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
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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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is there a limit?,
LOOK FOR CURRENT SIGNS OF OVERPOPULATION:
Oceanic dead zones
Bizarre farming practices
Monster viruses and bacteria
Natural events causing human disasters
Big government controls
Ehrlich was wrong in predicting when bad things would happen, but obviously correct that if current trends continue, bad things will happen.
11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Population Bomb, a bomb of a book,
Paul Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb" is a terrible book. Ehrlich is never clear about what he believes, and moves from one emotional position to another, never realizing that he has no idea what he is talking about.
Writing in 1969 he predicted massive famines starting in 1984. Of course this didn't happen. So did Ehrlich question his assumptions? No, he simply reisses an extremely flawed work. If you want to know what was wrong with the 1960s just read this book along with Reich's "The Greening of America."
For what it matters, Ehrlich did his undergraduate work at the University of Kansas, where I went to both undergraduate and graduate school.
18 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Liberal Bible,
By A Customer
And in keeping with the Liberal tradition, it has been proven wrong on every count...
33 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In defense of thinking things through,
Those who lampoon this book can sneer at its flaws: there has yet to be a Malthusian catastrophe, Africa is rich in natural resources, and some densely-populated nations such as Holland, England, and Japan are quite wealthy. Twinky-gorged Americans grow fatter by the year. Ehrlich's dated crystal ball predictions appear to have fallen pitifully short.
However, because he was wrong about some things does not mean Ehrlich was wrong about everything. Every branch of science must undergo revision. But just as Darwin was wrong about many things doesn't negate the theory of evolution, Ehrlich's mistakes in the sixties don't trump population studies.
Ehrlich didn't foresee technology's ability to keep pace with the multiplying number of mouths, but this good fortune has come at a price. A host of chemicals in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe is linked to skyrocketing rates in asthma and cancer. Upping food production has resulted in topsoil erosion and a depletion of fresh water reserves, reducing our capacity to feed ourselves in the future. Technology provides no immediate answers to these problems, and to assume it will amounts to wishful thinking, not science, logic, or common sense.
Ehrlich's model was overly simplistic. More people doesn't necessarily mean impoverishment. People-packed countries like Japan and Holland are affluent. The ignored factor in this equation is what it has taken to support this many people: the impoverishment of other nations (both economically and environmentally-what is happening to the rainforests of southeast Asia?) Resource and food imports to nations like these are so great that calling them self-sufficient is referred to as "the Holland Fallacy." This formula cannot work in every nation.
Charges of misanthropy (I particularly enjoyed the review that suggested Ehrlich wished people would die) are amusing rather than persuasive. If he really hated people, he would keep quiet rather than sound the alarm. Just because he doesn't want humans crammed shoulder to shoulder with all haste doesn't mean he hates us. It seems likely that he cares more for humans than those who regard us as primarily economic equations. Besides, who wants a longer rush hour?
Finally, to dismiss Ehrlich on racist grounds is absurd. He doesn't argue that overpopulation is a Chinese, African, or South American problem, but a world-wide problem. He never advocated draconian measures such as forced abortion or sterilization, and to blame such programs on him illustrates the lack of rational thought found in abundance on that side of the debate. For heaven's sake, two-thirds of reviewers can't even spell the man's name correctly (Ehrlich with an "H"). If they can't even think things like that through, how far can we trust their theories on population studies? I doubt whether most have read the book.
You should read this book if you want to see where the modern debate on population came from. But just as you can't learn all Astronomy by reading Copernicus, this is only the beginning of the story. More recent works like "The Stork and the Plow" and "Betrayal of Science and Reason" provide a more enlightened picture. For a counterpoint, read Julian Simon's "The Ultimate Resource 2." He wasn't really the devil, but Simon did glue red horns to his head for a while.
18 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of an Insightful Classic,
Currently posted reviews of this book (all one-star) miss the mark in disturbing ways. We can all agree that in a quantitative sense, Ehrlich was wrong about some things. Does that negate the books import? Of course not, and those who heap abuse on it are tragically misguided. The processes discussed in The Population Bomb are very real, and need our attention. The point is, the book was very influential and without question helped mitigate some of the problems it examined. Subsequent books by the Ehrlichs discuss why things haven't turned out so catastrophically...YET. Anyone who thinks that overpopulation isn't a problem, or that Earth's resources are unlimited, is quite simply too ignorant to appreciate the gravitas of this work. Been to Ethiopia lately?
35 of 61 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Human beings are not butterflies, Paul...,
Are people STILL listening to this guy? If so, it has more to do with prejudices and uninformed--uninformable--paranoia than with scientific or logical merit. Ehrlich, in this seasoned tome, preserves for the ages some of his greatest nonsensical howlers about the catastrophic growth of human population in the face of vanishing resources and inadequate food. None of them was remotely close to the mark, but that doesn't stop people who so desperately _want_ our evil, soulless modern world to be brought down for its sins, that they cast aside failure of his models and predictions, and refuse to see that the world has debunked him.
