Discover more from Gary Wockner: Environmental Whistleblower
Cassandra Speaks, Nature Weeps
Mainstream environmental groups and media abandon policy of stabilizing U.S. population
The year was 1995, and the “Population and Consumption Task Force”, appointed by President Clinton’s “Commission on Sustainable Development”, published this statement that still haunts the American environmental movement.
“U.S. population is likely to reach 350 million by the year 2030; a level that would place even greater strain on our ability to increase prosperity, clean up pollution, alleviate congestion, manage sprawl, and reduce the overall consumption of resources.”
The Task Force’s prediction has unfortunately come true, and worse, the impact on America’s environment from continued rapid human population growth has been even greater than predicted.
No trifling governmental affair, Clinton’s overall Commission and its Population and Consumption Task Force was composed of economic, government, private-sector and environmental leaders. The members were diverse and exemplary – experts in the subject – and met over a multi-year period. They were directed to advise the President on “sustainable development” and “to develop bold, new approaches to achieve our economic, environmental, and equity goals."
Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Zero Population Growth, and Environmental Defense Fund, had four of the nine seats on the Task Force. Funded by one of the nation’s biggest and most respected philanthropies, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Task Force issued its recommendation – “Move toward stabilizing the U.S. population” – which has been completely ignored.
In fact, now over 25 years later, all of the mainstream environmental organizations in the U.S. have completely abandoned any and all policies related to stabilizing the U.S. population. A quick review of the so-called “Big Greens” websites indicates that there’s some discussion about global population, but zero discussion, policy, or programs about stabilizing the U.S. population.
Following the environmental movement’s lead, the mainstream media has generally abandoned the discussion about U.S. population stabilization as well. A quick review of environmental stories over the past few years, as well as environmental newsletters, from Politico, LA Times, Washington Post, The Hill and the New York Times indicates that these outlets sometimes discuss how population growth is impacting the environment, but never discuss population stabilization as a solution to environmental decay, nor do these outlets cite any sources recommending population stabilization.
Yet, a few small environmental organizations do carry the Task Force’s ideas forward.
The Rewilding Institute, founded by firebrand activist Dave Foreman, has a national population policy as well as a global policy. Earth Overshoot, founded by filmmaker Terry Spahr, has a webpage dedicated to explaining the “population overshoot” of the United States. Although not solely an environmental organization, Negative Population Growth has an environmental focus. In addition, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy supports national population stabilization to help achieve environmental protection goals*. Finally, though less active, the group Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization makes the issue the core of the work.
A few state-level groups around the U.S. also carry the Task Force’s ideas forward with a principle focus on protecting the environment, such as the Utah Population and Environment Council, Floridians for a Sustainable Population, Californians for Population Stabilization, and Better (not bigger) Vermont.
In 1995, when the Clinton-appointed Commission and Task Force finished its work, the U.S. population was 266.3 million. Now in 2022, the population is 332 million. At its current rate of growth – about 2 million people per year – the U.S. population will hit 348 million by 2030, just shy of the Task Force’s prediction.
Cassandra was a Trojan priestess in Greek mythology who told true prophecies but was never believed. In modern usage, her name is used as a metaphor for the same. The Clinton Population and Consumption Task Force was the Cassandra of their day to the detriment of America’s environment and to Wild Nature everywhere.
* I am the Colorado River Chapter Director for the Center for Advancement of the Steady State Economy.