Bill Maher: We Should Have Fewer Resource-Sucking Children

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By Leon Kolankiewicz

Leon is an Advisory Board Member and Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A wildlife biologist, and environmental scientist and planner, Leon is the author of Where Salmon Come to Die: An Autumn on Alaska's Raincoast, the essay “Overpopulation versus Biodiversity” in Environment and Society: A Reader and was a contributing writer to Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation.

In a career that spans three decades, three countries and more than 30 states, Leon has managed environmental impact statements for many federal agencies on projects ranging from dams and reservoirs to coal-fired power plants, power lines, flood control projects, road expansions, management of Civil War battlefields, NASA's Kennedy Space Center operations and a proposed uranium mine on a national forest. He also has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop comprehensive conservation plans at more than 40 national wildlife refuges from the Caribbean to Alaska.

The writer's views are his own.

September 29, 2017
bill maher
Outspoken comedian Bill Maher of HBO’s popular show Real Time with Bill Maher, taped in Los Angeles, is a mixed bag when it comes to overpopulation, or maybe just mixed up. 
 
In these polarized and politically correct times, when public discourse so often gets caught up in trivia or overt hatred, it’s nice to hear any celebrity at all draw attention to overpopulation as a serious, long-term threat. Still, it’d be even nicer if Maher were consistent.  
 
On the one hand, he’s all for couples limiting their own reproduction (having fewer or no kids) to save the environment. On the other hand, he’s all for the mass immigration driving the incessant population growth that exacerbates environmental pressures in California and America.  

In the “New Rule” segment of his June 22 show on HBO – to loud cheering and applause from his live audience – Maher facetiously advocated for an “I Didn’t Reproduce Day,” following on the heels of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
 
Unlike the previous two holidays which famously honor the contributions of those baby breeders we call parents, this holiday would explicitly honor the contributions of non-parents: 
 
“Let me be clear: I am not saying there’s anything wrong with having a small number of children, after all, children are the leaders of tomorrow. Sometimes, they’re even the leaders of today [photograph of President Trump’s youthful son-and-law and advisor Jared Kushner appears on screen beside Maher].  
 
“…You know what Mother Nature loves even more than electric cars? Condoms! There’s literally nothing you can do that’s better for the environment than to not produce another resource-sucking, waste-making human being…probably with a bad attitude.
 
“…so you know, you can do it all, you can get the hybrid car, do the recycling, not throwing batteries in the trash. It all adds up the fraction of the good it would do to have one less child, because that child increases your carbon legacy by over 9,000 tons.”
 
Maher is referring to research published in 2009 in the journal Global Environmental Change by Oregon State University professors Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax. In a paper entitled “Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals,” Murtaugh and Schlax wrote that a considerable amount of attention has been given to ways of reducing one’s carbon dioxide emissions, such as reducing home energy use, travel, and food choices (eating low on the food chain, i.e., vegan or vegetarian).
population cartoon chart

In contrast, the massive influence of people’s reproductive choices on their “carbon legacies” has been all but ignored. So Murtaugh and Schlax set out to quantify this.
 
They found that the summed CO2 emissions of a person’s descendants, weighted by their relatedness to him or her, far surpass the lifetime emissions generated by the original parent. In the U.S. in particular, each additional child a father or mother has adds about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent, which is nearly six times his/her lifetime emissions.
 
It’s fantastic to see a prominent, smart celeb like Maher not only publicize this, but “walk the talk.” Maher himself is childless and intends to remain so.
 
However, when it comes to his inability to acknowledge the environmental stresses induced by population growth caused by too much immigration instead of too many births, this smart guy devolves into just another stupid, stereotypical, virtual-signaling limousine liberal living a life of luxury in a Beverly Hills mansion.  
 
For example, in a 2014 piece in the politically correct Huffington Post, Maher huffed: “…while Republicans in the rest of the country are threatening to deport every immigrant not named Ted Cruz, California just OK'd driver's licenses for undocumented aliens. That's right, we're letting them drive cars – just like white people!”
 
That’s right, giving permission to drive – and to cause accidents – to people who have no permission even to be in the country in the first place. Brilliant. All it does is help encourage ever more unauthorized immigration.  
 
In 2015, Maher joked about building a wall not around Mexico but around TV reality star Josh Duggar of the super-sized family in “19 Kids and Counting.”
 
But mostly, Maher, like almost all liberals, is simply silent about the environmental ills of continuing immigration-driven population growth. This hypocrisy is an embarrassment to liberals, so best to say nothing at all.
 
In effect, according to Maher-think, an overpopulated, overdeveloped, polluted America is just fine as long as it’s perpetrated by virtuous immigrants seeking to better their lives, but not if it’s perpetrated by selfish parents seeking to reproduce. 
 
Is this cognitive dissonance, or is it just plain hypocrisy? Not wanting to ruffle the feathers of the progressives that form his audience base with a little “inconvenient truth?”  
 
Maher’s audience of white hipsters already has a fertility rate well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per female. What good does it do, and how fair is it, to ask them to average, say, just a single child per family, or even less, if both in the United States and other countries, less “enlightened” families are averaging 3, 4 and more kids? 
 
And the rapid, unsustainable population growth that results when high fertility occurs in other countries in regions like Central America leads directly to the surge of illegal immigration on our southern border in recent years.
 
If he really wanted to, a smart guy like Maher – or at least his writers – should be able to figure out a way to good-naturedly rib his “environmentalish” supporters about their hypocrisy on immigration, population, and the environment, without jeopardizing his fan base.
 
It could start something like this:
 
“Let me be clear: I am not saying there’s anything wrong with having a small number of immigrants, after all, immigrants are the citizens of tomorrow…"
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