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The Population Bomb Paperback – May 1, 1970
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And people still don't get it. It's not a prediction with a deadline, it's a statement of what is coming because of our bad behavior.
Yes. It's still going to happen. We ate up the planet and there's nothing left of it.
Droughts, floods, disease, wars; if that's not enough to convince you, your head is securely in the sand or up your arse.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are here. Conquest, War, Famine and Death.
Welcome to our extinction.
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. If I'm wrong, people will still be better fed...") likely leaves us shaking our heads.
However, a "reality check" is in order. People ARE starving in the world---the Sub-Saharan African countries, India, etc.---and population control is definitely a part of the solution in such areas.
Ehrlich's book is still worth a read to gain "perspective"---but his later books are more useful, and they need to be balanced by also reading people like Julian Simon.
Why, you might ask, am I referencing another book about Ehrlich’s book? Because it was Ehrlich’s pseudo science which influenced China’s Communist government to implement that country’s One Child policy.
Ehrlich’s theory gave the Chinese government an explanation and an excuse, wrong though they were, for dwindling resources and famines in their country. In actuality it was misallocation of resources, poor management, interference in the private sector, and withholding of resources to control a rebellious population that actually led to mass starvation, famines, and death in that country. It also exonerated the government (in their mind) of crimes against humanity (unintentional and deliberate) and gave a defense for instituting their One Child policy.
China’s one child policy, along with population control taking place in the rest of the world, was influenced by the misguided information in Paul Ehrlich erroneous book The Population Bomb, complete with visions of mass starvation and cannibalism. Springing up right behind this theory were family planning organizations to capitalize financially off this new craze du jour. According to Ehrlich, unless something was done to curb population growth we would run out of resources for survival. Ehrlich barely considered advances in technology that would allow us to feed the planet no matter how many people there were. Nor did he take into consideration factors like Death by Government policies, that led to massive deaths caused by mismanagement, and not as a result of overpopulation. Thanks to Ehrlich every country on earth is now facing a future demographic decline and inability to function because human population replacement levels are too low to sustain growth. The realization of this massive error is what has led China to finally end their destructive one child policy in 2015 and other countries, like Russia, to offer incentives to increase family size. Europe has tried to get around the coming demographic decline by increasing immigration onto that continent, but even that is doomed to failure not only because of cultural conflicts but because decreases in population are occurring throughout all of humanity. Despite all the evidence now showing the damage the overpopulation agenda has wrought, it has nonetheless not stopped family planning organizations from pushing the agenda because there is too much financially at stake to lose.
Population decline has doomed China’s chance of ever becoming a sustained world economic power because that country has eliminated it's most precious resource - the humans necessary to drive growth. Just like the rest of the world, China faces an aging population and a diminished workforce that will not sustain them into the future. Much of the blame for this decline can be laid squarely on Paul Ehrlich’s greatly flawed theory.