As I drove to work Tuesday morning, WTOP Radio in Washington, D.C., broadcast a report on the Census Bureau's population clock, which at 7:46 a.m. estimated that the number of people in the United States had reached 300 million.
Based on birth, death and immigration rates, the clock assumes the U.S. gains one net person every 11 seconds. By the time I started drafting this column later in the morning, the clock had already passed 300,001,095.
The trend has some people spitting mad. They don't want more people in the United States. They don't want more people, period. Increasing the number of people, they believe, is bad.
After its report, WTOP played a montage of anonymous comments recorded on its "Talk Back Line," reflecting the anti-people point of view. Jim Farley, the station's vice president of news and programming, was kind enough to replay the segment for me over the phone so I could quote from it verbatim.
One caller spoke derisively of people "rushing out of their McMansions to jump into their giant SUVs to race to the hospital to have their fifth or sixth child."
The negative comments were followed by comments from listeners expressing a more optimistic view of population growth. Count me among the optimists.
Leaving aside the deadly sin of envy, what rationale could lead someone to feel threatened by someone else's comfortable home, large car or sixth child?
It is a rationale tempted to see man as a mere animal -- or worse.
Richard Haas, emeritus professor of biology at California State University at Fresno, used the occasion of the U.S. population surging past 300 million (and the global population past 6 billion) to argue in the Fresno Bee that the human race is like a malignancy.
"Growth for growth's sake is the philosophy of the cancer cell, with predictable consequences," wrote Haas. "Is the analogy too farfetched? Can reasonable people believe that humans can grow exponentially forever? Three hundred million Americans and 6.5 billion people is not a fact we should celebrate. The planet is finite. Human capacity for self-deception appears infinite."
It is worth reducing this argument to its absurd conclusion: A cancer cell is inherently bad. Even one is too many to have in your body. The earlier a doctor finds a cancer -- and kills it -- the better.
If humans are a cancer, why should even one be allowed to disfigure the Earth? Why not turn back the population clock to zero?
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