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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A milestone and foundational text
Love it or hate it the Erhlich definitely succeeded in bringing focus on population related issues. As seen in the negative reviews posted here people have taken the time to consider the issue(s) involved. Any list of influential texts on the environment and environmental activism will include The Population Bomb. It also is a period piece that gives insight to the time...
Published 6 months ago by Mark Mitch

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139 of 207 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It can't survive hindsight
Paul Ehrlich begins the work that gave him instant notoriety (infamy) by saying: "I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time."
He spends the next 180 pages proving conclusively that such is not the case.
It isn't simply that his predictions turned out to be wrong in some of the particulars, but rather that they were so completely...
Published on August 13, 2002 by William E. Fleischmann


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A milestone and foundational text, January 9, 2014
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This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
Love it or hate it the Erhlich definitely succeeded in bringing focus on population related issues. As seen in the negative reviews posted here people have taken the time to consider the issue(s) involved. Any list of influential texts on the environment and environmental activism will include The Population Bomb. It also is a period piece that gives insight to the time period it was written. People are still moved by Erlich's premise and are compelled to comment even 50 years after the book was published.
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139 of 207 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It can't survive hindsight, August 13, 2002
By 
William E. Fleischmann (Loganville, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
Paul Ehrlich begins the work that gave him instant notoriety (infamy) by saying: "I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time."
He spends the next 180 pages proving conclusively that such is not the case.
It isn't simply that his predictions turned out to be wrong in some of the particulars, but rather that they were so completely wrong that they will NEVER come to pass (though he unrepentantly continues to beat the same drum).
Ehrlich predicted that, by the end of the 20th century, human want would outstrip available resources; whole areas of human endeavor would screech to a halt due to resource scarcity; England would, in all likelihood, cease to exist; India would collapse due to its inability to feed itself; and "inevitable" mass starvation would sweep the globe (including the US). We were on the brink of disaster in 1968, and the future looked very, very dark. In fact, he asserts, "it is now too late to take action to save many of those people."
And yet none of these things have come to pass. Why? Because Ehrlich makes the same mistake that Malthus did: he confuses the concept of finite resources with the notion that they (and the demand for them) are fixed. This is the point that Ehrlich's detractors (most notably Julian Simon) have been making for decades.
Ehrlich did not foresee the technological innovations (the Green Revolution) that have been such a boon to mankind, or changes in both the supply and demand of various resources (such as those in his famous bet with Simon). But such changes were inevitable (far more than the catastrophe that he predicted). The entire history of human endeavor is adaptive. As resources become more scarce, their costs rise. As those costs rise, incentives are created to find alternatives or increase supply or decrease demand. Thus, assuming that either resource availability and/or per capita demand is fixed is not merely an oversight - it is inexcusably poor science.
This is also why claims that "The Population Bomb" was some sort of self-correcting prophecy - that by drawing attention to the problem, disaster was averted - hold no water. This fallacy is based on the assumption that long-term concerns about population growth are somehow more pressing than current hunger problems. Norman Borlaug (one of many involved in the Green Revolution) would have a good laugh about that one. Unfortunately, the major cause of hunger in the world today (in countries like Ethiopia) is not resource scarcity, but political realities (despots) that prevent access to food.
One last point to Ehrlich's defenders: much has been made about cancer rates (and Simon's purported unwillingness to bet on them). But a rise in cancer incidence was to be expected, not because of pollutants or chemicals or environmental degradations, but because cancer is primarily a disease of the aged. The population "explosion" did not occur because more children were/are being born (the opposite is true), but that children were/are no longer "dropping like flies." The average age of the population has risen markedly and so, of course, has the incidence of age related diseases.
My favorite example of Ehrlich-speak: "Enough of fantasy.... Just remember that, at the current growth rate, in a few thousand years everything in the visible universe would be converted into people, and the ball of people would be expanding at the speed of light."
I'm SO glad he'd had "enough of fantasy."
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ehrlich Was Basically Right..., April 26, 2014
By 
Lisa (California, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
His timing was off but he was basically right. People aren't freaking out as his predictions come to pass because they are part of the new normal of ongoing species extinctions, water scarcity, and climate change.

