and economic stagnation and starvation that were supposednto result from population growth have not materialized.nAID is only one of many government-funded agencies thatnare now gathering at the altar of Mother Earth. Rightnalongside AID and the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society,nZero Population Growth, and the National Wildlife Federationnat the new holy mysteries are, to name a few of thenorganizers of the typical environmental event, representativesnof Planned Parenthood, the Population ReferencenBureau, and the World Bank.nHowever, the promoters of this belief make two errors —ntheir claims about the state of the environment are highlynquestionable, and their claim that “overpopulation” is thencause of environmental degradation has no basis in fact.nForests still cover almost a third of the earth’s land surface,nthe same share as in 1950, and there is no statisticallynverifiable trend in the temperature of the atmosphere or thennumber of species or the much belabored stratosphericnozone layer, although a multitude of voices insist thatncataclysmic changes will soon overcome us. This is not tondeny that pollution and traffic jams are not big problems innmany places, but this is not global climate change.nOne reason it has been so easy to argue that the earth isn”overpopulated” is that now, as always, most people live inncrowded conditions, not because of lack of space — wenactually occupy only about 1 percent of the earth’s area —nbut because we need to work together, to buy and sell, tongive and receive services from one another.nUrbanization is, of course, increasing throughout thenworld, as rising agricultural productivity has made it possiblenfor a smaller proportion of farmers to feed a growingnproportion of city workers. Increasing urbanization makes usnfeel more crowded at the same time as it discourages thenraising of large families. Unlike a farm wife, a city motherncannot raise her children while she works. She has tonsacrifice income in order to raise them. It is not surprising,ntherefore, that in the developed countries, zero or negativenpopulation growth is already at hand, while in the lessndeveloped world it is approaching at a rate that will bring itnabout well before the end of the next century, if presentntrends continue.nKnowing this, the more forthright of the environmentalistsnfrankly admit that they are aiming for a substantialnreduction in world population. Paul Ehrlich, for example,nhas called for world population to be reduced to “perhaps”none-fifth its present size. Herman Daly, who works for thenWorld Bank, has called for government licensing to limitnbirths to levels consistent with a stationary or, better yet,ndeclining population. The U.N. Fund for Population Activitiesngave an award to the Chinese one-child family programnthat features compulsory abortion.nWild stories (and frightening pictures) of “deforestation”nappear regularly in the media. Making my home in northernnCalifornia, I meet people who are worried about “cuttingndown the last redwoods” wherever I go. The fact is, therenare two million acres of redwoods in California. More thanntwo hundred thousand acres are in public parks and forestsnwhere they will never be cut. This includes ninety thousandnacres of so-called “old growth” — that is, the oldest giantntrees.nForty percent of the land area of the state is in forest, andn24/CHRONICLESnnnthe growth of timber in the state is 27 percent greater thannthe amount cut. A redwood tree will grow out of its ownnstump, and when it is 30 years old it will be 80 feet high andn16 inches in diameter. What the public doesn’t understandnis that when the environmentalists talk about saving the “lastnof the redwoods” they mean the last of the dwindlingnnumber of trees that are still available for logging, a numbernthat is, indeed, rapidly declining as more and more of thentrees are taken into parks.nSeveral years ago environmentalists announced that thenspotted owl can only live in “old-growth” redwoods and thatntherefore all such forests should be off limits to logging.nWhen several biologists showed that the owl was nesting innall kinds of coastal forest, the environmentalists insisted thatnthis was no excuse for logging old growth but rather annargument for preserving trees of all ages. Accordingly, innApril of this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicenannounced its plan to protect the spotted owl by placingn11.6 million acres of Pacific Coast forests, an area as big asnMassachusetts and Vermont, under draconian restrictions.nNot only does this threaten to destroy the coastal timbernindustry and its many supporting communities in California,nOregon, and Washington, but it will impose significant costsnon lumber users throughout the nation. In June of 1990 thenSierra Club and other environmentalist groups were opposingnthe logging of dead trees that had been killed by thendrought in the Sierra Nevada mountains.nNot only do the new defenders of nature fail tonacknowledge that trees and owls grow and reproduce,nbut they misconstrue the relationship between populationngrowth and environmental stress. People in many places innAfrica pull up young trees without replanting, not becausenof overpopulation in that largely empty continent (which hasnone-fifth the population density of Europe), but because nonone owns the trees and therefore no one can expect tonbenefit in the future from a tree that he plants now.nIndustrial pollution in Silesia darkened the sky and causedncancer not because of Polish “overpopulation” (there arenhalf as many Poles per square mile in Poland as Germans innwestern Germany), but because factories could meet theirncentrally planned output quotas more easily by not usingnpollution control equipment. The Chernobyl nuclear accidentncould not have been prevented by providing more andnbetter condoms to the Russians, in whose vast and emptyncountry levels of pollution are 10 to 100 times as high as innthe West. The problem was, in all cases, one of behavior innresponse to incentives, not one of numbers.nGovernments that have a sincere interest in protecting thenenvironment can do so whenever they choose to provide thenappropriate incentives, regardless of the size or rate ofngrowth of the population. But the environment now serves annumber of purposes that have little to do with saving thentrees or the air or the whales. There are fortunes to be madenin reporting and combating the various crises. Apparently nonthreat or proposal is too fantastic to generate hundreds ofnthousands or even millions of dollars in government grants.nAbove all, no better excuse for denying basic civil rights hasnever appeared. If it’s a question of the ozone layer, who caresnabout liberty?nn