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Trump Wins headlines

We Just Lost Our Paddle: The Election in the Context of Overpopulation

Guest Post by Dr. Karen I. Shragg

I write this as a devastated overpopulation activist, social justice activist, and women’s rights activist. I write it as a free-thinking atheist who is not burdened by ancient doctrine. BUT I do not write this from a perspective of shock. I am not surprised by the rise to power of our president elect.  I think it is all pretty predictable in an overpopulated world. A world, by the way, that seems clueless that it is exactly that, overpopulated, overshot, over-baked and way past well done when it comes to using up our planet’s limited and irreplaceable resources.

We may not know intellectually that the US is actually and provably at least 150 million people over its limit to provide resources like water, long term, to our citizens, but I believe we know it in our subconscious. Because so many green groups refuse to tell the carrying capacity story, we are uninformed. We know deep inside that we cannot continue to make promises of prosperity to growing millions when that very prosperity is based on dwindling natural capital. We know that prosperity isn’t just being limited just because people at the top are greedy. It is because there isn’t enough to go around forever and ever.

When scarcity is knocking on our door, people behave in new and intolerable ways, they protect their own with racism as their mantra. They point fingers at the innocent and reach for the lowest hanging fruit on which to base their problems. They want strangers to get out of “their” land and they use a made up version of their religion to justify their abhorrent actions. With god on their side and a fear for their families’ future, they listen with great interest to fascist based speech. They follow these fascists in the sad belief that their battle cry of, “Make America Great Again,” includes them.

No politician today would dare tell the full truth that the US is already beyond its carrying capacity for people and has been for decades. So the political landscape becomes divided between those who are kind hearted and want to share our country with everyone and those who spew hatred and want to build walls. One party offers going off the resource cliff with civility and the other offers going off the cliff with violence and evil.

The truth and the direction this country must go in is one that strikes albeit a delicate balance between policies that reflect both our current ecological reality and desire to operate from a place of compassion.  We need to see that overpopulation drives climate change and this is far more critical to our future than foreign threats. Without that insight both sides of the political spectrum will lose. The overpopulation taboo must end. We must change our narrative from one of abundance to one of overshoot. We must tell the full truth that we are 5.5 billion overpopulated relative to our resources and growing by 1 million every 4.5 days. We must not let religious doctrine get in our way and insist on evidence-based decisions. We must not make the political mistake of suggesting policy decisions before we change our narrative. Many population groups, worried about the detrimental effects of added immigrants, come out sounding like racists because they have done a poor job of changing the narrative first. Imagine if a doctor prescribed brain surgery before you even realized you are really sick.

Overpopulation is compassionately solvable with very small (one child average families) We need the country and the world to move upstream and see that overpopulation is driving so much of our angst, but I am afraid we just lost our paddle.

Karen Shragg is a naturalist, children’s author, member of the board of directors of Citizen-Powered Media, and author of Move Upstream: a Call to Solve Overpopulation.

 

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Comments (20)

  • Avatar

    Dave Kruse

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    Wow! The elite talking to the deplorable. We need to find ways to educate all without first offending all of them.

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      Mike

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      I agree.

      Reply

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    Keith Bemis

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    “When scarcity is knocking on our door, people behave in new and intolerable ways, they protect their own with racism as their mantra.” So at what point will “managed population and resource management” not be called racism by the media those tools of the greedy corporate’s,the “innocents”” and the humanitarian assistance industries”. This article imply’s when and if the societal narrative is changed to an educated and informed position on population growth we can collectively move forward towards resource management and climate change reform. I’ve held the opinion the very same people and groups that might be in positions to counter the corporate’s interests through government policy, the media and educational institutions are economically dependent on the very same corporate’s and have only blurred the battlefield through their self serving liberal bias and tolerance of weak immigration and border enforcement.The reality is the white European’s population is declining in both the U.S.A and Europe.allowing higher birthrate populations into the U.S.A whom come to be part of a nation that already consumes 25% of the earths resources whom will not be the audience most accepting of “enlightened” population and resource management. Trump’s victory hopefully will slow migration to the U.S.A any progress no matter how small is welcomed no matter what label will be hurled at it.

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      Dave Gardner

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      You’re right about much of this, Keith. But I’m afraid any truly rational, compassionate approach to U.S. immigration is now more D.O.A. than it was before, with Trump as immigration reduction’s hood ornament.

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    Mike

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    I don’t believe either party has any interest in (US) Overpopulation as an issue, and neither will therefore give us a paddle or even a life jacket. Trump matters not. It is up to us.

    How?

    I believe that Americans will reach their own conclusions on immigration if they see that the US is overpopulated.

    We need to do this, IMHO, via ourselves — grass roots activists. Perhaps Growthbusters can play a role in bringing us together and building our work and influence. We need to get to the people, and via those people, to environmental NGOs.

    Let the games begin.

