The subject of overpopulation has become taboo.  American public interest groups no longer discuss the issue as an environmental problem, the issue has been removed from policy platforms and websites of environmental groups, and, to the extent the issue of population has been mainstream, its focus is on human rights, gender equality, and the ability to have children.

Yet, population growth and the Earth’s carrying capacity are major issues.  China and India, each with over 1 billion people, view overpopulation as a major economic and national security issue.  China is often criticized for its one-child policy, mostly due to reports of its aribitrary and sometime brutal enforcement of the policy.  And now India is using cash bonuses to delay citizens from having more children.

When I was in China, the Chinese were (a) often upset that the West criticized their one-child policy, and (b) were surprised that I both recognized that population size was a legitimate concern and commended the Chinese government for recognizing overpopluation as a legitimate issue, even if I strongly disagreed with the arbitrary and capricious nature of its enforcement and admitted such a policy could not and would not work in the U.S.

Unfortunately, in America and globally, population growth is sort of a political hot potato.  Obviously for political and constitutional reasons, setting a child limit in the U.S. would never fly, but, even though I acknowledge American individualism and personal autonomy, it pains me that open policy discussions cannot be had about incentives to keep family sizes, and thus resource consumption, down at both the domestic and international level.  In the 1990s, phrases like ‘zero-population-growth’ (ZPG) and carrying capacity were big buzz words, but these debates/discussion seem to have been lost.

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