Growth Busters’ all white cast asks dark skinned people not to have kids

COLORADO SPRINGS- Local filmmaker, city council candidate, and critic of urban sprawl, Dave Gardner, screened his new doc GROWTHBUSTERS to a receptive hometown audience last night, on the heels of its world premier in Washington DC. Gardner has long defined his personal mission as questioning the wisdom of “growth”. Finally his unpopular theme is gaining traction. With GrowthBusters Gardner addresses economic growth, rampant consumption, carbon footprints and over-development, building to what he’s decided is the most elephantine challenge in the room, global population growth. Except, I’m sorry, that’s an elephant of another color. I resisted the Q & A, not wanting to pull down the evening’s celebratory curve. A giddy panel of white folk is for me as much a temptation as the easy target Gardner chose. In the privacy of the internet, we at Not My Tribe don’t have bubbles we’re too reluctant to burst.

Dave Gardner’s long unrewarded campaign against our city’s recidivist, graft-driven, and ever tragically unsustainable growth is so damn laudable, and his chopping away at the Capitalist assumptions of neoclassical economists is so urgently pertinent. But by folding both into the Inconvenient Truth of exponential global population rise, does Gardner mean the Colorado Springs audience takeaway to be we must distribute condoms to our Machiavellian land developers?

Let me first applaud Gardner’s critique of our region’s imbecilic growth. It’s ugly and residents are unhappy but powerless to depose the greedy exploitative speculators in charge. A memorable segment describes the Southern Delivery system being built to bring Pueblo water northward to serve El Paso County’s endless eastward developments. The energy to pump that water uphill will require the output of an average coal fired power plant, that much more emissions, pollution and coal ash.

Over the years Gardner has proven to be more than a gadfly battling our land barons. When he challenged Jerry Heimlicher, a pro-growth incumbent for a seat at the city council, the otherwise like-minded progressive adversary beat him, only to resign after his victory to make a sudden move out of town, leaving the position to be chosen by the usual undemocratic powers, looking suspiciously like his campaign had been a desperate measure to keep Gardner’s anti-growth voice off the council. There’s more to applaud about Gardner locally, but first–

I know this is easy to overlook in Colorado Springs, but Dave, the demographic character of the Stargazer Theater audience was what, last night, entirely white? It was, and probably not coincidentally, the dozens of experts you interviewed onscreen were also with one single exception white. Further, I’m sure we can agree the economic class represented was equally homogeneous; let’s call it comfortable. Tell us then, Dave, what does Middle America’s middle class white birthrate add to the worrisome arc of population growth?

Not that I think any socioeconomic group should address itself to out-breeding the next, but an audience with a zero or negative birthrate hardly needs to concentrate on curbing its numbers. Anticipating the challenges of exponential population growth is important, but HOW UNSEEMLY for a white community to plot counter-reproductive measures for the larger masses, specifically the darker-complected Global South, virtually all of its peoples lesser advantaged?

And let me add, how embarrassing that a Grist Magazine editor wants to brag about her lifestyle choice not to have a family, exchanged for the benefit of a “more dynamic schedule” which leaves her more easily free to join three similarly unencumbered friends for coffee.

We’re trading our biological imperative to live a Seinfeld episode?

I am not accusing anyone of deliberate racism, unlike the Sierra Club, who was certain this documentary took aim at Hispanic Americans. This was a detail we learned from the post-screening panel discussion. The local Sierra Club chairperson who sat on the panel last night told us that the national office was alarmed to learn that its Colorado Springs chapter was cosponsoring a documentary which called for curbing population growth. She assured her headquarters that she knew Dave Gardner personally and that GrowthBusters‘s thesis was above reproach. In particular, she explained, it didn’t target illegal immigration, which she presumed was their worry. To clarify, she was thinking: not birthrate but immigration rate, not global population growth but national population growth.

Population growth as it threatens America.

Once again we are reminded of the provincial brain freeze that characterizes our community. Even progressive ideals become distorted by the gravitational pull of our Tea Party tendencies. We support national reformist campaigns, but only to the limit of our stunted conservative comprehension.

Yes, discussing how to limit the birthrate of people of color is racist. It’s White Man’s Burden theology to believe that it is the privilege of the developed white world to decide for our lesser brethren whether they can procreate.

How is rushing to Dave Gardner’s defense, vouching for him that no racist insensitivity was intended, very much different from the excuse given by Congressman Doug Lamborn when he called President Obama a Tar Baby? Lamborn explained that he didn’t know black people were offended by “Tar Baby”. Would it really surprise Gardner that his call for White America to be alarmed about population growth, would threaten the of-color communities whose cultures still encourage having children?

