We received some strong reactions to my comments about population control in the March/April issue of Sierra. Here are a few, with my responses:
Hey Mr. Green,
I found the question from Jeff in Denver about population control very interesting. Has the Sierra Club ever thought about advocating for adoption? There are millions of children all over the world that need a family, and as my cousin most succinctly put it, “That's the most ecological way to have kids.” –Lucia in Mercer Island, Washington
The Club has adopted many policies, but not one on adoption. Your proposal seems quite reasonable, though most people, I suspect, still favor keeping their own DNA in circulation. Not that you can ever be a whole lot more sure of the result than if you adopt. Consider the fate of William Shockley, who won a Nobel prize for inventing the transistor but later slid swiftly on a downhill path of loopy ideas about eugenics, including a proposal to pay people with genetic defects or low IQs for sterilization—castration for dummies, as it were. His own kids fell so far below his own standards that he claimed they represented "regression." After that, he hived his genes in a sperm bank of geniuses, affording his DNA opportunities for more fortuitious combinations.
Hey Mr. Green,
The theory that population growth will ruin our planet is completely and dangerously false. The world now produces more food on less land than ever before. The fact is that Europe is dying, with most countries fluctuating around the 60 percent replacement level. Each person is unique and has a dignity and worth that is unconditional. –Jeanne in Closter, New Jersey
True, the world produces more food on less land, but that doesn't mean we can feed an infinite number of people, or that runaway population growth doesn't cause considerable misery.
The situation in Europe is nowhere near as simple as the enemies of family planning and women's choice make it sound. The drop in births has by no means been uniform. In France, for example, it has been rising, and 50 years from now is projected be at 72 million, up from today's 64 million. Britain is also projected to rise. By contrast, Spain, Italy, and some other countries have a rate well below replacement.
One convincing explanation of this disparity has to do with differences in social policy and, yes, gentlemen, in the degree of sexism. Among the European countries, the birth rate is generally lower where 1) there are less generous public benefits, and 2) where men remain more sexist and help out much less in the home. A survey of women done by the European Union revealed that in fact women want an average of 2.36 children, which is above the replacement rate. But the governments—and their lazy male chauvinist mates—make it too difficult for women to fulfill this wish.
Therefore, I wouldn't worry about Europeans going extinct; before they allow themselves to vanish, they could jolly well change policies and attitudes to favor a higher birthrate.
Finally, in some countries, immigration will continue to increase the number of Europeans, if not the net amount of European DNA, a development that would doubtlessly perturb the aforementioned Shockley.
Hey Mr. Green,
Why does the Sierra Club refuse to take a stand on illegal migration and historically high legal immigration? The sheer number of immigrants is having a negative effect on the environment and the amount of resources consumed, not to mention the social costs. Why is the Club being politically correct when there is a clear relationship between population and environmental balance? –Michael in Ashburn, Virginia
While some of my environmentally minded readers dread any reduction in procreation, which would also reduce the number of immigrants, others, like you, want to shut the immigrants out. I just hope you’re not in favor of that environmentally destructive boondoggle of a fence they're building on our border with Mexico.
The simplest answer to your question about the Sierra Club’s immigration policy is that the Club's members voted overwhelmingly some time ago to remain neutral on this issue. Many are convinced that it is more helpful in the long run to work to help change the sinister circumstances that drive so many people to immigrate, including poverty, lack of education, lack of women's rights, and lack of family-planning options.
A less-known driver of immigration is environmental devastation, which has produced millions of refugees; they now number more than 10 million per year. By the year 2000, there were 25 million such refugees, actually higher than the number of people who had fled for political reasons. Among the environmentally related causes of displacement are floods, landslides, water shortages, and desertification caused by deforestation and overcultivation, not to mention climate change and the more intense devastation caused by the more intense storms brought on by global warming.