- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

One might expect the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to focus exclusively on advancing the health and development of humans.

But since 2001, NICHD, a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health, has provided $1,178,450 to a “Fisheries and Wildlife” professor for research focusing at least in part on “giant panda habitats” in China.

NICHD is not the only federal agency showering money on this professor. A 2002-2006 National Science Foundation grant is to give him $1,111,407 to study panda habitat, and another NSF grant in the 1990s paid him $321,055.

The NICHD grant is titled, “Human Population/Environment Interactions (China).” “In this study,” says the NIH abstract for the grant, “we view population-environment interactions as the interrelationships among five major components: human population, forests, giant panda habitats, socioeconomic and institutional factors, and government policies.” The NSF grant is titled, “Complex Interactions Among Policies, People and Panda Habitat in the Wolong Nature Reserve Landscape.” So far, taxpayers have granted the professor $2,610,912.

The professor, Jianguo Liu, holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Ecological Sustainability in the Michigan State’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department. He also has been a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology, run by Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 best-seller, “The Population Bomb,” spuriously predicted “hundreds of millions of people” would starve to death in the 1970s and ‘80s as world food supplies ran out.

On his Michigan State Web page, Mr. Liu lists one article he co-authored with Mr. Ehrlich — “Some Roots of Terrorism,” published in 2002 in Population and Environment — and another he co-authored with Mr. Ehrlich and two others, “Effects of Household Dynamics on Resource Consumption and Biodiversity,” published in 2003 in Nature.

A 2003 NSF press release about the piece in Nature noted Mr. Ehrlich was “renowned for his population studies” and said, “Additional support for the Liu team findings authored in the Nature paper came from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.”

So what did taxpayers and their children get from this investment? For starters, they got the services of population-control advocates.

In their Population and Environment piece, which was not government-funded, Messrs. Liu and Ehrlich decried “a cultural fundamentalism [that] surrounds the use of automobiles and SUVs, especially in the United States,” and argued for conservation and population control to root out terrorism.

“In the process,” they wrote, “the rich could create brand-new markets for the outputs of the new economy and speed the reduction of their own population sizes to more satisfactory and sustainable levels. While setting an example, the United States could also increase its pathetic level of international aid, and carefully target that aid on efforts that would change social and demographic conditions (e.g., increase employment and help to lower fertility rates) in developing countries.”

In their Nature piece — backed by NSF- and NICHD-funded research — Messrs. Liu and Ehrlich argue the environment is endangered not only by the increase in beings but by an increase in the number of human households, which, because of cultural trends, tend to proliferate even where population declines. “Thus,” they argued, “declining fertility rates are necessary but not sufficient to ensure reduced anthropogenic pressure on the environment and natural landscape.”

Credit them with consistency: Whether the issue is “terrorism” or the “environment,” they see a threat in proliferating children.

In the NFS press release about the Nature article, Mr. Liu says: “Personal freedom and social choice may come at a huge environmental cost.” He suggests, in the NSF’s words, “Changes in government policies such as tax incentives for sharing housing and resources could be helpful to influence personal and household decisions and actions.”

In an e-mail exchange, I asked Mr. Liu why it was appropriate for NICHD to fund a study of panda habitat. “Although there are pandas in the reserve,” he said, “we have not studied pandas using the NICHD grant. Furthermore, panda habitat is part of the human environment.” His two grants were “not redundant,” he told me, “because the goals of the NICHD grant and the NSF grant are different, although the two projects are carried out in the same location. The NICHD project focuses on the interactions between human population and the environment, while the NSF project focuses on the interactions among people, panda habitat and policies.”

“We are generating research results that help people understand that the choices they make —be it how many children they have, what kind of house they live in or how densely populated their neighborhoods are — do have an impact,” said Mr. Liu.

Wonder how many voters figured this was where tax dollars would go when they elected an all-Republican government?

Terence P. Jeffrey is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide