Socially Conscious Mothers - or Environmentally Clueless Mothers?

By Leon Kolankiewicz
October 14, 2011

CAPS vice-president Ben Zuckerman is no stranger to protests. The UCLA emeritus professor of physics and astronomy is a board member of Captain Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which among other eco-exploits, sends ships and crews into harm’s way in the frigid Antarctic Ocean protesting the slaughter of great whales by the Japanese. These eco-adventures on the high seas have been chronicled in Animal Planet’s TV series “Whale Wars.”

Dr. Zuckerman has also had his science classes at UCLA disrupted because of his outspoken, unflinching support of U.S. population stabilization and the reduction in immigration rates needed to achieve that goal. This occurred when he was the target of a smear and dirty tricks campaign orchestrated by certain unscrupulous Sierra Club officials and their ruffian collaborators, whose specialty lay not in environmental matters but in slinging slime and mud.

To this writer’s knowledge, however, the distinguished professor and diehard conservationist had never before stood accused of blaming climate change on mothers and women – by none other than four expectant mothers – or at least four young women who gave every appearance of being in advanced stages of pregnancy.

Last week Dr. Zuckerman was an invited speaker at the second annual conference of the group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) in Washington, DC. He was first on the agenda, and while he was speaking, a cadre of about four women who had managed to slip past the registration desk quietly took their seats together. As a long-time U.S. population activist, they immediately caught my attention, and aroused my suspicion, because I didn’t recognize any of them, and I know many if not most of the population activists in the country gung-ho enough to attend a national conference.

Dr. Zuckerman’s speech focused on the dual roles of population and consumption in driving environmental degradation, including global warming. He talked of the responsibility of each individual consumer to weigh his or her own per capita impact in deciding whether or not to do or buy something, and mentioned by way of example that he limits his own trips by airplane to one destination per year because of the high per capita carbon footprint of air travel.

When Zuckerman finished, conference organizer Leah Durant, executive director of PFIR, stated that there was time for a few questions. One of the newcomers raised her hand first. The young woman stood up and asked a polite if somewhat incoherent question about children being the future of the planet. Zuckerman prefaced his response with, “if I understood the question,” and did his best to answer it forthrightly. While a larger population might indeed produce more Edisons, Einsteins and Mother Theresas, any contribution such inventors, geniuses and people of immense goodwill might make would inevitably be overwhelmed and undermined by the sheer ecological demands of greater human numbers.

Before anyone else could get a question in, the four young women stood up together, pulled back their jackets or sweaters, proudly revealing their protruding bellies, and began taunting the audience in unison with a chant or song something to the effect that their babies would save the world. They were quickly escorted out of the room, chanting defiantly as they went. While it was disruptive (for a minute or two), it was also entertaining and informative, if not exactly in the manner they hoped. While I couldn’t help but admire their pluck, their chutzpah, I was bemused by their naiveté. Did they really think the sight of four bulging abdomens as symbols of boundless fertility would provoke us into paroxysms of frustration and rage?

The young mothers-to-be or fake mothers-to-be (there was disagreement among conference attendees as to whether the pregnancies were real or feigned) left behind a flier identifying themselves as “Socially Conscious Mothers for the Environment,” a fledging or faux group I have never heard of before.

The flier was filled with the typical, silly, uninformed cant sanctimoniously denouncing PFIR and other immigration reform groups for allegedly “blaming” women and children for causing climate change. “Our children are not the problem, they are the solution!” it proclaimed pompously. Even if each of their children were to miraculously slash their resource consumption and waste generation by 90%, they would still be imposing an environmental load on the earth and displacing other non-human earthlings. And multiplying their numbers by hundreds of millions would inevitably trash the planet, however enlightened their intent and angelic their actions.

The lack of basic 4th grade arithmetic comprehension in this sort of anthropocentric propaganda is simply breathtaking – yet another vivid and pathetic illustration of America’s declining educational standards vis-a-vis other countries.

The flier claimed that PFIR is not a “REAL” environmental group. That’s a hoot. I already cited just a few of Ben Zuckerman’s credentials. PFIR president Phil Cafaro has served as a park ranger for the National Park Service and lobbied Congress on behalf of the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club. Yours truly, a member of PFIR’s board of advisors, served three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America promoting and protecting national parks and tropical rainforest. I have also logged a quarter-century career as a professional wildlife biologist and environmental planner, and volunteered for organizations ranging from the Alaska Environmental Lobby and New Mexico Conservation Voters Alliance to the Sierra Club, American Chestnut Foundation, and Union of Concerned Scientists. To say nothing of personal donations in the thousands of dollars to scores of different environmental groups. And that’s just a few of us.

So we stand accused of blaming women and mothers and innocent babes for climate change. And to that accusation I, for one, must plead guilty. But I also plead guilty of “blaming” men for climate change, and pets too, for that matter. My 8-lb Chihuahua is a culprit.

In other words, any human being who uses electricity generated by coal or gas, who drives a car or rides in a bus or plane, or who eats food for which fossil fuels and fertilizers were used in cultivation, harvesting, transport and storage, stands “guilty” of climate change. That includes each and every one of us in America and most people on earth. And my little Chihuahua too, because his doggie chow is also fossil fuel-dependent.

The more of us there are, the more pressures on climate, and the environment in general. It’s that simple. But still, apparently, too complicated for Socially Conscious Mothers (or is it Environmentally Clueless Mothers?) to understand.


Leon Kolankiewicz is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and a consulting wildlife biologist and environmental planner whose professional career spans a quarter-century, three countries and more than 30 states. He can be reached at or