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,