Earth Day founder disappointed in followers for neglecting overpopulation

April 20, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

This month, America celebrates the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, founded in 1970 by the late U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.), one of our greatest environmental heroes of the 20th century. Yet few of the multitudinous articles, exhibits, parades and speeches will dare — or bother — to broach the one issue that worried Nelson perhaps more than any other: human overpopulation.

I know this because I collaborated closely with Nelson on several projects during the last decade of his life.

By the time he died in 2005 at the age of 89, Nelson had become deeply disappointed with the wholesale retreat of the environmental establishment from advocating limits to population growth. Rather, a new generation of more pragmatic (expedient?) campaigners preferred to prattle on about safer and sexier topics like tropical deforestation, overfishing, oil and water shortages, urban sprawl, traffic congestion, power plant pollution, toxic waste, marine “dead zones,” proliferating dams, roads and power lines, destruction of wildlife habitat, endangered species, and of course, climate change.

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