The media recently was atwitter about a secret meeting of a so-called “billionaires club.”
Irishcentral.com broke the news May 18, and subsequent news stories pitched it as a gathering of superheroes.
The attendees — Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, Michael R. Bloomberg, David Rockefeller Sr., David Rockefeller Jr., and other business tycoons — are worth at least $120 billion by Forbes magazine estimates.
As committed philanthropists, the billionaires are worried about the global recession and the plight of their fellow man, sources said. They want to figure out how they can “join together to do more,” a Gates Foundation adviser told ABCNews.com.
But then a May 24 London Times story by John Harlow revealed a skunk at the garden party.
“Taking their cue from Gates, they agreed that overpopulation was a priority,” Mr. Harlow wrote. That led to discussions about how they could use their wealth to “slow the growth of the world’s population,” “speed up improvements in health and education” and “join forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change,” wrote Mr. Harlow, who spoke with named and unnamed sources about the May 5 meeting in New York.
The Times article sparked more articles and blog commentaries, including one with a headline reading “Humanitarians: Please Spare the Humans.”
Alas, there is no public transcript of the meeting, so there’s no way to verify what was said.
First, overpopulation fears are so last century.
The billionaires seem to be “working with a 1960s paradigm,” said Barry McLerran, producer of a 2008 independent film, “Demographic Winter,” and the upcoming “The Demographic Bomb: Demography Is Destiny.”
“Instead of overpopulation, the crisis that confronts us in this century will be how to keep economies and nations going in the face of the coming depopulation,” Mr. McLerran said.
The world’s population is expected to rise from its current 6.7 billion to 9.1 billion in 2050, the United Nations Population Division said in March. However, it also shows that the number of babies, aged 0-4, will peak in 2015 and drop for at least 35 years. Fewer babies means fewer people in the long run.
People who think people are the problem will see this as great news. But that leads into my second observation, which is that solving overpopulation is just the same tired, myopic grand plan some elitists have been promoting since the Eisenhower years.
In fact, family planning seems like a veritable obsession with some members of the Rockefeller family.
In the 1950s, “one man proved pivotal” in bringing the family planning movement together and orchestrating the campaign to change federal policy on this issue, and that was John D. Rockefeller III, grandson of the oil tycoon, Donald T. Critchlow wrote in his authoritative history of U.S. family planning, “Intended Consequences, Birth Control, Abortion and the Federal Government in Modern America.”
John D. Rockefeller III died in 1978, but his younger brother, David Sr., who turned 94 this week and his son, David Jr., 67, seem willing to continue the battle.
It just seems so ironic that an American family dynasty would spend untold days and millions of dollars, even into its twilight years, searching for new ways to get other people to voluntarily extinguish their family lines.
To me, the big problem isn’t too many people, especially when some futurists estimate that, with technological advances, the planet easily can accommodate 100 billion people.
The problem is the lack of respect men and women have for themselves and for each other, and their mutual failure to value all human life.
The truly noble quest is updating social norms and strengthening and uplifting the best models for families. If any billionaires want to “do more” good, that would be a good place to start.
• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.