On November 5th, 2009, PRI president Steven Mosher appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) popular show, Lateline, hosted by Ticky Fullerton. He was there to defend human beings against a pair of famous fearmongers: Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and Sir Crispin Tickell of Britain’s Optimum Population Trust. Both of his opponents were insisting, as usual, that we are all about to die from overpopulation.
Ehrlich went first, and proved to be every bit as radical ever. According to him, even Al Gore-style environmentalism is not extreme enough. He claimed that “[t]he problem is that the Al Gores and so on of the world actually refuse to look at what are the really inconvenient truths. What are the inconvenient truths? There’s a maldistribution of power. We have a population problem. When you look at the Inconvenient Truth movie, the solutions at the end are all ‘brick in the toilet’ type solutions… If we did every single one of them as well as we could it would delay the collapse of our civilization by maybe 10 hours.”
As ABC illustrated his points with vivid footage of poor, starving Africans, Ehrlich recited his usual litany of the dangers posed by “overpopulation:” “Great increases in hunger, the high likelihood of nuclear war, much bigger problems with plagues than we’re having now with the H1N1 flu virus, and a general deterioration of the standard of living of everybody, and many, many more premature deaths.”
Tickell went next, and turned out to be an anti-Catholic bigot. He blamed religion in general, and Pope Benedict in particular, for causing governments to shy away from taking the “overpopulation problem” more seriously. ABC itself seemed to concur with his opinion on this point, claiming that “pope power” kept the Third World from accepting population control.
Steve Mosher counterattacked that overpopulation was a myth, and that the numbers showed exactly the opposite. “What population growth? Europe is dying. Canada is dying. Japan and other developed countries in Asia are dying. The United States’ population continues to increase only because of immigration from other countries.
Asked about Ehrlich’s oft-repeated claim that the world is facing massive famine, Mosher responded: “Remember this: that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) based in Rome — part of the U.N. system — says that with current agricultural technology we can feed 14 billion people. We will never get to 14 billion. The population of the world will peak in a few decades at 8 billion or so, and then begin to decline.”
Ticky Fullerton then remarked that PRI has an international reputation for uncovering abuses related to population control. “I have seen first-hand what happens when governments take over control of fertility in a country,” said Steve.
“I was in China when the one-child policy began. I witnessed the forced abortion of women at seven, eight, nine months of pregnancy. And I suspect that if Professor Ehrlich had been with me in the operating room and saw these forced abortions, that he might feel a little bit differently about his population-control proposals.”
Steve went on to unmask the pretension of the population controllers that they are in favor of choice and voluntarism. “How can they on the one hand claim to espouse choice and voluntarism, and then on the other instruct governments that they have a population problem and that they must do something about the problem. I mean, they even say to government officials, ‘Here, we’ll give you the means to reduce the fertility among your people.”’
“It is poverty, not population, that destroys the environment,” Steve went on to say. This statement came in rebuttal to Paul Ehrlich, whose prescription for “saving the environment” involved the imposition of “gigantic penalties on rich people for having too many children” so as to eliminate the problem of “too many rich babies.”
The host, commenting that Steve is “unrepentant” for his own large family, gave him the last word: “Children have an economic value,” Steve insisted, “Every child born in the United States will contribute over his or her life-time about two thirds of a million dollars more to the economy than they will consume. That is, they’ll leave America and the world a better place.”