Remember when the existential threat to the world was the Population Bomb?



There are a myriad of articles about the dangers of growing world population.  It’s a population bomb!  And now we know about its effect on, you got it, global warming.

Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

But what can we do about the rise in population? This is an existential threat, isn’t it? Wasn’t the answer to the population bomb similar to the answer to carbon emissions: Stop them?

If we can stop people –  I was going to say women, but, today that is politically incorrect as it seems men can now give birth – from having babies for the greater good, then surely to goodness we can demand people give up fossil fuels  and destroy economies all over the world in the name of a greater good.

In 1952, John D. Rockefeller III founded the Population Council in New York,  to promote studies on the dangers of over-population. It became the world’s first truly global population control foundation. Later, in the  1960’s  a world-wide movement developed  concerned with overpopulation and concomitant famine.

Forty years ago, the US Commission on Population Growth and the American Future – often called the Rockefeller Commission— submitted a report to the President and Congress. This was the only time the President and Congress ever created a commission to study population growth and its impact on America’s future. The origins of the Commission are traced back to the consequences of U.S. population growth  shared by people including John D. Rockefeller III and Paul Ehrlich.

John D. Rockefeller III, the commission’s chairman, wrote in a submission letter on March 27, 1972, that

“after two years of concentrated effort, we have concluded that, in the long run, no substantial benefits will result from further growth of the nation’s population, rather that the gradual stabilization of our population through voluntary means would contribute significantly to the nation’s ability to solve its problems.”

In 1968 Paul Ehrlich wrote the Population Bomb. He wrote too many people on the planet will lead to the destruction of life as we know it.  After all, he predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture. Could it be an existential threat?

In this book, Ehrlich warned of overpopulation and advocated that the American government adopt stringent population control measures, both domestically and for the Third World countries that received American foreign aid. (Ehrlich, it should be noted, is the mentor of and frequent collaborator with John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.) Oh, Obama and the Paris Accords. Hmmm.

In the mid-1960s, the U.S. Congress responded to the agitation of “overpopulation ideologues, by appropriating federal funds to underwrite first domestic and then foreign population control programs. Suddenly, instead of mere millions, there were hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars available to fund global campaigns of mass abortion and forced sterilization.” Extreme solutions. Sound familiar?

What would we do without these social justice warriors?

The Johnson administration backed population control and Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act in 1966, including a provision earmarking funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for population control programs to be implemented abroad. And these policies were implemented by funds sent to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Yes, Planned Parenthood started by Margaret Sanger who wanted a “definite inexorable ruling that the population should increase slowly at a specified rate, in order to accommodate and adjust the increasing numbers to our social and economic system”  in order to reduce the number of unworthy children being born; but I digress.

Nixon, too, responded to the existential threat of overpopulation:

“One of the most serious challenges to human destiny in the last third of this century will be the growth of the population…Whether man’s response to that challenge will be a cause for pride or for despair in the year 2000 will depend very much on what we do today.”

In order, though, to prevent this existential threat, there were forced sterilizations especially on the Indigenous and the poor in America.

Hmmm, 2000 has come and gone.

And China had its one child policy and throwing unwanted children into pots of boiling water was the answer. Considering the penchant for boys rather than girls,  China now has more men than women. That will reduce the population growth.

The idea that the world would end because of overpopulation led to some mighty cruel policies – but they had to be done to save the world. All these messiahs out there; with their science. Fake science.

Yet, here we are. Increased population and all. How did that happen? I mean it was an existential threat to the planet, so much so that a survey by Negative Population Growth found that “American high school students are very worried about overpopulation.” Many prominent environmentalists — from Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder to entertainer Bill Nye “The Science Guy” — support tax penalties or other state-imposed punishments for having “too many” children.  

And glory be, what was the answer to that population bomb?

“Through the invention and diffusion of technology, humans alter and expand their niche, redefine resources, and violate population forecasts.” Jesse H. Ausubel Director, Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University

Perhaps we should follow the advice of Chelsea Follett, Managing Editor of

Unwarranted panic about overpopulation is a big problem that has led to human rights abuses and much pointless suffering. Alarmism and extreme measures to combat “overpopulation” are entirely unnecessary.

Good advice for the doomsayers of today and their “unwarranted panic,” and screams of the sky is falling, again, this time from the climate change bomb.


From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”