The Environmental Crisis

By Miguel A. Santos; Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview
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is constitutionally protected. This right that relates to population control includes the following: the right to marriage, procreation, and travel. Under American constitutional law, when fundamental rights are infringed upon by the government, the laws are unconstitutional unless found to be necessary (narrowly drawn) to a compelling government objective. Given the Supreme Court's acceptance of the fundamental significance of privacy, not to mention the powerful cultural and political forces opposing federal intrusion into private affairs or public support for birth control, it is unimaginable that any government in the United States would be permitted to use involuntary birth control for the general population, even if such a policy were proposed. Ruling out involuntary contraception as a legal or moral option in the United States to control population, the government must seek alternative strategies.

Regarding environmental policy, strategic mechanisms that the government can use to see that its policies are adopted include some combination of (1) generalized pressure on individuals and industries, (2) direct regulation or strict enforcement of environmental standards, or (3) marketlike approaches that affect the supply and demand curves of environmental services. At the same time, the government can also (4) subsidize companies and individuals to encourage them to meet environmental standards, and (5) the government can control the integrity of the ecosphere where keystone natural resources are involved by regulating the production of these resources. All the preceding options may appropriately be used to regulate economic and social activities affecting environmental quality without infringing on fundamental rights. Moreover, there is no direct (one-to-one) correlation between population and pollution. Consequently, as the next chapter elaborates, the environmental issue is whether or not a country's population has exceeded its carrying capacity or sustainability.

William Paddock and Paul Paddock, Famine--1975! America's Decision: Who Will Survive? ( Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1967).
Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb ( New York: Ballantine, 1968), 7.
Cited in Stanley Johnson, World Population--Turning the Tide ( Norwell, MA: Kluwer, 1994), 2.
Otis D. Duncan et al., "Marital Fertility and Family Size Orientation," Demography 2 ( 1965): 508-15.
Lester R. Brown, World Population Trends: Signs of Hope, Signs of Stress ( Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1976); World Bank, World Development Report ( Washington, DC: World Bank, 1984).


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The Environmental Crisis


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