mile. We’re already at 35. I certainly don’t want to have to take care of millions more slackers.

  23. Personally I think it would be nice if most societies were right around their replacement rate. Maybe slightly higher, but we don’t need to go back to 6 kids each.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems sad that Europe, Japan, and even America are essentially going to cease to exist as what they “were.” You can import immigrants to America and say that it’s still America, because we’ve always been an immigrant country/culture, which I’m pretty ok with. Let the floodgates rip from Asia as far as I’m concerned.

    But Japan, Italy, Germany, or the UK without the real original ethnic Japanese, Italians, Germans, or Britains just isn’t the same. To me it would be sad if in 50 years you went to England and it was just a random hodge podge of people like America is. They might not even retain their awesome accents or cultural quirks if too many immigrants come in too fast to replace the declining native population! The world would be the worse for the loss of the cockney accent, just as it would be for the loss of Japanese tentacle porn. LOL I’m kinda kidding, but also kinda serious.

    In any event, more people is good. We can easily come up with tech to solve issues along the way, and at the end of the day more people = more exceptional people = more advancement. The AI will probably kill us all off before we get to do any cool space travel anyway, but on the off chance I’m wrong I think more people is nothing but a good thing, provided it’s within reason and not 30 billion or something.

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  27. “The real problem we face is sustaining population. ”

    Why is this the real problem? If the Japanese population is shrinking, that’s because of the choices made by Japanese families, and it has nothing to do with concern over climate change.

    Urging more children for the sake of the economy seems just as woolly headed as urging fewer for the sake of the climate.

  28. Hans Hermann-hoppe would argue, I think, that there wasn’t really a ton of human ingenuity to waste until pretty recently

  29. No serious person considers the flim-flam boogiemen this article so breathlessly refutes. Real problems with unabated population growth are easily understood using rudimentary arithmetic and physics. The late Albert Allen Bartlett, in his lecture Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Sustainability 101, explained clearly how our growth is constrained by finite resources. No matter how efficient or clever our technology becomes, it can only delay the inevitable damage to modern civilization that’ll be caused by excess demands on space, minerals, energy, and representative democracy. Either we reduce our numbers, or nature will?using war, famine, and disease?reduce them for us.

    1. Wrong. Unless you’re talking truly crazy high figures like 50 billion or 100 billion people on earth, we can easily overcome resource scarcity. I’m more in favor of colonizing space before we get anywhere near there anyway 😉

      If a certain ACTUAL rare commodity becomes scarce, prices go up. When prices go up we either track down more of the commodity, OR we find a substitute. Truth is most of the things in the modern world are still ultimately made out of things that are in great abundance, or that we have existing substitutes for. Houses, cars, cups, bowls, toilets. All made out of common stuff. Glass (sand, See: beaches), steel (iron, the whole core of the planet), wood (everywhere, grows itself), plastic (bio plastics already exist). Essentially in endless supply. Some electronics we may need to get clever to come up with alternatives for certain rare earth minerals, but even silicon is still just highly processed sand at the end of the day.

      So it is completely wrong that we have any low limit to population. Anyone who says otherwise is a moron Malthusian who doesn’t understand history, markets, or science. Keep in mind I’m not saying we might not hit some bumps in the road now and again, but it’s those very bumps that provide the incentive to come up with the newer/better way. We’d be fine waaay beyond the 9 billion or so we’re realistically going to cap out at at current trends.

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