Sierra Club Ballot

Letter by Prof. Al Bartlett

The Sierra Club proposal for the March ballot calls for addressing root causes of global population [growth] by "championing the right of all families to maternal and reproductive health care" and "equity of women", and in encouraging economic security, human rights and environmentally responsible consumption." This proposal can be compared to municipal proposals as follows:

In regard to protecting the citizens of our town from fires, we will not have a fire department. Instead, we will decriminalize arson, and we will modify the building code so that all future building construction must be fireproof.

Or, in regard to protection from the rising ravages of crime, we will close down the police department and instead concentrate on improving education in the schools and improving the economic and recreational opportunities for our citizens.

These two proposals are not without long-term merit. They fail because they don't address the immediate problems.

Anyone who thinks that the U.S. can protect the remaining environment and still maintain population growth, is out of touch with the reality of what can be seen every place where development impinges on the environment, which is just about everywhere.

Anyone who thinks that you can stop population growth [to save the environment] without reducing immigration is innumerate. [Innumeracy is the arithmetic equivalent of illiteracy.]

Proposals to alleviate the causes of immigration without recognizing the need to address the problem directly in this country, are attractive because they appear to deal with the problem without dealing with the problem. It's a way of saying that the population problem is a problem of "those people" meaning people in distant undeveloped lands, and avoiding the recognition that the world's worst population problem is here in the United States. The average American will consume 30 or more times as much as the average person in an underdeveloped nation. This puts us away ahead of everyone else in terms of irresponsible consumption. If we are to encourage "environmentally responsible consumption" it must start right here in the U.S. where we must address TOTAL CONSUMPTION and NOT PER CAPITA CONSUMPTION.

We have no jurisdiction over "those people" in distant undeveloped lands. We have full and complete jurisdiction over the policies of the U.S.

We have little or no responsibility for "those people." We have full responsibility for Americans, for the disadvantaged, for the homeless, for the unemployed, for our children and our grandchildren.

The growth of populations of "those people" have deleterious effects mainly on "those people" and their immediate neighbors. The growth of the population of the U.S. has negative effects on all of the people of the world, simply because of our enormous comsumption of global resources. A major motivation for the controversial trade agreements is to give us in the U.S. access to the resources of the world.

If we work to get other countries to stop their population growth without first working diligently to stop the population growth in the U.S. we will merit the charge of being called racists. We would in effect be telling "those people" to "Do as we say, not as we do."

To think seriously that the population problem can be effectively addressed by such things as "encouraging economic security, human rights and environmentally responsible consumption" is politically correct but it is morally, spiritually and intellectually bankrupt. By avoiding the problem we court disaster.

Best wishes,

Al Bartlett

Copyright 1997 Albert A. Bartlett
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