Acton Institute Powerblog

Population Control Update

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Ted Turner in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today: (via)

One way to combat global warming, Turner said, is to stabilize the population. "We’re too many people; that’s why we have global warming," he said. "Too many people are using too much stuff." Turner suggested that "on a voluntary basis, everybody in the world’s got to pledge to themselves that one or two children is it."

Admitting that he’s "always suffered from foot-in-the-mouth disease," Turner added, "I’ve gotten a lot better, though. It’s been a long time since anybody caught me saying something stupid."

There’s an obvious retort here; I’ll leave that to you smart folks.

Will also leave Jordan to weigh in on the population control stuff. But I will point out that Turner is one of those guys for whom overpopulation is a problem (for whatever reason), but who never seems eager to be the first to leave the gene pool.

[Don’s other habitat is the Evangelical Ecologist]

Don Bosch


  • I’ll just say that [url=]Turner’s newfound “respect” for religion[/url] might not say so much about how far he has “developed,” but rather how far religion has moved in pursuit of progressive political agendas.

  • Turner has the courage to speak his mind, and he’s always gotten it right on the insanity of overpopulation and the negative consequences of unchecked urban growth.

    Dave Gardner
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity

  • Don

    Even Turner admits there’s a fine line between courageous and stupid…

    As many Actonites have noted the world population growth rates are trending down, lead by the US, most of western Europe, and developed Asia (Japan, China) which are either near zero net population growth or below it.* Were it not for an influx of immigrants (both documented and non) most would see declines.

    My big beef with misanthropists is their disdain for human life. Only non-human life is worthy of the planet, they say, except (of course) for those invaluable humans who are making the population decisions for all the rest of us.

    That prosperous peoples aren’t compelled to multiply themselves to survive is self-evident to most. The solution is not erasing wealth, but bringing it to the emerging world.

    *For ex:

  • It also doesn’t seem to follow that Turner wants to save lives from malaria but bemoans the fact that the world has too many people. More [url=]consistent folks[/url] welcome the prospects of worldwide plague, e.g.: “From where I sit, Planet Earth could use another major human pandemic, and pronto!”

  • I would submit that most environmental sustainability advocates believe there is so much value in human life that we ought not to pee in our pool to the point that it either kills us or makes our pool a more miserable place to live.


  • Don Bosch

    Well, there I agree with you there, kind sir, in the sense that environmental stewardship is a must. But is it folks in the developed world who are peeing in the pool these days, or are they the ones investing billions cleaning it up?

    Sustainability folks have historically been more concerned about habitats than humans, though Sierra Club and others are getting smarter about how they articulate this publically. (see for ex

  • Don Bosch

    So one more question: Assuming the two are, how exactly is population linked to global warming?

  • How is population linked to global warming? Each of us is a walking, talking carbon dioxide emitter. We drive, we heat our homes, we eat food farmed and transported with carbon-based fuels, etc. Do you think we’d have too much CO2 in the atmosphere if there were still only a billion of us on the planet? It’s pretty straightforward.

    Dave Gardner
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity

  • [url=]Do you see more than just a carbon footprint?[/url]

  • Don Bosch

    So if “x” nuber of people are causing climate change, reducing the rate of reproductive growth to zero (having one or two kids) doesn’t solve the problem, does it?

  • Jordan, of course there is more than just a carbon footprint. There are many signs of overshoot. Fisheries collapsing, food prices rising, fresh water shortages,…

    Don, it’s complicated. Here are the certainties: if X continues to go up, and per capita resource intensity continues to go up, it won’t be a pretty future. If X stabilizes but resource intensity continues rising, it won’t be pretty. It’s a little more murky if X or resource intensity decline. It all depends on how much. A simplified equation is human impact = population X per capita resource intensity. IF ecosystems are collapsing (I believe the evidence indicates they are) and/or IF manmade greenhouse gases are going to make life harder or more miserable or possibly even impossible somewhere down the road, then it makes sense to do what we can about population AND resource intensity.

    The more we ignore population, the harder we’ll have to work on resource intensity. True sustainability means we are living off the interest of our natural capital, not liquidating the principal. If we are to achieve that with a global population of 9 billion or even 7 billion, we will have to seriously alter our lifestyles. Personally, I wish we would have stabilized world population at 2 or 3 billion so I could drive an SUV, use my clothes dryer, water-ski, live in a McMansion, snowmobile, burn real wood in my fireplace and have a lush green lawn without being irresponsible.

    The question becomes, how much do we want to sacrifice going forward in order to avoid just admitting that stable or declining population would be smart? I’m not advocating mandatory sterilization, just good old fashioned enlightenment. I think we’ve all admitted that driving drunk is a bad idea. So is growing our population when it appears we’ve overshot a sustainable level.

    Dave Gardner
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity

  • Don

    Again, I don’t believe it’s a U.S. or western lifestyle issue because our population growth is already flat or declining. Your trouble is going to be burgeoning Indian, Latin American and Muslim populations who aren’t “enlightened.” Does that mean education and condomns? Or does that also mean improving their living standards? Or is that whole idea moot because their social/religious values include large families? Not sure I have the answers, but I agree with you, it’s complicated…

  • Just so you know, the U.S. is the only fully developed nation that is still experiencing population growth. Our population is not flat, not declining, and is forecast to reach 400 million and keep on going. And since our lifestyle has a much larger ecological footprint than people in developing nations, it presents all kinds of ethical questions and makes one wonder -while the prosperity seems to, in most cases, lead to lower fertility rates, it also leads to greater resource intensity. No easy answers, except one: LESS. We should aim for less instead of more.

    Thanks for the respectful dialogue!

  • Don

    Appreciate your thoughts too. You’re obviously more well-read on this subject than I. My hunch is our population isn’t in as much decline because of the large amount of immigration, rather than American couples having fewer kids. Is that close? Or is there some other factor?

  • You hunch is correct. U.S. population would be starting to level off if not for immigration and the higher fertility rate of immigrants. One might be tempted to think then that we aren’t adding to the global problem, just shifting folks around. But…

    how can we expect the world to behave sustainably if we don’t? Our obsession with economic growth is driving much of our immigration action (and inaction). Other nations, such as Russia, Australia, Scotland, Japan (there are others) are actually trying to reverse their declines in population because they are worried about declining GDP.

    So, be afraid. Be very afraid!

  • Nathaniel

    I would just like to thank the person who started this blog for giving me another chance to point out that there really is NOT a link between population and global warming.

    Global Warming is caused by pollution we put in the air-mostly by burning old (and formerly buried) carbon from coal and oil. As there is not any set car, coal power plant, factory, electronic device, and any other kind of trinket per person ratio there is not set carbon output per person ratio. The ones that people try to create by dividing CO2 and population by one another keep changing because the car (and other trinket) level per household has been going up regardless of what happens to the birthrate (which is actually pretty low in the USA)-as some of you have noted.

    CO2 (like many other pollutants) is added to the air because what we choose to do, not how many of us there are. And all that CO2 you may be worried about us breathing in and out. That is mostly already in the Carbon cycle on the surface of the planet. What have been doing with coal and oil is adding buried (not in the current Carbon cycle) Carbon to the air.

  • Bob

    Which one of you is the descendant of Thomas Malthus and which of Margaret Sanger? :-)