Letter to the Editor - Nov. 29

November 28, 2011

A distortion of a serious book

To the editor:
George Michael’s column (Nov. 12) on population growth was a masterpiece of misinformation. He claims:

1. The world’s population can be fit into Rhode Island.
This works until the first kid needs to go potty. Each person requires a minimum of resources to live (food, fuel, cropland, pasture, forest, ocean, and shelter). Live like the people in Bangladesh and you need less. Live like an American and you need more.
 The average space required to supply a person at current national rates of use is estimated to be 5 acres per person (21 acres per American). By this measure, the world is already over carrying capacity.

2.  “‘The Limits of Growth’ is wrong.”
Michael denigrates the book and implies that the goal of the authors was one world government — wrong. The book was written by an MIT research team, whose work was commissioned by 30 responsible scientists, economists, educators and industrialists from 10 counties (the Club of Rome). The preliminary results were so disturbing that they decided to publish the findings and its three conclusions:
1. If present growth continued, severe limits would be reached sometime in the next 100 years.
2. Population growth patterns could yet be altered avoiding the problem.
3. The sooner we altered what we were doing, the better our chance of success.
The problem with population growth is that it is exponential (accelerating). But the world’s resources are finite.
3. “Predictions of ruin” have not come true. Michael claims that the book predicts shortages in the 1990s and that these have not materialized — wrong. The book does not make predictions for the 20th century. Its focus is 100 years into the future (2070), and so far is spot on.
 Regarding the alleged predictions, however, three points are in need of discussion: First, Michael denies there is widespread “economic ruin!” Where has he been for the last three years? Europe is on the verge of default, the U.S. has 9 percent unemployment, we face the threat of a double-dip recession, and the gap between rich and middle class is increasing.
Second, he claims there are neither serious overpopulation nor social problems. Why then do so many think we need a fence on our southern border? Why are the oceans being over fished? Why are tea party and Occupy Wall Street people demonstrating? Why do people strap on guns before attending public events?
Finally, he claims that the book promotes eugenics and sterilization to control population growth. Wrong, the book does not discuss methodology.
So, should we go “Bangladesh” or go “American?” Which do you choose?
Larry Zaleski

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