GrowthBusters is a non-profit, public education project. Support this work with a tax-deductible donation and give our kids a good chance to live a great life.


Recurring Donation



Choose a Level:

Alternative Amount

Give what you want

Choose Amount:

Snag a Small Family
Window Sticker

By Donating $10

Select Options
Select Options
Select Options
Select Options

Sign A Check And

Mail It To

Citizen-Powered Media
2930 Orion Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80906 USA
Our tax I.D. # is 20-5853254

To sign up to receive our e-mails, submit the following.

E-mail address:

Accusation of Eugenics Persists

I’m continuing today to share leftover questions from the GrowthBusters webinar, Solving Overshoot: End Overpopulation or Stop Overconsumption. I’m including responses later provided by our panelists, Paul Ehrlich and Madeleine Somerville. Find more information about the panelists, plus the first 3 questions and answers here.

4. Karen Pitts asked Paul Ehrlich: “Paul Ehrlich, how much money do we need each year to meet the worldwide unmet need for contraception? How much are we spending?”

Paul Ehrlich:  Haven’t time to look up, but it would be a trivial bit of the U.S. arms budget.


5. Brian Sanderson asked: “Wouldn’t you also consider poverty as an indicator of overpopulation/overshoot?    Aggressive warfare, also…   Mass migrations, also…”

Paul Ehrlich: All certainly connected, but, for instance, there is much poverty in U.S. connected to maldistribution.


6. Rob Meyer wrote: Autumn 2016 article in City Journal:  “The Real War on Science”.  This caught my eye, about 2/3 of the way down:

“Eugenicist thinking was revived by scientists convinced that the human species had exceeded the “carrying capacity” of its ecosystem. The most prominent was Paul Ehrlich, whose scientific specialty was the study of butterflies. Undeterred by his ignorance of agriculture and economics, he published confident predictions of imminent global famine in The Population Bomb (1968). Agricultural economists dismissed his ideas, but the press reverently quoted Ehrlich and other academics who claimed to have scientifically determined that the Earth was “overpopulated.” In the journal Science, ecologist Garrett Hardin argued that “freedom to breed will bring ruin to all.” Ehrlich, who, at one point, advocated supplying American helicopters and doctors to a proposed program of compulsory sterilization in India, joined with physicist John Holdren.”

Paul Ehrlich: Purest bullshit and misrepresentation – writer does not even know what “eugenics” is, and I’ve spent a lifetime opposing it (see e.g., Ehrlich PR, Feldman SS. 1977. The Race Bomb: Skin Color, Prejudice, and Intelligence. New York Times Book Co., pp. 52ff).


7. Rob Meyer then asked: “Comments / Thoughts on the article by John Tierney?”

Paul Ehrlich: When Tierney interviewed me and Gretchen Daily while we were working on the population dynamics of butterflies in Colorado, he asked us about a butterfly in a net “can you hear it screaming?”  Give’s you a peek into his IQ, amply demonstrated in his writings.

Dave Gardner: The news that there are limits to growth and we must limit the scale of the human enterprise provokes fear in some people. Everything they’ve been programmed to believe about progress and success has been a lie. That is terrifying for some, and for over 40 years they’ve reacted by vilifying the messenger. Paul Ehrlich is routinely castigated by economists and other growth boosters; not so much by scientists. Great care is being taken by family planning proponents to avoid the mistakes made in a handful of past population policy efforts. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch.

Here’s the 3rd post in this series.


GrowthBusting Tool KitGet your growthbusting toolkit at our store: note cards, small family stickers, t-shirts, bumper stickers and more. GrowthBusters members at the Growth Buster or higher level always get 15% off. All paid membership levels will get free access to future webinars. Membership info here. Learn what your membership supports here.

Tags: , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

Comments (6)

  • Avatar

    brian sanderson


    The sanguine attitude that John Tierney has towards DDT should be sufficient warning that the man is toxic!

    Tierney illustrates the great failing of our educational system; bestowing literacy upon people who lack the requisite intellect to say something sensible.


  • Avatar

    brian sanderson


    Indeed, last time I visited the USA I was taken aback by the poverty that I saw “on the street”. But then, when I returned to Canada (after spending 15 years in Australia) I was equally disturbed by the rising dependence upon food banks. I’m of the opinion that maldistribution is also a symptom of population level relative to eco-opportunity. I suggest to you that rising population fundamentally changes human behavior far far before carrying capacity is reached.


