Literature Focus #2: Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals

Ever since overpopulation became attributed to many of the climate changes we are seeing today, many writers and scientists have aimed to prove this true in literary from.   My second literature focus shines the spotlight on a different kind of work in comparison to Ehrlich’s Population Bomb but also has served an important role in my personal growth in my professional career relating to environmental studies.  Unlike Ehrlich’s piece, Paul Murtaugh’s scientific study is not predictive in nature about the effects of overpopulation and does not offer any morbid scenarios that must occur for the world to be okay.  Much crisper in tone and offering the results of his own scientific study to back up his hypothesis, Murtaugh’s report comes off as much more digestible in terms of breaking down and analyzing strategies.

This scientific study was first introduced to me during my last internship at Vermonters for a Sustainable Population.  As the marketing outreach and strategist intern at the organization, I was tasked with creating a plan to reach young adults in the state of Vermont and had an idea I wanted to run with: providing commentary on scientific work highlighting overpopulation myths.   The rationale for this campaign was based off my own learning approaches: if you want it to stick, put numbers to it and make it sound scientific.   My supervisor at the time Robert Fireovid loved the idea, and recommend two pieces to me.  While I cannot remember the tile or synopsis of the first one, Paul Murthaugh’s focus on the greenhouse gas emission comparison between “typical” green practices vs. children per family ratio instantly struck me with how powerful the study’s conclusions were. In the study by the Oregon State Scientist and professor, Murtaugh comes to the conclusion  that if an adult made all the “usual” environmentally friendly lifestyle changes we tend to associate with tree-huggers such as buying an eco-friendly  (specifically 50% better gas mileage, driving 33% less, conversion to LED light bulbs and energy efficient windows, replacing an old refrigerator and recycling household trash, they would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 486 metric tons over their lifetime.  Comparatively simply having one fewer child would save 9,000+ metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, around 20% more of a difference for those couldn’t calculate that off-hand.

While yes a hard agreement to compare having one less kid vs.  changing daily life habits, I realized that these findings still represented something significant.  I took the piece and it’s findings into my own hands and tried my best to twist and concoct a newslike story to highlight this news! While I wanted it to be a “just in!” like piece, I soon found out how long the editing While both my supervisor and assisting unpaid editors thought the piece was ready to go, I still waited 2 weeks to pretty much do nothing but contemplate if it was ready to be published, and of course where to publish it.
jack-bud-light-espn-sizeAfter completing my reflection on Murtaugh’s work, I reached out to the locally-known VTDigger and UVM’s Outreach Blog, as well as Champlain’s blog about environmental issues and such.  To my delight, both VTDigger and UVM’s Outreach blog editors who were the first in the screening process really liked the article, and welcomed it onto their site with open arms (as from the school I attend, no response ironically).  To me this was a huge moment: I’ve never had my work published, heck I usually only do papers for school.   The word quickly got out in the family that I was a published online author, and I was receiving praise from all of my family, as well as my bosses at VSP.  And while I felt accomplished for the article’s, I felt that this may only the beginning.  What I learned from this process was that there truly are so many different environmental topics left unturned and even more myths about emissions and climate change that need debunking.  In a era where corporate transparency (whether they mean it or not) has led us to see the problems these giants are causing, but not necessarily the full details and the solutions.  I hope that others can use what I have learned and dive their noses deeper into environmental issues they may have vaguely heard about, as this is precisely what I did by following the lead I was tossed pointing me in the direction of Murtagh’s revelations.


Literature Focus #1: The Population Bomb


One of the questions that has come up is about my backgrounds into the environmental policy field.  Coming from a Business school and focusing in on building marketing skills, it is reasonable to question where my interests in protecting the environment lay.  Like all of us, I have based my roots based off the writings and works of those who best highlight and illustrate the problems our society is causing for our environment.

In my short experience in the collegiate study of our environmental impacts, I have found 2 pieces of literature that have not only seemed to hold resonance throughout the entirety of my college career, but have also followed me through my personal career path.  While different in wordplay and angles in covering the issue of our carbon footprint to the environment, both pieces of work have played a huge role in my understanding of how humans vastly impact the environment due to sheer population totals.

“Population Bomb”- Paul Ehrlich’s most famous piece work has not only resonated with the scientific and academic communities, but has also resonated with me in my journey throughout school.  The piece was written in 1968, and warned of the devastating consequences that overpopulation on a global level would bring to the environment.   While the book was full of bold predictions made by Ehrlich about what would happen with a growing population rate (many which fell short), many of his ideas and proclamations have been proven true in the 21st century, making the piece relevant to many, and even caused Ehrlich himself to release a short essay called “Population Bomb Revisited”.  While some of the text offers some rather morbid truths and solutions to the issue of overpopulation (mainly thinking about the death rate concept, and how he claims it must increase), he actually underestimated the world population by 2000.

bombbb graphic

This book was the first piece of text that widely engaged large amounts of academic and non-academic readers about the horrors of overpopulation, and is still commonly harped on today.  My first introduction to the Population Bomb came in my sophomore year of college, and has still found ways to intertwine into my life.  Later down the college career I was given an opportunity to intern at Vermonters For a Sustainable Population, an organization fixated on highlighting the issues and consequences of overpopulation not only in Vermont, but around the world.

To get this job, I has to display a level of familiarity and comfort about the issue of overpopulation even before I got there on the first day.  I can still remember specific excerpts from my interview, none being more relevant than when I was asked how I was introduced to the subject.  After giving a typical “I learned it in school” response and fumbling around for a more professional answer, I was able to get across that I had read Ehrlich’s population bomb.  While you can’t tell if someone’s eyes are lighting up through a phone, the interviewer’s tone of voice instantly turned positive and optimistic, and we soon talked about the book in detail.

And while my knowledge of the book may have landed me the internship in a very suitable field for me, this was not the end of my story with Ehrlich..  One of my tasks with Vermonters For a Sustainable Population was making a twitter page, and nearing the duration of my summer internship I had created a twitter page that had a strong amount of followers.  Even though I was proud of my work (and for creating my first ever twitter page), I was not prepared to have Paul Ehrlich’s personal twitter follow the page that I had created for VSP!  And whereas the piece of writing has not been present in my life this year, it’s hard to forget a piece of work that paved the way for my environmental policy career and helped remind me that it is possible to incorporate my marketing background into something I am truly passionate about.