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How can an optimum population be identified and achieved, and how can we confront the problems now facing our overcrowded country? The Negative Population Growth group put these questions to specialists on the environment, food and energy supplies, urban issues, national defense, labor and other areas directly affected by U.

The result is Elephants in the Volkswagen --a unique, multifaceted examination of one of the most pervasive and controversial issues facing our nation's policymakers. Skip to content. Perusall turns often-skipped solitary reading assignments into engaging collective activities students don't want to miss. Students collectively annotate each reading — asking questions, responding to each other's questions, or sharing other perspectives or knowledge. Close inspection of session descriptions and paper abstracts suggested a less optimistic conclusion.

Occasionally there is passing reference to global overpopulation, but there was not a single other session or paper with the environmental damage caused by U.


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This is the sustainability-lite movement SLM on steroids, where U. Sustainability for the SLM is only about minimizing per capita consumption and waste production rates, efficient use of resources and minimization of pollution, and saving, perhaps only temporarily, a patch of wetland or forest here and there…and maintaining the flow of research dollars to environmental scientists.

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One half-day symposium did seem like it might address much the same issues as did our session. Its title was Human Behaviour and Sustainability: Addressing Barriers to Change , Paul Ehrlich was one of its speakers, and its description 3 stated that:. The unifying argument of the symposium is that the primary barriers to sustainability are not a lack of existing knowledge, but socially constructed obstacles hindering our capacity to act on the basis of that knowledge. No abstract in this symposium showed awareness of this obstacle. National population, family planning, and immigration policies were once again completely off the agenda.

Better just to chat about global overpopulation over a glass of wine in Rio every decade or two. A large part of the responsibility for solving the human dilemma [of overpopulation] rests on the rich countries, and especially on the United States. All these other sustainability sessions and papers seem representative of thinking in academia these days. Most students may be hearing nothing of the strong sustainability movement where, long before the Brundtland Report, population was properly given central prominence as a factor in sustainability as expressed, e.

Independently of the session of talks on population-environment-sustainability issues, Californians for Population Stabilization CAPS applied to ESA to have an exhibitor booth on population issues at the Portland meeting. It was by no means a foregone conclusion that the application would be accepted. The irony of an entirely American AAAS directorate, and one without any evident expertise on population issues, forbidding a booth on population issues at a meeting being held in Vancouver was not lost on Canadians.

But the application to ESA meeting organizers was accepted. The CAPS booth was set up on the first day of the meeting and was open to attendees for seven hours a day for the next four days. Its location, next to the area where refreshments were served every afternoon, was ideal. The booth had a display of about two dozen books on population and population-environment issues, a large chart showing U.

Copies of about three dozen articles, charts, and newsletters on different population issues from a variety of authors and organizations were also on display and made available gratis to booth visitors.

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Over the four days, booth attendants had interactions, mostly quite positive, with almost meeting attendees and distributed close to 1, pages worth of articles. Like the meeting attendees generally and in contrast to booth attendants! These young people had never heard of most of the books and articles on display, but their general open-mindedness was heartening, attested to the value of the booth, and augured well for the future of ESA and, if luck holds, the U.

The 20 th anniversary of its publication was celebrated in a low-key, somewhat self-congratulatory evening session during the Portland meeting. Thus when the SBI was published it was a shock for many ecologists to discover that the document said nothing about the need for large reductions in population growth rates, both U.

How could this omission be justified? Certainly the U. And, indeed, why should it have? Why would politicians stick their necks out on such difficult and controversial topics, knowing how little backup they would receive from the SBI and the timid publications of ESA and U. Good heavens, could she be channeling Garrett Hardin? He wrote in 14 :.

We are not faced with a single global population problem but, rather, with about separate national population problems. All population controls must be applied locally; local governments are the agents best prepared to choose local means. Of course, Lubchenco did not talk about population issues at all. This was understandable given her obligations to avoid saying anything that might hinder smooth sailing and decent funding for NOAA.

That agency is never without numerous controversies roiling around it and not in need of more. Rather Lubchenco mostly talked about the successful initiatives accomplished or under way at NOAA that she, as the first ecologist head of that agency, has had some success in pushing. Only in the exhortatory last slide of her presentation did we discover the inspiration for her title.

There is a lot that can be done at a household level, at a community level, at a regional level. Again, shades of a Garrett Hardin-like rejection of globalism. With respect to the population factor in sustainability, it is primarily at the national level where action must be taken, in keeping family planning available, giving incentives for small family sizes, and preventing excessive immigration. Does Lubchenco and did Ostrom oppose development of a U.


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We have no idea. Ostrom was reticent in publicly putting forward her opinions on population issues. In Green from the Grassroots, one of the last pieces she wrote before her death on June 12, , she did say this: Of course, true sustainability goes further than pollution control. City planners must look beyond municipal limits and analyze flows of resources — energy, food, water, and people — into and out of their cities.

Sustainability at local and national levels must add up to global sustainability. This idea must form the bedrock of national economies and constitute the fabric of our societies.

She appears to lack what Hardin never lacked when it came to population and the preservation of the commons:a sense of urgency. Andres Edwards, 21 for example, notes, approvingly, that:. These issues cross national boundaries, socioeconomic sectors and political systems, touching every facet of society and driven by life-affirming values that influence policies and initiatives at the local, regional, national and international levels.

Elephants in the Volkswagen

Sustainability can put on different hats at different times, sounding as if it is sternly scientific at one moment, enchanted with mystical unities the next, and down in the street fighting for social justice and cut-rate mortgages the moment after that. Like most ideologies, it can be amorphous when it is tactically useful to its proponents to blur the issues.

However, it should take responsibility for the consequences of doing that. The ESA has never had any control over sustainability rhetoric and never will have. By officially identifying so relentlessly with the word on its website and in its meeting programs, the ESA associates itself with diverse, inchoate ideologies and political agendas marginally relevant to a sustainable biosphere.

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Understandably not understanding the rhetoric, they will often assume the worst — and may be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The National Association of Scholars NAS , its journal Academic Questions, and its website have taken the lead in providing a critique of the excesses and politicized nature of the sustainability movements on U.

Return to Book Page. Preview — Elephants in the Volkswagen by Leslie Grant. Lindsey Grant. In the last century, the United States has grown from 75 million people to million. Have we gone too far? How can an optimum population be identified and achieved, and how can we confront the problems now facing our overcrowded country?

The Negative Population Growth group put these questions to specialists on the environment, food and energy supplies, urban issues, na In the last century, the United States has grown from 75 million people to million.

Suggested Reading | Californians For Population Stabilization

The Negative Population Growth group put these questions to specialists on the environment, food and energy supplies, urban issues, national defense, labor and other areas directly affected by U. The result is Elephants in the Volkswagen--a unique, multifaceted examination of one of the most pervasive and controversial issues facing our nation's policymakers. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published April 1st by W.

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