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De-Developing and Dehumanizing the United States

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AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Do you know who said the following?:

"If you further decided to buy a small car that would last 30 years, be easily repairable and recyclable, and have a low-compression engine, you would find it impossible to do. A manufacturer who wanted to produce such a car today probably could not; no one would put up the huge amount of capital required for fear that the 'Eco-special' would not sell. Only when society makes other kinds of cars illegal (or too expensive) will the money become available for such ventures."


Or this?:

"(T)he goals described in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of paragraph (1) ... should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization ... that will require the following goals and projects ... (H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and (iii) high-speed rail."

How about this?:

"The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being."

Or this?:

"When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians ... And it's done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that's nonviable. So, in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated, if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."

The first and third statements were made by John Holdren and Paul and Anne Ehrlich in their 1973 book, "Human Ecology."


Then-President Barack Obama nominated Holdren to be director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2009. The Senate confirmed him without opposition.

The second and fourth statements were made by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, respectively.

Ocasio-Cortez made the second statement in the text of H. Res. 109, of which she is the primary sponsor. It is part of the "Green New Deal" she believes the federal government should impose on Americans. Northam made the fourth statement on WTOP radio last month, discussing a bill that would have legalized abortion up to the moment of birth.

Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal and Northam's apparent willingness to let a born baby die became national controversies in early 2019. But Holdren's and the Ehrlichs' 1973 book demonstrates that the approach to transportation embraced today by Ocasio-Cortez, and the approach to human life embraced by Northam, have long intellectual pedigrees on the American left.

The arguments Holdren and the Ehrlichs made in 1973 also suggest they are logically connected. In "Human Ecology," they reduced their understanding of the relationship between human beings and the planet we live on to a "mathematical equation."

"Environmental degradation is not the sum of independent causes, it is the multiplicative product of interconnected ones," they wrote. "The relation can be written as a mathematical equation: total environmental damage equals population, times the level of material affluence per person, times the environmental damage done by the technology we use to supply each bit of affluence."


What should be done about this?

"Halting population growth must be done, but that alone would not be enough," the Ehrlichs and Obama's future science adviser wrote. "Stabilizing or reducing the per capita consumption of resources in the United States is necessary, but not sufficient. Attempts to reduce technology's impact on the environment are essential, but ultimately will be futile if population and affluence grow unchecked."

"Clearly," they said, "if there is to be any chance of success, simultaneous attacks must be mounted on all the components of the problem. Such a coordinated effort may be unlikely, but nothing less will do the job."

The Ehrlichs and Holdren apparently saw abortion as part of this crusade.

"An abortion is clearly preferable to adding a child to an over-burdened family or an overburdened society, where the chances that it will realize its full potential are slight," they wrote.

"Those who oppose abortion often raise the argument that a decision is being made for an unborn person who 'has no say,'" they continued. "But unthinking actions of the very same people help to commit future unheard generations to misery and early death on an overcrowded planet."

What would they do about growing affluence in America?

"A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States," they wrote. "De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation."


"Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided for every human being," they concluded.

Imagine the size and power of the government that would be necessary to rule over those Homo sapiens who qualify as "human beings" if this vision of how the world should work were to ever prevail.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of 

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