Alumni Profile

B. Meredith Burke MA ’71

Population Pundit A political activist with credentials a mile long, B. Meredith Burke remembers quite vividly the moment she became “politically incorrect.”It happened at a 1990 conference in

Berkeley, where the consensus was that if everyone lived in highrises at BART stations, environmental problems and urban sprawl would vanish. Burke (MA ’71) raised her hand and asked a simple question: how would living in a highrise near a BART station reduce the number of schools and jobs, the amount of electricity and natural resources needed to support a rapidly growing population?
“I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea,” she remembers with a laugh. “Everyone moved away from me.”
Their loss. With a master’s and Ph.D. in demographics from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in economics from USC, Burke knows a great deal about population-related issues, such as immigration. Citing U.S. Census statistics, she’ll tell you that in the last several years immigration has increased national birth rates by 25 percent (through births by foreign women) and the California birth rate by almost 100 percent. Her campaign to curb immigration has drawn fire from the political left, but Burke considers her views part of a philosophy she calls “pragmatic liberalism.”
“I accept the existence of natural limits and that the human race has to learn how to live within those limits,” she says.

B. Meredith Burke MA ’71 is passionate about building awareness of “demographic reality.”

A NATIVE ANGELENO, Burke can recall a more pastoral city. Her daily walks to grade school in the 1950s included the sight of horses grazing in the foothills behind East Los Angeles Community College. It was the development (or, in Burke’s lexicon, “despoilment”) of these foothills into housing tracts that sparked her early concerns.
Since the early 1970s, Burke has devoted herself to working for positive change within the complex arena of zero population growth, ecology, women’s rights, labor issues and public health. She’s worn many hats: scholar, teacher, fund-raiser, consultant, lobbyist, organizer, author, talk show guest, public speaker and rabble-rouser. Her expertise and activism have inscribed her name in the 2001 Who’s Who in America.
Currently, Burke is director and founder of Lariam Action USA, a clearinghouse for users of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, and senior fellow at both Negative Population Growth Inc. and Californians for Population Stabilization. In addition, she is a freelance writer/consultant for biotech firms, political campaign firms and other clients. A passion for building public awareness about “demographic reality” (she warns that the American population could reach 1 billion by 2115) and other issues has inspired Burke to pen scores of op-ed pieces, published in major newspapers coast to coast. “I would love a column of my own someday,” she muses. If that happens, reading it each morning will wake you up faster than a double espresso.

– Laurel DiGangi


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