The Environmentalist Roots of the Population Control Movement

Concern for our environment is the most altruistic of the several primary motivations which drive the activities of the population control movement.  Unfortunately, the leaders of many population control groups think that the best way to preserve our natural surroundings is to decrease the number of people in the world by whatever means are available.

green stream forest population control environment


Environmentalism and Population Control

Environmentalism has led to many drastic measures in the name of population control.

For example, we have witnessed forced abortion and sterilization programs in China, Vietnam, Peru and many other countries, partly in support of programs to preserve the environment.  There have been vast numbers of women sterilized or fitted with IUDs without their knowledge or consent for the same reason.1  Animal rights activists and environmentalists have caused tens of millions of dollars of damage with arson and sabotage, and have tried to murder researchers and loggers with nail bombs and tree spikes.  They have also published many “how-to” guides with titles such as:

  • Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching
  • Setting Fires with Electrical Timers
  • How to Sink Whalers, Driftnetters and other Environmentally Destructive Ships
  • Killing People to Save the Animals and the Environment.2

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring is widely credited with launching the modern environmentalist movement.  Carson’s book focused on documenting the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, with a particular emphasis on birds.  One of the deadliest impacts of this book was the banning of DDT, which was effectively used to hold down mosquito populations all over the world.  This led to a dramatic increase in the incidence of malaria, typhus and dysentery, resulting in tens of millions of additional deaths and unspeakable suffering, mostly among Africans.3  Despite this terrible tragedy and scant evidence that DDT causes harm to birds, most radical environmentalists today continue to lobby for the continued ban on the pesticide, essentially meaning that they hold bird eggs in higher esteem than the lives of poor Africans.

african boy black and white

Six years later, in 1968, Zero Population Growth founder Paul Ehrlich kicked off the modern population control movement with his atrociously-researched book The Population Bomb.  He predicted that more than 90% of the population of the United States would die of starvation and radiation sickness by 1999 in an event he called the “Great Die-Off.”4  Every one of the other major predictions he made in his book did not even come close to being fulfilled.

Despite the glaring failings of Carson’s and Ehrlich’s books, population controllers found “cover” for their activities by claiming that they were acting in the best interests of the environment, and therefore humanity at large.  Many influential people began to advocate measures that completely disregarded the most basic of human rights.  For example:

  • In 1969, Bernard Berelson, President of the Population Council, recommended punishment for large families and a widespread program of “involuntary fertility controls.”5
  • Also in 1969, Frederick S. Jaffe, Vice-President of Planned Parenthood-World Population, recommended that the United States government “encourage increased homosexuality;” place “fertility control agents in water suppl[ies],” and “require women to work and provide few child care facilities.”  He also recommended “compulsory abortion of out-of-wedlock pregnancies;” “compulsory sterilization of all who have two children,” and “stock certificate type permits for children.”6
  • In his 1971 book The Case for Compulsory Birth Control, Professor Edgar Chasteen proposed a stringently-enforced two-child law for the United States, with every child being immunized against fertility at the age of ten.7
  • Even the United States Postal Service jumped on the bandwagon, releasing an eight-cent stamp in 1972 showing a perfectly-groomed, white, “gender-balanced” family joyously embarking on the wide and smooth road to the Brave New World.  The USPS proudly declared, “The new stamp will serve as a reminder for all members of our society of the current world environmental situation and the need for planning to have a better America and a better world.”8

Thanks in large part to Carson and Ehrlick, a misguided concern for the environment has led to the suggestion of drastic population control measures.


Government Response

United States Capitol

It did not take long for these views to insinuate themselves into government agencies and documents.  The 1972 Report of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future (“The Rockefeller Report”) is larded with scores of statements and recommendations for holding down the population of the United States for the sake of the environment.  The foundational document of the United States international population control program, the 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200, echoes much of what the Commission said.

Many influential people still hold these views.  John P. Holdren, Obama’s “Science Czar,” has never repudiated the views he expressed in his book Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, which he co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich in 1977.  He called for seizure of all illegitimate children from their mothers, forced abortions and sterilizations for unmarried women, mandatory implantation of a reversible infertility drug in all adolescent children, a national two-child policy, and the addition of sterilizing agents to the water supplies of our nation (so long as they did not affect livestock or pets).  Most appalling of all, Holdren and the Ehrlichs recommended a United Nations-run “Planetary Regime” that would control population by whatever means necessary.

Others recommended even more extreme measures.  In 2006, Professor Eric R. Pianka of the University of Texas said that we should manufacture and then release the Ebola virus, thereby killing 90% of the world’s population in order to preserve the environment.  Pianka does not seem to care that Ebola sufferers die an agonizing death over several days as their internal organs slowly liquefy.  He said:

We’ve got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans.  Killing humans.  Think about that….We’re no better than bacteria!…And the fossil fuels are running out, so I think we may have to cut back to two billion, which would be about one-third as many people….You know, the bird flu’s good, too.  We need to sterilize everybody on the Earth.”9

As always, we cannot eliminate a class of people until we dehumanize them.  Hitler called the Jews “vermin,” racists called blacks “animals,” and pro-abortionists call preborn children “blobs.”

In order to eliminate people in general, we now have to dehumanize ― ourselves.