    “Still More economic or population growth is not our way to a healthy community, a healthy planet, OR enjoyable cycling.”
    ~Mike

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      Dave Gardner

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      Too true, Mike. I think Karen hit the nail on the head with the notion that immigration reduction is a tough sell to many under the current worldview. Of course it will look like racism to someone who assumes there are no limits to growth ,so the U.S. is not currently pillaging the planet, so our lifestyle is sustainable and desirable, so it’s kind and compassionate to welcome, indeed entice, new addicts to join us and get hooked on growth.

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        Tina

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        Why do you print these leftist leaning loonies like Karen Schragg anyway? So sick of her elitist and racist ideas that whites are all racist and we should welcome millions of prolific procreators into our country. Karen Schragg is encouraging overpopulation, and she needs to get out of the way so we can solve it. First order of business should be to stop paying people to breed! Encouraging unskilled immigration to this country is doing just that. Donald Trump is not the anti Christ and he isn’t Hitler either. He’s just trying to put Americans back to work and get companies to come back to the US… what in the f#$k is wrong with that anyway? These leftist loonies claim to be the 99 percent, but what they really are is the 51 percent who don’t work and don’t pay taxes, looking to leach off of the 49 percent.

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          Dave Gardner

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          Tina, I think you missed much of Karen’s point. She is a prolific sustainable population advocate and her book, Move Upstream: a Call to Solve Overpopulation, actually takes progressive environmental NGOs to task for ignoring the problem. While I don’t think she is a fan of the Donald, I think you may agree more than you think.

          She never wrote that “whites are all racists,” and she certainly didn’t write that “we should welcome millions” of any kind into our country. She did write that “the US is actually and provably at least 150 million people over its limit….” Yes, she’s a little bit kinder and gentler than the Donald and many of his supporters, but she is not ignoring overpopulation, and I’ve never heard Trump mention overpopulation or sustainability as a reason to enforce our borders.

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      Mike

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      Perhaps we should consider approaching Overpop away from environment and, especially, resources (which never really have run out) to more quality of life issues — crime, representation, education, taxes, infrastructure, etc. The problems in Chicago, mass shootings, the melee in a number of shopping centers (including Auora CO), etc, could be considered symptoms of Overpop. If they don’t want to believe the population connection, give them some other connections!

      Reply

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    brian sanderson

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    As a population realist, I understand that population is a major determining factor of how people live. Most people are not realists. They prefer a comforting absurdity to an accurate model that illuminates matters not to their liking. From my side of the border, this is neither more nor less true for Mr Trump than it is for Mrs Clinton (or yesterday’s “Yes we can!” hero, POTUS Obama).

    In Canada, we recently elected baby Trudeau. As Prime minister, he has sunny ways. His policy is to borrow money so he can grow population in order to grow the economy and thereby save the environment. Trudeau is pushing his population policy much more aggressively than his much maligned Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper. But Trudeau is a “Progressive”, so he must be “right”. Indeed, in is personal habits, Mr Trudeau is much more expansive than Mr Harper when it comes to jetting around the world and personal procreation.

    No, I cannot see a “Progressive” as being in some way “better” than a “Conservative”.

    Words like “Progressive” mean nothing to me unless I know what they are progressing towards. When push comes to shove, Our Canadian “Progressives” are progressing towards exactly the same thing that the “Conservatives” were trying to conserve!

    Those of us who have some understanding of the population issue do not owe it to an uncomprehending world to “change the narrative” in order to avoid offending delicate sensibilities. I often bring up the population issue in polite company and I know very well that it makes people uncomfortable and that I get labeled. But they cannot label me a coward. And I do make them think, if only for a moment, before they retreat back into their comfortable ideological boxes.

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      Dave Gardner

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      Some very good points, Brian. I share your frustration with all the tap-dancing around the truth. At the same time, I feel our best chance for progress in this arena is to avoid getting the door slammed in our face by huge segments of the population. I think some careful moderation of the message (without completely lying) can avoid energizing the resistance. It’s a choice between bringing people along gently, or being more aggressive and pushing people into digging in their heels.

      I understand we don’t have time to pussyfoot around. And I abhor the extremely timid approach to both overconsumption and overpopulation among major environmental NGOs, but I also try to practice a little realism and walk the tightrope – pushing the edge of the envelope as much as possible without slamming all the doors. Every advocate out there is doing this calculus, and ending up with a slightly different result. Is there one right answer? Probably not.

      Reply

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      Karen Shragg

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      Hi . thanks for so many thoughtful responses to my blog. I want to be clear. I do not wish to put emphasis to change the narrative and make people aware that the US is way overpopulated for some political correctness agenda. I am not worried about offending people I am worried about NOT BEING SUCCESSFUL because we who get it put the cart before the horse so often and that horse appears racist. That means no one on that side will listen and we lose.

