The response by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to a question regarding abortion at CNN’s recent town hall on climate change for Democratic presidential candidates will surely find a prominent place in the annals of tin-eared commentaries.
A woman asked Sanders if he would make curbing population growth a key feature of his plan to address climate change if he is elected president.
"Human population growth has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The planet cannot sustain this growth," the woman said. "I realize this is a poisonous topic for politicians, but it’s crucial to face. Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?"
Americans, said Sanders, could pay for abortions – indeed, should pay for abortions – for women in poor countries. But he criticized what’s known as the Mexico City Policy of the U.S. government, which blocks federal funding for nongovernmental organizations that promote abortion.
Now, it is an article of faith in the religion of environmentalism that a drastic reduction of carbon dioxide emissions must be achieved if we are to avoid calamity.
Actions like recycling, hanging our clothes to dry and eating only vegetables may make Westerners feel good, but their impact is negligible. They save less than one ton of carbon dioxide emissions over the course of a person’s life.
But one less human life will save an astonishing 58 tons in cumulative carbon emissions from that person and descendants.
Britain’s Prince Harry, for example, is taking this calculation seriously and planning to have only two children. This is a shame, because at 1.6 tons of carbon dioxide for just one transatlantic flight, he and his wife Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, could easily do “staycations” in their palaces for a few years and save enough carbon dioxide for a third royal child.
But even if children are seen as mere debits in climate calculations, the great scandal of Sanders’ response is the way he automatically singled out poor populations of people of color for reduction. The optics are terrible.
A white progressive with a wealthy lifestyle that includes three separate homes and vigorous use of a private plane to travel to campaign appearances in comfort should be the last person advocating for fewer brown and black children in order to save the planet.
Sanders may see an African baby as a 58-ton carbon emitter. The child’s mother and father are more likely to see her as a dependable source of joy, comfort and support.
Of course, Sanders is simply going along with what characterizes much of the modern environmental movement, pitting the good of our planet against the poor souls who inhabit it.
Or perhaps Sanders really doesn’t understand the economic value of children to those who have no social safety net for their old age. Their extended families are really all they can count on in their precarious lives.
Temperatures may not rise as steeply as projected if our earnest white elites cull the world’s populations of color, but the people of the developing world will certainly have to deal with more insecurity and more loneliness as their families shrink or disappear.
Sanders is also exhibiting – and catering to – his party’s reflexive and extreme pro-abortion position. This position views abortion to be an unalloyed good that has liberated American women and needs to be exported to the less-enlightened world.
The Democratic Party platform calls for repealing the Helms Amendment so that U.S. taxpayers can richly fund abortions abroad. Never mind that this is nothing less than an exercise in ideological imperialism.
Developing countries have abortion laws that reflect the values and traditions of their people, and have no love for economic aid packages that come wrapped in Western social ideologies. Their citizens may look at our culture and see that the family has imploded, suicide is on the rise, materialism rules, and nihilistic young men routinely commit acts of carnage for no apparent reason.
People in these nations may be correct to question the wisdom of starting down this tortured path in the name of sexual liberation and women’s freedom. Sanders and other champions of this new kind of colonialism think they know better.
Bernie Sanders will probably be asked to defend his quick pivot to promoting abortion in the developing world. He may choose to simply apologize for his flat-footed response and point out that he walked it back a bit, switching to “birth control” and “women in poor countries … who may not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies.”
If so, Sanders would be missing a critical opportunity. This could be his chance to champion a culture of solidarity in the environmental movement, a culture where everyone in the human family is included when we make our calculations – a culture where everyone is valued equally.