My one issue with Ehrlich is that he criticizes the U.S. for its population growth but doesn't mention the fact that it is entirely due to immigration (American-born women have had fertility rates well below replacement levels since the early 70s and yet our population has more than doubled over that same period). Has he become yet another cowardly environmentalist who is afraid to speak out against mass immigration. And if the environmentalist won't say anything, who will? Are we destined to become the next country with a billion plus population? And how can the developing world ever get its act together when it can use Europe and North America as a safety valve for its surplus population? Unfortunately, the peoples of North America and Europe, the majority of whom have enough sense to oppose mass immigration, have no say in the matter.
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49 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is poorly researched., April 30, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
When one makes a major claim, such as saying that the poverty in Africa is caused by overpopulation and a lack of natural resources, then one should be able to provide facts, sources, statistics, empirical evidence, etc., to be able to back up one's claim. Because without such evidence, the claim has no merit.
When Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb, he did not have any evidence to prove his claims. And the reason for this is because such evidence in fact does not exist! For example, consider his claim that Africa is overpopulated. Well, the United Nations has kept population statistics for many decades. These statistics can be looked at by anybody. And according to these statisitcis, most of the countries in Africa have very low population densities. Despite this, Ehrlich claims that there are too many people in Africa. Hmm. Can anybody say 'racism'?
Another of Ehrlich's claims is that Africa does not have enough natural resources. And once again, Ehrlich does not proivide any evidence to support his claim. And again, this is because such evidence simply does not exist. If Ehrlich had simply taken the time to look in any geology textbook, he would have seen that the land in Africa has an abundant supply of many valuable natural resources, including gold, coal, iron, copper, aluminum, lead, diamonds, and many other natural resources. Again, Ehrlich didn't do his homework. Shame on him.
Another claim by Ehrlich is that Africa is incapale of feeding itself. What Ehrlich completely ignores is the fact that Africa has vast expanses of land that could be used to grow crops. In fact, the fact that Africa is situated at the equator allows for Africa to grow food year round.
So Ehrlich makes all these false claims, but he does not back them up with any evidence.
There are reasons for why the people in Africa are so poor. But Ehrlich has ignored these reasons. The reason that Africa doesn't grow enough food to feed itself is because the government policies regarding land use in most African counties are based on collective farming, instead of on private onwership. The reason that Africa does not benitfit from its vast supplies of natural resources is because most of the countries in Africa do not protect private property rights and contracts, and so private companies are afraid to do business in Africa. Thus, the problems of poverty in Africa have everything to do with Africa's own ridiculous government policies, and nothing to do with overpopulation or a lack or natural resources. All of this has been discussed in The Economist, which is a very reliable source.
Ehrlich claims that overpopulation causes poverty. If this were true, then Hong Kong and Japan would be the poorest countries on Earth. Again, the real world shows that Ehrlich is wrong. Again, Ehrlich has not done the proper research.
Ehrlich claimes that a lack of natural resources causes poverty. If this were ture, then Hong Kong and Japan would be the poorest countries on Earth. Once again, Ehrlich has not done his homework.
Ehrlich claims that as population goes up, the quality of life would get worse. According to Ehrlcih, during the 10 year period from 1980 to 1989, four billion people were going to starve to death in the world. And this number was to include 65 million people in the U.S. According to Ehrlich, by the year 2,000, the world was going to run out of oil, copper, iron, aluminum, coal, and many other resources. And according to Ehrlich, life expectancy in the U.S. was supposed to drop to about 40. According to Ehrlich, pollution was going to be so bad that everybody would have to wear a gas mask.
Fortunately, the U.S. government keeps statistics on all of these things. And fortunately, the evidence shows that Ehrlich was wrong in all of his predictions. Today people have more calories per capita and a higher life expectancy than ever before. Natural resources are more abundant than ever before, and this is reflected by the fact that their prices are at historic lows. According to the EPA, pollution levels have fallen substantially since Ehrlich wrote his book.
Today the world has more people than ever before. And today the standard of living is higher than ever before. So in reality, as the population goes up, the quality of life actually gets better! And there is a reason for this. When you have more people, then that means that there will be more minds to invent technology. More scientists. More inventors. More engineers. Etc. All of these things make life better.
During the past two decades, the country Bostwana in Africa has had a relatively strong amount of private porerty rights and economic liberty. This is one of the few countries in Africa that seems to appreciate the economic system known as capitalism. And during the past 20 years, the GNP in that country has more than tripled. So really, if the people in Africa want to bring an end to their massive poverty, they really ought to consider adopting the ideas of private property rights and economic liberty.
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33 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A prototype of catastrophic predictions, October 1, 2005
By 
Lubos Motl (Cambridge, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
Paul Ehrlich may understand butterflies more than most of us do, but he definitely does not understand how the real world in general and the human society in particular works. He just does not seem to have sufficiently organized brain cells to think realistically about the world.