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        Dave Gardner

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        Thanks, Karen. I think some people got that (though I think you mean “the cart appears racist”). That topic is laden with lots of excess baggage and people jumping to conclusions, and almost all the discussion is undergirded by two big false assumptions – that it is compassionate to welcome new addicts to the growth-addicted club, and that it improves someone’s life to become an addict. But as long as few realize we (in the over-developed world) have a habit we’re going to have to break (involuntarily, it appears), that conversation can’t advance.

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          Rob Harding

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          Great points, Dave. It appears to be just about impossible to solve the growth addiction as well as existing overpopulation and overconsumption voluntarily without first allowing for an open conversation (many, actually). To this day there are still far too many people who won’t even have this conversation, let alone take any action to truly solve these increasingly apparent issues. To Karen’s point, there’s no perceived need to discuss viable solutions to people who don’t believe there is a problem to begin with. I also totally agree with Karen’s “cart before the horse” comment though it’s understandable that this occurs given that we’re up against the clock in many ways.

          Ultimately I agree with your thought, Dave, that realism coupled with “walking the tightrope” is necessary. Continuing to apply pressure on the major environmental NGOs to try to convince them to move upstream in their messaging may be one of the best available opportunities to do this and help change the accepted narrative more widely.

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            Dave Kruse

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            Can we do any educational good by pushing to measure GDP/person rather than just GDP? This shows that the more people we have, the less there is for each person. It also may help show why countries with declining populations can improve the lives of people without growing the overall economy.

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            Rob Harding

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            Yes I believe so, Dave Kruse. That’s a good point, and an important one I think.

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            Dave Gardner

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            Dave Kruse, shifting focus to per-capita GDP would at least eliminate population-boosting policies in pursuit of gross GDP growth. However, using GDP of any kind as a metric for success has serious flaws. Per-capita GDP in the (over)developed world must come down in order for us to achieve sustainable equilibrium (unless we reduce world population to something way below 1 billion. So I’d much rather see us stop using GDP, other than, perhaps, as a halfway decent surrogate for how much damage we’re doing to the planet.

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    HenryB

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    I agree with Dave K.’s comment.
    Here’s something to ponder — I believe the “social justice” folks are at least partly responsible for creating the unintended consequence of anger and antipathy toward immigrants. For many years now, effective enforcement of U.S. immigration laws has been a charade, with an average ANNUAL rate of roughly 1/2 million illegal immigrants entering the country. The Democrats (and to a lesser degree Republicans), behind a veil of humanitarianism, have been all-too-happy to look the other way or even reward this lawless behavior through proposed amnesties, ensuring votes for the Democrats and low-wage workers for the establishment Republicans.
    So, rather than embracing illegal immigrants as part of the American family, many (a majority of?) Americans (which includes immigrants who are here legally) instead can no longer shrug and accept the fact that a large percentage of immigrants have disregarded our laws and should not be here. It is finally apparent to American citizens that their lives and futures are being adversely affected (jobs, wages, schools, welfare/taxes, culture, communication) by massive numbers of illegal immigrants who have little regard for U.S. laws but are much more concerned about their own economic gain (or other “humanitarian” reason). Americans are outraged because to allow illegal immigrants to live in the U.S. is tantamount to living in a country with open borders.
    The 2016 election result is not about fascism or “hate.” It’s about Americans justifiably lashing out at a government that has had little regard for the seriousness of protecting our borders and managing the rates of immigration which, indeed, have accelerated the GROWTH rate of our country.

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      Dave Gardner

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      Henry, that’s probably an accurate observation. I think as the world continues to crumble under the weight of too many people living too well to achieve a sustainable balance, we will see both more and more immigration pressure from parts of the world that are seeing the worst effects first. And we’ll see more backlash (like the recent U.S. election) from people who have more and don’t want to have their well-being diluted.

      I see no easy answers to this. There are some sound reasons for all nations to aim for net zero immigration levels (otherwise they are not accountable for their total footprint, and they use population growth to grow their economy). But there is also the case that much of the misery in the world IS the result of overconsumption and imperialism by the (over)developed world. So humanitarians CAN argue that we OWE refuge to the people we’ve harmed (we’ve disrupted their climate and we’ve appropriated their resources, for example). As long as we view admission to the (over)developed world as beneficial, it will be harder and harder to convince the compassionate that we should turn people away. In truth, if we continue chewing up our life-support systems, it will get to a point where life among the growth addicts actually is an improvement, because otherwise you die. There will be no stopping migration around the world at that point, and the nations gaining immigrants will have brought that on themselves by their unsustainable appetites for economic growth.

      Result: I’m afraid we are too far into collapse to have any peaceful resolution to this.

      Reply

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    David Kruse

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    Do I care why Trump is proposing things that will reduce our population and consumption?

    Building a wall and eliminating the personal tax deductions are both good for the environment. We will now see who is concerned about the environment and who just wants to use it for political gain.

    Reply

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