In the March 20 edition of the JP Gazette, I read with interest the letter written by Henry Barbaro, board member of the New England Coalition for Sustainable Population, on the subject of population control. I welcome debate on this subject, as we should all be concerned about humanity consuming too many resources to maintain a reasonable standard of living and ecological health. It may be the case that, if we cannot stabilize our net environmental footprint, the only solution to this problem is population control. However, previous attempts at population control have had questionable effects on vulnerable populations.
Writing about the Irish potato famine in “The Great Calamity,” Christine Kinealy states the English gov-ernment used famine-related government policy to “…facilitate various long-desired changes within Ireland. These included population control and the consolidation of property…”
The US has also seen ethically dubious policy on this matter. In the 1927 decision Buck v. Bell, the US Supreme Court upheld the right of Dr. Bell to forcibly sterilize his mentally disabled patient Carrie Buck, because, in the opinion of Justice Holmes: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger argued in “Birth Control Review” (April 1932) for: “A stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.”
General attitudes about humanity among population control theorists are also instructive. Caltech nuclear scientist Harrison Brown, in his 1954 book “The Challenge of Man’s Future,” states that the carrying capacity of the Earth is probably between 50 and 200 billion humans. However, he says this fact must be kept se-cret, as humanity is analogous to “a pulsating mass of maggots.” Therefore, according to Brown, humanity must not be allowed to “have its way” regarding population growth. In “The Population Bomb,” biologist Paul Ehrlich analogizes humans with cancer, and suggests compulsory birth regulation may be necessary.
In 1974, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger produced National Security Study Memorandum 200, in which he concluded the US government must take an activist role in depopulating the developing world. Like Ehrlich, Kissinger goes on to suggest an alternate view that asks if “mandatory population control measures” are appropriate for the US and others.
I support a woman’s right to choose, and an individual’s right to access birth control, and therefore I think we must guard against ceding control of our reproductive rights to government in any form. Too often, population control efforts conclude with unacceptable policies that put the burden on the less fortunate. Therefore, I call on the New England Coalition for Sustainable Population to clearly state on its web site that it will never support any form of state-mandated, involuntary population reduction or control. Voluntary methods, such as access to birth control, raising income and education levels, raising literacy rates, etc., are acceptable, so long as they are done with the consent of the population in question.
René A. Ruiz