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John Holdren (Associated Press/Photo by Keith Srakocic)

Reformed radical?

Science | Does President Obama's science czar still hold to opinions that some call so pro-environment they're anti-human?

WASHINGTON-Forced abortions and sterilization are generally practices eschewed by all but the most radical scientists-but President Obama's science czar, John Holdren, called them constitutional in a 1977 textbook he coauthored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich.

In Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, they wrote, "[I]t has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society," though adding that the current population didn't justify the practices. The textbook also calmly discussed the option of adding sterilization drugs to drinking water.

The authors continued: "Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution mentions a right to reproduce."

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Later they wrote, "The forced bearing of unwanted children has undesirable consequences not only for the children and their families, but for society as well, apart from the problems of overpopulation."

The book's content was not discussed in Holdren's Senate confirmation process in March, which he breezed through, but FrontPage magazine unearthed the passages about population control.

Holdren's office immediately released a statement saying he does not and has never advocated forced sterilization, forced abortions, or any coercive population control: "This material is from a three-decade-old, three-author college textbook. Dr. Holdren addressed this issue during his confirmation when he said he does not believe that determining optimal population is a proper role of government."

Holdren's more recent speeches show some tempering of his anti-population views, but he affirmed one out-of-the-mainstream position at his confirmation hearing by saying that 1 billion people could die by 2020 as a result of climate change.

One critic of Holdren's conclusions on climate change, University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr., defended him on the recent furor over the textbook. "Holdren [and his colleagues] turned [out] to . . . be wrong on this issue. So what?" he wrote on his blog. "The important thing is that Holdren seems to have learned from that experience and now holds different views. Good for him."

But some critics say the textbook sheds light on a man who is so pro-environment that he is anti-human.

From the 1977 textbook: "Studies have indicated that the larger the family, the less healthy the children are likely to be and the less likely they are to realize their potential levels of achievement."

The number of children a family has, they wrote, is a matter of public concern: "Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?"

The authors went further in advocating a "Planetary Regime"-a global authority under the United Nations to regulate trade, natural resources, pollution, and population.

"The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries' shares within their regional limits," they wrote.

Obama, meanwhile, has stated over and over that his administration would uphold science separate from ideology and politics.

"We have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas," said Obama to the National Academy of Sciences in April, an audience that included Holdren. "We know our country is better than this."

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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