Riffing from Levin’s ‘Liberty and Tyranny’ (pt 4)

Posted: June 1, 2009 in Politics
Tags: , ,

This article is part of a five-part series. See Part 1 here.

Overpopulation and the Green Movement
I remember my first Earth Day. My first grade teacher was a hippie (he looked an awful lot like Jim Henson) and my third grade teacher was a flower child. When I was nine years old, the idea of air pollution was so scary that I thought it would be a good idea to practice holding my breath. By the time I was eleven, I was convinced that our oceans, rivers and streams would be so choked with sludge that no fish would ever survive and we were going to run out of drinking water. Litterbugs became pariahs. By the time I was in high school, aerosols had been banned and everyone was convinced that smog was eventually going to blot out the sun, causing a new ice age.

When I was 25, I realized that no one was talking about these things much, anymore. It made me wonder if someone was benefiting from having people so stirred up with alarm about scary environmental crises they couldn’t really do anything about, things that weren’t real after all. (Cough, cough, global warming, cough.)

I was around and vaguely remember how worried people got back in the 1970s about overcrowding and unsustainable population growth. I’ve read science fiction stories based in a future where humankind had been forced to colonize the stars because of Earth’s exponential population growth. Levin wrote in his chapter On Enviro Statism about the ecosystem planning and the environmentalists concerns about suburban sprawl, and it reminded me of those days gone by:

But just how problematic is suburban sprawl or, for that matter, development generally? In 2002, the Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Ronald D. Utt examined the federal government’s land use surveys and concluded, “[A]fter nearly 400 years of unmanaged development and rabbit-like population growth, somewhere between 3.4 percent and 5.2 percent of land in the continental United States has been consumed…”

But what of the heavily urbanized states, which include several of the original colonies? Utt looked at them as well. “In both New York and Virginia, which were settled in the early 1600s, nearly 90 percent of the land is still undeveloped, while in Pennsylvania the share is over 85 percent, and in Maryland it is over 80 percent. In contrast, both New Jersey and Rhode Island’s developed shares hover at around one-third of the available land – some of the highest shares in the nation but still leaving both states with about two-thirds of their land undeveloped or in agricultural use.”

My thought was a snarky, “Oh yeah, I forgot to worry about that overpopulation stuff.”

Part 1: World Opinion and American Exceptionalism
Part 2: Economic Intervention
Part 3: The Linguistic Psy-War Tactics of Liberals
Part 5: How Immigration Used to Work

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