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Letters to the Editor: Reversing population growth is our only chance to fight global warming

Natural wonders like Yosemite Valley have been put under stress by people flocking to visit them.
Natural wonders like Yosemite Valley have been put under stress by people flocking to visit them.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: A careful reading of UC Riverside professor Jade S. Sasser’s piece questioning the link between population growth and climate change leaves the reader wondering if it is intentionally misleading.

Does the author really not understand the difference between absolute population growth and the rate of growth? She notes that the rate of growth is the lowest since at least 1900, but neglects to mention that while the U.S. population increased by 1.49 million from 1900-01, it increased by 1.64 million from 2019-20.

Sasser quotes the United Nations statistic that world population is growing at a slower rate than any time since 1950, but she does not report the fact that world population increased by 46.72 million in 1950, but added 81.76 million in 2018. Given the size of these population increases, it is hard to understand how the author can claim that they don’t matter.

Certainly we should moderate our consumptive habits for the good of the planet, but so far we have seen those efforts negated by population growth. It will be very hard to change this without stopping population increase.

John La Grange, Solana Beach

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To the editor: It’s true that resource consumption is a major contributor to climate change. But human population growth is also an important driver of our warming climate, despite what Sasser suggests.

While growth rates may be declining, population momentum is still increasing both domestically and globally, so it’s no wonder that consumption and emissions are on the rise too. The number of people on the planet has doubled in the past 50 years, and any predicted population decrease is dependent on a continued improvement in positive trends in women’s education and access to voluntary family planning, neither of which is guaranteed.

The climate crisis is too urgent to ignore its complex relationship with population growth and human rights. Thankfully, rights-based solutions that empower women can improve the quality of life for people and the planet.

Sarah Baillie, Buffalo, N.Y.

The writer is population and sustainability organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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To the editor: Those who fear bringing babies into a warming world should be glad their ancestors were made of sterner stuff.

Most of them lived their lives (less than 40 years on average until the 19th century) in hardship and danger. They would have been amazed by the comforts and conveniences of life today, and mystified that anyone could regard our life as too harsh to wish on children.

Michael Smith, Georgetown, Ky.


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