Dave Gardner partnered with strange bedfellows when he took his anti-growth message to what he thought was the next level. The experts he interviewed are well aware their prognostications invite accusations of racism. I found it rather odd that one of them, speaking for the Club of Rome, was not introduced with his organization’s repute fully disclaimed.

If I were to guess, hitting upon the population question is where Gardner’s production finally took wing. Friends were recounting last night how he’d labored on the project for over half a decade, one scene shows Gardner lamenting the lack of financing available for a subject such as his. In the local sequences of GrowthBusters, the subject was about development and sustainability, while all the national interviews concerned population growth. When Gardner described the last year spent immersed in the project, I’m guessing that’s when underwriting for the population meme kicked in. The small cadre of usual suspects advancing today’s equivalent of eugenics theory were probably eager to add a fresh name to their roster. Yesteryear’s infamous population doomsayer Malthus was reviled because people inherently equated dire population projections with depopulation solutions. Malthus’ inheritors are accustomed to the same heat.

It is hard not to wonder if the First World’s cavalier disregard of climate change is because depopulation programs are being readied on the front burner. Peak oil, diminishing resources, declining agricultural yields and higher ecological toxicities cease to threaten human survival with the implementation of depopulation scenarios. Presentations like Gardner’s which reinforce the imperative of reducing the world population, create the popular consent with which population control compliance can be manufactured.

I’d have no problem with population growth engineering if it meant applying in the Third World, the proven method that has subdued the birthrate in the First World. Prosperity. If developed nations could share their abundance and education with the developing world, rendering the wealth of Africa’s natural resources back to Africa’s people for example, they’ll arrive at zero birthrates just like ours.

SPOILER ALERT: Redistribution of resources is not in the cards among the solutions which GrowthBusters suggests. Instead the feel good conclusion of this movie revolves around local applications of sustainability measures. Here I should confess I have a prejudice to corpulent over-eaters lecturing others on sustainability. Austerity measures are danced around, and a suggestion of cutting work hours to twenty one hours a week masks obviously a 50% cut in income.

Just as Gardner celebrates a return to hands-on farming, the oversimplified doubt he casts on the benefit of financial growth ignores the technological progress we all enjoy as its result. Gardner lampoons government planners who look to compensate for trends toward zero birthrates. They’re not “pro-growth”, they mean to fill diminishing labor pools. This is why the US invites its illegal immigrant workers. An increasingly idle population, mostly aging, needs people to service it. The benefit of growth and development was by design at least a rising tide for all.

I say we all, but who is comforted by Gardner’s thesis? How many of us have the savings to invest in a house with land to farm, install an orchard and solar panels to take ourselves off the grid, prepared to barter with our neighbors for the necessities we cannot make ourselves? Few of us live near an American dairy brave enough to defy government regulations against raw milk, I dare say that demographic has shrunk to approximate, no coincidence, the currently proverbial “one percent”. How many of us have access to community shared farms? I’ll hazard a guess you probably can’t afford to buy shares in the farms we have already, Grant Farms or Venetucci.

Let’s be honest about who’s supposed to be cutting back on having babies, and who’s in the position to weather the austere future mankind faces. One of the final scenes of Gardner’s domestic sustainable bliss depicted a model family unit belonging to one of the population growth think tanks. I’d like to think this was an oversight, but in a passing bit of the b-roll footage the audience was let to see that one of the white affluent women was pregnant.

11 thoughts on “Growth Busters’ all white cast asks dark skinned people not to have kids

  1. There IS a correlation between sudden drops in the population through death, especially among the young adults, and an increased fecundity. I supposed that worked out well when the human population was substantially under a million.

    The two groups who noticed it first, Warmongers and extermination hunters. Seems trying to hunt coyotes and raccoons down to a “manageable” level, gotta love that Management corporate keyword… because the Board of Directors has an absolute right to manage everything in the world, including the numbers of raccoons…

    And War. When people first started noticing that Malthus seemingly had understated the case, was just after WW One. Which was the culmination of several decades of hideously big wars but smaller than the Great One. People with money and vested interest in controlling more started noticing the corrollaries. The post-World War 2 “baby boom” pretty much carried out the assumptions.

    I suppose it wouldn’t have escaped the attention of fairly large numbers of people who come up with scenarios for their own control of the world. Relatively huge compared to just, say, ME.

    Their corporate powerbase now is concentrating on dividing the global working class against ourselves, like the Immigration debate. if you can call costant death threats and racist insults to be “debate”. Wars are helpful to their cause, as long as the wars are either directed against and carried out within the lands of Non-Corporate (yet) Ownership, or controlled “chess game” type wars like between two adjoining Banana Republics.

