Connelly criticizes Ms. Gandhi, influential author Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”), and other thought leaders who agreed that only population control could save the world from poverty and other maladies. The 20th century marked the first time the future of a species – not only its numbers but also its nature – became the object of its own design, he writes. People eradicated diseases, regulated migration, and manipulated fertility rates. Human populations became the subject of scientific experiments and political struggles. The stakes – and the consequences – were huge.
Americans were the first to pursue policies to shape the world population and played a leading role in institutionalizing the science of demography and the political strategy of family planning. But critics on both the left and the right have attacked population control as something perpetrated by white, wealthy, elite people (especially in the United States), upon the rest of the world, particularly poor nations, where populations had been spiraling out of control.
But now that Asians have reduced their reproductive rate to 2.1 children, for example, there are other issues to consider. If they also have air conditioning and automobiles, they will have a much greater impact on the global ecosystem than a billion more subsistence farmers, he writes.