Ehrlich's fatal flaw is easy to see and sum up. Sure, he was a biologist who studied populations, but populations of _insects_. And human beings--get ready for a shock--are not insects. We can innovate, invent, learn, and improve. I believe that that is something worth thinking about, even if Ehrlich does not.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book,
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It is always risky predicting the future, but someone needs to do it. Although this book didn't work out exactly like Mr. Ehrlich predicted, the general idea is right on. Because they are subtle and insidious, I don't think we yet have realized the huge problems we have created with population.
7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wrong on the dates, right on the big picture,
Paul Ehrlich and this book are, without a doubt, the cornucopians' and anti-environmentalists' favorite targets. Ehrlich's problem was, essentially, in being an overdramatic, alarmist Cassandra decades too early. Though I have no doubt he will be proven right about the terrible consequences of overpopulation (a Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one), he may not be around to enjoy his inevitable vindication. We're now at 7+ billion and counting, Peak Oil is already upon us, while much of the 'Arab Spring' is really about declining net exports and the resulting rising food prices/unemployment as it is about religion or 'democracy'.
For now, he was --and is-- one of the most extreme and bombastic "doomer" critics of overpopulation. Unfortunately, some of his earliest predictions have proven to be so laughably wrong that most people today simply reject the very notion of overpopulation out of hand, and assume all environmentalists must think exactly like Ehrlich ("The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's and 1980's hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now"). Nothing could be further from the truth, as a careful reading of much better works, minus the alarmist predictions ("Limits to Growth" being a prime example), would quickly prove.
Unfortunately, Ehrlich set himself up in this book to become the political right's favorite stereotype of the left-wing doomer, with embarrassing quotes they can conveniently ascribe to other environmentalists who themselves never made such predictions (Meadows, Club or Rome, etc.). Suddenly, it's not just Paul who said there will be mass starvation and food riots, it was EVERYONE in the environmental/overpopulation camp. Not too dissimilar to the way the right tries to discredit even moderate Progressive/liberal candidates as being Lenin-hugging Marxist stereotypes.
Despite all this, if you can get past Ehrlich's flair for the dramatic or his premature predictions, he lays out some cogent arguments and insights based on solid reasoning and very real macro trends. He points out the clear linkages between overpopulation and most of humanity's most vexing and intractable problems: pollution, soil erosion, accelerating extinction of other species, habitat destruction, poverty, war, class inequality, etc. Again, his timing was lousy and he tragically ignored the Green Revolution's role in delaying the inevitable, but the broad trends and threats of overpopulation are still very much with us today. In fact, we are closer to many dangerous tipping points than we were 40 years ago. Meanwhile the public appears to be complacent, as the media feeds it a steady diet of corporate pro-growth propaganda and cornucopian fantasies.
Someday decades hence Ehrlich may be remembered for getting the big picture correct and not so much for his prematurely alarmist predictions, or as the guy who lost his famous bet with his arch nemesis, the late cornucopian Julian Simon. (Interesting side note: if Ehrlich had made that same bet 20 years later, he would have won hands down.) In any event, the book that originally made overpopulation a household word is still worth a read, and not just as a cautionary tale. Overpopulation is a primary --if not *the* primary-- cause of many of the world's ills, something we would all be wise not to forget.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book is from 1967. it tells so much of what is going on now in 2013.,
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i hv not finished reading all of it, & hv loaned it out to a friend. it is interesting, prophetic,sad,& really provokes your
mind to think about our present times.....
8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One book made silly by hindsight,
This review is from: Population Bomb (Mass Market Paperback)
Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" is a book that has been in my mind ever since Intercollegiate Review and Human Events listed it as one of the worst books of the twentieth century. Phillip Longman also made me think about this book as something that has really been proven terribly wrong in most of the world, even though it is still (and - though unconsciously for lecturers - for a really special reason) used in classes in Australia.
Actually reading "The Population Bomb" does little to contradict the criticisms made by the far right of its claims. In the period since it was written, fertility rates throughout the world have declined precipitously and even developing nations Ehrlich thought would face ecological disaster from overpopulation are now facing the same "demographic winter" of Europe, Canada and Japan. His predictions of a Stalinist takeover of East Asia or Latin America and of the US having to reduce its feed of grain to livestock never came true and improved farming practices allowed for the support of large populations at higher living standards. Also, even without the use of birth control, the advent of certain modern technologies (notably television) has clearly been shown an important factor in the lowering of birth rates though changing cultural values. He also fails to grasp that except in Australia, values that lead to extremely low birth rates were already entrenched in the developed world when "The Population Bomb" appeared.
Ehrlich does not sufficiently understand that, with the crucial exception of Australian and Red American exurbs where families have a spacious block, children in urban areas are very much a liability and lowest-low fertility a natural result. His inability to grasp the unusual character of the 1950s "baby boom" similarly shows him a social scientist of very limited ability. Similarly, his analysis of the pesticide problem is incredibly derivative of Silent Spring.
Whilst the planet may have major population problems, any overpopulation is very localised and related to social and ecological peculiarities whose understanding and remedying seems beyond even the best social scientists. Claiming that the whole world ever was likely to experience the sort of population crisis Ehrlich envisions is unlikely: in more fertile regions, living standards can only be made high via means that turn values to a highly antinatalist perspective.
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The population bomb by Paul Ehrlich (Mass Market Paperback - 1971)
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