Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Not Talking about Population Growth

Environmental reporter David Roberts wrote an interesting essay for Vox about why he never writes about population growth. This might seem strange at first, since every environmental problem is partly caused by population growth. But, says Roberts, the optics of focusing on population are just too terrible. It makes the writer seem like a hater of humanity, and it makes him or her an ally of racists, anti-immigrant activists, and other deplorables:
I don’t doubt that it’s possible to be concerned about the environmental stresses population brings without any racism or xenophobia — I’ve met many people who fit that description, and there were well-meaning (if quite mistaken) population-focused groups in the ’70s and ’80s — but in terms of public discussion and advocacy, anyone explicitly expressing that concern starts out behind the eight ball. The mere mention of “population” raises all sorts of ugly historical associations.
Plus, says Roberts, we already know the best ways to fight population growth, and they can pursued without talking about population growth at all:
Luckily, we know the answer. It is family planning that enables women to have only children they want and choose, and education of girls, giving them access to income opportunities outside the home. We know that women, given the resources and the choice, will opt for smaller families.
And the best way to advocate for these things is to talk about justice and freedom, not population growth. Once you introduce population growth into the conversation about, say, Nigeria, then Nigerians will wonder why you hate Nigerians so much that you want to reduce their numbers.

I posted this here because I have a strong sense that talking about an issue is not always the best way to make progress, and that a lot of the stuff we fight about would be better just swept under the rug.

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