Is Population Control a valid form of Environmentalism?

Is population control a valid form of environmentalism?

Population control is a solution to current environmental issues (climate change, ecosystem destruction, loss of biodiversity, etc) that very few want to talk about, as some feel that reproduction is an unalienable right and/or limiting it treads on religious and/or other moral values.  But is reproduction really an unalienable right? and at what point do the rights of us all to live on a healthy planet supersede individual religious beliefs/moral values?

These are tough questions and therefore one reason why the subject is avoided, but it really is the “elephant in the room” for most environmental discussions.  In a planet of 1 billion people, we likely wouldn’t be having climate change talks or many of the current environmental issues.

One definition of freedom is that I am free to do whatever I want to do, as long as it doesn’t impose (unfairly or unnecessarily) on the freedoms of others.  What people and governments have been arguing about since the beginning of time is the when one’s right to freedom imposes on another – there are grey lines, and courts and city halls decide these matters on a daily basis.

Imagine for a moment we are on an island with 9 people, with a fresh water generator that can safely provide for 9 people.  What’s the right answer to population control?  NO MORE PEOPLE ON THE ISLAND (or create better technology)!!  Technology is one answer, but the Earth has limits that we may (likely) be approaching and/or have surpassed.

In the case of Population Control – the impact of an additional person on our fragile planet has an undeniable impact on everyone of the existing residents.  I am not proposing the Draconian one child policy of China (which by many projections limited the population by 400 million this generation).  But something should be done.

Some propose to use economic growth to solve the problem – many advanced economies have the opposite problem of high birth rate countries – their birth rate is too low (below replacement value).  Many advanced economy countries are only growing due to immigration. Therefore, the theory goes, if citizens of the world gain wealth, they will procreate as a slower pace, and the problem solves itself.  There is data to support this, but it doesn’t seem like a viable short term solution, and how much of the world’s resources will be used to create that wealth?

Unfortunately many of the individuals creating population growth are the ones least able to support their children –  acting on perverse incentives such as high infant/child mortality and cultural norms that abhor contraceptive use.  What is an ethical person to do? We could take a play from international politics and try to negotiate a better outcome, but a negotiated solution seems unlikely without other incentives.  Other solutions include permits or taxes for children, contraception education and distribution, and draconian measures such as mandatory sterilization.  All with their own ethical and moral baggage.

From some perspectives limiting population is not cruel, it is just is a solution. And, unfortunately, if we don’t prevent births somehow without a giant leap in technology, then we all will suffer and the poorest will suffer the most.  We may level out to a certain population over time (some project 10 billion), but at what cost, and how much suffering?

I must ask again, is population control a valid form of environmentalism?  Let’s keep the conversation going.

Isn’t a Carbon Tax really an Energy Independence Investment?

In the debate over climate change and the best response to it, the answer may reside in the words used to describe the action.  Obvious in the current debate in Washington, there is little understanding of the difference between consumption and investment.  Both are spending, but spending on investment increases income in the future.  The same logic needs to be applied to carbon “tax” debate.  Isn’t a carbon tax really just an “ENERGY INDEPENDENCE INVESTMENT”?   I think so

Let’s assess a Energy Independence Investment  (EII) Fee and LOWER income taxes.  A win for conservatives and liberals – lower taxes, green growth, stimulate renewables, love it…  We need to change the language to get this done.




Environmental Alarmism?

On the flight back from Montreal (which is a great city BTW) I read a somewhat scary essay in the July/August edition of  Foreign Affairs Magazine titled, “Environmental Alarmism, Then and Now” by Bjorn Lomborg.

The author sought to discredit the Club of Rome report completed 40 years ago that predicted potential environmental collapse due to human activity, but did not bother to cite ANY current Literature on Sustainability.  He described paper recycling as unnecessary because some countries have sustainable forests and that organic farming is “killing tens of thousands of people”.  Because a scientist made an incorrect prediction 40 years ago does not release us from our current situation: we need to change the way the economy functions – its is unsustainably using finite resources. There may be some factual truth to his arguments on some issues, but regardless of some errors in the report or some environmental successes, sustainability needs to be a priority as we look forward. Yes we can extract more resources from the earth, but at what cost?  What are the long run implications of loss of habitat, ecosystem destruction, climate change, aquifer poisoning, fishery destruction, loss of rain forests,…?

I do agree with the author in some of his criticism, I think it can be counterproductive to ONLY have a doomsday scenario scripted.  I believe in people and their ingenuity – if properly harnessed I believe WE can create a sustainable economy in which we all can prosper (and have clean air to breath, clean water to drink, and clean food to eat).  I believe is starts with good policy, politics, and economics.

Action Oriented Market Based Environmental Policy – Love it!

Had an interesting conversation today with Barry Matchett of The Environmental Law & Policy Center (,

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. We develop and lead successful strategic environmental advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural heritage. We are public interest environmental entrepreneurs who engage in creative business deal making with diverse interests to put into practice our belief that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. ELPC’s multidisciplinary staff of talented and experienced public interest attorneys, environmental business specialists, public policy advocates, and communications specialists brings a strong and effective combination of skills to solve environmental problems and improve the quality of life in our Midwestern communities.”

They are doing great work to find market based solutions to the environmental challenges we all face.  We discussed the challenges and opportunities in renewable energy in the Midwest.

I found inspiration in our conversation today – please support organizations/politicians that support this work – it is imperative to creating a sustainable economy.

Welcome, Micro Mission Statement

First post,

My plan for this blog is to offer salient and interesting commentary on public policy within the following areas:  sustainable development, environmental economics, green growth, macroeconomic,energy policy, environmental policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and trade policy.

I am particularly interested at the intersection of macroeconomic policy and environmental/energy policy (impact of trade agreements and monetary policy on the environment).

Essentially I would like to offer advise on saving the world from ourselves.  Most of the “problems” in the above areas are a direct result of people acting in their own best interest, but the result is a collectively unsustainable economy overly focused on excessive growth at all costs (environmental, social, other).  I am by no means negative or pessimistic on these issues, but we do have challenges in these areas that need to be addressed as soon as possible.  As a society we have been amazingly successful in the technological sphere (this blog is a testament), but we now need to apply the same amount of effort in the public policy realm.  I am pro-business and pro-prosperity, but we need to find a way to live in harmony with our world. I firmly believe good economics and good policy are means to that end.  As they say, “Follow the Money!!”.

If you are reading, welcome aboard.