In 1966, the United States Department of State declared, “Mankind is the cancer of the planet.”10  Since that time, hundreds of influential leaders have repeated this view until it has become a virtual mantra of the environmentalist movement.11  Some have suggested that we excise this “cancer” by whatever means are available.  For example, Jacques Cousteau, said, “Our society…is a vicious circle that I compare to cancer….In order to stabilize world population we must eliminate 350,000 people a day.”12


Final Thoughts

We must not make the mistake of dismissing these people as mere cranks.  The first step towards implementing any idea, no matter how ridiculous it may seem at the time, is to talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  This leads first to outrage among the people, then irritation, and finally indifference as they become desensitized to the message.  Twenty years ago, people laughed when radicals talked about homosexual “marriage,” but now it is being rammed down our throats while its opponents are being silenced, punished and persecuted.

You can find bumper stickers online that say “Humans are a Pestilence,” or which show the outlines of two people and say “Worst Species Ever.”  This depressing worldview is in total opposition to the Christian view of Man, who is made in the image and likeness of God.

woman hope sun

St. Paul wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?  You did make him for a little while lower than the angels, you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet” (Hebrews 2:6-8).

We must care for our natural surroundings without violating the rights of humanity.  Evangelium Vitae says:

As one called to till and look after the garden of the world, man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations.

Losing sight of this balance means the inevitable proliferation of horrible human rights abuses all over the world.

+ Endnotes

[1] Just one of these programs sterilized thousands of women in the area around Cebu City in the Philippines.  A “Safe Motherhood” program funded by the West promised to give all women in the area free pelvic examinations.  While doing so, the doctors placed IUDs in all of the women without their knowledge.  Years later, the Dominican sisters in the area, who are also qualified as medical doctors, ran clinics to remove these IUDs, many of which were impacted or had migrated into the abdominal cavity (witnessed by Brian Clowes in November 1996 in Cebu City).

[2] These books are definitely not “for entertainment purposes only.”  For electronic copies of these books, e-mail Brian Clowes at  The liberal establishment has defended the publication of all of these manuals under the banner of free speech; but try to imagine how they would react if somebody published a guide on how to blow up an abortion mill (oh, wait, they already screamed in outrage when someone published the anti-abortion “Army of God Manual”).

[3] Dr. Henry Miller, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Gregory Conko Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  “Rachel Carson’s Deadly Fantasies.”  Forbes Magazine, September 5, 2012.  A 1970 study by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences found that “to only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT.  In a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that otherwise would have been inevitable.”

[4] Zero Population Growth (ZPG) founder Paul R. Ehrlich.  The Population Bomb (New York City: Ballantine Publishers), 1968; Paul R. Ehrlich.  “Looking Backward from 2000 A.D.”  The Progressive, April 1970, pages 23 to 28.

[5] Bernard Berelson.  “Beyond Family Planning.”  Studies in Family Planning (Publication of the Population Council), February 1969, pages 1-16.  For a PDF copy of this article, e-mail Brian Clowes at

[6] February 11, 1969 memorandum from Frederick S. Jaffe (Vice-President of Planned Parenthood-World Population) to Bernard Berelson (President of the Population Council) found in “Activities Relevant to the Study of Population Policy for the U.S.”  Table 1, “Examples of Proposed Measures to Reduce U.S. Fertility, by Universality or Selectivity of Impact.”  For a PDF copy of this Table, e-mail Brian Clowes at

[7] Edgar R. Chasteen.  The Case for Compulsory Birth Control (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall), 1971, back cover.

[8] United States Postal Service (USPS) comments on its 1972 eight-cent stamp.  Shown in “Family Planning Gets ‘Stamp of Approval’ from U.S. Postal Service.”  Pittsburgh Planned Parenthood newsletter, February-March 1972, page 4.  The USPS unveiled its new “Family Planning” stamp at the winter meeting of the Planned Parenthood-World Population Board of Directors in New York City on March 17, 1972.

[9] Professor Eric R. Pianka, University of Texas lizard expert and evolutionary ecologist, during a speech before the Texas Academy of Science.  He received an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation for his remarks, and five hours later, the President of the Texas Academy of Science awarded him the title of 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.  Reported by Forrest S. Mims III.  “Meeting Doctor Doom.”  The Citizen Scientist, March 31, 2006.

[10] “U.S. Presents Views on Population Growth and Economic Development.”  Department of State Bulletin, January 31, 1966, page 176.

[11] Some examples of famous people referring to mankind as a “cancer”:

  1. Third-trimester abortionist Warren Hern (“Anthropologist Symposium Calls Human Beings a Cancer Infecting Planet Earth.”  Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (CAFHRI) Friday FAX, January 1, 1999).
  2. Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, in a November 1991 UNESCO Courier interview.
  3. Environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki (Victoria Branden.  “The Abortion Merry-Go-Round.”  Humanist in Canada, Autumn 1989, pages 14 to 15).
  4. National Park Service Research biologist David Graber (“Mother Nature as a Hothouse Flower.”  Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 22, 1989, page 10).
  5. Dr. Lynn Margulis of the University of Massachusetts, coauthor of the “Gaia Hypothesis” (“Anthropologist Symposium Calls Human Beings a Cancer Infecting Planet Earth.”  Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (CAFHRI) Friday FAX, January 1, 1999).
  6. Ingrid Newkirk, Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who famously said, “We [humans] have grown like a cancer.  We’re the biggest blight on the face of the earth” (Charles Oliver. “Liberation Zoology.”  Reason Magazine, June 1990, pages 22 to 27).

[12] Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau in a November 1991 UNESCO Courier interview.

Brian Clowes, PhD

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.

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