    This brings the desired result, more people whose only resource is their own labor, fighting for the right to be the slaves of the Board of Directors, thus cheaper prices for that labor AND willing sacrifices for the periodic culls needed to keep the women breeding.

    They’re managing us like we’re cattle. Soylent Green Is People.

  2. Ok so, there’s this guy called Thomas Malthus. Go look him up–and yes this is an issue of race. But just because race is pertinent to this subject does not make it illegitament. Saying that is like saying that because the US used to be predominately white and the largest producer of pollution is also the US, that fact is an issue of race. The poorer a people are the more children they produce statistically (and in many ways it is the method of income multiplication). However, one should take note that the Feudal system in Europe was very strong in Europe until the mid 14th century. The high populations of serfs made their labor plentiful and cheap and peasant rebellions to improve their awful conditions were always put down. HOwever, this balance of power only after the mid 14th century. In this time, the black plague struck–cutting the population by what many estimate to be 25% in some areas to as much as a monstorous 50% in others. In the wake of this travesty, there was light for the peasants–they were then able to shove off the absolute yoke of unfettered manorialism/feudalism and force the wealthy estate to increase wages and allow greater freedom. I agree no one should force another person’s decision to procreate or not–but the decision should not have to be forced in the first place if one uses the logic of labor supply and demand.

  3. Dear I’MNOTSURE-
    My article was clearly too verbose, if you’d read further, or page-searched for “Malthus” you would have found I address him.

    Are you really suggesting that the law of supply and demand governs birthrates? No, sorry. Let’s try to think in terms of serving people over industry.

  4. Oh, you mean, people in Third World countries under American Corporate rule have babies to get more welfare? Even though there isn’t any?

    But wait, if they’re not getting more resources simply by having more kids, then they’re having to spread fewer resources among more people.
    Because, you know, that sounded a lot like the racist “welfare queen” bullshit often put out by “conservative” political hacks here.

    How much money do you believe is gained by having baby after baby? Because I’ve had public assistance and the aid doesn’t increase exponentially. You start off with less money than the poverty line and each additional expense, eerrr Child doesn’t get even that much, it would be a downward debt spiral.

    I mean, I’m Not Sure That’s What You Were Aiming For but if it was you missed by a long way. You wind up with LESS aid-per-capita if you have a large family on public assistance. Not more.

    There are a few really racist pundits who still put that lie out like it was truth, and hope that enough Americans are stupid enough to believe it without questioning that they can maintain their political power and thus, they can keep stealing Public Money while people are looking at those living in Poverty as though we’re the culprits.

    I’m not really sure, but it sounds like you’re promoting that same lie.

    Here’s a different theory. If you bother to think at all it would make more sense. Poorer countries get more aid (for their Puppet Corporate Dictators to siphon off for their own benefit?) if the countries ban any birth control measures.

    I mean, with that, there’s a direct link, Less Contraception, More Population.

    And by consequence MORE poverty. And more wars. And more people willing to accept and even fight for slave wage jobs.

  5. Eric,
    You are certainly entitled to your opinions, but I am disappointed at what you missed, and disappointed at all the assumptions you leapt to.

    Never in this film did I single out a certain race, class or nation for population stabilization. Except perhaps the developed world, where the film communicated that limiting family size has a huge impact because of our overconsumptive lifestyle. My intent was to be clear that just because a developed but overconsuming nation has a near replacement fertility rate does not mean they can relax about overpopulation. If their ecological footprint is huge, they are overpopulated. The U.S. is a perfect example. We absolutely must reduce our consumption and our population in order to stop appropriating the resources of less developed nations. Did you catch that line in the film?

    Your implications around the skin color of the cast and of the audience were off-base, but I share your sadness there was not more diversity in both places. There is much I can’t control, especially who attends a screening. I am also sad you leap to the conclusion that is because of some agenda on my part. My preference is to be as color-blind as possible in making a film. Why should race matter? Why should there be a quota one way or the other? People of all colors share the same interest: we want all the children of the world to have a chance to live a good life. Overpopulation may be a race issue for you, maybe for others. It is not for me. I think everyone on Earth can benefit by being knowledgeable about the impacts of their family size decisions. I’m sorry you didn’t get that from the film.

    I’m really pretty confident the film makes that clear, so I would like to volunteer to bring you a copy so you can view it and perhaps pay a little more attention, giving it a fair viewing rather than trying so hard to apply to it all the evils you must have assumed you would find before you watched.

    Perhaps then you could also view the long segment about how the developed world is consuming way more than its share of the world’s resources. Not sure how you missed that. But I’m happy to give you another shot at it.

