These days, when even many environmentalists go out of their way to avoid mention of the P word, it’s almost hard to believe that population used to be a mainstream, widely discussed issue. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, security hawks were worried about global birthrates, average Americans were worried about overcrowding, and enviros were worried about famine and wholesale ecological collapse.
This segment from PBS’s Need to Know highlights some of that history, including Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon each pledging to tackle the threat of population growth, and Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich making some 20 appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. The video also touches on some of the controversial issues that would eventually lead so many people to back away from population: the right-to-life movement, concerns from African Americans and other minorities, and the hot-button topic of immigration.
Need to Know is a partner with Grist in the Climate Desk project.