Letter to the Editor: Response to Paul Ibbetson


Mr. Ibbetson,

Though I don’t claim to be an expert on the policies advocated by John Holdren within the Obama administration, I believe that taking tiny excerpts out of context and then paraphrasing them into a 1984-esque vision of government-controlled terror ought to be beneath a graduate student with any kind of scholarly ethic.  For one, keep in mind that Holdren’s book was written at the height of population-growth anxiety through the late 1960s and 1970s (see The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich).  Just a few moments of searching online yielded pages referencing Mr. Holdren’s “desires” for America’s future in which he speculates as to whether measures like forced abortions or adoptions could be implemented under the Constitution provided “the population crisis became sufficient to endanger the society.”  In fact, Holdren goes no farther than to say that given such a danger “it would even be possible” to require single pregnant women “to marry or have abortions.”  A uncomfortable prospect yes, but then Mr. Holdren is not speaking to the morality or necessity of the measure, only to its speculative Constitutional viability (in his opinion, in 1977).  Similarly, he only addresses the difficulties of implementing a mass-sterilization effort through food and water supplies, saying nothing of his opinion on such a measure.  In short, from what I can tell, the book seems to be an examination of the practical difficulties and considerations that would be entailed IF a population crisis were to manifest and IF the decision to use extreme measures was already made.

In interest of full disclosure, I have not read the book (though it appears neither have you), but even if John Holdren truly advocated extreme measures that should be regarded in the context of other cataclysm theorists starting with Thomas Malthus through Carl Sagan and Lester Brown (who is still at it).  Furthermore, the excerpts that I have read could as easily be interpreted as meaning to point out the myriad of difficulties and level of governmental control that would make implementing the drastic measures advocated by other environmentalists all but impossible.  Either way, it is an uncomfortable work that was likely meant to be that way, as honest discussion of uncomfortable topics ought to be.  Offering it as some sort of evidence that the Obama administration is out to hamstring our economy is impertinent at best and fear-mongering at the worst.  Too bad, because the “going green” movement does indeed bring with it a set of unpleasant side-effects that are worth discussing.  On the other hand, we can point to increasing crash standards and emissions controls to blame for the fact that while automotive technology improves with each passing year, our cars and trucks become heavier and therefore barely (if at all) more fuel-efficient–not to mention more expensive.  So, do we want to say better crash standards are a bad thing?  Probably not.  Tighter environmental restrictions will probably be difficult to square with economic necessity.  Does that mean environmental concerns should be ignored (or that they will be ramrodded and all our cattle ranchers put out of business)?  Probably not.

Zach Isenhower