  • Avatar

    Karen Pitts


    It is important to know that the world only spends $4-5 billion to provide family planning to women who want it, but $9 billion is needed. When you (Gardner) tell people to ‘stop at one’ or ‘stop at two’ you are accomplishing nothing if they don’t have access to family planning. With the upcoming administration, the U.S. portion (a significant amount) of foreign aid, including family planning, is very likely to be far less than in the past. Paul Ehrlich, you give lip service to voluntary family planning, but you do not seem to know what is doing on that greatly threatens the world’s population decline. You can see it in the fact that projection curves have been adjusted upwards every couple of years for the last decade.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      Karen, you’re clearly doing important work with populations that lack access to family planning. My understanding is that there are an estimated 225,000 women in that situation in the world. I think funding that should be our highest priority. But I also think that is insufficient, and I believe we will always hit walls encouraging small family decisions around the world if we aren’t doing everything we can to “clean up our own back yard” in the (over)developed world. That is where a lot of my focus is.


  • Avatar

    Karen Pitts


    To give a real-life example, I have a small PHE (Population Health Environment) involving a Maasai community in Tanzania. I started the project when I learned that the women were interested in family planning. After training about 18 of the women in family planning, I found an NGO Marie Stopes, to provide family planning services. They came in a mobile clinic to a nearby town. 28 of my Masai women walked 8 miles round trip to get family planning. In the meantime, my Maasai friends helped me make a family planning video so that other women could get the training. Marie Stopes was supposed to come back in three months, but, unfortunately they lacked funding and did not come. They may never come back as they are funded by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which gets decent funding from the U.S. when a Democrat is in the White House, but nothing from the U.S. with a Republican adminstration.


  • Avatar

    Karen Pitts


    It may not be enough, but every bit will help, regardless. Much, much more than telling people to have only one.

    And the problem is not confined to the developing or undeveloped world.

    I too, believe that lowering fertility rates in the U.S. is very important. But in saying ‘stop at one’, you are, for the most part, preaching to the choir.

    In 2011, poor women had an unplanned birth rate nearly seven times that of higher-income women (those at or above 200% of the federal poverty level). This is because of lack of education about reproductive health and lack of income to afford contraception.

    Donald Trump’s first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood.

    Publicly funded family planning services help women avoid pregnancies they do not want and plan pregnancies they do want. In 2014, these services helped women avoid two million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in 900,000 unplanned births and nearly 700,000 abortions.
    Without publicly funded family planning services, U.S. rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion for 2014 would have been 68% higher.

    Number of births per year: 4 million

    In Texas, where Planned Parenthood was defunded, the services of this organization have not been replaced.

    About 25% of all women in the U.S. with bachelor’s or higher degrees never have children. The CWLP study found that 43% of women in a sample of professionals ages 33 through 46 did not have children, including 53% of Asian-American women

    I was not able to count the number of families with only one child, but I think you will find the number high among people above the median income, because 67% of U.S. children were born into, or fell into poverty

    The other factor is sex education. In many states it is either non-existent, unscientific, or shaming kids for having sex (do that and it will fall off)

    Among all children under 18 years of age, 45 percent live in low-income families and approximately one in every five (22 percent) live in poor families.

    With teens and young adults who don’t get comprehensive sex ed or good health care, it is lack of knowledge about effective contraception.

    With low income people it is not being able to afford effective contraception.

    There are 61 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (15–44).[1] About 43 million of them (70%) are at risk of unintended pregnancy—that is, they are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they and their partners fail to use a contraceptive method correctly and consistently.

    Couples who do not use any method of contraception have an approximately 85% chance of experiencing a pregnancy over the course of a year.

    The proportion of women at risk who are not using a method is highest among 15–19-year-olds (18%)

    Among women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy, 92% of those with incomes of 300% or more of the federal poverty level are currently using contraceptives, as are 89% of those living at 0–149% of the poverty line.

    In 2012, about 12% of women using contraceptives relied on a long-acting reversible contraceptive method, or LARC (IUD or implant) (1-2% chance of getting pregnant over a 10 year period)

    5.7 million women rely on the male condom. (86% chance of getting pregnant over a 10 year period) Condom use is especially common among teens and women in their 20s, women with one or no children, and women with at least a college education.

