Like aging sixties radicals seeking to relive their glory days, the fear mongers at the Optimum Population Trust (OPT) are still trying to scare us with the specter of overpopulation. The trouble is, the world has moved on, even if they haven’t. The latest move by the British group—a major move to push contraception as the solution to global warming—has received a less than warm welcome from the global community.
This couldn’t have been what OPT expected when it tried to capitalize on the obsession of leftist politicians with global warming. But their press release, put out in September of this year, struck many as more than a little self-serving. Perhaps it was that it hailed contraception as, of all things, “the latest in green technology.” Or perhaps it was the OPT funded the very study by the London School of Economics that it later hyped in its press release. Then there was the study itself, which made the rather strange claim that, “considered purely as a method of reducing future CO2 emissions, family planning is more cost-effective than leading low-carbon technologies.”
The report concluded by claiming that “the population issue must now be added into the negotiations for the Copenhagen climate change summit in December.” Although the authors stopped short of asserting, as Al Gore did, that babies cause global warming, they came close. Readers are left with the impression that fewer breathing humans equal a greener, healthier planet. We’ve never heard that one before.
A visit to OPT’s prehistoric web site is like a trip back in time. “By reversing population growth,” OPT says, “we’d be taking another green step towards environmental survival for all.” There is no mention that Europe is dying.
The site even has a “Stop At Two” pledge, where environmental devotees can make a promise to reverse population growth. One wonders whether any of OPT’s aging membership are still young enough to reproduce.
The intriguing thing about OPT’s most recent pitch for mass population control—disguised as a scientific study—is the reaction it garnered among the public. One might expect at least some denizens of the Left to enthusiastically second its program, or at least nod approvingly.
Instead, the reaction was muted and, well, uncomfortable.
Austen Ivereigh of America Magazine , for instance, encountered OPT at London’s “Battle of Ideas” festival in early November. Ivereigh reminds us that “doom-mongers always ignore the elasticity of economic productivity,” and contends that “the ecological crisis will be solved by meeting the needs of the poor, not chasing them off the planet.”
Even Ellie Lee, a self-proclaimed member of the pro-choice movement, takes issue with the “moral imperative” laid down by the OPT. “Campaign groups such as the Optimum Population Trust,” she writes on the Times Online, “seek to persuade us that we should plan, found and grow our families according to a moral imperative far more pressing than what we may feel is right for us.”
Lee is (rightly) miffed at the idea that OPT sees itself as a referee on who can have children, and when. “This is the attempt to manipulate the feelings and decisions of women all over the world,” she writes, “as they negotiate their way through the profoundly important process of making decisions about when to start a family.”
Brendan O’Neill, writing for Spiked! , thinks likewise. He describes an invitation-only OPT conference that he attended earlier this year, quipping that the affair was “hideously white.” There is something “unavoidably spooky,” he notes, about people who spend all their time “fretting about overpopulation.”
“You can bet,” he continues, “that when these well-to-do worriers about the human plague on the planet talk about burdensome people causing ‘congestion, overcrowding and loss of green space’ . . . they aren’t talking about themselves, or their friends, or their neighbors, or their mistresses; they’re talking about ‘them’. You know ‘them’! The breeders, the not-sufficiently-educated, the dwellers of teeming cities, not only in Africa and Asia but in Europe and America too.”
This apt observation shines a harsh light on the innate “creep factor” of organizations like OPT. Their members, when viewed en masse, look less like crusading saviors of the earth, and more like angry, bigoted, pampered ideologues. Their creed has not aged well.
Regrettably, gatherings of these types of crazy people are not limited to country clubs and richly-catered seminars. Population obsession is alive and well in men like John P. Holdren, President Obama’s “Science Czar.” PRI has reported on Holdren’s extremism in the past, and suffice it to say he has shown evidence of being yet another of these “well-to-do worriers.” Unfortunately, he now has the President’s ear, as well.
However, culturally, population control is beginning to make the Western public uncomfortable. While many still believe the world to be overrun with humans, the proposed “solutions” to this so-called “problem” are even more unthinkable. Men like John P. Holdren, and the leaders at OPT, would do well to remember this.
As far as population control goes, in the words of a sixties song, the times, they are a-changin’