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The Population Bomb Paperback – May 1, 1970


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: A SIERRA CLUB-BALLANTINE BOOK; 13th Printing edition (May 1, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000EI3XOS
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #673,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Gallagher VINE VOICE on November 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read the Population Bomb when it first came out, and believed it. Paul Ehrlich envisioned a horrific future with mass starvation of millions, if not billions of people by 1995. As we now know, Ehrlich was a Malthusian of the worst order, and almost single-handedly gave environmentalists a bad name. He is the epitome of an alarmist who has significantly harmed the ability of reasonable environmentalists to be taken seriously (The Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome). I'm sure Dr. Ehrlich meant well, but boy, was he wrong. This book should rest in peace, never to be read again. Or, perhaps it could be read as a lesson learned in how to avoid making extremist statements that make you and your colleagues look stupid.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 26, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born 1932) is an American biologist (specializing in butterflies) at Stanford University, who is a prominent ecologist and demographer.

It is popular to discount Ehrlich, and particularly this book (which begins with the stark prediction that "In the 1970's the world will undergo famines---hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now"). It should be noted that he has substantially revised his predictions in later books such as The Population Explosion, Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, etc.

(It should also be noted that he admittedly lost his 1980 bet with conservative economist Julian Simon, about the trend of prices for certain metals.)

To be sure, his tone in this book was unduly "alarmist"; and his proposal to create a "stable optimum population size for the United States" (Pg. 135) certainly didn't anticipate the dramatic "Green Revolution" increases in agricultural production that would happen in the 1970s and later. His recommendation for "Proselytizing Friends and Associates" (e.g., praising childless people for their "selfless devotion to mankind" on pg. 185; telling families with two children that "two is plenty") seems almost ludicrous, in light of decreasing birth rates, later marriage dates, etc. His appeal to a variant of Pascal's Wager in the last chapter ("In other words, play it safe. If I'm right, we will save the world.
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24 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Eric Laffoon on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was required to read this pap in high school. I'm astonished this book could even be in print. It is the height of hubris of a tenured professor. I wonder if those people giving it a positive review are bothered by every prediction being wrong or even know who Malthus was. It is a sad indictment of our educational institutions that they fail to teach students to acually think. Instead they regurgitate disproven ideas by the likes of Malthus, Keynes and Ehrlich. I recall seeing a Time Magazine list of the worst books of the 20th century and this book made it.

In 1980 economist Julian Simons made a $1000 bet with Ehrlich. They picked precious metals and Ehlich bet in 10 years the price would go up vs down. At the end of 10 years Ehrlich wrote a check for more than $400 which the victor promptly framed and hung on his wall. Of course being tenured Ehrlich need not be right. Today he is an oracle for anthropogenic global warming, another discredited whacky idea. Read this book if you want to experience an intellectual moron or have read everything from Stephen King and like cheesy horror. In closing, it was a really lousy thing for my duluded teacher to have me under a cloud of dread for years. Had she instead directed me to read Malthus it would have been easy to see he was historically wrong. Paul Erlich has made a career of being wrong and scaring people. This book is a bad joke!
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Format: Paperback
Although this book was first published in the late sixties and there have been tremendous technological and social changes since then that have delayed the inevitable, the fundamental message remains accurate. For Ehrlich's basic thesis is based on fundamental laws of the growth of populations, the mathematical equations that describe the increase in the size of species populations are taught in basic courses in mathematics. Absent predators and with steady increases in the availability of resources, populations will inevitably rise to an unsustainable level.
At that point the companion mathematical equations that describe the decline of populations will then become operative, members will begin dying, generally the weak and vulnerable first, but inevitably will continue until the numbers once more reach the level that can be sustained.
The current crisis of climate change is based on the fact that there are too many people for the planet to support long-term. As Thomas Malthus before him and Ehrlich in this book understand, resources are being rapidly exhausted and the planet is changing as a consequence. This book was an early alarm about an obvious looming problem. While there have been wondrous new technologies that have delayed the inevitable, there seems no way to avoid what Ehrlich warned about. At some point the laws of biology will take charge and there will be a major downward correction in the human population.
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