This book starts with the bold statement that "he had understood the population explosion for quite some time". Nevertheless, the whole book proves that it's not the case. All his reasoning is based on the worst possible extrapolation of the worst imaginable short-term trend. His assumptions therefore include the "intelligent" assumption that there won't ever be any technological progress in the future; the climate will evolve in the worst possible way, and so forth. It's not surprising that he predicted that there would be mass starvation in the U.S. in the 1980s, and even when this was shown to be complete nonsense, he repeated the same prediction for the 1990s.

Why does he - and people like him - continue to produce predictions that have been humiliated so many times by the actual course of history? It's because of their religion. Maybe they don't call it a "religion", but it is a religion nevertheless. Jehovah's Witnesses typically believe that there is going to be a judgement day. Because it did not occur in 1918 and other years for which it was predicted, they are a bit more careful and vague in their predictions nowadays. Malthus had done very similar errors as Ehrlich, but you may think that in the 20th century, people could know more than Malthus knew many years ago. But Ehrlich does not know more.

In some sense, even Karl Marx himself could be viewed as a producer of catastrophic predictions. Marx predicted that something wrong would occur with capitalism as such, and it would be globally replaced by communism. (This is what I call a truly catastrophic prediction.) Marx was wrong, of course, because he completely misunderstood the magic power of the society and of the market to improve things that need to be improved and its ability to self-regulate and accomodate to new conditions. Ehrlich is repeating all errors of Marx and many other errors, too.

But other people who have a different kind of a religious belief that we must simply be approaching a judgement day can't learn from Jehovah's Witnesses mistakes. Of course that Paul Ehrlich's reasoning has nothing to do with rational approach to important questions. (Bjorn Lomborg may be an example of a person who tries to solve very similar questions - namely these speculative questions about the long-term food problems - rationally.) Ehrlich confuses the total amount of food available today and the total production of food; he does not understand that the efficiency of agriculture can increase much like the population or even more; he does not understand that the growth of the population in the developed world would be naturally reduced if it became difficult to feed children, and so forth. He just does not understand the "invisible hand" of free markets and the visible hand of scientific and technologica progress and the power of human decisions.

His reasoning could easily be proved wrong if he simply tried to make similar predictions about the past. But it was not his main goal to find a realistic prediction for the future. His goal was to write down pseudorationally sounding justifications of his religious preconceptions that would impress many people who are not exactly smart.

