Bil­lion­aires take aim at pop­u­la­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

The me­dia re­cently was atwit­ter about a se­cret meet­ing of a so-called “bil­lion­aires club.” Irish­cen­tral.com broke the news May 18, and sub­se­quent news sto­ries pitched it as a gath­er­ing of su­per­heroes.

The at­ten­dees — Bill Gates, War­ren Buf­fett, Ge­orge Soros, Oprah Win­frey, Ted Turner, Michael R. Bloomberg, David Rock­e­feller Sr., David Rock­e­feller Jr., and other busi­ness ty­coons — are worth at least $120 bil­lion by Forbes mag­a­zine es­ti­mates.

As com­mit­ted phi­lan­thropists, the bil­lion­aires are wor­ried about the global re­ces­sion and the plight of their fel­low man, sources said. They want to fig­ure out how they can “join to­gether to do more,” a Gates Foun­da­tion ad­viser told ABC­News.com.

But then a May 24 Lon­don Times story by John Har­low re­vealed a skunk at the gar­den party.

“Tak­ing their cue from Gates, they agreed that over­pop­u­la­tion was a pri­or­ity,” Mr. Har­low wrote. That led to dis­cus­sions about how they could use their wealth to “slow the growth of the world’s pop­u­la­tion,” “speed up im­prove­ments in health and ed­u­ca­tion” and “join forces to over­come po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious ob­sta­cles to change,” wrote Mr. Har­low, who spoke with named and un­named sources about the May 5 meet­ing in New York. The Times ar­ti­cle sparked more ar­ti­cles and blog com­men­taries, in­clud­ing one with a head­line read­ing “Hu­man­i­tar­i­ans: Please Spare the Hu­mans.”

Alas, there is no pub­lic tran­script of the meet­ing, so there’s no way to ver­ify what was said. Two ob­ser­va­tions. First, over­pop­u­la­tion fears are so last cen­tury.

The bil­lion­aires seem to be “work­ing with a 1960s par­a­digm,” said Barry McLer­ran, pro­ducer of a 2008 in­de­pen­dent

CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

film, “De­mo­graphic Win­ter,” and the up­com­ing “The De­mo­graphic Bomb: De­mog­ra­phy Is Des­tiny.”

“In­stead of over­pop­u­la­tion, the cri­sis that con­fronts us in this cen­tury will be how to keep economies and na­tions go­ing in the face of the com­ing de­pop­u­la­tion,” Mr. McLer­ran said.

The world’s pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to rise from its cur­rent 6.7 bil­lion to 9.1 bil­lion in 2050, the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Divi­sion said in March. How­ever, it also shows that the num­ber of ba­bies, aged 0-4, will peak in 2015 and drop for at least 35 years. Fewer ba­bies means fewer peo­ple in the long run.

Peo­ple who think peo­ple are the prob­lem will see this as great news. But that leads into my sec­ond ob­ser­va­tion, which is that solv­ing over­pop­u­la­tion is just the same tired, my­opic grand plan some elit­ists have been pro­mot­ing since the Eisen­hower years.

In fact, fam­ily plan­ning seems like a ver­i­ta­ble ob­ses­sion with some mem­bers of the Rock­e­feller fam­ily.

In the 1950s, “one man proved piv­otal” in bring­ing the fam­ily plan­ning move­ment to­gether and or­ches­trat­ing the cam­paign to change fed­eral pol­icy on this is­sue, and that was John D. Rock­e­feller III, grand­son of the oil ty­coon, Don­ald T. Critchlow wrote in his au­thor­i­ta­tive his­tory of U.S. fam­ily plan­ning, “In­tended Con- se­quences, Birth Con­trol, Abor­tion and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in Mod­ern Amer­ica.”

John D. Rock­e­feller III died in 1978, but his younger brother, David Sr., who turned 94 on June 12 and his son, David Jr., 67, seem will­ing to con­tinue the bat­tle.

It just seems so ironic that an Amer­i­can fam­ily dy­nasty would spend un­told days and mil­lions of dol­lars, even into its twi­light years, search­ing for new ways to get other peo­ple to vol­un­tar­ily ex­tin­guish their fam­ily lines.

To me, the big prob­lem isn’t too many peo­ple, es­pe­cially when some fu­tur­ists es­ti­mate that, with tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, the planet eas­ily can ac­com­mo­date 100 bil­lion peo­ple.

The prob­lem is the lack of re­spect men and women have for them­selves and for each other, and their mu­tual fail­ure to value all hu­man life.

The truly noble quest is up­dat­ing so­cial norms and strength­en­ing and up­lift­ing the best mod­els for fam­i­lies. If any bil­lion­aires want to “do more” good, that would be a good place to start.

Ch­eryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwet­zstein@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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