Population Bomb Epic Fail

On Monday, the world’s 7 billionth person is expected to be born.  Somewhere.  Look for the media and the usual worn-out handwringers to strike up the usual dirge.  I’m sure Paul Ehrlich has a full dance card for the day.  The “Tom Friedman Random Column Generator” app can retire early for the day, after disgorging “Hot, Flat, and Even More Crowded, Oh, And By The Way, Did I Mention That China. Is. Awesome.?”

In other words, the whole “population bomb” shtick, the summa of Malthusianism, is going to have another short-lived revival on Monday, though it is likely to be staged so far off-Broadway that Frank Rich’s intern won’t even give it much coverage after the opening night footlights are switched off.  In other words, this milestone is going to be a one-day story, at best.

Which is quite a contrast from the old days when Ehrlich’s book, The Population Bomb, was a worldwide best-seller, national and international population control organizations and lobbies were set up, and so forth.  In the meantime, global fertility rates have fallen so fast that we can now foresee the peak of global population a few decades out, after which we will likely start to see the world’s population start to shrink fairly dramatically.  A few people in the media have started to notice: Reuters notes that falling population may present more serious social problems than rising population.  (How will we pay for our welfare states, for example?)  And Christopher White over on the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse Blog offers some observations on how some nations are starting to regret their population-suppression policies.

Which brings me to the book that ought to be better known, Matthew Connelly’s 2009 book Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population.  Connelly, a historian at Columbia University, delivers a takedown of the essentially corrupt and tyrannically-minded global population control lobby that got going very early in the 20th century.

Connelly recounts one of the first major international conferences on world population, held in Geneva in 1927, where Albert Thomas, a French trade unionist, asked, “Has the moment yet arrived for considering the possibility of establishing some sort of supreme supranational authority which would regulate the distribution of population on rational and impartial lines, by controlling and directing migration movements and deciding on the opening-up or closing of countries to particular streams of immigration?” Connelly also describes the 1974 World Population Conference, which “witnessed an epic battle between starkly different versions of history and the future: one premised on the preservation of order, if necessary by radical new forms of global governance …” (Emphasis added.)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.-sponsored body that is the juggernaut of today’s climate campaign, finds its precedent in the International Union for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems (IUSIPP), spawned at the 1927 World Population Conference. A bevy of NGOs, most prominently the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Zero Population Growth (ZPG), later sprang into being, working hand-in-glove with the same private foundations (especially Ford and Rockefeller) and global financial institutions, such as the World Bank, that today are in the forefront of the climate campaign.

As Connelly lays out in painstaking detail, population control programs, aimed chiefly at developing nations, proliferated despite clear human rights abuses and, more importantly, new data and information that called into question many of the fundamental assumptions of the crisis mongers. Connelly recalls computer projections and economic models that offered precise and “scientifically grounded” projections of future global ruin from population growth, all of which were quickly falsified. The mass famines and food riots that were predicted never occurred; fertility rates began to fall everywhere, even in nations that lacked “family planning” programs. 

The coercive nature of the population control programs in the field was appalling. India, in particular, became “a vast laboratory for the ultimate population control campaign,” the chilling practices of which Connelly recounts:

Sterilizations were performed on 80-year-old men, uncomprehending subjects with mental problems, and others who died from untreated complications. There was no incentive to follow up patients. The Planning Commission found that the quality of postoperative care was “the weakest link.” In Maharashtra, 52 percent of men complained of pain, and 16 percent had sepsis or unhealed wounds. Over 40 percent were unable to see a doctor. Almost 58 percent of women surveyed experienced pain after IUD insertion, 24 percent severe pain, and 43 percent had severe and excessive bleeding. Considering that iron deficiency was endemic in India, one can only imagine the toll the IUD program took on the health of Indian women.

These events Connelly describes took place in 1967, but instead of backing off, the Indian government—under constant pressure and lavish financial backing from the international population control organizations—intensified these coercive programs in the 1970s. Among other measures India required that families with three or more children had to be sterilized to be eligible for new housing (which the government, not the private market, controlled). “This war against the poor also swept across the countryside,” Connelly notes:

In one case, the village of Uttawar in Haryana was surrounded by police, hundreds were taken into custody, and every eligible male was sterilized. Hearing what had happened, thousands gathered to defend another village named Pipli. Four were killed when police fired upon the crowd. Protesters gave up only when, according to one report, a senior government official threatened aerial bombardment. The director of family planning in Maharashtra, D.N. Pai, considered it a problem of “people pollution” and defended the government: “If some excesses appear, don’t blame me…. You must consider it something like a war. There could be a certain amount of misfiring out of enthusiasm. There has been pressure to show results. Whether you like it or not, there will be a few dead people.”

In all, over 8 million sterilizations, many of them forced, were conducted in India in 1976—”draconian population control,” Connelly writes, “practiced on an unprecedented scale…. There is no way to count the number who were being hauled away to sterilization camps against their will.” Nearly 2,000 died from botched surgical procedures. The people of India finally put the brakes on this coercive utopianism, at the ballot box: the Congress Party, which had championed the family planning program as one of its main policies, was swept from office in a landslide, losing 141 of 142 contested seats in the areas with the highest rate of sterilizations.

Stay tuned, I’ll have more from Connelly’s book tomorrow or Monday.

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