    The proportion of all sexually experienced women who have ever used withdrawal (92% chance of getting pregnant over a 10 year period) increased from 25% in 1982 to 60% in 2006–2010

    Among teenage women who were at risk of unintended pregnancy in 2006–2010, 82% were using a contraceptive method, and 59% were using a highly effective contraceptive method.

    The male condom was the most commonly used method at first sex and at most recent sex among both teenage men and women in 2006–2010.

    Among the 2.5 million sexually active teenage women who reported current use of contraceptives (within the last three months) in 2011–2013, 55% relied on the condom; 35% on the pill; 20% on withdrawal; 8% on the injectable, patch or ring; and 3% on the IUD.

    If a woman wanted two children she would spend close to three years pregnant, postpartum or attempting to become pregnant, and about three decades—more than three-quarters of her reproductive life—trying to avoid an unintended pregnancy. — Assuming she did not get herself sterilized after she had the desired number of children.

    The rate of unintended pregnancy among poor women (those with incomes below the federal poverty level) was more than five times the rate among women with incomes of at least 200% of the federal poverty level

    Women without a high school degree had the highest unintended pregnancy rate among all educational levels in 2011

    Sexually active women aged 15–19 have the highest unintended pregnancy rate of any age-group

    Two-thirds (68%) of U.S. women at risk for unintended pregnancy use contraceptives consistently and correctly throughout the course of any given year; these women account for only 5% of all unintended pregnancies. By contrast, the 18% of women at risk who use contraceptives inconsistently or incorrectly account for 41% of all unintended pregnancies. The 14% of women at risk who do not practice contraception at all or who have gaps of a month or more during the year account for 54% of all unintended pregnancies.

    Publicly funded family planning services help women avoid pregnancies they do not want and plan pregnancies they do want. In 2014, these services helped women avoid two million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in 900,000 unplanned births and nearly 700,000 abortions.
    Without publicly funded family planning services, U.S. rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion for 2014 would have been 68% higher.


    In 2011, poor women had an unplanned birth rate nearly seven times that of higher-income women (those at or above 200% of the federal poverty level)

    Only about 40 percent of women who needed publicly funded family planning services between 2000 and 2008 got them, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

    The 2010 figure for a family of 4 with no children under 18 years of age is $22,541, while the figure for a family of 4 with 2 children under 18 is $22,162.

    45 Million Americans Still Stuck Below Poverty Line

    Median income – $53,700 per household

    Affluent women are likely to have access to more-reliable forms of birth control, and they’re more than three times as likely to have an abortion in the case of an accidental pregnancy.

    For every income bracket, just about two-thirds of women had sex in the past year. In fact, women in the highest income bracket reported the highest rate of activity, with 71 percent saying they’d been sexually active. That means that the actual level of sexual activity has little to do with why poorer women are more likely to unintentionally get pregnant and bear children.

    And for each income level the results were pretty much the same, with about one in three women saying they would not be all that upset if they got pregnant, while two-thirds considered such a possibility very upsetting.

    Among the wealthiest women, only 11 percent of those who had sex reported not using contraception, for those in the poorest group the rate was more than twice as high. Naturally, that led to a higher rate of pregnancy for lower-income women: 9 percent versus only 2.9 percent for those who had the highest incomes.

    While contraception coverage is a requirement for many federally-backed insurance plans, abortion (except in the case of rape, incest, or life-threatening emergency) is prohibited by programs that utilize federal funding, like Medicaid—leaving low-income recipients to pay for the procedure with their own money.

    The most affluent group was more than three times as likely to have the procedure than the lowest-income group. Of women whose incomes were 400 percent greater than FPL or more, that’s about $47,000, 32 percent reported ending unintended pregnancies through abortion. For the group that falls at or below the poverty line, the figure was only 8.9 percent.

    More affluent women are more likely to have a better base of knowledge about more effective methods (like IUDs), but they’re also more likely to have the resources to gain access to such forms of birth control which—while cheaper in the long run—generally have higher up-front costs than less reliable options, like condoms or contraceptive/estrogen and progestin pills.

    According to the study, if women who fall below the poverty line had used contraception to the same extent that wealthy women did, their birth rate from unintended pregnancies would fall to 3.4 percent.

    If they had abortion rates that were similar to those of wealthy women, the birth rate for the group would fall to 4.9 percent.


Leave a comment

Visit Us At:

Share Us On: