| Paul Ehrlich |
|Born||29 May 193|
|Alma mater||Columbia High School, University of Pennsylvania, University of Kansas|
|Interests|| • “Overpopulation”|
• Population Reduction
• Population Matters
Influential biologist who wants to as "humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage" down to 1-2 billion.
Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist, best known for his warnings about the consequences of population growth and limited resources. He is the Bing Professor Emeritus of Population Studies of the Department of Biology of Stanford University and President of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.
Ehrlich became well known for the 1968 book The Population Bomb which he co-authored with his wife Anne, in which they famously stated that "[in] the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Among the solutions suggested in that book was population control, including "various forms of coercion" to be used if voluntary methods were to fail. Ehrlich has acknowledged that some of what he predicted has not occurred, but maintains that his predictions about disease and climate change were essentially correct and that human overpopulation is a major problem.
“The optimum population of Earth – enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone – was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050...How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage.
Some maybe slow motion disasters like people getting more and more hungry, or catastrophic disasters because the more people you have the greater the chance of some weird virus transferring from animal to human populations, there could be a vast die-off." [...]
Early life, education, and academic career
Ehrlich was born in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), the son of William Ehrlich and Ruth Rosenberg. His father was a shirt salesman, his mother a Greek and Latin scholar and public school teacher. Ehrlich's mother's Reform-Jewish German ancestors arrived in the United States in the 1840s, and his paternal grandparents emigrated there later from the Galician and Romanian part of the Austrian Empire. During his childhood his family moved to Maplewood (New Jersey), where he attended Columbia High School, graduating in 1949.
Ehrlich earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1953, an M.A. from the University of Kansas in 1955, and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1957, supervised by the prominent bee researcher Charles Duncan Michener (the title of his dissertation: "The Morphology, Phylogeny and Higher Classification of the Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea)"). During his studies he participated with surveys of insects in the areas of the Bering Sea and Canadian Arctic, and then with a National Institutes of Health fellowship, investigated the genetics and behavior of parasitic mites. In 1959 he joined the faculty at Stanford University, being promoted to professor of biology in 1966. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies). He was appointed to the Bing Professorship in 1977.
He is president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the United States National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
A lecture that Ehrlich gave on the topic of overpopulation at the Commonwealth Club of California was broadcast by radio in April 1967. The success of the lecture caused further publicity, and the suggestion from David Brower the executive director of the environmentalist Sierra Club, and Ian Ballantine of Ballantine Books to write a book concerning the topic. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne H. Ehrlich, collaborated on the book, The Population Bomb, but the publisher insisted that a single author be credited.
The Population Bomb (1968)
The original edition of The Population Bomb began with this statement: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate ..." Ehrlich argued that the human population was too great, and that while the extent of disaster could be mitigated, humanity could not prevent severe famines, the spread of disease, social unrest, and other negative consequences of overpopulation. By the end of the 1970s, this prediction proved to be incorrect. However, he continued to argue that societies must take strong action to decrease population growth in order to mitigate future disasters, both ecological and social.
In the book Ehrlich presented a number of "scenarios" detailing possible future events, some of which have been used as examples of errors in the years since. Of these scenarios, Ehrlich has said that although, "we clearly stated that they were not predictions and that 'we can be sure that none of them will come true as stated,' (p. 72) – their failure to occur is often cited as a failure of prediction. In honesty, the scenarios were way off, especially in their timing (we underestimated the resilience of the world system). But they did deal with future issues that people in 1968 should have been thinking about." Ehrlich further states that he still endorses the main thesis of the book, and that its message is as apt now as it was in 1968.
Ehrlich's opinions have evolved over time, and he has proposed different solutions to the problem of overpopulation. In The Population Bomb he wrote, "We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail. We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control." Voluntary measures he has endorsed include the easiest possible availability of birth control and abortion. In 1967 he had expressed his belief that aid should only be given to those countries that were not considered to be "hopeless" to feed their own populations.
In their sequel to The Population Bomb 1990), the Ehrlichs wrote about how the world's growing population dwarfs the Earth's capacity to sustain current living standards. The book calls for action to confront population growth and the ensuing crisis:
Optimum Human Population Size (1994)
During a 2004 interview, Ehrlich answered questions about the predictions he made in The Population Bomb. He acknowledged that some of what he had published had not occurred, but reaffirmed his basic opinion that overpopulation is a major problem. He noted that, "Fifty-eight academies of science said that same thing in 1994, as did the world scientists' warning to humanity in the same year. My view has become depressingly mainline!" Ehrlich also stated that 600 million people were very hungry, billions were under-nourished, and that his predictions about disease and climate change were essentially correct. Retrospectively, Ehrlich believes that The Population Bomb was "way too optimistic".
In a 2008 discussion hosted by the website Salon, Paul Ehrlich has become more critical of the United States specifically, claiming that it should control its population and consumption as an example to the rest of the world. He still thinks that governments should discourage people from having more than two children, suggesting, for example, a higher tax rate for larger families.
In 2011, as the world's population passed the seven billion mark Ehrlich has argued that the next two billion people on Earth would cause more damage than the previous two billion because we are now increasingly having to resort to using more marginal and environmentally damaging resources.
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A Quote by Paul Ehrlich
|Population Matters||“The idea that every woman should have as many babies as she wants is to me exactly the same kind of idea as, everybody ought to be permitted to throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”||2 November 2015||Wall Street Journal|
- Ehrlich, Paul R., "The Morphology, Phylogeny and Higher Classification of the Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea)," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kansas, May 1957.
- Lewis, J. "Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. Six billion and counting". Scientific American October 2000, pages 30, 32.
- https://archive.org/details/skepticalenviron00lomb/page/n374 350 quote=In 1967 Paul Ehrlich predicted that the world was headed for massive starvation and it was already too late to do anything about it. In order to limit the extent of this, he believed – reasonably enough given his point of view – that aid should be given only to those countries that would have a chance to make it through. According to Ehrlich, India was not among them. We must "announce that we will no longer send emergency aid to countries such as India where sober analysis shows a hopeless imbalance between food production and population ...Our inadequate aid ought to be reserved for those which can survive."