As you might suspect, I get a lot of strange email here at Evergreen, but rarely anything as strange as a note I got a couple of weeks ago from an outfit that calls itself "Enough Already."
"To whom it may concern," someone named "EA" wrote. "I hope you acknowledge that endless human population growth and economic growthism are not sustainable on a FINITE planet. Many of the issues you blame on environmentalism are rooted in the usurping of land by human overpopulation at the expense of other species."
I confess I had never heard of "Enough Already," or the word "growthism," but the rest of EA's rant suggests that we aren't likely to agree on much of anything.
"There's no moral mandate that the world be turned into a giant human ant colony, or that timber-cutting jobs are a birthright at historic levels," EA declared. "The same goes for any extractive industry that thrives on growth-based cannibalism of nature. The mandate of endless ‘housing starts' [more people = less wilderness] is not a sustainable enterprise, yet it's seen as necessary by shortsighted, growth-obsessed people."
As is my long-standing habit, I wrote back to thank EA for writing, and to ask permission to post their comments on our website. Not a peep. Silence.
It's hard to know how to unravel EA's comments. But let's dispense first with the low-hanging fruit. I don't know even one logger who believes logging is a birthright, but I do know many whose fathers and grandfathers also logged. The same can be said for most family-owned businesses in our country. Sons and daughters often follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. Comforting, I'd say, especially at a time when so many Americans can't find jobs.
As for "endless human population growth," I don't think the problem is that we have too many people on earth. I think we have too many poor people on earth. Countless millions can't even feed themselves. For lack of basic health care, 12 million children under five years old died in 1990. Today, that number is down a mere 6.9 million, thanks to the generosity of philanthropists like Bill Gates, whose Microsoft billions are now focused on improving health care and education worldwide.
Nothing will cure poverty in the world's poorest regions faster than a job, but I can't name a single job on this earth that is not linked directly or indirectly to the extraction or cultivation of a natural resource. And while this fact will gall EA, the lowest birth rates in the world are recorded in industrialized nations that not only consume more natural resources than undeveloped nations, but also do a much better job of conserving and protecting their natural resources.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to be well educated and well fed do share a "moral mandate" to teach the world's poor how to feed, clothe, shelter and care for themselves and their children. "More wilderness" and less "cannibalistic growthism" will only be possible after this global mandate is met.
If EA can get past his/her simplistic rant, an intelligent discussion about how we are going to feed, clothe, shelter, inoculate, educate, and employ the world's impoverished billions would be a timely and useful step on the road to global conservation of natural resources - and we would certainly be happy to host it on our website.