John Tanton supported Planned Parenthood and Zero Population Growth, then struck out on his own.
A writer for the New Yorker magazine once described Madison Grant, the early 20th-century conservationist best known for his race-based opposition to immigration, as someone who had “extended a passion for preserving bison and caribou into a mania for preserving the ‘Nordic race.’ ” The same might be said of John Tanton, a physician turned political activist who died last week at age 85.
Tanton was one of the nation’s leading anti-immigration figures over the past four decades, but he wasn’t a right-wing conservative. He was a left-wing tree-hugger obsessed with overpopulation. Opposition to immigration, legal or illegal, was simply a means to that end.
Tanton came to his beliefs about population control in the 1960s and through the writings of antinatal zealots like Garrett Hardin and Paul Ehrlich, who argued that additional human beings have a negative effect on the supply of land, food and other resources. Modern-day Malthusians insist that the larger the population, the bigger the threat to nature. Never mind that the U.S. population has more than doubled since 1950, yet obesity is now a bigger problem than hunger and our air and water have gotten cleaner. Never mind that a billion people could easily be housed in California alone, not even the nation’s largest state by area, and it would still be less crowded than the Bronx.