November 30, 2010

Another quick post ahead of longer article on pre- and post-WWII population rhetoric. This from Karl Sax, The Population Explosion, the November 1956 entry in the Foreign Policy Association’s well-regarded “Headline Series” (click pic to view).

Sax is a very interesting transitional figure. Though he titled his 1945 article in The Science of Man in the World Crisis, “Population Problems,” his concern even by that late date was not on overpopulation, but on “differential fertility.” In other words, even at war’s end, Sax remained a eugenicist concerned with browning, not breeding, and the geography of his worries were more national than planetary.

However, Sax’s explicitly race-based “populationism” was fast falling out of fashion, as evidenced by articles like “The Concept of Race” by Wilton Marion Krogman, which shared space in The Science of Man in the World Crisis.

Change came in 1948 when two books – Fairfield Osborn’s Our Plundered Planet and William Vogt’s Road to Survival – introduced (or at least attempted to introduce) a more race-neutral ecologically based populationism. (See Pierre Desrochers and Christine Hoffbauer’s excellent article on this topic.)

But Sax would not be left behind. By 1951 he had adopted Osborn and Vogt’s “population bomb” metaphor, later popularized by Hugh Moore and Paul Ehrlich. In an article for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Sax wrote, “population pressure [is] a far greater threat to world civilization than the atomic bomb.” In 1955 Sax authored Standing Room Only: The Challenge of Overpopulation.” This pamphlet was distilled from that book.

I’ll leave it to you to judge just how “race-neutral” Sax and the new populationism had become. (See for example Sax’s comparison of Puerto Rico and Japan on pages 42 and 43.)


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