Atrocities Associated with the Eugenics Movement

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Atrocities Associated with the Eugenics Movement

Among the fears of many environmentalists is that of overpopulation. Acutely aware of the finite resources that the planet possesses and the limitations of renewable resources, there are concerns that the planet may soon reach its maximum caring capacity. Since the First Great Transition ten thousand years ago, the planet has experienced an astounding increase in population. Generations later, the planet is beginning to feel the effects of continual population expansion. Over the years, numerous methods have been proposed or adopted to ensure that the Earth will not exhaust its resources. One of the most frightening adapted solutions was the eugenics movement.

As small mobile groups of hunter-gatherers adopted a sedentary lifestyle, they mastered both agriculture and animal domestication. These small settled groups quickly evolved into cities and towns that encompassed the entire globe. Today the estimated population of the world is over 6.2 million people.1 As the population has grown, it has had several deleterious effects on the Earth. These include climate changes, the spread of diseases, declining food production, deforestation, and environment pollution (particularly air pollution). As people have become more conscious of these harmful effects, they have begun to devise strategies to combat this problem. Among the suggested responses include a switch to renewable energy, a call for zero population growth, and adopting sustainable agricultural practices.

The concept of eugenics was not initially intended to prevent overcrowding, however, it would later be used as a form of population control. Eugenics is the idea of improving society by breeding fitter people. Francis Galton was the first person to originate this term and was a major proponent of the concept during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The practice of eugenics was originally performed through the use of selective breeding. Eugenics was a progressive idea, driven by social perceptions. In fact, "many of its most strident advocates were socialist, who saw eugenics as enlightened state planning of reproduction."2 Fearing the degradation of society, the elite desired to prevent further social decay of the world by eliminating individuals who were considered unfit physically, mentally, or socially.

In order to accomplish its goal of producing healthier people, eugenics embraced two goals. First, it attempted to improve certain heritable qualities with the human species through selective breeding. Second, it prevented other "undesirable" qualities from recurring by either restricting reproduction or through direct removal from the gene pool.
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