January 10

Bruce Grant made an excellent point in his Jan. 4 Free for All letter, “How many people can a planet handle?,” suggesting that “we should greet reports of declining population growth rates as encouraging news” in light of pressures on a finite planet. When I was in college, the environmental movement’s “birth” occurred, one could say. But accompanying it was the publication of “The Population Bomb,” which noted, as I recall, the ultimate ill effects of relentless population growth.

I often wonder what happened to that focus as we discuss the negative effects of development on our environment, increasing energy needs, heightened demands for water and food — in short, much caused by consumption driven by population growth. Systemic issues should be part of the debate; indeed, our environment does include humans, and their impact, it could be argued, is far more immediate than are other changes occurring in the overall “context” of our planet.

Tom Martella,

Washington