Van Jones Misses the Boat on Population

Does Van Jones understand the issue of population stabilization?

Van Jones is a true leader in the cause for transitioning to a green economy. His work is pivotal in helping advocate for and envision a sustainable energy future.

As admirable as his tireless advocacy is, Jones displayed a surprising lack of awareness on the issue of population stabilization while speaking on a conference call sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In response to a caller’s comment regarding the “pink elephant” that is population when considering how to create a sustainable society, Jones’ two main points centered around the (obvious) imbalance of resource consumption between the developed and developing world, and that we shouldn’t “tell anyone how many children to have.”

That this was Jones’ reaction to a question about population belies, to me, a real understanding of the issue. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that Jones knows better and simply wasn’t prepared to give a more thoughtful answer.

Just in case, I felt compelled to send Van Jones the following email:

Mr.  Van Jones,

Thank you for taking the time today to discuss clean energy and sustainability issues with listeners on the teleconference call sponsored by the NRDC.

Your work is greatly appreciated and I admire the tireless effort you have put into helping define, envision, and realize a green energy economy.

I must submit that I am profoundly disappointed with your response to the caller raising the question of population stabilization. I gathered from your response  – and I may have mischaracterized this, please tell me if I have – that you see the issue of population as one of “telling others how many children they should have.” I realize this is a vastly oversimplified statement on population, but unfortunately, that appeared to me as your level understanding.

Of course, most anyone realizes the inordinately unbalanced use of resources between those of us in the developed world, especially the US, and the developing world. While this must understood when discussing population, to frame it as the central issue demonstrates an alarming lack of awareness about population stabilization.

[The] core focus of population stabilization is principally education, basic human rights, and access to health care for women. It is NOT about telling anyone how many children they should have with their partners. I am truly surprised by your answer to the caller this afternoon.

I suggest you visit to learn more about population issues. I’ve had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with John Seager, the organization’s president. He is highly knowledgable and personable, and he could help expand your understanding and awareness on this issue.

Best regards,

Image credit: Center for American Progress, courtesy Flickr

6 thoughts on “Van Jones Misses the Boat on Population”

  1. Hey Tom! Thanks for the shoutout to Population Connection. You are exactly right: Education and human rights — including the right to plan families — is what will help keep human population in line with the Earth’s ability to take care of us all. We strongly oppose coercion, whether it’s coercion to have or not have children. That needs to be every couple’s decision — not the government. Thanks for explaining the issue to Van Jones!

    — Amy Phillips Bursch, media relations manager, Population Connection.

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks for the comment. As I mentioned, I’ve had the opportunity on a few occasions to speak with John Seager. I’ve really learned a lot. Keep up the good work at Population Connection!

    2. Tom,

      It is very obvious that Van Jones is trying his best to go and do something about climate change. I for one will support him in his efforts. I feel what you are doing is twisting his words to make him look stupid. Is this what your really trying to do? Tarnish the reputation of a man who wants to do good and help? Take away the substance in his voice for change? I think you need to realise that none of us has all the answers.

      Why dont you go and focus your energy on something or someone else to help promote the change this world needs.

      Michael Curtis

  2. Adam, Thanks for the comment. I certainly agree that Van Jones wants an equitable and sustainable economy and believes renewable energy and green jobs is the path forward. It just seemed to me from his response the other day that he had a fundamental misunderstanding on the issue of population stabilization.
    Time will tell, as you say, and I hope I am wrong. But something compelled me to write the email and post. It would be grand of Jones would respond to my email, though I am not holding my breath.

  3. Tom, I absolutely agree with you on population stabilization. However, I think perhaps maybe Van Jones was getting at is we shouldn’t tell anyone not to grow their economies. I think Van truly wants an environmental sustainable economy for all via renewable energy and green jobs, especially emerging markets.

    Only time will tell if Van misunderstand the issue, or if perhaps given that the world is suppose to have 9 billion people by 2050 that this is only one tool in environmental sustainability.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top