The similarity between Ehrlich's predictions of mass starvation and the recent predictions of catastrophic global warming is not just a superficial coincidence. Find the book "Boiling Point" by Ross Gelbspan at this website - one of the silly recent books about the climate change disasters that expect us. Among the 15 mostly positive reviews of the book, you will also find a 5-star review by Paul Ehrlich of Stanford himself! The global warming alarmists continue with the traditions of Paul Ehrlich. It is still the same pseudoscience and people will apparently always believe this kind of stuff because there are only two infinite things: the Universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the Universe.
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19 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is NOT based on logic., December 15, 1999
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote his book "The Population Bomb." In this book, he said that the earth had too many people. He also said that as the human population got bigger and bigger, all sorts of horrible problems would occur. He predicted massive famine and starvation all over the world, even in the United States! Supposedly, according to Ehrlich, before the 20th century was over, there would be millions and millions of starvation deaths in the United States. He also said that we would run out of oil, and that there would be shortages of many other resources.
Ehrlich is a biologist. He studies animal populations. If an animal population grows unchecked, then it eventually outstrips its food supply, and the result is massive starvation. Ehrlich said that this would eventually happen with humans. Ehrlich said that it was only a matter of a decade or two until this mass human starvation would occur.
Well, it is now 1999. So far, all of his predictions of eminant doom have failed to occur. And, in fact, when one looks around, one sees that, in fact, the EXACT OPPOSITE has occured. Average food production, PER PERSON, is now higher than ever before! And people now own MORE MATERIAL POSSESSIONS than ever before!
And that's not all. Stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart are packed with more things than ever before. Homes are now bigger than ever before. People have more cars now than ever before. The prices of resources like iron and copper are lower now than ever before, indicating that the supply of these resources has gone up.
Ehrlich assumed that humans would outsrip their resources, just like other animals do. But humans are not like other animals. Humans have the ability to create new resources through technological innovation. Humans have already invented the technology to grow food indoors, so the amount of land available is no longer a limiting factor to food production. For example, you could build a 100 story building, and you could grow food on every floor. There is no limit to how much food we could grow, or to how many people we could feed.
OK. So what about third world places like Africa, India, and Bangladesh? What about the hunger and poverty in these places? Well, according to Ehrlich, these places are poor becasue they have too many people. But Ehrlich is wrong!
Third world countries are poor not becasue they have too many people, but instead, becasue they have government policies that do not permit the existance of free markets. If third world countries want to improve their standard of living, then they should adopt free market economices.
According to Ehrlich, Africa is poor because it has too many people. But 100 years ago, Africa had a much smaller population than it does today. And even then, it was still poor. Furthermore, if 90% of the people in Africa were to suddenly disappear, then the remaining 10% would NOT see any increase in their standard of living.
And to further show how wrong Ehrlich is, Africa is actually very rich in natural resources! I studied geology in college, and Africa is possibly, in terms of natural resources, the single richest continent in the world. So, for Ehrlich to say that Africa is poor because it lacks natural resources is simply absurd.
I also happen to know a lot about Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the most densely populated country in the world. But the people there are certainly not starving. How does Ehrlich account for this?
Simply put, there is no relationship between population density and hunger.
Everything in this book is wrong.
And you know what is really weird? Even though Ehrlich was completely wrong in his predictions, he is still writing other books today where he keeps saying that there are too many people in the world! I think that Ehrlich's TRUE motive is that deep inside, he has a very deep hatred for the human race, and deep inside, he WISHES that millions of people in the United States would starve to death.
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41 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave, Caring, Prophetic, December 19, 2007
This review is from: Population Bomb (Hardcover)
By now, late 2007, one can hope that the anti-Ehrlich voices have gotten fewer in number. Our skyrocketing world population should be recognized by everyone as partly or largely responsible for many of our recent worldwide social crises and environmental disasters - global warming, the widespread water shortages, the disappearing arctic ice sheets, the global fish shortage, the extinction of the great apes, the exhaustion of ancient aquifers, uncontrolled urban sprawl, mega-cities, mega-slums, mega-smog, monster hurricanes and typhoons, unprecedented wildfires, disappearing wilderness, longer commutes, massive traffic jams, massive illegal immigrations, multi-millions of refugees, various genocides, etc., etc.

