In his book The Population Bomb, first published in 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich made a number of predictions about the future of population growth and food supplies.
Forty-give years later, Ehrlich is making new predictions about our inevitable end.
“‘The human predicament is driven by overpopulation, overconsumption of natural resources and the use of unnecessarily environmentally damaging technologies and socio-economic-political arrangements to service Homo sapiens‘ aggregate consumption,’ he wrote. Population size continues to be his biggest concern, adding, ‘Widely based cultural change is required to reduce humanely both population size and overconsumption by the rich.’”
Ehrlich’s projections were and aren’t new. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834), a British political economist and mathematician, proposed that population growth would outstrip any increase in food supplies in his day.
The Malthus hypothesis seemed irrefutable because it was based on mathematics! ((Thomas R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 2 vols. (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., ), 1958.)) These “irrefutable facts” meant to Malthus that mass starvation for Great Britain was imminent and inevitable. More than 210 years have passed since the publication of Malthus’s essay, and Great Britain is more populace and productive than it was when Malthus made his calculations.
The failure of the Malthusian worldview did not deter Ehrlich from making similar predictions. He asserted dogmatically, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” ((Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, rev. ed. (Rivercity, MA: Rivercity Press, 1975), xi. Quoted in Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 67. In the first edition, Ehrlich stated: “There is not enough food today. How much there will be tomorrow is open to debate. If the optimists are correct, today’s level of misery will be perpetuated for perhaps two decades into the future. If the pessimists are correct, massive famines will occur soon, possibly in the early 1970’s, certainly by the early 1980’s. So far most of the evidence seems to be on the side of the pessimists, and we should plan on the assumption that they are correct. After all, some two billion people aren’t being properly fed in 1968!” (Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb [Binghamton, NY: Sierra Club, 1969], 36–37).))
In 1969, Ehrlich continued with his predictions, stating, “By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people.” The same year, he predicted in an article entitled “Eco-Catastrophe!” that by 1980 the United States would see life expectancy drop to 42 years because of pesticides, and by 1999 its population would plummet to 22.6 million. The facts tell a different story.
In the mid-seventies, with the release of his book The End of Affluence, ((Paul R. Ehrlich, The End of Affluence: A Blueprint for Your Future (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974).)) Ehrlich outlined a Hollywood-style disaster scenario where he foresaw the President dissolving Congress “during the food riots of the 1980s,” followed by the United States suffering a nuclear attack for its mass use of insecticides. Like Malthus before him, in 1969 Ehrlich did not see much of a future for England. “I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” ((Michael Fumento, “Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich Strikes Out Again,” Investor’s Business Daily (December 16, 1997).)) Just to remind you, it’s now 2013, and a new report is out claiming that world population numbers are slowing:
“[T]he rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.
“And then it will fall.”
On the 1990 Earth Day special “Today Show” broadcast, Ehrlich predicted that “The Supreme Court would be flooded” to such an extent that . . . [y]ou could tie your boat to the Washington Monument.” It might be worth the calamity to see that happen.