    You have not reviewed the film I made. And I would challenge you to find many who have seen the film and would agree with your conclusions.

    I don’t want to make assumptions about your motives or your thoughts. All I have to go on is what I’ve read here. But I have noted that often when someone is uncomfortable talking about overpopulation there are many assumptions present: the assumption that addressing population growth is eugenics or race or class related, or the assumption that someone wants to control what someone else is doing. I encourage you to watch the film again without these filters. Don’t assume there is some hidden, evil agenda. Just draw your conclusions based on what is on the screen.


    Dave Gardner

  6. Dear Dave,
    Thank you for your friendly response. I’m sorry I did not make a few things more clear in my initial article. First, I’ve always been a fan of your local anti-growth message, so I attended your screening with high hopes. Two, I regret not saying more about the conservation emphasis in your film. From my notes, in particular I liked the “Technology of Restraint.”

    It’s unfortunate that you dismiss my criticism as my not having paid enough attention. I try not to express myself publicly unless I’m certain I’ve covered my bases. There’s no point in being wrong, in spreading untruths or slandering the work of others.

    I admire your work locally, it would be great to see a documentary confined to questioning growth as an economic flaw and societal curse.

    The moment you mocked foreign governments for trying to encourage positive birthrates revealed you disregard their responsibility to maintain sources of labor.

    Nations, like communities, like FAMILIES, die without offspring. Like cultures, languages, and traditions. That’s not even to consider the spiritual.

    Sure we can reduce our carbon footprint by electing not to procreate. We can reduce it further if we consider euthanasia. In some cultures, not having children means you might as well be dead.

    There was no point my raising such arguments at the screening on Tuesday. Everyone was feeling good, and proud their hero Dave Gardner of Colorado Springs was taking on an issue of world import. My typifying the audience as middle American was not meant to color them as racist or dumb. Their effusive, uncritical praise of your quite flawed overreach betrays that their worldview shows no sign of having succumbed to growth.

    Thank you for your work making a difference. If your documentary went no further than our community, I wouldn’t care if it was ethnocentric. The fact that it screened in DC forces me to step forward and assure the world outside that we are not all unthinking myopic Americans.

    Our policies overseas have cemented the stereotype of the Ugly American. We have a great deal of responsibility to present the American People as better than that.


  7. Eric,

    Thanks for your latest comment. I can see we will just disagree about what it means to talk about overpopulation. If I’d wanted to make a film that influences dark-skinned people to have fewer children, it would be pretty foolish to make that film in English and populate it with white people.

    The audience that most needs to change its ways is the wealthiest billion on the planet, and that is the audience I made this film for. Though I would like to encourage the other 6 billion not to follow our misguided ways.

    We are so far into overshoot, it is suicidal to try to maintain today’s high population levels in order to maintain “sources of labor.” We are human beings, not sources of labor. And there is no economy on a dead planet. We are very far from extinguishing any population.

    And just because euthanasia is one way to reduce population, that does not mean reducing population voluntarilty, because we’re informed and care about the next seven generations, is uncaring.

    If you can bring yourself to recognize these facts, then you might see why there is a need for this film to be seen, and to be seen far beyond the borders of Colorado Springs. Yes, I would have loved to have had a more diverse film, but a number of factors got in my way. For the record, among the experts interviewed there was a Pakistani, an Indian and a black. I don’t fault a film for having an all-black cast, and I do resent all the conclusions you leapt to about this film.

    But I appreciate the more civil and fair tone of your response.

    Dave Gardner

  8. Nobody who claims the human race needs fewer
    people ever volunteers to be among the “excess population” downsized, lets note. We need more growth because that means more human brains to invent new technology without which human extinction is inevitable no matter what we do. The real reason the Malthusian cult is popular has nothing to do with human survival. It merely helps greedy parasitic European elites rationalize their mass murder of millions of their neighbors in wars, Hitler and Stalin’s camps, and abortion mills to steal their property for themselves. The future belongs to Muslims, Latinos, Africans, and Texans who have kids, not to aging misers living in castles surrounded by the tombs of those who were stupid enough to trust their good intentions.

  9. Not only does population growth increase our odds of producing new technology, in the short term it’s necessary so we can have a larger labor force to use producing more goods and services for us all, more young taxpayers to pay for our social security and health care, and lets note more customers for everything anyone sells. You obviously aren’t going to have much of a future selling a dysfunctional leftwing political agenda whose objective result we see is leftwing New York losing two seats in Congress while rightwing Texas gains four. The Jonestown Cult is not going to be the religion of the future I would suggest.

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