Here is the basic history of the overpopulation problem, a history that most people are shockingly ignorant of (and kept ignorant of by the powers that be). The entire human population of the world at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth, that is, in the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D., was only about 300 million. (It had been merely 10 million in about 10,000 B.C.). It then grew slowly to about 1 billion by 1850. Then, due to the Industrial Revolution, better sanitation, and modern medicine, it grew very fast to 2 billion by 1930. Then superfast to 3 billion already by 1950 (WWII, with its 55 million dead, was a minor pothole in the road), then very fast again to 4 billion by 1975. Let's skip the whiz-by dates for the 5 and 6 billion figures. We are now, in 2007, approaching 7 billion and will reach it within a few more years. By 2050, according to almost all projections, we humans will number 9-10 billion. Most projections I have seen deceptively stop there in 2050, as if that magical year will suddenly cause all couples throughout the world to stop having any more than 2 or 3 children, without even thinking about the subject. Alas, history and human population will not so conveniently stop. The latter will keep growing until it comes to a horrific halt, and long before that halt the majority of people will live in crowded misery and daily hunger, unless action in the form of worldwide public policy (incentives and penalties to keep population limited) is taken very soon.

Surely most people, if they don't recognize that the world has an overpopulation problem now, would accept the idea that eventually we will have one. If 6.5 billion people are not too many for them, the prospect of 16 billion should be. Or finally 60 billion, assuming they can count (which may be assuming a lot, in some cases).

Paul Ehrlich's understandably frightened 1967 perspective looked out upon the U.S. Baby Boom, that 20-year population explosion 1946-64, when couples had big, healthy families in prosperous times. By 1967, the U.S. population had grown from 150 million to 200 million within a mere 20 years. That growth was phenomenal - but worrisome. And while our U.S. population was reaching its worrisome milestone of 200 million, India reached its own scary milestone of 500 million (today it seems so quaint, merely 500 million in India). The entire world population in the late 1960s was rapidly approaching 4 billion, and truly responsible people like Ehrlich were reflecting on the implications of it all.

Ehrlich's critics rarely if ever acknowledge that his working statistics were taken from the years preceding 1967, when India, for example, was on the brink of mass starvation. The Green/Food Revolution, which prevented (postponed by some decades?) Ehrlich's dire predictions of catastrophic starvation from coming true, actually began, very belatedly, in 1966. India first imported the remarkable dwarf wheat seeds, specially bred by Norman Borlaug, in 1966. Those seeds arrived not one moment too soon. Ehrlich briefly and hopefully alludes to them in his book, but he finished writing it in 1967, and it was published in early 1968, before that new technology's beneficial effects were confirmed.

In any case, the Green/Food Revolution that started in the late 1960s has since exacted a heavy toll on soil fertility and other resources. The extensive use of water and fertilizers and pesticides also demanded by that technology has depleted precious aquifers and poisoned vast amounts of farmland. India is now once again in dire shape, as are many other countries. Up to a billion people in the world go to bed hungry or malnourished every night.

In 1960 (just yesterday), the population of India was 443 million; by 1970, only ten years later, it was 553 million; by 1980, 684 million; by 1990, 838 million; by 2000, 1 billion; and now, in 2007, it approaches 1.2 billion. Isn't it obvious where this awful Juggernaut is heading? Toward the rapid meltdown and starvation of India soon (and disastrous side-effects for many other nations), all because the people of India persist in having 3, 4, 5 or more babies per couple.

