The Herald reports:
So, will it end with a whimper or a bang? Paul Ehrlich, the American scientist who first scared the pants off the world with his alarmist 1968 book,The Population Bomb, is ringing the bell again about the fate of the planet. Back in New Zealand for a lecture tour with the doomsday label “Avoiding Global Collapse”, Ehrlich argues the show could become messy – and sooner than most of us would wish.
Earth, he says, has too many people consuming too many things and imposing far too much stress on land and water that only unprecedented cultural change provides any hope of averting catastrophe.
“I think the odds of avoiding collapse are about 10 per cent,” Ehrlich said. “But I’m prepared to work hard to make it 11 per cent, because I’ve got great-grandchildren.”
Ehrlich has been wrong so often and so dramatically it is not funny:
Ehrlich says he’s had a hammering from critics over the years since The Population Bomb appeared. The book opened with the bald statement: “The battle to feed all humanity is over” and went on to predict hundreds of millions of deaths from starvation in the 1970s. Today, he says, of the planet’s seven billion people, around a billion are hungry or malnourished.
Over four decades, somewhere in the order of 200 million to 400 million people have died from starvation or disease. He wasn’t, he says, wrong about that.
But he did come famously unstuck with a bet he took with Julian Simon, a freemarket economist who argued that Earth could cope with more rather then fewer people. In 1980 they bet on the future price of a basket of metals. If the cost rose over a decade, reflecting scarcity in a crowded planet, Ehrlich would win. If it fell – indicating great strides in triumph of human ingenuity – Simon would come up trumps.
“Simon was running round saying the ecologist won’t bet. Well, finally we thought we may lose the bet but what the hell, we’ll shut him up for 10 years.”
Ehrlich lost the bet and, he concedes, some credibility. He maintains that the commodities market was in a slump at decade’s end, which tilted the odds towards Simon. “Another two years and we’d have won.”
He can never admit he is wrong. Predictions and proposed policies include:
- On the first Earth Day in 1970, he warned that “in ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish”
- In a 1971 speech, he predicted that: “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people
- If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000
- “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980
- “When you reach a point where you realize further efforts will be futile, you may as well look after yourself and your friends and enjoy what little time you have left. That point for me is 1972″
- The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate
- We must rapidly bring the world population under control, reducing the growth rate to zero or making it negative. Conscious regulation of human numbers must be achieved
- Ehrlich has floated the idea of adding “temporary sterilants” to the water supply or staple foods
- Has expressed support for government mandated sterilization of Indian males with three or more children
I think his record needs little comment beyond “fucking nuts”.
Tags: Paul Ehrlich