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Bill Nye on stage

Bill Nye Actually Discusses Planet-Saving Policy

This is a first for Growth Bias Busted. We honor someone on the Wall of Fame and someone on the Wall of Shame in the same post. Kudos to Bill Nye, known as “the Science Guy,” for devoting an episode of his new Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World, to the subject of overpopulation.

We also salute one of his guests, bioethicist Travis Rieder, who bravely accepted an invitation to serve on the episode’s discussion panel knowing full well, I assume, that he would get in at most one or two brief comments. That is nowhere near enough time to discuss the issue of disincentivizing conceiving lots of children in a time of climate and overshoot emergency.

Rachel Snow and Travis Rieder

Rachel Snow, Travis Rieder and Nerys Benfield on the Bill Nye panel

Travis has approached this subject very thoughtfully and with sensitivity, but the Nye show’s format doesn’t allow for that. You can hear more complete and fascinating discussions with Rieder on these three podcasts:

The Overpopulation Podcast: Our Moral Obligation to Conceive Just One Child

Conversation Earth: Moral Basis for Small Families

Conversation Earth: Public Policy Brakes on Procreation?

Incidentally, Bill Nye made the Wall of Shame here a few months ago with Bill Nye, Think Again About Overpopulation. Apparently, he did!

And Travis Rieder made the Wall of Fame in NPR Illuminates Important Conversation About Kids.

Who makes the Wall of Shame on this occasion? Disappointingly, Rachel Snow, chief of population development at the United Nations Population Fund. This New York Post story explains:

Bill Nye: Should We Penalize Parents for Having ‘Extra Kids’?

Here New York Post reporter Chris Perez quotes Snow:

“I would take issue with the idea that we do anything to incentivize fewer children or more children,” she said. “I think it’s all about … human rights. People should have the number of children they want … and if some families have five or six children, God bless them. That’s fine. But most people end up with fewer.”


You can see part of the conversation in a video embedded in the story, however that video is an edited version. If you have Netflix, watch Bill Nye Saves the World, episode 13, Earth’s People Problem.

Boo, also, to the people who’ve apparently been complaining about Bill Nye asking the question. And to the ultra-conservative bloggers and alt news sites also ripping Nye and Rieder a new one. This topic even made Snopes, which offers a good summary of the brouhaha. No, there is nothing like eugenics in this conversation. These folks need to grow up, educate themselves about the state of the planet and advise their 12 kids to get serious about contraception.

My points for the day:

1. Bravo to Bill Nye for exploring the subject of overpopulation, helping spread awareness that, yes, there are too many of us. He even has a little fun with the silly idea that “over” means someone at the table “is the over” and needs to go. He knows, I think, that it’s silly to think terminating someone is the only way to contract human population. He spends most of this episode pushing the education and empowerment of women and girls, which fairly reliably leads to smaller families.

2. Hurray to Travis Rieder for exploring, with sensitivity, the notion that the time has come for public policy to acknowledge overpopulation and begin respectful efforts to strongly encourage smaller families going forward.

3. Come on, Rachel Snow! Are you kidding? You’re with the United Nations Population Fund and you refuse to acknowledge that all couples should be encouraged to choose to have just one child, until we get our climate, water, food, and extinction emergency under control? Financial incentives for doing the right thing ought to be on the table, as Travis Rieder respectfully considers. And financial disincentives ought to also at least be considered. I don’t believe for a minute that is a violation of human rights.

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

Comments (1)

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    Brian Sanderson


    Rachel Snow is just behaving like every other head of this or that bureaucracy. Get more funding by growing the number of clients. After all, where would a UN Population Fund be without a population problem to justify it’s existence?

    Personally, I’m offended by governments and other know-nothings who subsidize and incentivize baby production. It all sounds very much like farming. Ah, ha! Humans, the most domesticated animal… Now that isn’t eugenics, it’s malgenics!


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