Can it really be forty years to the day? I remember exactly where I was that terrible day when Dr. King was shot in Memphis. It is hard to believe that one man could accomplish so much in 39 years of life, and could combine so much intellect with so much moral authority and courage.
Much is known and celebrated about his civil rights campaigning. What does not seem to be known however is that this foremost champion of human rights was also one who spoke of the importance of setting limits to our population both domestically and globally as a necessary precondition for those rights. Human rights in a nation whose water supply, housing, infrastructure or farmland is exhausted by overpopulation was to Dr. King largely meaningless And civil rights for a black family overburdened with more children than it could support was less advantageous as well.
In some respects, the career of Dr. Martin Luther King can be compared to that of Cesar Chavez. In death their legacy has been claimed by those who have not entirely been aware of their holistic approach. Chavez for example has been invoked by Hispanic leaders opposed to tighter border controls and immigration restrictions. In fact, Cesar Chavez stood at the border several times on patrol in an attempt to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the United States from Mexico. He realized that illegal immigration undercut the wages, working conditions and job security of established Mexican-Americans.
The following quote by Dr. King two years before his death should unequivocally place him alongside neo-Malthusians. To be a progressive, a leftist, a trade union leader or an environmentalist before the mid 1970s was to be someone who intuitively acknowledged limits. Since then, the zeitgeist changed. Why?
Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us. I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes. Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain. There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims#main-fn1">1.
- Rev. Martin Luther King, May 5, 1966
Quadra Island, BC