Ehrlich's critics (pro-growth capitalists, weak-kneed liberals, religious fundamentalists) have criticized him for a few predictions he made (on a few pages of his book) that did not come true. But those predictions were prevented from coming (immediately) true not only due to the (temporary) effects of the Green/Food Revolution, but also due to the success of the very movement Ehrlich helped to lead, a conscious effort to slow population growth. In the USA and much of the rest of the developed world, native population growth slowed considerably thereafter, partly due to people taking heed of Ehrlich's cautionary book. Legalized abortion and the Pill have also prevented many hundreds of millions of births around the world. In 1979, China instituted its famous "one child only" policy. It has caused serious social problems in China, but has prevented far more horrendous problems in China and the rest of the world. Without that policy, China today would have 400 million more people than it actually does. China today has a terrible system of sweatshop labor - virtual slave labor. But imagine the extent of the problem if China had 400 million more people to feed, in addition to its current 1.3 billion.

Another point: Does anyone believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict and all the other ethnic conflicts around the world will be peacefully resolved by the people in those warring regions having more and more children, creating more and more crowded conditions?

71% of the earth's surface is covered with water and is thus uninhabitable. Of the 29% that is land, the great majority of it is insect-infested jungle, oven-like desert, sub-arctic tundra, or desolate mountain ranges, all uninhabitable in the long term for any but a few hardy people. If some of Ehrlich's many comfortable critics would kindly volunteer to play pioneer for a decade in the Yukon, the Congo, the Sahara, or the high Andes, as role models to us all of the glorious adaptability of humankind and the wonderful possibilities of modern technology, one could be more sympathetic toward their views, or at least respect their sincerity. Not until then.
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27 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book seems kind of silly., December 12, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
THE POPULATION BOMB is basically one big statement claiming that humans beings are evil. According to this book, there are too many people in the world.
In this book, which first started telling its lies to the world in 1968, the author predicts that before the 20th century is over, huge numbers of people in the United States would starve to death.
Hmm. That's interesting.
Well, anybody who has ever been to a supermarket knows that there is PLENTY of food here.
The author claims that the United States is overpopulated. But this is utter nonsense. If you get in an airplane, and fly from New York to California, and you spend the entire time looking out the window, you will see that the vast majority of the United States is completely UNpopulated.
And even though Paul Erlich was totally wrong in his predictions, today, more than 30 years later, he continues to make these same predictions anyway! And he has a huge number of loyal followers.
On the other hand, fortunately, there is the wonderful book THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE 2 by Julian Simon. This book debunks all of the myths and lies that are in THE POPULATION BOMB. Thank goodness for Julian Simon!
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keep your enemies closer, April 20, 2012
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
This was a decent book, but not because I agree with any of the content. I believe in keeping your enemies closer, and any who seek population control through force, or still hold ties to the underground eugenics movement are my sworn enemy. This progressive thought process inspired Hitler's genocide and these people are still hiding in the shadows trying to enforce policies to control population. While I do believe overpopulation is a huge issue for the plant, that is for god to decide, not me. This has been a globalist plan for over a century and I firmly believe is behind this whole global warming nonsense. The only way to get the masses to accept their plans is the replace worship of God with worship of the Earth. If everyone treats the Earth as God, and believes they are killing said God, then they will go along with inhumane acts for the greater good.

You cannot fight an enemy you do not understand, and thus I recommend every person with a Heart and Soul read this book and recognize these thought processes for the threat they are.
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25 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Reverse Cassandra, April 22, 2000
By 
K. Dunlap (Afton, MN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Population Bomb (Hardcover)
Cassandra was able to foresee the future but was cursed in being unable to make anyone listen to her. Ehrlich has never been right and people keep on listening to him.
Had Ehrlich's 1968 predictions in "The Population Bomb" been right, we would now be stumbling around in a sea of smog killing one another for the few scraps of food we could find. On the other hand, had we adopted the draconian measures Ehrlich proposed in "The Population Bomb", the environment might be as good as it is now and Ehrlich would be declaring victory. However, the price we would have paid in individual liberty and standard of living would have made it a hollow victory.
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The Population Bomb
The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich (Hardcover - December 1, 1995)
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